First Came The Camera
Having made one of my most treasured camera purchases earlier this year, the Sony A7RII, I began to look forward to my full Sony mirrorless migration. You see, although the combination of my A7RII plus Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art lens (connected via the Sigma lens adapter) was producing some fantastic results, I really wanted to start building my native E-mount lens collection. I haven’t used any other Canon EF-Sony FE lens adapters other than the Sigma one, and by all accounts, it does a wonderful job of letting you use your existing lenses with autofocus capabilities. However, for me, this is just a temporary solution, as I use a range of different lenses for different scenarios, and the autofocus results are inconsistent from one lens to another.
So question was, which lens do I invest in to marry my wonderful new Sony A7RII to? First, I had to do an inventory check. Let’s see what I had at that time: Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 VC USD, Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 VC USD, Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art, Canon 100mm f2.8L, Canon 70-300mm f4-5.6L and Samyang 24mm f1.4 AS UMC.
I found that there were two distinct omissions from my gear, namely a 50mm and/or an 85mm lens. And believe me when I say that I am still lusting after those! But surprisingly what I decided to do was commit myself just that little bit further and go for one of my wedding workhorse lenses, the 24-70mm f2.8. And what better timing than the imminent release of the Sony 24-70 f2.8 G Master lens, announced back in Feb 2016, and due to be released in the UK from late April.
So why choose the Sony 24-70mm f2.8 G Master lens which is already covered by the Tamron? To be honest, I was having a bit of trouble with my Tamron 24-70 f2.8. I was experiencing soft focus issues, which could’ve resulted from back or front focus issues, perhaps it needed some micro adjustment, or maybe it was simply a bad copy. In any case, I had decided it had to go, and in it’s stead, would sit the much hyped, and sought after Sony 24-70mm f2.8 G Master lens. I was quite literally, excited beyond belief! After a good play with it at the Photography Show 2016 at NEC Birmingham, UK, I was sold. The only giant brick wall was the price, and at £1800 I knew I had to let some things go. Infact, with over-indulgence of gear, it was time to make a few decisions about what I really needed.
Time To Sacrifice Some Gear
Considering I was purchasing a Sony 24-70mm f2.8 G Master Lens, it was easy to name the Tamron 24-70 f2.8 as the first to go. I also realised that although it is a beautiful piece of glass which has given me some wonderful shots of the moon, I rarely used my Canon 70-300 f4-5.6L for much else, other than the occasional long range pet shot. Next on the list was the Elinchrom D-Lite RX4 studio kit (as I also owned the cheaper D-Lite One kit, this seemed the better choice to go. Finally, my beloved Canon 7DMk2. At only 6 months old, it was a tough decision, but one made easier knowing that I would eventually be moving to Sony fully at some point. And then came the bad news…
“Sony was seriously impacted by the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake”
The Kumamoto earthquake on 14 April 2016 had effected Sony’s sensor manufacturing plant, resulting in it being shut down for a period of time. Not only did this have a knock on effect on it’s sensors, but also cameras and lenses. The April release schedule was pushed back into May, and then June. I had preorderd mine from my favourite UK retailer, Wex Photographic, who had the lens listed at its RRP of £1799. Towards the end of June, I visited the Sony UK website, to find a lovely surprise. The RRP of the lens had been dropped to £1600! I’d rushed to contact Wex, who also checked the website and confirmed that for some reason, Sony had decided to drop the RRP (perhaps as a sorry for the delay?) In any case, the lens was price matched for me, and I finally had delivery of my brand new Sony 24-70 f2.8 G Master lens!
My Thoughts On This Lens
That was 3 months ago. So, now having owned and used this lens for the past 3 months as my primary workhorse lens when paired with my Sony A7RII, I wanted to give some insight into what I think about this lens.
First of all, the weight of any 24-70mm f2.8 lens tend to be around the same, and if you are coming from using kit lenses, yes, you most definitely notice the difference. And you would imagine so, considering it is an f2.8, so meaning more glass, and the body has a matt black metal finish, again adding to the heft of the lens. But for me, I only really noticed how heavy it is when attached to the A7RII (or is that me noticing how light the A7RII is?) In any case, the combination is a little top heavy.
The front element has an 82mm filter thread. I’ve read many reviews saying how this’ll mean a much more expensive UV/protector filter for it, but if you shop around on Amazon, I don’t see why you couldn’t nab yourself a decent filter for about £30, mine being the Hoya variety.
The lens hood has a fantastic feature, whereby it actually locks into place so that it can’t accidentally unscrew itself. I wish all lenses would do this. There’s a dedicated AF/MF switch, but the A7RII can also do this in camera by using one of its custom buttons to do this. There’s also a focus hold button on the lens, but truth be told, I haven’t utilised this nearly as much as I should.
