I was looking for this: a full frame, L mount camera with a very small footprint but very big performance. I thought the best camera to take on my on vacation would be the Sigma fp. I love the look of the files I get from the camera and it's the smallest full framer I own. I think it's still the smallest of all full frame cameras extant. I've been working with the camera a lot and in controlled situations it's just flat out charming to work with. But out on the street? That's a whole different story.
Oh sure, I can shoot with it pretty fluidly if I use the big finder on the back to isolate and magnify the LCD image. But if I want to use it in its smallest configuration I want to ditch the finder, and also ditch any sort of handgrip for it. And this makes the camera much tougher to use.
To complicate matters I also want to use whichever camera I bring with a very small and fast prime lens in the 40-50mm realm. Just to toss a bit of chaos into my choice matrices I did a bunch of research and found the best eccentric lens choice one can imagine. Fedex delivered my Voightlander Nocton 40mm f1.4 (MC) Classic today. Along with an M to L mount adapter. Love the lens but it is fully manual. Manual focus, manual exposure, etc. and that compounds the halting usability of the fp as a "street shooting" camera.
Fortunately I tend to be the kind of photographer who likes to test out things that seem like a "great idea" just to make sure they actually are before I get somewhere and totally regret my choices. It was cloudy and gray today so I put the fp together with the V-lander 40mm and headed over to South Congress Ave. to actually work toward my own little proof of concept. I gotta say that I failed miserably.
I kept hitting a button somewhere which changed my auto-ISO to either ISO 8 or ISO 124,000. Neither of which were anywhere near optimal. If the subject was darker than the prevailing light then the LCD image was more or less useless. I quickly discovered that the focus peaking at wider apertures is a sucky adventure destined to leave one with soft images most of the time. I also learned that I will miss every other shot as I punch in to a magnified setting to actually achieve focus.
I am ditching the idea of using the fp in this way (and on this trip) and tomorrow I'll put the 40mm f1.4 V-Lander on the Panasonic S5 and try out that combo.
So, what about the lens? Well, like most lenses of any quality it's very, very good in the center; even wide open. The corners don't really sharpen up until f4.0. At most of the wider stops the lens has vicious vignetting (which is transparently corrected in Lightroom) and there is a bit of barrel distortion which is also easily compensated for. I love the look of the images with this lens and I think the best thing about it is the really small size. Just tiny.
I love the focusing lever I guess because I spent a lot of time working with Leica M cameras and lenses back in the 1980s and 1990s. The lever falls right under my fingers and makes manual focusing as quick as I remembered it could be.
The lens was on sale at B&H (and at other places) for $399 and I thought it was worth the risk. I've decided that I really like it and will go forward with my plan to use it on the trip. Now we just need to find the "just right" body to use it on. More on the search and testing tomorrow. Here are some photos I took during my hour on S. Congress. These were all done in short order with the Sigma fp and the Voightlander Nocton 40mm f1.4. At least it was fun to get out and walk around.....