Sony mirrorless lens for shooting people and low light photography?

Nebell

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The best lens for portraits that I have is a Sony FE 90mm f2.8 Macro. But when I shoot at night it often hunts for focus and can't focus at all, even on A7R III. I also noticed that this happens even during daytime but it just goes out of focus and then in focus again which takes a few seconds. The focus is really slow compared to my other lenses which are all Sony f4 zoom lenses. Other than that it's a great lens and I shot some of my best pictures with it.

I've been looking at these new Sigma Art lenses for Sony. Specifically, Sigma 50 1.4 DG HSM Art and 135 1.8 DG SHM Art, both for Sony and they cost about €1800 together. The reason why I'm not considering Sigma 105 f1.4 is the size of that thing.
And also I've been looking at Sony FE 85 f1.4 GM which can be found for about €1500. But I'm not sure if I should get that one because my macro lens already covers that focal length and I already have 2 other zoom lenses that cover this focal length.
Besides speed and wide open aperture, another reason why I like f1.4/1.8 is the shallow depth of field.

While shooting last night I noticed that I needed both a bit wider (hence considering 50mm) and longer reach (I used crop mode on my camera to get a bit closer) than 90mm. But then again, who wants to stand there and swap lenses? That ain't practical and I know that would not work in 95% of the situations and I don't have the budget to buy a second camera right now.

Or maybe I should wait?
There's a lens for my need, Sigma 50-100 f1.8 but it's only for APS-C cameras, nothing for full frame.
Any suggestions?
 

Anh N.

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I would said try the Sony FE 85mm, best bang for the buck for Sony portrait lenses. If you want a bit better build quality then the Zeiss Batis FE 85mm f1.8. If you have money to burn and want the absolute best then the Sony FE 85mm F/1.4 GM.

Another one to consider is the Sony Zeiss FE 55mm f1.8, can be bought used for relatively cheap. Super sharp all around, and since you have the a7r iii, you can put it in crop mode to get close to that 85mm/90mm focal length FOV (while still have 18 mp under crop mode). Hence have both 55mm and ~85mm in 1 lens while shooting.
 

mnewxcv

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just get a nice zoom kit lens, best of both worlds.


I kid, I kid. I would second the 85, but you say your 90 isn't cutting it and the 85 is very close to that in focal length. I do not know about the crop Anh speaks of (I don't shoot sony except for video), but in that case, maybe try that out with your current lens.
 

Nebell

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I would said try the Sony FE 85mm, best bang for the buck for Sony portrait lenses. If you want a bit better build quality then the Zeiss Batis FE 85mm f1.8. If you have money to burn and want the absolute best then the Sony FE 85mm F/1.4 GM.

Another one to consider is the Sony Zeiss FE 55mm f1.8, can be bought used for relatively cheap. Super sharp all around, and since you have the a7r iii, you can put it in crop mode to get close to that 85mm/90mm focal length FOV (while still have 18 mp under crop mode). Hence have both 55mm and ~85mm in 1 lens while shooting.
How does Sony FE 85mm compare to Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art lineup? Sigma is almost two times the price but still cheaper than 85 GM.
And if that 85 GM will do everything I need and be a keeper many years from now, then I don't mind zooming with my feet.

just get a nice zoom kit lens, best of both worlds.


I kid, I kid. I would second the 85, but you say your 90 isn't cutting it and the 85 is very close to that in focal length. I do not know about the crop Anh speaks of (I don't shoot sony except for video), but in that case, maybe try that out with your current lens.
I already have 12-24, 24-105 and 70-300 zoom lenses :/
I also have already tried shooting in crop mode (it basically turns A7R III into APS-C camera, but since it's 43mpix, it still provides 18mpix pictures in crop mode). It gives a bit longer zoom.
 

Anh N.

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The Sony FE 85mm f1.8 probably wouldn't be as nice as the Sigma Art 85mm f1.4. The image quality is like comparing 9/10 vs 10/10. However, you have to take into consideration of size (the Sigma is a MUCH bigger, and heavier), and cost (Sigma cost twice as much) to see if that is worth it to you. I have the Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8, and I'm pretty satisfied with the IQ and size. (Note: I bought the Batis way before Sony released the Sony FE 85mm f1.8)

As far as comparing between the Sony 85mm f1.4 GM or the Sigma Art 85mm f1.4, I personally don't think you can go wrong with either one. It just cost too much for me to consider, while the cheaper 85mm f1.8 giving me perfectly good result.

PS: I would still get the 85mm for portrait even tho you have zoom lenses that cover this focal length. This is because those zoom lenses are slower (probably f4, and 2.8 at most) would not give you that bokeh you looking for nor shooting in low light situation.
 
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N4CR

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Sony basically leads the world for affordable back illuminated sensors which are a recent change, they have far superior read noise, dark current etc, Sony's tech is a level above as they've just shovelled $ at this R&D in order to dominate the market and it's showing. With autonomous cars coming this is a very smart move.
They lead the camera ratings in the top three spots or better. The 2nd spot is taken by a Nikon you say? Yes, using a custom Sony sensor! They hold the best stuff for their own cameras, hence I'm not able to get a mono version of the sensor I'm using, so I have to de-bayer (it's export restricted in this format..).

front illuminated.jpg



So yes it's a custom 4k/120 (4096x2160/17:9 true 4k) industrial imaging camera that in colour form will do colour in very low light as standard, e.g. when your cellphone cam would just show individual light emitters (e.g. street lamps) in total darkness. It will use C-mount lenses, so not so good for wide but it'll do the job for what I need. 120Hz 10bit in low light, with ir illumination!
So in my opinion, yes mirrors are an unnecessary thing that seems to have stuck in the US market for marketing reasons. You don't need them with right back focus/sensor and you generally can get better cameras without them, unless you're running a telescope sized optical platform.

Check this out, it's pretty mind blowing what can be done these days with the BI sensors, and I'm using a sensor with 25-30% larger pixels than this and it does this well already..

0.2lux F2.0 @ 33.3 ms, 45 dB gain with HCG (really 0.15 lux..)

imx294_b_3.jpg


With this sensor and a 120mm zoom lens it can get FOV ~5° and about 11° I believe with a ~50-110mm electric zoom/focus lens (i'll check my notes if you are interested).
This sensor is just starting to hit the market in a few cameras. It's more video based but you can do 4k/120/10 or 4k/60/12 or 4:3 3704x2778 24fps 14bit
 

mnewxcv

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Sony basically leads the world for affordable back illuminated sensors which are a recent change, they have far superior read noise, dark current etc, Sony's tech is a level above as they've just shovelled $ at this R&D in order to dominate the market and it's showing. With autonomous cars coming this is a very smart move.
They lead the camera ratings in the top three spots or better. The 2nd spot is taken by a Nikon you say? Yes, using a custom Sony sensor! They hold the best stuff for their own cameras, hence I'm not able to get a mono version of the sensor I'm using, so I have to de-bayer (it's export restricted in this format..).

View attachment 100894


So yes it's a custom 4k/120 (4096x2160/17:9 true 4k) industrial imaging camera that in colour form will do colour in very low light as standard, e.g. when your cellphone cam would just show individual light emitters (e.g. street lamps) in total darkness. It will use C-mount lenses, so not so good for wide but it'll do the job for what I need. 120Hz 10bit in low light, with ir illumination!
So in my opinion, yes mirrors are an unnecessary thing that seems to have stuck in the US market for marketing reasons. You don't need them with right back focus/sensor and you generally can get better cameras without them, unless you're running a telescope sized optical platform.

Check this out, it's pretty mind blowing what can be done these days with the BI sensors, and I'm using a sensor with 25-30% larger pixels than this and it does this well already..

0.2lux F2.0 @ 33.3 ms, 45 dB gain with HCG (really 0.15 lux..)

View attachment 100897

With this sensor and a 120mm zoom lens it can get FOV ~5° and about 11° I believe with a ~50-110mm electric zoom/focus lens (i'll check my notes if you are interested).
This sensor is just starting to hit the market in a few cameras. It's more video based but you can do 4k/120/10 or 4k/60/12 or 4:3 3704x2778 24fps 14bit
Not sure what that has to do with this thread, but seems like a decent unit. I assume price is in tens of thousands rather than thousands.
 

IdiotInCharge

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The best lens for portraits that I have is a Sony FE 90mm f2.8 Macro. But when I shoot at night it often hunts for focus and can't focus at all, even on A7R III.
As I've read, this is an artifact with this lens specifically; it's less versatile than say Canon's 100L, though it is a far superior optic.

And I'll add a different recommendation: Tamron's 28-75/2.8 FE. I recommend trying before buying or ensuring a return avenue, but the lens really fits the 'run and gun in low-light' niche that Sony themselves hasn't yet addressed.
 

N4CR

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Not sure what that has to do with this thread, but seems like a decent unit. I assume price is in tens of thousands rather than thousands.
Well the subject was mirror-less lens for low light so figure it was slightly related. What I was getting at is that at a given lens constraint, it's more the sensor these days that makes the biggest difference for the investment cost, there are smaller ones in that family with excellent performance that can fit even smaller optics and be highly effective. Basically Sony mastering the back illuminated sensor is changing the market for low light sensitivity. But if lens alone the more light you can bring in the better it is.
Can get a sensor going and readable with a decent starting lens for ~2k, you need a PC and a decent network card setup, lot of information to move. The 4/3 or c-mount lenses for that sensor are cheap - a fully electric lens is the most costly and they are only in the 400-1000 usd range.
For the price, you will build a better camera than you can buy, seen a few full frame users move to that platform (but not diy) as they are far more convenient with similar results.

This is Sony addressing what IdiotInCharge mentioned, it just takes time to reach market, lot of engineering hurdles to overcome. But you have to have realistic resolution requirements to do it really well. This is the first cheaper sensor that does it really well and at higher resolutions and speeds, 4k/60 HDR.
 

IdiotInCharge

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This is Sony addressing what IdiotInCharge mentioned
It actually isn't, as cool as it is; what Tamron has done is make a lens that Sony hasn't. Sony's 24-70/2.8 GM is the current industry standard leader in the class, but is large and heavy and expensive, while the Tamron is actually pretty compact for the performance it provides and is priced accessibly. And hell, even if you can afford to own or do own the GM, there's still an argument for owning the Tammy.

Edit: sensor developments are cool, but as always, the glass is where it's at. This stuff is a system, and hell, even camera handling can be more important.

As much as Sony remains the leader in shoving as much tech into a consumer camera as possible, Nikon and now Canon are releasing cameras that embarrass them ergonomically.
 

Nebell

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As I've read, this is an artifact with this lens specifically; it's less versatile than say Canon's 100L, though it is a far superior optic.

And I'll add a different recommendation: Tamron's 28-75/2.8 FE. I recommend trying before buying or ensuring a return avenue, but the lens really fits the 'run and gun in low-light' niche that Sony themselves hasn't yet addressed.
Renting a lens in Sweden is a nightmare. There aren't as many options and none locally, I have to rent online.
That 28-75 is neat! How is its optic compared to Sony 24-105 G? Maybe I could replace my 24-105 G with that one since my 70-300 already covers 75-105 focal length.
 

N4CR

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It actually isn't, as cool as it is; what Tamron has done is make a lens that Sony hasn't. Sony's 24-70/2.8 GM is the current industry standard leader in the class, but is large and heavy and expensive, while the Tamron is actually pretty compact for the performance it provides and is priced accessibly. And hell, even if you can afford to own or do own the GM, there's still an argument for owning the Tammy.

Edit: sensor developments are cool, but as always, the glass is where it's at. This stuff is a system, and hell, even camera handling can be more important.

As much as Sony remains the leader in shoving as much tech into a consumer camera as possible, Nikon and now Canon are releasing cameras that embarrass them ergonomically.
Tamron makes great lenses for C-mount which is that same sensor I mentioned, heard good things about them often in this quest. I'll keep my eye out for prototyping, as a manual lens is fine..
Usual sensor developments were small, this one is like the athlonxp/core2/2600k of sensor tech with back illumination. That's why Nikon uses them and that's why I'm mentioning it. Yes usually glass is king, but right now the playfield is uneven with back illumination coming to roost, glass is merely an afterthought. We're talking nearly double the low light performance of existing leading tech in sensor alone in some cases, so do your research of who is using what in what you want to buy for this type of usage case.
 

