I know that everyone on some level loves to take photos. You just have to take a quick peruse through any social medium, to see that digital photography and the sharing of photos on-line, is alive and well.
With the advent of the mobile phone with the digital camera, portability and the ability to capture that moment at any time became reality for most of us.
However there were always still those of us who chased the higher image quality and pixel resolution of a dedicated camera, compared to the grainy, colorless photos of our early 2-6mp digital phone cameras. I remember it was for this very reason that we purchased our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S650 7.2 Mega pixel digital camera, it took perfectly good photos for the day and was a great for our step out into a dedicated digital camera. I wanted to find the old thing for the purpose of this review, however it seem to have gone missing. Hmmm…
Not having the camera anymore means this image will have to suffice.
Having by this time become heavily into fish keeping and starting to get out more with the band again, we were starting to want something that could produce much higher quality photos under more demanding situations. Everyone we spoke to said we needed a DSLR, however looking around at the time proved them to be rather expensive so we put that idea to bed for a later day.
It was a few months later and I was collecting a Behringer tube compressor I was trying out for the possible purchase for the studio. It turned out the guy that was selling it had previously been into music and was into photography, and now managed the camera store in town. In the end I decided I did not want the compressor (had a faulty left side) so I went to return it. Now, being that Lisa’s birthday was only a few weeks away and I knew she had been quite into photography in high school , I thought maybe it was time for the old camera upgrade. So upon returning the compressor I asked him what was a good camera in my price range that would give me the kind of results we wanted. His eyes then lit up as someone has obviously just asked him to talk about a topic he knows very well, he then reaches for the nearest camera catalogue, confidently flicks a few pages and says, ‘well I’m going to buy this!’ and points solidly at the brand new Sony Nex 3& 5 cameras. So I did the quick internet perusal on my phone to see if I could find out more about this camera, there seemed to be very little out there other than that this was brand new mirror-less DSLR technology that meant small camera with DSLR like image quality, since it had a sensor only one size down from the big full frame mirror DSLR cameras. A lot of this was over my head at the time, but being the gear nut that I am, that was enough for me and that was the one I suggested we get for Lisa’s birthday.
So I gave Lisa the money that I was going to spend on the compressor and a bit more, she pitched in the rest from her savings, and she went about searching for the best price while I was at work. We had decided that we wanted the Nex-5 over the Nex-3 mainly because it was made from a metal alloy body as opposed to the plastic of the 3 and the 5 also did full HD footage and had a slightly higher rated internal cpu. Being newer to photography we of course knew we wanted zoom, you know the old ‘well how much zoom has it got?’, so we decided to shell out the larger amount to get the body with the 2 kit lenses, both the 16mm prime and the 18-55mm zoom lenses. Lisa and her mum drove all over town and ended up right back at the store in town buying it of the bloke I had initially spoken to. Would have been fantastic had Lisa not then returned home to find we had been broken into and robbed! So after we dealt with that, called the police, fixed the windows and got over the fact that we had been robbed, we then took a moment to unpack the camera and have a play, in fact I think the first photos we took with the camera was of the damage.
Here is our Nex-5 with the flash attachment on and the 16mm prime attached. (taken with Lisa’s I-phone, how far phone cameras have come!) Of course here you can see it is a little beat up from good love and wear and tear.
Right off the bat we were very happy with the images compared to our old camera (who wouldn’t be, the frame size jump along with a double in mega pixels to 14.2 is a rather significant leap) However upon up-loading to the web we were sometimes disappointed at our results compared to that of some of our peers. So that was it I was on a quest to discover why we could not achieve that same ‘pop’ I saw in others photos with cameras of similar specs. After hunting around the internet and doing a bunch of reading of peoples opinions, it seemed the general consensus was that the lenses were letting down this potentially phenomenal camera, after manual lens owner had used adapters to put some of these on the front of their Nex’s with stunning results. Being daunted at the time of the concept of manual lenses and adapters I decided to steer clear of this concept and instead put the matter to bed again for a month or 2, but once again being frustrated at not being able to achieve the exact results I wanted I again returned to hunting around the net, because surely some new lenses had been released by now.
This is the 16mm auto kit prime lens (photo taken with my Exakta 35-75mm zoom lens which arrived today)
This new line of inquiry then led me to wiki, which on their page held the news that Sony had released the proprietary information for their Nex dedicated lens mounting system the E-mount and furthermore lens manufacturer Slr magic had now released two all new manual lenses native to the e-mount system. I was gobsmacked. Where had I been? This was fantastic news, so I started doing the old Google for the new Slr magic lenses wanting to know more about them, were they priced out of my range? were they any good? This in turn led me to Steve Huff’s blog where he had very recently done the preliminary reviews for these 2 brand new lenses. The news was good, if you were out for having a play with 2 great creative lenses, I must admit I also liked what I saw of the test shots, knowing they had come from my camera.
