Vacation, Sony FE 90mm G Macro and misc photo stuff

I was on Hvar for the last ten days, mostly to try to soak up the last warm and sunny days of the year, and also take pictures. This time I had a new lens to work with, the Sony FE 90mm G Macro:

So, what’s so cool about this one and what is it that it does, that can’t be done with the equipment that I already have. tl;dr: It’s the best macro lens in the world.

It has the least chromatic aberrations wide open, greatest sharpness, wonderful front and rear bokeh, image stabilization, autofocus and weather resistance. If you want to work in the closeup and macro range, which I do a lot, it’s the best lens you can get, with the possible exceptions of Zeiss Makro-Planar 100mm f/2 and Olympus m.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 Macro. As a portrait lens, the Sony is so good, they compare it with Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8, which is one of the best portrait lenses out there. So, considering what you’re getting, it’s actually a bargain, regardless of the apparently high price. The price seems high as long as you don’t look at what it does and what you’d have to get to match it. So, why is it better than what I used so far, which is a Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 on macro extension tubes? First of all, Canon creates completely different-looking images, so it’s not a direct replacement, it’s a different tool in a toolbox, like hammer and pliers. In the same way, a Minolta MD 50mm f/1.7 on macro extenders makes completely different images, and I would prefer it for some things. What Sony 90mm G Macro does is allow me to take this:

… and in the next moment, without changing lenses or removing macro extenders, it allows me to take this:


Essentially, it’s a wonderfully versatile walkaround lens for my kind of photography, and the only thing I need to complement it is a good wideangle.

Talking about wideangles, I was kinda worried about the problems some photographers had with Canon lenses adapted to Sony FE bodies, where sharpness would drop off towards the edge of the frame. The problem is supposedly caused either by a focusing error, or interference with parts of the adapter, or with the FE mount itself, which is narrow for a 35mm. I couldn’t test the issue with my EF 17-40mm f/L lens, because it’s always unsharp in the corners due to its inferior optical design, but I did test it with the EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye, and the problem doesn’t exist with the Viltrox III adapter:

The edges and corners are completely sharp, and the only limitation is the depth of field (as visible on the above image in the bottom corners). Maybe my adapter is just that good; I do think the problem would show itself with the widest-angle lens there is. I would not hesitate to use Canon EF wideangles on a Sony FE body with this adapter, when edge and corner sharpness is critical.

There’s also controversy regarding the Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS kit lens and its usability. In my experience, the lens is excellent. It’s very sharp even wide open, it doesn’t create distortions, chromatic aberrations or flare; vignetting is visible wide open but not when stopped down, and if used as a landscape photography lens from a tripod with meticulous technique, it creates stunningly good images and has no flaws whatsoever. Its problems are of different kind: it has poor close focus, so it’s useless for closeup/macro shots, and the aperture is slow, which makes it difficult to isolate the subject from background. When those two aspects are combined, it becomes useless as a walkaround lens for me, and considering how great the aperture blades are designed and how good the bokeh could be if only it focused closer and had bigger aperture, it’s a shame. However, as a moderate-wideangle to light-telephoto landscape lens, it’s excellent:


People have been maligning the Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS because it’s expensive and it isn’t sharper than the “kit lens”. The thing is, if it’s as sharp as the kit lens, it’s plenty sharp, thank you very much. It would be really difficult to get it sharper than completely sharp. As for it being expensive, I agree, but it also has harder contrast and color saturation than the 28-70mm, and it also has fixed aperture, and some dust and moisture sealing, which might make it attractive for some people. For me, the 24-70mm f/4 doesn’t add any real versatility that would make it useful for closeup photography, and I prefer the milder contrast and color rendition of the 28-70mm kit lens.

Another thing I got was the Meike battery grip for Sony A7II.

Essentially, it’s a cheap copy of the Sony battery grip, and is as good. It addresses the problem of poor camera ergonomics, and also the mediocre battery life, at the cost of making the camera bulkier and heavier. I’m not sure the result is as comfortable as a Canon 5d body, but is significantly less awkward and tendon-pain-inducing than the Sony A7II body alone with a large and heavy lens attached, when you go for long photographic walks. I recommend at least trying it; it might not be the solution to everyone’s problems, though.

As for the camera I used, the Sony A7II, I’m in love with the colors, resolution and the depth of information in deep shadows during the long exposures. I would like it to be less noisy during the long exposures, in higher ISO and in deep shadows, but regardless, the image quality is fantastic. The only problem with Sony that I had so far is that the first copy of the FE 90mm G Macro arrived with dead electronics – it was completely fubared: no aperture, no focus, no nothing. Some flat cable probably had a flimsy connection, or was subject to G-shock in transit, but I returned it, received a functioning replacement and my experiences with the lens so far were superlative, except that it’s a heavy brick. There are several other lenses I’m considering: one is a wideangle with better geometry and field curvature than my EF 17-40mm f/4L, and another is a telephoto, which is something I never bought because the good ones are very expensive and very heavy, and I would probably end up not using it much, but I still miss one considering how much I liked ones I had for review years ago. But yeah, that’s about it, rambling over. 🙂