IdiotInCharge

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Renting a lens in Sweden is a nightmare. There aren't as many options and none locally, I have to rent online.
That 28-75 is neat! How is its optic compared to Sony 24-105 G? Maybe I could replace my 24-105 G with that one since my 70-300 already covers 75-105 focal length.
Reviews put it as 'good enough' optically. The slower Sony lens is perhaps sometimes still measurably better at equal apertures, but the Tamron lens obviously goes wider to f/2.8, and stopped down to f/4, it's going to have a vignetting advantage.

Personally, I'd have a hard time giving up the f/4 lens; it's nice!

But if I needed the low-light prowess, I'd be rolling the Tammy.

[I'd own one of Tammy's current lenses in EF-mount, but renting is relatively easy where I live (Texas), so I haven't bothered and my aging 24-105/4L still produces acceptable output for my purposes and budget commitment :D ]
 

IdiotInCharge

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Tamron makes great lenses for C-mount which is that same sensor I mentioned, heard good things about them often in this quest. I'll keep my eye out for prototyping, as a manual lens is fine..
Usual sensor developments were small, this one is like the athlonxp/core2/2600k of sensor tech with back illumination. That's why Nikon uses them and that's why I'm mentioning it. Yes usually glass is king, but right now the playfield is uneven with back illumination coming to roost, glass is merely an afterthought. We're talking nearly double the low light performance of existing leading tech in sensor alone in some cases, so do your research of who is using what in what you want to buy for this type of usage case.
C-mount is perhaps their bread and butter!

There's just not much volume in consumer lenses for photography/videography, especially if your name isn't Canon/Nikon/Sony. Tamron makes increasingly impressive products, and with the general reduction in output requirements due to social media (4k being an upper limit usually at all of 8.3MP), saving on a third-party lens is absolutely viable, especially if the lens is filling an otherwise underfilled gap in a lineup as what the OP may be looking for.
 

N4CR

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C-mount is perhaps their bread and butter!

There's just not much volume in consumer lenses for photography/videography, especially if your name isn't Canon/Nikon/Sony. Tamron makes increasingly impressive products, and with the general reduction in output requirements due to social media (4k being an upper limit usually at all of 8.3MP), saving on a third-party lens is absolutely viable, especially if the lens is filling an otherwise underfilled gap in a lineup as what the OP may be looking for.
It's really a great time to be in to camera tech really, there is some amazing stuff around and I agree, 4k is another 1080-like reference point in quality that is still effective even when superseded.
I'm more of a video guy so didn't know Tamron so well, but those fields are overlapping so much lately..
 

Nebell

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I have to read some reviews on Sigmas 50/135, Tamrons 28-75 and Sonys 85mm GM and see which has top notch low light auto focus. I think one lens would be fine for now and I'm leaning towards that 85mm GM (although I read its autofocus is not as fast as on some other GM lenses).
 

Nebell

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I do recommend copious amounts of research with this lens. You need to verify its behavior with your camera and firmware.
Yup I read about all kind of AF issues people are having with version 0.1 but some claim that 0.2 firmware solves the problem.
I wish I could just rent this lens :/
 

capt_cope

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Have you thought about getting the 70-200 2.8 GM?

It can cover your standard 85mm - 105mm portrait look, though personally I've always been a fan of portraits at 200mm. I know the current trend seems to be everyone getting super [H]ard over fast primes, but I really think *most* people would be better off with two lenses - one standard zoom and a telephoto zoom. If you can handle a larger (sometimes only slightly - that sigma art glass is bigger than plenty of decent 24-70 zooms) lens on your camera it's been my experience that two or three zooms (if you've got the scratch a 16-35 can come in handy) are often lighter and more versatile than carrying a full range of fast primes. On top of being a lighter camera bag, you also need fewer lens changes - less crap on your sensor, and more time shooting. And "fast" doesn't really mean what it used to - the low-light capabilities of most modern cameras means an F4 is probably going to be fast enough for nearly anyone that isn't trying to shoot indoor sports. I remember when ISO 1600 was my limit - with my A7III that limit is 12800 in most cases, though I've gotten usable images (it was night) at iso 16000. If it were my money and the 70-200 2.8 GM was out of the picture due to price I'd probably snag the 70-200 f4 G and not look back. The only caveat is if you've got a kid in basketball / volleyball / some other indoor sport where you need fast shutter speeds with marginal light - then I'd just save up for the 2.8 if possible, but I'm also pretty confident that the 70-200 f4 on a tripod would do an adequate job.


/rant
 

UnknownSouljer

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The best lens for portraits that I have is a Sony FE 90mm f2.8 Macro. But when I shoot at night it often hunts for focus and can't focus at all, even on A7R III. I also noticed that this happens even during daytime but it just goes out of focus and then in focus again which takes a few seconds. The focus is really slow compared to my other lenses which are all Sony f4 zoom lenses. Other than that it's a great lens and I shot some of my best pictures with it.

I've been looking at these new Sigma Art lenses for Sony. Specifically, Sigma 50 1.4 DG HSM Art and 135 1.8 DG SHM Art, both for Sony and they cost about €1800 together. The reason why I'm not considering Sigma 105 f1.4 is the size of that thing.
And also I've been looking at Sony FE 85 f1.4 GM which can be found for about €1500. But I'm not sure if I should get that one because my macro lens already covers that focal length and I already have 2 other zoom lenses that cover this focal length.
Besides speed and wide open aperture, another reason why I like f1.4/1.8 is the shallow depth of field.

While shooting last night I noticed that I needed both a bit wider (hence considering 50mm) and longer reach (I used crop mode on my camera to get a bit closer) than 90mm. But then again, who wants to stand there and swap lenses? That ain't practical and I know that would not work in 95% of the situations and I don't have the budget to buy a second camera right now.

Or maybe I should wait?
There's a lens for my need, Sigma 50-100 f1.8 but it's only for APS-C cameras, nothing for full frame.
Any suggestions?
This is a really hard question to answer because I ultimately think it's going to come around to shooting style and what it is you're trying to accomplish. We've had a few discussions and run ins on similar things in the past. So, the super short version:

Buy a 50mm if you want a 50mm look. Buy an 85mm if you want an 85mm look.

I realize this is probably not the sort of thinking you use during lens selection. By what you've stated, you're interested in not moving as much as possible and using your focal length to change your framing. Rather than moving to decide your framing and picking the focal length for the look you want. If you want to get excellent at control and really exercise that control over the look of your image, then switching that paradigm is essential. Up to this point, you've thought about it as "roughly the same thing" so long as you were shooting long enough and with fast enough glass that part of your photos were out of focus.
However, if I gave a really extreme case like shooting a 20mm f/1.8 vs shooting 85mm f1.8 and achieving the same exact framing, you'd see that the two images look very different. Especially in regards to how the background is compressed or decompressed. What it does to face details. Even the level of boke.

So what isn't clear is what sort of look you want. I assume you like the 90mm's look enough to continue using it, you just hate it's old AF. Then I would either get the 85 GM or just the regular 85mm f/1.8, which performs incredibly well at 1/4 the price. However then you go on to mention things like switching lenses mid shoot just in order to change framing to possibly something like a 50mm. Which for me, makes me wonder if you want a 50mm, or if you need to exercise shooting discipline to move your body as well as education discipline to realize that the 50mm will give a different look to the 85mm.

In our first conversations from before you purchased your camera, I did mention some of this stuff. That's why I shoot prime only, because the portrait work I do, I want to be very exacting in my choices. Am I trying to show more of the surroundings and put in foreground and background elements? Shoot 24/28. Do I want to include just a little bit more in frame but shoot closer and not get distortion on my subject? Shoot 35mm. Do I want to make a portrait that feel neutral and like I'm using my own eyes? Shoot 50mm. Do I want to have compression and almost all the attention be on my subject or shoot primarily just the upper body and face? 85mm.
And to be clear, those usage cases are not exhaustive. That's just the tip of the iceberg. There are innumerable reasons to pick one focal length over another. Those are just some examples.



Have you thought about getting the 70-200 2.8 GM?

It can cover your standard 85mm - 105mm portrait look, though personally I've always been a fan of portraits at 200mm. I know the current trend seems to be everyone getting super [H]ard over fast primes, but I really think *most* people would be better off with two lenses - one standard zoom and a telephoto zoom. If you can handle a larger (sometimes only slightly - that sigma art glass is bigger than plenty of decent 24-70 zooms) lens on your camera it's been my experience that two or three zooms (if you've got the scratch a 16-35 can come in handy) are often lighter and more versatile than carrying a full range of fast primes. On top of being a lighter camera bag, you also need fewer lens changes - less crap on your sensor, and more time shooting. And "fast" doesn't really mean what it used to - the low-light capabilities of most modern cameras means an F4 is probably going to be fast enough for nearly anyone that isn't trying to shoot indoor sports. I remember when ISO 1600 was my limit - with my A7III that limit is 12800 in most cases, though I've gotten usable images (it was night) at iso 16000. If it were my money and the 70-200 2.8 GM was out of the picture due to price I'd probably snag the 70-200 f4 G and not look back. The only caveat is if you've got a kid in basketball / volleyball / some other indoor sport where you need fast shutter speeds with marginal light - then I'd just save up for the 2.8 if possible, but I'm also pretty confident that the 70-200 f4 on a tripod would do an adequate job.


/rant
There are a lot of things here, but suffice to say, that's not the way any prime shooter thinks. Primes are literally better at virtually everything than zooms.
They're faster, they're lighter, they're smaller, sharper, more corrected (in both CA and distortion) than virtually all of their zoom counterparts (of course a cheap prime versus an expensive zoom might have less corrected elements, or exchange some blows, but in general this is true).
What zooms have over primes is versatility. And that is the end of the list. Now, don't get me wrong, that versatility is incredibly useful to have, especially in certain focal lengths. I'd argue the 70-200mm f/2.8 is still a great lens to have whether you're generally speaking a prime only shooter or not, but I don't think any other zoom focal length is as critical as that one for even the reason of "versatility".

However shooting fast and achieving specific looks will never be something that any zoom can do. Even Canon's new 28-70mm f/2.0 doesn't have an ultra fast 50mm focal length and it doesn't even reach 85mm to have an ultra fast 85mm length. And you don't buy these kinds of lenses to not shoot them wide open. Whether I have all the light in the world or not, it's rare that I want to shoot a portrait at f/4.0. It has nothing to do with having to push my ISO up. It has to do with the looks I want to achieve. Shooting f/1.2, f/1.4, f/1.8 will never look the same as f/2.8 or f/4.0. That combined with the thought process above, shooting primes forces the shooter to really think about and consider focal length and to not allow the lazyness of a zoom determine the look you have.

And I would never considering the weight in my bag to be a more critical problem than the weight on my arm. A 24-70mm will always weigh more than any given prime of a similar focal length, let's say a 35mm or a 50mm. Additionally, once you shift gears to prime shooting, there is a realization that I don't have to have every focal length covered either. I don't need to cover 16-35mm, 24-70mm, and 70-200mm every where I go. For any portrait job I could survive with just a 50mm and an 85mm. Even for travel work shooting on "just" a 28mm and 50mm is enough (some prefer the 35/85 combo). For weddings it's similar. Most prime wedding shooters go dual body with 35/85. And when I've shot weddings (which I tend to avoid), that's similar to what I do as well. So, there is an understanding of what you actually need versus "feeling comfortable" (and if you're a seasoned wedding pro, you have your list of shots in your mind and you know where you have to be and when to get the shots you need. Meaning, you don't want or need a zoom in that case (unless you're a novice). Zooms definitely make you "feel comfortable" in thinking "I have everything covered", until you start to realize that just getting "a" shot isn't nearly as good as getting "the" shot.



