The Track: field report shooting with the Sony FE 28-135mm, Zeiss FE 16-35mm and A7s

The Track: field report shooting with the Sony FE 28-135mm, Zeiss FE 16-35mm and A7s

The Track: Portrait Of A Runner: from Mike Kobal on Vimeo.

Francis is available for coaching, ph 9178260954

It has been a while since my last post, and ages since my last video post

The Sony A7s has been my workhorse for more then a year. I purchased it for video and ironically, I have been using it mainly for stills. There were a few corporate video gigs, everything else photography. It turned into my workhorse for online catalogs, head shots, portraits, stills and street photography! (You can follow my daily IG stream at )
I finally had the change to shoot a personal video and I am very excited to share it and tell you about my experience:
Preparation: my original idea was to shoot this clip over two days, as it turned out, the only low traffic window on that track was very early in the mornings, the first hard core walkers showed up at 5am sharp and it was crowded by 6am.
In a sense, this was perfect since the track faces east and is a great spot for watching the sun rise.
We had to be fast since early morning light rises quickly. We had about 50min of “good light”. There was no way to shoot it in two sessions.
We decided to do it over a week, meeting at 5am sharp, I would get there a little earlier and have the equipment ready.
Shooting in the rain: We anticipated a downpour, however, nothing like this :)
I used a large, clear recycling bag, taped to the lenshood and my back pack.

I planned to use 3 lenses, my favorite vintage lens, the Minolta 58mm 1.2 for the close ups and bokeh,
the Sony FE 28-135mm f4 and the Zeiss FE 16 35mm f4.
After the first day of shooting I dropped the idea to shoot with the 58mm since time was precious and we had to keep takes to a minimum.
I ended up shooting with 2 lenses only, the Sony FE 28 135mm and the Zeiss FE 16 35mm.

Lenses, the good, the bad and the ugly:

Let me say that I love to shoot with those two lenses, stills and particularly video.
Lets start with the Zeiss 16 35mm f4:
The good:
Great sharpness and contrast already wide open, image stabilizer a big plus, even when shooting with a three way gimbal. Good af performance, very smooth transitions.
Smooth af performance, no hick ups or focus pumping
The bad and the ugly: there really wasn’t anything to complain about on this shoot.

Sony FE 28 135mm f4:
The good:
Did I mention already that I absolutely love this lens? Sharp and contrasty wide open throughout the whole focal length.
Manual focus ring with hard stops, long focus throw, really works in the field.
Zoom ring and rocker, good zooming speed control with the rocker.
Manual, smooth aperture ring.
Maintains plane and field of focus while zooming.
Silent ultra sonic motors
VERY good image stabilization
The lens is long enough to easily find everything by touch, aperture ring, rocker, zoom ring, af ring, very well balanced with the A7s when mounted on the tripod collar.
Video specific lens hood really works.
Beautiful bokeh for an f4 lens.
Very smooth af performance on stationary and slow moving subjects, no hick ups or focus pumping
The bad:
This might just be a personal preference, but I prefer the zoom rocker over the zoom ring, I found speed control a little easier.
Since switching from af to manual focus produces an audible click when pulling the focus ring, it can’t be done during filming. Bummer.
I have rented this lens in the past and the tripod collar was a little loose when fully tightened, a nuance people complained about on various forums,
NOT the case on my lens, there is no play when tightened down and it turns smoothly when needed,
something to pay attention to when you purchase this lens, this can ruin your take.
The ugly:
Although this will be listed as a short coming on the A7s, I will also mention it here.
The lens can’t track fast moving objects, hell, it can’t even track a slow jogger! Let’s hope this won’t be an issue on the A7rII and the A7sII.

The A7s:
Set up: Manual
File Format XAVC S
Frame rate: 1080/60p
Creative style: Autumn leaves
Manual white balance
ISO range: 100 – 6400

The good: Enough has been said about the video performance of the A7s, I have nothing to add,
I love the footage this camera produces in full frame and crop mode.
The bad: battery life is an issue, although not so much during this production
I would like to see a fully articulated LCD ( GH4) on the A7sII.
The ugly: AF tracking in video mode leaves a lot to be desired, to put it nicely.