Finally, we get to the most important part, which is the lens image quality and performance. As I mentioned previously, my Tamron 24-70 f2.8 was not the best in optical quality, and it was noticeable. The first few pictures from this lens were nothing short of magnificent. The lens is so optically sharp, that when used together with the A7RII, I was getting fantastic results. And I was getting them more consistently. Maybe it has some part to do with the excellent autofocus system of the A7RII, and some part to do with its focus accuracy. I’ve now used this lens at weddings over the past 3 months, and I can say that I have been going home with many more consistently accurate shots than with my Canon 6D. Infact, I’ve been taking so many more in-focus shots that culling them has been made even more difficult! I can safely say that even after dumping a load of gear in order to be able to afford this lens, the trade has been well worth it.
The beauty of a 24-70 lens, specially on a full frame camera, is that it can be used as a general walkaround lens. I’ve taken it for trips and used it for landscapes, seascapes and portraits, and I can wholeheartedly say you will not be disappointed with its results. My main reason for buying this lens, however, is for weddings. I am a 24-70 and 70-200 shooter, plus I carry around my 100mm f2.8 and 35mm f1.4. Now while I still need my 100mm for macro ring shots, I found I wasn’t using the 35mm as much. Reason? The quality of images produced from the G Master lens! Yes, you cannot compare the bokeh of a f2.8 to a f1.4 lens, but Im talking about the overall look and quality of the images. I have been so impressed that I am seriously considering adding the 70-200mm f2.8 and 85mm f1.4 GM lenses eventually too.
Sony 24-70mm f2.8 G Master Lens Real World Examples
As they say, a picture says a thousand words, so below you’ll find real world examples of images all taken by me with the 24-70 f2.8 GM lens on the Sony A7RII camera. Hopefully they will give some indication of the versatility and prowess of this lens. Any product shots of the 24-70 lens were taken using my Canon 6D and Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art. Have you used the 24-70mm f2.8 G Master lens? What are your experiences of it? Leave any comments below!
Three months ago I had uploaded a YouTube video regarding one of my YongNuo YN685 speedlites which had developed a fault, and stopped firing its flash. This was actually intended for the repair centre (who insisted I show them video proof), but this has attracted a couple of comments, and a request was made to create a video about the YongNuo YN568EXII and YN685 speedlites and its performance on my Canon cameras. See the video just below!
Now a little background… I’ve been shooting Canon for a couple of years, having used the 100D and 70D, to now owning the 6D and 7D Mk II. Although I AM a self-confessed gadget hoarder, I needed to be a little more savvy (read financially conservative) with my overall photography gear. So when it came to choosing speedlites for my venture into better flash, and indeed bounce and off camera flash, I was not in a position to be able to afford £300-400 per speedlite on a Canon branded one. In fact, as a wedding and portrait photographer, I knew that one speedlite would not suffice, and eventually I would need to invest in at least 3 or 4 of them. If fortune would have it, I’d be able to upgrade in the future. After much research, I came upon this third party manufacturer who seemed to offer as good as, if not identical, performance from their own flashes, but at one third to a quarter of the price! Without knowing a lot about triggering off camera flash, I did a bit more research and decided to purchase three YN568EXII speedlites along with four YN622C wireless triggers. A year later, I also purchased three YN685 speedlites (their current top the range flashes) and the YN622C-TX wireless flash transmitter.
As a wedding and portrait photographer, during weddings I usually like to set up an off camera flash in each corner at the reception, on a light stand or clamp to give some backlighting or rim lighting. These would be set on manual mode. I will also use one speedlite on camera and this can be set to TTL mode. Using the YongNuo speedlites and wireless triggers, this can be easily achieved by holding down the channel select button on the YN622C unit that is mounted on camera for around 2-3 seconds. This will turn the LED solid green. You can now set the modes of the different flashes independently.
This sounded great. I could set my off camera flashes on light stands or clamps in the corners of the reception room, whilst having my on camera flash set to TTL. I then wanted to be able to turn off certain off camera flashes when not needed, and only use the one directly behind the couple for the back lighting. So all I needed to do was designate a group (A, B or C) to each of the off camera flashes. In theory this should have worked perfectly. The YN622C units allow the flashes to be in groups A, B or C. Much to my dismay, I discovered all was not as simple as it should be. Whenever I took a shot, and wanted only one group to fire, for example, instead I would see all the flashes fire. Every single one. Every time. It did not matter which group I wanted to fire, whether it be A, B, or C, if I had an on camera flash mounted on a YN622C trigger on camera, my camera would fire all the off camera flashes as well. So I needed to come up with a solution, or at least a workaround. I knew this just would not be practical during a wedding. So I came up with two.
