Sony A6000 + Sony 90mm f/2.8 FE = a popular portrait pairing


posted Wednesday, January 20, 2016 at 8:27 AM EDT


Wake up with IR! Here's today's dose of Caffeine Priority

We once again pay homage to the most popular digital camera in the enthusiast lands.

And while we don't give out an award for the most popular camera of the year, if we did there would be no close second to the Sony A6000 for two years running! It's certainly given up its throne for a day here or a week there, but always humbly reasserts itself within a few days time as the undisputed King of the Hill.

The Sony 90mm f/2.8 FE macro lens is a superb offering that was one of only three prime lenses honored in our 2015 Lens of the Year awards - no small feat - so it seemed only fitting to marry up the two for a weekend and offer up a portrait post for this column.

Pairing the Sony A6000 with the Sony 90mm f/2.8 G for portrait shooting

Of course, the Sony 90mm FE becomes a 135mm equivalent lens on the A6000 with its 1.5x crop factor, placing this combination into "long portrait range" as it's often called. While the focal range between 70-100mm is generally considered the "optimal" portrait range, going longer can often yield a more otherworldly look, as this is far outside of the typical focal length range for our human eyes.

For this reason I enjoy the longer range for certain purposes, and there's the added benefit that you don't need to be too close to your subjects when capturing moments. Canned smile shots can sometimes still work, but how boring compared to capturing people acting naturally! This is much easier to do at the 135mm length than more common lengths like 50mm, especially when shooting outside.

1/160s / f/2.8 / ISO 640

I was roughly 9 feet from my buddy Henry for this shot, and using a DOF calculator for this aperture yields a depth of field of roughly .33 feet, or about 4 inches. This allows his face to remain in focus, while his front elbow and rear shoulder are beginning to blur. And that tree behind him is actually only a few feet away, and yet is completely out of focus. So while you don't get the shallow depth potential provided by a larger aperture such as f/1.4, the increased focal length makes up for some of that loss, and lends itself to a generous amount of subject to background isolation.
1/160s / f/2.8 / -0.3 EV / / ISO 400

(Images have been resized to fit this page and slightly adjusted in post to balance shadows and highlights. Links are provided for access to the original image as delivered by the A6000 as well as the edited version.)

The FE 90mm f/2.8 is a solid, well-built lens and comes close to overpowering the A6000 with top-heaviness, but I grew accustomed to using the lens for a primary handhold instead of the camera, and the lightness of the A6000 helps keep the overall weight manageable for strolling around at local gatherings.

If you've read our Sony 90mm f/2.8 review you already know that our lab tests show excellent sharpness, even when shot wide open. On a full frame body there is a trace of corner softness at f/2.8, but none present on a crop frame camera like the A6000, even at f/2.8.

1/160s / f/2.8 / -0.3 EV / / ISO1250

1/160s / f/2.8 / -0.3 EV / / ISO 500

1/160s / f/3.2 / ISO 640

The lens also comes equipped with Optical Image Stabiliaztion, which we rated to improve handheld performance by 2.5 stops. This adds some heft to the lens, but is a welcome addition when chasing people around for portrait-type shots or close wildlife. All shots for this post were handheld, and there are more examples in our Sony A6000 Gallery page (look for "90mm" in the filename).

In case you missed our original A6000 portrait article, we paired it with the 50mm f/1.8 E as well as the 70-200mm f/4 G for a variety of portrait situations. Of course, the Sony 90mm f/2.8 FE is also a macro lens, but that's for another post.

Until then, Happy Shooting, Sony FE fans!

Sony A6000Sony 90mm f/2.8 FE • Gallery

Sony A5100 + Sony 55mm f/1.8 FE

ony A6000: What about portraits?

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Caffeine Priority is a new series of short photo-tidbits to ease you into your day, and give us a chance to share a bit more of what life’s like here at IR. We're more like a group of friends testing and talking about cameras and lenses than the buttoned-down, big-corporation world that some of our photo-friends at other companies work in; hopefully these little snippets will share some of that. So... grab another coffee and join in the conversation with us down below!