Stages of Learning

Typically a person has two stages of learning: lectures and experiencing. One phase is passive, depending on listening and remembering. The other phase depends on exploring, trying and failing.

Lecture-based Learning

Lecture-based learning most often occurs in grade-school and college consists. In class there is a professor speaking at you, listing of dates and events, summarizing theories and intrepretations. Later you have papers and excersizes that effectily measure you note-taking and research abilities. This is typically low-pressure (except perhaps when finals time rolls around), giving you moderate time to study, get tutoring or do additional research.

Experience-based Learning

Next you graduate and enter your field—welcome to the experience phase. Most of your life is this phase—you learn by watching others on your team and other teams or by blindly making it up as you go.

Learning in front of others might be one of the scariest things you do in life. Learning is something most prefer to do from observance or in solitude, afterall not-knowing can be frustrating or embarrasing.

Though often, when you’re thrown into the middle of something scary and you must pioneer your own path, you often learn more and retain it longer. Then hopefully you end up being quite proud of the experience and what you’ve created.

Improvising

Improvising is often activly learning in context. No one knows what they’re doing all the time.

Confidence

A key to experience-based learning is confidence. That doesn’t mean you pretend to you know everything, stop listening, do everything wrong and cause chaos. No, the confidence I speak of is acknowledging that you’re learning and going to make mistakes. Be confident in the fact you have areas to improve in, and cherrish people that want to help you along the way.

Mistakes

Mistakes are often the hardest part of learning; no one likes to fail. But at each failure is an opportunity to understand what went wrong and what you should do next time.

Keep Learning

The most important thing is to keep learning. It keeps you young. Keeps you energetic. Most importantly, it keeps you relevant.

Best Lenses for Sony A7 +, 2017 Edition

I love my Sony A7. The A7r, A7II, A7IIr, and the upcoming A7III looks great, but the A7 it still hitting on all cylinders for me.

My love of this camera, quickly extends into love of lenses. With such a high-resolution camera, underperforming lenses really stick out like a sore thumb. This list is not about the best lenses money can buy, though it's not a budget list either. These are all solid performing lenses—ones that are worth the investment, that you'll want to grab every time.

General Purpose Lenses

Sony FE 35mm F2.8, $698

My favorite lens hands-down, and one of the smallest E-mount lens available. This makes it a great general purpose, travel, or street photography lens. It's compact and still relatively fast at F2.8, not to mention some of the best optics you can get at this focal length.

Sony FE 55mm F1.8, $898

This is one of the first lenses released, and still one of the sharpest. And the 55mm focal length makes it quite flexible for general use, street, and even some types of portrait photography. There's a new 50mm F1.8, $200 that has okay performance, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 G Master, $2,198

This is probably the best all-around lens for the A7 series of cameras. The build quality and optics are perfect for the A7+ image quality. But, this lens is pretty heavy—it's 1.95lbs, where the Canon 24-70mm F2.8L is only 1.75lbs.

Now, there is the F4 version, and the variable F3.5-5.6 version, but neither have the performance to do justice for the A7+.

Landscapes

Sony FE 16-35mm F4, $1,248

This lens is a bit on the bulky side, but quite versatile at the wide end.

There are a few other great lenses ideal for landscape photography, such as the Zeiss Batis 18mm F2.8 and the Zeiss Batis 25mm F2. But, I've often found that a prime lens for landscape photography can be a bit limiting.

Action

Sony FE 70-200mm F4, $1,398

If you can deal with the F4 aperture, this is an okay lens. You have good reach with pretty good glass. However, F4 is still pretty slow if you're shooting moving objects. Using this lens for hummingbird photography in the middle of day still needed a pretty high ISO.

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8, $2,598

This is big, heavy, and expensive; but it's the size of any other like DSLR lens. If you want performance and optics, you have to pay for it. But you won't regret having this lens.

Sony FE 400mm F4, TBD

The rumor-mill is buzzing about this upcoming lens. It promises to be solid optics at a crazy-high price.

Portraits

The traditional portrait focal length is a well traveled path in the industry. That means you have a lot of great options.

Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8, $1,199

The entire Batis line is amazing, and this lens is no different. This lens has amazing optics and great bokeh. The one downside is the autofocus is a bit slow and sometime hunts in low-light while trying to focus, something that might not mater too much if using it for traditional portraits.

Sony FE 85mm F1.4 GM, $1,798

This lens is currently the highest rated lens on DxOMark for optical quality. It's likely the best portrait lens you can buy for the A7+ line.

Sony FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G, $998

Another heavy (literally) hitter from Sony. Heavy but solidly built, and great optics, this lens will likely be the top portrait lens for the A7+ line. This lens is #3 on DxOMark and the 2nd highest ranked portrait-length lens... for $800 less than #1. Oh, and the added bonus of 1:1 macro magnification. This lens is a must-have in your camera bag.

Sony FE 85mm F1.8, $598

I haven't tested this one, but a lot of the early previews say this is a great budget portrait lens. Right now it's only available for preorder, but should be shipping any time now.

Manual Lenses

I separated manual lenses out because I have a love/hate relationship with them. I love using them, but so often I miss the shot due to timing or focus. I know 'practice-makes-perfect'... but the A7+ series has a good autofocus engine, so I might as well use it.

I'd recommend any of the Rokinon/Samyang lenses if you're looking or manual focus fun. Good optics, modern quality, but affordable price. Best of all, you don't have to fight for vintage glass on eBay, worry about lens fog or mechanicals issues... just shoot.

Lenses for the Sony A7

The Sony A7 / A7R / A7S / A7II has become quite a popular camera in 2014 — a full frame mirrorless camera that’s about half the size of a DSLR full-frame. Another jewel in the A7’s crown is the ability to mount almost any lens, which (unfortunately) has increased the demand for manual-focus lenses significantly.

This is an ongoing list of lenses that have been tested by myself or others on the A7 camera series.

Native Lenses

Looking at Sony’s FE roadmap you can see they don’t have many auto-focus lenses yet. Of the ones available now, many are expensive and don’t have as wide of an aperture that I’d expect for the price.

For example, Sony released a 24-70mm f/4 for $1,200, and when compared to Sony’s 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, the image quality isn’t that much better to justify the price. I’d rather save my money for an f/2.8 lens. Luckily, there are plenty of manual focus lenses, both new and old.

New Manual Lenses

The Samyang company has gained a lot of popularity lately for making modern, quality, manual-focus lenses for almost any lens mount (commonly rebranded as Rokinon, Bower, Bell and Howell, etc). From the countless reviews, these lenses are sharp and their build-quality is ever-increasing.

With the demand for ‘vintage’ lenses so high, in many cases it can be cheaper (or negligible) to buy a new manual lens rather that fight-it-out on eBay. For example, a Nikon AI-S 85mm f/1.4 averages $550 on eBay, compared to the Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 Sony FE mount for $299.

Lecia Lenses

I purposely left Lecia lenses off this list because people report mixed success based on adaptors, A7 variant, and lens itself. Plus, they’re mostly too expensive for me to seriously consider buying.

Manual Lenses

Samyang 8mm f/2.8 UMC Fish-Eye

Samyang 10mm f/2.8, $350
Solid performer, not the lens-of-choice for bokeh. Review

Samyang 12mm f/2.0, $300

Samyang 14mm f/2.8, $300

Samyang 16mm f/2.0, $350

Canon FD 20mm f/2.8
Decent color and contrast, distortion's simple to correct, corners are good stopped down. If you're focusing below two meters, be mindful of your angle and don't go too far off axis. Surprisingly compact for an ultra-wide with an f/2.8 max.

The 20mm f/2.8 performs a little better than the 24mm f/2.8 but they are very similar. At f/8 center and extreme corners are excellent.

Canon FD 24mm f/2.8

Canon FD 24mm f/2
Kind of legendary among FD shooters for the performance improvements over the (smaller and less expensive) 24 f/2.8. Very strong performance throughout the focusing range. The 24L is better corrected, but it's big, hard to find, and pricey.

Minolta MD W Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8

Samyang 24mm f/1.4, $550

Contax Zeiss 28mm f/2.8
Small, lightweight, great image quality.

