Shooting with Sony’s latest portrait-perfect lenses

One of the biggest moans we’ve had with Sony’s mirrorless cameras is the lack of lenses available compared to some other systems.

But that’s becoming less of an issue as Sony continues to release more glass, andlast week the Japanese manufacturer introduced the 20th and 21st additions to its FE lens family in the shape of the FE 100mm f/2.8 STF G-Master OSS and FE 85mm f/1.8.

Both lenses are specialized for portraiture photography, though very differently priced for professional and amateur photographers. We got a chance to take both of Sony’s latest lenses for a spin – in the very different settings of New York and an English Country House – so let’s take a look at how they perform.

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The FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS is officially the fourth lens in Sony’s G-Master line, the company’s series of pro lenses. It comes sporting a new advanced optical structure, an 11-bladed circular aperture and an apodization filter to help it render truly creamy bokeh – more on this in a bit.

Externally, the FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS features a few additional controls over your everyday Sony lens. On the side there’s a custom function button, along with two switches to toggle manual focusing and image stabilization.

The Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS does things a little differently. The STF (Smooth Trans Focus) designation means that while it’s an f/2.8 geometrically (i.e. in depth of field terms), it’s maximum T (transmissive) value is f/5.6, thanks to its built-in apodization (APD) element.

This apodization filter is essentially an ND-filter with a ring-shaped gradient pattern. Think of the element as a piece of glass with a smoked ring that’s clearer towards its center which gives it its unique bokeh.

This apodization filter or APD element helps to feather the out-of-focus areas in the frame. However, as a consequence the lens losses two stops of light from the get-go – thus resulting in the lens starting at t/5.6 when wide open.

You may be asking why in the world would you give up a stop of light for this apodization filter? The reason is for smooth, creamy bokeh.

Normally, light entering a lens can cut off on the edge of the sensor, causing the out-of-focus areas to become like cat’s eyes. The APD element prevents this from happening by decreasing the amount of light streaming through on the edges. This results in rounder bokeh balls, and focus areas that better hold their shape without distortion.

On top of creating nearly perfect bokeh, the Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS looks like it could be one of the sharpest lenses we’ve used. We shot the lens with aSony Alpha A7R II , and as the images show you can capture plenty of detail from the center of the frame to the corners.
The Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS can also be used to capture extreme close-up images with a minimum focusing distance of 0.57m (1.87-feet). Rather than having a focus range limiter switch, users will have to turn a ring behind the aperture ring to enable macro mode. From there, the lens offers a 0.25x magnification to capture the finest of detail.

The Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS will be available by the end of March, priced at $1,499 / £1,699 (Australia pricing tbc).

For amateur and enthusiast photographers, Sony also introduced a new FE 85mm f/1.8. Although it doesn’t feature an APD element or macro mode, it offers a great focal length to shoot portraits.

The lens also includes nine aperture blades, and an extra-low-dispersion element to help reduce chromatic aberration.

Without an APD element, oval-shaped bokeh balls are extremely evident in images shot with the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. However, in certain cases we actually prefer this effect; combined with the barrel distortion, it makes the background look like it’s almost swirling around our model in the shot above.

Without an APD element, the FE 85mm f/1.8 also gains over three more stops of light than Sony’s latest G-Master lens, which will come in handy for low-light shooting.

Sony Starts Rolling Out February Android Security Update Ahead of Google Pixel Phones

Sony has earned itself some bragging rights as the Japan-based company has started rolling out the February Android security update to its Xperia devices, even ahead of Google’s own Pixel smartphones. Google makes its security patch available to the OEMs every month with bug fixes and security improvements to the Android build but this time around Sony has definitely surprised the industry with its speed of rolling out the update.

Sony Starts Rolling Out February Android Security Update Ahead of Google Pixel Phones

The Japanese consumer electronics giant has started rolling out the firmware update, with build number 39.2.A.0.417, for the Xperia XZ and X Performance, which includes Google’s February Android security update, Xperia Blog said in its report. Additionally, Xperia X and X Compact have received the February patch as well with their latest update (build 34.2.A.0.311).

