Eric L. Woods

Reality Check: What gear do I really need?

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Over this past weekend, I did a graduation photoshoot for my daughter. As is the norm this meant a bag of gear “just in case”.

Film side (Preface):

Given these strange times we are in that have turned my daughter’s graduation year upside down I brought my Hasselblad along to take some special shots to cheer her up. And also to thank her for taking this all so well. She and her siblings are handling this all so much better than many alleged adults. Brought multiple lenses and used exactly one, the Zeiss 80mm f/2.8. And it was all I needed. (Rollei RPX 400 developed w/ Cinestill df96 using powder mix instead of liquid for the first time)

Graduation

When sharing with co-workers one asked why I still use film. I have many reasons, but I offered that I had no good reason that would make sense to a rational person.

This is not the first time I would make this statement this day.

Digital side (Main Event):

I brought a few film lenses to this most important to me of graduation photoshoots, for my own offspring, but quite a few more digital ones. I did leave the precious home because I had done quite a bit of yard work for my house and my Mother that day, it was a bit warm out, and I did not feel like dealing with its size and weight (Which did get me to thinking, but more on this later).

I started with my trusty AD200 off-camera handheld…

…and the portrait lens of portrait lenses in my mind, the Rokinon/Samyang 85mm f/1.4.

Graduation

Great lens, but I miscalculated. I really enjoy the 85mm focal length in fixed settings like when I helped a friend at JapanFest by shooting portraits.

Samurai Armor Portrait Booth - Triangle JapanFest 2019

But out and about the real world oftentimes does not play along. We were moving between settings outside and there were objects and obstructions that did not play well with the 85mm. I quickly went to my safe, reliable all purpose choice, the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8.

And as usual, as outlined in two blog posts so far, it killed it.

Graduation

So much so that it made me ask myself again, “Why do I just not use this lens all the time?”

And once again, I had no good reason that would make sense to a rational person.

With it, on the also great A7III, I have no real need for any other lens for most purposes. Low light to portraits to colors to sharpness to bokeh to close focus this combination never lets me down.

Tamron
Kauffmann Wedding Shoot - The Wedding
Tamron
Tamron
Tamron
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8
Sermon

My point?

If I were a rational man I could own just this combination and meet 90% of my photography needs.

Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8

Not likely to happen due to my irrational obsessions like prime lenses and film photography, but this is all I really need. The Tamron is that good. My main reasons for prime lenses are bokeh, sharpness, size/weight, and low light performance. But this combination delivers on all of these points.

When anyone asks me what to get this is what I suggest.

Imagine the money, weight, and bother saved. These strange times have me thinking about this more. While I will hold on to favorites I have already started letting go of some gear.

While reasonable what if this is still too much to spend or you would like to save even more? I suggest the A7II and Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 (which I prefer over the Sony f/4 for the money).

Sony FE 28-70mm

As good as the A7III/Tamron? No. But far more capable than the price point would suggest. Both combinations share the same traits:

  • Swift, silent, and accurate AF.
  • Great colors.
  • Sharp.
    • Tamron moreso, but the Sony lens is more than acceptable.
  • IS (Sony lens adds OSS in addition to in body for both).
  • Good aperture for price point (Sony is brighter at the wide end than the Zeiss f/4)
  • Value
  • Lightweight and compact.
  • Very flexible.
  • Eye autofocus. So good I list it separately from focus alone. In my experience no other brand comes close.

I used the A7II side by side with an A7III on a wedding shoot and I often got them crossed up and can only tell the images apart when I look at EXIF data. It is not a matter of bad and good. It is very good and even better. Here are some A7II/Sony 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 samples below.

Cookout
Cookout
100 Men In Black
100 Men In Black
King's Dominion
King's Dominion
King's Dominion
King's Dominion
King's Dominion

What about APS-C or DSLRs? You could do well on prices used, but if you buy this last Sony set up used you could get them for the same or even less than many APS-C and DSLR cameras new. But the handwriting on the wall seems to indicate that full frame mirrorless is the way forward for the market. While Canon, Nikon, and Panasonic have compelling full frame mirrorless options they have not been out long enough to depreciate or to have reasonably priced non-adapted lenses available.

And on top of that having tried many brands I am of the opinion that, while very capable, no one else can touch Sony’s autofocus speed and accuracy at the moment. Even if further improvements are on the horizon for all the combinations listed here are beyond excellent performers as is. While I am of the opinion that there are no bad cameras on the market currently and many older models will do also, after a bit of trial, error, and trial some more these two cameras are why I eventually left DSLRs and other brands behind. Your mileage may vary, but they fit my needs just fine.

Happy shooting.

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