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Introduction Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA on Sony A7rII

The Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA was the first f/1.4 prime for the Sony FE system. But can it keep up with the latest GM lenses available today? Find out in this review!

Sample Images Sony A7rII | Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA | f/1.4 Sony A7rII | Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA | f/1.4 Sony A7rII | Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA | f/2.0

Sony A7III | Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA | f/1.4 Sony A7III | Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA | f/1.4

Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.

Specifications / Version History

Introduced in the beginning of 2015 the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA was the first “high end” f/1.4 prime for the Sony Full Frame mirrorless. The lens has the following specifications:

    • Diameter: 79 mm
    • Field of view: 63° (diagonally)
    • Length: 113 mm
    • Weight: 630g (without hood and caps)
    • Filter Diameter: 72 mm
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 9 (rounded)
    • Elements/Groups: 12/8
    • Close Focusing Distance: 0.30 m
    • Maximum Magnification: 1:5.6
    • Mount: Sony-E

You may also have a look at the official page.

You can usually find the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA on amazon.com/amazon.de, B&H or ebay.com/ebay.de for about $1499/1499€ new or used for a few 100 bucks less (affiliate links)

Disclosure

This lens is known for its very high sample variation. Already in March 2018 one reader sent me one, but I only used it to take the product shots and then had to return it due to being heavily decentered.
This second sample is the best centered one I have seen so far, so I can finally review this lens.

Operation Handling Aperture ring on Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA

To my knowledge this was the first E-mount lens to feature a physical aperture ring (1/3rd of a stop click stops) which is surely a nice touch. The clicks are not as distinct as on the newer GM lenses but that surely isn’t a problem. The ring can also be declicked for video usage.
The focus ring is unfortunately of the non-linear type, so depending on how fast you turn it the AF motor inside the lens will move the elements only a little or a lot.
I really don’t like this and greatly prefer the linear manual focus of the GM lenses. But if you don’t intend to ever manually focus this lens that surely won’t bother you.

Unfortunately there are no other buttons or switches on the lens. No AF/MF switch, no focus hold button (sometimes referred to as lens button). This is also a real let down compared to the GM lenses.

Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA with lens hood mounted on Sony A7rII

A bayonet type lens hood with rubberized fron part is also part of the package. For transport it can be mounted reversed.

In this category the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA surely falls short compared to the newer GM lenses.

Build Quality

The ZA casing seems to be mostly made of metal, but these type of casings haven’t really proven to be scratch resistant.

But apparently it is well sealed and rather durable compared to even earlier FE lenses.

Autofocus

I haved only used the lens for slow moving adults and encountered no problems with the autofocus. If you primarily want to take pictures of running animals or small children you may come to a different conclusion.

Eye-AF also works generally well, but you have to be close to your subject for the camera to actually recognize an eye in the frame. So at the distances I was mostly using this lens the cameras usually resorted back to face-detect mode.

Vignetting light falloff


Wide open there is strong light falloff of roughly 2.8 EV, stopped down to f/2.0 this improves to 2.0 EV, stopped down to f/2.8 it is 1.6 EV and further improves to 1.3 EV at f/8.0. These values are comparable to the competition in this class. You can either correct this in Lightroom or directly in camera.

color cast Sony A7rII | Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA | f/1.4

The lens also shows a slight green color cast in the corners and towards the borders, similar to the Voigtlander VM 28mm 2.0 Ultron or the 7artisans 28mm 1.4 FE+. This is not visible in every shot, but can be noticeable e.g. when shooting with an overcast sky in the background.
This can be corrected e.g. by cornerfix or using gradients in Lightroom (the latter being my preferred option).

optical vignetting

Very fast yet compact lenses usually show a significant amount of optical vignetting. Without going too much into technical details mechanical vignetting leads to the truncation of light circles towards the borders of the frame.
In the center of the frame almost every lens will render a perfect circle, but only lenses with very low optical vignetting will keep this shape in the corners.
So in the following comparison we move from the center (left) to the extreme corner (right) and see how the shape of the light circle changes.

I did not shoot the lenses side by side, but the results are still giving us an idea of what to expect here.
Due to its huge size I expected the 35mm 1.4 ZA to perform a bit better to be honest, but the wide open optical vignetting is very comparable to that of the Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7. Stopped down to f/2.0 the Sony pulls a bit ahead in the corners though.
And also the small 7artisans 28mm 1.4 FE+ fares no worse in this category.
You can also see the obvious onion ring structures in the 35mm 1.4 ZA crops, more on that in the bokeh section.

Sharpness Sample variation / Variance ©Lensrentals/Roger Cicala

This lens is known to have rather high sample variation and while it usually is hard to get decent numbers on this, the guys from Lensrentals actually measured a host of copies and put together these graphs.

The wider the areas in the right graph the worse the sample variation. And those bars are really wide for the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA.
This means it is possible you get a great copy. It also means it is more likely you get a not so great copy and really likely you get a copy with very uneven corner performance.

This sample also doesn’t show 4 perfectly even corners at f/1.4, but it is still the best sample I have seen so far.

So I can’t say if this performance is what you can or should expect, keep that in mind when having a look at the following sections.

infinity

Wide open you can see lots of longitudinal CA at infinity and also a bit of glow. Luckily most of this goes away on stopping down to f/2.0.
While the center shows almost no detectable focus shift midframe and corners are a whole different story. Here the plane of optimal focus shifts quite a bit on stopping down.
To avoid issues due to this best use f/8.0 for landscape/architecture applications.

