Telephoto Troubles

Sony A7R with Canon 70-200L.
Sony A7R with Canon 70-200L.

Not too long ago I took the decision to supplement my Olympus EM5 with a full frame camera and purchased a Sony A7R. It was the smallest and most compact option on the market for full frame at the time. I really like Sony cameras for their colour handling (I also have an RX10) and the A7R is no exception. But one of the other features of the Sony is that I can easily “bolt on” almost any lens using an adapter.

In the past, as much as I like the Sony cameras, their lenses have been a bit of a let-down. The choice of focal lengths is limited and the image quality has suffered into the corners. With this in mind I opted to purchase Canon EF lenses which I am familiar with having previously owned a Canon 5D MKII.

My lens choice was the 16-35 L f/4.0, the 24-70 L f/4.0 and a telephoto. I say telephoto as I really wasn’t sure which lens I wanted. As it turned out I finally went for the 70-200 L f/4.0 in the knowledge that this was a super lens and good value for money. Yes it was quite large and heavy but with a lens collar fitted I could expect good results when mounted on a tripod.

Unfortunately my experience of the 70-200 lens was not what I expected. Most of the time, probably 80%, I achieved great images. They were sharp, especially into the corners of the frame and the image quality was excellent at any aperture. This is the sort of lens that you want, where you can simply ignore the aperture and focal length from the perspective of image quality.

The problem with the other 20% of images though was quite an unusual one and occurred quite randomly. I could shoot a sequence of images using the same settings and without touching the camera, some would display the problem whilst others wouldn’t. The problem was that parts of the frame would be in focus whilst other areas would be blurred. In some instances the blurred area would be in the middle of the frame but the foreground and distance would be sharp. You can see an example below.

Full image
Full image
Foreground - in focus
Foreground – in focus
Mid distance - out of focus
Mid distance – out of focus
Distant hills - in focus
Distant hills – in focus

In the end the lens was sent back for a refund and a new lens purchased. Full marks to WEX Photographic for their service. In my next post I will explain which lens I purchased – it might come as a surprise.

Great news also. Lenscraft is back up and running on the new website host.

14 thoughts on “Telephoto Troubles

  1. Great read again Robin! Your new lens…. Does it only have manual focus and manufactured a couple of decades ago?

    1. It was responsible of the seller to refund your purchase. Isn’t the L series of Canon lens regarded as professional class? You were unlucky to receive a dud. Looking forward to your review of your replacement lens.

  2. I’ve used a Canon 70-200 f4L (the IS version) for a few years now and haven’t had any issues with it. The only grumble I have is that the tripod collar wasn’t included and is expensive. Can’t fault it for optical performance.

    1. It is definately an excellent lens. I don’t know why I had problems but I’m very impressed with my alternative choice as you will read tomorrow.
      If you haven’t bought the Canon collar then Polaroid make an excellent one for this lens. I bought mine new for £15 from Amazon although its currently unavailable. A good and even cheaper alternative is the Eggsnow collar

      Eggsnow Tripod Collar Mount

      The only reason I picked the Polaroid is that the colour is an exact match.

  3. Thank you for your interesting post.
    How does the A7r compare to your EM5?
    Do you still use the Olympus or mainly the Sony?
    I am also considering to jump into fullframe land with an A7m1 but am not sure if its worth it, the hussel with manual lenses and no stabilisation, etc…

    1. The feel of the two cameras is very similar, especially as I use the 12-40 Olympus lens on the EM5. This isn’t too much smaller than the A7R with 24-70 Canon lens attached. I still use the EM5 regularly though and save the A7 for when I have time. Shooting with a longer lens is a bit of a pain on the Sony as it tends to pick up vibrations quite easily but you soon get used to it. I have the MKI A7R so there is no stabilisation but this is built into the canon lenses and it does still work very well through the lens adapter; something that surprised me.
      As for manual focus, I thought it would be painful but I love it. When I’m working on a tripod I tend to zoom in to full magnification with the live view and use that to focus. When handholding I use the focus peaking. A few twists of the focus ring backwards and forwards and it’s pretty quick and easy to get the focus right.
      But it’s results that count and I’m impressed. There is a lot more latitude when processing RAW files and images actually make the EM5 look a little noisy. Wow!

  4. Hi Robin,

    I was wondering if you considered the Canon D6. I’m very interested in it, the only thing I have my doubts about is going back to an OVF. I’m a huge fan of the digital kind.


    1. Hi Petra,
      To be honest, I didn’t really consider much. I knew that I really liked the colours that my Sony kit produced and when I picked up the A7R it just felt like a beefed up Olympus EM5. The thing that has always put me off the Sony kit is the lens range and quality. I have had poor experiences in the past. Once I realised that I could bolt on Canon L series lenses I was quite happy to consider the camera. Having now used it quite a bit alongside the EM5, I still feel the EM5 wins for usability.
      I’m with you though on the subject of viewfinders. I like a good digital one and find it more difficult now to work with the Optical sort.

      1. Yes, getting the right lens on a Sony is part of my problem as well. I’m now selling stuff to get the OMD EM1. I have my eye on some Olympus 4/3 lenses for birding attempts, but they don’t work well with the OMD EM10 I own. So that’s the first goal I’m trying to archieve. It’s simply easier to get reach with a micro 4/3 camera.

        I’m also still longing for a full frame. I often use manual focus to really nail the focus on small things in a busy enviroment, like birds between branches, or the exact flower in a field, and I find sony’s focus peaking so easy to use and much better than the Olympus’, But the lenses indeed… and then there’s the weight… Sony is the lightest, but it needs an adapter, which adds weight, and costs. I’ve always loved the Canon 5D mark II shots I see online, they seem to have something special, like a real depth, with a nice soft transition from the subject to the bokeh, and the 6D is capable of the same results. Plus the noise performance is excellent. So choices, choices, same as ever here:-)

        Glad you still like your EM5, you are very faithful to that one:-)

      2. Hi Petra. If you do decide to make the switch to Canon, be sure to try out shadow recovery on some Canon RAW files. As much as I liked and was impressed by my 5DMKII it had a bad failing. There was a lot of noise in the shadows and especially the blue channel. This would become very evident when the files were converted to black and white. But your right, choices, choices. I doubt there is a perfect answer.

      3. Oh wow, that I had not expected. I always read this is the low light king. I do hate noise, but maybe I won’t notice because I hardly process my pictures even though I shoot in RAW.

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