Coursework 2,  Learning Log,  Research

Choosing a lens for a job

Before starting this course I made a system switch to Sony having only ever used Nikon previously. The biggest change I have found is my lenses. I had built a pretty comprehensive kit over time for my Nikons, but I was starting again on a budget with Sony.

As a result my current kit contains only my Sony A7iii, and two prime lenses; the Samyang 24mm F2.8 and the Samyang 35mm F1.4.
I have found these more than adequate for my preferred documentary work, and I like that these lenses are relatively light, compact (especially the 24mm) and unobtrusive. My frustrations lie in the quality of the glass but due to budget restrictions this is all I can afford currently.

I have some work coming up where I know I will need a longer focal length and so am looking to hire a lens for this. I have hired equipment before and it is a great solution when you don’t need something long term. Eventually I would like to add a longer telephoto lens to my kit but I am keen to wait to see where my studies take me and therefore which lens would be a good addition.

For this job I am restricted to a budget and so realistically can only hire a single lens. I have therefore made a list of requirements to consider:

  • Natural light, no control over lighting.
  • Unknown overall distance from subject, unable to move closer.
  • Shooting un-posed subjects so need a fast lens to capture moments.
  • Want to be able to get some closer images than my wider angle lenses allow.
  • May be lower light conditions.
  • Important to have clear images.

I narrowed it down to three Sony lenses;

  • Sony 85mm f1.4 GM
  • Sony 70-200mm f2.8 GM
  • Sony 24-70mm f2.8 GM

I discounted the 24-70 as I feel it won’t give me the additional zoom beyond my 35mm to be really beneficial. Although it would have been a nice all-rounder to use.

The 85mm appealed due to it being so fast. F1.4 could prove to be really useful if I found there to be very poor lighting. I thought I could maybe then crop images closer if required. This lens may also prove useful in other parts of the shoot and is more compact than the 70-200 to keep on the camera for longer.

However I have decided to go with the 70-200mm F2.8. I feel combined with the low light capabilities of the A7iii body F2.4 will be more than capable of dealing with most light situations, and the additional vesitility having such a wide range of focal lengths provides outweighs the downside of losing the extra few stops, or the compact nature of the 85mm.

I won’t be moving too much when using this lens so the weight and size is less relevant than when I do my usual documentary work where I move around lots.

If the budget was there I would hire both the 85mm and the 70-200mm, but given the restraints the latter is my lens of choice.

While searching I found a few example images that helped me consider my focal lengths, which I felt did a great job of demonstrating the differences.

This image from The Fashion Camera clearly shows the difference in images as you move from 24mm to 100mm. This helped me by making me see I could capture closer more detailed images with a lens longer than 85mm.

This image from a great post by Anna Wu goes a little further by also demonstrating a) the bokeh and compression b) the lens distortion on portraits and c) the different distance required to the subject for similar framing from each length.

I feel the 70-200mm F2.8 will work well and I look forward to experimenting with a new lens! (for a couple of days before it goes back!)


  • Lee Abbey

    Hi Jen – I switched to Sony before I started this course – (from Fuji) as I wanted full frame. The only Sony lens I bought was the 200-600 for wildlife. I can’t justify the high prices of the other sony lenses against the competition – forums are full of people talking about the corners at different f stops which is fine but for 99% of the images it’s a) not going to be noticeable and b) who cares?! I don’t think ive ever looked at a photo (ever) and wondered if it would have been better with a different manufacturers lens! If you haven’t already made a purchase I can recommend the tamron 28-75 2.8 – it would have been nice to have had 24-70 (especially as my sigma wide angle is 14-24 – an expensive purchase that I’m not sure was worth it!). I keep thinking about a 70-200 as thats missing for me but again cost! (f4 maybe – naaaa). Tamron launched a 70-180 for under a grand which might do it though – sooo much lighter 600g (no stabilisation though).
    Review here –
    Anyway good luck!!

    • jennifersarah

      Hi Lee, good to hear from another Sony shooter. My little samyangs have been fantastic for their price so far. Unless you’re pixel peeping I think it’s hard to justify the expense of the alternatives at the moment. I had looked at the Tamron 24-75 and it’s my number one choice currently for my next lens I’m thinking. For this particular job I’m only hiring for the weekend so I can play with some pricier glass – who knows, maybe I’ll see what I’m missing! But, like you, I’ve seen lots of talk about corners etc, and many of the commenters seem to conclude the tamron and even the lower spec sony glass is often better than the GMs given the price difference! Photography has always been a very expensive habit but I’m trying to focus more on the art than the tech for the time being (my bank account is grateful!)

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