Battle of the best 20/21s: Sigma 20/1.4 Art vs Zeiss 2.8/21 Loxia

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Images courtesy respective manufacturers, composited to roughly correct relative size – my samples had to return home before I got a chance to put them together in the studio for th usual product shoot, and I’m still awaiting delivery of my own personal lenses.

I’ve recently had a chance to shoot a) the best two wide angles available at the moment, and b) shoot them against each other on the same camera body. This is not a direct comparison. There are however limitations to the testing – very limited time* and no way to mount one without. Furthermore, the lenses were both final preproduction prototypes, which could mean they are either good samples because they’re hand adjusted…or there’s some variance, because…they’re hand adjusted. Tests were performed on a Sony A7RII body mounted on a Arca-Swiss P0 head and RRS24L tripod – i.e. sturdy – and released via IR remote. The adaptor used was a Metabones Nikon G-NEX model, tested and found to be good with various other lenses including the Zeiss 28 Otus. However, it’s worth noting that the shorter the focal length, the more sensitive a lens is to small skew because only very small movements are needed to change effective focusing distance. I’m sure many other limitations in methodology can be found, but remember we are aiming for the best we can do in field conditions without giving one lens or the other a sensor-based advantage. Observations must therefore be taken as preliminary.

*Literally, about an hour after dark during a recent visit to Sigma HQ in Aizu, Japan. Crops are 100% where stated; I will not be posting full size images because IP rights sadly don’t seem to mean a thing online.

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A guide to Zeiss lens choices for Sony FE

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The challenge we have now is no longer one of insufficient lenses: it’s almost one of too many. Having spent the last few months navigating the options and trying to figure out which of them work best for me, I now feel qualified to write this post which will a) explain the differences, b) make some recommendations both for the various series of lenses and within them as a whole. It’s worth noting that these comments and lens options apply to mirrorless cameras in general, though I’ve chosen Sony FE specifically because a) I own the A7RII, and b) there are several ‘native mount’ options that are available for Sony that aren’t for other systems – the first three on the list for starters, and won’t adapt because they require electronics*. I do honestly wish they’d thought out some of the naming better, though – it just lands up being both confusing for photographers and a bit of nightmare for their marketing team.

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Photoessay: Motorcycle life, Hanoi

_5R04386 copyMotorcycles are a core part of Vietnamese life – transport, lounge, freedom, place of work, revenue generator – to name just a few functions. It is impossible to go anywhere in Hanoi without having to avoid one, or them avoid you. They are both subject and context and ubiquitous foreground. It amazes me every time that there aren’t more road traffic accidents (but then again, they don’t move that fast) and that anybody can find their bike in the massive ranks after leaving it there for more than a few hours – the ‘backspace’ might well change quite markedly after that time as people depart and arrive.

But that does bring us back to the core function of the bike: to serve the people. It was once postulated that if aliens came from another planet and observed earth, they might well assume cars to be the intelligent life form and us merely parasites – the same is true for motorcycles. We must therefore also not forget whom they are meant to serve…

This series was shot with a Canon 5DSR and Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus or an Olympus E-M5 II and Zeiss 1.4/35 Distagon ZM. [Read more…]

Review: the Zeiss 1.4/28 Otus APO-Distagon

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28, 55, 85. A pretty versatile core set for pretty much any purposes. And now fully filled out by the latest in the Otus series, the recently-announced 1.4/28 APO-Distagon. Advance warning: this is not a general purpose lens, nor is it the kind of thing you can deploy casually. That is merely the nature of steeply diminishing returns; there are no gains without significant incremental effort. And we’re really talking about pushing the last 1% here. If you’ve not felt anything lacking in your images, then I suggest you stop reading here and save yourself a lot of money, because chasing perfection isn’t cheap…

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News: Zeiss Otus 1.4/28 APO-Distagon, 2.8/21 Loxia, RX1RII, 19 October

Image courtesy Zeiss

The cover was lifted on the new Otus yesterday – a 28mm f1.4, as expected, and a 21mm f2.8 Loxia a couple of days earlier. The Otus is a 16/13 Distagon design and uses quite a large array of exotic glass and aspherical elements; it’s also quite large (95mm front thread) and has significant weight – but then again, what do you expect from an APO-designated f1.4 wide? From my experience with it so far, it is once again proving to be the reference lens in this focal length. Delivery is expected to be in 2Q 2016.

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A visit to Zeiss and thoughts on the Milvus line

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The mothership

I was fortunate enough to spend the last three days at Zeiss with Lloyd Chambers (update: his blog entry is here) – with a level of access that I suspect that has never been granted before to independent external parties. They were gracious and first class hosts – I don’t think I’ve had that many types of non-alcohlic beer before. We asked every question we could think of and more, and received answers which we had never expected and at a level of depth that has left me deeply, deeply impressed with what the lens team is doing out in Oberkochen. This may seem like a strange way to talk about the new announcement, but bear with me for while; there is method to the madness. :)

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One place available: Cinematic Masterclass with Zeiss: Hanoi, Jul 21-26

_7017983 copy Due to one of the participant’s work commitments, I now have one place open for the Cinematic Photography Masterclass with Carl Zeiss in Hanoi, from 21-26 July – click here to book and for more details! MT After the jump, a few snippets of thought from previous Masterclass participants… [Read more…]

Second session open for the Cinematic Masterclass with Zeiss: Hanoi, Jul 28-Aug 2 2015

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Due to popular demand, I’m taking bookings for the second session of the Cinematic Photography Masterclass with Carl Zeiss in Hanoi (click here to book and for more details) It will run from 28 July to 2 August and follow the same format as the first one – hope to see you there! MT

After the jump, a few snippets of thought from previous Masterclass participants…

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Announcing the Cinematic Masterclass in collaboration with Zeiss: Hanoi, Jul 21-26 and Jul 28-Aug 2, 2015

_7016973 copy The fifth Masterclass will also be the first specialised one, on a topic I’m frequently asked to teach: the cinematic style of photography. It will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, from 21-26 of July 2015 inclusive. Better still, Zeiss has agreed to loan us with a suitcase of lenses*. As usual, the Masterclass is limited to just 8 participants, so please confirm early to avoid disappointment; read on to make a booking and for further information. For all of you who’ve been asking me for a Masterclass in Asia, here’s your opportunity :)

18/4 Updates: Taking standbys for the first session, second session (28/7-2/8) now open for booking. *More importantly, Zeiss have updated me on lenses – the really good news is we will get the 1.4/55 and 1.4/85 Otuses in Nikon and Canon mounts, along with the 2/135 APO and 2/28 Hollywood Distagon… :) [Read more…]

What’s in the bag – USA workshop tour

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One last minute change: I went with a Think Tank Airport International roller instead of the backpack – less fatiguing.

I’m on the road for three weeks. I’m teaching a Masterclass and a Making Outstanding Images workshop. I’m shooting for myself. I’m shooting an architectural assignment, and then capping it off with a private teaching session. These are a lot of very, very different objectives. So what did I bring, and why?

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