So, if I'm so critical of zooms, what are they for then? To me, the strength of a zoom, and the usefulness of a zoom in terms of versatility is for things that are fast paced that you only have one shot at. Things that are more determined by getting "a" shot rather than perfection. So, I look at things like journalism or indoor sports or outdoor sports. For almost all usage cases, sometimes up to and even including those, I'd rather shoot primes and do.
 
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capt_cope

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This is a really hard question to answer because I ultimately think it's going to come around to shooting style and what it is you're trying to accomplish. We've had a few discussions and run ins on similar things in the past. So, the super short version:

Buy a 50mm if you want a 50mm look. Buy an 85mm if you want an 85mm look.

I realize this is probably not the sort of thinking you use during lens selection. By what you've stated, you're interested in not moving as much as possible and using your focal length to change your framing. Rather than moving to decide your framing and picking the focal length for the look you want. If you want to get excellent at control and really exercise that control over the look of your image, then switching that paradigm is essential. Up to this point, you've thought about it as "roughly the same thing" so long as you were shooting long enough and with fast enough glass that part of your photos were out of focus.
However, if I gave a really extreme case like shooting a 20mm f/1.8 vs shooting 85mm f1.8 and achieving the same exact framing, you'd see that the two images look very different. Especially in regards to how the background is compressed or decompressed. What it does to face details. Even the level of boke.

So what isn't clear is what sort of look you want. I assume you like the 90mm's look enough to continue using it, you just hate it's old AF. Then I would either get the 85 GM or just the regular 85mm f/1.8, which performs incredibly well at 1/4 the price. However then you go on to mention things like switching lenses mid shoot just in order to change framing to possibly something like a 50mm. Which for me, makes me wonder if you want a 50mm, or if you need to exercise shooting discipline to move your body as well as education discipline to realize that the 50mm will give a different look to the 85mm.

In our first conversations from before you purchased your camera, I did mention some of this stuff. That's why I shoot prime only, because the portrait work I do, I want to be very exacting in my choices. Am I trying to show more of the surroundings and put in foreground and background elements? Shoot 24/28. Do I want to include just a little bit more in frame but shoot closer and not get distortion on my subject? Shoot 35mm. Do I want to make a portrait that feel neutral and like I'm using my own eyes? Shoot 50mm. Do I want to have compression and almost all the attention be on my subject or shoot primarily just the upper body and face? 85mm.
And to be clear, those usage cases are not exhaustive. That's just the tip of the iceberg. There are innumerable reasons to pick one focal length over another. Those are just some examples.





There are a lot of things here, but suffice to say, that's not the way any prime shooter thinks. Primes are literally better at virtually everything than zooms.
They're faster, they're lighter, they're smaller, sharper, more corrected (in both CA and distortion) than virtually all of their zoom counterparts (of course a cheap prime versus an expensive zoom might have less corrected elements, or exchange some blows, but in general this is true).
What zooms have over primes is versatility. And that is the end of the list. Now, don't get me wrong, that versatility is incredibly useful to have, especially in certain focal lengths. I'd argue the 70-200mm f/2.8 is still a great lens to have whether you're generally speaking a prime only shooter or not, but I don't think any other zoom focal length is as critical as that one for even the reason of "versatility".

However shooting fast and achieving specific looks will never be something that any zoom can do. Even Canon's new 28-70mm f/2.0 doesn't have an ultra fast 50mm focal length and it doesn't even reach 85mm to have an ultra fast 85mm length. And you don't buy these kinds of lenses to not shoot them wide open. Whether I have all the light in the world or not, it's rare that I want to shoot a portrait at f/4.0. It has nothing to do with having to push my ISO up. It has to do with the looks I want to achieve. Shooting f/1.2, f/1.4, f/1.8 will never look the same as f/2.8 or f/4.0. That combined with the thought process above, shooting primes forces the shooter to really think about and consider focal length and to not allow the lazyness of a zoom determine the look you have.

And I would never considering the weight in my bag to be a more critical problem than the weight on my arm. A 24-70mm will always weigh more than any given prime of a similar focal length, let's say a 35mm or a 50mm. Additionally, once you shift gears to prime shooting, there is a realization that I don't have to have every focal length covered either. I don't need to cover 16-35mm, 24-70mm, and 70-200mm every where I go. For any portrait job I could survive with just a 50mm and an 85mm. Even for travel work shooting on "just" a 28mm and 50mm is enough (some prefer the 35/85 combo). For weddings it's similar. Most prime wedding shooters go dual body with 35/85. And when I've shot weddings (which I tend to avoid), that's similar to what I do as well. So, there is an understanding of what you actually need versus "feeling comfortable" (and if you're a seasoned wedding pro, you have your list of shots in your mind and you know where you have to be and when to get the shots you need. Meaning, you don't want or need a zoom in that case (unless you're a novice). Zooms definitely make you "feel comfortable" in thinking "I have everything covered", until you start to realize that just getting "a" shot isn't nearly as good as getting "the" shot.



So, if I'm so critical of zooms, what are they for then? To me, the strength of a zoom, and the usefulness of a zoom in terms of versatility is for things that are fast paced that you only have one shot at. Things that are more determined by getting "a" shot rather than perfection. So, I look at things like journalism or indoor sports or outdoor sports. For almost all usage cases, sometimes up to and even including those, I'd rather shoot primes and do.
I think we'll need to agree to disagree ;)

1. You're wrong in your first statement. Are there primes that are sharper than a given zoom? Yes. Are there zooms sharper than lots of primes? YES. Is the difference between a great zoom and a great prime something to write home about? Not if you're taking pictures for any reason beyond pixel peeping. Here's a nice comparison between the Sony 55/1.8 and the 24-70/2.8 G: Link. Even if you take price out of the equation, if someone offered me the 24-70 or any set of primes (25,35, 50) I'd have the 24-70 any day of the week.

2. Shooting primes forces the shooter to work around the focal length. Awesome. In tight quarters and can't back up any more to get the composition you want? Better change lenses and miss the moment. You're right, a shot at 1.4 does look different than a shot a 2.8... but it's not a look I care about. Here's a BEST example I could find showing the difference between a few different apertures:
2624d-sigma16mm-018.jpg

If the difference between the top left and the bottom left will make/break most of your shots, then by all means - load up your bag with super fast primes. For *most* people though, it's just not an issue.

3. And for your middle paragraph: I was a commercial photographer. You know how many primes we kept around? 1 (well two but they were identical) a Nikkor 85/2.8 tilt/shift. And there is a level of comfort in knowing I can get a great composition even if I can't move the camera or subject. I'd rather get a great composition at f2.8 than get "a" shot at f1.4 - If you want to work around a focal length, that's your choice, but don't pretend it's the solution to better composition. I can't comment on weddings because that's one thing you couldn't pay me to do, I know I'm not aggressive/rude enough to elbow my way into place to get the shots people actually want.

4. The weight of the camera is pretty minor compared to missed opportunities while changing lenses (unless you've only got two primes and two bodies) and it still doesn't solve the major problem of working around a fixed focal length. Maybe you can survive with a 50 and an 85, but again, why work around the lens if you don't have to? Maybe the *right* shot needs 48mm or 80mm, sure it's good enough with a 50 or an 85, but why limit yourself if you don't need to.

To sum my distaste of primes up: Many years ago they WERE far sharper and far faster than any zoom on the market. That's really not such an issue any more, but pixel peepers and the "I'm on location for nat geo and can't afford even an extra gram or mm of length" crowd keep convincing people that primes can't be replaced by a quality zoom. Newsflash: most of the time they can. The BEST primes are marginally sharper in the corners, and sure you can get that super blown-out background at 1.4, but I'd argue that marginally better corner sharpness and a marginally softer background are the domain of pixel peepers, they certainly aren't going to save a poor composition. Primes haven't quite hit the level of gimmick I've seen from some portrait photographers (forget who, but somebody was ONLY using disposables for their "look") but unless you NEED a prime, you probably don't need one. A great photo isn't about the tools, so why limit yourself? If you've gotten to a point where you know you need that extra stop, and are willing to work around a fixed focal length, get the prime. Damn near everyone else would likely be better off with a zoom.


And if you're wondering about the lego guy pictures, staring top left it goes: 1.4, 1.8, 2.8, 4
 

UnknownSouljer

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Sep 24, 2001
Messages
6,520
I think we'll need to agree to disagree ;)
That will be the theme of our discourse.


1. You're wrong in your first statement. Are there primes that are sharper than a given zoom? Yes. Are there zooms sharper than lots of primes? YES. Is the difference between a great zoom and a great prime something to write home about? Not if you're taking pictures for any reason beyond pixel peeping. Here's a nice comparison between the Sony 55/1.8 and the 24-70/2.8 G: Link. Even if you take price out of the equation, if someone offered me the 24-70 or any set of primes (25,35, 50) I'd have the 24-70 any day of the week.
Primes are sharper than zooms. That is a generalization but on the whole true. Interestingly you've selected the middle range prime against the most expensive zoom. But if you want an even more fun comparison, try looking at, say Canon's 50mm f/1.8, $100 plastic fantastic and compare it's sharpness to the $2000 24-70mm f/2.8L II. The fact that a $100 lens is even remotely compariable to a $2000 one, speaks to the fundamentals of lens design. Primes are easier to design, they require less optical elements. That is beyond debate. Because of their simplicity they are easier to build sharply with better correction.

If you want even more proof of that you can look at $100,000 cinema lenses (such as Cooke Optics 2x Anamorphic's, or even if you think comparing Anamorphic's is unfair, say some $30k Zeiss Ultra Primes). Any cinematographer worth their salt is using primes. Not only for the reasons I've mentioned in the previous post (such as control over focal length, decision over look, and aperture), but also for the supreme amount of correction and sharpness. If you don't value those things then I can't change your opinion. But these things are objectively true.

If you have jobs that require zooms, then fine. I won't minimize that usage case, going back to the cinema world zooms are used for documentaries and live TV as well as achieving very specific shots (such as the dolly zoom). So if that's where you live and you need zooms to achieve that work then you do it. But for each of those instance cases it's because they "have to" due to the speed of workflow necessary. In other words, they live with the compromises of zooms, not because they'd choose them for any other reason. And I'm simply telling you the same is true in the stills world. Which is why on $100k Phase One's (or medium format in general), there are few zooms. Because they know their audience, and they know that if you want to actually resolve that 100MP and maximize your look with shallow depth of field, it's going to require a prime.


2. Shooting primes forces the shooter to work around the focal length. Awesome. In tight quarters and can't back up any more to get the composition you want? Better change lenses and miss the moment. You're right, a shot at 1.4 does look different than a shot a 2.8... but it's not a look I care about. Here's a BEST example I could find showing the difference between a few different apertures:
View attachment 101824
If the difference between the top left and the bottom left will make/break most of your shots, then by all means - load up your bag with super fast primes. For *most* people though, it's just not an issue.
If you miss a shot due to focal length while shooting primes then you were in the wrong position or you didn't know how to maximize that focal length or you planned poorly. What you're describing is lack of skill, far beyond the limitation of the tool.

I'll talk about the boke later in this post (specifically the end if you want to know where).


3. And for your middle paragraph: I was a commercial photographer. You know how many primes we kept around? 1 (well two but they were identical) a Nikkor 85/2.8 tilt/shift. And there is a level of comfort in knowing I can get a great composition even if I can't move the camera or subject. I'd rather get a great composition at f2.8 than get "a" shot at f1.4 - If you want to work around a focal length, that's your choice, but don't pretend it's the solution to better composition. I can't comment on weddings because that's one thing you couldn't pay me to do, I know I'm not aggressive/rude enough to elbow my way into place to get the shots people actually want.
You kept 1 prime around as your choice from your purchasing decisions. That isn't relevant. If you want to play that game we could go on to Flickr (or 500px, or whatever platform you choose with professional work on it) and look at common focal lengths for portraits as well as common lenses for portraits. I guarantee that the hit rate will be infinitely higher for 50mm/85mm/100mm/135mm than any combination of zooms (24-70mm,70-200mm, or even crop sensor zooms). Not only because of cost (the 50mm f/1.8 example listed above), but also because of look.

