If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?

Started Nov 11, 2013 | Discussions
turnstyle
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If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
Nov 11, 2013

Hi all,

I'm thinking ahead to A7 or A7r with a fast 'normal' prime.

I generally prefer to manually focus. And the FE 55 does look like it's going to be a great lens.

But I'm wondering if I should still skip the FE 55, and abandon the option to use autofocus -- and instead go for a physically focused lens, rather than always have to use focus-by-wire.

Anybody wrestling with a similar decision?

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LoneReaction
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to turnstyle, Nov 11, 2013

Manually focusing on the E lenses on the NEX is a real pain, they keep spinning forever. It should probably be the same with EF lenses.
Ever considered using DMF? You can auto focus and then fine tune if needed.

(Disclosure: I only use manual focus when auto focus doesn't get me what I want)

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areichow
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to turnstyle, Nov 11, 2013

If you prefer manual focus, why not go for one of the many great cheaper options? A bunch of fast 45-50mm Zeiss MF lenses you can adapt that cost a lot less.

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EinsteinsGhost
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to turnstyle, Nov 11, 2013

Hi all,

I'm thinking ahead to A7 or A7r with a fast 'normal' prime.

I generally prefer to manually focus. And the FE 55 does look like it's going to be a great lens.

But I'm wondering if I should still skip the FE 55, and abandon the option to use autofocus -- and instead go for a physically focused lens, rather than always have to use focus-by-wire.

Anybody wrestling with a similar decision?

The 55/1.8 is definitely a lens to consider if it can be budgeted for. But otherwise, and if AF is not a must have and perhaps a little compromise on ultimate IQ esp wide open, your options are wide open.

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Mel Snyder
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to turnstyle, Nov 11, 2013

turnstyle wrote:

Hi all,

I'm thinking ahead to A7 or A7r with a fast 'normal' prime.

I generally prefer to manually focus. And the FE 55 does look like it's going to be a great lens.

But I'm wondering if I should still skip the FE 55, and abandon the option to use autofocus -- and instead go for a physically focused lens, rather than always have to use focus-by-wire.

Anybody wrestling with a similar decision?

If you're planning to use it for macro work, I'd suggest skipping the AF. I have the 55mm f2.8 Micronikkor AF I inherited from my Dad, who used it MF on his F3HP. It's easier I find to manually focus it on my D7000, even though the focus ring is ridiculously small.

On the other hand, used as a prime in AF, it is stunning in sharpness.

I would, in any case, purchase the kit lens. I am ***SO*** glad I ignored the negatives about the 16-50PZ when I bought my NEX-6. I bought it and basically ignored it for months, then began using it more often. A basic kit lens is handy to have in the bag for when you just want a walking-around lens and don't expect to submit any shots to National Geographic.

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Jogger
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to turnstyle, Nov 11, 2013

turnstyle wrote:

Hi all,

I'm thinking ahead to A7 or A7r with a fast 'normal' prime.

I generally prefer to manually focus. And the FE 55 does look like it's going to be a great lens.

But I'm wondering if I should still skip the FE 55, and abandon the option to use autofocus -- and instead go for a physically focused lens, rather than always have to use focus-by-wire.

Anybody wrestling with a similar decision?

I have a Nikon FF setup and a couple of Zeiss lenses for that, so, its a bit easier for me since i can just get ZF.2 or Nikon lenses and use them on both systems. If you dont have Canon or Nikon FF, then you will likely have to choose one system or the other and adapt them.

I mentioned Zeiss because the focusing mechanisms on them are silky smooth and miles ahead of the focus by wire of modern mirrorless lenses.

Keep in mind that it will increase the size of the system by quite a bit if you are adapting lenses. The FE55/1.8 looks tiny.

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turnstyle
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to LoneReaction, Nov 11, 2013

LoneReaction wrote:

Manually focusing on the E lenses on the NEX is a real pain, they keep spinning forever. It should probably be the same with EF lenses.
Ever considered using DMF? You can auto focus and then fine tune if needed.

