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Tuesday, 09 February 2016


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Well, if Internetisms were like Reader's Digest truisms I have to accept the "reality" of 4/3'ds (How does one write this properly?)
But, I've always thought that the quest for smaller and smaller lenses had made them unmanageable...like the pancake lenses.
The "largish" 24mm is a perfect size. (IMHO)
AND...wait here it comes...AND when one considers what was done (back in the day) with the little Minox cameras was nothing short of amazing from a negative about the same size as a SIM card.
SO, I guess size really does matter. It's in the eye of the handholder.
Just mi dos pesos.

Sometimes I wonder if Sony is trying to continue the design of the F717 ... that was a nice camera to hold/use, in it's day.

Even the "monstrous" 18-200 isn't all that bad on an A6000; just a bit heavy to dangle off your wrist.

Part of the problem is that to some people, mirrorless means "tiny". The earliest bodies and the early pancake lenses from Olympus and Sony seem to have created an expectation that this is the purpose of these systems. A lot of the angst right now is over Sony's damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't introduction of the three new FE lenses. Partly because, well, they're big, and some people seem to think anything made for a mirrorless camera needs to be small, and partly because there are people still wishing for new APS-C lenses and Sony (like Canon & Nikon) seems to have decided that they have enough APS-C lenses.

I still wish that, instead of the FE 28/2, Sony offered something like Samsung's 30/2 pancake lens. That would make the body/lens combo jacket pocketable, and would deliver my long desired wish for a digital version of my Minolta HiMatic 7sII (which features a 40/1.8). On the one hand, you can argue that that's what fixed lens cameras are for, but on the other, other manufacturers offer fast pancake lenses in moderate focal lengths. I think Fuji's is a 27/2.8 and the f/2.8 max aperture doesn't excite me; Sony's are 16 & 20mm, both f/2.8, and both pretty mediocre, though I think my 16 is much better than it's reputation (I just have little use for that focal length).

I think any of the mirrorless systems ought to offer a few compact lenses, making them appealing as systems that can be as capable as you like, but compact when you want them to be. The problem there is that any 10 photographers will want different lenses when they want to carry a compact camera.

p.s. NEX ... I despised my NEX-5 for a number of reasons, one of which was the Ericsson-designed menu. Sony used the "Alpha" (SLT) menu system on the RX100 (thankfully) and subsequent cameras. Dropping the NEX name went hand in hand with dropping the NEX menu, but I think Sony also wanted to try to get people thinking of e mount and A mount as parts of one big somewhat interchangeable system. I'm happy losing the NEX name just because of my distaste for the NEX-5 and menu system. But I don't really see the move helping to get people thinking about the whole "one big system" aspect of it.

With all due respect, nobody other than those who had a strong interest in Sony's APC-C mirrorless line at the time they bore the NEX name will know what you are talking about when you say "Ex-NEX". I get what you're trying to do, and I agree it was a poor choice on Sony's part to change names, but calling them "Ex-NEX" will only make things worse. Sony materials and all shopping and camera review websites will refer to them by the new name.

Best regards,

Looks can be deceiving, can't they?

I LOVE the Sigma Art DN lenses on the APS-C sized Sony mirrorless cameras. They're small, light, and incredibly sharp. Oh, and they feel great in use.

To me the Sigma Art DN are like Goldilocks lenses - they're "just right."

Now if only Sony would do what Olympus and Panasonic have already done and add IBIS to the smaller sensored APS-C lineup...

I use the Touit 12mm f2.8, the 24mm f1.8, the 35mm f2.8 (FE) and 55mm f1.8 (FE)on my Nex-7 and none of them feel too large. In fact I am reassured that they are not compromised by being too small (look at the problems small symmetrical lenses have with some sensors). Excellent image quality from all four lenses.

Let's face it, you cannot put an interchangeable APS-C camera and lens in your pocket, so why worry about the lens size?

For a truly pocketable camera, I take my Ricoh GR.

My point and shoot camera is the NEX-7 with the 16-70mm. I have small hands (petite, 5'3") and find this combo to be balanced and easy to shoot with excellent results. I too prefer the NEX name, but whatever. ;)

And here is my camera with the 35mm eqv. lens on Flickr...as you said no comparison ;-)


(I'm not sure which method of embedding works... here is the link to Flicker: https://flic.kr/p/pUhxXg

YMMV, they say.