I am sure many of you are tempted to tell me how their sample is better. I am more sure that many of you never checked their lens as I did here though (as it is a rather boring task). And I am even more sure for many of you this doesn’t matter as this is not the application people are usually buying this lens for.

portrait distance

For portraiture it isn’t so important how flat the field is, it is more interesting to see what the sharpness is like when focused at different parts of the frame to take field curvature out of the equasion.
This is what I did here, I refocused for every shot to get the best possible result at different locations in the frame (center, inner midframe, outer midframe and corner).
Focus distance was roughly 1,0 m and the circle of the dollar bill is more or less the size of a human eye.
In my 35mm comparison I found out that the Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 is a really strong performer in this regard (it also is the only 35mm I currently own) so I decided to use it for a comparison.

Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA <—> Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 + 5m PCX


100%, A7rII

No matter what part of the frame you are looking at, the VM 35mm 1.7 always looks better. Both lenses are very close in the center though.
It shall be noted that the Voigtlander lens is half a stop slower, so this is obviously not an entirely fair comparison.

close (0.30 m, 1:5.6)

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Introduction Canon EF 200mm 2.0 L IS USM on Sony A7rII

Regular readers know I have a soft spot for lenses like this. The Canon EF 200mm 2.0 L IS has been introduced in 2008 and is still the latest lens in its class. So how does it stack up compared to the older 200mm 1.8 L? And how does it work with the new real time AF of the gen 3 cameras? Find out in this review!

Sample Images Sony A7III | Canon EF 200mm 2.0 L IS | f/2.0 Sony A7III | Canon EF 200mm 2.0 L IS | f/2.0 Sony A7III | Canon EF 200mm 2.0 L IS | f/2.0

Sony A7III | Canon EF 200mm 2.0 L IS | f/2.0 Sony A7III | Canon EF 200mm 2.0 L IS | f/2.0 | panorama from 4 shots

You can find most of the shots in this review in full resolution here.

Specifications / Version History

In 2008 the Canon EF 200mm 2.0 L IS replaced the 1/3 of a stop faster Canon EF 200mm 1.8 L that was introduced in 1989. There surely has been some controversity regarding the successor being slower and I cannot tell you why Canon decided to do this. To realize a more lightweight lens? Because it was not easily possible to build a 200mm 1.8 lens without lead glass? As you will see in this review there are differences more noticeable than the 1/3rd of a stop slower maximum aperture. The Canon EF 200mm 2.0 L IS reviewed here has the following specifications:

    • Diameter: 128 mm (Hood 146 mm)
    • Field of view: 12° (diagonally)
    • Length: 208 mm (with Hood 310 mm) + adapter
    • Weight: 2520g + Hood 210g
    • Filter Diameter: 52 mm drop-in
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 8
    • Elements/Groups: 17/12
    • Close Focusing Distance: 1.9 m
    • Maximum Magnification: 1:8.3 (1:5.3 with EF12 II extension tube)
    • Mount: Canon-EF

You may also have a look at Canon’s official page.

You can get one new for $5700/5500€ from amazon.com, B&H or used for roughly 3500$/3800€ on ebay.com/ebay.de (affiliate links)

Operation Handling / Build Quality Canon EF 200mm 2.0 L IS USM

The lens is one of Canon’s L grade professional lenses so you would expect very good build quality and handling and the lens certainly doesn’t disappoint in that respect. The outer casing does seem to be made of metal as does the really big lens hood (I am not 100% sure what it is made of, my guess is magnesium alloy).
Unlike the EF 200mm 1.8 this lens does not incorporate a focus-by-wire system but a direct coupling between focus ring and mechanics instead. The focus throw is around 180° and makes setting precise focus an easy task.

The lens further features a focus limiter switch (3.5 m to oo instead of 1.9 m to oo), an AF/MF switch, Stabilizer on/off switch, Stabilizer mode switch (1 = normal, 2 = panning), a focus preset function and 4 radially arranged focus hold buttons that can be programmed in camera like on a native lens.

Cannon EF 200mm 2.0 L IS button layout

The lens hood is very big but also very sturdy. Unlike on many other shorter lenses I often use these super tele hoods as they are all quite prone to getting hit by stray light. There is also a non removable (but rotatable) tripod collar. There are replacement foots with arca swiss profile available e.g. from RRS.

Canon EF 200mm 2.0 L IS with hood attached

With AF and IS it is certainly possible to use this lens without tripod, but you will surely begin to notice the weight after some time.

Slot-In Filters Gel filter holder, screw in filter holder, polarizer holder

The lens features a slot for 52mm filters close to the bayonet. The lens ships with a rather useless gel holder that can be replaced by a 52mm screw in holder (Canon Screw 52 (W II) e.g. for ND filters) or a polarizer holder (Canon PC-C 52 (W II)).
These are very expensive, especially the polarizer holder. Luckily I managed to get a set of both used for a decent price.
My polarizer holder has an “interesting” feature though: it has been assembled in the wrong direction. For it to take proper effect it has to be used reversed (the “Front Arrow” pointing to the back). I am not sure if this is the case with all polarizers of this type or if this one is only an exception (I hope the latter is the case…).

This glass element is part of the optical formula, so you should always be using the gel holder or the screw in holder with the clear protect filter when not using any other filter.

Autofocus / IS

I have tested this lens on the Sony A7rII and A7III with the following two adapters:

  • Sigma MC-11, firmware 1.25, $249 (affiliate link)
  • Metabones MK V, firmware v0.61, $399 (affiliate link)
    (Metabones MK III, IV and V feature the same electronics and should give the same results)

On the A7rII both adapters work similar, AF is quite snappy and reliable but eye-AF is not working. The in lens IS is not working so well though: at shutter speeds of 1/60s and faster I got better results without the in lens IS.

On the A7III the combination with Sigma MC-11 does not work at all. It is not even possible to change the aperture value.
With the metabones the lens works really well on this camera though (in green mode): AF is fast, eye-AF is working, on lens buttons are working.
But: be sure to not use the face register feature as the camera will simply freeze when you attempt to take a shot when it is activated.

Towards the corners of the frame the AF is not working as great anymore, so it is a good idea to stay within the PDAF area.

