Review: Lenses

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Lets talk about lenses. In my review of the NEX-5N I mentioned how if anything was a weak point, it was the selection of lenses. I also bemoaned the use of having to use an adapter because it defeated the purpose of the compact camera. Well, I’m happy to say that I’ve found a middle ground and my camera is now complete. I have filled in all the gaps in my lens line-up and now feel pretty confident that I could handle any situation.

Let’s start with the lenses designed, specifically for the NEX.

Sigma 19mm: This lens is compact, lightweight, and a decent performer. It’s body is plastic but it does have a metal lens mount. I got it as a bundled deal with the 30mm, so it was very reasonably priced as well. Tests have shown that it is only marginally sharper than the kit lens, so the only real upside is its 2.8 aperture. Therefor, I use this lens solely for landscape and star photography. Since it does not have any markings on the lens itself, nailing down infinity focus for those stars can be tricky. But focus peaking, and the zoom feature, helps sort that out. I don’t bring this lens out too often, but it is my goal to get some truly beautiful star/time-lapse photography, and I know that this is the lens for the job. ($80)

Sigma 30mm: This guy is my baby. I really enjoy this lens.  It’s body is plastic but again, it does have a metal lens mount. It’s about the same size, and weight as the 19mm. But extremely sharper. This lens was the lens of the year when it came to the NEX. Again, this guy came as a packaged deal, so it was very affordable, and offers some of the sharpest pictures that you can get on a NEX camera. It’s focal length equals out to around 45mm, so it serves as the default walk around lens. It is good for any situation, and with it’s 2.8 aperture, outperforms the kit lens in all aspects. The bokeh, in my opinion is very pleasing, and I don’t think I’ve ever been terribly upset with any of its results. ($80)

Sony 18-55mm: This is the default kit lens. It’s great for the ‘I don’t know what to expect’ events. It’s decently sharp, but once you spend enough time with those sharper primes, its pictures do leave you wanting more. However, that’s how it is always going to be when you compare zooms to primes. It has OSS built directly into the lens, helpful in most cases with low light (especially with it’s 3.5-5.5 aperture), and it’s autofocusing is completely silent, which makes this my movie lens. It’s aluminum body looks very impressive, but in my experience, shows wear easily, and gets dings with less effort than you would of hoped. If your camera comes pre-packaged with this lens, I would say keep it. It performs well, and saves you the hassle from changing lenses all the time. (Free)

Now to my legacy glass, which all happen to be Minolta Glass.

*All of these lenses are completely made out of metal, which means they feel fantastic. All of the aperture and focus settings are controlled on the lens, so there is no need to guess where infinity focus is or have to revert back to onscreen buttons for changes. They also completely lack OSS and autofocus, which means getting the perfect shot just got a whole lot more difficult. This is what I meant by middle ground, all of these lenses are not travel, put into your pocket lenses, no matter what manufacturer you choose. Does it matter that I added another inch to my 10 inch long zoom or macro lens? Absolutely not. The only lens it hurts is the 50mm but even then, it’s about the same size as Sony’s 50mm, so I’m no worse off.

50mm Rokkor X Minolta: I like this lens. Maybe even more than I should, as I try and use it for events were I really need to just use the 30mm. It’s the smallest lens of the bunch, being a bit more compact than the 30mm, until of course once I stick it onto the adapter so it goes onto the NEX. Then it is about the same length as the zoom lens. This lens is super sharp stopped down to 2.8. Wide open at 1.7, it is rather soft, but does produce fantastic bokeh, and if you are in a situation where you either get a well exposed but slightly soft shot in the dark, or no shot at all, you’ll be happy that it is there. I’d go as far to say that this lens is almost as sharp as the 30mm. It serves as a fantastic portrait lens. I got this lens for $15 off ebay, if that is not a steal, I don’t know what is. ($15)

100mm Macro Minolta: I always wanted a macro lens. I hate bugs, but having a lens between me and them, and getting some amazing shots that people have never seen before, makes it easier to be close to them. This lens, coupled with its included extension tube, is a true 1:1 experience. Also, this lens then coupled with the adapter, is the longest lens of the bunch. The 100mm focal length is leagues better to work with than Sony’s 30mm offering. It produces sharp results, but thank god for focus peaking, because what is in and out of focus lies within a few millimeters of each other. This lens is about as niche as it gets. Will I use this for anything else besides macro shots? Nope. So it is a bit ridiculous that this is my most expensive lens. ($90)

70-210mm Minolta: I thought long and hard about this purchase. I got this lens purely because I’m doing some sports photography for my school. Am I going to use it after I graduate? I highly doubt it. So I really did not want to spend a lot of money on it. At the same time, it’s sports. We are talking about people running around, at all different angles constantly, so could I afford to go without autofocus and OSS? Sometimes. Sony offers their 55-210 for $350. I bought mine for $50. At 210mm Sony’s drops down to 6.3, mine stays at a constant 4.0. Do I lose a percentage of my shots because they are out of focus? Yep. Do I sometimes miss the big plays because I have to zoom in or out and also adjust focus in a split of a second? Absolutely. If you can afford it, do it for a living, or you are a parent that would hate themselves if they missed their kids big moment. Save up and buy Sony’s lens. If not, this will do great. It produces sharp results, extends your camera’s range tremendously, and makes your camera look like a champ. With enough practice, you’ll get better and faster as nailing down the focus. If you aren’t even into sports and this is for animals, then get this lens. ($50)

That is my completed collection. My camera can cover 19mm to 210mm (crop sensor 28mm-315mm), and macro shots for a grand total of $315. I am completely satisfied with all of my purchases, and I would recommend any of these lenses. I have a friend who doesn’t buy lenses below $500 a piece. So to him, this is probably a joke. If you can afford to do that, more power to you. One day, I will buy ONE, expensive lens, that just has the most insane optics out there, and I’m sure it will be mind blowing. But when tests show that the sharpness difference between the 30mm Sigma and the 24mm Zeiss lens is just a few points, and yet the Zeiss is close to $1000. I believe that you can be smart with your money and get quite a bit more. And yes, I know the Zeiss definitely has the upper hand when it comes to other factors, it is an amazing lens that can produce amazing results, but for most of us it isn’t worth the extra $1000.

Have any other questions? Ask them below and I’ll get back to you.

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