Sony A7R: A Rising Tide Lifts All the Boats?

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I have to admit I didn’t get too worked up when the Sony A7 and A7R were released. The last time I wrote about Sony it was how there were so few lenses for the NEX system years after introduction. So now we’re going to a system requiring a whole new lens mount. Sure the camera’s specs were interesting. But the idea of yet another camera body good mostly for shooting lenses on adapters wasn’t very exciting. So I planned to ignore it.

But my friends over at Imaging-Resource / SLRGear.com were waxing poetic when they talked about their testing of the A7. Then they started claiming that the lenses were really good, too, and sent me some rather shocking test results. Plus, I will admit when it arrived I kind of liked the look and feel of the camera. It’s a very small camera for a full-frame, but with a nice deep grip that felt good in my overly large hands. Sort of a retro appearance. So even though we were a bit backed up, Aaron and I decided to at least run some some preliminary testing in our Imatest lab with the A7R.

Let me be clear – this isn’t an A7R review. Think of it more as a screening test to see if I was even interested in looking at it more seriously. For me, the lack of lenses with a newly released camera means going through several adapters and numerous lenses to see if I could make a reasonably useful kit. There are other options out there that would be a lot less trouble. So unless there was something about it to really impress me, I’d just skip it for now. If things were merely good, I wouldn’t be interested in looking further.

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Iceland Spar: The Rock That Discovered Optics

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Every year, I can’t think of anything I want for Christmas.  So this year, I was pretty excited to come home and tell my wife, “I know exactly what I want for Christmas. A nice big piece of Iceland spar.” I even sent her a link to make it easy. (It’s certainly a comment on our times that I sent a text link across the room to my wife.)


It’s not motion blur, it’s Iceland spar! 

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Available Positions – January, 2014

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Customer Service Representative

We are seeking a full-time customer service representative for our Memphis, TN headquarters. Customer service is our #1 priority, and our customer service representatives ensure our customers have an outstanding experience every time they need to contact us. We are looking for someone who can remain calm and pleasant even under trying and stressful circumstances. Organizational skills and the ability to multitask are absolute musts!

Job Functions:

  • Answer customer service emails/phone calls/chats in a fast-paced environment
  • Work through complex issues with customers and possibly third parties, such as shipping companies
  • Create shipping labels for customer orders
  • Work with customers regarding any billing issues
  • Follow up with customers who have not returned accessories from rentals

Skills Required:

  • Strong customer service experience, preferably in a call center environment
  • Fast typing, with correct grammar and spelling
  • Calmness & the ability to handle a stressful office environment
  • Upbeat personality and demeanor
  • An interest in photography and videography


If this sounds like you, please send your resume to jobs@lensrentals.com – Phone calls will not be accepted!

Photo & Video Technicians

Location: Memphis, TN

We are looking for qualified photo & video technicians to join our team. As a member of our receiving department, you will be on the front lines to ensure customer quality. A technical mind, a passion for gear and how it works, and customer service skills are all important for this position. Like all positions here, an attention to detail and an ability to work fast and under pressure are extremely critical.


  • Punctuality
  • Extreme attention to detail
  • Ability to work under pressure and/or deadlines
  • Ability to do repetitive tasks without going insane
  • Ability to stand for long periods of time and lift up to 50 lbs
  • A passion for photo and video gear. Both the technical side of the equipment, and the practical
  • Customer service skills & general friendliness
  • Photo or video experience of some kind

If this sounds like you, please send your resume to jobs@lensrentals.com - Phone calls will not be accepted!


Administrative Assistant

Location: Memphis, TN

We are looking for an administrative assistant to join our team. The ideal candidate for this position will assist our executive-level employees with varied tasks and will be involved in all areas of our operation.


  • Punctuality
  • Extreme attention to detail
  • Extensive Microsoft Office experience
  • Thick skin – you’ll have multiple bosses who are demanding, and not shy about it
  • College degree preferred
  • Bookkeeping or accounting experience preferred

If this sounds like you, please send your resume to jobs@lensrentals.com - Phone calls will not be accepted!

Metabones Blackmagic

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Metabones, maker of the impressive Speedbooster adapters is back at it again. When the Speedbooster first came out, I wrote about it being like magic, increasing the aperture and field-of-view of Nikon and Canon full-frame lenses mounted to NEX and micro 4/3 cameras, while maintaining or even improving image quality. Now they’ve brought the Metabones magic to the Blackmagic cinema and pocket cinema cameras.

The original Metabones Speedboosters are available in several versions adapting various full-frame lenses to NEX, micro 4/3, and Fuji-X cameras. They offer a magnification factor of 0.71X; meaning the lens focal length changes by this factor and the aperture increases by one stop. For example, a 100mm f/2.8 full-frame lens becomes a 71mm f/2.0 lens when mounted on an NEX camera by a Speedbooster.

For people shooting video on micro 4/3 and APS-C size sensors, the Speedboosters give them an opportunity to shoot with full-frame lenses and reduce the ‘crop factor’ associated with shooting on the smaller sensor size. The also increase the aperture of the lens, letting in more light.

