Prime Time! Why I carry the equipment I carry.

In my last post, How did I get in this dilemma?, I mentioned my trip to Europe with my wife. I brought a Sony Nex-5 with a 16mm f/2.8 lens and that was it. Eight days in Europe; Lisbon, Barcelona, Florence, Rome, Naples, and Palma with one wide prime lens. I learned and became very comfortable with a very valuable concept.

I don’t need a zoom lens.

Shortly after the Europe trip, I got rid of my zoom lenses. I had the kit lens which came with my A390, the standard 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, an old Minolta Beercan lens 70-210mm f/4, and a lens I picked up at a garage sale a Quantaray (Sigma) 75-300mm f/4.5-6.3. All of them sold. I was down to three inexpensive primes on my A390, the 30mm f/2.8 Macro, the 35mm f/1.8 and the 50mm f/1.8. And on my Nex-5 I had the 16mm f/2.8.


This photo was taken in Andratx in Mallorca. (Sony Nex-5, 16mm f/2.8 lens)

I learned if I wanted to get closer, I could crop or walk closer. If I needed something wider, I could stitch or walk further away. When the A77 came out I sold the Nex-5 and the 16mm lens, the A390 and the three primes. The money I raised covered the A77 and an 85mm f/1.4 lens. I had been juggling used and cheap lenses for ten months when I A77 + 85mm combo. For the next ten months, 90% of my shots have been with this combination. Since then I acquired a 600mm mirror lens really cheap which I use to shoot the moon, and I have experimented with other lenses, the latest being a 24mm f/2 lens. The good thing about camera lenses is they don’t depreciate much if you take care of them. I took an accumulative $28 loss on the 30mm f/2.8, 35mm f/1.8, and 50mm f/1.8. I made money on the Minolta Beercan and the Quantaray Zoom at the end of the day. Camera equipment in general depreciates well. I sold the A390 body and kit lens at a $75 loss and the Nex-5 and 16mm lens at a $50 loss.


Another shot of the moon. (Sony A77, Sigma 600mm f/8 mirror lens)

I travel a lot. In a one year span from mid-January 2011 to mid-January 2012 I visited 20 of the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Thailand, and Malaysia. I really have to carefully choose the equipment in my bag. If I acquire a new lens, if I want to keep it in my bag I need to sell or shelf another to make room.

This monkey really liked coconut. I took this in Malaysia. (Sony A77, 85mm f/1.4 lens)

Right now, in my bag I have the Sony Alpha A77 Digital SLT with an 85mm f/1.4 lens, a B+W XSPro UV filter, a 24mm f/2 lens, a Minolta 3600 HS flash, a SanDisk 32GB ExtremePro SDHC, battery charger, extra battery, and a Giotto’s rocket blower. I also carry various other little supplies including LCD wipes, sensor swabs, cotton swabs, white balance cards, and an extra 16GB SanDisk 16GB ExtremePro SDHC in a small tin. This is to supply my habit. I also have to carry a laptop, power supply, cell phone charger, cell phone, and anything else I am bringing with me. So minimizing the load I am carrying is crucial.


(Sony A77, 85mm f/1.4 lens)

Why do I carry the equipment I carry? I wanted the Sony Alpha A77 for the sheer speed. It is capable of shooting 12 frames per second in a single burst of 24.3 Megapixel RAW+JPEG files at 30-35 MB per shot. It does continuous bursts of 6-8 shots without a dedicated mode. The A77 had the lens versatility I had in the A390 and some of the key features which attracted me to the Nex-5. It is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Once you get to the 12th or 13th shot in the large burst, the buffer fills up and requires a second or two to clear. This is why it is essential to have the fastest SDHC on the market with the SanDisk ExtremePro at 95 mb/s. There is one other camera on the non-Sony DSLR market capable of the speed the A77 has and it costs 4-5 times more. The A77 also does full HD 1080 60p video with autofocus. The only non-Sony DSLR better at video costs nearly ten times as much.


I was in the third deck when I took this game-winning overtime goal. (Sony A77, 85mm f/1.4 lens)

I can shoot my kids in bursts and chances are, one or two will turn out how I want.



Hopefully there aren’t bills in there. (Sony A77, 85mm f/1.4 lens)

I decided on the 85mm lens as it was better quality-wise than the cheaper 50mm f/1.8 I had, and the 50mm f/1.4 on the market. I was a bit uneasy about 85mm on an APS-C body as it was much longer than I was used to in the 50mm lens. My goals in acquiring the 85mm lens were simple; it needed to be bright, it needed to fit on a full-frame body if I ever upgraded, and it needed to review well.


My favorite thing to do is shoot random flowers and plants, especially exotic locations, like this in Fajardo, Puerto Rico (Sony A77, 85mm f/1.4 lens)

The 85mm lens I acquired is the best lens I have ever shot with. It does precisely what I wanted, without me really knowing yet what I wanted. It looks good wide open. It is sharp enough to crop details out from shots where I would have thought I needed something longer. The 24.3 MP APS-C sensor on the A77 has to have a good lens to account for the pixel density. The 85mm f/1.4 ZA the bill. It’s not without fault. It uses a screw-driven autofocus, which is louder and a tad slower than the Smooth Automatic Motor or Super Sonic Wave Motor lenses. Wide open at f/1.4 in backlit situations it allows some Chromatic Aberration to creep in to the shot. The sharpness of the lens makes up for the shortfall.


My little girl is my most cooperative subject. She dresses up for me. (Sony A77, 85mm f/1.4 lens)

With the A77 + 85mm combo, I have shot tens of thousands of frames. I have captured all three of my kids looking and smiling. I have gotten hockey pucks hitting posts and crossing goal lines at the exact moment they hit or crossed more than once each at different games in different countries. I shot a monkey 5 feet away and the shot has made its way into a coffee table book being sold for charity. And I finally got shots of my wife. 


My beautiful wife at El Morro. (Sony A77, 85mm f/1.4 lens)

My latest lens excursion is the 24mm f/2. It works out to be a 36mm equivalent on the APS-C sensor, so it is close to the classic 35mm focal length. The jury is still out. I am still getting a feel for it. It seems like a good lens, but I always find myself getting back to the 85mm lens. Definitely a habit I need to break.


The colors captured by the new 24mm f/2 lens are good, that’s for sure. (Sony A77, 24mm f/2 lens)

So what about software? That is a story for my next post.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s