Vignetting light falloff

Wide open there is visible vignetting of roughly 2.0 EV, stopped down to f/2.8 only 1.0 EV, stopped down to f/4.0 it is already negligible with 0.4 EV and further improves to 0.1 EV at f/5.6. There is a Lightroom profile for this lens available.

optical vignetting

Very fast lenses usually show a significant amount of optical vignetting. Without going too much into technical details optical vignetting leads to the truncation of light circles towards the borders of the frame.
In the center of the frame almost every lens will render a perfect circle, but only lenses with very low optical vignetting will keep this shape in the corners.
So in the following comparison we move from the center (left) to the extreme corner (right) and see how the shape of the light circle changes.

This is very typical behaviour for a lens with these parameters. If this bothers you, you may need to have a look at some of the projector lenses with bigger image circle like the Carl Zeiss Jena 1.9/168 or 1.9/183.

I did not shoot the 200mm f/1.8 and 200mm f/2.0 side by side. The circles would be bigger on the f/1.8 lens when focused at the same distance and cropped to the same size.
The light source is reflected by a glass door, the small dots are dust spots on that door.

Sharpness infinity

Heat haze is always a problem when looking at the infinity resolution of tele lenses and this was no exception. The center and midframe always look great, but the corners surely benefit from stopping down a bit.
Compared to the Canon EF 200mm 1.8 L the corner resolution looks a bit worse, but having used the lens in the field I don’t think it has been optimized for infinity and performs better at slightly closer distances.
The exposure of the f/2.0 corner crop has been lifted in post.

close focus (1.9 m)


100% crops from center, A7rII

A minimum focus distance of 1.9 m is a big improvement over the predecessor’s 2.5 m. The image quality is very usable wide open with slightly reduced contrast and improves to very good levels on stopping down to f/2.8.

close focus with EF12 II extension tube

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Phillip Reeve Blog by Phillip Reeve - 2w ago

Bastian, Jannik and I met up on Skype and created our very first podcast. It is an experiment and still rather raw, far away from technical perfection but we decided the best way to get started would be to just start and improve along the way.

To improve the podcast so would we greatly appreciate your feedback! So please leave a comment! What did you like? What did you not like? Which topics would you like to be discussed in the podcast?

Topics
  1. Bastian got himself an a7III
  2. We discuss the Peak Design travel tripod on Kickstarter
  3. Adapter headaches with the Canon EF 2/200 L IS

The post LensTalk Episode 0 appeared first on phillipreeve.net.

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Introduction Laowa 9mm 2.8 APS-C C-Dreamer on Sony A7rII

We rarely review APS-C lenses here, but this tiny ultra wide angle looked so cute that I couldn’t resist to have a closer look at it.

Sample Images Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/11 Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/11 Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/8.0

Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/4.0 Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/11

You can find most of the shots in this review in full resolution here.

Specifications / Version History

I am reviewing a final production model here which has the following specifications:

  • Diameter: 58mm
  • Field of view: 113° (diagonally)
  • Length: 58mm
  • Weight: 200g
  • Filter Diameter: 49mm
  • Number of Aperture Blades: 7 (straight)
  • Elements/Groups: 15/10
  • Close Focusing Distance: 0.12m
  • Maximum Magnification: ~1:9.7
  • Mount: E-mount

The lens is also available for several other mounts like Fuji-X, m43, Canon M and DJI DL.

The lens is available directly from the manfucaturer’s homepage, amazon.com/amazon.de, ebay.com/ebay.de and B&H (affiliate links) and the price is $499/599€.

Disclosure

The Laowa 9mm 2.8 APS-C C-Dreamer was kindly provided free of charge by Venus Optics / Laowa for reviewing purpose for a few weeks.

Handling / Build Quality Laowa 9mm 2.8 APS-C C-Dreamer

So far all the Laowa lenses I reviewed had very nice build quality and this holds true for this small APS-C lens as well. The outer casing seems to be made from a mixture of metal and high quality polycarbonate. It feels very dense and solid.
Markings are engraved and filled with paint.

The Laowa 15mm 2.0 offers a similar field of view when used on a full frame camera and despite also being rather compact this 9mm looks tiny next to it.

Laowa FE 15mm 2.0 Zero-D and E 9mm 2.8 APS-C C-Dreamer

The focus ring has (for my taste) very nice resistance; a little more than the Zeiss Loxia lenses, maybe a tad less than the Zeiss ZM or Voigtlander lenses. The throw of the focusing ring is about ~160° from the minimum focus distance (0.12m) to infinity.
The aperture ring has one-stop click-stops and it takes about 45° from f/2.8 to f/22.

Unlike some of the other Laowa lenses this does not feature a de click feature for the aperture ring.

Laowa 9mm 2.8 APS-C C-Dreamer with small metal hood attached

The lens does not feature electronic contacts to communicate with your camera, but a small metal bayonet type lens hood is part of the package.

Vignetting and colorcast

With small ultra wide angle lenses in the past we have already seen that vignetting figures are pretty high and won’t improve that much on stopping down, this is also the case here.
Wide open there is very strong vignetting of 3.5 EV, at f/4.0 it is 2.9 EV and stopped down f/8.0 still 2.3 EV.

Also similar to the Voigtlander UWA primes and the other wide Laowa primes (12mm 2.8 and 15mm 2.0) this lens showed some slight green color cast in the corners.

Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/2.8

This is what this color cast looks like in a real world picture:

Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/11

And if you think about using this lens on a full frame camera without crop mode, not a great idea:

Sony A7rII | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/11 Sharpness infinity

The lens is usable at f/2.8, but the corners are not great and a midzone dip is also noticeable. Stopping down to f/4.0 improves the corner resolution and greatly improves the midzone as well.
Due to the strong vignetting that is a bit lower at f/5.6 to f/8.0 I would stick to these aperture for landscape and architecture photography.

