Now, to get the report started:
Sony Alpha Demo Day Report
by Bjorn van Sinttruije
In close cooperation with Sony Netherlands, the dutch photography forum Fotomateforum.net
organized a day-long meeting of photography-enthusiasts and forum members at Holland's national railway museum in Utrecht. During the day, workshops were given to those interested and Sony allowed visitors to borrow some of their latest and greatest gear. The event was only open to a limited group of people, and I guess there were about 70 to 75 attending. If you'd like to see a quick video of the event, here
's the link (video wasn't shot by me).
In this thread, you'll find an impression of what happened that day, along with brief reviews of the lenses and A850 I tested for 30 minute periods and a whole collection of images taken of and during the event.
My goal for the day was to test as many lenses as possible to briefly review on my twitter
and afterwards here on CL. However, because of very high interest in the lenses and bodies Sony offered, the limited amount available and the limited time we had, I have only been able to test a small collection of stuff I'm mostly interested in myself. Here's the list (in order of testing):
- Carl Zeiss 85mm f/1.4
- Sony 35mm f/1.4 G
- Carl Zeiss 135mm f/1.8
- Sony A850 (A900 was taken). On the A850, I tried:
- Carl Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 SSM (my own)
- Sony 50mm f/1.4 (my own)
- Carl Zeiss 85mm f/1.4
I'll start of with a quick sketch of what the event was like before getting into the gear. The SADD started at 09:30, but I got there early to help set things up. It was great to see the faces behind the people you 'meet' daily online, especially when the first guest started to arrive. After an opening word from one of the people who organized the event, Sony gave a relatively long presentation on their current line-up and the technology they use. Jessica, a Sony respresentative, and Eric, an Alpha product expert, where present to answer questions throughout the day and to provide lenses, bodies and flashguns for testing. Great thanks to Sony for being present at the SSAD and providing us with the funding required, as well as all those great lenses and cameras!Also, many thanks to those involved in the organization of the event, they made it my best 2010 weekend yet!
After Sony's talk, guests were scheduled to workshops groups. Workshops included location flash photography, studio flash photography, tethered shooting, a quick course for getting off of the P-mode and an interactive talk with my good friend Gustav Kiburg, who showed of this kingfishers photos and the materials he uses to get his stunning shots.
Being there mostly for the lenses and for meeting people, I decided to not participate in the workshops and go out shooting in the museum. Holland's railway museum is a great place for families and those interested in trains, but better yet, it's an ideal location to host an event like this. There were tens of trains, from modern to very old ones to photograph, from the outside and inside. Resulted in some shots I'd defiintely consider worth keeping and sharing on Flickr! Thanks to the Dutch railway museum (Spoorwegmuseum Utrecht) for allowing us photogs to swarm their museum!
Time flies when you're having fun. It really does. Before I knew it, lenses were being packed back into Pelican cases and the organization was preparing an end to a very successful day. That wasn't the worst moment of the entire event though. Haha. After almost all people had left, and things were packed and ready to be taken out, I helped Jessica, the Sony rep, carry the cases loaded with gear to her car. Her car, which was only 7 metres away from the van that Gustav drives, the van in which I'd go home. His doors were open, her's weren't, in fact, she was still in museum. Now I'm not saying it felt tempting to walk away, but I felt kinda sad putting the cases in her car a moment later. All that glass, all those full frame camera's...
That was, in short, an overview of the SADD. (Might edit it a bit later since I've had a long day at uni and there might be a couple mistakes in there...)
Now, for some impressions of the lenses I tried at the event. As said earlier, I was hoping to test more gear, and more affordable gear, but that wasn't possible. Please keep in mind I'm not an experienced equipment tester nor a pixel-peeper.
Carl Zeiss 85mm f/1.4
Build: 9, Sharpness: 9, Bokeh: 10.
As some of you may have read here on the forums, I'm very excited about getting the 85mm Zeiss some time next week. It was, therefore, a lens I really wanted to try. It'd been quite a while since I held it, and I was very surpised of the build quality of this lens. All metal contruction, felt very tough and durable. As with many lenses, the extending elements wobble just a tiny little bit, that that's the only concern I had. The lens delivers some fantastic results, with great sharpenss and wonderful bokeh. As you know, or don't know, I prefer shooting at wide-open apertures and the Zeiss performs extremely well at f/1.4. Stopping down shows a further increase in image quality. What I love most about the lens is the very shallow depth of field, which is illustrated in the shot below.
Carl Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4
And a 100% crop:
Yes, I know, it's noisy. I don't care much...
At f/1.4, that sharpness seems pretty good to a non-pixelpeeper me!
Sony 35mm f/1.4
Build: 8, Sharpness: 9, Bokeh: 9.
It's known for being overpriced and for not living up to the G stardard. Certainly, compared to the 85mm Zeiss, the build quality is below par for a lens of this price. It's properly built, but too plasticky in my opinion. The quality though, is very good indeed. Sharp results and great bokeh. The lens is not too heavy either, which can't be said about the other glass I tested... What I like about the 35mm f/1.4 is the angle of view. I'm used to shooting at f/1.4 with my 50mm now, which is quite long on APS-C. The 35mm though, also on cropped frame, provides a much wider FOV that will be very useful in many situations.
Sony 35 mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4
Carl Zeiss 135mm f/1.8
Build: 10, Sharpness: 10, Bokeh: 10.
This is said to outperform the 85mm Zeiss' sharpness in many reviews, and I have to say, it does. What a superb lens, really. The focal length may seem long, especially on APS-C, but it's great to capture some candid portraits or to do street photography without getting to close to the action. The build quality is outstanding, feels even better than the 85mm because of the internal focussing. It is rather big and some may find it heavy, but it's a lens I really really want now. It was, in a way, the biggest surprise of the day, since I hadn't expected I'd like it this much! The shallow depth of field allows you to get great bokeh even at longer distances, just wonderful!
Carl Zeiss 135mm f/1.8 @ f/1.8
I wanted to test the A900, but that was taken already, and because the A850 was available, I took that instead. And I'm impressed. The body felt great, it made that beautiful shutters sound I know fromt the A900 and it was great in use. Only downside of it that really bothered me was the grip, which was just a few millimetres too short for my rather big hands. Other than that, a great body, even without the grip on it.
What really surpised me though, is how it suddenly made me love my Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 SSM
again. On the A700, the lens doesn't zoom out wide enough and doesn't zoom in far enough. On the A850 though, it does. My oh my, do I miss having 24mm equivalent now, even being the long-shooter I am. Shooting at 24mm delivered some great wide views with great sharpness. I can only imagine what kind of stunning videos you'd be able to record with the 24-70mm and a full frame video-DSLR.
Carl Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 SSM @ f/2.8
Also tried my currently favourite lens on the A850, the 50mm f/1.4. It takes some getting used to, going back from 75mm equivalent to 50mm, but on full frame, the 85mm Zeiss would replace the 50mm.
Sony 50mm f/1.4 @ f/2.8
Lastly, I also tried the 85mm Zeiss on the A850, a truly magical combo whiich delivers some stunning DoF. The 35mm is still next on my wishlist, but Sony's really gotta hurry up with a video-full frame...
Carl Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4
I'll post more pictures next!
- Bjorn -