3rd party lenses for the a mount?

Started Feb 1, 2013 | Questions thread
photo chris
Regular MemberPosts: 281
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Re: Curious about MF
In reply to cyainparadise, Feb 9, 2013

cyainparadise wrote:

Dheorl wrote:

dlkeller wrote:

Why the obsession with manual focus lenses? You can manually focus any lens if you just put the camera in manual focus mode. Seems to me trying to adapt other brand lenses is just making problems where none are necessary.

Because normally lenses designed specifically for manual focus are better at it (smoother focus rings etc), whereas auto focus ones it can often feel like a bit of an after thought. That and I want to force myself to manual focus for a while, and I'd rather not have AF there to fall back on.

I disagree with that assessment. As someone who started out with a Minolta SRT-101, I believe it all depends on the individual (focal length of) lens that you're looking at. And, it depends on the brand of lens that you're comparing.

I used to be a Minolta sales rep, and remember doing in-store demos of the Minolta MF gear. Many times I was there with a Canon rep next to me pushing his gear. During slow periods, we would try out each others equipment. I remember trying out the Canon AE-1, and trying to focus the Canon lens felt like I has grinding something. It wasn't smooth at all. The Minolta gear, by comparison, was like silk against satin.

However, even the smoothness of individual lenses of the same focal length would differ due to manufacturing tolerances. And, different focal lengths had different amount of turning to go from minimum focal distance to infinite. For example, a macro lens has more turning of the focus ring that a 300mm. For that matter, a wide angle lens requires more turning of the focus ring than a 300mm.

There are a number of reasons legacy glass is popular with video shooters, MF lenses have a few distinct advantages over most AF lenses:

  • Focus ring - with AF lesnes the focus throw is usually about 90 degrees and often far less, where just about every legacy lens I've used (Canon FD, Minolta Rokkor, Leica R and Zeiss C/Y) has a focus throw in the 270 degree range.  This makes it much easier when focusing manually as its not nearly as sensitive to small movements.  If you're trying to pull focus or follow something, its pretty obvious how this is an advantage.
  • Hard stops - AF lenses the focus ring spins forever, on MF lenses the focus ring has hard stops at the beginning and end, making it easier to repeat focus and use the focus scale, if you have a focus by wire lens its far less accurate.  If you're racking focus between to different spots, its much easier to do with manual lenses as you can find the exact points to move between.  
  • Manual Aperture - for some its just easier to move from the focus ring to adjust the aperture on the fly, I always have a hand on the lens when shooting so manual aperture lenses are a big plus for me.
  • Price - lots of fast/cheap MF lenses around if you have a little patience to find good deals, I spent $1200 and bought a nice set of Rokkors - 20/2.8, 35/1.8, 50/1.4, 58/1.2, 85/1.7, 135/2.8.  You could get a similar set of Olympus OM's or Canon FD's for the same price, Zeiss/Leica glass will cost more.
  • Distinct looks - lots of old glass has very distinct looks, especially the old Russian lenses, most modern lenses are very vanilla.
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