Exposure on corner crops has been lifted in post to reveal more details

close focus

100% crops from center, A7rII

With the minimum focus distance of just 0.12 m you can get really close to your subject. In the center the performance really good starting at f/2.8, stopping down barely improves the performance. Best across frame sharpness is reached at f/8.0 to f/11.

Distortion Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/8.0

Like the 15mm 2.0 and the 12mm 2.8 this 9mm 2.8 is also part of Laowa’s “Zero-D(istortion)” line, but surprisingly it is only written on the box, not on the lens itself.

Sunstars

100% crops from center, A7rII

Being one of the older Laowa lenses the 9mm 2.8 also features 7 aperture blades and not so well defined, rather fuzzy sunstars with rays of uneven length (see also my reviews of the 2/15 or 2.8/12).
This is a highly subjective topic so you might want to have a look at this article and decide for yourself, what you prefer.

Coma correction

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The Zeiss Batis 1.8/85mm lens has generated less excitement than any other Batis. Perhaps because it falls between the Scylla and Charybdis of two competitors: the excellent and cheaper Sony 1.8/85, and the Sony G Master 1.4/85. People think if you don’t want the GM lens, with it’s beautiful bokeh and low mechanical vignetting, you should maximise your savings get the Sony.

Often in the introduction to reviews we write teasers – Is this true? Read on to find out!! No teaser here. It’s not true. By all means get the Sony if you aren’t up for the added cost of the Batis. But the Batis is a great lens, worth the price if you can easily afford it and are looking for an all-rounder. Now for the teaser: read on to find out why.

Samples

Specifications
Diameter max 92 mm
Length 92 mm
Filter Thread 67 mm
Weight (w/o adapter) 475 g
Minimum Focusing Distance 0.8m
Maximum Magnification 1:7.9
Number of aperture blades 9 (curved)
Elements/ Groups 11/8

If you are interesting in purchasing it, buying it from one of these affiliate links makes a small contribution to defraying the cost of this blog. You can get it at:

B&H Photo or from Amazon.com or eBay.com

Features, Build Quality and Handling

The build quality of the lens is excellent. It has the usual Batis heavy duty outer shell and tough finish, and it has gaskets for weather sealing on the lens mount, and is claimed to be well sealed internally. It comes with a substantial hood which does a good job of shading the lens. Batis design is “new Zeiss” and has the same design language as Milvus lenses. People seem to be very divided on this; some love it, others hate it. I’m in the middle: I think it looks nice and slick, but probably prefer the “classic” look.

The very solid lens body is smooth and featureless. This choice means that there is no focus hold button, and no MF-AF button. If you depend on those that will be an annoyance. It doesn’t worry me at all: I have a range of lenses, and I want them all to work the same way, so I have to have a dedicated button on camera to toggle AF and MF. I don’t know anyone (surely there are some) who use the focus hold button for focus hold. But many use if for eye-AF: however with the version 3 firmware for the A7 series, and the version 5 for A9, eyeAF does not have to be actuated with a button.

There is, as usual for Batis, an OLED display which tells you focus distance and DOF. I’ve sometimes used it as a rough indication of focus distance when focussing manually before putting the camera to my eye. I’ve never used it as a DOF scale.

At 475g the lens is relatively light for its speed and quality, though as with most Batis lenses it’s a bit larger than you might expect.

The focus ring is the smooth rubber ring that new generation Zeiss comes with. I actually rather like it for focussing – it’s easy to find with your fingers (though not I expect with gloves on – I live in a fairly warm climate) and very smooth. It does rather attract dust, but it’s fairly easy to clean. But the only ergonomic thing I don’t much like is related to manual focus: like all Batis lenses the focus throw is dependent on how fast you turn the focus ring—”non-linear”. Again this is divisive; some love it (because you can quickly make a big change in focus, and then fine tune), other hate it (because they find it unpredictable and hard to control). Again I’m sort of in between. I would prefer linear focus, but can put up with non-linear and in some situations its useful. Zeiss should make firmware available to convert these lenses to linear focus for those of us that prefer it; surely that would be trivial.

The lens has OSS – optical image stabilisation. This will be very useful for users of the first generation A7 bodies that had no body stabilisation. On later generation bodies the stabilising is split between lens and body; two axes on the lens, and three on the body. In theory this could provide better stabilisation than pure IBIS, but in practice it doesn’t seem to make a difference with this or similar focal lengths.

Infinity Resolution

Here’s the usual infinity resolution image. As usual recently, I have taken to moving the camera so as to get the same subject in each location, to make comparison easier. I focussed when the subject was central, and did not change focus for midfield (intersection of rule of thirds lines) and extreme corner.

We can get resolution out of the way quickly. It’s terrific. Centre and midfield are extremely good from wide open, and close to outstanding at mid apertures. The extreme corners are good wide open, though improvement is noticeable at f2.8 and reaches its best at f4. The first, slight, visual signs of diffraction occur at f8. In terms of across the image sharpness viewed at the whole image level even printing large (ie not pixel peeping on your screen), the lens can be used from wide open: and the centre and midfield can be pixel peeped as well. The contrast is very high as well.

Maybe we need an article about how we use evaluative language for resolution one day. But for now I can tell you roughly how I use it. Good and very good resolution means that, unless you examine an extremely large print (say a bit less than a metre in diagonal) or the whole image on a high res 30″ very closely, you can’t tell that there is any improvement possible (of course you could if you pixel peep). Excellent for me means that you could not notice any improvement no matter how closely you stare at normal viewing distances. Excellent is also my personal high standard of what it is sensible to care about. Nothing more will make images sharper in most of their intended uses. Outstanding is just more of this goodness: it looks a bit better when you pixel peep at 1:1/42MP. Sometimes I’ll use the phrase “class leading” and of course this varies a bit over time: it means the kind of quality that the absolute technically best lens has at the moment (of course a lens could be class leading in some respects but not others). Currently class leading lenses have absurdly high reoslution, higher than outstanding, and which can only be distinguished at 1:1/42MP.