And you wont be able to get the best possible composition with a zoom unless you're critically paying attention to your focal length, which is a major purpose of this discussion. If you're shooting with a 24-70mm as an example, 24mm looks very different than 70mm.
So if your composition is based on where you're standing and you zooming in and out, you will never achieve the best possible composition short of blind luck or eventually learning distance to stand while ending up in the same place of the focal range over time. But if you're doing that then basically you're "accidentally" shooting like a prime user. However, I highly doubt that most zoom shooters get fine tuned enough to accidentally keep ending up at the right distance to use their zoom say at 50mm every time. As even with what you're stating you do, you choose to stay as motionless as possible to get your shots.


4. The weight of the camera is pretty minor compared to missed opportunities while changing lenses (unless you've only got two primes and two bodies) and it still doesn't solve the major problem of working around a fixed focal length. Maybe you can survive with a 50 and an 85, but again, why work around the lens if you don't have to? Maybe the *right* shot needs 48mm or 80mm, sure it's good enough with a 50 or an 85, but why limit yourself if you don't need to.
I've been over this already, but suffice to say, that's poor planning. 24mm looks a lot different than 70mm which is an advantage for zooms. But that's also a disadvantage you'll have to live with if you choose your zoom over your feet when the 24mm stretched out your subjects faces because you refused to move. Which, also is using your tools properly. So if you want to give examples in which it's the photographers fault for the mistake, I just matched yours. We both can play that game.

It's not being forced to "working around at tele" lens. It's the opposite. Focal length is a distinct choice. You missed a major point of my post. If you're not choosing your focal length, then it's choosing it for you. And in fact you've fallen into the trap I've listed above.

24mm is very different than 50mm is different than 70mm. And if you can't tell the difference then there is a huge problem right there. Because most will tell you that they'd NEVER shoot a 24mm portrait, especially not up close of someones face. Unless they were trying for something incredibly stylized. But most would argue that that is NOT pleasing at all on someones face due to the distortion it brings. But distortion characteristics is only one part. A major part of it is also compression and what it does to backgrounds and foregrounds. A 24mm once again will NEVER have the compression of an 85mm. They are two very different tools. If want to compress down the background or have people ignore the background that is (one of) the reasons I've chosen that lens. It's not something I work around, it's a choice that I've very intentionally made to achieve a very specific look. I am not "forced" to use a 50 and an 85. I CHOOSE to. That's the part you don't get. I'm making a very intentional choice that THAT is the look I want. And that I do not want to use another focal length.

A fundmental part I find myself repeating over and over that you clearly don't seem to get is how focal length changes the way images look. Like you don't understand other things I've explained I think twice now in this post. Even if you ignore boke, compression is entirely different. The way it shapes objects is entirely different. I am so specific that I use 24, 28, and 35mm lenses for very different things, because they have a different look and feel. I shoot portraits with a 50 and 85 once again because that is the look I want. 24mm isn't what I want to shoot, nor is 35mm. So why would I shoot with a zoom with those focal lengths if those are not looks I want?

And to be more clear and hammer the nail even more, it's the same way in the cinema world. When making choices for a scene a competent DP would have all of this information in their notes. And will choose not only their lens set carefully before a shoot, but will also choose their focal length very carefully for each shot. Because the focal length is one of their primary tools not only in look but also as a story making tool in order to get the audience to feel a certain way. If you don't understand these things then I seriously think you should consider spending time reading what different DP's have written about focal length or reading some books about photography or cinematography that relate to focal length and focal length choice.

[To give some idea, focal length is used to make characters "look" isolated. They use them to make one character feel larger than another or intimidated. They use focal length to place objects in a scene. They use them to get characters to feel closer together or further apart. The decision points revolving focal length are endless.]


EDIT: Also there isn't going to be really any discernible difference between 48mm and 50mm or 80mm and 85mm. So if your point is that being "locked into a choice" based around 2-5mm is your argument, then sure, you win. But the problem is not the difference between a few mm. The problem is deciding your framing based upon your zoom focal range rather than using your focal length to determine a major part of how your image looks. If you HONESTLY think that there are situations that anyone gets into in which they wish they could change their focal length by 2-5mm on the longer end, I don't know what to tell you because I don't think a single individual has ever fallen into that usage case. Moving a few (literally just) inches or even centimeters at 85mm would "solve" that problem. On the wide end that's a different discussion. If you want to get into a wide angle focal range debate that's another ball of worms.


To sum my distaste of primes up: Many years ago they WERE far sharper and far faster than any zoom on the market. That's really not such an issue any more, but pixel peepers and the "I'm on location for nat geo and can't afford even an extra gram or mm of length" crowd keep convincing people that primes can't be replaced by a quality zoom. Newsflash: most of the time they can. The BEST primes are marginally sharper in the corners, and sure you can get that super blown-out background at 1.4, but I'd argue that marginally better corner sharpness and a marginally softer background are the domain of pixel peepers, they certainly aren't going to save a poor composition. Primes haven't quite hit the level of gimmick I've seen from some portrait photographers (forget who, but somebody was ONLY using disposables for their "look") but unless you NEED a prime, you probably don't need one. A great photo isn't about the tools, so why limit yourself? If you've gotten to a point where you know you need that extra stop, and are willing to work around a fixed focal length, get the prime. Damn near everyone else would likely be better off with a zoom.
You can't say that primes aren't sharper and then in the same sentence say it doesn't matter. It either does or it doesn't. But even if the sharpness was equal, other things definitely are not. Such as weight, size, correction (distortion, CA, vignetting), speed (aperture), and boke.
If you think there is only a marginal difference in boke you need to have their eyes checked, and for more on that see my response after your next quote.

Primes aren't limiting, they are freeing. Zooms own you by owning your focal length choice. You believe that you have freedom to move in and out all day and that's freedom to you. But you're actually locked in a cage in which you aren't fully aware or cognizant of what focal length you're using at any given time. You believe that zooming to fit things in the frame is the way to get the shot. And I'm telling you it's a way to get "a" shot. The rest of what you said here in this quote has already been explained ad nauseam above, so I won't repeat the same things again.


And if you're wondering about the lego guy pictures, staring top left it goes: 1.4, 1.8, 2.8, 4
I didn't address this above because it would've simply been another break to do so, but this example is terrible.
Boke is produced by 3 things: Aperture, focal length (which of course also relates to sensor size), and distance of the subject. Did you know at macro distances of only an inch or so, at f/22 I can make sure that nothing but a hair's width is in focus? If you can't see how that relates then you don't understand some very basic fundamental concepts. But above that, that tells me you've never really accomplished a shoot with 85mm prime at f/1.4 while doing any sort of environmental portraiture (that is to say other objects around in the foreground and background).

Sure, if you with your 24-105mm at f/4.0 105mm with the subject in the minimum focus distance you can get it to throw the lens to blur out the background decently well. Try the same test at 50mm with the subject at 10' in an environment with things in the foreground and background as far as infinity and as close to you as a few feet, and tell me if you can't see the difference between f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, and f/4.0. Because anyone who shoots primes/shallow DOF knows this test is bunk and it is unrealistic that you'll be shooting at minimum focus distances at anything other than the rarest of times.
 
Last edited:

capt_cope

Gawd
Joined
Apr 12, 2009
Messages
945
That will be the theme of our discourse.




Primes are sharper than zooms. That is a generalization but on the whole true. Interestingly you've selected the middle range prime against the most expensive zoom. But if you want an even more fun comparison, try looking at, say Canon's 50mm f/1.8, $100 plastic fantastic and compare it's sharpness to the $2000 24-70mm f/2.8L II. The fact that a $100 lens is even remotely compariable to a $2000 one, speaks to the fundamentals of lens design. Primes are easier to design, they require less optical elements. That is beyond debate. Because of their simplicity they are easier to build sharply with better correction.

If you want even more proof of that you can look at $100,000 cinema lenses (such as Cooke Optics 2x Anamorphic's, or even if you think comparing Anamorphic's is unfair, say some $30k Zeiss Ultra Primes). Any cinematographer worth their salt is using primes. Not only for the reasons I've mentioned in the previous post (such as control over focal length, decision over look, and aperture), but also for the supreme amount of correction and sharpness. If you don't value those things then I can't change your opinion. But these things are objectively true.

If you have jobs that require zooms, then fine. I won't minimize that usage case, going back to the cinema world zooms are used for documentaries and live TV as well as achieving very specific shots (such as the dolly zoom). So if that's where you live and you need zooms to achieve that work then you do it. But for each of those instance cases it's because they "have to" due to the speed of workflow necessary. In other words, they live with the compromises of zooms, not because they'd choose them for any other reason. And I'm simply telling you the same is true in the stills world. Which is why on $100k Phase One's (or medium format in general), there are few zooms. Because they know their audience, and they know that if you want to actually resolve that 100MP and maximize your look with shallow depth of field, it's going to require a prime.




If you miss a shot due to focal length while shooting primes then you were in the wrong position or you didn't know how to maximize that focal length or you planned poorly. What you're describing is lack of skill, far beyond the limitation of the tool.

I'll talk about the boke later in this post (specifically the end if you want to know where).




You kept 1 prime around as your choice from your purchasing decisions. That isn't relevant. If you want to play that game we could go on to Flickr (or 500px, or whatever platform you choose with professional work on it) and look at common focal lengths for portraits as well as common lenses for portraits. I guarantee that the hit rate will be infinitely higher for 50mm/85mm/100mm/135mm than any combination of zooms (24-70mm,70-200mm, or even crop sensor zooms). Not only because of cost (the 50mm f/1.8 example listed above), but also because of look.

And you wont be able to get the best possible composition with a zoom unless you're critically paying attention to your focal length, which is a major purpose of this discussion. If you're shooting with a 24-70mm as an example, 24mm looks very different than 70mm.
So if your composition is based on where you're standing and you zooming in and out, you will never achieve the best possible composition short of blind luck or eventually learning distance to stand while ending up in the same place of the focal range over time. But if you're doing that then basically you're "accidentally" shooting like a prime user. However, I highly doubt that most zoom shooters get fine tuned enough to accidentally keep ending up at the right distance to use their zoom say at 50mm every time. As even with what you're stating you do, you choose to stay as motionless as possible to get your shots.




I've been over this already, but suffice to say, that's poor planning. 24mm looks a lot different than 70mm which is an advantage for zooms. But that's also a disadvantage you'll have to live with if you choose your zoom over your feet when the 24mm stretched out your subjects faces because you refused to move. Which, also is using your tools properly. So if you want to give examples in which it's the photographers fault for the mistake, I just matched yours. We both can play that game.

It's not being forced to "working around at tele" lens. It's the opposite. Focal length is a distinct choice. You missed a major point of my post. If you're not choosing your focal length, then it's choosing it for you. And in fact you've fallen into the trap I've listed above.

24mm is very different than 50mm is different than 70mm. And if you can't tell the difference then there is a huge problem right there. Because most will tell you that they'd NEVER shoot a 24mm portrait, especially not up close of someones face. Unless they were trying for something incredibly stylized. But most would argue that that is NOT pleasing at all on someones face due to the distortion it brings. But distortion characteristics is only one part. A major part of it is also compression and what it does to backgrounds and foregrounds. A 24mm once again will NEVER have the compression of an 85mm. They are two very different tools. If want to compress down the background or have people ignore the background that is (one of) the reasons I've chosen that lens. It's not something I work around, it's a choice that I've very intentionally made to achieve a very specific look. I am not "forced" to use a 50 and an 85. I CHOOSE to. That's the part you don't get. I'm making a very intentional choice that THAT is the look I want. And that I do not want to use another focal length.

A fundmental part I find myself repeating over and over that you clearly don't seem to get is how focal length changes the way images look. Like you don't understand other things I've explained I think twice now in this post. Even if you ignore boke, compression is entirely different. The way it shapes objects is entirely different. I am so specific that I use 24, 28, and 35mm lenses for very different things, because they have a different look and feel. I shoot portraits with a 50 and 85 once again because that is the look I want. 24mm isn't what I want to shoot, nor is 35mm. So why would I shoot with a zoom with those focal lengths if those are not looks I want?

