Sony lenses and American cars: a report from Rambler Ranch

Last weekend, we took a group of about 50 photographers on a very special expedition into the woods of Elbert county to photograph the unique collection on display at Rambler Ranch. It was our second time out, having first shared this gem of a location with our customers last fall, and this time the cadre of Mike’s Camera imaging experts was backed up by a delegation from Sony, lending out a wide variety of gear at no additional cost. I took the opportunity myself to try out some of their finest glass on an α7R III, including the not-yet-released FE 200–600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS. Read on for more about the day (which we absolutely hope to do again—Coloradans, watch our class schedule or email newsletter for the next date) and on the lenses I tried out! As before, click here for recommended listening to set the mood.

Note: The images taken using the 200–600mm lens have been posted at full res, completely unedited. The others have been cropped and compressed (because 10-20 MB JPGs are excessive for most purposes) but I would be happy to provide out-of-camera JPGs for anyone interested in the other lenses. Just leave a comment below or use the contact form here.

About the Ranch

Terry Gale saved his father’s Nash Ambassador from the junkyard in 1977, but it wasn’t until he started restoring it in the mid-‘90s that an all-consuming passion was ignited. His collection grew and grew, and today the Rambler Ranch houses more than 800 cars, about a third of which are fully (and beautifully) restored. The others may or may not ever be returned to their original condition, but at the very least they’re safe from destruction, and they’re just as photogenic as their healthier brethren, depending on what excites your photographic eye.

“The boneyard” (as they call it on the Ranch) was actually my favorite part of the property.

The majority of the cars on the property are AMCs, which makes sense considering Mr. Gale’s goal to collect one of each—every year, every model. His passion for Nash doesn’t stop with the company’s cars, either. There’s an excellent selection of classic appliances paying homage to the company’s in-home division, Kelvinator, refrigeration technology from which may have even saved Nash automobiles from an earlier death when it was incorporated into their original air conditioning systems! I won’t get into too much detail and ruin the surprise, but other highlights include original advertisements, lovingly-dressed mannequins, and authentically-recreated, period-appropriate environments. It’s a sight not to be missed!

There’s even a little display case housing a collection especially close to our hearts.

Mike’s Camera, on the scene

Always looking to make the photogenic in life even more so, we partnered with the Rambler Ranch to provide a deluxe photo experience unlike any other. After a warm welcome by Ben, caretaker and Ramblin’ man extraordinaire, we led small groups on a guided journey through each of the showcases on the property. In addition to private, uncrowded access, photographic expertise on-hand, and the aforementioned free (free!) loans of Sony gear, we brought a full studio lighting setup and professional models in period-appropriate costume to add a groovy splash of life to all that chrome.

After a quick lunch break, our fab models moved from the Nash building (where some of the most unique and sentimentally-important cars in the collection are housed) to the ’50s diner and ’60s house for more vintage fun as a couple hours of unfettered roaming (or, perhaps, rambling) concluded the day’s events. A delightful epilogue came in the form of a gallery showing/critique last Tuesday, where most of the class reconvened for the proverbial wine and cheese and, even better, a chance to share their favorite photos with others who appreciated their significance. Thanks for coming out, everyone!

The photos you’ve been waiting for: the Sony FE 200–600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS

I shot this image of the FE 200–600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS with the FE 24mm f/1.4 GM, an excellent lens in its own right (see more below), without a dream that I’d get to take it out for a spin. The tech specs are readily available (including on our website) but suffice it to say that it’s a relatively light, incredibly long telephoto lens at a respectable value.

Only recently announced and not shipping until at least next month, this model was kept on a short leash. Fortunately for me, being a writer on the scene with a history in the industry has occasional perks, and I’m excited to share the photos I got on my short test-drive. First of all, check out the super-cool sign shot below. Despite shooting it hand-held and in a very dark environment, I was blown away by how effortlessly I was able to get a sharp photo that filled the frame from across the room. (In fact, I had to double check that the lens was not faster than it is. I can’t believe it’s a G lens and not a G Master.) Click for full res!

Bear in mind that “relatively light in weight” in this category means that the lens is almost five pounds. It’s not exactly effortless to hold this baby still!

After playing around with my assembled kit’s low-light capabilities I headed off to the boneyard to illustrate the way compression affects the look of this lens at its long end as compared to its “wide” end (that is, at 600mm vs 200mm). The following photos show the same hood ornament at 200mm (shot from the minimum focusing distance of approximately 8 feet), 600mm from the same distance, and 600mm from a distance that kept the ornament about the same size in the frame. Comparing the first and second will demonstrate the focal range; comparing the first and third will demonstrate the difference in the look of the photo overall depending on the focal length.

It was a blast to shoot and I’m sure it will be a hit in August when it’s available to the public at large. Check out a few more shots I got at the Ranch below; the tires are also meant to illustrate the lens’s compression characteristics. Again, click to enlarge the images, and follow the link to full-res if you want to pixel-peep. If you really love them, you can even pre-order the lens right over here. 😉

More great glass: the FE 135mm f/1.8 GM, FE 24mm f/1.4 GM, and FE 85m f/1.4 GM

I also demoed three top-of-the-line G Master lenses throughout the day. All three were a joy to use, but I think the 24mm was probably best-suited to the event as a whole. It’s wide enough to shoot a whole car, but it’s no slouch when it comes to sharpness. Look at this 100% crop:

Not too shabby! Check out the galleries below for sample images from all three lenses.

FE 135mm f/1.8 GM

I found myself trying to focus too closely with the 135mm (simply because I was trying to use it in enclosed quarters) but when I had room to focus, my images were edged like knives. It’s a fun distance, too; close enough for portraiture but far enough away to maintain the distance required for effective candid photography.

FE 24mm f/1.4 GM

With just a hint of wide-angle distortion, the 24mm shoots images with a suggestion of momentum toward the viewer without a distracting fish-eye effect.

FE 85m f/1.4 GM

My time with the 85mm got cut a little short because I borrowed it so close to the end of the event, but I still got a few shots I enjoyed. Don’t miss Marilyn Mannequin and her furry security, below!

The 135mm and 24mm, both less than a year old, are in extremely short supply, so be sure to get your order in as soon as possible if you’re enchanted by either one.

Were you there?

If you joined us at the event, make sure that any photos you share are tagged #mymikescamera so the rest of us can see what you created. If you weren’t, I hope to see you there next time! Thanks again to the folks at Sony, Rambler Ranch, and to my cohorts at Mike’s Camera for arranging this very special outing.

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