First Impressions: Sony E 70-350mm F4.5-6.3 G OSS (Sony E, APS-C)

A weather-sealed super-telephoto lens designed specifically for Sony’s APS-C mirrorless cameras.

Earlier this week, Sony announced their 70-350mm f4.5-6.3 G OSS lens, alongside the A6100 and A6600 crop sensor mirrorless cameras, and the 16-55mm f2.8 G lens. The Sony E 70-350mm f4.5-6.3 G OSS is the company’s first super-telephoto designed specifically for their crop sensor mirrorless cameras, with a 35mm Full Frame equivalent focal range of 105–525 mm. When shooting at such extreme focal lengths, the built-in optical image stabilization helps keep motion blur to a minimum. The 70-350mm f4.5-6.3 G OSS features an optical design consisting of an aspherical element along with three extra-low dispersion glass elements, and is dust and moisture resistant. Sony managed to pack these features into a compact package that weighs in at just 625g. We got a chance to shoot with the Sony 70-350mm f4.5-6.3 G OSS in a variety of shooting conditions using both the A6100 and A6600. Head on after the jump to check out our first impressions on this super-telephoto. Continue reading…

First Impressions: Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM (A Portrait Dream Lens)

The Canon RF 85mm f1.2 L USM helps the Canon EOS R deliver a bit of extra magic for portraiture.

When portrait photographers pick up the Canon RF 85mm f1.2 L USM, they’ll start to realize the absolute magic it’s capable of when rendering a portrait subject. Canon’s lenses haven’t always been about scoring high on DXOMark tests: they’re instead designed for the character. Canon’s RF 50mm f1.2 L USM delivers an almost medium format look that’s only possible with an 80mm f2 on a 645 body and the Canon RF 85mm f1.2 L USM isn’t anything different. Even when shooting wide open with a flash, the look you get is far unlike anything else. That’s not to say that everything else isn’t capable of delivering beautiful images, but a long focal length at f1.2 is something to really behold.

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First Impressions: Sony E 16-55mm F2.8 G (Sony E Mount, APS-C)

The Sony E 16-55mm f2.8 G is a lightweight and compact zoom lens with weather-sealing that’s designed for crop sensor E mount cameras

Sony has been releasing new mirrorless APS-C cameras regularly for the last few years. A common complaint has been the lack of new lenses that are designed specifically for crop sensor E mount cameras. With the introduction of the Sony E 16-55mm f2.8 G lens, those shooting with Sony APS-C mirrorless cameras finally have a first-party standard zoom option. This is Sony’s first 16-55mm zoom explicitly designed for crop sensor E mount cameras, with a 35mm Full Frame equivalent focal length of 24-82.5mm and a constant aperture of f2.8. 24-70mm f2.8 zooms are the workhorse lenses for many working photographers, and this 16-55mm is essentially the APS-C version of that, albeit much lighter and more compact. The Sony E 16-55mm f2.8 G features an optical design consisting of two AA lenses, two aspherical elements, and three ED glasses, and is driven by an XD Linear Motor allowing the lens to focus quickly, accurately, and quietly. Being a G lens, the 16-55mm is also dust and moisture resistant.

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First Impressions: Panasonic Lumix S Pro 24-70mm F2.8 (Super Sharp!)

The Panasonic Lumix S Pro 24-70mm f2.8 is arguably the best zoom we’ve used for the system so far.

The results of Panasonic Lumix S Pro 24-70mm f2.8 will mean a lot for the company. In my opinion, it’s one of three lenses that will determine the success of the L mount alliance in its early stages. Along with the Panasonic 50mm f1.4 and the Sigma 35mm f1.2, these lenses are some of the options most targeted to professional photographers. Leica has an excellent selection of glass, but let’s be honest: it also comes at a premium. We’re not sure how many professional photographers will reach for Leica lenses. But, they’ll reach for Sigma and Panasonic due to the price and performance they offer. If Panasonic can fix its autofocus algorithms, the Panasonic Lumix S Pro 24-70mm f2.8 will make their cameras an excellent contender vs the rest of the options on the market.

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First Impressions: Fujifilm GFX GF50mm F3.5 R LM WR

Fujifilm FUJINON GF50mm

The Fujifilm GF50mm F3.5 R LM WR could be the perfect street, walk-about, and environmental portrait lens for the GFX series.

Fujifilm recently announced a new lens for their Medium Format cameras: the Fujifilm GF50mm f3.5 R LM WR. We were fortunate enough to get our hands on a pre-production version of the Fujifilm FUJINON GF50mm f3.5, and we got to spend a few hours with it out on some sunny streets. This normal/standard lens has an approximate equivalent focal length of 40mm, and an equivalent aperture of f2.8 if you were to compare it to 35mm Full Frame offerings. This lens should excite those who use GFX cameras for street photography and environmental portraiture. Join us after the break to see some sample images, and to read about our first impressions of this new lens. Continue reading…

Review: Sony 35mm F1.8 FE (This Is My Next Lens)

The new Sony 35mm f1.8 FE lens is real, and it’s the most perfect Sony lens I could ask for.