If you are wondering about the superb and inexpensive Sony 1.8/85, it’s hard to compare real world results taken in different conditions. But have a look at Roger Cicala’s MTF bench tests over at LensRentals: they tell a clear story. While the Sony is very fine, the Batis is even better, both in the centre and off axis. Why have quite reasonable people thought there was little difference? Well if you look at Lens Rentals variation charts, you can see that while the Batis is on average noticeably better than the Sony, in their sample of ten, the worst Batis (while good) was worse than the best Sony. So there are pairs of samples out there which support this view. But on average you will get a better Batis than Sony in terms of resolution, and if you have good copies of both the Batis will be better. And variation is reasonable, too, so you aren’t playing an unpleasant lottery with either of these lenses.

Portrait Distance Resolution

One of the primary uses of a fairly fast 85mm lens is for portraiture.   What matters here is not so much even resolution across the frame, but that the eye of your subject, at whatever place you put it in the frame, is sharp when you focus on it. In past reviews I have used a live subject and focussed on their eye, but this both requires a cooperative friend, and is subject to possible movement.

Instead I have focussed on bank notes, which we also often use for MOD (minimum object distance) tests.

I focussed at 2.2 metres, which is a nice half-body to head-and shoulders distance for portraiture. I focussed first in the centre, and then at the rule-of-thirds intersection. Any further into the corners in an unlikely location for an eye in a portrait.

For reference, the two eyes of the American President in this image together are about as wide a regular human eye. This is life-size.

First, wide open at f1.8. Left is centre, right rule of thirds intersection.

Second stopped down to f2.8: again left is centre, right is rule of thirds intersection.

This is extremely good performance. Bearing in mind that a real human eye occupies the same size as both eyes and the area between them in the banknote, at portrait distance this shows that it really doesn’t matter where you place your eye or what aperture you use, the B85 will deliver extremely high resolution. Use the aperture for creative effect rather than additional sharpness, and place the eye wherever you like (other locations, including the edge, that I tried looked similar).

Minimum Object Distance Performance

The Batis 85 focusses down to 80cm. Here is the same detailed banknote image, also at life-size, wide open and at f2.8

Wide open is left, f2.8 is right.

Performance here is exemplary. Excellent wide open, just a touch contrastier at f2.8. No visible improvement on further stopping down.  This performance suggests that excellent results could be achieved using extension tubes if closer focus is desired (if performance is already a bit weak at MOD without extension tubes, it tends to fall apart if the lens is forced to focus closer with tubes).

Bokeh

Here is an aperture series showing the bokeh when there is a very busy but relatively distant background (from 4m behind subject), focussed at about 2.5m (typical portrait distance).

Optical Vignetting and the Swirl Effect

At the wides apertures most lenses cut off the bokeh balls so they are not perfectly round. This has two effects: one is that when there are specular highlights in the background, instead of being round, they are “cat’s eyes” in the corners. The other effect is that this slight deformation of out of focus structures makes the background swirl a little. Some people seek out old designs that have huge amounts of optical vignetting to achieve this swirl (such as the Helios 44-2).

Lets start with an examination of this optical vignetting (the phenomena,  sometimes called mechanical vignetting though these are slightly different phenomena: we’ll have an article explaining this later)

Optical vignetting is the usual cause of the “cats eye” effect which is in turn the cause of slight swirliness in the bokeh:

Here is wide open at f1.8.

Left is the extreme corner, mid is rule of thirds intersection, right is centre.

Here is f2.8

And finally f4.

Wide open the aperture is of course smooth, but we are seeing noticeable cats eyes in both the corner and mid. By f2.8 the mid is regular, and by f4 the corner is almost regular. The angularity is the worst case; in some situations it can appear rounder, depending on exact distances etc.

This is fairly typical for a lens of this class. Zeiss, for example, seems to target a certain amount of optical vignetting wide open regardless of lens speed. This means for example that you will get better optical vignetting performance with an f1.4 lens stopped down to f2, than an f2 lens wide open.

And here is the very slight swirl you get in the background at certain distances because of it at full aperture. I judge this to be typical for a 18/85 close to wide open (obviously a faster lens stopped down to f1.8 will be typically a bit better here).

At slightly greater distances from about f1.8-f2.4 you can see more swirl and a bit of edge brightness.

And finally, here is a perhaps unflattering image produced as a “scary Halloween” photo, which I use to show how the bokeh balls look wide open look in close portraits. You can see the cats eye effect (as per the technical image above). This is no worse than any other 1.8/85 I know, but of course a faster lens stopped down to f 1.8 would do better (and the BM 1.4/85 does better wide open – that is the best thing about that lens, at the price of a bit of contrast). One good thing about the the Batis is in this comparison is how evenly illuminated the bokeh balls are.

Vignetting (Corner Shading)

Vignetting in this sense is a lack of even illumination across the image field. It is the result of a mixture of causes; usually optical vignetting and natural vignetting. Natural vignetting is the residual vignetting which is not reduced by stopping down. The increase in vignetting relative to this at wider apertures is usually another effect of the optical vignetting we discussed above.

The Batis 85 measures about 2 stops vignetting in the corners wide open; it isn’t field relevant by f5.6 and largely gone by f8. This is perhaps average to slightly higher than average performance for a lens like this. It can be completely corrected by a profile in the RAW converter of your choice, or it can be corrected in camera if you prefer, in which case you will never see it (even in RAWs). I prefer not to correct in camera, as in many situations the vignetting looks good, and correction will create more noise in the corners.

