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Love at First Sight (a Sony 135 STF Story)

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SineQuaNon View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote SineQuaNon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Love at First Sight (a Sony 135 STF Story)
    Posted: 09 April 2018 at 23:33
Greetings all, and I apologize for my absence, life got hectic for a bit.

Now that things have slowed down again, I decided there would be no better way to get back in the swing of things than by treating myself with the purchase of a lens I have lusted after in one incarnation or another for my entire photographic history: the Sony 135 STF. I was lucky enough to pick up a mint condition used copy from Roberts Camera (Used Photo Pro) here in Indianapolis for the somewhat reasonable sum of $780 on Friday, so I promptly took it out and shot some test images with it at a nearby park.

This lens has truly blown my mind. It's one thing to see images on the web and appreciate what it can do, but it is an entirely different experience to see the OOF areas melting away into bokehlicious goodness through the EVF...

Oddly enough, though, the characteristic of the lens that I'm more surprised/happy about than the bokeh rendering is the simply INSANE sharpeness that in focus objects contain. I'd read in reviews that it was very sharp, but nothing prepared me for the jaw-dropping detail I observed even when blowing all 42.2 MP up to 100% on a high-res display. This is the first lens that I've had several images where I didn't feel the need to use any PP sharpening whatsoever.

And I honestly didn't mind the manual focus only. I grew up with manual focus lenses, and ever since upgrading to the A99ii, I've found that if I don't manually focus, the AF is off just enough to bother me when viewed at 100. Plus, when using the focus peaking and focus magnification, it really isn't difficult at all to nail an in-focus image, even hand-held.

To those of you who have (like me) been craving this lens, but unsure of the purchase: trust me, you won't be disappointed. You might might be able to do fast-action photography, but essentially everything else is fair game with a little practice and forethought.

But without further ado, here are some of my keepers from my first test run with this dream-machine of a lens:

Demosthenes by Nate Handlang, on Flickr

Envious by Nate Handlang, on Flickr

Unfinished by Nate Handlang, on Flickr

Spring's Promise by Nate Handlang, on Flickr

Repetition by Nate Handlang, on Flickr

One Last Reminder by Nate Handlang, on Flickr
A99ii / SAL2470Z / SAL135F28 / SAL70300G
 



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Photosopher View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Photosopher Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 April 2018 at 23:40
I'm convinced. Nicely seen and executed.
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SineQuaNon View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote SineQuaNon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 April 2018 at 23:49
Originally posted by Photosopher Photosopher wrote:

I'm convinced. Nicely seen and executed.


Why thank you! I might be weird, but this could honestly become a walkaround lens for me quite a bit of the time. Unless I need a much wider, or much narrower FOV, I can deal with moving forward/backward to accommodate the 135mm.
A99ii / SAL2470Z / SAL135F28 / SAL70300G
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skm.sa100 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote skm.sa100 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 April 2018 at 00:41
Congrats! I *might* splurge on one but perhaps not at the moment.
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SineQuaNon View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote SineQuaNon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 April 2018 at 00:56
Originally posted by skm.sa100 skm.sa100 wrote:

Congrats! I *might* splurge on one but perhaps not at the moment.


When/if you do, you'll be glad that you did, if you're wanting it for the right reasons. I should have gotten this lens wayyyyy before I got my Zeiss.

If you're comfy with purchasing used online, Amazon has a good number to offer for around $700. I just have the benefit of having a major used lens distributor in my city, so I preferred to pay the bit extra for being able to view in person beforehand.
A99ii / SAL2470Z / SAL135F28 / SAL70300G
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MediaArchivist View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote MediaArchivist Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 April 2018 at 01:10
Oh yeah... it's that good. I also have the Zeiss 135/1.8, and while that would seem redundant it is not. Both have their own magic pixie dust.
α99ii ē lenses used incorrectly ➜ roXplosion!
 