Usually it’s the Nexus or Pixel smartphones that get the update first due the backing provided by Google but this time around, Sony has made a strong statement by rolling out its update this early in the month.

Considering that there have been several vulnerabilities associated with Android that have been exposed by security firms and researchers in last few months, this can be seen as a welcome change from the company. Notably, the search giant earlier fixed the “Dirty COW” vulnerability with its December Android security update.

Google has previously encouraged OEMs to push out the security updates in a timely manner in order to keep the devices secure and updated.

Sony Xperia Z3 is heading to T-Mobile

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The Sony Xperia Z3 has experienced some pretty serious leaks recently, and even though it’s not actually released yet we have a pretty good idea of what to expect, but up until now had little indication of the carrier that would feature it.

A new recent leak suggests that the Sony Xperia Z3 will be launching on T-Mobile, according to a trusted source cited by TechnoBuffalo.

The Xperia Z3 is expected to feature a Snapdragon 801, 3GB of RAM, and a 20.7-Megapixel camera, but most notably a completely redesigned body.

Sony Xperia new Android 4.4 update brings option to move apps to SD Card

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Sony started rolling out Android 4.4.2 (KitKat) update for the Xperia T2 Ultra (v19.1.A.0.473) and its dual SIM variant T2 Ultra Dual (19.1.C.0.116) from yesterday. The new update brings option to move apps to the microSD card in addition to new features. This was not mentioned in the official changelog from Sony.

Even the latest Android 4.4.4 update for the Xperia Z1, Z1 Compact and the Z Ultra did not bring Apps to SD feature. It is not clear when Sony plans to bring this feature to these smartphones.

Today Sony announced that it would update the Xperia E1, Xperia M2, and Xperia M2 Dual to Android 4.4, so there are chances for these smartphones to get the update. This feature is most required for low-end phones with less internal memory.

If you are using the Xperia T2 Ultra or T2 Ultra Dual with the new KitKat update, go to Apps inside settings to move them to the SD card. The “On SD card” option shows the apps that are compatible to move.

Sony Xperia T2 Ultra and T2 Ultra Dual gets Android 4.4.2 update

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Sony has started rolling out Android KitKat 4.4.2 update to Xperia T2 Ultra and T2 Ultra Dual.  The update will be released over the coming weeks in markets across the globe. Both the devices were launched earlier this year with Android Jelly Bean 4.3.

The update brings UI tweaks along with performance improvements. Sony has enhanced the Status Bar and Quick Settings to make it more intuitive and customisable to show the notifications you really need. It has also added animation and livewallpaper to the new UI from the PlayStation 4.

Moving on Android 4.4.2 update brings additions to Sony’s native apps like Messaging, MyXperia, Smart Connect, Small apps, TrackID, TrackID TV, Sony Select, Smart Social Camera. In addition, Walkman, Movies and Albums have also been given a makeover with intuitive UI, better download speeds and Sony Entertainment Network cloud service integration. The new software makes the Xperia T2 Ultra compatible with Sony’s SmartBand and its companion Lifelog app.

The Xperia T2 Ultra Android 4.4 KitKat update is being rolled out in stages, which means that some of you might not be able to download and install it right away.  Sony also revealed that they are planning to bring the new Android 4.4 KitKat update to the Xperia E1, Xperia M2, and Xperia M2 Dual, without announcing the ETA of the new firmware update.

Alleged Sony Xperia Z3 sized up next to the original Samsung Galaxy Note

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In past few weeks, we have seen the Sony Xperia Z3 a few times, and according to the information we have so far, it looks like a worthy successor to the Sony Z series. Xperia Z3 will be running a Snapdragon 801 chip with the latest version of Android. However, folks over at XperiaBlog managed to get their hands on some new pictures of the Xperia Z3, alongside the Samsung Galaxy Note.

The picture above gives us an idea about the dimensions of the Z3, it’s almost equal to the original Galaxy Note, but a little less wider. Also, another picture is shared below which shows that Xperia Z3 will have slightly round edges unlike the predecessors.