I continued to search and it lead me to 3 videos, one by a french cinematographer who had shot a lovely, upbeat sunset scene on a beautiful busy beach strip in France, it was beautiful, it invoked feelings of happiness, joviality, it made me yearn for warm summer nights and drinks with friends. The next was by a Japanese amateur film maker who filmed his trip to Greece with friends. He shot it all in black and white, and again it filled me with the feeling of good times, and yet this odd melancholic feeling, you got the sense he fancied a girl in the group as he followed her more than others. The final and third was the one that probably put the nail in the coffin, it was footage from a young fella from eastern Australia and his trip to Melbourne. He filmed his friends in the city heart, skateboarding and doing back flips and generally running a muck through the CBD. Like I said this was the nail in the coffin. I had been totally gobsmacked by the power of film. The insight into peoples lives, the power to tell a story, the power to make someone yearn for your way of life. This was a life changing moment and it effected me for weeks. I had always had a need to extract as much out of this life as I can before I bite the dust, but now I also yearned to capture it, to effect someone in the same way I had been effected.
Needless to say I then went to the Slr magic eBay page and promptly purchased both the 28mm and 35mm primes and adjustable focusing native e-mount macro tubes. For under $500 dollars I could get 2 reputedly ok lenses, that was a chance I was willing to take… and not knowing manual lens photography, well that would be something I would figure out when the lenses got here. haha
The lenses arrived rather promptly, within 2 weeks, which was good since they were a birthday present to myself. I was very keen to get in a play with them. I first threw on the 35mm lens and was amazed at how easy it was to pick up shooting manually on the Nex-5 with the aid of it’s focus peaking and manual focus assist (a 7x and 14x touch button finder zoom for checking if you have nailed the focus) while still being a little slower than shooting with an auto lens I quickly realised that when you nailed it manually, you really nailed it. The second thing I noticed was how much nicer these lenses rendered colours. It now takes slightly longer to shoot moving subjects such as my fish, however the satisfaction you get when you nail it and the results you get in the end make it feel so much more worthwhile. I very quickly fell in love with manual photography, I was now getting the results I had dreamed about.
I shot with these 2 lenses almost exclusively for 3 months, I got to know the 35 for being awesome artistically for portraits, having such soft corners. I found it particularly useful when shooting band shots for ‘From Isolation’, as the vignetting it has at the corners gives a slight swirling to the bokeh which gives a feeling of movement. The 28mm I struggled to fall in love with as much at first. It just did not give me the same enjoyment when out shooting that the 35mm did, however this always changed when I got back to my comp and loaded the full size shots up there, lens is actually quite sharp and renders colours very nicely.
Of course after all this testing I now wanted more again. I had remembered about using old manual lenses and adapting them to the Nex and this now peaked my curiosity as I had gained more knowledge and confidence with the camera. So I turned to e-bay and started googling the net for good lenses from the past and finding that due to the short flange size on the Nex I could adapt almost any lens I wanted from the past, I salivated at the thought. I first settled on lenses from Minolta as the mount adapter seemed readily available and the lenses were still reasonably priced. I then stretched out and bid on m42, l39, nikon, vivitar, sigma, tamron etc. etc. from manufacturers ranging from east Germany to Russia to USA to Japan and places in between. We still use the auto kit lenses, however mainly just for the applications where these excel, for low-light, action, such as live band photography. I intend to purchase the native Sony 50mm auto lens for the Nex as it is quite fast, with an aperture of f1.8 and as I have found in low-light, due to the native auto lenses having in built image stabilisation, this makes them almost twice as fast as the equivalent f aperture manual lens.
I now have a collection of manual lenses and adapters over 55 strong and growing! I have become completely addicted to manual lens shooting and now collecting and shooting with classic antique lenses adapted to the front of our Nex-5, it is just magic, this phenomenal little camera just translates whatever you put in front of it.
Over the coming weeks and months I hope to do some testing and reviews of some of my lenses for you, both old and new, so it may be of some help to fellow Nex users as to whether acquiring these lenses is a worthwhile enterprise. I have also come to learn there are also some settings you can tweak on your camera to get a little more punch out of your baby too.
Here are just a few of my favourite pics taken with the Slr Magic manual focus prime lenses:This Photo was taken with the Slr Magic/Noktor Hyperprime 28mm prime lens This Photo was taken with the Slr Magic/Noktor Hyperprime 28mm prime lens This Photo was taken with the Slr Magic/Noktor Hyperprime 28mm prime lens This Photo was taken with the Slr Magic/Noktor Hyperprime 28mm prime lens This Photo was taken with the Slr Magic/Noktor Hyperprime 35mm prime lens This Photo was taken with the Slr Magic/Noktor Hyperprime 28mm prime lens This Photo was taken with the Slr Magic/Noktor Hyperprime 35mm prime lens This Photo was taken with the Slr Magic/Noktor Hyperprime 35mm prime lens (These sample shots were all taken from camera Jpegs as there was no way to process the Nex Raw files at the time. this has since been rectified)
I hope you enjoyed this little run down on the Nex and the first native lenses I have had the pleasure of using. In summary I feel that the Nex series of cameras offer the perfect solution for amateur photo takers that want to step up to a higher quality small auto camera that can do great results, and for those that want to get a bit more serious and play with manual glass. This really is the perfect compromise between amateur user and pro-sumer.