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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.




Jam, Zeiss and potatoes

Toni Ahvenainen

Sony A7 & ZEISS Batis 1.8/85 – f/5.6, 1/13sec, ISO800, raw Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen

Sony A7 & ZEISS Batis 1.8/85 – f/5.6, 1/13sec, ISO800, raw
Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen

I've now worked with this project for two months and I think it's time to look back how my relationship with this setup, the Sony A7 + Zeiss lenses, has developed during those two months. But first you need to know that before this setup shot with my Nex-5N plus two lenses (SEL1855 & SEL50F18) for two years. During that time I was aware of all the Zeiss stuff and full frame Sony cameras but they were beyond anything I could actually afford myself. Very exciting when seeing them through the store display window (I particularly dreamt for the SEL24F18Z), but they were definitely unreachable for me. So when I was given a possibility to work with a setup I could never afford myself I was naturally very happy – or let's just say I was a bit more than just 'very happy'.

I could tell you about the differences between my old and new setup, but I'm not going to bore you because it's what everyone can expect – night and day. Instead I'm going to tell you about some unexpected problems one might confront with when given such a chance. When I received my new setup I was unprepared and for the first month I didn't even have a proper camera case for so many lenses. As we went for little holiday to another town I had to wrap the lenses around scrim (a finely woven lightweight fabric made for babies) to protect them from dents and other minor damage. Hah, if it looked like I was transporting some fragile artifacts of the past, it felt like that even more. With all the expensive equipment I had to approximate what would happen I would encounter with theft for example. Would my home insurance compensate for the loss or would I end up paying them for the rest of my life? The answer is still a bit unsure (would you buy a used car from the insurance salesman?), but it's a fact that the high end kit apparently comes with some high end practical problems that I didn't have with my earlier setup, hah! :D

I must also admit that the question 'do I even deserve to shoot with this superior setup?' has sometimes glimpsed in my mind. It's easy to fallen into this kind of thinking, but to be honest, I don't want to think that photography is a some sort of competition – much too many things in the world are that already. I would like to believe that photography is valuable in all levels and it doesn't have anything to do with the equipment one is using. But at least I can say my photography is not limited by the tools I'm using. And kind of glad that I don't work with the Zeiss Otus lenses – who knows what kind of psychological complexes working with virtually perfect tools would stir up within me! :D

But having worked with this setup for two months now have also cleared up some of my earlier presumptions which I had adopted when learning about Zeiss lenses in the net. When I could only see them through the store display window I used to appreciated them from the competitions point of view (by being a better product than from the company x). But now that I've actually used them in my life the point of view becomes different. Don't get me wrong, the optical performance is there, but it's not the most important thing to me anymore as it is somewhat given with the Zeiss lenses.

Instead I've really become to appreciate them for the aesthetics and design philosophies they carry with them – and how it shows everywhere. For example, as most of the current lenses are represented as 'technologically advanced products' and marketed as 'a gear photographers should lust for', Zeiss does represent their lenses differently. Of course they also use advanced technology when designing and manufacturing lenses but they don't make a big number out of it. For example, I really like the fact that the lenses are named after birds compared to some other naming schemes out there. And with the Zeiss lenses you don't see those common letter combination (OIS, OS, IS, USM, DG, ID and so on) which are so common with other manufacturers when they try to guide your attention to some technological details of their products. Even the demo pictures Zeiss use for demonstrating their lenses are more down to earth than with other manufacturers. The way I see it, Zeiss doesn't even want to promote these lenses just from the technological point of view (other than what is needed in the current business culture). Instead they are, in their aesthetically reduced form, just very thought out lenses without any self-emphasis for the redundant details. In my eye, this kind of simplicity opens up a certain kind of space for me as a photographer since I don't have to participate with the 'techno-culture' which is all too excessive with the photography of today. With simplicity these lenses align very well with my new expectations as they fit into my life and to those photographic situations it comes with – even if it's just potatoes and some jam for the pancakes and nothing more than that. Being nothing more than I am and using tools that are just that, is a simplicity that gives more room for my own photography – and in the end, that's the thing I want to concentrate on, not on the product competition or the search for that 'best equipment'. I know how this sounds: it sounds like I'm pretty happy with this setup. :-)