The Sony A7III has been covered by so many other people that it almost feels like a waste of time doing this. Thankfully, I feel like I’ve had a bit of a different experience shooting with it than most people who have been putting reviews out there. Normally you see a lot about focusing accuracy, the different focusing modes and how useful each is any given situation… blah, blah, blah. It all starts to sound the same to me. This is not one of those reviews.
I do have a little bit of experience shooting with a couple of autofocus lenses, the 85mm 1.8 and the 50mm 1.8 but unlike most people, I usually choose to shoot with some of my old manual focus lenses from my Nikon film cameras. It isn’t that the native Sony lenses aren’t awesome, especially the 85, but it’s because the A7III is so amazing to shoot with old manual focus lenses. I regularly tell people that manual focus lenses are easier to shoot on mirrorless cameras than they are on the very camera bodies they were meant for.
Only the very best focusing screens will show depth of field below about f/2. Anyone who has shot medium format with a stock screen has surely experienced issues with focusing wide open. I had a terrible time focusing my Hasselblad with the 80mm f/2.8 with the stock focusing screen. When I finally paid Mr. Bill Maxwell it got a lot better but we’re talking about spending hundreds of dollars on top of the cost of the camera and lens just to get consistently sharp photos. Manual focus 35mm cameras are a little bit better but I still refused to go below f/2 with any of the 35mm cameras I have owned on a regular basis.
This is where mirrorless cameras like the A7III really shine. You can actually see the real depth of field you are shooting at. Even without focusing aids it’s easier to focus with my A7III and I regularly shoot wide open no matter how far my camera to subject distance is. Apparently I can’t see well enough to hit focus regularly with any film cameras if my subject is 10 feet or farther from me. It’s not like that at all with the Sony. I shoot my 50mm f/1.8 at 1.8 almost all of the time and rarely have out of focus images.
Focusing aids are another huge help. With my 35mm cameras I always lean extremely heavily on the split prism in the middle of the focusing screen when I focus. I end up focusing and recomposing a lot which means I look really awesome doing some kind of weird head bob at the people in front of me.
With the Sony I use the focus peaking feature set to yellow highlights. As different areas of my frame come into focus the edges turn yellow no matter where in my frame they are. It’s awesome! Not only am I not doing a weird head bob dance thingy at the people in front of me all of the time but my photos are in focus way more often.
A complaint I hear about Sony cameras all of the time is that they feel more like computers than cameras. I’m not sure if the same applies to the new Nikon and Canon cameras but I feel like Fuji really got it right by designing cameras with a ton of ridiculous technology built in while having the old fashioned feel of manual control. Shooting the A7III with old manual lenses isn’t like the slow process of shooting with my F3 or Rolleiflex but it is slower than shooting with native autofocus lenses. I actually feel like using my old lenses balances almost perfectly between old and new. I get the ridiculous frame rate of a new camera but also need to consider whether or not I will be able to focus on whatever I’m shooting. Shooting moving subjects is possible and fun but there are times when my results are anything but consistent. That’s definitely not an issue of equipment but has more to do with my own inability be a manual focusing ninja.
Last but not least…. legacy lenses (I hate that term! But it seems like it’s what people use) have a look that absolutely stands out when compared with new lenses. I guess I’d call it perfection in imperfection. New lens are optimized with computers and are designed to give great sharpness over the whole frame. Old lenses like my Nikon 50mm f/1.8 and 35mm f/2… not so much. I mean, they’re great in the sharpness department but I wouldn’t call it clinical by any stretch of the imagination. I used to own the Sigma Art 35mm and it was tack sharp but I always prefer the way photos with my old Nikon 35mm f/2 turned out even though the Sigma is better from a technical standpoint. Old lenses have a ridiculous amount of character and help me get that film look I always go for. It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of the film look that people attribute to film itself also has to do with the lenses that are being used.
I’m sure there is a lot more I could mention but let’s face it, I’m a pretty simple dude and the simplicity of shooting with old lenses on a camera that was designed with a mind blowing amount of auto focus wizardry just seems to work for me. If you have some old lenses laying around check Amazon for some simple lens adapters and give it a try. You might even like the experience and results more than what you’re already using.
Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AIS
Nikon 35mm f/2 AIS
K&F Concept Nikon F mount to Sony E mount adapter