All I ever really wanted was a Sony 35mm f1.8 FE lens–and I never thought they’d make one. But when I received a call last week about testing a product not yet announced, I was quite shocked. The company has its 35mm f2.8 FE and a 35mm f1.4 FE lenses; both are quite good in their own respects. But what they needed was a middle ground option, and that’s where the Sony 35mm f1.8 FE is coming into play very strongly. It’s small and designed to be on par with the quality that the 55mm f1.8 and the 85mm f1.8 deliver. If you know anything about those lenses, you’ll understand that they’re incredible values. Sony considers their 28mm f2 to be on the same playing field, but I’ve got mixed thoughts on that opinion. What I know for sure though: the Sony 35mm f1.8 FE is a far better choice. With weather sealing, fast autofocus, incredibly sharp image quality, beautiful bokeh, and almost cinematic image quality to it, the Sony 35mm f1.8 FE is going to be my next lens.

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Review: IRIX 150mm F2.8 Dragonfly Macro Lens (The Bokeh King)

I wasn’t sure what to expect with the IRIX 150mm f2.8 Dragonfly Macro Lens, but it’s solid all around. 

When IRIX announced that their Dragonfly series of lenses would be a bit in between their Blackstone and their Firefly lenses, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Then I got to see it for a bit at Photo Plus East last year and my expectations were a more positive. But what really made me happy about the IRIX 150mm f2.8 Dragonfly Macro Lens is how it performs on the Canon EOS R. This lens is weather sealed, sharp, has 11 aperture blades to render gorgeous bokeh, accurate focus due to a long focus throw and Canon’s absolutely fantastic rangefinder system, and overall is a very versatile lens. Though IRIX’s options are more for enthusiasts due to the low price and the manual focus, this lens is worthy of being in the bag of any working portrait photographer. It allows for close focusing distance and provides solid image quality. And for only $595, I’m shocked at what it can do.

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Review: Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge and Composer Pro (Sony FE)

The Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge promises a very fun time.

I’ve been a big fan of the stuff Lensbaby does for a long time, and with the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge I feel like they’re not doing anything particularly special aside from an update. That’s not to say this is a bad product. It’s fun, but for what it’s worth, the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge isn’t as fun or sharp as the company’s longer focal lengths. You’re sure to get that tilt-shift effect that people love to recreate using algorithms. However, when you use the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge you start to see that this lens has a lot of character. From the way it can deliver lens flares to the tiny sliver of semi-sharpness that it has in the center, the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge can proovide any photographer with lots of fun if you fully embrace it and throw all the conformities out the window.

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Review: Canon RF 35mm F1.8 USM IS (Almost Worthy of Being L Glass)

The Canon 35mm f1.8 USM IS RF has a very affordable price point and the image quality to exceed said price point.

When the Canon RF 35mm f1.8 USM IS was first announced, I was excited until I learned that it didn’t have weather sealing. For those of you who have been fans of the site for years, you’ll know that I’m big on weather sealing. I’m of firm belief that every camera and lens these days should have it. And I’m also a big fan of small lenses for mirrorless cameras. The Canon RF 35mm f1.8 USM IS is just that. It surely isn’t an L lens but this is a lens designed for fun and a little bit of serious work. Most importantly, it has image stabilization built in.

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Review: Rokinon 85mm F1.4 AF FE (This + Sony a7r III = Portra Colors)

Lens deals - Rokinon 85mm f1.4

The Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE is a very good lens overall, but you may still want to stick with Sony’s options.

When testing the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE, I admittedly ran into problems with the autofocus performance that needed to be fixed. Luckily, I knew how to do it with a quick clean of the communication contacts. But the fact that I needed to have this knowledge is something that I’m not sure the average photographer has–at least those who would be attracted to the more affordable Rokinon 85mm f1.4 AF FE option. If you get beyond this, you start to realize it’s a fantastic lens for portraiture. On the Sony a7r III, it’s capable of focusing very accurately, albeit still slower than Sony’s options. But I’m positive in saying that if one looked at the images side-by-side from each lens without pixel peeping, no one would be able to tell the differences between them.

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Review: Canon 85mm F1.4 L IS USM (Works Well with Eye Autofocus)

We took our time with the Canon 85mm f1.4 L IS USM because we liked it that much.