The first is to use the YN622C-TX transmitter on camera. This allows you to fire your off camera flashes as you please, meaning you can control the power output, mode, and even turn specific groups on or off. This works incredibly well in a portrait environment, as you could also have a main light firing from the front. So, a great solution for studio setups, but not so for a wedding reception, as you need to be moving on your feet. So I then came up with the next solution.
For this, I would use the YN622C on camera with either the YN568EXII or YN685 placed on top. I would put this flash in TTL mode, group A and channel 1. Now, bear in mind that with the YongNuo speedlites, it does not matter which group or channel you put it in. Being placed on camera, the speedlite will always fire, meaning you can put this in TTL or manual mode, whichever you prefer, plus have the ability to fire any off camera flashes with the YN622C on camera as the wireless trigger. Now onto the off camera flashes. The YongNuo YN622C wireless triggers support upto 3 groups and 8 channels. So I am able to place a speedlite in each four corners of a wedding reception room and have them in different groups, albeit, in 3 groups rather than a preferred 4 groups. I would then assign different channels for those groups, meaning I would put group A on channel 1, group B on channel 2 and group C on channel 3. With all of that in place, here is the important bit. As the first dance commences, and I move around the dance floor, I can quickly change the channel of my on camera YN622C wireless trigger with a click of a button so that it will only fire the off camera flash in that channel, PLUS my on camera flash. Remember, the on camera speedlite is unaffected by the choice of channel OR group you place it in, or which channel or group you select on the wireless trigger placed on camera. I also keep the YN622C-TX in my pocket, so that I can still change the power output, zoom setting, and mode directly from the unit. There is one extra step to perform however. You must remember to first change the channel of the YN622C-TX to the relevant channel of the group you wish to change settings for, scroll to the chosen group, and only then can you mess around with any settings.
And that’s it! Admittedly, it IS a more cumbersome solution, and I cannot figure out why it should be this difficult to just switch which groups to fire rather than play around with channels and having to remember them, but at least this works. As with most things, with a little practice, and brain training, it becomes second nature. All you need to decide is whether to accept this trade-off in functionality for the sake of financial savings. For me? At this point in time, the YongNuo YN568EXII and YN685 speedlites coupled with the YN622C wireless triggers afford me the luxury of great off camera flash options at an insanely affordable price (see photo below). And it works incredibly well with my Canon gear. For as long as I have a Canon camera in my arsenal, these will remain a firm favourite of mine.
After four full days spent at the UK Photography Show 2016, I am finally rested, and wanted to share a little of what I thought about it.
The Photography Show 2016, held at NEC Birmingham, had over 30000 visitors over four days, with hard hitting stands from all the big names in the industry, including Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony. What was great, however, was the representation of the lesser established brands over here in the UK, and thus giving us a great opportunity to see and try their gear.
For me, there are two reasons to visit the Photography Show. The first, as mentioned above, is to see the latest gear from all brands. You can go to your favourite stand and spend literally hours (if you want) talking the ear off of the representatives about what’s in front of you…and yes, I did do that at one particular stand, which I’ll get to in a bit. The second is the number of seminars and talks held by various photographers and industry experts. There were loads to visit, from the Adobe theatre, Live Stage, Master class sessions and specially for this year, the Wedding and Portrait Stage. Having already planned to do a bit of both this year, I decided to spend the full four days absorbing what I can, and I have to say, it was totally worth it.
Now let me begin with the gear. My, oh my, the gear! I could feel the nudging of my G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome – and yes, it is real), but I knew I had to keep it in check. There were some things I knew I’d be looking at, and others I would completely walk away from. However, this is THE place to be, if you really want the chance to play with any conceivable piece of photographic equipment you can dream of. Cameras, lenses, bags, lighting, software, tripods, and a whole host of accessories. Here are a few stands which stood out for me for different reasons.
As a Canon shooter, I naturally walked to their stand, where the latest 1DX MkII and 80D were on show. And to be honest, neither of these really interested me because they don’t fit in with what I shoot. There were rumours (very sketchy ones) that Canon may have used this event to announce the forthcoming 5D MkIV, but nothing. The 1DX MkII, whilst being Canon’s newest speed demon and offering 4K video recording, is priced similarly to the also newly announced Nikon D5, at around £5199. The 80D, I thought, was an incremental improvement upon the 70D, which I had previously owned and used. Don’t get me wrong, the 80D is a great camera, especially for video (at 1080p) with it having a tilting, fold out touch screen. And the autofocus system has also been improved. But would I consider an upgrade to the 80D if I still had my 70D? To be honest, no.
