After moving from being a long-time Canon shooter to the Sony mirrorless full frame system last June, I started questioning one of my lens choices. I started with the 16-35mm F4, 24-70mm F4 and the 70-200mm F4 Sony lenses and carried those around in my backpack. Right from the start, I was a bit uncertain about the sharpness of that 24-70mm lens and even had some rejections from stock agencies about lack of sharpness. Even though I did some tests on a tripod of a stone wall, which looked generally OK, I found myself downsizing images and sometimes avoiding that lens if I had an opportunity to do so, which isn’t a great tribute to it’s quality! When I read a review and checked out the price of this Zeiss 55mm F1.8 lens and saw how light/sharp it was, I couldn’t resist.
What I always do on Amazon is check the used section when I’m buying lenses. From time to time, Amazon themselves sell units that may have got damaged boxes in the warehouse (they sell them under the name Amazon Warehouse Deals) and sure enough, there was one for $768 plus tax, so I ordered it. The lens arrived with a box that looked like it had been opened before, but the lens itself was perfect and included all the accessories (ie a lens hood and cap!). I sold my 24-70mm lens on Amazon in about a week and got $805 after the Amazon fees, so you could say I made money on the deal if you ignore the actual price I paid for that zoom!
The picture above shows the lens on the A7Rii body (with the Really Right Stuff L plate which adds a bit of heft to the unit but is really useful for attaching to my tripod), and it makes for a small easy to handle travel camera.
But what about the loss of range now that I am fixed focal length rather than zoom. I thought about this quite a lot before buying as the 24-70 (like the 24-105mm on the Canon) is a great range for almost all shots. My logic was as follows:
- On a proper photography outing, I will also have my Sony 16-35mm F4 lens, which I find to be really sharp and a nice wide range. I generally have the Sony 70-200mm F4 which takes care of the longer focal length shots and I also think takes great images. So for those serious occasions when I am out shooting professionally, the 55mm fills a nice gap between the two zooms, and is lighter than the 24-70mm it replaced.
- For walking about shots where I just have the 55mm on the camera, I decided I could take several “vertical” shots and stitch them in Lightroom if I need to take a shot where a wider viewpoint would be better. That stitching works really well these days and so I could get a pretty wide view just with this fixed lens.
- Where I need a bit longer focal length, you can obviously use your feet to get a bit closer, but I also realized that with 42 megapixels to work with, I could easily crop in to the image to reproduce what a 70mm lens would have seen with zero loss of quality, and with the added sharpness and wider aperture of this much better lens. In case you are thinking – what about the telephoto compression effect that you can get with a longer lens? Well, that effect is actually a viewpoint effect – cropping into the frame gives you exactly the same perspective as if you had used a telephoto.
So now I have a lighter package to carry, a sharper lens, a wider aperture and I no longer worry about getting past agency reviews. In fact, I can’t remember failing a review due to sharpness or focus in a long time – win-win all round!
Finally, I’ve found that for my studio/still life (and also portrait shots), I turn to one of two lenses – this 55mm one or the Sony 90mm F2.8Macro G lens, which is tack sharp and has very easy access to manual focusing by moving the focus ring backwards and forwards to disengage autofocus. That gives me great quality whether for head shots or all the way down to close macro work.