And to be more clear and hammer the nail even more, it's the same way in the cinema world. When making choices for a scene a competent DP would have all of this information in their notes. And will choose not only their lens set carefully before a shoot, but will also choose their focal length very carefully for each shot. Because the focal length is one of their primary tools not only in look but also as a story making tool in order to get the audience to feel a certain way. If you don't understand these things then I seriously think you should consider spending time reading what different DP's have written about focal length or reading some books about photography or cinematography that relate to focal length and focal length choice.

[To give some idea, focal length is used to make characters "look" isolated. They use them to make one character feel larger than another or intimidated. They use focal length to place objects in a scene. They use them to get characters to feel closer together or further apart. The decision points revolving focal length are endless.]


EDIT: Also there isn't going to be really any discernible difference between 48mm and 50mm or 80mm and 85mm. So if your point is that being "locked into a choice" based around 2-5mm is your argument, then sure, you win. But the problem is not the difference between a few mm. The problem is deciding your framing based upon your zoom focal range rather than using your focal length to determine a major part of how your image looks. If you HONESTLY think that there are situations that anyone gets into in which they wish they could change their focal length by 2-5mm on the longer end, I don't know what to tell you because I don't think a single individual has ever fallen into that usage case. Moving a few (literally just) inches or even centimeters at 85mm would "solve" that problem. On the wide end that's a different discussion. If you want to get into a wide angle focal range debate that's another ball of worms.




You can't say that primes aren't sharper and then in the same sentence say it doesn't matter. It either does or it doesn't. But even if the sharpness was equal, other things definitely are not. Such as weight, size, correction (distortion, CA, vignetting), speed (aperture), and boke.
If you think there is only a marginal difference in boke you need to have their eyes checked, and for more on that see my response after your next quote.

Primes aren't limiting, they are freeing. Zooms own you by owning your focal length choice. You believe that you have freedom to move in and out all day and that's freedom to you. But you're actually locked in a cage in which you aren't fully aware or cognizant of what focal length you're using at any given time. You believe that zooming to fit things in the frame is the way to get the shot. And I'm telling you it's a way to get "a" shot. The rest of what you said here in this quote has already been explained ad nauseam above, so I won't repeat the same things again.




I didn't address this above because it would've simply been another break to do so, but this example is terrible.
Boke is produced by 3 things: Aperture, focal length (which of course also relates to sensor size), and distance of the subject. Did you know at macro distances of only an inch or so, at f/22 I can make sure that nothing but a hair's width is in focus? If you can't see how that relates then you don't understand some very basic fundamental concepts. But above that, that tells me you've never really accomplished a shoot with 85mm prime at f/1.4 while doing any sort of environmental portraiture (that is to say other objects around in the foreground and background).

Sure, if you with your 24-105mm at f/4.0 105mm with the subject in the minimum focus distance you can get it to throw the lens to blur out the background decently well. Try the same test at 50mm with the subject at 10' in an environment with things in the foreground and background as far as infinity and as close to you as a few feet, and tell me if you can't see the difference between f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, and f/4.0. Because anyone who shoots primes/shallow DOF knows this test is bunk and it is unrealistic that you'll be shooting at minimum focus distances at anything other than the rarest of times.
I don't have time to break your post down point by point right now, but the fact remains that cameras and lenses are tools, if you have the luxury of time and can setup a shot - yes a prime can be great. If you're not going out to capture a specific shot (or don't have the luxury of time, say at a kid's sports event) - which I'd argue is most people, most of the time - a zoom is invaluable. Since the OP is asking about a full frame E mount lens it's kind of pointless to talk about cinema lenses, and once you look at the primes available for full frame E mount, the 55/1.8 is either the best or one of the best (there might be a new ~50mm king, but the last I heard this was it.) Also, why bother talking about cinematography? Do you generally bring someone to pull focus for you when you're shooting a portrait? How do you pull off a zolly with your prime lens? Lenses are a tool, sometimes the prime is the best tool for a job, but for most people, most of the time, it's not.

You keep going off on tangents about how focal length works, and acting as if the ability to understand and consciously choose a focal length for a shot disappears as soon as you mount a zoom, so I'll sum up most of my responses to the rest of your post here: "No shit Sherlock". If you're blaming a zoom for your decision to shoot a portrait at 24mm... I've got news: the lens isn't the problem.

And since you brought up cinematography, here's the kit suggestions for a variety of camera platforms from Vincent Laforet: https://kit.com/vincentlaforet
Oddly enough, he seems to be recommending zooms first whether you want a Canon, Nikon, or Sony. I'm shocked someone with his level of experience would do such a thing, maybe he just forgot about the importance of focal length? /s
 

Nebell

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When it comes to 50mm this is the look I want to achieve (Sigma Art 50mm @ f1.4):

Sigma-50mm-f1.4-Art-Sample-Image-41-960x640.jpg


I like the way it isolates the subjects with f1.4, while still keeping a lot of the background in the photo.
But that 135mm f1.8 is great for headshots.

I might actually end up getting all 3 and use them for a different purpose.
 

IdiotInCharge

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Oddly enough, he seems to be recommending zooms first whether you want a Canon, Nikon, or Sony.
I'm actually kind of shocked that you mention those brands and cinematography together- figure RED cameras to be 'entry level' in that space. Videography? Sure. Cinemaphotography is almost entirely fixed focal length.

Further, what matters in a photo lens and what matters in a cinema lens are entirely different. Videography tends to straddle the two, but that's largely based on budget.


Also, to add on the discussion of prime vs. zoom overall: this really comes down to what it takes to get the shot and what the output requirements are.

And that's a rabbit hole. Suffice to say, for most photography and videography, good zooms are as effective as primes.

Primes tend to fall into two categories after that: niche uses such as faster apertures, close focusing, or movements, and then smaller size. Sometimes/manytimes both. And given that the same 'stop down for better correction' method almost universally applies, at like apertures a prime will be better corrected than a zoom, and a prime can match or exceed a zooms performance at wider apertures.

The above shot with the 50/1.4 | Art is an example of this.

The only real question is whether the sacrifice of flexibility by using a prime is necessary for the output and/or its advantages over a zoom are necessary to get the shot in the first place.
 

UnknownSouljer

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This post is a mess. You go back and forth on your points a lot.

I don't have time to break your post down point by point right now, but the fact remains that cameras and lenses are tools, if you have the luxury of time and can setup a shot - yes a prime can be great. If you're not going out to capture a specific shot (or don't have the luxury of time, say at a kid's sports event) - which I'd argue is most people, most of the time - a zoom is invaluable.
You're making and have made very bold statements about "most people, most of the time". Frankly I don't care about "most people". I care about what the top people are doing to achieve the best work. If that isn't a concern for you and you just want something, anything, then that's on you. Yeah, most people are consumers and they sell most point and shoot cameras with zooms attached to them because consumers want the flexibility over fidelity. But I care far more what people like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Alfred Eisenstadt think (or thought) than what a consumer wants to do. And if you don't care for their work, I could bring up more or less any current portrait photographer that is putting out serious work and point to their lens selection. (Annie Leibowitz, Art Streiber, Mark Seliger, Gavin O'Neil, Nick Onken, Chase Jarvis, Mario Testino, Joe McNally, Felix Kunze, Joel Grimes, Joey L (Lawrence), Benjamin Von Wong, Zack Arias, Dean Bradshaw, Erik Almas, and on down the line... really we could list all day). So if you want to name drop, there you go.

Most people most of the time for what? With the exception of the 70-200mm I'd pick a prime any day for any sort of midrange shooting even at "my kids sporting event". And if you want to talk about the top of the field, most top end sports shooters are using 300mm or 400mm primes (or possibly the 200-400mm zoom. So I guess if you're using that to shoot your kids sports, you're okay). If your usage case for cameras all the time or in general is your kids sporting event then great, use your zooms and be happy. But my purpose in discussing these things is about being a serious working photographer. And I'm not the only one working this way.



Since the OP is asking about a full frame E mount lens it's kind of pointless to talk about cinema lenses, and once you look at the primes available for full frame E mount, the 55/1.8 is either the best or one of the best (there might be a new ~50mm king, but the last I heard this was it.) Also, why bother talking about cinematography? Do you generally bring someone to pull focus for you when you're shooting a portrait? How do you pull off a zolly with your prime lens? Lenses are a tool, sometimes the prime is the best tool for a job, but for most people, most of the time, it's not.
You either are intentionally or unintentionally completely missing the point. I bring up the cinema world because the principles between achieving the shot when either working in photos or film is the same. I bring up the cinema world because it's a multi-billion dollar industry. A lot of money is on the line, they take their work very seriously and they generally are artists at the top of the craft. What do they reach for? Without fail it's a prime (and the market for lenses in the cinema world as I noted before are also mostly primes). If you can't see how techniques used in cinema for framing and lens selection relates to stills, especially in regards to focal length are relevant then I don't think most of what you have to say is either.

Sony's E-Mount is still getting built out. They still don't have an intermediate speed 35mm as an example. But more to the point you've ignored my $100 Canon to $2000 Canon example. But even using your Sony Example, there is a 1 2/3 stop difference in speed. The Prime is more corrected. It's smaller, it weighs much less and is 1/3rd the cost of the zoom.

And again, most people (like I said before, your post is all over)? Because I'll reiterate what I said above perhaps now in a different way: what about most professionals? I don't care what people think that don't know the craft. "Most people" don't even understand the exposure triangle, let alone focal length. I have zero interest in that sort of lower level discussion. I'm interested in higher level discussion with people that are pushing the craft. So if you'd like to take your cues from people that don't know what they're talking about as a reason to pick one thing over another then that is your prerogative.



You keep going off on tangents about how focal length works, and acting as if the ability to understand and consciously choose a focal length for a shot disappears as soon as you mount a zoom, so I'll sum up most of my responses to the rest of your post here: "No shit Sherlock". If you're blaming a zoom for your decision to shoot a portrait at 24mm... I've got news: the lens isn't the problem.
If you're already using your feet to move your body in order to shoot with a longer focal length then you're operating like a prime shooter anyway. If you're doing that then I would argue being such a huge proponent of zooms doesn't even make sense. However one of your major arguments was "being too close" and needing to change lenses hence missing a shot. The only way that a zoom "saves you" (in quotes, because as I mentioned before, this is bad shooting technique) in those kinds of cases is because you've chosen to zoom out to wide. So either you're doing that behavior of shooting wide just because things are close to you, or you're not. Regardless you are using that as one of your major reasons why a zooms versatility is better.
But even going back, you've still failed to miss the point that focal length selection is based on far more than just framing relative to your current position. You're convinced that you get all the shots or miss all the shots primarily because of framing. Specifically framing in the moment.



And since you brought up cinematography, here's the kit suggestions for a variety of camera platforms from Vincent Laforet: https://kit.com/vincentlaforet
Oddly enough, he seems to be recommending zooms first whether you want a Canon, Nikon, or Sony. I'm shocked someone with his level of experience would do such a thing, maybe he just forgot about the importance of focal length? /s
I love Vincent, he was one of the people that inspired me to pursue photography in the beginning. I looked at his work in the late 2000's, especially his work for Time in which he shot a worker on top of the Chrysler Building. He's not a cinema auteur though. He shoots primarily commercials. However even you don't know enough about how he works actually in the field to make those statements. First when talking about his "advanced kit", you'll note the large amount of primes:
http://blog.vincentlaforet.com/mygear/advanced-kit/
But second, watch the BTS on any of his shoots. He uses virtually no zooms in practice. For his earlier work, 2008-2014 or so, he preferred to use Zeiss Cine Prime CP2s. And now more recently he's moved to Canon Cine Primes, most likely because he's a Canon Explorer of Light and that looks better from that perspective. More than that though his list hasn't even been updated since 2014/15 or so. Because I know a lot of those cameras have been updated or eliminated.
If you wanted to make an argument about someone in Cinema using zooms, I would have said Philip Bloom. But even with Philip, I'd counter back stating that I already made a zoom concession for people primarily working in the documentary world. But in fairness to him and for you, he shoots primarily on the FS5/FS7 using Fuji glass designed for Sony E.