When I look at advancements in technology in the camera world (and yes, I am a bit of a techie), I’m looking for more than just minor step ups. I want leaps and bounds! As it stands, working as a wedding and portrait photographer, I left disappointed with Canon this year. So, perhaps I shall stick with my 6D for now, I thought.
My next visit took me to Sony, and in case you were wondering, it was here where I talked the ears off of the staff! Thankfully, the staff at the Sony stand were indeed very friendly and helpful. It’s nothing new to say that Sony has been making strides with it’s A7 series of mirrorless cameras since it’s inception back in 2013. Three years later, and it’s these recent releases which have captivated my attention, the A7RII, A7SII and the A6300. Now, here we have cameras which were making those leaps and bounds I was talking about! There are plenty of online reviews about these products so I won’t go into them, but I will go into what I felt. So what did I feel when I picked up the A7RII and A6300 for the first time? Less weight! I mean, I do love my Canon gear, but boy oh boy do you feel them after a long day at a wedding. So here I was, staring at what were essentially lighter, better feeling (for me anyway), high-tech cameras whose image quality were on par, if not better, than my existing setup! After wiping the drool from down my chin, it was at this point that I felt like “this is the future.”
One of three pro lighting companies I’ve been looking at this year, the other two being Elinchrom, and Phottix. Profoto had on display their B1 and B2 on-location lighting kits, as well as their new Air TTL remotes for Canon and Nikon. When asked about TTL compatibility with Sony A7 series, Profoto don’t have anything right now, but, because they are able to build and release newer Air remotes, the possibility is that they may make one for the Sony line of cameras in the future.
Elinchrom on the other hand, when asked, have told me that they currently have no desire to incorporate TTL into their battery powered flash head kits. They have the ELB 400 flash head kits, which to me is a direct competitor to the Profoto B1/B2 systems albeit, without TTL. As such, what this means is that the Elinchrom on-location kits are compatible with most, if not all, makes of camera.
Here is a brand I have personally not used before, but seem to have some interesting products, namely the Indra360 and Indra500 TTL battery powered flash head kits. These are by no means, as streamlined or elegant looking as the Profotos, but are another alternative to a battery powered flash head system. Phottix did tell me that Sony is “next on their list.” They fully support Canon and Nikon and can see Sony as their next target to introduce TTL to those cameras.
I am a huge admirer of Sigma’s Art Lenses, but what was intriguing for me at their stand was their new MC-11 Canon EF to Sony E mount adaptor. Now officially, this adaptor will allow you to use your Sigma lenses that you own for your Canon body, onto a Sony E mount camera. What may or may not be published in the brochures is that, in theory, you should also be able to use your Canon lenses, or indeed, third party lenses in the EF mount onto the Sony cameras too! Retail price is approximately £200, so could this be a cheaper and reliable alternative to the Metabones, but from a reputable lens manufacturer?
As mentioned, I used this year’s visit to the Photography Show to also see and hear some of the industry’s experts talk about their specialty and endow the audience with their knowledge and advice. The highlights for me were listening to inspirational wedding photographers such as Kate Hopewell-Smith, Kevin Mullins and Robert Pugh. Each have their own style and preferred camera system, (I think we have Nikon, Fujifilm, and Olympus, in that order), but all of their talks resonated with me, and helped me no end! If you are reading this, and have any interest in photography, from casual to student to pro, you must go! The Photography Show is a great place to mingle, make acquaintances with other photographers, learn new things, grab fantastic deals and discounts, and inject your mind full of information! Did anyone else visit? What did you think? Leave any comments below, and remember to like and share! I for one am looking forward to next year already.
St Oudoceus Church Llandogo & Tintern Abbey Wedding
This past weekend, I was honoured to be photographing the wedding between Maria and James, the new Mr & Mrs Ruddy. The location for this wedding started at St Oudoceus Church, Llandogo, followed by afternoon tea, and evening reception at The Anchor Inn opposite Tintern Abbey ruins.
With the bad run of unsettled weather we’ve been having, I wasn’t too optimistic with our chances! I was thinking to myself, “this may actually be the day I have to break out the plastic bags and umbrella!” But luck would have it, no rain! I had already packed all the gear I needed the night before, (for which I’ll post a separate blog, and do watch out for the “what’s in my bag” YouTube video). I took an opportunity this time, to bring along the help of an assistant, Emily, which is the first time in doing so.