I do own 23/1.4 and X-T1. A wonderful combo it is (maybe except for strange effects contre-jour stopped down - this seems to be a much overlooked issue with pretty much all mirrorless systems).

Regarding the size though, I much preferred the dimensions of Fuji 35/1.4.

There's still room for improvement though - 35/1.4 Nokton or 35/2 Biogon on M6 were my favorite lenses - in terms of IQ and handling. IIRC, both of them had 43mm filter size. Compare this to 62mm required by Fuji's 23/1.4. That's over twice the area. Maybe I should look around for 27/2.8 or at m4/3?

Maybe dropping the NEX wasn't a bad idea. As a software engineer, I live in the world of acronyms. When I see NEX, I think Nikon-something-something. I suppose they could have used an S instead of N, but then people might have got the wrong idea about what, exactly, Sony was selling.

Been saying for years: if Pentax can make pancakes why can't Sony for even smaller bodies? The minute they make a 70mm (105mm equivalent) for my a6000 they can have my money.

What about the 2.8 zooms? Those looked pretty big compared to the comparable 4/3rds lenses.

You compared the smaller of the E-mount lineup. Take a look at the FE 35mm f/1.4, the newly announced FE GM 24-70mm f/2.8, and the 90mm f/2.8 Macro.

These are all as large if not larger than their SLR equivalents. Which makes them huge on a mirrorless body.

I agree with your P.S. comments. The NEX moniker was becoming a brand within a brand (Sony). Now there are cameras that are part of a progression in size, style, and technology and they are now aXXXX. I think a major change or upgrade would have been the only justification for this. i.e. full frame, sensible menu, etc. I mean wasn't Sony A a totally different lens mount, then they used it for a full frame series. They must have switched marketing personnel at the expense of the consumer and vendor.

Just an interesting bit on camera design.

But Mike -- you have large hands! :)

"Sometimes I wonder if people even care what's true any more. Weighing constant repetition of a falsehood on one hand and truth on the other, the zeitgeist seems to think the scales are about equal."

Did "people" ever care? Isn't this just an extension of ages old human behavior? Didn't you know that Judas Iscariot had red hair, so red haired people are evil? That was a thing in parts of Medieval Europe and is in Shakespeare's As You Like It.

"Internetisms are things that are repeated so often that people think they're true."

Joseph Goebbels' "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." is only a relatively recent example of human behavior at least as old as recorded history.

Another Internetism is that there is a significant difference in resolution between APS-C and µ4/3 formats.

I've done careful comparisons at 100%, and it just ain't true, at least for the 16 MP sensors both had at the time. There may be other differences upon which to base an informed choice, but a significant difference in ability to resolve tiny detail isn't demonstrably there.

Since I'm now a self-identified fan of these, let me add something.

The kit lens that I use is not big at all, it is tiny when powered off. ( This one:http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/892390-REG/Sony_selp1650_16_50mm_F_3_5_5_6_Power_Zoom.html) The size of a pancake lens. And it does something really cool when it's opened up. It about doubles in length and looks like a real lens when it does it. You can put a 49mm Cokin Harmony UV filter on it in place of a lens cap.

I like that because I hate those folding lenses that taper off in width when they're powered on, like in the Pansonic LX100. You can grip a real-feeling ring on the Sony lens and change the zoom without taking your eye away from the viewfinder. It feels really natural to use it that way.

The other pancakes that you can get are the 16/2.8 and the 20/2.8. At f/4 the 16/2.8 is just fine. The 20mm is a good lens.

I carry around the kit lens and the 20/2.8. I'm so over being a lens snob these days.

(of course I'm not mentioning that I also got myself the full-frame Sony Rx1R off some poor guy who paid $3,600 retail for it and the EVF a year ago, and paid less than half of what he shelled out. So yes, when I need to feel a metal Zeiss piece of goodness, in a metal, enameled wonder-camera, I pull it out. But that's a diferent story altogether).