First sighting of Sony Xperia Z3, Z3 Compact

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It seems that Sony is getting ready to release their upcoming smartphones, which will be known as the Sony Xperia Z3 and the Xperia Z3 Compact. If the image shown below is accurate, then it is confirmed that Sony is going with the Omni-Balance design for their upcoming flagships as well.

No more information about the devices are known right now, but we can expect Sony to release it during the IFA event which will take place in Berlin during September.

This is all what we know right now. Do you think that Sony should release their future devices with Omni-Balance design language?

Sony Xperia Z2a with 5-inch 1080p display, Snapdragon 801 announced in Taiwan

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Sony Mobile has announced Xperia Z2a, the international variant of the Xperia ZL2 that was announcedin Japan last month. It has a 5-inch (1920 x 1080 pixels) Triluminos Display powered by X-Reality, powered by 2.3 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor and runs on Android 4.4 (KitKat).

It has a 20.7-megapixel rear camera with 1/2.3-inch Sony Exmor RS image sensor, 4K video recording, similar to the Xperia Z2 and a 3.1-megapixel front-facing camera. It has IP55 / IP58 rating for dust and water resistance. This comes with 16GB of internal storage instead of 32GB on the ZL2 and this supports 4G LTE on 1800MHz, 700MHz and 900MHz bands .

Sony Xperia Z2a specifications

  • 5-inch (1920 x 1080 pixels) Triluminos Display powered by X-Reality engine
  • 2.3 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801  processor with Adreno 330 GPU
  • Android 4.4 (KitKat)
  • 20.7MP rear camera with Exmos RS sensor, Sony G lens, 4K video recording, LED flash
  • 3.1MP front-facing camera with BSI sensor
  • 10.8mm thick and weighs 167 grams
  • IP55 / IP58 rating for dust and water resistance
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • 3GB RAM, 16GB internal memory, expandable memory upto 128GB via microSD card
  • 4G LTE, WiFi 820.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 with APT-X, GPS/ GLONASS, MHL 3.0, NFC
  • 3000 mAh Battery

The Sony Xperia Z2a comes in Turquoise, White and Black colors and would go on sale in Taiwan in July. Pricing would be unveiled closer to the launch. Sony has also unveiled the Xperia T3 with 4G LTE support in Taiwan.

Sony Xperia Z2 Wireless Charging Cover and Charging Plate WCH10 announced

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Sony launched the Xperia Z2 in India recently that comes with a free flip cover. Today, the company hasannounced two new wireless charging accessories, the Wireless Charging Cover WCR12 and Wireless Charging Plate WCH10 that lets users charge Xperia Z2 wirelessly. The Charging cover also acts as a protective cover and a stand that offers variable viewing angle for viewing videos comfortably.

It is made of premium PU leather and offers a premium look and feel. It is compatible with any Qi certified wireless charging plate that would use electromagnetic induction. The charging cover comes in both Black and White variants.

The Sony Wireless Charging Plate WCH10 would be more suitable with the charging cover. It offers output of 5W to charge the phone quickly. It also has a light indicator that blinks when the phone is charging and a steady white light indicates you when your phone is fully charged. Since it weighs just 51 grams, it is easy to carry.

Sony has not announced the global roll out for these new accessories yet. But both Clove UK andMobilefun are talking pre-orders for these accessories priced at 69.99 GBP and 39.99 GBP respectively.

Sony D2403 with quad-core Snapdragon 400 SoC spotted in benchmarks

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Sony D2403, an unknown device has been spotted on GFXBench. This reveals the complete specifications of the smartphone. According to benchmark listing, the phone would have a 4.7-inch (960 x 540 pixels) display, powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with Adreno 305 GPU and runs on Android 4.4.2 (KitKat) out of the box. It would have a 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash, 1080p video recording and a 0.3-megapixel (VGA) front-facing camera.

It also reveals that the smartphone would have 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The phone has single SIM support and would also have NFC and compass. The battery capacity has not been revealed yet. The Sony Xperia M2 had model numbers D2303, D2305 and D2306 so this mystery device with the model number D2403 could be Xperia L2.

We don’t have an image of the smartphone yet. Hope we can expect Sony to launch this mid-range smartphone soon.