Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Adventures in 85mm

I purchased my Sigma 85 1.4 lens second hand. At the time I wasn't doing much auto focusing, especially with tele lenses, due to to my specific cinematic style. Because of that I'm not sure if when I got it the AF was already broken or if it got that way later on. What is this cinematic style that I speak of? I guess it's a style that lets me in video change focus from one person to another or even choose to go from out-of-focus to focus if a shot requires it. Even on stills shots it allows you to select which person or what object will be in focus. I know some current cameras do it with touch screens, but these don't always work well for for focus pulling and I would rather change focus while using the viewfinder.
So for a long time I was using my sigma lens only in manual mode, but it fast became my go-to lens. I spend a LOT of money to buy Zeiss 50mm 1.4 and used it practically for everything but soon after getting the 85mm I found myself more and more drawn to using it. As I mostly shoot people the 85mm seemed like a great solution for weddings in small to medium venues, producing "beauty" shots without the hassle that comes with shooting with the 200mm in a room with a large crowd. The 85nn just seemed perfect for isolating a person while still retaining a sense of the room that person is in and the people next to that person.
I still use the 50mm if I want a few people in the shot and for formals. I also use the 20mm lens but RARELY.
Even shooting in nature, where I know the 200mm is popular I would rather use the 85mm because I feel that I can get more of the actual nature rather than just a blur a person floats in.
That said, since I got the A99ii I started experimenting with Eye-AF options. While not as great as in the latest Sony A7/9 models it is still worth using. However, it requires a working AF, so I waited for the right time to send my lens to Sigma.
As I am a working photographer, I decided to get a loaner lens courtesy of Sony PRO services. It actually comes from
At first they told me that due to their Kando 2.0 event that I wouldn't be able to get a loaner at the time I wanted it, but a few e-mails later they realized that they didn't actually need any A-Mount lenses so I could actually get the loaner. Sometimes it pays to be the underdog I guess. So I got the Sony Zeiss 85mm 1.4 lens that week and sent my Sigma 85 1.4 lens to Kurt's Camera Repair In San Diego, an authorized service center of Sigma, after confirming with them that they can fix it.
Once it got there they realized that they didn't have the right equipment to fix A-Mount lenses. I guess sometimes it doesn't pay to be the underdog. So they sent it to the main Sigma lab in upstate NY.  As to be expected it took a while for it to be shipped there and back so my two weeks with the loaner were over so I get left without the 85mm and had to to a family photoshoot with just the 50mm and 200mm lenses.
The good news was that though I had no proof of purchase whatsoever Sigma decided to fix my lens for free. So I only had to pay around 60$ for shipment which was cool.
The Sony Zeiss 85mm 1.4 was okay, and did the job on a small wedding where I used it extensively.

That said without and scientific or even extensive testing I find the Zeiss lens to be a kind of bland lens when compared to the Sigma lens that has better colors and bokeh as far as I could tell.
So I was happy to finally, after three and a half weeks to get my Sigma lens back which I plan to use on Sunday for my next fire dancing photoshoot.

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