Landscapes With The Sony 70-200mm
When I said yesterday that I wanted to test my new A7ii and telephoto lens for landscape photography, some people probably wondered why I’d pick that lens when I have a 16-35 Zeiss in my bag.
I have a bit of a weird obsession with telephoto landscape shots. There’s something magical in showing a perspective of a place that people might not usually see. If I can pick out an often overlooked detail in the distance and really focus on that, well, those kind of shots just make me happy.
Today I took the A7ii and 70-200mm for a test around my local area. Now, this isn’t somewhere I’d usually do landscape photography since it is a very flat and muddy rural area. I much prefer to shoot forests, mountains, lakes or coastline. Flat farm land just doesn’t do it for me and I struggle to see its pretty side given I lived here for 18 years. To make things even trickier, the weather was similar to yesterday: dark and overcast. Despite all the odds being against me I decided to venture out anyway. in the interest of blog posts and reviews!
I didn’t manage to catch any wildlife in motion today because most of what I saw were too far away. I started to wish I had my old 100-400mm Canon lens until I realised that even with that, they’d still be out of reach. Some things just aren’t meant to be.
With wildlife shots clearly not happening, I focussed purely on landscapes. For these tests, I made use of my tripod and was able to force the ISO to a nice low value. In most cases I set it at 50-100. The only exception was when I shot in manual mode, in which case I set the shutter speed & aperture but trusted the camera to set ISO itself. After yesterday’s tests, I’m not going to argue with its choice of ISO!
The dull weather was seemingly not the best for landscape photography. While the light was fairly even, the sky was incredibly dull most of the time, providing a completely flat backdrop with minimal interest.
I took a few test shots here and there but wasn’t really feeling it until I saw a lone tree sitting on a small island in the lake. I seem to have a bit of an obsession with lone trees!
Lone Tree FTW
Shooting in today’s light was difficult. The ground, trees and even grass were often super dark, whereas the sky was a flat but bright grey. Usually on my 70D a single exposure would have blown highlights or shadows and I’d end up bracketing the image to merge in post. That’s all a lot of faff and results in a lot of images bloating my laptop.
Oh how the Sony is different!
The dynamic range on the A7ii has blown my mind today. I can shoot a scene with dark foreground and super bright grey sky, while not suffering any clipping on the histogram. It’s incredible.
Here’s the unprocessed shot:
See what I mean about the sky & lighting? Super dull right?
Here’s the Lightroom histogram for the unedited shot. Despite the bright sky and dark tree, the A7ii has managed to preserve all the detail with zero clipping at either end of the histogram:
You might be wondering what on earth my plan was, shooting a barren tree on a dull day. Well, my friends, I have a little trick for dealing with these kinds of skies! Give them a play in the photo editing software of your choice and try a high pass filter. It’ll even out the image and that sky will blend in much better. That flat sky can actually become a nice backdrop instead of looking dull.
I allowed myself to go all the way and process my test image today because I was excited to play with it! So, here it is! My first “I’m super happy with this!” edit of an image using my A7ii with the Sony 70-200 f4…
After all the shots I’ve taken this year, I think this might be one of my favourites! If anyone told me I’d say that about a landscape shot on a dull day in this part of Lincolnshire I’d have laughed! The moral of the story is as always: go out and shoot anyway! Don’t be a fair weather photographer, and don’t feel like you have to use a lens for their generic purpose! And don’t overlook your local patch!
In case it’s not entirely clear: I am COMPLETELY in love with my A7ii. It’s light, has amazing ISO capabilities and I now know its dynamic range is kickass.
Paired with the 70-200mm, the A7ii is great for telephoto landscape shots. I used a tripod for this test, but I genuinely believe that I didn’t need the tripod today. Unless I’m shooting long exposure or golden hour shots, the tripod will probably stay in my bag.
So, what’s next for my tests? I think it’s time to give the Zeiss 16-35 a try! I’ll be back with another review in a couple of days to show you some test shots and share my first impressions.
Again, if anyone has any questions about the camera or either lens, let me know!