Eric L. Woods

Weird times: Rokinon/Samyang FE 24mm f/2.8 and drifting from film.

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I recently wrote a post hypothesizing whether or not vintage digital can be a thing. I wrote that post mostly for fun and for the distraction, but I have noticed another shift in my photography recently. It may be a temporary change, but digital gear has started to displace film.

In the past hardly a week would go by without finishing a roll of film or two. At first I thought that it might be pandemic related. Less venturing out of the house and all. Places that I would normally visit for photo opportunities are either closed or visited less frequently for example. But it is not that straightforward. Sure, volume of image captures has slowed but after a closer inspection I realized that the film to digital ratio has been impacted significantly. Where I would shoot film 25-50% of the time before that has now dwindled to a much lower percentage. Maybe 10% of the time at most if I had to wager. With plenty of time and motivation to ponder I thought about the why? There are a few reasons. But first I can tell you what did not impact this.

Film development. I develop black and white film at home so that would not be impacted by the pandemic. Color film is not impacted either now that my local camera shop has reopened to a COVID abiding Tuesday through Saturday schedule. So now onto my thinking on what did impact my film shooting.

This has a lot to do with the A7c.

Sony A7c

I already wrote about how this camera has displaced my Leica Q obsession. Well more than impacting digital cameras this camera has also called into question some film favorites. A film favorite of mine is the Contax T2.

Contax T2

I will spare you the typical hyperbole fawning all over this camera and cut to the chase of why I personally enjoy this camera so much.

  • Full frame goodness.
  • A great lens.
  • Accurate AF.
  • Accurate metering.
  • Very compact.

No matter the size no 35mm film camera I have used has done better.

Contax T2 w/ Fuji Acros 100
Fuji Acros 100
Contax T2
Lomography 400
Contax T2 w/ Fuji Superia 400
Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400

The Olympus OM-10 and Nikon FG are my other 35mm film favorites (minus AF) for the same reason. Redundant as this may be most compact digital cameras are not full frame and most full frame digital cameras are not compact. But grab an A7c and a pancake-ish similar focal length and aperture as the T2 lens like Rokinon/Samyang 35mm f/2.8

Rokinon/Samyang 35mm f/2.8
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Rokinon 35mm f/2.8 w/ A7Rii

…or the wider and similarly sized Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8

Sony A7c

…and you have a great, compact combination. It is a combination that also just saved me from myself very recently. There are cameras that I have not owned, but always stay on my radar. The RICOH GR II and III are both on this list. On a recent “hypothetical” search for one I took note of the focal length. 18.3mm? On APS-C? Carry the three… 27.45mm full frame equivalent. <Reaches in bag to dig out a small lens not used often enough but too small, too good, and so inexpensive it makes no sense to part with.>

Sony A7c

Close enough for me. The GR having no viewfinder, IBIS, or articulating screen never helped its case either. Bulky fake GR it is.

Every time I use this lens (not often enough) I am impressed. It just tends to get lost in the shuffle among other flashier options. Here are the pluses.

  • Small. There is no full frame AF Sony FE lens smaller that I know of. The similarly spec’d Tamron 24mm f/2.8 is not large, but is noticeably larger than the Rokinon/Samyang. Other full frame mirrorless camera mounts either do not have an affordable prime in this range or do not have any options available at all yet.
  • Inexpensive. Only the slightly larger 24mm Tamron is less expensive. Others cost significantly more. The newly released, larger, slower aperture Sigma 24mm f/3.5 is significantly more expensive.
  • Sharp… enough. Even wide open. I have read reviews saying this lens is not sharp. In real world use I honestly do not know what they are on about. Any blur can usually be traced back to user error while capturing a swift moment.
  • Fast, silent, and accurate focusing. Perfect for video. Great for candid.
  • Fast enough aperture. An f/2.8 aperture on such a small lens is impressive. Works well with the son of A7III sensor’s excellent low light performance. Bokeh is not really high on the list for such a wide lens, but it can render a bit of it under the right conditions.
  • Close enough focus. While it cannot focus as close as the Tamron 24mm like most wide lenses it focuses close enough for me.
A7c - FE Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8
  • Colors. I really like the way this lens renders colors.
Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8
  • Black and white. I also like the way this camera renders black and white. Nice contrast.
Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8
  • Vignetting is not an issue. I would expect noticeable vignetting shooting a lens this small wide open, but no.
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  • Combined with its small size it is a perfect focal length for capturing scenes and slices of life.

Here are a few more samples.

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A7c - FE Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8
A7c - FE Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8
Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8
Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8
Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8
Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8

While this combination offers a wider focal length and is not as small as the T2 it is not that much larger and it is similar in size to the OM-10 and FG mentioned above. And like all of those and unlike any other full frame interchangeable lens digital cameras with a viewfinder, IBIS, and phase detect AF (looking at you Sigma fp) I am aware of it fits into a jacket pocket without much fuss at all. Looking at the two fixed lens full frame options only Sony’s own RX1R II series is smaller. Had the other, the Leica Q, and can confirm that it was not very jacket pocket friendly.

So full frame goodness in a compact package. Will occasionally set the ISO to my favorite film speeds and also tweak the B&W (+3 Contrast and +5 Sharpness)…

A7c - FE Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8

…and Vivid (+3 Saturation and +5 Sharpness)…

A7c - FE Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8

…Creative Style settings to emulate film types a bit. For giggles I tend to flip the back screen around to keep me from chimping when out and about.

Sony A7c (Fake M-D mode)

And with that I prefer this set up over film lately.

Weird times.

Will that change anything? For now, no. There are no plans to rid myself of any film cameras. Shooting less does not mean not shooting at all. But now they are more of an option and less of a compulsion.

Sony A7c
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