The appearance of 'Tiny Camera - Large Lens' is as you point out one of relative proportion. Camera bodies have gotten smaller because they can, (remove the mirror box etc) lenses haven't gotten much smaller because sensor size is still a major determinant of lens size.
So cameras look different---'out of proportion' to what we've come to expect a camera to look like.
Go back a while and view cameras were the opposite, -big camera, small(er) lens.
None of this is news, we all know it, but still the desire for 'smaller'
I wonder if the driver isn't "If only the lens got as small as the body got---then I could put this thing in my pocket"
Until we get new lens technology the lens side can't change much, unless we go down in sensor size, which agrees with your comment on m4/3 in terms of balance.
Maybe Sony should make the APS Bodies a little bigger, then the lenses will be smaller ;-))

I agree, Sony's physical design is just a bit different from all the rest, departing from traditional SLR styling and more reminiscent of Sony's "controls around lens" early digital offerings. I actually like Sony's design, there are many good things going for it (save that the buttons could be better).

While there aren't many super compact lens options in Sony's ex-Nex lineup, the Sigma f2.8 primes for it come reasonably close. I just hope that the concept of those primes could be further explored as the shorter ones weren't perfect for my needs. Still, Sigma could significantly raise prices and keep the lenses attractive.

Yeah, those NEX lenses are way too big.

I think its a matter of balance, not size.

The Olympus 75 1,8 is tiny compared to pretty much anything Canikon makes, but it looks huge and out of place on any of the Pens.

Sony's lenses are not big, their bodies are just too darn thin!

I remember the NEX 5 cameras. Proportionally, the lenses looked ridiculously large on those tiny technological wonders. That may have been where this particular "Internetism" gained all of its steam.

I was going to say that I think the comparison to the Nikkor is unfair, as that lens covers a full 35mm frame, but then I went looking, and there's no equivalent DX lens in Nikon's lineup, or anyone else's to fit nikon, for that matter. A better near-equivalent would be the D750 with the 35mm 1.8, which is a smaller lens, but still a bit larger and much heavier than the other camera/lens combos (almost a pound). Comparison here: http://j.mp/1Q6aftj

[But you've put a DX lens on the D750. You'd have to use the D750's crop mode and the angle of view would be ~50mm-e. --Mike]

The NEX lenses were proportionally large but would only throw the camera out of balance if you held the camera as if it was a heavy DSLR with a pancake lens. That is, left hand on the left hand side of the camera, right hand on the right hand side.
But if you hold (cradle with your hand underneath) the lens with your left hand then it is in perfect balance. You can then lightly hold the petite camera with your right hand, navigating the buttons without disrupting the balance. Now you are ready for anything the world throws at you, with a lovely photo-taking machine.
I never owned a NEX but I used and reviewed the NEX3/5/7 with glowing praise for its 'photographyness'.
Gear-heads and spec chart gleaners continued to criticise it for the things that it wasn't.

Mike --

Hmmm. Lens size and mass; a topic after the heart of a fellow lensman. So lets be clear on this topic: "yah can't cheat Gawd." (That last from the engineers in my shop.) And the iron law -- which again, these quite sophisticated defense engineers point out -- is that "all else equal, mass, size and cost vary with the *cube* of the physical aperture." i'd argue that a quick review of super-tele prices roughly confirm this relationship.

Anyhow, i bring this to your attention because the image circle -- which drives focal length vs FOV, and thus, that relationship -- is key here and you are facing a steep gradient. m4/3's image circle is defined as half FF and something like 21mm; Sony NEX is something like 28mm, or roughly 2.4 times (after cubing) m4/3 for the same FOV/aperture. Well, on the price side it isn't quite so due to m4/3 price gouging, but the mass/size relationship probably holds up.

Excuse me for the length of this post. But i spend a lot of time thinking about lenses and the sensitivity image circle considerations never seems to be recognized.

-- gary ray

I think one reason the Sony 24 is longer than other similar length APS-C lenses, is that the Sony has a shorter minimum focus distance than the others. Just for example, the Fuji 23 focuses down to 11" while the Sony can focus down to 6.3" Having that short minimum distance is quite nice for some faux macro.

Another way of looking at this is ergonomics. That is what camera and lens combination feels right. Honestly I have not had the feeling for a long time now. Back in the the film days, a Nikon F3, a Rolleiflex and Hasselblad just felt right.

