Travel Log: Brian Smith at Mardi Gras with Sony’s G Master Lenses
April 19, 2016
Sponsored by Sony
When Miami-based portrait photographer Brian Smith was asked to test the Sony G Matster Lenses, he chose a setting with color, texture and history: Mardi Gras. The annual New Orleans celebration is a photographer’s playground with parades, vibrant costumes and a diverse range of subjects from day to night.
Although he is best known for his portraits of big-name celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson and Anne Hathaway, Smith is also an avid shooter of lifestyle and travel photography. New Orleans provided opportunities for all of the above, from the lively nightlife on Bourbon Street to the porches of Cajun fishermen in nearby Houma, Louisiana.
Smith’s camera of choice is the Sony α7R II, and, up until now, his lenses of choice were the Sony-compatible Zeiss line. With the new G Master Lenses, he had high expectations: “I was hoping the new lenses would come close to matching the performance of [Zeiss lenses],” he says. Armed with the FE 24-70mm F2.8 lens and FE 85mm F1.4 lens, both from Sony’s new G Master series, Smith traveled to Louisiana to test them out.
“We were all over Cajun country. We went everywhere we could think of to try out these lenses,” Smith recalls. Smith’s odyssey led him to shoot sunset portraits of jazz musician Benny Jones, Sr. in Louis Armstrong Park; Big Chief Kevin Goodman of the Flaming Arrows, decked out in full Mardi Gras Indian regalia; as well as a staged fashion shoot in the historic Lafayette Cemetery.
Smith was happy to find that the lenses’ autofocus was fast and accurate, while also rendering colors and skin tones faithfully. “I was hoping the G Master Lenses would come close to matching the performance of Sony’s Zeiss lenses,” said Smith. “And they exceeded my expectations.” Pairing the fast autofocus with the low-light capabilities of the α7R II allowed Smith to capture nighttime portraits with only available light.
Most noticeably, according to Smith, the lenses had a “smooth transition from in-focus areas to out-of-focus,” a quality that Smith says made images like those of the science fiction-themed Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus parade “simply look better.” “When you are photographing people, you want the image to be as sharp as possible, but you also want it to look beautiful,” Smith explains. “Beauty isn’t something you typically talk about when testing lenses, but when you see the images, you can understand why I would say [that what the G Master lenses produce] are beautiful.”
When Smith returned to his studio in Miami, he could see even more clearly what he had noticed in the field: the G Master images were crisp, even when he zoomed in on minor details—and even when he had shot with a wide-open aperture. Since his New Orleans trip, Smith says the G Master lenses have become an integral part of his gear: “I’ve been using them on almost all of my shoots. I’m very happy taking these two lenses with me and calling it a day.”
For more information on G Master Lenses and Brian Smith visit sony.com/alpha.