[I] have a Nex 7 and Zeiss 24mm that I use for professional photography, but I am beginning to use this kit for Street Photography, jump in for some thoughts and user experience report.
A word about the Zeiss 24mm
In short, it's the best lens I have ever used. Sharp, fast, a dream. I bought this lens out of professional needs but this lens is so versatile, it will probably never leave the Nex7 except for a few shots here and there.
A word about the Nex 7+24mm
I don't know if the Nex7 was designed for the Zeiss or if the Zeiss was designed for the Nex7. It's a dream combination, but more on that in a formal interview. For now, I will simply state that I believe that the 24 megapixels are necessary to juice out all of the revolving power of that Zeiss 24mm. It's jaw dropping.
Fort Lauderdale Street Photography
At the beginning of the year, I stated I wanted to spend at least a day each month to go to Miami in and shoot. Broken promise. Blame Street Presets and Inspired Eye and this blog. The train ride and the bus ride to Miami is gruesome, especially the way back, so I am focusing on something that is only about 30mins away from me: Las Olas boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, FL. There's a few Miami street photographers here and there but never hear of Fort Lauderdale Street Photographer…..the name itself is too long, jeeeeez!
I was really looking forward to capture contrasty light, Chiariscuro style but that didn't happen (except maybe for the shot below). There's no buildings to cast the type of shadows I wanted and everything is pretty much outside. It's pretty much a long strip of road with a bunch of people in it, so I was stuck pretty much focusing on people in the streets. The skyscrapers area of Ft Lauderdale is pretty much void of people, would be perfect for a zombie movie. I miss New York, but you already knew that.
I'm pretty much coming from a Ricoh GRD IV background, that's what I shoot with exclusively in the streets. That means 3 things: Compact-Snap Focus-28mm. I left my GRDIV behind so that I would not be tempted to pull it out. The Nex7 is not a compact, but it fits well in my cross body pack, the kit is actually surprisingly light, I walked for hours and did not once tell myself that this is heavy. I only brought the Zeiss 24mm, I could have brought the 16mm+12mm but that would be for another time. I believed I would miss the snap focus feature, but I compensated with a trick I will outline in a future post.
I used to be a 50mm guy with my D80, when I used the Ricoh GXR I used the 50mm again. I'm very used to the 28mm because of the Ricoh GRD III and Ricoh GRDIV, I really like how it captures a lot in the frame, but sometimes it's a bit too much. The middle man is of course 35mm, not too wide, not too narrow, just perfect. The Zeiss 24mm is already growing on me, I am starting to see in 35mm (24mm=34mm on an APSC sensor), it's just the perfect focal length for me. I see why it is the favorite of many photographers past and present.
I never really understood the tilt LCD but I must say that it really makes sense. I shot everything with the LCD out and only used the viewfinder a few times. I used the Nex 7 in a sort of Twin Lens Relex mode with it on my chest and looking down. It was bright outside but it held it's own. For some of the ultra low angles I wish the LCD flipped completely like the NEX-3n does but it's really asking too much of the camera. I was afraid the protruding lens with hood would bring too much attention but it was not the case, the lens is bigger than the camera, if you look at it from the front, you will have no visual cue of how big or small it is. The whole kit is stealthier than expected.
When I first had it, I didn't like the dial's at all, but the more I use it, the more I like it. I love the triple dial system, the only thing I really need: Top dial for Shutter Speed, the other one for Aperture, the round directional pad for ISO. I had mixed feeling when I first held the grip, but it's very good handling, while in the streets with a strap attached, I found myself balancing the camera with two fingers and it never fell. I had a flash episode but wanted to move away from it because I found i was getting complacent, it was getting a bit too easy to make the subject pop from the background.
I simply visualized the shot I want and exposed for the highlights and simply trusted the sensor to hold the information. I was not disappointed once I got to Lightroom. I knew it had as much dynamic range as the Leica M 240 so I had no problem trusting it. According to DxOMark, the Leica M Type 240 has 13.3 EVs Dynamic Range and the Sony Nex7 has 13.4EVs Dynamic Range (The Nikon D4 has 13.1). Now you have to understand that I was under the early afternoon sun on the beach in FLORIDA. Take a look at that:
I'm the one who killed the shadows because of my Intent, but there is information in the sky and there is under the tree in the left and right. I exposed for the guy's skin tones. Impressive. The 24mm is a great lens, when someone goes to the corners it does not distort that much. You won't be able to see what the Zeiss 24mm can do because I have processed my photographs, but stay tuned for “clean” images taken with it. For the purposes of Street Photography, you can see the Zeiss 24mm is a sort of 3D lens, meaning it makes what is in focus pop in a sort of 3D effect.
I never really used the Nex 7 in the streets that much, when I did I used a manual focus Voigtlander 40mm 1.4. The experience with the AF Zeiss 24mm is much more pleasant and the results much more pleasing. The Voigtlander has a nasty way to fringe really hard. The overall kit is very trustworthy, the most important thing for me in a camera. I separated myself from cameras before because I couldn't trust them. Trustworthy in many ways, like in dynamic range stated above, but also in accuracy. Some shots I just shot and prayed and they were surprisingly in focus.
I did not pray and spray, but the Nex 7's large buffer did come handy more than once. I had a spare battery in the cross body pack (Disregard Amazon calling it a “Fanny pack”) but it held for the whole shooting session. Coming from a small sensor, the images have a nice “HD” look to them that is very pleasing. The bokeh takes the focus out of the background a bit, most of the shots on this page were shot wiggling between f/5.6 and f/8.
The camera and lens is light, fast, reliable and great to use. I have searched online but could not find any information on doing serious photography with the Nex7 + Zeiss 24mm, all I can say is it's absolutely fabulous. Cameras and lenses are only relatively cheap and expensive. The lens and camera are expensive, but it's cheap for what it is. I was sweating a bit on the price of the Zeiss before I got it, but once I did I can safely say that it's well worth the money. You get what you pay for. I highly recommend this kit, not only for street photography, but also for weddings and anything you can think of, especially family stuff.
PS: No, I am not a hip shooter. Most people who shoot from the hip do so in a stealthy way, I absolutely don't. My Nex 7 is clearly in front of me with the LCD out, it's obvious I am shooting. I am very drawn to these low angles for some reason…something to ponder on…
PPS: The color shot of the guy is an experimental look Iz working on for Street Presets.