So one of the biggest selling points about the new SONY A7 is that it is basically designed for super amazing old-school lenses including crazy Leica lenses, old school Russian M42 mount lenses, or my current favourite - old film NIKON lenses from the mid eighties.
The question you’re probably somewhat all asking but not exactly all asking is - why? Why not grab the Sony lenses for the a7? Why are these old lenses better? And why specifically the a7 - why not any other mirrorless camera?
Ok, there’s a few questions in there, and after actually having one for some time now, and being able to fiddle with it for long enough to use it properly I feel I can weigh in on this subject which seems to have been asked in numerous forums - and probably answered as well - across the internet.
1 - The Old(er) Lenses
So as you’ll all know by now, the Sony a7 is capable of mounting pretty much any lens to the front, from the small 15mm Superwide Heliar Voigtlander, right through to the behemoth 500mm Sony lens. But the beauty of this camera lies in the fact that it can handle any lens you want. Want that vintage FD glass look? You got it. The old AI-s Nikon look? You betcha. even the unbelievably creamy Hexanon or Summilux? No worries.
Whilst I usually subscribe to the idea of the rule of thirds when purchasing new gear (1/3 on the body, 2/3 on a lens) for DSLRs, in this case Sony has proven that you can grab yourself a $2000 camera, and drop a $50 lens on the front and get some amazing images. They’ve really knocked a ball out of the park with this one, allowing people to not only use their vintage glass, but people to pick up vintage lenses and use them without fearing the outcome.
With the EVF, you get to see exactly what your camera shot will look like right out of the box, before you even press your shutter button. Not to mention with focus peeking as well you can’t really miss a shot, so those old manual lenses from the 50’s suddenly become usable again - and you don’t need to worry about wasting film, or buying a super expensive lightbox like an M6 or something to use it.
Furthermore, some of these old lenses are SHARP. Not the TV brand, but these things are crazy sharp. Sure, you could use a new Sigma 50mm Art lens on the front of it, and have to walk around lugging several kilos of equipment, or you could pop a 50mm Ai-s on the front and suddenly, it’s the perfect street camera.
That shot above? 50mm Ai-s Nikon lens from 1983. Eighty Three! Look at the clean nature of it. Look at how it is so freaking sharp - hell you can make out the individual iris detail. From a lens made over thirty years ago. This lens would set you back - wait for it - a whopping $150 today. Not only that, but it’s almost a pancake by comparison to most 50mm lenses on the market today, and sure as hell a lot sharper than a modern nifty-fifty.
Not to mention, there’s a metric shit ton of them on the market. There’s been a million lenses released over the past 50 years, most of which are adaptable with a $20 part to your new sony camera. And with that full-frame sensor you can take advtange of every lens liek you would have done on a film camera. Want a 135? Sure. 50? Yup. 15? Definitely. It’s so easy - and it’s cheap.
Not only this, but if you’re looking for something else like maybe some swirly awesomeness (see the images below), then you can try on some of the old Soviet lenses - the Helios, Takamur, Mir - all these lenses produce an insane swirly effect and one company has even gone the whole nine yards and started rebuilding them, re-branding them and inserting a baked in colour effect - all for about $150. And whoever said they aren’t sharp, take a look at my mate’s eyes in the bottom picture.
2 - The New Lenses
Look, don’t get me wrong. The new lenses are incredibly good. In fact, the kit lenses you can get with either the a7 or the a7r is one of the sharpest kit lenses ever. But then again, it’s a Zeiss and with such a name you’d expect that. But what about the 55mm 1.8? or the 35mm 2.8? Well, let’s compare and see why it would be a bad fiscal decision to grab these, as well as a bad art choice.
First and foremost, the obvious one - the cost. For $1300AUD you’re getting a 55mm lens, f1.8 aperture, all automatic control and made by Zeiss. is it sharp? You betcha. is it $1150AUD sharper or better than a vintage lens? Absolutely not. It’s sharp, sure. But it reaches it’s peak at f/4 - and for $1300 you’d expect a lot more. Why buy a 1.8 lens, to shoot at f/4 for $1300 when you can get one which will not only shoot at f/4 but also be sharper at f/4 for less money? And not to mention be properly compact as well?