Canon FD 35mm f/2 concave
Perfect optics and contrast is off the charts. Just a little big/heavy

Canon FD 35mm f/2.8 Tilt Shift
Great for landscapes or architecture, though it's pricey and getting harder to find.

Rokinon 35mm F1.4 AS UMC f/1.4, $500

Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Planar T*, $1300
Newly-released manual lens with native Sony FE mount.

Voigtlander 40mm f/2.8 Heliar, $400
Leica M mount, but built for the Sony E/FE lens mount. Requires the Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Adapter, $300. Steve Huff’s Review

Canon FD 50mm f/1.2L
I think this one is second to only to the Olympus 50mm f/1.2 for smallest, lightest fast normal. The rising prices make it tough to recommend over the very good 50mm f/1.4, but, aside from being better corrected, the wide open performance is great for people with less than perfect skin, and close-up performance from f/1.4 on to be better enough to justify the price difference. Stopped down to f/5.6 or more, it's one of the better landscape lenses.

Rokinon 50mm f/1.4, $400

Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T*, $950
Newly-released manual lens with native Sony FE mount.

Samyang 85mm f/1.4, $299

Canon FD 85mm f/1.8

TOKINA AT-X MACRO 90mm f/2.5
Review

Canon FD 135mm f/2 or f/2.8

Vivatar 135mm f/2.8

Minolta MC/MD Rokkor 135mm

Nikon AIS 135mm f/2

Canon FD 300mm f/4 L
Review

Zooms

Canon FD 28-85mm f/4
Despite the fact that it's a big lens, it doesn't feel at all awkward on the A7. Strong, consistent performance throughout the zoom range, great flare control.

Contax 35-70mm

Native Sony Lenses

Sony Vario-Tessar T* 16-35mm f/4 OSS

Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8
The smallest autofocus lens available with really stellar performance (but not as good as the 55mm).

Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8
Considered one of the sharpest autofocus lenses ever made. This lens is made by Sony, with licensed Zeiss technology.

Sony Zeiss 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 (kit lens)
Okay performance, but I wouldn’t buy it again.

Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f/4
When compared to Sony’s 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, the image quality isn’t that much better to justify the price, weight, and size. And when compared to Canon’s 24-70mm f/2.8L II for $2,000 (which I sold when switching to the A7), I’d just rather save my money for a f/2.8 version (probably never coming though).

Sony 70-200mm f/4.0 G OSS

Lens Systems

For similar coloring, fall-off, and overall picture feel:

  • C/Y 21 f/2.8, C/Y 28 f/2.8, a Contax G 45 f/2, and a Contax G 90 f/2.8
  • Contax 28 f/2.8, 35-70, and 100-300

My Ideal Lens Mix

I’m still trying to decide on what my perfect lens mix will be, but here is what I’m thinking for now.

Sony/Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 with autofocus or Voigtlander 40 f/2.8 Aspherical Heliar (adapter required). These focal lengths are close yet different, but it really depends on the shooting experience. Do you want to shoot fast with sharp autofocus, or do you like to take time to compose and focus your shot (not to mention the Lecia-esq colors from the Voigtlander). But for now, I’m thinking both.

Sony/Zeiss 55mm f/1.8
This lens is so sharp, it’d be a mistake not to have this lens. At $1,000, this is the first lens you should buy for the A7.

85mm f/1.4 or 135mm f/2
This is focal length is ideal for portraits, but I’m still trying to decide which is right for me. I’d really prefer autofocus for this focal length, but manual is the only option for now.

300mm f/4 or f/2.8
This will have to be a manual lens; I’d really love to find a Canon 300mm f/4 for a decent price.

Sony 16-35mm f/4, $1300
This lens would be great for landscapes, but I’m not sure I need autofocus for that. I certainly want something wider than 24mm or 28mm

Sony 24-70mm f/4, $1200
I have the 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 now, but I'd like to upgrade it sometime. However I find f/2.8 a necessity for this lens — having the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 really spoiled me. But with better high ISO performance and the A7II’s image stabilization, I’m not sure a f/2.8 will be in the works for quite some time.

Sony 70-200mm f/4, $1500
I’d love this to be f/2.8, but I don’t think it’s in the cards for this focal length any time soon.

Title image by s58y