(Disclosure: I only use manual focus when auto focus doesn't get me what I want)

Thanks. fwiw, I don't really like DMF, here's why:

1) I find it too fiddly to maintain the half-shutter press while I also operate other controls (ex, to change magnification)

2) To engage DMF, it seems you have to start by changing the focus as supplied by autofocus, which feels wrongheaded to me.

I had a short opportunity to use a physical manual focus lens, and it felt 'obviously better' (for me) as compared to focus-by-wire (which is what I am otherwise accustomed to).

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turnstyle
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to areichow, Nov 11, 2013

areichow wrote:

If you prefer manual focus, why not go for one of the many great cheaper options? A bunch of fast 45-50mm Zeiss MF lenses you can adapt that cost a lot less.

Thanks,

I suppose I'm somewhat mislead by the term "legacy glass" -- as my thinking has been most people are mounting lenses they *already have*.

Is it common for people to purchase manual focus lenses, specifically for use on NEX (eg, not because you already have the lens, or another system)?

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npires
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to turnstyle, Nov 11, 2013

I'm in a similar situation. I own quite a few FD, MD and M42 lenses that I use with my original NEX-5. However I do have a good few E-Mount lenses too. I'm tempted by both the A7 and A7R.

Again I don't need either and am happy with my current setup I am tempted by the lure of full frame as I do shoot quite a lot indoor and in low light. (Already have a FD lens turbo that helps in this regard) however it'd be fantastic to use my dad's old Rokkor 58mm F1.2 without crop!
The A7R would be better in this sense right?

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turnstyle
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to EinsteinsGhost, Nov 11, 2013

EinsteinsGhost wrote:

The 55/1.8 is definitely a lens to consider if it can be budgeted for. But otherwise, and if AF is not a must have and perhaps a little compromise on ultimate IQ esp wide open, your options are wide open.

Yes, the FE 55 looks like it's going to be a very good performer -- sharp wide open, across the frame -- and, from what I've seen, a nice smooth OOF.

That's exactly what makes this tough for me.

For people who mostly/always shoot manual focus -- when (if ever) do you wish you had autofocus? Or, if you do have the option to turn on autofocus, when do you turn it on?

Part of my expectation is that when you "get to know" the physical characteristics of a manual focus lens, you'll become able to manually focus much more effectively.

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turnstyle
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to Mel Snyder, Nov 11, 2013

Mel Snyder wrote:

If you're planning to use it for macro work, I'd suggest skipping the AF. I have the 55mm f2.8 Micronikkor AF I inherited from my Dad, who used it MF on his F3HP. It's easier I find to manually focus it on my D7000, even though the focus ring is ridiculously small.

On the other hand, used as a prime in AF, it is stunning in sharpness.

I would, in any case, purchase the kit lens. I am ***SO*** glad I ignored the negatives about the 16-50PZ when I bought my NEX-6. I bought it and basically ignored it for months, then began using it more often. A basic kit lens is handy to have in the bag for when you just want a walking-around lens and don't expect to submit any shots to National Geographic.

Thanks! Personally, I'm not tempted by the kit.

I'm one of those people who finds that having a fixed prime encourages me to think more. And I don't mind cropping, especially with such high res files.

I also really like having a fast lens, for all the reasons a fast lens is fun.

I would essentially us the 50-50mm prime as an everyday walkaround lens.

Thanks again (ps: I loved your photos of your new granddaughter, congrats!)

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turnstyle
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to Jogger, Nov 11, 2013

Jogger wrote:

I have a Nikon FF setup and a couple of Zeiss lenses for that, so, its a bit easier for me since i can just get ZF.2 or Nikon lenses and use them on both systems. If you dont have Canon or Nikon FF, then you will likely have to choose one system or the other and adapt them.

I mentioned Zeiss because the focusing mechanisms on them are silky smooth and miles ahead of the focus by wire of modern mirrorless lenses.

Keep in mind that it will increase the size of the system by quite a bit if you are adapting lenses. The FE55/1.8 looks tiny.

So a 50mm Zeiss for Canon with adapter (or 50mm Zeiss for Nikon with adapter) will be considerably bigger/heavier than the FE 55?

fwiw, I'm also tempted to get a rangefinder lens, high IQ in a small package, but it seems like a tricky gamble.

