… than never. True. Except sometimes you’re so late, and being so caused you so much grief, you truly want to kick yourself in the ribs when you finally see the light and realize how much precious time (which usually also equates money) you lost.
Such a thing just happened to me this morning. I mean, here I am, who’ve been moaning and whining for now a YEAR about NEX autofocus speed, but who, at the same time, owned a majority of the NEX models released out there, and some of them several times, no because they broke on me, but because every time I sold one I immediately regretted it and bought it right back. NEX cameras are seriously GOOD, and addictive, too.
So yes, I’ve now collected a very nice stable of cherry picked manual lenses, and I love each and one of them dearly. Yes, the average AF speed for the two native E mount lenses I’m still using, the SEL35/1.8 and the SEL18-55 is acceptable. Not great, but not so bad it impairs my shooting in every day life. EXCEPT… When I shoot indoor horse riding/jumping or dogs running around, or even really active toddlers in a zippy mood.
The leisurely AF wasn’t by far my only grief with NEX. The other pet peeve was pure and simple the LACK of desirable lenses, and more specifically the plain nonexistence of any fast standard zoom.
I waited and waited, and tried workarounds, waited some more, bought SLT cameras and expensive excellent 2.8 AF zooms, sold the whole system back, and waited again. Then came the big news, NEX was finally getting it’s very own quality standard zoom : the Zeiss 16-70 F4. TA DA ! 1000€ a pop, and a big yawn from me. F4, seriously ?? I shoot in a barn so dim at ISO 3200 I painfully manage 125th of second on loping and jumping ponies, and the whole outcome is usually a bit grainy and messy, to say the least. Ladies and gentlemen F4 is NOT going to cut it, and it’s not like it’s a cheap lens either ! 1000$/€, that’s a lot of money for a lot of people, me included.
So me made a quick little add-up in my foggy brains…. I wanted fast and silent AF, I wanted a bright normal zoom, and I wanted excellent optical quality. There weren’t a whole bunch of solutions in front of me, but there was at least one. Buy a used LA-EA2 pellicle mirror adapter, as cheap as I can find it. Buy a constant 2.8 quality standard zoom with FAST autofocus motor, that had to be silent, too. I had the Tamron 17-50/2.8, I know it gives excellent IQ but it’s not a speed demon and the mere memory of it creaking to focus makes me cringe. That’s a loud bastard of a lens, trust me. So that left Sigma’s HSM (I’ve always been a huge fan of Sigma quality line, and they’ve really been getting better, to the point of brilliance recently) and Sony’s own SSM. I went back and forth between the two a bunch of times, but realized Sigma’s Quality Control can be doggy sometimes, and the OS (stabilization) scheme was confusing on Sony bodies, and I don’t enjoy being confused, eh eh. So I started looking for a 16-50/2.8 SSM and boy oh boy, it’ll be in my grubby little hands by tomorrow, given the Post does its job.
What the postman did bring me this morning, to my happy surprise too, was the LEA2 I had found earlier ore-owned on the net. It was packaged to perfection and in absolute like new condition, boxed, with original invoice, exactly as I like stuff to be when I buy used. The price was excellent too : 200€ with shipping (that’s about as cheap as you can find those babies, in France anyway). To my dismay, the LA-EA2 is actually smaller than it looks in pictures. I had wanted to buy one for quite a bit of time, but the new retail price (slightly over 300€) and the size of the thing coupled to cameras in pictures, had made me back off. Again and again. So unboxing it this morning and fitting it on my NEX 7 I was really happy to realize it’s not THAT big, after all. Mainly, it’s tall, so the camera won’t be resting on its own bottom once coupled. But the LA-EA2 sports a nice stable tripod mount that also can also rest in your supporting palm when you shoot. All in all, a well thought out design.
But the one thing I really wasn’t expecting, was to discover new AF points and scheme on my 7, which I know like the back of my hand (and I should by now, I’ve had 5 of them. Five 7’s, that is, I only have two hands…). Yes, when you mount the LA-EA2, your NEX camera starts behaving like a Sony SLT body, giving you the exact same choice of AF modes and AF points clusters. Exactly like I experienced on my A37, A57, and A58. Now, the big question, the thing you all wanna know : how fast is AF ?? Goddamn fast ! So far I’ve only tested it with two older Minolta lenses, one of which is a real piece of shit. I’m sorry to be so blunt, and use foul language, but there’s no other way to put it. While my Minolta 50/1.7 is a fine lens, the 70-210/3.5-4.5 zoom I have has got to be one of the very worst lens I EVER owned, or tried (the other one being an old cheap plasticky Sigma 28-105/2.8-4 I think, which was a turd in its own right, though maybe not quite AS bad as the 70-210). Forget IQ, even the crap zoom’s AF is pretty zippy, and with the 50, it’s near damn instant ! In very low light (my living room is a dim as a cave unless it’s blindlngly bright outside), the “local” AF area mode will plain not nail AF. At all. It’ll hunt and hunt and never lock. Switch to “Wide” AF area mode, and zip ! it locks , no issue (well, it may not focus on what you had in mind though, lol).
So back to my little addition here :
used LA-EA2 : 200€
used 16-50/28 SSM : 420€ (it’s not what I paid for it as I bought one from a guy who was totally clueless of its value, had switched to another brand and just wanted to be rid of it, but I using this figure as it is a credible one for a mint unit with remaining warranty).
Total : 620€ vs. 1000€ for the new Zeiss 16-70/F4 with included Free Slow Poke AF, woo hoo !!
Of course I still have a lot of testing to do. The 16-50 won’t be here until tomorrow, and I might not be able to shoot horses until next wednesday, but overall the LA-EA2 seems amazingly promising, and I just cannot believe I never had the guts (and brains) to try it out before !! I’ll update this review as the new lens gets delivered and I get to try it at the stables. Stay tuned !!