So, I kinda collect lenses.....it's kind of an obsession of mine that I probably might need to seek professional help on at some point in time. I went through and got just about every Sony lens that interested me, then got about the same with Canon lenses and I already owned some Nikon glass from my Nikon shooting days. So that brought me to looking for some more unique type of lenses out there.
My followers would sometimes ask me about the Sony 135mm Smooth Trans Focus lens. I already own and love the Sony Zeiss 135mm f/1.8 lens (not the same lens), so when I got the itch to try out a STF lens my attention got directed towards a new product out there from Laowa. The Laowa lens is an actual made for Canon, Nikon and for Sony FE mounts.
I actually found the lens used online so I purchased a Canon mount version knowing I could use my Sigma or Metabones adapter with the lens. The lens is manual focus on any mount and as such adapting a Canon lens for manual focus was more than easy for me to do... But it is nice to see other manufacturers making glass for the native Sony mirrorless mount system as I'm sure more and more will continue to do.
So what is an STF lens? In layman's terms the lens contains an apodization element in the optical formulas that well, makes things more out of focus. It changes the way the out of focus balls (bokeh) are rendered especially as it relates to their shadowing. In even more simple terms, it's a way to get more blur and a different rendition of the bokeh than you would normally see in a lens at that focal length.
The Laowa is a 105mm lens with an f stop of 2, but a t stop of 3.2. There are two separate controls for both the aperture and the t stop on the lens itself. When you move the aperture ring it does what a normal lens does and changes exposure. But when you crank on that t stop ring, it starts to do something magical. It really starts to render that background blur in an incredibly smooth way that for some people (like me) we find to be very pleasing to the eye.
I'm a bit of a wide aperture whore...I just love it. So when I found out a lens existed that would enable me to blur out the background even more than a conventional lens at that focal length it got me pretty interested. So I took my team to the Muir Woods in San Francisco with the lens in hand mounted on my Sony A7Rii. My assistant and model Brenda posed for me while the rain and cold invaded our souls (it was pretty miserable lol).
I tested the lens in both video and in stills. Please make sure to check out the video to see for yourself. I gotta say that using a lens like this is really beneficial if you have focus peaking like I have on my Sony bodies. I'm in no way afraid of manual focus, but after being spoiled by the Sony Focus Peaking system which illuminates the in focus areas on your screen or viewfinder, it makes it much easier to operate a lens like this one.
In the video you'll see I tested it on various T stops including t/5.6, t/4, and t/3.2 which obviously had a direct impact on ISO and background rendering.
The lens provided some very pleasing results in stills and I really loved what it rendered when I put it on the fence in the woods and showed it focusing down the entire fence to the background of the trees. Focus was sharp and I included a super crop in the video and stills below for you to see for yourself. These images were only illuminated using a reflector while it was raining and edited using Lightroom only. I like to show you guys what the lens can do for others out there to get similar results.
The only major negative or con of this lens is the focus ring seems to take forever to turn. I'm used to being able to get my focus either near or far away with one twist of my hand whereas with this lens it would require two. Again, if you check out the video you'll see what I mean. The lens seems well made and will stick in my kit bag for a long time to come. If you're looking for a lens that will render some pretty out of this world results and aren't opposed to shooting in manual focus, I think you'll really enjoy it.
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