The enigmatic 50mm lens for Sony A7x. Continued...

Of course, in the interim, while deciding on what constitutes the ultimate 50mm lens for the Sony A7 cameras, I am pressing the 60mm f1.5 Olympus Pen FT lens into service and I must admit that I'm liking both the focal lengths and the overall rendering of this ancient lens very much.

It works very well with Sony's focus peaking and, though one of the expensive options I've explored may be sharper, the old Olympus lens stands up very well. The only reasonable objection I can see to it is the slight vignetting in the corners at most focal lengths and apertures. And, in fact, I am finding this flaw a bit endearing given that the lens was computed to work with half frame cameras and was never (as far I my research can uncover) intended to cover or work with the full sized, 35mm frame.

That it works as well as it does is a bit of a miracle. How strange that this combination can actually deliver sharp and contrasty images!

The combination certainly looks wonderful. The lens is compact and fast, and, even with an adapter to convey its charms to the Sony cameras, it is a small and graceful package, made entirely of metal and glass. It's most charming feature is that I have already paid for it many, many years ago.

On another note: A reader named, Ken, left a comment a few days ago. He was complimenting my writing skills (Thank you, Ken!) and at the same time he was honestly telling me that he doesn't really like the style of photography I usually show on the blog. He also stated that he would be fine if he never again saw a Kirk Tuck image of architecture again. I feel his pain. I am not an architectural photographer and sometimes I get foolishly carried away with the promise of a new lens or camera and am not patient enough to wait for the right subject matter to roll along in order to test out the new toys. I guess I often default to shooting what's available. I'll try to do better.

But this all got me thinking about what people might consider to be my style or why they might question the kind of work I do for clients. It's hard to show client work. I'm reticent to show the many, many, many portraits I shoot in a year because they are created to fit a space on a website or in a capabilities brochure and are not unique nor inspiring but are instead the bread and butter of a real photography business. I also hesitate to show work portraits because I sometimes need permission from the subject and the company in order to share them.  What this tells me is that I should spend a good bit more time lining up fun, personal portraits to shoot.

But even with non-portrait work there is a weird dissonance between what I show and what many, many other photographers show as work. I try to show actual, daily work; not the once in a lifetime, big budget shoot or work created speculatively that masquerades as commissioned work because this is not a "portfolio" for me as much as it is a dialog about the process of a photographer's life. I can cherry pick from the hundreds of thousands of photographs I've created and show more exciting work but it would hardly be a reflection of the reality of the industry as I see it. As I live it.

This became clear to me on a project I was working on last week. When we started talking about it we were talking about portraits in unusual locations, created with dramatic lighting, made with contrasty and layered lighting. We (the client and I) talked about making each one exquisite and beautiful; reminiscent of some of the earlier work they had seen in my portfolio. This was a first conversation with the graphic designer. But, of course she would need to run all of this by her supervisor who, we found out, would have to run this by the V.P. of marketing, who then felt duty bound to run it by the founder and CEO of the company.

At each step the concept got watered down. First they supervisor balked at the cost of shooting the portraits on unique locations. Couldn't we just bring everyone into a conference room? Then the marketing V.P. stepped in to have his say. He didn't like contrasty photos with dark shadows on the shadow side of the face. Could we flatten out the light but still make the images "exciting"?

By the time the founder got involved the discussion was more about which shade of gray, seamless paper would look best in the background behind the shadowless images, shot in the small conference room and cropped to head and shoulders.  And he nixed the idea of shooting squares...

Which all left me to wonder how in the world we've ever gotten through the creative killing labyrinth of business relatively unscathed enough times in my career in order to have anything at all to put into the portfolio, much less to have enough material to place in the blog on a daily basis... That I have anything at all to show seems sometimes to be a miracle to me. Maybe that's why I write....

Choosing a 50mm lens for the Sony A7 series.

I've written many times about my admiration for the 50mm focal length on a full frame camera. It's a chameleon of a focal length, straddling both wide angle and telephoto camps when used correctly. After years and years of experience with the 50mm, in so many varied circumstances, it just seems natural to me for my photography. But here I am with no real 50mm lens to use on the two bodies I'm using. Well, I do have an adapter and an ancient 50mm Nikon f1.4 that predates the whole concept of auto indexing lenses but I think that one wasn't really computed to do justice to the high density sensors in today's camera. That, and the adapter makes for a bulky set up.

Since my slate is clean right now I am considering all options.

The ones I have identified as possibilities are:

The (cheap) Sony 50mm 1.8 FE that just hit the market. About $ 249

The Zeiss Loxia (current frontrunner in my popularity contest of lenses) 50mm f2.0. This is an electronically coupled lens but it is manual focus only and the MF is a mechanical one with a hard stop at infinity (+). About $ 950.

The Zeiss Batis ( fun and sexy looking) 50mm f1.8, which is probably very similar to the Loxia but with the addition of autofocus and a cool, disco read-out of f-stop and distance in an LCD panel on the lens...  Around the same price as the Loxia.

The Sony 55mm f1.8 OSS super lens that features optical image stabilization in lens. Fully autofocus and reputed to be exquisitely sharp by some reviewers; also around $ 900.

The Rokinon or Samyang (identical) 50mm f1.4 at $ 399. (manual everything). Reputed to be sharp, with nice out of focus rendering.

And then there are legions of 50mm lenses made for older cameras that can be adapted for use with the mirrorless A7 bodies. But which one to choose?  I've always been partial to Olympus 50mm lenses for the OM system; they are sharp, small, light and usually available pretty inexpensively....

Are there any of you out there who might have an informed opinion about any of the options listed above? I'd love to hear them....