Also, it’s electronic. Now, electronics these days are pretty damn good. But on that one occasion something goes wrong, you’re going to be wishing you had a manual aperture wheel, and completely manual focus. Furthermore, tested on the a7r, the $1300 Zeiss lens only gets a rough picture clarity of 29mp - you’re dropping 7 MP off the image clarity to begin with! Also, you’ve got -2 stops of vignetting wide open. Now sure, my Ai-S gets about -1.5 stops, but it was less than an TENTH of the price. You’re getting the picture here, I hope.
Also, the colour reproduction of modern lenses is usually to designed to work with the camera. In this case, you’re not matching the cameras - but it doesn’t matter. In the days of film. lenses had characteristics ingrained into them but overall had to do what they had to do- let colour and light through in the easiest way possible and the most efficient way possible to let the film do it’s thing. So colour is not issue for these old lenses!
And finally, it’s just not as fun! Photography is all about seeing things and visualizing them, and getting photos and using the lenses to tell a story. These new lenses don’t have the character of the old film lenses. They’re a digital lens, designed with the idea that you will fix it in Photoshop. The old film lenses relied on the shot being right first. It relied on you as a photographer to feel like a photographer. If i wanted an automatic shot, i’d pull out my phone. Don’t be lazy people!
3 - Why the a7?
This one is simply answered, but not so simply explained. As I attempted to explain to a rather obnoxious customer the other day at work the a7 is simply the best mirror less camera on the market. Period. Not the a7r, or the a7s, the a7. Putting it simply - it’s full frame. So too are the a7r and the a7s - and I’ll get onto why they aren’t quite as good in a moment.
But every single other mirror less camera on the market is either crop, or micro 4/3 sensor. Putting this simply - more noise in your photographs, due to less light on the sensor and less effective lens options as well as less DOF. It’s also got the best EVF on the market, NFC, WiFi, and a host of new things coming out with new firmware upgrades later on down the track.
The a7r is stilla great camera - but it’s higher MP count means it’s more prone to camera shake, as well as no EFSC means you get a loud CLICK every time you press the shutter button. Sure, it’s higher MP means you get larger files, and more detail in your shots - but it also means that super wide lenses suffer from gradient shift and just don’t work as well. Oh and if you do happen to have AutoFocus lenses, there’s less AF points as well. The a7s is still a great camera as well but it’s mainly geared for video, so if you’re interested in that, then go for it. Otherwise, for stills, the a7 is still the king.
The Sony a7 is a phenomenal camera. Better Low Light performance than a Canon 5D MKIII, and the ability to use your vintage awesome lenses means that it is simply one of the best cameras on the market today. It makes you feel like you’re shooting properly. like you’re actually doing photography, rather than just lugging around expensive equipment to make you look like a pretender.
The combination of an old school lens and the camera makes it one of the best - if not the best street camera to date. And with all the lens options that the last fifty years has brought - chances are you find one that you love.
Note: For hi-res samples of someimages above, go to www.flickr.com/daveeroberts
Picture this. It’s game night. The beers are on the coffee table, along with the chips, dip, and obligatory pizza is on it’s way. Your mates are all sitting there and you’re watching the pre-game discussion between the commentators on your new 65-inch plasma in all it’s wall-mounted glory. The beers are cold and as the game gets underway you and the rest of your crew give a whoop, crying the name of their teams. Then you turn to your friend and ask “So, what do you rekkon’s gunna happen here?” Your eyes never leave the screen but you hear his response:
“Well, I’m thinking that, considering the early bottle and speed rush, Voke will be going for a hex play, whilst the others are probably going to be focussing on lane support and DPS – especially that Doom. Man, just a simple Heart and some A-S and he’ll be a nightmare for their team. I mean c’mon. They’re all squishy – look at that team. I reckon it’ll be GG before 25.” This, dear readers, is the reality of the sporting world. But these are not sports played by burley men on a field, tossing a piece of skin – no these are the types of sports played with keyboards and mice.
It’s the rise and rise of e-sports – competitive online play with computer games between – often – teams of highly skilled individuals using their abilities and talents to compete for one goal – the prize for winning a championship. And yes, that includes – with much more frequency – a prize that can be translated into cash. And there has been a massive rise in the past five years alone – with some games such as Riot Games’ “League of Legends” tipping 27 million players per day. To put that into perspective: Harvard/Yale’s School of Sports Studies and “Sports Studies Unlimited of the USA” estimate the amount of people who play baseball – the national sport of the US – is 42 Million. Per year.