If you’re a DSLR owner and wanted an update for your own really old 85mm f1.2 you’ll see that the Canon 85mm f1.4 L IS USM answers a lot of the problems the older version had. Indeed, the implementation of image stabilization is a huge upgrade when coupled with a significantly lighter body, faster autofocus, and overall sharper optics. To be fair, both the 85mm f1.2 and Canon’s f1.4 lenses were designed more for rendering a specific look on full frame and 35mm film bodies. Then you look at all the other great stuff the Canon 85mm f1.4 L IS USM has. It’s packed with weather sealing and when you attach it to Canon’s EOS R, you’ll reap the benefits of that.

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First Impressions: Sony 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS (FE Lens)

For a really affordable price point, the Sony 200-600mm f5.6-6.3 G OSS is going to satisfy the needs of many photographers.

I’m very shocked at how much I liked the Sony 200-600mm f5.6-6.3 G OSS after playing with it for a weekend. I’m not saying that because I doubt Sony’s ability to make a great lens, but because I found the lightweight, focal length range, relatively compact size, and image stabilization combined well together to create what could arguably be Sony’s most useful lens for photojournalism to date. Though it’s only of the G moniker and not a G Master, there is little holding me back from saying that any photographer would be unwise to pass up on this lens. At a $2,000 price point, every photographer will get several useful focal lengths along with image stabilization and small size. Plus, it’s got a solid image quality! Though despite all of this, I’m still a bit wary; the last time I used a G series lens, I had a bad experience with its build quality.

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Review: Sony 600mm F4 G Master OSS (A Bird Photographer’s Dream)

The Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS took us by surprise when we heard about it, but it’s great.

When we were shown the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS, I was shocked to see it was coming. My first thought would have been another zoom lens for sports photographers, but it would be unlike Sony to just announce a zoom lens. Instead, the Sony 600mm f4 G Master OSS is an option for photographers that pulls out all the stops. You’re still going to need a monopod or tripod to shoot with it for long periods, but I’m it isn’t imperative. The lens works in combination with Sony’s IBIS system to give the photographer a lot of image stabilization when photographing sports and birds alike. Then, consider the weather sealing inside and the fact that this is the largest lens for a mirrorless camera system that we’ve seen yet. And despite this, we ultimately see the value in it.

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Review: Zeiss 40mm f2 Batis (A Lens for Sony FE Photojournalists)

The Zeiss 40mm f2 Batis is rugged and has good image quality, but it’s in an odd place.

The 40mm focal length is one that photojournalists can truly benefit from; and in the case of the Zeiss 40mm f2 Batis for Sony FE cameras photographers will be quite pleased with the results if they’re discerning about their look. Similar to what Sigma did, with their 40mm f1.4, the Zeiss 40mm f2 Batis has a muted color tone for the film look. It isn’t as sharp, but it is also slightly more affordable, smaller, lighter, etc. This lens also boasts weather sealing, fast autofocus, and the signature display window on top to give the photographer a ton of information that they need right then and there. The working photojournalist will surely find the Zeiss 40mm f2 Batis to be a good lens for their needs; but at the same time this doesn’t feel like a Zeiss offering. Further, I’m a bit befuzzled at why Zeiss didn’t make this an f1.4 lens.

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Review: Tamron SP 15-30mm f2.8 Di VC USD G2 (Canon EF Mount)

The Tamron SP 15-30mm f2.8 Di VC USD G2 incorporates a number of enhancements to the company’s already excellent flagship ultra-wide angle zoom lens

When Tamron released the original version of their SP 15-30mm f2.8 Di VC USD high-speed ultra-wide angle zoom back in 2015, we praised it for its sharpness, color rendition, and versatility, but felt that there were some areas that Tamron could improve on. Enter the Tamron SP 15-30mm f2.8 Di VC USD G2, Tamron’s 2nd generation refresh of the same lens that we had reviewed some four years ago which incorporates a number of improvements upon the well-received original. A pair of MPUs (Micro-Processing Unit) along with a VC (Vibration Compensation) mechanism resides within the SP 15-30mm f2.8 G2 and work in tandem to ensure snappy autofocus performance while maintaining image stabilization.

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Review: Sigma 56mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary (Sony E Mount)

If you’re a portrait photographer shooting with Sony Crop Sensor cameras, the Sigma 56mm f1.4 is going to give you a severe case of G.A.S.

