Project 52 week 33: Some fun testing my Sony NEX lenses

This week I didn’t set out to post a photo of the week but instead concentrated on getting to know some aspects of my gear a bit better. As I indicated way back in my first post for this project, my aim is primarily to learn more about photography doing this project 52 thing and sometimes that will mean that the goals of some weekly projects will not be about posting a new photo each week. However, this week it seems like I have taken more photos than just about any week since I started.
I recently purchased a Sony NEX-7 camera and Voigtlander 35mm lens as an upgrade to my old NEX-5 camera. Prior to the NEX-5 I had an entry level Canon 1000D DSLR and a Canon point-and-shoot compact camera. I mainly took photos when on holidays but decided to take more when I travelled with work and opportunity permitted. I found though that the Canon DSLR with two lenses was quite bulky to carry around and I wanted to do more than what the point-and-shoot offered. Following a bit of research I came across the micro four thirds cameras and also the Sony mirrorless cameras. These compact system cameras seemed to be what I was looking for. I came very close to purchasing an Olympus PEN camera but in the end settled on the Sony with its larger sensor size. Travelling to the USA I had the opportunity to pick up a NEX-5 with a couple of lenses for a much cheaper price than I could get at home in Australia. I also went all out and bought the 18-200 zoom lens as well.
After using the camera and being happy with it I wanted to do more and Sony had a couple more lenses out which I purchased over time so found myself with quite a little collection of NEX lenses. I also bought a cheap adapter and was able to attach a 40 year old Olympus 50mm lens which produces some beautiful images.
Eventually I felt the need to upgrade from the NEX-5 but wanted to keep my lenses so, again when overseas, had the opportunity to buy a NEX-7 for a far better price than what is available at home.
I have never sat down and compared my lenses against each other but have seen heaps of criticism and support for the 16mm and kit lens (18-55mm) on the NEX. I must say I have always been happy with both but it was really interesting to do a comparison of my lenses which included:

  1. 16mm lens
  2. 18-55mm kit lens
  3. 30mm macro lens
  4. 50mm f1.8 prime lens
  5. 18-200mm zoom lens
  6. 35mm f1.4 Voigtlander lens

So the other night I setup the tripod and took photos with the NEX-7 and each of the lenses from their largest to smallest apertures and (with the zoom lenses, various focal lengths trying to match the prime lenses where possible). I tried to be a little scientific and kept other settings fixed (eg ISO) and also tried to take exactly the same shot which didn’t work out too well. The problem with taking the same shot was that each lens had different minimum focus distances and I was trying to set the focus at that minimum distance. The subjects of the images were balls on a pool table so I found myself moving balls around a bit to get focus at that minimum distance.
I ended up with a really interesting set of photos. All images were in raw format.
However, the next day I decided to go a step further and compare the photos with the same set shot using the NEX-5. For fun I decided to do raw and jpeg comparisons too. I started from fresh and deleted all the old photos however wasn’t quite as dilligent in setting the cameras up this time and ISO unfortunately got left on auto and also there was some exposure compensation going on too.
I did however end up with an interesting set of photos for me at least and have made some interesting observations.
Looking at the jpeg vs raw in both cameras, I like the look of the raw photos quite a bit more.
I had intended to publish all the photos to a photo share site for people to look at however there is over 250 of them and the raw photos in particular, are quite large so I am just going to scatter a few in this post to try to make it at least a bit interesting.
Of the lenses, the one that produced the images that I liked most were with the 50mm lens and it certainly does seem to enjoy a better reputation on the Internet forums.
The lighting in these photos wasn’t great and no flash was used (am thinking of doing a flash comparison somehow too) and given the way the photos were taken it would be very difficult to tell by looking at them, which were taken with the NEX-5 and which with the NEX-7.
Looking at the EXIF data though it seems neither camera is afraid to jump up to quite high ISO settings if set to auto.
One of the interesting aspects that came out of this comparison for me is looking at the bokeh for each lens. From all that I have read on forums etc you would be led to believe that zoom lenses are no good for it and only prime lenses can produce satisfactory out of focus areas however I was pleasantly surprised at both of the zoom lenses (even compared to the primes), particularly the 18-200mm one.
All things considered, it has been an interesting and enlightening comparison for me.

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