And like baseball, most people do it for fun. But there are select few who manage to get it into the big-league – the major league. And these people are now known as e-Athletes. They can also get paid like it too, with some topping out $300,000 USD a year to play games such as LoL, DOTA2, and Starcraft 2. In fact, the largest single prize ever seen in an online game for first place was a cool one million dollars US. So, my question is, given that these massive amounts of money, and obvious parallels to “real” sports are showing – why don’t more people know about this?
Well, it’s because it’s a very recent development. Don’t get me wrong; professional gaming isn’t exactly a new thing. The World Cyber Games have been running since the turn of the millennium. But, realistically like every single other thing in the western world, it wasn’t until the United States began to pick up on the idea of e-sports being a valid occupation that the rise in online gaming – both watching and participating – has been noticed.
In 2002, Sundance DiGiovanni and Mike Sepso founded Major League Gaming. Its focus was, and still is, to bring computer games into the limelight in the same way baseball and grid iron – or Cricket and football here in Australia – are. They wanted them to be spectator sports, viable and most of all profitable. Games which MLG are playing include LoL, Starcraft 2, DOTA2, Mortal Kombat, and (despite the shuddered cries from gamers across the globe) Call of Duty games.
So, now that Major League Gaming has a humungous following, it’s brought the heavy-hitting games of Starcraft 2, DOTA2, and League of Legends out of Korea, Japan and China transplanting them into the fore-front of the western world – where we are starting to see it infiltrate into mainstream society. And it’s all simply because these games (at least the former three mentioned) have a massive spectator base, and are easy to watch, easy to learn the rules of, and frankly are far more interesting than cricket.
In fact, there are bars such as Australia’s MANA Bar in Brisbane, or the Legends Sports Bar in New York City which either hold events based around e-sports – not dissimilar to the “big game” events pubs in Sydney hold for events such as the Superbowl. Or in the case of MANA Bar, are a completely gaming themed bar with everything from Single Player games and old consoles dotted across the place, to big-screen streams of the live championships happening at that moment.
But there is a reason for all of this. People these days, are accessing more and more of their material online – whether it’s for university or work or leisure. Interestingly too, all of these events take place in an online environment and use the workhorse or the internet to contact with their fans, stream their events and ‘broadcast’ to an audience across the globe. It’s also interesting to note, that there is a correlation between the rise of competitive gaming, spectating on said gaming, and a drop in cable TV subscriptioins. Now, I’m not saying it’s a cause – because frankly the internet is to blame for that one – but it is a curious little figure.
The expansion of the Internet has allowed more and more people to touch with other cultures and experience things which they many not. It’s not outlandish to think that someone was googling around the Internet, or having a night in on youtube, and came across a Starcraft 2 match – and started to watch it. He/She has noticed that this is an interesting phenomenon – the Korean and Chinese players are treated like our sporting heros here. They are paid well, fed well, have endorsements and team jerseys – for sitting in front of a computer. Then that person goes to tell the friend – and it spreads from there.
Admittedly, there is a harsh gaming world. The amount of times I personally have been called a “n00b” or a “Bronzer” or, my personal favourite, an “Stupid dumb convict fuck who can’t play drow. Lol.” But this is no different to what we see in parliament, or what we observe on the field. “Whats up hotshot? Can’t throw a ball?”, or, “Can’t run to save your life. Hopeless.” It’s just another parallel between the boof-headed footy players and nerdy-pasty gamers.
It’s a team sport like every other, but also like no other. On the one hand, it accomplishes the same things any sport will – cooperation, teamwork, mateship and all the rest of it. On the other, it brings together people from the other side of the world, to play with each other toward a common goal. It doesn’t cost millions of dollars in flights and hotel rooms and drugs (although I’m sure some of the gaming community do partake in illicit substances) and, if you wanted to get really into it – nowhere near the green footprint of a traditional sport. So I have to ask, what is holding us back from embracing this?
When I was younger, I used to head over to a local gaming café with a friend of mine to play Battlefield 1942. It was a dark, dingy place, where you paid three bucks an hour to sit and fire virtual shots across an historically inaccurate map, all the while eating KFC and drinking soft drink. Gamers like me, used to be shunned into small rooms like that gaming café, and were more often than not considered weirdos, nerds, geeks, and a million and one other names for daring to utter Nintendo’s name in the classroom.