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Post Options Post Options   Quote wetapunga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 April 2018 at 04:43
Iíll confess I quite like mine too. Itís a strong reason to get into the A-mount. If I want to capture something special itís the lens I reach for.
a7R, a77ii, QX100 | Minolta 17-35mm G, 20mm, 35-105mm O, 50mm M, 70-210 beercan, 85mm G, 100mm M, 300mm G | Sony 16-50mm, CZ16-80mm, 70-200mm G, 135mm f2.8 STF | Tokina 11-16mm
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Post Options Post Options   Quote lonewolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 April 2018 at 06:03
very nice image, came close to buying one a few years back and always regretted it
Considering the laowa 105mm STF at some point
A7ii+a7rii | Tamron 70-300 USD, 70-200 USD, 24-70 USD 90mm macro | Sigma 35mm ART, 85mm HSM | Plus lots of Nikon stuff

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Post Options Post Options   Quote SineQuaNon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 April 2018 at 13:04
Originally posted by MediaArchivist MediaArchivist wrote:

Oh yeah... it's that good. I also have the Zeiss 135/1.8, and while that would seem redundant it is not. Both have their own magic pixie dust.


They both do seem to have unique capabilities, and that 1.8 aperture would be amazing for the speed it grants. Makes me thankful for the improvements in ISO quality up to now, otherwise the T4.5 rating of the STF would be more problematic than it is.

Originally posted by lonewolf lonewolf wrote:

very nice image, came close to buying one a few years back and always regretted it
Considering the laowa 105mm STF at some point


Thank you. :)

I looked at some comparisons of the Laowa vs the Sony, but wasn't impressed at all. Have you seen this Comparison?
A99ii / SAL2470Z / SAL135F28 / SAL70300G
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Ltgk20 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 April 2018 at 01:41
Your experience mirrors mine. People talk about the bokeh, which is fantastic, but the sharpness is almost startling. Once I saw just how sharp it was it made me really work on my manual focusing technique. When you're close to your subject breathing can shift the camera enough to lose a touch of the tack sharpness this lens can deliver.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote SineQuaNon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 April 2018 at 02:30
Originally posted by Ltgk20 Ltgk20 wrote:

Your experience mirrors mine. People talk about the bokeh, which is fantastic, but the sharpness is almost startling. Once I saw just how sharp it was it made me really work on my manual focusing technique. When you're close to your subject breathing can shift the camera enough to lose a touch of the tack sharpness this lens can deliver.


Without a doubt... My first trip out I was all hand-held, just to get an idea of how difficult it would be. I found it manageable for some situations, but in the future I'll definitely be using a tripod. Incredibly sharp resolving power reveals just how narrow the band of (relatively) in focus area truly is. Seems to be +/1 a millimeter for close work.

Always makes me happy to encounter a new challenge.
A99ii / SAL2470Z / SAL135F28 / SAL70300G
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Post Options Post Options   Quote mikey2000 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 April 2018 at 09:15
Clearly the lens is in good hands.   I love my STF too.   On FF, it's just about wide enough for taking for a walk.

Definitely a specialist lens, for special circumstances. As you show us with your set above, it's not just for flower pics
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    SineQuaNon View Drop Down
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    Post Options Post Options   Quote SineQuaNon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 April 2018 at 02:42
    Originally posted by mikey2000 mikey2000 wrote:

    Clearly the lens is in good hands.   I love my STF too.   On FF, it's just about wide enough for taking for a walk.

    Definitely a specialist lens, for special circumstances. As you show us with your set above, it's not just for flower pics


    I could deal with a little bit narrower, but I understand their reasoning behind the 135mm focal length to maximize natural background blur without getting into the extreme focal lengths.

    Oooooh yes, flowers might be well suited, but I plan on seeing just how much I can use this lens for over the next few seasons.

    My experience with this lens makes me wish Sony (or any other third party lens manufacturer) would incorporate a milder version of the apodization element in more/many/all of their lenses. Going from f/2.8 to t/4.5 is a significant loss of light, but I have a feeling that a minor compromise for most standard lenses that aren't expected to have insane light-gathering ability would be welcomed if it came with equally enhanced bokeh.

    Imagine if every common f/2.8 lens (good, but not amazing light gathering) came with an apodization filter that only decreased the light-gathering ability to t/3.2 or t/3.5?

    I know, a pipe dream, but still one that I would love to see happen down the road.
    A99ii / SAL2470Z / SAL135F28 / SAL70300G
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    Post Options Post Options   Quote wetapunga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 April 2018 at 11:23
    Fwiw, I used it without a tripod for some portrait shots in the weekend. These were taken outside where the narrow dof and lovely brokeh could isolate the subject quite nicely. The only problem was the sharpness. I ended up dialing down the clarity in LR to soften the skin in the final image. Anyway, the background bokeh helped make a lovely image and the focus peaking function on the camera helped nail the focus.
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