A journey through small cheap lenses for the Nex | And the chosen one was...

Started Jun 23, 2013 | Discussions thread
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José Ramos
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A journey through small cheap lenses for the Nex | And the chosen one was...
Jun 23, 2013

Hi there.

I'm a Sony Alpha user. About 9 months ago I bought a second-hand Sony NEX 5, as a portable camera for taking proper snapshots when I didn't want to carry the heavy a77. Unfortunately, I thought it would be easy to find cheap, fast and small lenses for the NEX system, as it's main selling point was the reduced size...

Well, I was wrong... Not only pancake lenses are scarce, they tend to be very expensive!

That's when my research started.

My obvious first purchase was the famous Industar 69mm. An extremely small lens, Russian bokeh, vintage-like toning. I quite liked it. Unfortunately, the lens screw would have to be filed to be able to achieve infinity focus. Besides that, sharpness suffered a LOT and the focus ring was unpractical for everyday use.

And the I heard about the magical Olympus PEN-F 38mm f1.8... It was a real pain to be able to get one for a decent price in Europe, but I finally managed to find one. This lens seemed to have it all: great sharpness, decent size, very fast, good price. Unfortunately, the lens got stuck in the first adapter I got, and it took me a week to be able to remove it from the adapter, killing that usual delicious thrill of using a new product for the first days... I got a proper adapter and this lens does really shine in the image quality department. Fantastic image quality and it excels in portraits. I thought I had reached the budget heaven zone of the Nex system!

But then I took the Olympus for the real world, including dinners, parties and auto-portrait attempts with my girlfriend... Well, it sucked... Unless all of your photos are absolutely planned and your subject has the patience to wait for you to focus (and in the process loose the spontainety of the moment), it won't work. Dinners where you already had one or two glasses of wine: manual focus gets in the way. Parties with lots of people where everyone is running around: manual focus gets in the way. Auto-portraits of the enamored couple: manual focus makes it impossible. Any kind of portrait where you just simply want to push one button and get a properly focused image: manual focus gets in the way.

So... after my endeavor in finding a decent fast cheap lens, I had to accept the truth, and ended up buying a Sigma 30mm f/2.8... I know that the difference between f/1.8 and f/2.8 is not a negligible one, and it can make the difference in poorly-lit scenes. Yet, I had to accept that all I wanted was a lens which would allow me to have a point-and-shoot with a great sensor and image quality. I needed the camera to get out of the way, I just wanted it to be a spontaneous collector of instant special moments.

Here's one of my first photos with the Nex5 and the Sigma. The sky was covered in dark clouds and the light was terrible. I just overexposed the image by 1.3EV, used ISO 800, and then used a simple cross processing preset from Nik Color Effex. Final sharpening with Photoshop Smart Sharpen.

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