I think most people (such as yourself) already have the "other system" -- so it feels a bit odd, if you see what I mean.

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turnstyle
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to npires, Nov 11, 2013

npires wrote:

The A7R would be better in this sense right?

As best I know, the jury is still out on whether A7 or A7r has any particular real-world advantage with non-emount lenses. However, I have see examples showing more color cast with rangefinder wides on A7r as compared to A7.

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djp58
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to turnstyle, Nov 11, 2013

turnstyle wrote:

areichow wrote:

If you prefer manual focus, why not go for one of the many great cheaper options? A bunch of fast 45-50mm Zeiss MF lenses you can adapt that cost a lot less.

Thanks,

I suppose I'm somewhat mislead by the term "legacy glass" -- as my thinking has been most people are mounting lenses they *already have*.

Is it common for people to purchase manual focus lenses, specifically for use on NEX (eg, not because you already have the lens, or another system)?

Most of my 50+ legacy lenses were acquired after my NEX system (started with NEX3 three years ago, now have NEX7 and will get A7R next month).  I bought into the NEX system primarily to use my Contax G lenses (these and 2 Minolta A-mount were my only legacy lenses at the time).  Since buying my NEX 7 two years ago, I've found that I love shooting true MF.  Have recently bought several lenses in anticipation of the new FF cameras.

David

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EinsteinsGhost
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to turnstyle, Nov 11, 2013

EinsteinsGhost wrote:

The 55/1.8 is definitely a lens to consider if it can be budgeted for. But otherwise, and if AF is not a must have and perhaps a little compromise on ultimate IQ esp wide open, your options are wide open.

Yes, the FE 55 looks like it's going to be a very good performer -- sharp wide open, across the frame -- and, from what I've seen, a nice smooth OOF.

That's exactly what makes this tough for me.

For people who mostly/always shoot manual focus -- when (if ever) do you wish you had autofocus? Or, if you do have the option to turn on autofocus, when do you turn it on?

Part of my expectation is that when you "get to know" the physical characteristics of a manual focus lens, you'll become able to manually focus much more effectively.

Yep. I LOVE manual focus. It is what prompted me to get NEX. But, it is best enjoyed with lenses that aren't built around the focus by wire system and as a result my E mount AF lenses are mostly unused. The only lens I really care about using on NEX with AF is the good old Minolta 200/2.8 G APO HS via LAEA2 and primarily because that lens is designed for fast AF with its high speed gearing and a pain to MF.

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turnstyle
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to djp58, Nov 11, 2013

djp58 wrote:

Most of my 50+ legacy lenses were acquired after my NEX system (started with NEX3 three years ago, now have NEX7 and will get A7R next month). I bought into the NEX system primarily to use my Contax G lenses (these and 2 Minolta A-mount were my only legacy lenses at the time). Since buying my NEX 7 two years ago, I've found that I love shooting true MF. Have recently bought several lenses in anticipation of the new FF cameras.

Thanks! So does that mean you mostly consider yourself "system agnostic"?

eg, you might vaguely prefer to get a new lens that matches an adapter you already have, but that's a relatively minor factor?

I've also wondered if it makes sense to focus on Canon lenses, to get the benefits of the smart Metabones adapter.

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djp58
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to turnstyle, Nov 11, 2013

turnstyle wrote:

For people who mostly/always shoot manual focus -- when (if ever) do you wish you had autofocus? Or, if you do have the option to turn on autofocus, when do you turn it on?

I have several AF lenses to complement my many MF only lenses.  I keep my NEX 7 in MF and have the AF/MF button on the back set to "hold" vice toggle.  That way, when I want to use AF, I push and hold the back button.  if I want to switch back or fine-tune manually, I just release the button.  Works well for the few times I use AF and focus-by-wire lenses.  Will set my A7R up the same way when it arrives.

David

Part of my expectation is that when you "get to know" the physical characteristics of a manual focus lens, you'll become able to manually focus much more effectively.

