Photography

(I decided to move my ‘history’ down and instead put some more current stuff on this front page.)

My current kit

Sony Alpha 700 DSLR

The best camera I’ve ever owned. Takes great pictures and has lots of options. The best bit however can hardly be described in a review: intuitive handling.

Sony/Carl Zeiss 16-80mm (f/3.5-4.5)

Bought with the camera, for the 16mm wide angle (and didn’t fancy a 16-105 for the compromise in image quality – I don’t like “single” zoom lenses anyway). With 16mm a fairly handy wide-angle, but with 80mm also a reasonable zoom.

A perfect companion to the α700 – it’s just so reliable! Always at least sharp (and oftentimes very sharp), always good colours, good contrast, no flare… my main gripe is that it seems to be vulnerable to veiling (white washout areas from bright lights just outside the field of view). If ever I don’t know what lens to use, I put this one on – it’s guaranteed to allow me to take 80% or more of the shots I need to take, and do a good job, too.

Tamron 70-300mm (f/4.5-5.6)

Of course everyone needs a nice big telezoom. This was the first lens I bought (to add to the kit lens of the 404xi), second hand, for something like Hfl175,- (yes that’s guilders for you!). Not really sharp at the far end – but that doesn’t really matter because you’re lucky you can take these images in the first place. Not built very well – lots of plastic. That does make it light, though. And surprisingly sharp at the short end, like below 120mm.

Not as good for portraits as it used to be, but now of course a beast of a zoom lens – 450mm equivalent max zoom plus image stabilisation, what more do you want?

Update: after a bit more shooting, it’s starting to become obvious that this lens easily reaches the limits of what it can do – so now I’m saving for a proper lens, i.e. Sony’s own 70-300 – ‘G’ quality.

Minolta 50mm (f/1.7)

A classic lens. Really really sharp, really ‘fast’ (light-sensitive), very small and light. Not so useful anymore as an all-round ‘natural angle’ lens, but has gained a bit of zoom and should now be a hell of a portrait lens. Ought to see more use in that respect, but I’m not a portrait man… (the occasions that I do it, I manage, barely, to get reasonable shots).

Also found that this is an AWESOME lens to shoot photos of stars with – light sensitive and sharp of course being a killer combo there.

Finally I am curious to see what 3200ISO (or more, the camera can go to 6400 – at my own risk), aperture 1.7, and image stabilisation can do to turn this into a night-goggle :-). (first results are promising)

Tamron 24-135mm (f/3.5-5.6) ’50th anniversary’

Bought during the ‘dark ages’ so had seen little use until now. Even back then I used to prefer the lighter, more compact 24-105mm Minolta lens, but with the heavier A700 there’s no way I can see myself using that lens ever again. The Tamron just fits/balances perfectly – and is a better lens. Actually compared to the ‘CZ’ (the Carl Zeiss 16-80) it is (physically) even slightly shorter (! – 81mm v 83mm) and not that much heavier (530 g v 440 g) – which is quite a feat given that it has a higher zoom range and is full-frame. I guess the secret is ‘plastic’ ;-).

This right now has become my lens of choice for ‘non-confined’ photoshoots – where I don’t need the 16mm wide angle (i.e. outdoors and out of the city). Also the 135mm plus 1.5x crop factor means it has very nice zoom capabilities – around 200mm. In sharpness it keeps up quite well with the CZ16-80; but it loses on contrast and resistance to flare.

As with all old Minolta lenses it’s also great to have them image stabilised – long live in-body stabilisation :-)!

Sigma 10-20mm (f/4-5.6)

After leaning towards a newer telezoom, rather quickly changed my mind (main reason, already have one even though it’s not great) and went to the other extreme: ultra wide angle. This lens has more than lived up to my expectations. It’s sharp enough (like you care a lot with a wide angle), and the colours and contrast are just very good indeed. Above all, this lens is fun, fun, fun… the amazing angles it can handle, how much you can squeeze into a frame, and how WEIRD you can make anything look… hee hee this is a keeper!

Tamron 90mm (f/2.8) Macro

After a bit of pondering I realised that none of my lenses was particulary useful on rainy afternoons, when you don’t really want to go out because 1) you’ll get wet and 2) there ain’t much to shoot anyway. And since I was doing some pseudo-macro for awhile and quite enjoying it, I decided to get a macro. To cut a long story short, I got this lovely light, compact Tamron, which doubles as a razor sharp portrait or generally useful mid-telezoom lens. And, as I’ve shown, it does do macro very well too!

A full review will follow plus a real own page, for now I will just say – great lens, glad I have it.

Sony HVL-F42AM

Nothing much to see here yet but a description of what this external flash can do in theory, at least it’s there – it’s been part of my kit for half a year now. I should start to use it, really… (half a year later and I STILL should really start to use it :( ).