This $1,800 Sony lens looks superb but its main competition, the Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8, is also an excellent lens and you truly cannot go wrong with either.
If you’re a Nikon shooter the $450 AF-S 85mm F1.8 is an incredible value. For Canon the 85mm F1.8 is starting to show its age but it’s still usable.
Viktor Pavlovic has released an excellent comparison of the the Zeiss Otus, Milvus, and Planar 85mm lenses. What we found most interesting was the conclusion that:
Stopped down to f/2.8 and smaller it [Planar] comes actually very close to Otus and Milvus, and most professional photographers won’t shot portraits at wide open aperture anyway.
So whether or not the Otus or Milvus is worth it to you depends on how much you really need to shoot at F1.4 and how much you are willing to deal with the extra cost and physical size and weight of the Milvus and Otus. Don’t get us wrong, we want both an Otus and Milvus, but we have no doubts that a Planar in the hands of a competent photographer can produce excellent results.
These are of course manual focus lenses and trying to focus them on a Nikon or a Canon body is a pain. You require a tripod and a loupe and the camera to be in live-view mode to really focus properly. Mirrorless cameras like the Sony A7 series do better with manual focus lenses but the Otus and the Milvus are huge on the Sony bodies and do not balance well. So there is no perfect solution to focusing these lenses presently, just compromises on either side of the fence.
Many of the sensors in Nikon cameras are made by Sony, and Sony’s sensors are considered superior to Canon’s. Despite having great sensors Sony cameras have not been good until the recent generation (the Sony A7r II is usable for some kinds of fashion photography) and we expect Sony will continue to improve and eventually begin to match and maybe even exceed Canon and Nikon. Lens choices was a huge issue for Sony shooters, but they’ve made things more interesting by releasing three lenses that are great focal lengths for fashion photography: 85mm F1.4, 24-70 F2.8, and a 70-200 F2.8.
But this is where things get a bit fuzzy. These 3 lenses are big lenses and Sony’s camera bodies are small. If you’re going to have a big lens then what’s the advantage of having a small body? We like the Sony with smaller lenses as it’s way easier to carry around than a dSLR. But if you’re going to have big lenses, should you just stick with a dSLR anyway since their autofocus and price are better? How a photographer answers these questions will depend on a large number of factors. Choice is a good thing though, and we applaud Sony for adding more lenses that will be of use to the fashion photographer.
First the Nikon D5 was released, and now Canon’s EOS-1D X Mark II. These are both great cameras that will set you back $6000. With their very fast frame-rates, improved autofocus and their low-light abilities, these are great cameras for shooting runway photography or any other darkly lit venue where your subject is moving around a lot.
These two new cameras are both 20 megapixels each. You could buy a Canon 6D or a Nikon D610 and have a full frame camera at only a quarter of the price. And you will have the same or more megapixels. A lot of fashion photography involves a model standing still(ish) and following direction. The 6D or D610 are more than enough for that scenario.
Alternatively you can buy a Nikon D5500 or Canon T6i and still have more megapixels than either of the $6000 cameras.
Obviously the more expensive cameras have advantages but in good lighting, with a decent lens, and in the hands of a competent photographer it becomes really hard to tell images apart on modern sensors which are mostly all good.
We understand gear lust you can worry about having the best gear when you’re making too much money from your photography. But in the meanwhile learning the art and skill of photography is far better than sinking money into camera bodies whose value can drop quickly. And for fashion photography in particular we have one of the strongest use cases to prefer megapixels. More megapixels is better for print, and a lot of fashion photography is destined for print. For this reason we prefer the Nikon D810 (36 megapixels) and the Canon 5Ds (50 megapixels) or even the Sony A7r II (42 megapixels) over the D5 or 1D X II. Remember too, and we will explain this in a later post, to get double the megapixels of about 20 you will need around 80 megapixels.