Why The A7SIII And OM-1 Is My Goto Camera For Portraits

sony A7SIII portraits
sony A7SIII Portrait
Sony A7S3, Voigtlander 35 f2.5 Color Skopar

After 7000 hours of doing portraits, I learnt a thing or two about doing portraits in natural lighting. I thought long about sharing my works with the public and the disappointing culture and algorithm on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook is just going down the drain the longer you use it.

When is the last time you see a post that changes lives in Instagram? I barely recalled any, tiktok however is not only saving businesses from failing but playing a much bigger role in getting the average Joe’s and Alice’s content shown to the community. The algorithm in Instagram and facebook is designed to only milk you as a photographer more money to boost your post to an audience.

Now back to portraiture and the gears I am currently using. The Sony A7SIII or A7S3 while being touted as a video centric camera, scores in spades in an area that eluded the marketing geniuses in Sony. It has the ability to use vintage lenses and brings out their character without destroying the representation of the image created is second to none.

Sony A7S3 Stills Portrait
Sony A7S3, Voigtlander Color Skopar 35 f2.5

What do I mean by vintage lenses? Lenses that are created using the film era optical formula would produce a different results when its hit a sensor with high resolution pixels where the micro-lenses would introduce both colour shifting and smearing on anything but dead centre. The optical design were made for film plane that would take in the light regardless which angle it comes in. Those beautiful M mount lenses, have you ever wondered why the mirrorless lenses are so huge when compared to these? Modern mirrorless cameras are mostly an afterthought coming from the DSLR era and lenses are telecentric in design due to the mirror and distance of the sensor from the lenses. It is only lately we begin to see compact lenses re-designed for mirrorless (eg Sony 24,40,50 trio FE) and other players like Nikon’s small 26mm f2.8

Sony A7S3 portraits
Sony A7S3, 40 F2.5 FE

I can say all new premium priced lenses I have seen in the last 5-6 years are super clinical. Images are flat, clean and flare-less and I am not sure why did we arrived to such a list of criteria as being beneficial for photography. In the cinematography world where things are 10-100x more expensive, they are embracing the opposite. Lenses with flares and characters are welcomed while clinical ones are shunned. How did the stills photography community got so wrong.

If you are TLDR, I have some of the points covered in this video, lots of images are shared here and its 1/3 parts of a video I intend to share highlights of lessons learnt from 7000 hours of portraits since 2011.

The 12mp on the A7S3 is just beautiful. I rarely get any issues on using any film era cameras except the really really wide ones and even those, you don’t have a better choice. Throw in a techart LM-EA9 and you can beat Leica out of the park with autofocus for M-mount lenses and boy does it focus fast!

One of the lenses that I am in love with is the Voigtlander 35 F2.5 Color Skopar. It produces images with tones, colors and character that is just gorgeous. I hope this lens don’t get discontinued like the other Skopars, else I would have to buy a few just to ensure I can use them for a lifetime.

Now I am getting to the interesting part. I sold off my Hasselblad X1D II 50C and got myself an Olympus OM-1. I will probably share the reasons behind in another blog post but the short summary is that I have come to stage where “luxury” ownership brings little to the table. A camera needs to fit in either of the following category :

  1. Ability to perform, output matters
  2. Enjoyable experience

It doesn’t have to fit in both roles and in many ways, it don’t need to else you will be searching for the “perfect camera” that don’t exist. I am sure out there, there are commercial photographers and studios what would welcome the Hasselblad, but for my type of shooting where outdoor dynamics and candid plays a huge role, it’s weight/speed/satisfaction is better served by my Pentax 645Z (most underrated MF since existence).

What does the OM-1 brings to the table?
Let’s see, computation photography, super small lenses and the only phase detect M43? Yes of course, but in my hunt for great lenses, I needed a body that can host a lens that all the previous m43 bodies have failed to live up to its potential. The Nocticron.

Olympus OM-1 portraits

Olympus OM-1, Nocticron

Again, I know this sounds odd but yeah, my priority in choosing a body is rather dependent on the lenses I want rather than the body itself. Nocticron is the closest thing I have to the Leica Noctilux f1 (which have characters far beyond its 0.95 cousin) and it auto-focus. Visually the character it produced are similar though I don’t understand how a n 45mm with 14 elements ends up similar with a 50mm with 7 elements.

I have bought and sold off the Nocticron before and it is only when looking back at all the images I have done, almost like a dying person seeing flashback of his life, I begin to appreciate what a gem this was and how underrated it was. I won’t be surprised its sold at lost even at retail price given the sum of its traits.

The OM-1 brings superior low light focusing, face detection, subject detection and all kinds of features to a dream lens.

Camera OM-1 Portraits Nocticron
Olympus OM-1, Nocticron
Olympus OM-1 images portraits nocticron
Olympus OM-1, Nocticron
Olympus OM-1 images portraits nocticron
Olympus OM-1, Nocticron

Now, if you look at the Nocticron name itself, there is only one(1) lens in the world having that label. Neither Panasonic/Lumix nor Leica ever released another lens with that label. It comes with an extraordinary long lens hood and that got my curiosity piqued, was Pana-Leica trying to hide something? Sure it did and thank goodness for it.

Olympus OM-1, Nocticron

It has flares and boy is the flare beautiful. I don’t believe in Leica glow, but this is just surreal. The flare is soft, golden and sometimes cast a vintage “defect” to a clinical world.

Thanks for visiting my blog and I hope to share more images on my next series.

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