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turnstyle
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to EinsteinsGhost, Nov 11, 2013

EinsteinsGhost wrote:

Yep. I LOVE manual focus. It is what prompted me to get NEX. But, it is best enjoyed with lenses that aren't built around the focus by wire system and as a result my E mount AF lenses are mostly unused. The only lens I really care about using on NEX with AF is the good old Minolta 200/2.8 G APO HS via LAEA2 and primarily because that lens is designed for fast AF with its high speed gearing and a pain to MF.

Thanks! Have you been interested in the rumored FE manual Zeiss lenses?

Of course we have nothing specific to talk about -- but it strikes me that a if I get a lens that requires an adapter, I should be able to use that same lens on other mirrorless cameras.

So a drawback (imho) to an FE manual lens is that it won't likely work on any other camera systems.

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turnstyle
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Re: If I prefer to manually focus, should I still get the FE 55?
In reply to djp58, Nov 11, 2013

djp58 wrote:

I have several AF lenses to complement my many MF only lenses. I keep my NEX 7 in MF and have the AF/MF button on the back set to "hold" vice toggle. That way, when I want to use AF, I push and hold the back button. if I want to switch back or fine-tune manually, I just release the button. Works well for the few times I use AF and focus-by-wire lenses. Will set my A7R up the same way when it arrives.

When do you prefer to go out with a focus-by-wire-but-potential-to-autofocus lens vs. the physical manual focus lens?

Put another way, if you were choosing between a physical manual lens or a focus-by-wire with option to autofocus lens -- which would you choose?

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sroute
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In reply to turnstyle, Nov 11, 2013

Myself, I don't prefer manual focus, I prefer lenses that work for me optically, whatever that means. Sometimes it means a nice but old fashioned rendering that can be obtained with many old manual focus SLR or RF lenses. Sometimes it means ultra modern high resolution. Sometimes it means a mix of both - creamy out of focus areas, sharp in the central area wide open, across the frame stopped down.

I thought I once preferred manual focus lenses - for their build, for their potential for vendor independence, for their look - but now I much prefer to focus on performance and rendering and if a lens that pleases is AF or MF I don't care and in fact I would not want a bag full of nothing but manual focus lenses. Despite having used them for years, I know there are many times when AF will do a better job than my eyes, manual focus, and time will allow for.

When NEX came out the lens selection wasn't great but thanks to adaptability I was able to reuse good lenses I already owned, an assortment of Zeiss ZM rangefinder lenses plus some Contax mount Zeiss SLR lenses. I'd like to have purchased some solid AF lenses for NEX but by the time optics that interested me arrived on the scene I'd moved on to another mirrorless for my rangefinder lenses, painting myself in a corner actually as that platform offers no AF (Leica M mount) possibilities at all. I still shoot that camera and find it limiting to this day.

I've since sold some of these lenses as I didn't expect the symmetrical wides would be a good long term investment given larger sensors and resolutions coming (now here) in the mirrorless world. Would I  repurchase others that can work well (longer focal lengths, retrofocal designs) for use on the Sony A7(r) cameras? The answer for me is only a definite maybe.

We already know some of the ZM's and Leica M glass are not going to perform well on the A7(r) cameras (the Biogons in general and other similar designs) so I'm looking for alternatives. I've ordered and likely will keep the FE35/2.8 if it performs well.

When it comes to 50's there is a richness of choice in manual focus glass, so why have only one? The Zeiss 50/2 Planar appears to work well on the A7(r) cameras so that's a decent choice, and the Zeiss C Sonnar 50/1.5 has a lovely rendering useful for portraiture but some find it too specialized to be a one and only one 50mm.

The Sony FE55/1.8 looks to be a markedly better performer than the 50/2 Planar; it is brilliant at f/1.8, lovely smooth out of focus area rendering - it just looks superior. For that reason I've ordered the FE55/1.8 and will use it in AF mode most of the time, MF via Sony's Direct Manual Focus mode when necessary.

I'll keep some manual focus glass in my bag, particularly for special needs like night time photography where I want a hard infinity stop, but I'm not choosing lenses for any other reason than look. Having come from an all manual focus past, I've no problem stating that I like AF now and for some subjects I want AF, not MF. In my bag there'll always be a mix.

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