The New Speedboosters

Dr. J. Brian Caldwell (the Speedbooster’s designer) and the folks at Metabones got excited over the possibilities that Blackmagic cameras presented in two ways. First, because the Blackmagic cameras are less than 4/3 sensor size, people shooting with these cameras are always looking for lenses with a wider field-of-view and aperture, a perfect situation for a Speedbooster. Blackmagic shooters are already using m4/3 mount Speedboosters on their cameras regularly.

The other exciting possibility came about because Blackmagic cameras have a bit more wiggle room than micro 4/3 and NEX cameras; the sensor is a bit further back from the mounting flange. This meant they could design a larger Speedbooster with 6 elements and a bit more spacing, rather than the 4 elements in the original Speedbooster.

I was able to talk with Brian about the opportunities this provided and was given two prototypes to use for some preliminary testing here at Lensrentals.

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Photo Geek Contest 2013 Winners

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I am the poster child for that old saying, “Be careful what you ask for. You might get it.” I thought it would be fun to have a little contest just for the Photo Geeks who read my blog posts. I thought maybe 10 or 15 people would enter and we’d be like the 8 year-old soccer team: Trophies and pizza for everyone at the end of the season!

Of course, there was the possibility that no one would enter. In that case, I figured, no one would notice and I’d get to keep the prizes. I’m always OK with keeping prizes.

Well, so much for my plans. The First Annual Photo Geek Geek Photo contest received over 400 entries from at least 20 countries. And they were really good. Many of the entries went to a level of geekiness that surpassed anything I’ve ever tried (and that’s saying something). Others were geekily created images that could well be entered in a straight photo contest. There were beautiful images, funny images, intimidating images, and images that we don’t have words to describe.

The contest pages have had well over 30,000 visits. We felt there were so many deserving entries that we increased the number prizes. Then we increased them again. The judges have exhausted themselves trying to pick out the very best among the best. The truth is, I think all of the judges felt inadequate to the task. There were so many outstanding images that we feel bad for the many excellent ones that weren’t awarded.

I’m going to put thumbnails of the various winners up below, but I do encourage you to go to the contest page to see them in their original size. Many, being geeky things, really lose something when downsized to fit on this page.

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Black Friday Deals

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It’s time for our 4th Annual Black Friday Sale. This year, we are getting the party started early, 10 AM CT on Wednesday. You can get 25% off any rental placed at Lensrentals.com during the sale.

At our sister site, LensAuthority.com, we’ll be giving you 10% off all used equipment. We also have some great doorbusters. And this year, we listened to you, and will be offering at least 6 copies of each doorbuster for sale, increasing your chances of being able to snag one.

To get your 25% off rentals at Lensrentals.com or to get 10% off your used gear purchases at LensAuthority.com, simply use the promo code: BLACKFRIDAY Continue reading

The Cynic’s Photography Dictionary

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Picture -  A representation in two dimensions of something wearisome in three.   Ambrose Bierce

I’m a fan of the satirical and cynical definitions of Ambrose Bierce, first written as a daily newspaper column and later collected in The Devil’s Dictionary. (It was originally called the Cynic’s Word Book, but so many politicians of the day called Bierce a Devil that he felt the new title more appropriate.)

Ambrose Bierce

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Otus is Scharf

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I’m probably setting myself up for a replay of the Exo Tria Arxidia scene, but my friend Bernhard introduced me to the German term scharf the other day. It can mean both sharp and hot (as in spicy, or as in, you know, hot).  After testing our first copies of the Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus lens I felt the term scharf was just perfect to describe this lens.

As you know, I usually like to have a half-dozen or more copies of a lens before testing, but in this case getting a half-dozen copies all at once doesn’t seem likely. We received two of the 20 something Tyler ordered and don’t know when more will show up. Both of these appeared well-centered, as expected, and Zeiss primes usually have small sample variation, so I thought testing the two before the went out for their first rentals was still worthwhile.


I always enjoy reading online where people trash a pre-release lens even though they’ve never held it. In this case, 7,364 people had told me how huge this lens was and that they wouldn’t have one as a gift because of it’s gigantic size. It is definitely bigger than most standard-range primes, as you can see in the comparison below with a Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro Planar and a Nikon 58mm f/1.4 G, neither of which is considered a small lens.


Left to right: Nikon 58mm f/1.4 G, Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus, Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro Planar

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Inspecting an ‘In Spec’ Lens

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I’m going to open a can of worms today.  I’ve been getting more and more emails from people telling me the same story that goes like this:

I’ve got this lens. It’s awful. I’ve sent it in for adjustment and the service center tells me it’s ‘in spec’ and nothing is wrong with it. Am I crazy?


Second only to the dreaded ‘impact damage – warranty void‘ statement, the ‘lens is in spec’ statement seems to be some factory service center’s answer to far too many complaints. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes there is impact damage and the warranty should be void. But I can’t think of any reason why this seems to happen only to certain brands and never to others. Similarly, lenses a customer thinks are bad can be ‘in spec’. The problem is, since the factory service center doesn’t have to tell us what ‘in spec’ means, it’s open to a lot of abuse. Continue reading