External monitor/cage: not used on this shoot

Sticks/Tripods: Manfrotto 755XB with MVH500AH head

3 way gimbal:
Came TV 7500:
The good: you can get this gimbal fully assembled and adjusted for a really good price here on ebay:
strong enough to take the A7s (will also balance heavier cameras, like the 5DmkIII and the Nikon D8100) with a fairly heavy lens (Zeiss FE 16 35mm, Zeiss FE 24 70mm)
smooth motion control, esp with the thumb stick
Mine arrived properly balanced.
Easy to set up and use with the Sony A7s and the FE 16-35mm and FE 24-70mm.
The bad and the ugly: short battery life, a 2200mAH Lithium Poly battery will last about 20min
on the fragile side, brushless motors exposed, can’t be used in the rain
transportation, a big headache unless you get a proper case, like the Pelikan 1660 and take the time to customize it.

I hope you enjoyed watching it, ask questions and I will answer. If you enjoyed the content and are a runner, training for a race or just want to improve, Francis is available for coaching, you can reach him by cell, 9178260954, or email:
If you find this article helpful, please consider helping me maintaining this blog by purchasing your gear through my product links to Adorama and B&H and Ebay. It will cost you nothing and allows me to keep adding! Or consider making a direct donation using PayPal, thank you!

16 thoughts on “The Track: field report shooting with the Sony FE 28-135mm, Zeiss FE 16-35mm and A7s

  1. Matthew

    Hey Mike – yeah, I think you’re right, a monopod would work best in those environments. To benefit from lens stabilization, I will just rent, but it’s great to know that the IBIS will be quite helpful with the lenses I already own when I upgrade to a newer A7. Thanks again :)

  2. mike.kobal Post author

    Thanks Matthew. I love legacy lenses for video, esp when mf is needed. IBIS works very well, not as well as Lens stabilization though. I like the Manfrotto MM294A4.

  3. Matthew

    Beautiful video and excellent review, Mike!

    I just started working as a photographer assistant and developed a few good contacts, esp. make up artists and modeling agencies that want to work together. I have done a couple bts videos of photoshoots and fashion shows. Honestly, people are only interested in my video work and I never fully envisioned working with video at all.

    Things have been a bit challenging. I still use the original A7 and only have a photo tripod at the moment. Do you have any recommendations for tripods or monopods mainly for (photoshoots/live events)? Also, just curious what your experience is using legacy lenses like the Minolta with the help of IBIS?

  4. petros

    Very nice footage. The mood is great .
    I already order my A7RII with 28-135 and i hope to have it in my hands at the and of next week so after some days have something serious results with this combination and post it here.
    Great job again.

  5. Mark Lewis

    I agree with you on the 16-35. Nice lens, small, smooth operation.

    I borrowed the 28-135 from a friend and found it much too big on an A7s handheld, But it was nice mounted on a tripod. For me, this would have to be a video-only lens on a tripod only. Nice to have choices.

    Loving my A7s. Call me crazy, but it’s the first camera where I can manipulate every control without looking away from the viewfinder.

  6. Johanna Salenfalk

    Beautifully filmed and the voice talking was calm and intresting.. The feeling in the film was spiritual and beautiful. The rain part were amazing.
    I have much more to say (positive ) about the film but I’m afraid my english isn’t good enough.

    Really brilliant job Mike!

    Johanna/ IG jrsfcs

  7. Bob Krist

    Mike : Beautifully filmed and excellent BTS commentary. The feel of the film is as spiritual as the man himself. The rain sequences were amazing (looked a little dangerous too!). Really inspirational. Thanks for sharing! cheers, Bob

  8. Ron Coker

    Mike, Your account is most interesting. I have just purchased a second A7s body along with the Zeiss 16-35 F4 & Sony 28-135 F4 This camera is sensational. I’m holding out for Sony A7s II perhaps 9 months. Don’t care what it costs, I want one. Regards. Ron.

  9. Ron Coker

    Mike, Your account is most interesting. I have just purchased a second A7s body along with the Zeiss 16-35 F4 & Sony 28-135 F4 This camera is sensational. I’m holding out for Sony A7s II perhaps 9 months. Don’t care what it costs, I want one.



  10. mike.kobal Post author

    Thanks Erez! Fuji is lovely, just can’t hang with a full frame Sony! The A7II is a fantastic camera, take it out and start shooting!

  11. erez kashi

    Beautiful and powerful zene video
    I’m facing fibromyalgia and pain is part of daily life,a challenge.
    I see that you big with the sony
    Just got my sony a7ii in the box and i’m not confidenc with it,it’s my first camera and my initial interest wos the fuji xt1.
    Appreciate your opinion

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