Having been a long, dry, hot summer, conditions for landscape photography have not been great – endless clear blue skies and the lure of too many barbecues! As Autumn was approaching and the weather began to change it was time to go on a road trip. The location on my hit list this time was Dinorwic Slate Quarry and North Wales in general.
For this trip I had a few objectives. Number 1: I have happily been using Sigma Glass via the excellent MC11 adapter with my Sony Alpha bodies, achieving wonderful results. However, my interest had been piqued when Sigma announced that they were going to be releasing a native Sony FE mount on a selection of their lenses. Armed with a Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG ART FE mount lens, I had agreed to write a piece for Sigma on my experience of using it. Number 2: No matter what the weather could throw at me, I needed to fill my soul and get out in the open. The weather did try and scupper my plans with the first of the Autumn storms hitting the UK the week of the trip. Luckily, it broke for the few days I was in North Wales.
While offering the same high-performance optical design as other lenses in the Art line, the new E-mount models will feature a newly developed control algorithm that optimizes the autofocus drive and maximizes the data transmission speed. In addition, these lenses will be compatible with Sony’s Continuous AF (AF-C) and high-speed autofocus, which are not addressed by MOUNT CONVERTER MC-11~ Sigma Website
The quote above is what Sigma state about the new native FE mount lenses. I wanted to find out for myself – Would I notice any difference? For this trip I shot with 2 lenses: the 20mm I mentioned above and my MC11 adapted Sigma 24-105mm ART DG lens. This comparison is not about the lenses themselves, as they are very different, but about the benefits (if any) of ‘going native’. I had these lenses mounted on my excellent Sony a3RIII. In tests I did on moving subjects and people, it is obvious that Sigma have changed the way that autofocus works with the Sony Cameras. It works flawlessly, and AF-C was an option again, also Sony’s Eye focus was performing very well. This, unlike a comment I recently had on social media, is not just an MC11 adapter welded on, this was a perfect harmony. I don’t photograph people often, but it made me want to. Fortunately for you guys, I stuck to landscapes as I can assure you the sheep didn’t make for cooperative models!
One of the locations I had planned for this trip was Dinorwic Slate Quarry. This is an abandoned slate quarry in the Snowdonia National Park very near Llanberis and Mount Snowdon. This a photographer’s playground, which works in any conditions as long as you’re not scared of heights! I only spent a morning here but you could easily spend a whole day if not more exploring the various opportunities to grab some awesome images. Here is a selection of some of my favourites.
Of course, being in North Wales, you have so many opportunities to take in some amazing landscapes. I had seen this next location taken by various photographers and wanted to put my own spin on it. This is, of course, Mount Tryfan and Llyn Ogwen.
Next up on this short tour was Fairy Glen, the wonderful wooded and steep gorge near Betws-y-Coed.
Cregennan Lakes is always a location I have wanted to visit too, with its famous boathouse and mountains. I arrived here late in the evening with the hope of capturing the Milky Way due to its ‘Dark Skies’ location. My plan was to stay here all night, car camping, and giving myself the opportunity to capture an amazing sunrise into the bargain. Needless to say, the weather and the full moon conspired against me! Still a great location, and one to revisit.
I loved using the new Sigma FE mount lens and it will be a great addition to my camera bag. Also, the MC11 adaptor will be staying there too, because having the ability to use any Sigma lens with the Sony Alpha cameras, in particular my a7RIII is just great! There is no doubt that the native mount Sigma lenses work extremely well. The focus abilities are much improved over the MC11 adapted ones, faster and more accurate. Not so important to me as a landscape photographer but will come in very useful when using it for various commisions.
*I mentioned above about being inspired to visit Dinorwic after watching a few of Greg Whitton’s videos from here, he has three now if you want to see them have a look here: https://www.youtube.com/user/gregww1/videos