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Samyang FE 24mm T/1.5 Cine E-Mount on Sony A7

Samyang 24mm T/1.5 cine lens for Sony E-mount, about $699 at B&H Photo.

Yesterday I shot the Sony A7 extensively inside a gymnasium at an indoor crew meet using “ergs” (rowing machines). Regrettably, I cannot show the images as they are of minors and this was shot for private purposes (crew team), and no model releases.

I chose the Sony A7 for its full frame sensor of 24 megapixels, which allows good control of noise at ISO 1600 and also some measure of cropping (24 megapixels). The A7 also has an electronic first curtain shutter, which makes it feel slightly responsive than the A7R, and there is also no vibration risk. I shot at 24mm because the nature of the subject demanded some wide angle capability for the photojournalistic style I was after. T

The lighting was an overhead mixed-color mercury vapor and tungsten lighting (or something like that), generating a cartoonish green and magenta mixture (with spectral gaps no doubt). An awful lighting scenario, so I ended up converting the images to black and white. Lighting like that is a serious challenge for any camera: a badly underexposed blue channel, a “hot” red channel. The Sony A7 did well, but there is quite strong noise in some images, with two underexposed channels and the red channel maxed-out. But the noise pattern is random and I liked the effect which feels like black and white film—very impressive in that regard, so my commendation to Sony on the A7 sensor.

If you’ve ever seen a crewteam “erg”, then you’ll understand what a challenging contest of “grit” it is, with some of the advanced rowers just about collapsing on the floor after their efforts. As such the black and white rendition with some grain to it made a perfectly appropriate match for the topic. I was pleased with the results, and rather proud of the resulting images in conveying the sense of determination and “suffering”.

As for the Samyang 24mm f/1.4, I was pleased with both the operational feel and the resulting images, especially in bokeh terms, though distortion is higher than I’d like (and correctable).

On the “erg” machines, there is no question of being able to track with autofocus (rapid back and forth, even a Nikon D4 would have serious difficulty); it’s about manual focus and timing the exposure as the rower passes into focus. A 10 fps camera burst mode is probably ideal, but it would have generated a huge image count (ugggg), and I chose to time my exposures for facial expressions and positions by prefocusing the (manual focus) lens.

The Cine version has declicked apertures offering full manual aperture control: the camera has no control whatsoever over the aperture, so focusing and shooting are strictly mechanically controlled. That operational capability is something I like very much under some conditions, and it dovetails with a high-grade EVF. I would buy the Cine version in preference to the regular version so as to retain control over the aperture, which includes the continuous aperture control and inherent depth of field WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get and what you focus with too). I also prefer the build of the Cine lens over the non-Cine version; in particular I like the coarsely-ribbed focusing ring because it is easy to find by feel and/or with gloves.

Samyang 24mm T/1.5 (cine version)
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