Over the years I’ve been known for being a photographer that likes to go against what’s considered normal and this past week I did something that probably escalates me even further down that road.
I decided to take the popular Sony FE 100mm STF lens and photograph some street photography! Isn’t that a “portrait” lens you might ask? Well, typically. I say typically because I never classify my lenses into such categories and just call them “a lens”. The 100mm is an amazing portrait lens, but I wanted to see just what else is this lens good at, possibly as a street lens?
Here’s how my experience went, with key points that I figure will be the biggest questions in peoples minds about this lenses use in street shooting situations.
Sony α7R III + Sony FE 2.8/100mm STF G Master | ISO 160, f/10, 8 secs
1. Low Light
I already know this is probably the first concern. How is this lens with low light, as this lens light wise is a T/5.6. Of course, you HAVE to push your ISO significantly higher than normal. How much higher? Depending on the situation it can be ISO 2,000 on a cloud covered day shooting on a covered patio to ISO 8,000+ on a pretty decently lit street at night.
For my test I specifically selected the Sony a7R III for this, as it performs very well at high ISO’s, has the best detail of any of the Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras and is a popular choice currently among photographers.
The highest ISO I pushed the camera was ISO 8,000, but that actually was still a bit too low for the images I did capture (which you’ll see from the EXIF data on some of the images). The IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization) of the camera paired with the OSS (Optical Steady Shot) of the lens does allow for slower than normal shutter speeds from a lens of this focal length, for obtaining perfectly sharp images. This more than likely isn’t a lens you’d use as a regular option for low light, but if you really master the pros and cons of this lens it could actually be an exciting challenge!
Sony α7R III + Sony FE 2.8/100mm STF G Master | ISO 8,000, T/5.6, 1/125th secs
This lens focuses quite well. In a street setting where having the fast pace being necessary this wouldn’t be my first choice in terms of focusing.
There were times I struggled with focusing and this was even with being in Flexible Spot S. I didn’t always nail the focus in the area that I would have liked, but for the most part I came away with images that were still okay and would be happy with posting.
All of my images were taken at wide open aperture of f/2.8 (with the exception of the one long exposure image in this article). The speed isn’t the quickest of the lenses I use for street, but it’s far from being a slouch! I still found focusing to be relatively good, especially in the situations I was using this for that were outside of the norm for this kind of lens.
Sony α7R III + Sony FE 2.8/100mm STF G Master | ISO 4,000, T/5.6, 1/40th secs
3. Image Quality & Colors
This lens absolutely excels in image quality! It’s my favorite of the Sony G Master lenses, which I especially enjoy for portraits and found it to be excellent for the street images photographed!
At high ISO’s on the a7R III and having a quality lens like this that takes advantage of the cameras sensors is a huge deal and the resolving power of this lens is very apparent! Even at ISO 8,000 the images come off very clean and sharp.
The way this lens captures color is similar to that of what I love about the Sony/ZEISS lenses. They’re quite vibrant and rich with such amazing sharpness as well.
Sony α7R III + Sony FE 2.8/100mm STF G Master | ISO 1,600, T/5.6, 1/40th secs
The signature highlight of this lens is of course the bokeh, being an STF (Smooth Trans Focus) lens and including that apodization filter to create that really buttery smooth bokeh.
In certain framing situations this may not be very apparent in the photos, as you’ll see from some of my examples that doesn’t benefit from this. In the images where there is a significant difference in subject to background/foreground distance and you see the bokeh it does show a little of that smooth bokeh effect. Being only an f/2.8 you may not see it as much as you would the bokeh in a prime of a wider aperture lens at f/1.8 or f/1.4, but you notice a much smoother transition taking place with the bokeh that just makes images look very smooth. It’s hard to explain and you simply just have to compare the images from this lens vs any other standard prime lens.
Sony α7R III + Sony FE 2.8/100mm STF G Master | ISO 5,000, T/5.6, 1/80th secs
Conclusion: Verdict for Street Use?
If I had to rate this lens for street use, on a 1 out of 10 score I’d have to give this lens a 7.5 I would think. It’s a fantastic lens, but may not be the best choice for most street photographers but it’s certain to be one that would present a very unique challenge to using this lens in such a genre. Mastering this lens could provide any street photographer with amazing results with this lens.
You have to really push your camera with this lens, which would mean ISO’s higher than the 8,000 that I maxed out to. With the current new bodies, a7R III and a7 III and the a7S II it’s possible to photograph at high ISO’s and have stunning detailed images. I feel the high ISO’s really isn’t a major concern and for street work could actually been an advantage for having a different look to your images and any noise you may have being used to your advantage.
This isn’t the smallest nor lightest lens for street photography and would be something of concern for many. It was a bit more challenging to not look as obvious when photographing with it, but what does help is the reach of the lens that makes it have a pro and con at the same time in that situation.
Would I buy this lens for street photography as my leading use? More than likely no, but I would try using this again for more images to see what I could obtain. It was a difficult challenge but a fun challenge. With the Sony a7R III I feel I could push my camera far more than I did to have even greater results. In knowing this I feel future usage for street would really present great photos, as my mindset would be focused on the creativity aspect and not on how the lens and camera will perform together, as I have that information now to go off of.
Take the challenge and see just how this incredible lens could work for you in this capacity. It would present a lot of excitement I’m sure and be a great experience for you, just as it was for me!
Sony α7R III + Sony FE 2.8/100mm STF G Master | ISO 2,000, T/5.6, 1/25th secs
Sony α7R III + Sony FE 2.8/100mm STF G Master | ISO 1,600, T/5.6, 1/80th secs