Here’s a visual guide:

Chromatic Aberration

There’s no visible lateral chromatic aberration (LaCA) though presumably there is at least some which is corrected via the mandatory profile in Lightroom or C1. Since lateral CA correction is essentially losslessly correctable, there’s no point is using a niche converter (or taping the contacts) to reveal the underlying LaCA.

Longitudinal chromatic aberration is another matter. It’s time consuming to correct without bad side effects, and even that may be imperfect, so it’s important to keep an eye on it.

Here’s a guide to the LoCA:

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Introduction Olympus OM 250mm 2.0 Zuiko Auto-T on Sony A7rII

The Olympus OM 250mm 2.0 Zuiko Auto-T is one of those legendary lenses. Only few have been made and there has never been something similar again. So I was very excited to get the chance to have a look at one.

Samples Sony A7rII | Olympus OM 250mm 2.0 Zuiko | f/2.0 Sony A7rII | Olympus OM 250mm 2.0 Zuiko | f/2.0 Sony A7rII | Olympus OM 250mm 2.0 Zuiko | f/2.0

Disclosure

This lens was purchased by a reader who had it sent to me to check if everything is working properly and – if that is the case – to also write an in depth review on this rare lens.
Unfortunately this lens shows some deficiencies so I had to advise the owner to return the lens. Therefore this can only be a small hands on article.

Specifications / Version History

In the mid 1980’s Olympus really wanted to rival Canon and Nikon in the professional sports photography segment, so they introduced a 180mm 2.0, this 250mm 2.0 and a 350mm 2.8 super tele lens.
All three are spectacular designs: floating elements, special glass ED elements, lightweight construction, best in class minimum focus distance and high optical performance.
I didn’t manage to find out how many of these have been produced yet, but the 350mm 2.8 seems to be the easiest to get, the other two are a lot harder to come by. Nevertheless, this OM 2/250 has the following specifications:

    • Diameter: 142 mm
    • Field of view: 10° (diagonally)
    • Length: 255 mm
    • Weight: 3900g + adapter
    • Filter Diameter: 46 mm (rear slot in)
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 9 (rounded)
    • Elements/Groups: 12/9
    • Close Focusing Distance: 2.2 m
    • Maximum Magnification: 1:7.3 (measured)
    • Mount: Olympus OM

Your best bet getting one is on ebay.com (affiliate link). But these are really rare. Prices can vary between 5000$/€ up to 8000$/€ or even more.

Build quality / Handling Olympus OM Zuiko 250mm 2.0 Auto-T

I have yet to come across a super tele lens with bad build quality. Everything except for the aperture ring is made from metal and feels very solid. The focus ring feels also very nice and offers even resistance. It takes ~160° from infinity to the minimum focus distance (2.2m).
The aperture ring has full-stop click stops and turns roughly 60° from f/2.0 to f/22.

The lens features 46mm slot in filters. Good luck finding the polarizer for this lens…

The Olympus 2/250 offers a retractable hood, I quite like these as they are easy to use and don’t take up additional space in the bag. The tripod collar is non detachable.

This lens feature a very complex internal focusing mechanism with lens groups changing their positions relative to each other, so the flange focal distance has a high influence on image quality. Therefore I recommend using the Novoflex OM-E adapter (affiliate link), as these adapters are tightly manufactured to give the correct flange focal distance.

Canon EF 200mm 2.0 L IS and Olympus OM 250mm 2.0 Zuiko Auto-T

The Olympus lens is really massive and even makes the Canon EF 200mm 2.0 L IS look like a compact, reasonably sized lens.

Vignetting light falloff

Wide open there is vignetting of roughly 1.9 EV, stopped down to f/2.8 this improves to 1.2 EV, stopped down to f/4.0 it is negligible with 0.5 EV and further improves to less than 0.2 EV at f/8.0. There is no Lightroom profile available for this lens.

mechanical vignetting

In the center of the frame almost every lens will render a perfect circle, but only lenses with very low mechanical vignetting will keep this shape in the corners.
So in the following comparison we move from the center (left) to the extreme corner (right) and see how the shape of the light circle changes.

You can see how similar lenses compare in my Best lenses for Brenizer/Bokehpanorama article.

Sharpness

As written before there was something wrong with this sample of the lens. Not only was decentering visible but the center showed subpar sharpness and contrast with lots of spherical aberration.
One of the corners on the other hand showed amazing performance, worthy of a super tele lens.
Therefore I cannot judge sharpness based on this sample at all.

Bokeh Sony A7rII | Olympus OM 250mm 2.0 Zuiko | f/2.0

Its out of this world bokeh rendering is probably the main reason to get this lens today. It is the shortest lens with such a high blur potential.

And while it is already amazing when taking single shots (see above), where it really shines are brenizer/bokehpanoramas:

Sony A7rII | Olympus OM 250mm 2.0 Zuiko | f/2.0 | panorama from 4 shots

If you buy this lens to use it for portraiture the bokeh surely won’t disappoint, but the working distance might. Already for half body you need to be far away from the model and at the distance that is necessary for full body portraits communication will become quite the problem.

First impressions

It really is a shame the optics of this lens are not in better condition, who knows if I will ever get a chance to review one again?
While I can’t and won’t comment on sharpness the bokeh rendering is simply spectacular. A 25% longer focal length at the same maximum aperture compared to the 200mm f/2.0 lenses makes a more than notable difference.
But handling wise the 3.9 kg also make a notable difference compared to e.g. the 2.5 kg (without hood) of the Canon EF 200mm 2.0 L IS. The latter one is significantly easier to use and handle and fits in way more of my bags and backpacks.

Even being a faulty sample it was still interesting to have a closer look at this legendary lens. A forgotten, shining part of Olympus’ history.

PS: if you happen to own one – or in case you want to buy one and make sure it is worth its money within the return period – don’t hesitate to get in contact.

Your best bet getting one is on ebay.com (affiliate link). But these are really rare. Prices can vary between 5000$/€ up to 8000$/€ or even more.