If you want to know the focal lengths preferred by some of the greatest directors in the world, then watch this (Spielberg, Kubrick, etc):
Even those that used any amount of zooms, once again did so for VERY specific shots. That is to say, zooming was occurring in the shot, otherwise they were on primes. So, if you want to have a discussion about most cinematographers most of the time, yeap, they're on primes.



When it comes to 50mm this is the look I want to achieve (Sigma Art 50mm @ f1.4):

View attachment 101957

I like the way it isolates the subjects with f1.4, while still keeping a lot of the background in the photo.
But that 135mm f1.8 is great for headshots.

I might actually end up getting all 3 and use them for a different purpose.
Right, and that is generally how lens selection goes. I found after I got my first 50mm, I didn't want to go back to using my zooms because it looked so much better and caused me to think and focus more on my shots. If you only have one prime in the bag and it needs to be versatile, I'd say a 50mm is a good bet, although some prefer a 35mm even for close shots of the face. If you're going to be doing a lot of portraits, I'd say 50/85 is a good way to go. You don't even need to buy the top of the field to get good results. As capt_cope has noted more than once, sharpness will only matter for pixel peepers anyway. You could easily buy the 55mm f/1.8 and 85mm f/1.8 and only invest roughly $1200 and have a strong portrait kit. If you want to spend a huge amount of money on the GM's, go for it. However, I tend to think that the cost and the additional size and weight aren't worth it most of the time.

I've personally never been a fan of the Sigma lens lineup. They are a lot more cost effective, but I guess I've never liked their look or their color as much. We talked a bit about this before I believe, but they tend to value sharpness over other characteristics of the lens. But there are many people that love their lenses, so take that with a grain of salt.
 
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IdiotInCharge

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As capt_cope has noted more than once, sharpness will only matter for pixel peepers anyway.
Sharpness is one thing, and is rarely a limitation- even 4k is just 8.3MP as we all know.

But correction is quite another. One thing that stands out to me in any shot is longitudinal chromatic aberration, which is not easily correctable. I'm still shooting Canon's 50/1.4 and 50/1.8 EF lenses, which when stopped down are sharper than their zooms, and wide open can show some terrible fringing. Sony's newer and much sharper 1.8/55 has similar levels of fringing which I find embarrassing, but I do understand the compromise that they made for that lens. Their FE 50/1.4 is stellar, and I hope Canon's new RF 50/1.2L will be as well.

Beyond fringing there's distortion, which is not usually a problem on mainline lenses, and then vignetting, which is becoming more of a problem. See Canon's 35/1.4L II for an example of extreme vignetting in an otherwise optically stellar lens. Perhaps their RF mount and Nikon's similarly wide-throated Z-mount will reverse that trend as Canon has claimed.

And all of that, as your jab at 'pixel peepers' implies, is relative to output needs. I'd posit that a higher resolution system, meaning both sensor and lens, isn't terribly useful for how still imagery is typically used today. Thus the advantages of prime lenses are somewhat minimized in comparison to good zooms, as correction for aberrations like vignetting on like wider apertures as well as distortion simply do not represent noticeable deficiencies in typical output.
 

UnknownSouljer

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Sharpness is one thing, and is rarely a limitation- even 4k is just 8.3MP as we all know.

But correction is quite another. One thing that stands out to me in any shot is longitudinal chromatic aberration, which is not easily correctable. I'm still shooting Canon's 50/1.4 and 50/1.8 EF lenses, which when stopped down are sharper than their zooms, and wide open can show some terrible fringing. Sony's newer and much sharper 1.8/55 has similar levels of fringing which I find embarrassing, but I do understand the compromise that they made for that lens. Their FE 50/1.4 is stellar, and I hope Canon's new RF 50/1.2L will be as well.

Beyond fringing there's distortion, which is not usually a problem on mainline lenses, and then vignetting, which is becoming more of a problem. See Canon's 35/1.4L II for an example of extreme vignetting in an otherwise optically stellar lens. Perhaps their RF mount and Nikon's similarly wide-throated Z-mount will reverse that trend as Canon has claimed.

And all of that, as your jab at 'pixel peepers' implies, is relative to output needs. I'd posit that a higher resolution system, meaning both sensor and lens, isn't terribly useful for how still imagery is typically used today. Thus the advantages of prime lenses are somewhat minimized in comparison to good zooms, as correction for aberrations like vignetting on like wider apertures as well as distortion simply do not represent noticeable deficiencies in typical output.
Whether on zooms or primes most things like CA and distortion are now corrected in body. Primes still generally rule this area if the lens manufacturer cares to do so. And the point(s) still stand that the simplicity of prime designs allow them to be more corrected (in general) than any zoom. The primes as you note are still significantly faster and can achieve looks that the zooms cannot. Whether those "compromises" are worth it or not is clearly for some up to debate. But you'll even note that the reason for the CA, fringing, and vignetting are all due to speed. Stopped down to any aperture that is similar to any zoom and the prime will in generally perform better in comparison. If a 2.8 zoom was capable of shooting at f/1.8 (which obviously doesn't even make sense), then it would also exhibit a lot of these more pronounced behaviors, such as having more vignetting or CA.

But most even using these lenses on high resolution sensors (I have an A7RII as an example) don't find these issues to be enough of a problem to be worth talking about. All of the lenses listed by you have been used to take probably billions of photos at this point. And the point there being the only time this stuff is noticed or matters is generally only to the photographer themselves as everyone else doesn't have as hard a time missing the forest for the trees.

And I don't think that primes will even be minimized in comparison to a good zoom until the day that a zoom can achieve the same look as a prime. And even more than that, that the user of said zooms are more particular about focal length choice rather than "allowing" the zoom to choose for you.
Additionally lenses are starting to get chosen more and more because of their character. Good or bad. To go the opposite way even in terms of quality, intentionally choosing vintage primes based upon their character and look (and of course focal length). The Helios 44-2 is a commonly known one. So, I'd say it depends far more on what the artist is trying to accomplish and whether even fidelity is even an important factor.
The Sony 55/1.8 is a really great example, because it's starting to get chosen because it has swirly boke while retaining great sharpness. A fantastic lens that some prefer over the GM 1.4 because of its characteristics. And I'm not remotely put off by any of its problems, nor are plenty of portrait photographers using it for high resolution, critical work. Much to that point, I would have no issue putting a Bresson piece with "tons of problems" in terms of lens fidelity and film scratches next to a photo taken by Leibowitz with a Hasselblad and 80mm with lens technical perfection. (And if that's hard to understand, the long and the short is that it matters if the work is great and well thought through and executed well, not merely if the lens on the front of the camera exhibited some problems).

In summary, corrected overall the prime is better (especially aperture to aperture). And even if you're not looking for perfection either, prime is better.
 
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IdiotInCharge

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Whether on zooms or primes most things like CA and distortion are now corrected in body. Primes still generally rule this area if the lens manufacturer cares to do so.
Not directly disagreeing, but I'm going to break it down a bit:
  • Lateral CA can be corrected anywhere, with nearly no loss, as it's essentially fixed by resizing the individual color channels (basically realigning)
  • Longitudinal CA can be corrected but does result in a loss of information
    • Haven't seen this much in camera, but Lightroom makes a passable attempt at it when you use the CA dropper tool, and Canon's own software appears to be correcting it now
  • Vignetting can be corrected anywhere, but results in uneven noise, so correction should be applied with consideration- heavy NR will lower acuity
  • Distortion can be corrected anywhere, but results in lower acuity
Basically, correction costs output resolution. The best primes are better than the best zooms here (almost always), but if the shot can be taken with a zoom and the output is not demanding, the decision point comes down to size/weight more than anything else.

But you'll even note that the reason for the CA, fringing, and vignetting are all due to speed.
I'll take minor exception to the 'due to speed' explanation; better lenses, compare the aged (well!) 135/2L to the Zeiss 2/135 AP for a decent example among many. Yes, those aberrations are worse at wider apertures on any lens, but their applicability to output may be minimized with better glass.

If a 2.8 zoom was capable of shooting at f/1.8 (which obviously doesn't even make sense), then it would also exhibit a lot of these more pronounced behaviors, such as having more vignetting or CA.
Again, this depends on lens design, in terms of 'how much more'. Canon's upcoming RF 28-70/2.0L (my God if I'd seen that a year ago I'd thought it was a typo) will be one to watch and compare versus f/2 primes, and it may just be so well corrected that the differences/advantages are broadly inapplicable. Perhaps this is why Canon decided to release an RF 50/1.2L alongside, since a 50/1.4 or 50/1.8 lens would bear very little meaning for the end-user they're targeting on release (basically portraiture and videography).
 

UnknownSouljer

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Not directly disagreeing, but I'm going to break it down a bit:
  • Lateral CA can be corrected anywhere, with nearly no loss, as it's essentially fixed by resizing the individual color channels (basically realigning)
  • Longitudinal CA can be corrected but does result in a loss of information
    • Haven't seen this much in camera, but Lightroom makes a passable attempt at it when you use the CA dropper tool, and Canon's own software appears to be correcting it now
  • Vignetting can be corrected anywhere, but results in uneven noise, so correction should be applied with consideration- heavy NR will lower acuity
  • Distortion can be corrected anywhere, but results in lower acuity
Basically, correction costs output resolution. The best primes are better than the best zooms here (almost always), but if the shot can be taken with a zoom and the output is not demanding, the decision point comes down to size/weight more than anything else.
We agree.


I'll take minor exception to the 'due to speed' explanation; better lenses, compare the aged (well!) 135/2L to the Zeiss 2/135 AP for a decent example among many. Yes, those aberrations are worse at wider apertures on any lens, but their applicability to output may be minimized with better glass.
This is where truly high end primes come in. Like cinema grade primes. There is of course a way to make sure there are zero issues in lens design. But if you've ever seen a Cooke Optics 2x Anamorphic or got to use one (I have), the prime set of course is all the same size, but each lens is longer than my forearm and has a diameter 3x the size of a zoom. So, technical perfection versus compromise in lens design. There are of course more sane examples (in terms of size and weight), like say Zeiss Ultra Primes but there are still cost to value discussions that are of course a very valid thing to talk about.

That might seem a side point, but more directly a 135 is far easier to design without issues than a 35mm. Wides in general are always harder to correct. But the other point above, if not clear, is that it can be done but at what cost and is it even worth it at that cost? And more to the point, the midrange zoom (24-70mm) if it was as fast would have those issues (CA, vignetting). But then what about...



Again, this depends on lens design, in terms of 'how much more'. Canon's upcoming RF 28-70/2.0L (my God if I'd seen that a year ago I'd thought it was a typo) will be one to watch and compare versus f/2 primes, and it may just be so well corrected that the differences/advantages are broadly inapplicable. Perhaps this is why Canon decided to release an RF 50/1.2L alongside, since a 50/1.4 or 50/1.8 lens would bear very little meaning for the end-user they're targeting on release (basically portraiture and videography).
The 28-70 is an interesting lens. But I don't think it will be as popular as a lot of photographers are thinking it will be. Just due to weight and size. It weights as much as a 70-200mm f/2.8 and is much bigger and longer than a f/2.8 24-70mm. I'm confident that most will not consider it to be a "walking" around lens after it kills them carrying it around for 8 hours. Much like most people don't walk around all day with a 70-200mm f/2.8L lens either unless it's for a job.

That said, I think the reason why it's capable of that speed and level of correction is because of course the mount (the significantly closer flange distance as well as the size of the throat). And of course the correction and speed are due to the size and weight. Much like my examples above (Anamorphics, and Ultra Primes). Sure, virtually anything can be done, but at what size and cost and complexity? Still, all zooms have compromises, they have to because of having to attempt to look good at multiple focal lengths and not just one. Still, as you say, weight and size notwithstanding the output will likely be "good enough" (to use a massive understatement) for most anyone. But I think the size and weight will be too much for most to overcome. I, myself, would rather shoot on an equivalent f/2.0 prime than anything that weighs that much, especially if I'm shooting all day.