But the reality is, I’m now nearly 24. Next year I’ll be a quarter of a century old. We gamers are growing up. Its us that are so interested in these events, it’s us that would fund them, and it’s us who would go to the local pub, sit down and watch the 1v1 TvP match happening tonight in Korea. We are a moving, aging force – and as the older sports journalists and sporting heroes die out, the new come in and these games will gain more traction. They will gain more publicity. Slowly, the screens will be switched from the NRL or the AFL and will go to the D2CL, or the WCS.
And eventually, people won’t be sitting at the local with a beer, talking about that pass from who’s-his-face to what’s-his-name, or the tackle that was clearly too high, or the try that was given incorrectly. They’ll be talking about that strategy, that battle, the item pool, what the turning point was, who’s supply was low, what lost them the game. It’s only a matter of time.
Refugees, boat people, immigrants, illegals, aliens – whatever you want to call them have been a hot topic in the media in Australia for about the last 13 years. Really, it all started with the Tampa Affair, which flared issues with Norway due to a freighter carrying refugees from Afghanistan (mostly) being disallowed entry to Australian Waters. There’s a bunch of other terms that have evolved through this – mostly from our elected officials in Canberra (that’s our capital to those of you who aren’t aware) throwing blame on one another for the results of this death, or that sinking, or this plan that didn’t work.
Now, we have in place a policy known as Operation Sovereign Borders – a joint task force headed up by the Australian Defense Force to “Stop the Boats”. Indeed it has, according to the releases from government.
But that’s another story.
You see, dear readers, what I want to talk about is how we, the Australian people, could possibly benefit from the incoming refugees. How we could use them, and help them at the same time to create a better Australia for us all. I warn you though; these opinions are far from the centre as my usual opinions are. They are, in fact, going to make a lot of people very upset when they read them. But, if it does, then it means at least you’ve given it some thought. Well, I hope so.
It’s no secret that Australia’s economy isn’t in the greatest shape. Partly, yes, it is to do with the GFC. It also has quite a bit to do with an incompetent Labor government who couldn’t organise a booze-up in a brewery – at least not one which makes any kind of money at the end. And there are a few other little things as well which influenced it – but the big kick in the pants for the economy happened in late 2007 – when it was almost certain that the Labor Government – for the first time in over a decade – was to seize power under Kevin Rudd.
The economy wound back – simply because the business heads of Australia don’t’ have confidence in those in the left. And you can find this out by doing one of two things – talk to a big wig in the business sector, or just look at what happened when it was certain that the Liberal Government was about to reclaim power in 2013. Things began to pick up once again. The building industry began to pick up, the retail sector had a massive boost, and the flow on from that will be seen soon enough.
But the Economy of Australia is certainly not as awesome as it once was – under the Howard/Costello government. Nor is it anywhere near the powerhouse of emerging economies today such as China, nor is it anything like the powerhouse economy that was (and to a certain extent still is) the United States. The big reason for this? The Manufacturing industry.
In fact, President Obama himself said: “If we want to build and economy that lasts, that is strong, that has a strong foundation… we’ve got to do everything we can to strengthen American manufacturing.” Now, that’s obviously talking about the United States, but the same rings true for any other country around the world – including our own. You only have to look to the afore mentioned China and another western economic powerhouse – Germany – to realise that the ones with the strong manufacturing sectors weathered the storm of the GFC much better than any other. In fact, any emerging economy will need a manufacturing sector to become prosperous and to become economically sound.
So what does this have to do with Australia? And what does it have to do with refugees? Well, it’s simple. Australia cannot, ever, be deemed to be globally competitive on price with Australian manufactured goods – simply because the cost of manufacture here in Australia is far too high – by comparison to the rest of the world. Things like our minimum wage – which is the highest in the world, drives our goods production up like crazy. However, there is a massive opportunity here with people coming from other countries. And, I should note, this is the point you should stop reading if you’re easily offended. If not, please continue.
If we were to let refugees come into Australia, on the provision that they had to work, for a company of the government’s choice, for the first 3-5 years of their stay in the country and use their skills, at a reduced rate of pay (by comparison to the rest of Australia) such as, $5 an hour, we’d be competitive again. Competitive on a global scale. Sure, we wouldn’t have the cheapness of China, for example, but we would have good quality controlled goods coming from Australia. We’d be bale to sell these goods to Australia and around the world and bring the profits home.