Samples Sony A7rII | Olympus OM 250mm 2.0 Zuiko | f/2.0 Sony A7rII | Olympus OM 250mm 2.0 Zuiko | f/2.0 Further Reading

The post Hands On: Olympus 250mm 2.0 OM Zuiko Auto-T appeared first on phillipreeve.net.

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Introduction Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 Nokton E on Sony A7rII

I already reviewed the M-mount version and liked it a lot. Now the native E-mount version has finally been released. Can it hold up to my high expectations?

Sample Images Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 Nokton E | f/1.2 Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 Nokton E | f/2.8 Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 Nokton E | f/1.2

Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 Nokton E | f/1.2 Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 Nokton E | f/1.2

Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.

Specifications / Version History

In 2018 a Leica-M version was released (see our review). At Photokina 2018 we already saw two prototypes for an E-mount version of this lens which was then released in April 2019. This E-mount version has the following specifications:

    • Diameter: 70 mm
    • Field of view: 47.5° (diagonally)
    • Length: 58 mm
    • Weight: 440g (without hood and caps)
    • Filter Diameter: 58 mm
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 12 (straight)
    • Elements/Groups: 8/6
    • Close Focusing Distance: 0.45 m
    • Maximum Magnification: 1:6.8 (measured)
    • Mount: Sony-E

You may also have a look at the official page.

You can usually find the Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 E on CameraQuestB&H, Robert White or ebay.com/ebay.de for about $1099/1099€ (affiliate links)

Disclosure

The Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 Nokton E was kindly provided free of charge by Robert White/Flaghead for reviewing purpose for a duration of 4 weeks.

Handling / Build Quality Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 Nokton E

So far none of the Voigtlander lenses disappointed in this category and this holds true for this new 50mm 1.2 E as well. The focus ring has perfect resistance and travels ~160° from the minimum focus distance (0.45m) to infinity.

The aperture ring has 1/3 stop click stops which makes counting the f-stops a bit tedious. It travels about 120° from f/1.2 to f/22. The aperture ring can also be “declicked” which can be useful if you want to use this lens for filming.

Most parts seem to be made from metal and all markings are engraved and filled with paint.

Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 Nokton E with metal screw in hood

A small screw in metal hood is part of the package, a nice touch is that the hood also features a 58mm thread for attaching filters even when using the hood.

Compared to the M-mount version there are in fact quite a few differences worth noting: the minimum focus distance is now 0.45 instead of 0.7 m, aperture ring click stops are now 1/3 instead of 1/2, the aperture ring can be declicked, the lens gained quite a bit in terms of size and weight (440g instead of 350g + adapter), the filter diameter is now 58 mm instead of 52 mm, you get the hood for free and – obviously – the E-mpunt version features electronic contacts to communicate exifs and focus distance with your camera.

Vignetting light falloff


Wide open there is strong light falloff of roughly 3.1 EV, stopped down to f/2.0 this improves to 2.0 EV, stopped down to f/2.8 it is 1.7 EV and further improves to 1.3 EV at f/8.0. These values are comparable to the competition in this class. You can either correct this in Lightroom or directly in camera. There is no Lightroom profile yet, but I expect it to be included in one of the next updates.
Interestingly these values are about 0.3 EV higher compared to the M-Mount version.

Mechanical Vignetting

Very fast yet compact lenses usually show a significant amount of mechanical vignetting. Without going too much into technical details mechanical vignetting leads to the truncation of light circles towards the borders of the frame.
In the center of the frame almost every lens will render a perfect circle, but only lenses with very low mechanical vignetting will keep this shape in the corners.
So in the following comparison we move from the center (left) to the extreme corner (right) and see how the shape of the light circle changes.

For comparison’s sake I included the Zhong Yi Mitakom 50mm 0.95 here. I consider this performance average for a lens with these parameters. Nothing has changed compared to the M-mount version here.

This comparison was done at 0.7 m focus distance, you may get slightly different results at other distances.

*The Mitakon does not have a real f/1.2 marking, hence the small difference in size at f/1.2.

Sharpness infinity

In the center the resolution at infinity is okay at f/1.2, but we can see quite a bit of glow (spherical aberration) and also purple fringing. Midframe and corners are a bit soft but depending on the subject may still be usable.
The center starts to show good resolution figures at f/2.0 and really good ones with very high contrast at f/4.0.
The midframe follows one step behind but the corners really need f/8.0 to show good performance.

The midframe performance has been improved by about 2 stops and the corners by about 3 stops, meaning the midframe on the E-mount version at f/1.2 looks like the M-mount version at ~f/2.0 and the corners at f/1.2 look like the M-mount version at f/3.5.
But where there is light there is also a bit of shadow: stopped down to f/5.6 it seems to me that the M-mount version has a slightly flatter field, even when used on a Sony camera.

My recommendation stays the same: use f/8.0 if you want best across frame sharpness.

Portrait distance

At wider apertures the Voigtlander shows best sharpness at portrait distances. I have no reservations to use it wide open for any purpose here (head, head-and-shoulder or full-body).
The rather high contrast wide open also makes it easy to focus, much easier than e.g. the Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 III.

Close (0.45 m, 1:6.8)


100% crops from center, A7rII, because of focus shift (see corresponding section) I refocused for every shot.

Similar to many other (especially fast) lenses without a floating elements design the performance wide open at the minimum focus distance ain’t that great (unless you are after a dreamy look).
But stopping down to just f/2.0 improves the performance significantly.
The minimum focus distance has been improved compared to the VM version, apart from that the performance is pretty much the same here.

In this comparison you can see how this translates into real life pictures:

The f/1.2 shot has smoother bokeh but it is also a bit soft with noticeable glow. Stopping down to f/2.0 increases resolution and contrast significantly and reduces the amount of some of the optical aberrations.

