I’ve always been fascinated by macro photography and it just so happened that I was investigating options for a dedicated macro lens without any real intention on adding one to the arsenal until I fell prone to poor impulse control again.

Above photo was shot for fun and treated with a little HDR style processing to enhance detail.

In my research I read about the Sony SAL-100F28 along with Minolta AF 100 F2.8 Macro D which is the out of production predecessor to the Sony. And while the Minolta is less expensive than the Sony when you can find a good copy on the secondary market (Ebay, Craigslist, etc), I opted for the updated optics and mechanicals of the Sony along with a warranty.

Don’t get me wrong, the vintage Minolta glass has been widely praised. I even own the legendary Minolta AF 70-210 F4 (Beercan) lens and love it dearly. It’s just a crap shoot sometimes when you buy used technology from the 80’s and I was willing to pay the extra dollars for the Sony. Besides, immediate gratification was in play.

I also considered the Sony SAL-50M28 but decided I needed the 100mm reach over the 50mm to be able to get the shots I envisioned.

A medium sized and lightweight lens, the Sony SAL-100M28 is not cumbersome in the bag or on the camera. Being fast (f/2.8) and a prime lens, it appeals to my fast lens snobbery.

Aside from a few shots taken of Dooley and my own eyeball and such, I hadn’t really had a chance to really take this lens through its paces. Cynthia suggested The Cockrell Butterfly Center as a possible testing ground and having the day off yesterday I decided to make the trek to the HMNS compound to give it a whirl.

It’s worth noting that the Cockrell Butterfly Center is hot. They keep it hot to keep the butterflies alive, which makes sense. Having been there before I dressed comfortably and wore a head scarf and remembering my Hitchhiker’s advice I brought a towel.

The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels…

“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to- hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”

Ok, I wasn’t hitching a ride across the galaxy, but I did need to be able to wipe the sweat from my brow as I plunged into the macro-verse. It was a wise choice.

It should also be noted that when changing lenses while dripping sweat you want to be extra careful not to drip into the sensor while the lens is detached. I dodged this bullet with an uncharacteristic display of forethought.

I don’t have a macro flash (yet) so any flash photography was going to be done using the built in flash of my A700. Shooting with a flash allows you to shoot at a slower aperature which increases the depth of field.

Shooting with a flash does make shooting with auto-focus much easier. But as I have mentioned previously, I prefer to shoot without a flash. This does present its own set of challenges. Faster aperture means shallower depth of field which means it’s harder to gain and maintain the focus of such tiny objects. If you breath (in or out) your subject moves completely out of focus or you focus too much forward or aft of your subject.

Since good macro photography is usually done using manual focus, a tripod or monopod is recommended. I did not bring one on this trip.

I discovered a technique where as I allowed myself to ever so slowly and ever so slightly pull back from the subject as I fired at full on 5 frames per second after achieving focus. The results are very satisfactory.

Exposure: 0.006 sec (1/160)
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 100 mm

As you can see, the shallow depth of field givea a rather unique perspective when combined with shooting something so small so closely.

This resulted in a few really interesting shots

Exposure: 0.006 sec (1/160)
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 100 mm
Exposure: -1.65

Exposure: 0.006 sec (1/160)
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 100 mm
Exposure: 0.00

I’ve got a lot to learn and I also need a lot more practice. Holding steady is crucial in this milieu, even with anti-shake technology. The slightest shift can ruin the shot. Still, I like a good challenge and when things go right the results are quite thrilling.

Additional shots in my Macro Gallery.

For a full on technical review of this lens check out this article at photozone.de. Also check out real world reviews in this post at dyxum.com.

Sony SAL-100M28 – A Modest Review
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3 thoughts on “Sony SAL-100M28 – A Modest Review

  • February 5, 2009 at 11:16 am

    These are AMAZING. Seriously, some of the best macro shots I’ve seen from the Cockrell Butterfly Center. I was enjoying them on Flickr – thanks for sharing how you got the shots here!

    Also – wanted to let you know we’re having a meetup at HMNS for Wikipedia Loves Art – more info here: http://flickr.com/groups/hmns/discuss/72157613281690321/

    Hope to see you there!

  • February 6, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Mighty fine shots indeed Jay.
    I like your technique using burst mode and pulling away from the subject in order to get the shot you want. Well done.

  • August 2, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Great shots (and if your reading this having omitted to visit the “Macro Gallery” link – more fool you!!) and a good, humorous tale to of with them. I am currently torn between the lens of which you speak and a Tamron and a Sigma. Thus my Google search leading me here!! Thanks for taking the time to publish this and thanks also for making my mind up for me. Appreciated……

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