4.30.2021

I read, with amusement, nearly a dozen breathless reviews yesterday.....of a single focal length lens. Mercy, the bloggers and v-loggers have run out of stuff to talk about.


 There were four "articles" and one long video review of the "new" Sigma 35mm Art lens on DP Review alone. An unexciting new version of a classic.  Can't imagine they couldn't have compressed all the sloppy information into one cogent article but I guess they need the "gray space" to fill the void. Gerald Undone, usually a favorite tech-leaning, video reviewer with great info spent about 12 minutes of YouTube "airtime" picking microscopic nits off the lens with analytical tweezers, and then the usual slow-witted crew on the rest of YouTube did their usual five minutes of b-roll video; fast cuts picking up their laundry, complaining about their lives, and gushing about how cool it is to be "an online edjukator" all set to the unguent melodies of over-used, quasi rock, stock music, before finally getting around to their own distinctly unscientific and highly subjective ramblings about the lens. All of this presented in a "Might this be the lens to change the WORLD???" gush-fest delivered in mostly center-framed, lifeless, video narrative. 

It's almost as if Sigma had courier services all around the camera buying world ready to deliver hundreds and hundreds of copies of the new lens to "influencers", all those "creators" who seemed to be in a content production lull until this particular product arrived. None of them, as far as I can see, have had more than a day or two to work with the lens, or much chance to take in-depth test photographs before rushing to their keyboards and selfie-cams in order to post mostly drivel. And stuff regurgitated from the sites they aspire to compete with.

At least Gerald did his research, found something to dislike about the lens and then polished up his dissonance into many minutes of grousing that the lens wasn't quite razor sharp when used at f1.4 combined with the closest focusing distance. The legions of lesser V-loggers rushed to adapt his reference and research about this shortcoming into full-on spasms of dismay. But as far as I can tell few or none of the "reviewers" actually used the lens to make photographs in their own inimitable styles. Such a tragedy. So much lost potential.

From the vomitting rush of "reviews", all arriving simultaneously on the first day after the embargo lifted, like ever-falling dominos, one would conjecture that the world at large has been waiting breathlessly for someone, anyone! to deliver a usable 35mm lens. Almost as if we've been wandering in a lensless desert for too long and this was our first oasis of wide angle joy to come along in quite a while. It's....embarrassing. 

I can forgive Gerald Undone. At least he provided samples, tests and comparisons. The rest provided... self indulgent video footage. And affiliate links galore. Gerald's usual fare is great. But the rest? Ah well.

Not to be left out of the scrum I'll add my mini-review

I've never used the lens. It's slightly smaller than the last version. It has two more controls, which I will probably never use, on the barrel. It's slightly though not appreciably lighter that the last version. It's cheaper than the same kind of lens with the same specs from other manufacturers of note. It comes in a white box which has type on it. For now it's only available in L mount and E mount. It's $895. 

My take: If you have a 35mm lens you like (and who doesn't?) then you probably won't get any additional utility out of the this one. If you want this style of lens you might be able to find the optically better, older version for a bit more than half the price out on the used market (more arriving quickly!). You will find both to be too big and too heavy for many uses. Neither are optimal "travel" lenses.

You probably have this focal length well covered with various zoom lenses you own and likely won't see a shred of difference at f5.6. You will shoot once or twice at f1.4 before realizing that it's an odd focal length to shoot at f1.4 and that getting interesting images with that f-stop and focal length is....always challenging and only sometimes vaguely rewarding. 

"Okay. I think we're done here....."

added note: Do you think it will eventually dawn on reviewers and product manufacturers that they are putting all their marketing eggs in a "one day" or "one week" basket and that spreading out access to test products might help spread out the media coverage over time? And that might give their products a longer shelf life? A longer tail? And do reviewers understand how transparent their reliance on advertiser links becomes when everyone rushes to review the same product in the same way at the same time? Maybe that the group  onslaught, the mosh pit of reviews, degrades their credibility? Ah well. Maybe there's site for marketing that everyone overlooked.


Walking around in the drizzle. Making photographs with a vintage lens.

Yesterday seemed like a good day for walking around aimlessly. A huge rolling caravan of dramatic thunderstorms had rumbled through Austin the night before and yesterday promised easy temperatures, impromptu rain showers and a background of constant, light drizzle. The pool was closed and around mid-afternoon I think my spouse was getting a bit tired of me walking into her office every 30 minutes to "see what's going on!?" Too much extrovert energy in a decidedly introvert dominated house.

The Leica SL seemed like a perfect choice for a walk in indeterminate weather. It's supposed to be well sealed for weather resistance and I like the feel of it over my shoulder. I wanted to take along a "beater" lens because I never really know how well all the lenses are really weatherproofed. If I took an older lens I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about it. 

I chose the Leica R 28-70mm lens and made some quick weather oriented modifications to it, just in case. I wrapped electrical tape around the juncture of the camera's lens mount and the lens adapter, figuring that any moisture intrusion would cause the most damage there. I did the same tape sealing to the juncture of the adapter and the lens. With those two weak points sealed at least the camera a body itself would be well protected. 

Photographic intent was secondary to just burning up some excess energy via walking but I tried to be observant and I stopped from time to time to grab a frame when opportunity presented itself. I like photographing on cloudy and overcast days and I'm really warming up to shooting mid-storms. 

There's a trail around Lady Bird Lake that's about 3.5 miles and it starts (for me) at the Barton Springs Pool. There were few people out, mostly dedicated runners or daily walkers who weren't about to let a bit of extra moisture dampen their resolve.

Back when I bought the old, used, Leica zoom lens I got off to a rocky start with it. I got some vignetting from a loose and sloppy retractable lens hood but cured that with some judicious use of gaffer's tape. But the first few forays, with the ailing lens hood and the hard distortion at the short end gave me pause. In the interim I discovered that both Leica SL cameras include lens profiles for their R series lenses and actuating that, at least in Jpeg, made the lens more likable as far as barrel distortion and some natural, wide angle vignetting was concerned. But I have had the lens on the "back burner" for a while and looked forward to trying to correct my faulty technique on an unhurried outing. So yesterday was the day.

If anyone paid attention they would have thought I cobbled together an old lens with nothing but tape; fortunately there were no obvious camera buffs sharing the trail. No one to cast a judgmental look at the bandaged inventory.

One thing I did want to see was how well the lens would do for close up stuff. So when I saw these water droplets on long green leaves I went for it. I had the lens set for f8.0 and shot everything else on auto.

When I got back to the studio I was happy to see that the lens is actually quite nice and sharp at its close focusing limit. And that the color and contrast were really good. I think this lens would make a very acceptable one camera / one lens travel set-up. Not as flexible and feature-rich as the 24-105mm Lumix but charming in its own totally manual way. See full frame and tight crops below. 


End of day photos.


The ongoing pleasure of photographing with the older, Leica SL. 
Such a different camera than all the ones I've used before.