Now, whilst the people are working in these companies, the Government would have to do their bit. Namely, teaching and education of fluent English, Australian way of life, the Australian ethics and ‘way of doing things’ if you will, along with housing and food etc considering the lowered wage. Not to stamp out culture or anything like that – but a simple way of teaching people what is acceptable in this country and what is not. For example – don’t beat people up, don’t disrespect people because of sex, etcetera. And you know what, you’d find that when these people finish their stint here and are released into the community (for want of use of a better term) you’d find that some would want to stay and become managers of that facility they were working in. The same as we see in the Army, when conscripts want to stay in the military and work their way up in places such as Switzerland and Italy.
Now, that solves two sides of politics. The right, who want to look after business, and the left who want to let refugees in. But there’s another side of politics who could, very easily, destroy the entire plan. The Greens. Ah yes, our tree-hugging ‘alternative choice’ (who’s preferences all go to labor anyway, so you might as well vote for them instead) who would be crying out about the impact on the ecology and the local environment because of industry.
So, how to deal with them? Simple. We turn the manufacturing industry’s sights to the best thing Australia could produce: Solar Energy. The Australian climate in the middle of the Simpson Desert for example, is one of two places best suited for the production and development of solar energy on the entire planet. So why not use it? And, with a government hand in the pot as well, it’d be seen that the government is doing something about climate change. Not seen to do something, but actually doing it as well.
By taking these produced panels to the rest of the world and selling them to – for example – the biggest two polluters on the earth (the USA and China), they’d be lowering their emissions. What would the advantage of that be? Well, we’d be helping them do so. They’d be more likely to buy Australian goods than Chinese, and not to mention if we could develop a true energy conversion (which let’s be honest, if anyone can do it, it’s Australia) then they’d be a hot little item. And it’s a million times better than a carbon tax – both logically and fundamentally. So, in one felled swoop we’ve done a few different things:
First, we’ve taken in refugees to keep those on the left-ish side of politics happy. We’ve boosted productivity in the Australian Economy, and warded it against another potential GFC by creating jobs, and a whole new manufacturing industry through the use of immigrant help. And, we’ve kept the greens at bay by using the industry to create globally changing technologies to reduce not only our own, but the world’s carbon footprint. All the while, helping people seek a better way of life, and find a better life to live here in this wonderful country, which was built on people coming by boat.
I know there are going to be nay-sayers who are reading this, probably scoffing at the idea of Australia changing the world on such a dramatic scale. Well, we’ve done it before. In 2003, two brothers who were immigrants to this country from Denmark created a little application called “Where 2”. The app was bought by Google and became what we now know as Google Maps. Yeah, Google Maps – Australian invention. But that is small compared to the biggest Australian invention of them all. The fact that you’re reading this now on your smartphone, or tablet, or laptop is thanks to the biggest technological advancement of the past twenty-five years. That little thing, which was actually a failed experiment on black holes, by CSIRO John O’Sullivan, went on to become Wi-Fi. Yup, Wi-Fi is an Aussie invention that is in every single smartphone, laptop, tablet, and nearly every TV. All from a place of just 23 Million People.
This is just an idea. It’s an idea I’ve had rattling around in my brain for some time now – but I can’t see how it won’t work. It’s better than sitting on our hands and doing nothing, it’s better than saying no to everything, and it’s certainly better than pretending nothing like this could help at all. In fact, I think if we gave it a go, we’d probably go from that country that places like the United States know a little bit about, to being a country which would be studied for aeons to come as the little nation that changed the world – for the better. And most of all, did it with the most upheld views of the Australian adage – a fair go for all, a strive to make our little patch of earth better than it was before, a fighting spirit to stand up for what’s right, and reject what’s wrong. Even if the odds are against us.
As Phillip Adams once said: “Unless you’re willing to have a go, fail miserably, and have another go, success won’t happen.” And no one else on this entire earth, rolls up their sleeves and gives something a go, like our little nation of convicts, on our small patch of sunburnt earth, a nation of underdogs often ignored by the masses of the rest of the world. Maybe we’ve got something to prove, maybe we just like a good challenge. Whatever it is, I know we’ve changed the world before, and we can damn sure do it again.