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phil.elsasser

Sony Macro Options: Sony 90mm vs Sigma 105mm

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Does anyone have experience with both of these lenses to determine which has better Autofocus when paired with a A7rIV or A1?  It sounds like both are very sharp lenses, but there are conflicting reports of which one has better AF underwater.  Would love any feedback on the topic.

I recently spoke with a sales representative at backscatter who didn't think the sony 90mm was a good option, so wanted to get some more opinions here. 

Thanks all!

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6 hours ago, phil.elsasser said:

Does anyone have experience with both of these lenses to determine which has better Autofocus when paired with a A7rIV or A1?  It sounds like both are very sharp lenses, but there are conflicting reports of which one has better AF underwater.  Would love any feedback on the topic.

I recently spoke with a sales representative at backscatter who didn't think the sony 90mm was a good option, so wanted to get some more opinions here. 

Thanks all!

There's three different Sigma 105mm macros, the EX DG OS lens and the DG DN art lens as well as the older non OS lens.   The old lens changes length a lot as it focuses but the other two do not.  You would need to be specific about which lens you were interested in or which lens you are getting reports about.

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Back when I was trying to decide between these two lenses the consensus (from topside reviewers) seemed to be that the Sigma had slightly better image quality but slightly worse autofocus. I ended up going with the Sony since the Sigma was not yet listed as compatible with the Nauticam EMWL system that I wanted to try out. I'm still intrigued by the image quality of the Sigma, but I'd be a little concerned about reports of its autofocus struggling at close distances in low light (which would apply to underwater photography unless you're using a focus light).

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@phil.elsasser

My daughter and I were just in Backscatter in person a few days before X-mas talking w/someone about the Sony 90mm (which my daughter shoots with an A7R4). It is slower than either my Nikon D850 or D500 (with either the 105mm or 60mm lens) but the AF is faster than it was on my daughter's old A7III, and faster than the Sigma 105 she tried about 6 months ago. 

Close distances and low light were not great with either, but definitely better with the 90mm lens.

What really will matter is what you want to shoot - she likes shooting macro reef critters - the 90mm is a good lens for this (and the AF is fast enough for most subjects). For scenarios like shooting blackwater I would say this will be a very frustrating situation (which is the primary reason I have not switched to mirrorless yet). 

 

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Posted (edited)

@Isaac Szabo  and @oneyellowtang thanks for the input!

 

I just read this post re: the 90mm on the A1 and sounds like it is pretty good on that camera :)

 

https://www.backscatter.com/reviews/post/Sony-a1-Underwater-Camera-Review


 

Quote

 

 

However, the specs only tell one part of the story. In practical use, the AF tracking on the Sony a1 was even more impressive. Previously on Sony α series cameras, focusing with the Sony 90mm macro lens was so slow as to be unusable for macro shooting. A Canon 100mm IS with a lens adapter like the Sigma MC-11 outperformed the Sony 90mm for focus speed. Even with the Sony a7R IV’s improved autofocus over previous Sony cameras yielded great results for wide angle type shooting, macro with the Sony 90mm still suffered from such sluggish performance and focus hunting that made autofocus in all practicality, useless.

That has all changed with the Sony a1. The new autofocus system with the Sony 90mm macro is now the best autofocusing macro lens I have ever used. The lens focuses quickly and accurately without the massive focus hunting on previous models. The tracking is very impressive, locking onto the head of coral gobies and blennies I was shooting. Even more impressive is that when the camera locked onto the head of a goby or blenny, the focus square then switched to a smaller square and tracked the eyeball! It still did this even with a wet mate macro lens which is just about the worst autofocus test for a camera ever.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by phil.elsasser

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@phil.elsasser Thanks for the link. Sounds very promising! Though to say that the 90mm was unusable on previous models is quite an exaggeration. 

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I have the 90mm and love it.  I have used both lenses and would prefer the 90mm for autofocus. 

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Fully agree @Isaac Szabo, the 90mm lens was and is very usable... not quite sure what the author was trying to communicate by saying it was "unusable" - brings into question the more positive points made in the article.

 

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2 hours ago, oneyellowtang said:

Fully agree @Isaac Szabo, the 90mm lens was and is very usable... not quite sure what the author was trying to communicate by saying it was "unusable" - brings into question the more positive points made in the article.

 

There is often a bit of learning involved with getting unco-operative macro lenses to focus, generally just activating AF and hoping it finds your subject can be a problem.   Previous posts on the subject have indicated earlier alpha series cameras were not as good as the latest crop - but in all likelihood not useless.  The post referenced is talking up a new model camera after all.

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On a slightly different note, there seems to a lot of 90mm macro that are very flaky. Check out the internet for posts regarding focus issues and f-stops not working. For me reliability is very important and having a flaky lens that would break on a rough boat ride would be a non-starter.

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@vaidhy

My daughter has two of them, neither have been "flaky" (not a scientific comparison)...

Also, in diving with about 1/2 dozen divers now shooting with Sony rigs, I've never heard this being an issue (you do hear that the 90mm can be slow in low light, that seems to improve with each new generation of Sony camera; certainly better moving from the A7III to the A7r4).

 

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I bought a used 90mm on ebay, and when it arrived, it wouldn't focus or actuate the aperture. I returned it to the seller for a full refund, bought another used one, and that one has been working fine since then.