The 50mm I think is a bit of a surprise. Not because they choose a 50mm as their first prime, but more because of the f number. I'm shocked they didn't release another f/1.0. Now Canon looks slightly foolish as Nikon is bringing back their Noct line with an f/0.95. But back to Canon, I think it was semi lazy. Undoubtedly this 50mm will be way more corrected than the current EF version (the lens clearly had to be entirely redesigned to accommodate the shorter flange distance while still maintaining roughly the same dimensions). And likely it will be much sharper. I just wish they would've gone all out.

Not going all out seems to be a theme, as another side note, I think most are disappointed by Canon R and Nikon Z because they held too many punches. They have some really great exciting traits and some places where they really missed the mark. It's baffling how they didn't look at the A7III and say that at minimum they needed to beat all of those specs.

Anyway, to your point the Canon R system isn't built out enough for anyone to really use it yet the way they want to. Until they have a prime set, most portrait folks won't want to use either system. And the same for video. They might anyway, but that is of course because of the use of adapters (not because the lenses on the system fulfill them), which is the saving grace of both systems in the interim time until their are enough native lenses. There are some exceptions. Vloggers might be satisfied with the 24-105 and not need anything else. But it can't be used as a production tool the same way that any EF, E, or u4/3 camera can with the exception of using the adapters.

---

I think we agree basically on everything. Except that perhaps in general I don't look at zooms as being "good enough". The output is of course fine (provided you're happy with the DOF), and if you're critical with your focal length choice while using the zoom then obviously they can act like a prime. However they lack great character of primes, are less corrected, and definitely are much heavier while in use. And also I would say 50/85 is much more useful to me, but in general midrange zooms stop at 70mm, so regardless my workflow would involve switching lenses regardless of if I was on primes or zooms. For that reason as well as all the reasons stated above, I don't think I, nor any other prime shooter is going to change to zooms anytime soon except for very specific usage cases.
 
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capt_cope

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I'm actually kind of shocked that you mention those brands and cinematography together- figure RED cameras to be 'entry level' in that space. Videography? Sure. Cinemaphotography is almost entirely fixed focal length.

Further, what matters in a photo lens and what matters in a cinema lens are entirely different. Videography tends to straddle the two, but that's largely based on budget.


Also, to add on the discussion of prime vs. zoom overall: this really comes down to what it takes to get the shot and what the output requirements are.

And that's a rabbit hole. Suffice to say, for most photography and videography, good zooms are as effective as primes.

Primes tend to fall into two categories after that: niche uses such as faster apertures, close focusing, or movements, and then smaller size. Sometimes/manytimes both. And given that the same 'stop down for better correction' method almost universally applies, at like apertures a prime will be better corrected than a zoom, and a prime can match or exceed a zooms performance at wider apertures.

The above shot with the 50/1.4 | Art is an example of this.

The only real question is whether the sacrifice of flexibility by using a prime is necessary for the output and/or its advantages over a zoom are necessary to get the shot in the first place.
The OP is asking for suggestions about a lens for a Sony A7RIII, and Vincent Laforet isn't only a DP, he's a pretty damn good photographer as well... so no I didn't mention Red cameras since cinematography is irrelevant to this discussion (though it was a nice tie-in to Laforet.) And before someone gets all huffy about cinematography being irrelevant, allow me to explain in the most general way possible:
If you're taking a photo you're focused on capturing the moment, if you're shooting a film your focus is on translating the moment you've already visualized onto film. No shit you don't need as much versatility when you've seen the image you're going to shoot in your mind, which is why primes are perfect for cinema, still life, and some portraits - you already know what you're going to capture, you just need to set it up. And to be clear, I'm not at all suggesting any of those are "easy" with the just there, rather that selecting a focal length isn't much of a factor once you know what you're going to capture. The real skill in photography that isn't static or controlled by the photographer, is recognizing the moment and capturing it before it's gone.

That said, I agree with you about good prime lenses - pound for pound a good prime lens is very likely to be better than the equivalent zoom. I just don't think the difference between a good prime and a good zoom is worth the loss of flexibility inherent to a prime if you don't already own a zoom in that range. If you've already got a decent zoom a good prime is an excellent addition, but to suggest that the versatility of a good zoom is trumped the speed and sharpness of a prime is ridiculous. Bully for you if you want to be a "prime shooter" - but the compromise in sharpness and speed is minimal at best, and that compromise isn't nearly as important as versatility when it comes to the balance between a great photo and "a" photo. If you really believe the aperture or sharpness of a good zoom is the primary reason you're not taking great shots, I have a bridge to sell you.
 

IdiotInCharge

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I'm shocked they didn't release another f/1.0. Now Canon looks slightly foolish as Nikon is bringing back their Noct line with an f/0.95.
I thought Nikon's announcement was shocking, but even more shocking was that it is a manual focus lens... really?

Canon's RF 50/1.2L will hit eyes wide open at full AF speed- and yes, it has 'eye AF' ;). As for f/1.0... their previous 50/1.0L was simply not that popular, and generally speaking it was a terrible lens. Even KR didn't like it, and he thinks everything is sharp!

I just don't think the difference between a good prime and a good zoom is worth the loss of flexibility inherent to a prime if you don't already own a zoom in that range.
Remember the other qualifications I mentioned for primes: speed and IQ are one thing, but size is absolutely another, whether we're talking about portability, profile, or even how imposing the lens is on subjects. For all of these reasons, I own overlapping primes and zooms.

Not going all out seems to be a theme, as another side note, I think most are disappointed by Canon R and Nikon Z because they held too many punches. They have some really great exciting traits and some places where they really missed the mark. It's baffling how they didn't look at the A7III and say that at minimum they needed to beat all of those specs.
I agree- on both sides, it does look like sensor technology and processing power are limitations, as well as price.
  • Canon's sensor technology is very good, but they're not iterating as fast as Sony, perhaps by choice: it's expensive to do, and unlike Sony, Canon does not service smaller sensor markets like phones and compacts- in fact Canon uses Sony sensors for their sub-APS-C compacts!
    • Nikon's sensor technology is limited to what vendors will sell them; that's usually Sony these days as Sony seems to have absorbed the fabs that Nikon used that weren't Sony, though perhaps Nikon could use Samsung as well- in any case, neither company is shipping cameras with fast read out sensors, and read out speed is a hard performance limiter
  • Processing power is a lingering issue that seems to be almost entirely cost based; Sony still can't make a decent live view and Nikon just recently cleaned theirs up a bit; both remain behind Canon, inexplicably, a ten-year-old Rebel is better
    • This affects camera responsiveness and battery life, and is a main determinant for mirrorless performance- even Sony, who makes phones, is guilty of skimping here
  • It's clear that neither Canon nor Nikon wanted to shoot 'high' for their initial releases, and generally undershot their premier non-pro cameras (5D IV, D850), and I'd posit that they did this to hedge against slow adopting by keeping per-unit costs down
Overall, both show significant promise. Nikon perhaps has been more surprising simply because they were so much further behind, and Canon has been more frustrating because they've had DPAF for such a long time.

And overall, these cameras leave users wanting. Sony remains with their quirkiness, while neither competitor has really committed to producing a top-flight mirrorless camera. I'll further agree that Canon's RF lens lineup looks spectacular, particularly considering their leading selection of lenses that can be natively adapted.
 

UnknownSouljer

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The OP is asking for suggestions about a lens for a Sony A7RIII, and Vincent Laforet isn't only a DP, he's a pretty damn good photographer as well... so no I didn't mention Red cameras since cinematography is irrelevant to this discussion (though it was a nice tie-in to Laforet.) And before someone gets all huffy about cinematography being irrelevant, allow me to explain in the most general way possible:
If you're taking a photo you're focused on capturing the moment, if you're shooting a film your focus is on translating the moment you've already visualized onto film. No shit you don't need as much versatility when you've seen the image you're going to shoot in your mind, which is why primes are perfect for cinema, still life, and some portraits - you already know what you're going to capture, you just need to set it up. And to be clear, I'm not at all suggesting any of those are "easy" with the just there, rather that selecting a focal length isn't much of a factor once you know what you're going to capture. The real skill in photography that isn't static or controlled by the photographer, is recognizing the moment and capturing it before it's gone.
1.) I'm aware Vincent Laforet is a photographer. He started that way until 2008 with the release of the 5D2 and his short Reverie. More to the point, did you know he's primarily a prime shooter? All of his work for Time, the NY Times, Vanity Fair, Nat Geo, etc, and all of his journalism days (like shooting the Olympics on multiple occasions) was primarily shot on primes. The only zooms he uses in general are incredibly long ones (like the 200-400mm). Even then he's done plenty with the 800mm. Beyond that he's known for his Tilt Shift work, which also all are primes. So if you're going to bring up an example that was working in the field with events that only happen one time and would make a strong argument for using primes then you've done so.

2.) You seem to think a prime shooter can't capture moments quickly. I brought up wedding photography and 35/85 setups for this very reason (an event that happens one time with no do-overs). I also have talked about skill and position. You have it stuck in your head that a prime shooter can't take photos in live conditions for some reason. I do it all the time. And so do many working professionals. More to that point, Henri Cartier-Bresson was the master at this. THE MASTER. If you want to talk about capturing decisive moment, he literally made the book on it called "The Decisive Moment" and his whole career was capturing the moment before it was gone. He used ONE lens his whole career. A 50mm prime. And I will submit that any of his pieces is a master work of timing and understanding the craft. You're stuck believing that the only way this happens is by zooms. I'm telling you the way that this happens is by skill.

You seem to think your opinion trumps everything else. I'm not even using my opinion. I'm giving examples of industry professionals and their workflow. Regardless of if we're talking cinema or not (which you also still don't seem to have a handle on). Go look up any piece of Cartier-Bresson's work. Much of it is over 50 years old and he had this stuff down to a science. He is the Father of street photography, and to this day doing the same decisive moment type of work you'll see a majority of the field on primes.

3.) No one is getting huffy. But if you can't see why a piece of art that directly relates is great, nor can you understand how focal length affects a major part of the art you claim to know about and how that relates, that says more about you than anyone supposedly getting huffy. You're incredibly dismissive. I've taken the time to break all this down point by point giving examples. And not even examples about me, examples of the best in the world.

4.) I would say the skill in photography is knowing the craft. Being speedy at capturing a moment is such a narrow view of photography, especially the complexity of it. If I went by your definition of skill then we would have to discount some of the best photographers of all time. Because their style of photography is very contrived. It involves incredible usage of light and light control. Things that take time to setup (such as building lights and modifiers) to be able to execute a supremely specific vision. Any "moment" that happens that they capture is because they made it happen. This takes years to learn, a lifetime to master, but your metric wouldn't even count them.

Anyone can zoom in and out on a lens and take a photo of a moment as it's happening. Anyone. iPhones have shown us this. Instagram has shown us this. The difference then between a professional and am amateur becomes skill, control (knowledge of the tools [camera, lenses, lighting, modifiers, etc], even to things like arrangement of objects as well as of course things like the exposure triangle and AF types etc), and perspective. And focal length is one of the major ways perspective is controlled (as well as camera position, another thing I've reiterated). In other words we're discussing the difference between have "a" picture versus having a "good" one. Which I feel like a broken record stating. As I've said this or similar things more than once.


That said, I agree with you about good prime lenses - pound for pound a good prime lens is very likely to be better than the equivalent zoom. I just don't think the difference between a good prime and a good zoom is worth the loss of flexibility inherent to a prime if you don't already own a zoom in that range. If you've already got a decent zoom a good prime is an excellent addition, but to suggest that the versatility of a good zoom is trumped the speed and sharpness of a prime is ridiculous. Bully for you if you want to be a "prime shooter" - but the compromise in sharpness and speed is minimal at best, and that compromise isn't nearly as important as versatility when it comes to the balance between a great photo and "a" photo. If you really believe the aperture or sharpness of a good zoom is the primary reason you're not taking great shots, I have a bridge to sell you.
Just so we're clear. I was a zoom shooter for the beginning of my career. My first lens was the 24-70mm f/2.8L that I picked up I think in 2006. I then later added the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II and I had every intention of getting the 16-35mm, but I was happy to borrow my friends 17-40L or rent the 16-35 when I needed it. Until I started to pay attention to what other great photographers were doing and finding out why.

