December 10, 2011

Early Christmas Present

Yesterday I received an early Christmas present! Well, it wasn't as much an early Christmas present as a purchase for myself that happened to coincide with the holidays. When I bought my camera (Sony NEX-3), one of the cons was that there weren't many lenses available for it at the time. The camera only came out in summer of 2010, and since then has been replaced by the NEX-C3, and Sony has made other upgraded cameras like the NEX-7. Since it was a new line of cameras with a different lens mount (e), there were only a few available when it first came out. As soon as I got my camera I started following Sony rumors to see when and what new lenses would come out in the next couple of years.

In August they announced one I've had my eye on since then: the 50mm f1.8, which will be released for purchase in a few days. I knew I wanted this lens because it was a prime with a wide aperture. That means that it doesn't zoom at all; every picture you take has the same angle of view. The wide max aperture means two things: you can take hand-held photos in much lower light, and you can get creamier (blurrier) backgrounds, which makes your subject look more crisp. When the lens was still rumored, it was supposed to be a 40mm, which would have been perfect! On my cropped sensor camera, however, 50mm is way too much zoom. The equivalent on a full-frame camera is more like 85mm. Very zoomed in. For portraits and everyday photography, I want more of a portrait lens, which would have the equivalent of 50mm on a full-frame camera (like what most wedding & portrait photographers use).

I started looking around at other lens series to just see if I would be able to get the angle of view I wanted in a different line. I found the perfect one! I actually started looking at a different lens, which I thought would be perfect (e-mount, 35mm 1.7), but turned out to be more of an artistic, creative lens. I decided to look at Sony lenses because I knew that they made an adapter for their other line of cameras. Guess what? I found exactly what I was looking for, and the adapter & lens together cost $5 less than the lens I was waiting for, which still hasn't been released for purchase! I am so happy because the lens wasn't supposed to get here until Monday or Tuesday, and I got it two days ago!! The adapter came right on time as it was supposed to, but ended up being a day after I got the lens. In God's perfect timing, I got the adapter right before we left for Christmas Town yesterday - what a perfect place to test out my new lens!!

Now, about the lens. It's a 35mm f1.8 (which has the equivalent of 52mm - the perfect portrait angle of view). I looooove the aperture!! I knew that they made lenses with f-stops of 2 and 2.8 and 3.5, but other than that had no idea how many stops were between 3.5 (what I can get out of the 35mm lens I have now, which is the standard kit lens that zooms from 18-55mm) and 1.8. I happily discovered that I can get 6 more stops!! (From 3.5 it opens up to 3.2, 2.8, 2.5, 2.2, 2.0, and then 1.8.) Practically what does that look like? I can lower the ISO and have a reasonable shutter speed so I can take hand-held pictures with very low lighting and not a lot of noise (graininess). Yesss!! Here's an example:

Also, like I said, it makes the backgrounds much blurrier too. Here are a couple of examples of the bokeh I can get now:

My review of the actual lens? It doesn't feel quite as sturdy as my e-mount lenses. It's made of plastic, not metal, so it just feels a little cheaper. When I was playing around with it before I got the adapter, I thought I would HATE the focusing! The focus ring is also plastic, and slides around really fast, unlike my other lenses which are a metal ring with lots of ridges to make focusing feel smoother. What I found out when I put the lens on my camera though, is that I LOVE the focusing!! It's SO much better than my other lenses! Funny, huh? I have only tried focusing manually (the auto-focus is slower when using an adapter), but it is much easier to get crisp images. I was really excited about getting this lens and being encouraged to practice manual focus because I want to focus manually, but I'm not always very good at it. It takes a lot of tries to get a shot in perfect focus where I want it to be! From reading photographers' blogs, it's supposed to be harder to focus manually with a wider aperture (smaller depth of field aka area in focus), but fortunately with this lens it's been a breeze. I'm honestly not sure why that is but I'm fine with it!! (It's good for Whit too because taking pictures doesn't take as long.) Here are a couple of examples:
it must not be too hard to focus if a stranger can do it after 1 try
Overall, it's been fantastic!! The other lens I was planning to buy is the e-mount telephoto zoom (55-210 f/4.5-6.3), but now that I've tried this one and know that the adapter isn't a big hassle, I'm pretty sure I'm going to buy another a-mount instead of the e-mount. It's a better lens (55-200mm f/4-5.6) and I could get it for about $200 less than the e-mount. YAY! Our budget for big purchases will be pretty low after Whit buys his new phone, so I probably won't get that lens for another couple of months, but I can't wait until I do!

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