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I think I am convinced to go with the Sony at this point.  I am curious about the focus limiter on it. Previously I shot with the Olympus 60mm macro, which for "true" macro had to be limited to the minimal focus distance by the limiter, making it unusable while underwater for fish portrait type shots.  Sometime I would go out with it set up ahead of time for the longer working distance when wanting to capture somewhat larger subjects.

It looks like the Sony would allow for the full focusing range to be selected while still shooting true macro.  Is this correct? I would guess the autofocus would have to work a little harder to initial acquire focus, but this might be a reasonable trade off for the in dive flexibility. 

Appreciate all the comments and responses! Pretty excited to get the new camera underwater soon. 

 

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1 hour ago, phil.elsasser said:

It looks like the Sony would allow for the full focusing range to be selected while still shooting true macro.  Is this correct?

I always leave it at full range. I tried the 0.28-0.5m setting once and got a ruined dive for my troubles. Didn't notice any difference in focusing speed, and it couldn't focus on any but the tiniest stuff (caveat: I have it on an A6300, so it's an APS-C crop on top of its already narrow field of view). At full range, these images were shot during the same dive (the first one used a Weefine WFL05S diopter; all are full resolution, no crop).

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The Sony FE 90mm macro was released in early 2015 so is a bit old compared to current macro lenses for mirrorless cameras from Canon, Nikon, Sigma and others. Lens development has changed dramatically since 2015 but the 90mm still holds it own on many levels. 

The new Sigma looks excellent and has some upsides with a lower cost, the ability to be used with tele converters up to X2 and excellent image quality. It is however a bit slower than the Sony 90mm.

I have tired the Canon 100mm macro IS with Sigma and Metabones adapters on Sony A7R IV and A1 and unlike Backscatter I found no noticeable difference on A7R IV and the 90 was clearly faster on A1. When I first started using the 90mm on A7 II and A7R II I used focus limiting because the lens hunted less. As the camera bodies improved I moved to focusing through the full range unless I set out to do nothing but 1:1 or greate macror. I also agree with Jim Decker's (Backscatter) statement that the Sony 90mmm macro matted with the Sony A1 camera is the best macro I have ever used and between use we have used a bunch. 

One of the best tests of macro lenses auto focusing underwater is blackwater diving where everything is in motion including the diver, camera and subject. The two attached photos where taken on blackwater dives using the Sony A7R III and A1 with the 90mm macro. The Zoea, larval stage crab was taken in the Philippines with the A7R III. The constantly moving Juvenile Tuna (about three inches/76mm) was taken off Palm Beach, Florida using AF-C and focus area tracking spot which acquired the head and eye instantly. I also use the 1/400th shutter speed for blackwater and see a noticeable difference over 1/250th sec. You would think that on a night dive miles off shore that the water would be black to begin with but I find far more purple tint with the 1/250th over the 1/400th speed.

 

   

untitled-02059-2.jpg

untitled-09222.jpg

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10 hours ago, phil.elsasser said:

I think I am convinced to go with the Sony at this point.  I am curious about the focus limiter on it. Previously I shot with the Olympus 60mm macro, which for "true" macro had to be limited to the minimal focus distance by the limiter, making it unusable while underwater for fish portrait type shots.  Sometime I would go out with it set up ahead of time for the longer working distance when wanting to capture somewhat larger subjects.

It looks like the Sony would allow for the full focusing range to be selected while still shooting true macro.  Is this correct? I would guess the autofocus would have to work a little harder to initial acquire focus, but this might be a reasonable trade off for the in dive flexibility. 

Appreciate all the comments and responses! Pretty excited to get the new camera underwater soon. 

 

The 90mm should have a field of view that fits a subject 200mm across the horizontal frame at the maximum 500mm focus distance with the focus limiter activated. 

on the Olympus why do you say it "had"to be limited to the 0.19 - 0.4m range?  I always leave mine on the full range setting.

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1 hour ago, ChrisRoss said:

The 90mm should have a field of view that fits a subject 200mm across the horizontal frame at the maximum 500mm focus distance with the focus limiter activated. 

I just checked (on land) and best I could get with the focus limiter was 9cm across. On full-frame that's be about 14cm.

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41 minutes ago, Barmaglot said:

I just checked (on land) and best I could get with the focus limiter was 9cm across. On full-frame that's be about 14cm.

Thanks for the check, mine was a calculation based upon the  field of view of a 90mm lens.  It will be less in water due to the magnification effect of the flat port.

 

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On 1/6/2022 at 4:24 PM, ChrisRoss said:

The 90mm should have a field of view that fits a subject 200mm across the horizontal frame at the maximum 500mm focus distance with the focus limiter activated. 

on the Olympus why do you say it "had"to be limited to the 0.19 - 0.4m range?  I always leave mine on the full range setting.

That is a great question, I could never seem to get it to focus well for true macro subjects with the full range.  Maybe it was just my lens, but I had way better luck when shooting nudibranchs for example with the focus limiter engaged. 

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2 hours ago, phil.elsasser said:

That is a great question, I could never seem to get it to focus well for true macro subjects with the full range.  Maybe it was just my lens, but I had way better luck when shooting nudibranchs for example with the focus limiter engaged. 

quite possibly camera dependent, I have the EM-1 MkII and it is miles ahead of my old EM-5 MkII for AF with the macro lens.

That's the thing with macro lenses the performance can vary depending on how good the AF is on the camera you are using, so you need to reference both camera and lens.

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