The first time I used a 50mm for a shoot I finally got it. Even though it was a crappy Canon f/1.4, its output beat the 24-70mm swiftly, but more than that how it changed how I viewed the world. I understood Bresson more and why he did what he did.

So, I've shot all day with zooms. I know what it is and what they are. I have consciously moved away from that style of shooting. Have you shot all day with primes? Or more to that point, can you simply ignore every professional I've name dropped? If you want I can start listing wedding photographers and we can compare how many shoot primes versus zooms.

To put this another way, using a zoom to change your framing is like letting your camera shoot in an automatic mode. You're letting your zoom control your perspective rather than making a conscious decision about focal length. Saying that primes limit versatility in the way that you're saying it, is untrue in the same way as saying not shooting in an automatic mode is limiting because it limits the cameras ability to shoot at whatever aperture it wants versus an intentional choice to always shoot at (as an example) f/2.0. Again. Perspective matters and counts.

So, nice job trying to throw my words in my face, but if you're not controling focal length, you're not controlling perspective. You're allowing the zoom to make passive choices for you instead of being specific (that is to say zooming in and out to frame up instead of moving your feet to frame up). This is the reason why we pick our aperture, because we want control over that aspect of how our image looks. Similarly we pick focal length with intentionality because we want control over that aspect of how our image looks.



===



I thought Nikon's announcement was shocking, but even more shocking was that it is a manual focus lens... really?

Canon's RF 50/1.2L will hit eyes wide open at full AF speed- and yes, it has 'eye AF' ;). As for f/1.0... their previous 50/1.0L was simply not that popular, and generally speaking it was a terrible lens. Even KR didn't like it, and he thinks everything is sharp!
Yes, Canon's f/1.0 did suck (have you ever seen photos showing it's saw tooth onion boke? Crazy). But obviously the R was a big chance to create a superior lens design. Especially if you go further back you'll note Canon's own f/0.95 for the Canon 7.

There are a bunch of cheapie manufacturers coming out with f/0.95 like Mitakon. So now with modern tech, Canon should've been able to creative a fantastic one. If they wanted to bother.

Also, Eye-AF is nice to have finally on a Canon body. Too bad it only works in single shot, and not in continuous focus and not in any video autofocus modes. Not that there will be many using this camera for video as the terrible 1.74 crop remains. Save for those moving from an 80D or crop camera bringing over crop lenses to compensate. Eye-AF will still be great though for those only needing single shot doing portrait work with shallow depth of field. It will undoubtedly increase the hit rate.



I agree- on both sides, it does look like sensor technology and processing power are limitations, as well as price.
  • Canon's sensor technology is very good, but they're not iterating as fast as Sony, perhaps by choice: it's expensive to do, and unlike Sony, Canon does not service smaller sensor markets like phones and compacts- in fact Canon uses Sony sensors for their sub-APS-C compacts!
    • Nikon's sensor technology is limited to what vendors will sell them; that's usually Sony these days as Sony seems to have absorbed the fabs that Nikon used that weren't Sony, though perhaps Nikon could use Samsung as well- in any case, neither company is shipping cameras with fast read out sensors, and read out speed is a hard performance limiter
  • Processing power is a lingering issue that seems to be almost entirely cost based; Sony still can't make a decent live view and Nikon just recently cleaned theirs up a bit; both remain behind Canon, inexplicably, a ten-year-old Rebel is better
    • This affects camera responsiveness and battery life, and is a main determinant for mirrorless performance- even Sony, who makes phones, is guilty of skimping here
  • It's clear that neither Canon nor Nikon wanted to shoot 'high' for their initial releases, and generally undershot their premier non-pro cameras (5D IV, D850), and I'd posit that they did this to hedge against slow adopting by keeping per-unit costs down
Overall, both show significant promise. Nikon perhaps has been more surprising simply because they were so much further behind, and Canon has been more frustrating because they've had DPAF for such a long time.

And overall, these cameras leave users wanting. Sony remains with their quirkiness, while neither competitor has really committed to producing a top-flight mirrorless camera. I'll further agree that Canon's RF lens lineup looks spectacular, particularly considering their leading selection of lenses that can be natively adapted.
I think the only thing I have to add and echo in agreement is the processing problem. Canon has all the money on the planet, they have access to cinema systems and the like and yet they can't or won't build a processor to downscale the sensor so that it can have crisp 4k. I think if they had even made the 4k Super 35mm a lot of people would've been okay with that. But 1.74 leaves a lot of folks in the cold and I can't think it's for any reason other than them being cheap or not having foresight.

This also is likely the reason for the limitations on eye-af as well as tracking that the R has. It all stems from not enough processing power and being able to do those things efficiently. It also affected the burst rate. The R is a half-baked product. I'd be VERY surprised to see any pro move to it as their primary/only camera. But there is always still hope. Maybe in 4 years when Sony and Panasonic have continued to eat their lunch, Canon and Nikon will get their act together.
 
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Nebell

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The lenses you guys recommended me a while back have been stellar.
I will not get rid of that 24-105 f4 G because it's an awesome walk around lens. I haven't been using 12-24 f4 G a lot, I was actually even thinking about selling it but I got a part-time job as an interior photographer which requires a full frame camera and <20mm lens, so I'm keeping it.

But my favorite BY FAR is the 90mm f2.8 macro. It's actually the sharpest lens in Sony's lineup (according to DxO mark). I will try 70-300 tomorrow because I missed having a longer reach, but I'm not sure if I should just return it because it is on the bottom of the sharpness in Sony's lineup (just above 24-240).

Do you guys think that Sigma 135mm f1.8 with a 2x teleconverter is better than 70-300 f4.5-5.6? It would become 270mm and I could still use APS-C and get even more reach if needed (about 400mm). And losing 2 stops of light would make 135mm f1.8 become a 405mm f4 in APS-C mode (and about 18mp instead of 43mp, but I think it's fine), or did I calculate this wrong? Now that's no 400mm f2.8 but it's also not €13.000 :p
Sigma 135 is a very sharp lens, so the loss of image quality with a 2x teleconverter would perhaps still be better than what I would get with that 70-300mm which is f5.6 at 300mm?
 
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IdiotInCharge

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Canon has all the money on the planet
My observation of Canon is that they like making money. They do so consistently, and they do it by producing what sells- not necessarily what people actually want to buy.

It's annoying, but it works for them, for now. They have acknowledged that Sony has been releasing products that appear more innovative, and of course Nikon is now struggling to survive and also pushing the envelope on what they're willing to ship.

I'd have to say that in light of the current criticisms, Canon is very likely to have higher-end cameras coming down the pipe. I doubt that they will produce a 5D IV replacement, but a 5Ds replacement would be reasonable given the somewhat niche application of that line.
 

IdiotInCharge

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Sigma 135 is a very sharp lens, so the loss of image quality with a 2x teleconverter would perhaps still be better than what I would get with that 70-300mm which is f5.6 at 300mm?
If you need longer and are willing to adapt, get a purpose-built lens like the Sigma 100-400. Adapting with a teleconverter should be possible, but is never recommended- teleconverters are never recommended to begin with, they're just a necessary evil when facing limitations.
 

UnknownSouljer

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Messages
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My observation of Canon is that they like making money. They do so consistently, and they do it by producing what sells- not necessarily what people actually want to buy.

It's annoying, but it works for them, for now. They have acknowledged that Sony has been releasing products that appear more innovative, and of course Nikon is now struggling to survive and also pushing the envelope on what they're willing to ship.

I'd have to say that in light of the current criticisms, Canon is very likely to have higher-end cameras coming down the pipe. I doubt that they will produce a 5D IV replacement, but a 5Ds replacement would be reasonable given the somewhat niche application of that line.
Here's hoping. They do have an opportunity to make a $3000 higher end, or more, camera in a mirrorless body.

I tend to think that Canon is more tough about changing direction due to culture and the size of their operation than all else. Of course it is true like you say, they don't have to change much while they're still making money. However, as entry level cameras continue to sell less and less, no matter what part of the market they are in, it's going down. So if other parts of the pie are desired, they're gonna need to step it up.



The lenses you guys recommended me a while back have been stellar.
I will not get rid of that 24-105 f4 G because it's an awesome walk around lens. I haven't been using 12-24 f4 G a lot, I was actually even thinking about selling it but I got a part-time job as an interior photographer which requires a full frame camera and <20mm lens, so I'm keeping it.

But my favorite BY FAR is the 90mm f2.8 macro. It's actually the sharpest lens in Sony's lineup (according to DxO mark). I will try 70-300 tomorrow because I missed having a longer reach, but I'm not sure if I should just return it because it is on the bottom of the sharpness in Sony's lineup (just above 24-240).

Do you guys think that Sigma 135mm f1.8 with a 2x teleconverter is better than 70-300 f4.5-5.6? It would become 270mm and I could still use APS-C and get even more reach if needed (about 400mm). And losing 2 stops of light would make 135mm f1.8 become a 405mm f4 in APS-C mode (and about 18mp instead of 43mp, but I think it's fine), or did I calculate this wrong? Now that's no 400mm f2.8 but it's also not €13.000 :p
Sigma 135 is a very sharp lens, so the loss of image quality with a 2x teleconverter would perhaps still be better than what I would get with that 70-300mm which is f5.6 at 300mm?
If you need reach, I'd get the 100-400mm G. If you don't need that much reach I'd stick to the 70-200mm f/2.8 GM. Both have fantastic image quality. The 70-200 is faster and I would say is a much more useful focal length for most situations. Unless you're trying to get into birding or shooting airplanes or long distance field sports etc.
The 135 is a great portrait lens. But there shouldn't be a need to use a teleconverter for portraiture. If you're trying to get some crossover or bang for your buck it's hard to recommend doing things that way as they are very different tools (and like IdiotInCharge noted, will take a quality dip).
 
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Nebell

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If you need reach, I'd get the 100-400mm G. If you don't need that much reach I'd stick to the 70-200mm f/2.8 GM. Both have fantastic image quality. The 70-200 is faster and I would say is a much more useful focal length for most situations. Unless you're trying to get into birding or shooting airplanes or long distance field sports etc.
The 135 is a great portrait lens. But there shouldn't be a need to use a teleconverter for portraiture. If you're trying to get some crossover or bang for your buck it's hard to recommend doing things that way as they are very different tools (and like IdiotInCharge noted, will take a quality dip).

When it comes to people lens, I am still undecided. I almost pulled the trigger on 85 1.4 GM, but then I thought "why?" 90mm Macro is actually sharper than 85 GM. The only difference is the aperture and macro lens hunting for focus, which does annoy me so it is kind of a big deal.

I went to a zoo today and tried out that 70-300 G OSS. It's a good lens but I'm not impressed because I think I got a sharp image maybe 20% of the time (with 1/1000 shutter speed). 300mm felt fine, but I did want a bit longer reach a few times (even after using the crop mode to get 450mm). And also unless it's really bright outside, f8 (which is supposedly the sharpest aperture for this lens) and even f5.6 didn't feel like bright enough. So now I'm wondering if I should just sell that 70-300 and 12-24, buy either 70-200 f2.8 GM + 1.4 teleconverter or 100-400 GM + 1.4 teleconverter (probably the latter) and then get 16-35 GM on a credit.


The below image is one of the better ones, taken at 300mm, f8 and 1/1000


D_D08214.jpg
 

UnknownSouljer

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It's hard to recommend stuff for you, because I think you're trying to do everything. It's expensive generally to do everything especially if you want to do it well. I don't even own a lens anymore that is longer than 100mm. But that is also because my gear is narrowed and specialized to what I'm trying to accomplish and I don't need anything else 99% of the time. And for that 1%, I can just rent it (although I'll admit, it would be nice to have the 70-200mm f/2.8 GM in the bag).
It sounds like you're just going to buy the store. So if you have the money, and you're going to utilize all that glass on a consistent basis, then go for it.
 
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