Back in 2012 I was clicking around the Instagram of that era (Flickr) and stumbled upon images taken with the Sony Zeiss ZA 135mm f/1.8 lens on the 24mp Sony a900. Those impressive images eventually led me to a full platform switch from Canon to the Sony A-mount system and Sony Zeiss prime lenses. I’ve always loved Zeiss optics and the fact that I could shoot them natively on Sony’s platform sealed the deal.
There is a “journey of focal lengths” photographers take on the road from beginner to expert. In the film era, you would start with a normal 50mm lens and then move to longer or wider focal lengths, eventually settling in on a preferred way of seeing. For many, that favorite FOV is 35mm – a classic and flexible focal length, well suited for landscapes, street, reportage, weddings, fashion or portraits. 35mm is a desert island lens – the one you would keep if you could have no other.Read More
Last week, Sony unveiled their new campaign, entitled “Be Alpha”. For the uninitiated, the term “Alpha” is a brand holdover from the legacy Minolta days and their line of ground breaking Alpha SLR cameras. When Sony purchased the Konica Minolta camera business in the mid 2000s, the Alpha product name came along for the ride.
This is how it happened – three days of love and music at El Cosmico in Marfa, TX.
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Rewind. 2005. The Parish, Austin, TX. A first attempt at concert photography with a band that consistently dropped sonic milestones throughout my adulthood. Somehow I kept my shit together and strung together a few images I was proud of, and that was the fire that lit my photographic career.
From the earliest days of the mirrorless movement, photographers have enjoyed the ability to adapt manual focus lenses made for various legacy camera mounts to their new systems. With their electronic viewfinders and focusing aids, mirrorless cameras are uniquely suited for the task of manual focusing older lenses. As one of those early adopters, I adapted every rangefinder or legacy SLR lens I could get my hands on.
The results were satisfying but manual focusing can be challenging for moving subjects or for those with poor eyesight. Thanks to the technology in the new Sony Alpha series mirrorless cameras – specifically those cameras with on-sensor phase detection autofocus – and the ingenuity of a small company in Hong Kong, we now have the ability to autofocus almost any manual focus lens manufactured over the past 75 years for the 35mm format.
This wizardry is delivered via a new smart adapter called the Techart Pro – I’m calling it TAP for short – for Sony’s latest generation of phase detect autofocus (PDAF) cameras: the a7RII, a7II and a6300. Don’t bother trying it with any previous Sony models but we might assume that future Sony PDAF cameras should be compatible. Out of the box, the adapter supports lenses made for Leica M mount, but due to the short flange distance of that platform, there is plenty of room for an additional adapter to stack on the TAP, thus increasing the mount compatibility to support: ALPA, Canon FD and EF, Contarex CRX, Contax/Yashica (C/Y), DKL, Exakta, Leica R, M42, Minolta MD, Nikon F, Olympus OM and Pentax K. These additional adapters can be purchased from Techart or perhaps more cheaply on eBay or Amazon. The TAP itself costs $349 and can be ordered directly from the manufacturer.
The manufacturer claims that TAP can focus a lens as large as 700g but for my purposes, I’m primarily looking at small and light rangefinder lenses as they maximize the compact potential of mirrorless. For this review I’m using the following selection of Zeiss ZM lenses:
- Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon T* ZM
- Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 C Biogon T* ZM
- Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 C Sonnar T* ZM
- Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar T* ZM
- Zeiss 85mm f/4 Tele Tessar T* ZM
When mirrorless first emerged on the market back in 2008 with the Panasonic DMC-G1 – not counting the earlier and more esoteric rangefinders from Epson and Leica – the concept of a smaller camera performing at the level of a dSLR was quite foreign to photographers and if we are fair, still a few years off. As Olympus, Fuji, Leica, Ricoh, Pentax, Sony and eventually even Canon and Nikon jumped into the nascent format, all the early systems were small, with lenses that matched the diminutive bodies. Those early systems like the Olympus Pen, the Sony NEX and the Ricoh GXR were a revelation to photographers sick of the ever expanding waistline of their dSLR kits.