Today, the world is digital and I find it more difficult to make the same attachment. I have Fuji, Nikon and Olympus digital and from all of them, I find that the Olympus is the most "fun" to use.

Your point is valid Mike: Lenses for Sony A6xxxx-series cameras aren't as large as they may look, especially when you compare them against similar focal lengths designed for APS DSLRs. When you compare them against lenses for M43 cameras though, the Sony mount lenses are significantly larger. Here's just one example: http://j.mp/1WcFDLf. That's why my response to the flat statement that something is "large" or "small" is, "Compared to what?"

I think you are right about 4/3's. Digital cameras, especially those in the smaller systems, have well and truly hit that sweet spot known as 'good enough'. I am a convert to small is beautiful. That's my belief system and I'm sticking to it!

Naw the lenses are ok , it's the camera that's too small!

Only half kidding, I have a few chunks of wood or aluminum I attach to my Nexen ( is that the plural of Nex? ) for certain situations where it's too small.

I hear the Kidding Kamera Kompany are about to release a camera designed to fit North American hands and use the extra bulk to make the camera stronger with bigger buttons with large labels and leave room for a really big battery .

Up front I love the Nex/A series and system, it's just so incredibly flexible, adapt almost any lens ever made - check. Use tilt shift adapters - check. Turn manual focus lenses into autofocus via adapters-check and so on.

The advantage over m4/3 is that when you do start playing with other lenses from other systems your crop factor is not as extreme and therefore more useful plus you are buying into a system that offers both APSC and FF, ultimately it is not so limiting.

Thing is you can take a small NEX body and dress it down with compact lenses, like the 16mm f2.8 or the pancake zoom or the Sigma triplets or you can dress it to kill with all manner of FF Sony lenses, you have a choice.

Even with adapters in play there are some pretty compact alternatives, like say that lovely Canon 40mm pancake and an EOS adapter, or for manual focus folk the old Olympus OM lenses (especially the 24 and 28mm ones) plus an adapter which give a very compact set up.

Frankly I am fed up with the whole "NEX lens bad" internet rubbish that is sprouted off without any real analysis of the practical reality, it is time this meme died a natural death.

Oh and on the menus, I think largely falls into the "Web Beat Up" category to. Sure it is different and takes getting used to but that does not make it bad (I do have some small issues), the truth is you can set any Nex/A camera up via custom options to work exactly how you would like and almost never need to go into the menu system again.....it would really help if some folk would take the time to read their camera manual first!

You want incomprehensible menu systems try Olympus, you think Canon systems are all great, try getting a new user to work out how to set the custom WB on most Canon DSLRs without some hand holding trust me as a photography teacher I find new users have all sorts of menu issues with just about any brand out there. Fact is most testers and established photographers have grown up with Canikon stuff so it just seems the right way to do stuff, in truth that menu set up just represent one pathway, not the ultimate solution.

Okay, they're not huge but many are, as you say, out of proportion, which is equally irksome. And it's not like it's impossible to make a small, modest, perfectly serviceable 35mm-e for APS-C sensors. Take the Nikon 24mm f/2.8D, for instance. It was designed for film, but it performs just fine on Nikon DX bodies (don't listen to the internetisms).

I arrived today at the Vision VR/AR Summit in LA and for the umpteenth time have the feeling that *everything* photo- and video-wise is about to be turned on its head. Whoever wrote recently that photography was approaching adolescence (reported here, right?) wasn't wrong. Insiders are speaking a new language - not difficult to grasp, but perhaps to accept. I'm not sure where this post ought to appear, but being as I'm here now, it may as well sit here.

My D600 + Sigma 35 is big, but balanced. My XT-1 + 35 1.4 is perfect, with the 16 it's good, but better w/ the grip. The A6xxx with the larger E lenses, which aren't that big at all, doesn't balance as well, and the proportions are weird. The M4/3's guys are laughing at all of us, of course, but Fuji seems to have put a lot of effort to build out a balanced line of bodies and glass that complement each other well. Sony's ergonomics on everything except the A7IIR, which is actually pretty well laid out, make the size discrepancy seem more exaggerated than it really is.

