Monday, August 5, 2013

Supplementing my Micro Four-Thirds with a Sony Alpha System

I think it would be an understatement to say that I am in love with the micro four-thirds system.  My Olympus OMD is perfect for everything I've done thus far, whether it's sports photography or portraiture work.  For every occasion, I have used a native prime lens and I continue to be amazed by the image quality (IQ).  Just recently, I went to comic con bringing only  the Panasonic 20mm f1.7, the Olympus 45mm f1.8 and a fish eye lens knowing that I would be able to produce quality work for Killer Pumpkins (I was fortunately hired to help them with media and documenting the weekend).  Walking around the convention hall, I noticed the 20mm pancake was my best friend, which in full-frame speak is equivalent to a 40mm lens.  It was wide enough to get full body shots of cosplayers and the minimum focusing distance allowed me to get in nice and tight to get my beloved subject-isolation shots.  

Ever since, I started shooting with my Panasonic GF-1, I had a prime lens slapped on front because I was taught to compose my shots using my feet.  Prime of fixed focal length lenses were/are the "primary" choice some photographers because they typically produced sharper images and are significantly faster (had larger apertures).  However, now that I am expanding my services to product and event photography, I find myself not always having the luxury to move around freely to get that right angle.  In fact, my last job with Salesforce (at the Bruhaus restaurant) I was limited to small pathways between tables and even then they were not always free due to moving guests/servers.  I got the job done, but I definitely had to be very creative.  This is when I started thinking about getting zooms for my system and the only ones worth getting in my opinion are the following:

Panasonic 12-35mm constant f2.8 - $1,139 ($1,241.51 out the door with CA Sales tax of 9%)
Panasonic 35-100mm constant f2.8 - $1,399 ($1,524.91 out the door with CA sales tax of 9%)
*Retail prices as of 8/2/2013.  Please note I've seen these go for cheaper brand new on ebay, but it comes from Japan and I'm not risking warranty or shipping issues.  

I had a hard time swallowing these prices and justifying spending that amount for one singular lens.  Like many other photographers, I have GAS or Gear Acquisition Syndrome, but I know when things are out of my reach.  Ideally, I would have one of these lenses (preferably the 12-35mm) on a separate body and the 75mm (effectively a 150mm lens) on my OMD.  The last thing I want to do is miss a shot because I'm fiddling with my camera switching out my glass. To add another body to my kit would set me back anywhere from $2,300 to $2,500 - something my better half would probably not agree with.  

The aforementioned factors made me think about investing in a completely different system with a more mature line of zoom products.  However, I wanted to find a system that resembled the m43 line.  It would need the following:

- Live view: to help with metering and exposure
- EVF - Electronic View Finder
- In body image stabilization for my adapted vintage glass
- 16MP Sensor or greater (to match the OMD)
- Wide array of zoom lens - both proprietary and third party
- Most importantly well below $1,000

The Sony Alpha line seemed to be the only system that matched this Criteria and luckily for me there were some pretty amazing discounts available.  With the help of Kirk Tuck, I was able to narrow my choice down to the Sony Alpha a58, a 20 megapixel camera with a newer generation sensor.  My local Sony store was selling this model with the 18-55mm kit lens, 75-300mm zoom (later traded for the 50mm f1.8 prime), camera bag and a class 10, 32 gig memory card for $599.  Needless to say, I jumped on the deal.  This camera and the newly released Sigma 18-35 f1.8 (pre-ordered for $799) will ONLY set me back $1,450, which is a couple hundred dollars more than the 12-35mm.  This is how I am justifying my purchase and rationalizing my investment in a new system =).

Camera Pron - Sony Alpha a58 with the Sony 50mm f1.8 lens

Taken with the Olympus OMD and 45mm f1.8 - Off camera flash fired 

I will discuss my impressions in another post, but in short I am very happy with the purchase.  It's no OMD, but boy does it deliver for the price I paid.  I will post a gallery of sample photos soon and provide an initial review in a couple of weeks.  

So say we all,

PS - I may have briefly mentioned pre-ordering the Sigma 18-35mm constant f1.8, but trust me I am extremely excited about this lens.  It's like having 17 different prime lenses in one zoom.  THIS IS REVOLUTIONARY. I will definitely talk about this once I receive the lens.

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