Flare resistance Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 Nokton E | f/1.2

Flare resistance is actually pretty good, most of the time you can just shoot directly into the sun and you will neither have problems with a loss of contrast nor ghosting. Only sometimes you may encounter rather small and unobstrusive ghosts..

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Introduction Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 III on Sony A7rII

I am a big fan of the Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95 II, but there was definitely room for improvement in some areas, so I was curious to find out if those have been addressed in this redesign. Luckily I got the chance to review one of the early production models, so let us find out if this is a worthy update!

Sample Images Sony A7rII | Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 III | f/0.95 Sony A7rII | Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 III | f/0.95 Sony A7rII | Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 III | f/0.95

Sony A7rII | Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 III | f/0.95 Sony A7rII | Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 III | f/0.95

Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.

0.95

The very fast maximum aperture is what sets this lens apart from most of the other 50mm lenses. I don’t want to anticipate the conclusion right at the beginning, but if you don’t want to use this lens at f/0.95 there are definitely smarter options available. I will therefore heavily concentrate on how this lens performs wide open, especially as a portrait lens.

Specifications / Version History Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 II (left) and III (right)

It may come as a surprise, but this is the third incarnation of this lens. The first one (72mm filter thread. introduced in 2014) was only shortly produced and very soon replaced by the 50mm 0.95 II “Dark Knight”. At CP+ 2019 this improved Mark III model was introduced, it has the following specifications:

    • Diameter: 74mm
    • Field of view: 47° (diagonally)
    • Length: 85mm
    • Weight: 775g (without hood and caps)
    • Filter Diameter: 67 mm
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 11 (straight)
    • Elements/Groups: 10/7
    • Close Focusing Distance: 0.5 m
    • Maximum Magnification: 1:7.8 (measured)
    • Mount: Sony-E

Supply is still somewhat limited, but you can often find this lens on ebay.com/ebay.de, B&H (affiliate links) or directly order from the manufacturer’s homepage for 799$.

Disclosure

The Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95 III was kindly provided free of charge by the manufacturer for reviewing purpose. Unfortunately the first sample showed some onion ring structures in out of focus light sources which the manufacturer told me was only due to a faulty mold of the aspherical element. So I got a second review sample. For most parts of this review the first sample had been used.
The older version I am using in the comparisons I bought myself from the German retailer in 2015 and have been using it since.

Handling / Build Quality Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 III

The lens is full of glass and the outer barrel is an all metal construction, therefore the lens feels very solid but also has quite some heft to it. The focus ring has a nice resistance and it takes about 300° from Infinity to 0.5 m. The focus throw is 120° from 0.5 to 0.7 m and 180° from 0.7 m to infinity.
The aperture ring is quite narrow and is clickless. I managed a few times to accidentally change the aperture because of that. It also is slightly wobbly and makes a scratchy noise.
There is also a very plasticky cheap hood included, which is slightly petal shaped and has felt on the inside. It sits a bit loose, as was already the case with the MK II version of this lens.

Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 III with hood attached

After I had been using the MK II version for some time the front barrel got a bit loose. I unscrewed the rear of the lens and tightened some internal screws, and it worked as new again. I read quite a few reports of similar issues.
Obviously I don’t have any long term experiences with this review sample, I hope they improved on this.

Vignetting

light falloff


Wide open there is light falloff of roughly 2.1 EV, stopped down to f/1.4 this improves to 1.5 EV, stopped down to f/2.0 it is 1.0 EV and further improves to 0.6 EV at f/8.0. These values are slightly lower (better) compared to the competition in this class. You can correct this in Lightroom, but there is no profile yet.

mechanical vignetting

Very fast lenses usually show a significant amount of mechanical vignetting. Without going too much into technical details mechanical vignetting leads to the truncation of light circles towards the borders of the frame.
In the center of the frame almost every lens will render a perfect circle, but only lenses with very low mechanical vignetting will keep this shape in the corners.
So in the following comparison we move from the center (left) to the extreme corner (right) and see how the shape of the light circle changes.

Mechanical vignetting at f/0.95 has been greatly improved compared to the MK II version of this lens. But you also see what the straight aperture blades do to the highlights when you stop down a bit.

This comparison was done at 0.8 m focus distance, you may get slightly different results at other distances.

Sharpness infinity

Wide open center resolution is okay but there is certainly a bit of glow (spherical aberration). Performance improves steadily on stopping down, center starts to look really good at f/4.0, but for best midframe and corner sharpness you better stick to f/8.0.
This lens wouldn’t be my first choice for landscape/architecture photography.
The lens exhibits a bit of field curvature, so focusing on the corners instead of the center will give slightly better results (~ 1 stop gain) there (see also Coma section where focus is on the corner).

Compared to: Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95 II

The old one is significantly worse at f/0.95, but stopped down to f/8.0 might even have a slight edge in the corners.

Portrait distance

Neither infinity nor the minimum focus distance is where most will be using this lens, so I will talk about my experiences with this lens on a 42mp sensor in the field a bit. At head and shoulder portrait distance this lens seems to perform best wide open. If you go closer (head shot distance) the lens is noticeably softer wide open and I found it to look much nicer between f/1.4 and f/2.0.
If you go a bit further away (full body or environmental portrait) I found that a bit of facial detail gets lost when looking at the 42mp files at 100% magnification. So one should really consider the designated output size when using this lens wide open for these applications.
The old MK II lens shows a similar behaviour.

close (0.50 m, 1:7.8)


100% crops from center, A7rII, because of focus shift (see corresponding section) I refocused for every shot.

Similar to many other (especially fast) lenses without a floating elements design the performance wide open at the minimum focus distance ain’t that great. At f/0.95 it is very soft, and the focal plane with the highest contrast is not the plane with the highest resolution, which also makes it harder to focus. Sadly it isn’t much better at f/1.4.
When you stop down to f/2.0 the performance improves significantly and at f/2.8 it is really good.

Flare resistance

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