Up until Sony announced the A6400 in January of this year, some have speculated that the Japanese Mirrorless camera manufacturer had abandoned their Crop Sensor line to focus on their ever popular Full Frame cameras. Coupled with the fact that the last time Sony released an APS-C lens was almost exactly a year before the A6400’s announcement when the company introduced the variable aperture 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS zoom lens, it’s not hard to see why people were concerned for the life of Sony’s APS-C camera line. With the lineup being alive and well, at least for the immediate future, it’s good to see third-party lens manufacturers continuing their support for the system as well, such as with the case of the Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens. This is sigma’s third lens designed with Sony’s Crop Sensor E Mount cameras in mind. They previously released a 16mm f1.4 and a 30mm f1.4, both under the Contemporary line and now marketed as a trio of sorts. The Sigma 56mm f1.4 has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 84mm when factoring in the 1.5x crop factor that Sony’s E Mount APS-C cameras have. For those keeping track, Sigma basically designed this lens with portrait photographers in mind, as many tend to gravitate towards the 85mm focal length. A Micro Four-Thirds version of this lens is also available for photographers shooting with M43 cameras.

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Review: Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 (Sony FE)

The Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 is an aggressively priced manual focus portrait lens for Sony Full Frame Mirrorless Cameras

During last year’s PhotoPlus Expo, Viltrox announced that they have begun designing and manufacturing their own camera lenses. Up until that point, the Chinese company was known principally as a manufacturer of photography accessories as well as lens adapters. As we had already reviewed the ultrawide Viltrox PFU RBMH 20mm f1.8 ASPH lens previously, the focus of this review will instead be on the other lens that Viltrox announced during PPE: the portrait-centric Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 for Sony FE Mount. Housed within a brass body, the Viltrox 85mm f1.8 feels sturdily built in hand. While you can adjust the aperture of the Viltrox 85mm f1.8 using your camera’s aperture dial, focusing is a completely manual affair. Aggressively priced at just under US$300, the Viltrox  PFU RBMH 85mm f1.8 for Sony Full Frame Mirrorless is certainly worthy of consideration for any portrait photographers on a budget. Read on to find out how well the freshman lens maker fared.

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Review: Tokina 16-28mm F2.8 OPERA (Canon EF)

The Tokina 16-28mm f2.8 OPERA is an affordable, constant aperture, zoom lens that can render gorgeous bokeh in the right situation.

Reviewing the Tokina 16-28mm f2.8 OPERA lens was a bit of an odd thing; it goes against much of what I really want in a modern lens these days. While the focal lengths are limited in their range, the price point is kept below $1,000. It was disheartening that I couldn’t take it into very rainy situations due to the lack of weather sealing, but this comes with a lower price point. Though it may seem like a way of cheaping-out the customer, they’re not. The Tokina 16-28mm f2.8 OPERA has beautiful image quality that will satisfy many photographers. With some very sharp optics inside this lens, I was pleased to see it deliver images with pleasing bokeh. At the same time, I really wish Tokina didn’t hold back at all.

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Review: Fujifilm 16mm F2.8 R WR (The Adventurer’s Lens)

The Fujifilm 16mm f2.8 R WR is a pretty great lens, but I still prefer the f1.4 version.

The Fujifilm 16mm f2.8 R WR lens is something I wasn’t expecting from the company; they already had a very good 16mm f1.4 R WR lens. However, considering the company’s philosophy of bringing things down to a more elementary audience in a more affordable, weather sealed form, it played out into being right in line with what they do. This is a lens that isn’t all that bad, but if you own the Fujifilm 16mm f1.4 R WR, you don’t need this. I’ll preface the review that way, but also note the very affordable price point of this lens.

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Review: Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f1.8 S (Nikon Z Mount)

Nikon Z Mount 35mm

The Nikon Z 35mm f1.8 S is a compact, weather sealed lens that performs really well for the price.

During our testing with the Nikon z series of cameras, perhaps our favorite lens was the Nikon Nikkor Z 35mm f1.8 S. It can be argued that a camera system is only as good as the lenses available, and this is especially true when launching a brand new camera system–as is the case with the Nikon Z Mount series. One of three lenses that were announced at the launch of Nikon’s brand new Z Mount, the Nikon Z 35mm f1.8 S covers a popular focal length used by many photographers–suitable for street, landscapes, portraits, and a lot of other genres. Nikon was kind enough to send us a copy of the lens along with the brand new Z6 and Z7 cameras, and we put it through an exhaustive numbers of tests to see how well the lens performed.

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Review: Sony 135mm F1.8 G Master (Sony FE Mount)

The Sony 135mm f1.8 G Master is the prime lens many portrait photographers shooting with Sony mirrorless cameras have been waiting for.

Announced at the end of February, the Sony 135mm f1.8 G Master is the 9th lens to join the ranks of Sony’s premium G Master lineup. Sony created the 135mm f1.8 G Master with portrait photographers in mind first and foremost; many portrait photographers gravitate toward the 135mm focal length due to the fact that subjects appear true to life with little to no discernible distortion. Since we only got to spend a few hours with the lens during the top-secret media launch (which took place on a particularly snowy February afternoon), we were excited to get our review unit in so that we can put the 135mm G Master through its paces in typical Phoblographer manner.

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