I have to agree that in pictures, the Sony lenses look huge and ungainly, which I assumed they were until I handled some, and they were surprisingly okay.
But if you want to stipulate the best lens--camera size and proportions, I am afraid you must begin with the leica m and q lines. Implausibly pricy, but that's another matter. They feel perfect in hand, and they achieve that balance despite full frame sensors...

To me, it is primarily an ergonomic thing. I just like the much flatter profile of The Leica M cameras with their short lenses or, even better, the Fuji X100 cameras. The more lenses that can be made with that short length, the easier it is to slide them into a small leather pouch on my belt. The Ms with the 28/2.8 asph, the 35/2 asph or the Rokkor 40/2 all just work well. The A6000 with the 24/1.8 does not, and nor do the Fuji cameras with that 23/1.4. I totally understand why you might want that combination, but I would want a flatter profile 28/35/40 equivalent f2 (with an aperture ring and clutch) that is as ergonomically as useable as the Leica lenses. Is it too much to ask, seeing that small size and ergonomic finesse are the two advantages Fuji can leverage against the Sony A7 cameras? Plus, they would fit with the new X pro 2 much more effectively.

I'm a bit late to this discussion but I just participated in a similar one on DPReview. The premise was that indeed Sony lenses are too big. Not the ones made specifically for NEX, but rather the full frame FE lenses. To that argument, I heartily agree.

I am a curmudgeon and we are a hard group to sway. I use as my point of reference, as many of us do, our own experiences with film cameras. My last 35mm cameras before moving to medium format were the simply wonderful Contax G cameras and their 28, 40, and 90mm aurfocus lenses. Albeit the focus motor was in the camera, but these gems were small. Others compare the Leica lenses and cameras; can't speak to that, never held a Leica.

The sizes of those FE lenses are what keeps me in the Sony APS-C camp.
I just don't understand why a full frame digital sensor needs a lens so much larger than the real 'full frame' piece of film its modeled after. Did removing the mirror box and the required distance from film plane to rear of lense cause the size conundrum? If so, why were wide angle lenses in need of back focus design that made them larger?

Many in that web discussion were citing 'physics,' well, as Ctein would remind, only people with degrees in that subject should be allowed to use those principles (few of which this curmudgeon understands anyway).

I could be swayed if someone would give a good layman's explanation as to why Contax/Leica/Pentax could make stellar small 35mm prime lenses to cover a real 35mm piece of film and Sony, et al., cannot do the same for a full frame sensor.

Thank you for allowing this rant!

Good piece Mike. I've never been able to connect with Sony's cameras, though the Nex 7 came close. Nothing wrong with the cameras, and certainly nothing monstrous about lenses. I simply don't like their feel and operation, their 'camera-ness', whatever that may be..

But they are as technically good or better than most peers,and they seem to work when well used. And that is what matters.

When the NEX 7 came out i thought it might be fantastic
Truth to tell it probably is ...but to my eyes it doesnt really look like a camera

I realise that this is very "head in the sand" ss it is good really... But when I saw the XT1 .... Oh joyous day .... Except for me I want a simple workflow ... So I wait amd pray for them to offer a Bayer sensor meanwhile make do with X100

I like the idea of "ex-NEX". Makes sense. As a NEX-7 user, one of the things that's putting me off upgrading is the sheer plethora of numbers they've come out with; if I wanted that kind of confusion, I'd buy a Fuji X-series.

If you want imbalanced, try sticking a 500mm mirror lens on ... just about anything.

Alternative: zombie idea.

I find that the size of my old Leica M lenses are the perfect size for the various Sony mirrorless camera bodies I've owned over the years, from the NEX 5N to the A7RII. I've been hoping either Sony or Zeiss would come out with small lenses similar in size to my Leica M lenses, but they seem to be going the opposite direction and going bigger instead. I'll stick to using my old Leica lenses until someone comes out with lenses that are small and compact, yet offer the speed and optical quality that I've become accustomed to with my old Leica lenses. Auto-focus and state of the art glass would be nice to use on my A7RII and A6000, but not if one modern lens is taking the space of three of my old Leica lenses in my camera bag.

I notice over at Fuji rumours that Fuji has said that they will never have body based stabilisation because the X mount is too small and it would effect lens quality and size...hmmm makes me wonder how everyone else does it.

I'm a Fuji user (xe2) and have the 23.,, it's a fine lens..

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