We had made our journey upto Tintern Abbey, towards the Church, when I decided to make a quick stop by The Anchor Inn, to see if the bride and groom’s reception was ready. Fortunately, I was able to spend 20 minutes capturing a few key details before heading off to the Church. The route towards Llandogo follows the Wye River, quite a nice little drive. Once there, I handed Emily the day’s schedule to look after, and proceeded inside.
We waited for the groom and groomsmen party to arrive. I already knew that James and his two best men would be wearing Marvel character socks! “Awesome!” I thought. So I thought it’d be great to have the obligatory photo with the guys posing as their characters!
The bride, Maria, arrived soon after with her father. There was a lovely, intimate ceremony, after which we headed down to the Abbey for group photos, and the guests settled down for tea. I have to admit to eyeing up the cakes, they looked so delicious, I could almost hear them asking to be eaten!
As I looked around the Tea Room of The Anchor Inn, I was admiring all the intricate details that were on display, from the candles, to the small wooden love hearts, with all the tables laid out around the central olive tree.
After the speeches from the father of the bride, groom and best man, the evening reception continued into the larger suite. At this point, I was able to nab the couple, with best men and bridesmaids in tow, for a few couple shots by the Abbey ruins. This was a little later than I had anticipated, with perhaps 30 minutes before sunset, and being surrounded by hills in every direction, the light levels were falling rapidly. Luckily I managed to get the shots I wanted, with the help of Emily. The bridesmaids and best men wanted to show their love for the bride and groom, with an ecstatic leap into the air! “Good on them!”
The evening brought in the DJ, and additional guests. In time, we had what we’d been waiting for, the first dance! This was followed straight after by the bride’s dance with her father. After that, that was it. Day of wedding photography over. Both Emily and I had completed our long day, capturing some wonderful moments. Until….there was one final part of the evening which we just had to stay for. Maria had informed me previously that there would be fireworks for the happy couple. Seemed like too good of an opportunity to miss! So I planned the shot, knowing that the fireworks would only last between 6-10 minutes, I had to make sure things were going to work. Or at least plan to! And here we have it. The final, spectacular, moment! What a way to end the day and evening. Congratulations to the new Mr & Mrs Ruddy!
Supermoon Lunar Eclipse. Like many others who decided to wake up early, or not go to sleep at all, I also stayed up to see the supermoon lunar eclipse. Here are the phases seen from 2am-4am 🙂
My favourite shot from the last evening spent at Pembrokeshire, watching the sunset at low tide in Broad Haven!
During a short burst of summer rain last week, I loved seeing how the rain drops would stay perfectly still on the tree leaves when the shower was over. Perfect time to exercise the macro lens!
Just bought this fantastic looking backpack from Manfrotto. I’ve spent alot of time researching a bag that I can use to take to events, and to clients, but is large enough to cater to an assortment of gear. With such a large bag, support straps were necessary too, and this bag ticks all the boxes there.
First of all, the POSITIVES: this is a backpack that safely houses all your equipment. It uses Manfrotto’s CPS protection, which to me means, the outer material is very thick and padded, plus the inside foam padding is extremely thick. This will take all manner of knocks and scrapes and still keep your precious gear completely safe. It is rectangular in design with a rigid shape, and as such, manages to stand upright when placed on the ground. This is useful, as the top zip can be opened partially to quickly access a top loaded camera. The side pockets are for placing documents, and slim items, the pockets do not expand much at all. The inside lining of the case houses all necessary batteries, lens caps, filters, and memory cards with four zipped compartments. The shoulder straps and waist support straps are wide and padded for extra comfort and load bearing, with the waist straps being detachable if preferred. A tripod or monopod can be carried to the side of the bag, or in the middle at the front of the bag, for a more equal weight distribution. A nice feature I’ve noticed is there are small red pictured labels to indicate where your tripod and laptop are placed. The material is water repellant, and also comes with a waterproof rain cover. It comes with a 2 year warranty which can be extended by registering on Manfrotto’s website.
Now the NEGATIVES, which are only minor. Firstly, being such a large and solidly constructed bag, it weighs more than other similar bags of the same category, at 2.33kg. This isn’t much of an issue wearing it, but if planning on taking abroad (which I’m not), could be worth considering with weight limits on airplanes. The only other negative is that it has no side access to another DSLR with lens attached. This isn’t an issue for me for my intended purposes for this bag, where a top access is enough for weddings and special events, but for travellers, another line of backpacks might be more suitable.
All in all, this is a great addition to my kit, and something I’ve been looking for. Something that houses a lot of gear, solidly built, supremely comfortable, quick top access, and looks professional.