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One year with Sony Alpha cameras and ZEISS E-mount lenses. Developing my own photographic eye in a in a scratch book manner. Hunting the stream of inspiration and sharing it through a popular blog platform.
This is what 'Days of Zeiss' is all about.




Low light stuff

Toni Ahvenainen

Sony A7 & ZEISS Batis 1.8/85 – f/1.8, 1/13sec, ISO800, raw Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen

Sony A7 & ZEISS Batis 1.8/85 – f/1.8, 1/13sec, ISO800, raw
Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen

One thing I haven't told you yet is that I had couple of false starts with a photography when I was younger. I've always been a visual person and photography intrigued me when I was about twenty years old. My first camera was a loaner from a friend, a Canon Powershot 600 from the year 1996 with a whopping 0,5 megapixels. I took these crunchy high contrast pictures of rusted metal and even made a little exhibition with them at the local library (check out couple of sample pictures from here). After that I was guided to a real film camera with b&w Tri-X film, but being a kid of the early digital age I didn't glue with it all. During the coming years I tried out all sort of consumer grade digital cameras, but remember being always disappointed with the results as they were so noisy and always had somehow false colors with them – I really should have stick to a professional analog camera and learn it properly.

But after our first child Aura was born 2012 I knew I had to buy some sort of digital camera (before Aura my cameras were always loaners from others). So with the help of a friend, I decided to go with the Sony Nex-5N. Suddenly this was a blast of inspiration and especially with the SEL50F18 (fast 50mm lens with a f/1.8 maximum aperture) I was able to take pictures that had always been impossible before. The lens even had optical image stabilizer that made it possible for me to get pictures in very dark conditions. I didn't knew any of this when I bought the camera, but it was so inspiring that working within the darkness soon became my own niche.  

Then after couple of years when I upgraded to the Sony A7 I didn't have that wonder lens anymore. Sure the Sony A7 was a full frame camera which meant, in theory, a lower noise and better performance in low light than with the Nex-5N. But in reality I wasn't getting as good results. None of my limited lenses had any optical stabilizers in them and I was actually going backwards with the A7. That's one of the reason I didn't actually glue with it like I did with the Nex-5N earlier. I much preferred the ergonomics of the camera and especially the viewfinder, but still felt kind of limited with it. Honestly, I was losing the inspiration that I once had with the Nex-5N.

Then enter the Zeiss Batis 1.8/85. As you probably already know, this lens has that optical stabilizer which was so important for me when working with the improvised pictures in low light and darkness. Now the Batis 1.8/85 is in many ways a superior lens compared to the SEL50F18, no surprises here, but image stabilizer combined with the relatively large aperture is the thing that makes it an inspiration conductor for me. And in addition it works with the full frame sensor, which means that this setup is superb for any kind of low light stuff. For example, the picture above is taken hand held with the exposure time of 1/13 seconds. With the Nex-5N & SEL50F18 that was the longest exposure time I could get without a tripod. With Batis I've managed to get good results with even as long as 1/6 seconds which is pretty awesome, though it starts to take a bit of effort. Not really sure why the image stabilizer in Batis is more effective as it should be more difficult to stabilize a bigger lens, but it could also be that with the Sony A7 I have a better shooting posture as I'm holding the camera against my face. Anyway, for me this combination is the winning ticket for the hand held low light photography and I'm really happy to finally be here where the low light stuff is inspiring again.