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Introduction Huawei Mate 20 Pro | 27mm equivalent | polarizer

Very often we get asked questions like: should I get lens X or lens Y? Out of lens X, Y and Z: which is the best performer? Which 35/50/85mm lens should I buy? Do I need a camera with 42mp? Is the Zeiss Batis 18mm 2.8 or the Zeiss Loxia 21mm 2.8 sharper?
For several reasons we usually cannot answer these questions: rarely we know what you want to use the lens or camera for and often the difference between a good and a bad sample of the same lens is bigger than that between two different lenses.
So, to give you a different perspective, in this article we will look at the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, a smartphone with above-average camera capabilities and see what results can be obtained from this pocketable 200g device.

Sample Images Huawei Mate 20 Pro | 27mm equivalent Huawei Mate 20 Pro | 16mm equivalent Huawei Mate 20 Pro | 80mm equivalent Disclosure

For the past years I have mostly been using Samsung smartphones. Unfortunately I managed to break my trusty Galaxy S7 so I decided to buy the Huawei Mate 20 Pro instead, as I was already quite impressed by the P20 Pro’s camera capabilities when I had a close look at it at Photokina 2018.

Lenses and Sensors

The Mate 20 Pro features 3 different lenses coupled with 3 different sensors:

  • 2.35mm f/2.2 (16mm f/15 equiv.) | crop factor 6.8 | 20mp 1/2.7″
  • 5.58mm f/1.8 (27mm f/8.7 equiv.) | crop factor 4.8 | 40mp 1/1.7″
  • 7.48mm f/2.4 (80mm f/25 equiv.) | crop factor 10.7 | 8mp 1/4″ with OIS

These numbers are telling me that the 27mm equivalent should be quite capable, the 16mm equivalent decent and the 80mm equivalent not so great. This exactly matches my findings in the field.

Computational photography

To get usable image quality out of such small sensors the phones nowadays use “computational photography” which means combining several shots taken with the same lens (e.g. at different focus settings) or even shots taken with different lenses to improve the final result.

Points of confusion

To accomplish this these phone cameras will do a lot of things that might confuse you when you are coming from a DSLR or mirrorless camera where you can actually decide what the camera is doing.

A few examples:

  • In most situations the cameras will take several shots to increase sharpness and dynamic range and decrease noise
  • The 80mm equivalent lens will only be used for long distance shots, at short distance the phone will just use a crop from the 27mm equivalent main lens
  • In auto mode there is a “super macro” feature and while the 16mm equivalent lens does indeed focus close, this mode will add some digital zoom with a very noticeable loss of image quality

    Huawei Mate 20 pro | 27mm equivalent | crop

  • If you shoot raw (only possible in “Pro”-mode) the cameras will use their actual pixel count of 20, 40 and 8mp, but if you do not shoot raw you have the choice between:
    a) 40mp and lose the ability to zoom at all or
    b) 20mp for the 16mm equivalent lens and 10mp for the 27mm and 80mm equivalent lens (so the pictures taken with the 80mm equivalent lens will already be blown up from 8 to 10mp)

It gave me a real headache to figure some of these things out and I really don’t like any camera to add some digital zoom without telling me. But some of these computationally combined images can do things easily surpassing what cameras with bigger sensors can do, as the following chapters will show.

Dynamic range

The dynamic range is much better than what we are used to see from compact cameras and obviously older generation smartphones. In the following examples I was expecting to see blown out highlights but the resulting shots are actually not bad and show a wide dynamic range which greatly surpassed my expectations:

Huawei Mate 20 Pro | 27mm equivalent Huawei Mate 20 Pro | 27mm equivalent Bokeh

For a long time shallow depth of field photography was one area where cameras with small sensors simply couldn’t compete. But today’s smartphones can combine shots taken with one camera at different focus distances or even shots from more than one camera to create a depth map and blur the background around your subject.

The computer generated bokeh is often not perfect around the edges, but usually good enough for web size (the P30 Pro should fare better in this category). You can emulate the depth of field of up to a 27mm f/0.95 equivalent lens:

Huawei Mate 20 Pro | 27mm equivalent | bokeh mode

Let’s see how this compares to a fullframe 28mm f/1.4 lens:

Interestingly the phone shows much more blur than the numbers suggest. My guess is the “f/1.4 equivalent rating” I dialed in here doesn’t really mean anything.
The phone shows “perfect” gaussian blur everywhere in the frame while the 7Artisans 28mm 1.4 FE+ lens shows influence of vignetting and also a steady transition from in focus to out of focus, while the artifical bokeh blurs pretty much everything to the same degree more or less.
For my taste the 7Artisans 28mm 1.4 FE+ is better at creating an impression of depth, but I can also imagine that the higher amount of blur of the phone’s camera may be more appealing to some.

For the bokeh mode the camera will always use the 27mm equivalent lens.

Pixel binning

While the main camera does offer 40mp it will usually scale down the pictures to 10mp, meaning 4 pixels will be combined into one. This will greatly enhance the image quality (scaling images down always does).

What a phone camera cannot do for you (yet)

If you are now thinking: “I want one of these, where can I sell my full frame Sony stuff?” maybe you should read on.

High resolution

While the main lens does offer 40mp those 40mp are nothing like those of a full frame camera:

High ISO Huawei Mate 20 Pro | 27mm equivalent | polarizer | tripod

These phone’s cameras can go up to ISO102400 which will give you obviously really shitty results. To be honest I recommend to use a tripod whenever you have to use anything but base ISO (50 in this case).
I have been reading about a few people using heavy exposure stacking to take pictures of the milky way with their smartphones, but I don’t think this is actually a viable option.

Lens choice Huawei Mate 20 Pro | 16mm equivalent

While it is pretty amazing to have 16, 27 and 80mm lens equivalents readily available (something no compact camera can do for you by the way) this doesn’t help if you are into tele lenses.
Light with its L16 camera is using tilted tele lens designs with a mirror at the end though, so probably we will also see a bit of improvement here in the future.
And obviously a phone can not replace specialty lenses like a 1.4/85 or 2/200 or tilt-shift lenses.


Looking at the pictures in this review in the web resolution provided: would you be able to tell whether they have been taken with a phone or a fullframe A7 series camera?

People rarely think about output size which is actually a very important factor to consider. At web size (which I am sure is used for viewing the vast majority of pictures these days) differences in resolution and noise are not that obvious.
Furthermore the jpeg engines of phones are probably the most sophisticated we have these days. This Huawei phone even recognizes if I take a picture of a bike, a dog, a person, a mountain or blue sky (and 1495 things more) and will automatically adjust the jpeg settings to give the “best” results.

Does this mean I will dump my full frame gear? Most certainly not. But in the end convenience has always won over quality (LP -> CD -> MP3) and the only remaining question is where your threshold for “good enough” is. For Instagram and Facebook with their compression algorithms many pictures from this article should pass that mark already.

It will also be interesting to see, if some of this tech will make it into bigger sensor cameras. It is a curiousity these days, that some of the most advanced imaging technology is tied to be used with the smallest, lowest quality imaging sensors.

But one thing has been true for photography (and painting before) from the very beginning until today: the subject, the composition and the decisive moment are the most crucial aspects that define a picture, not the technology used to capture it.

You can usually find the Hauwei Mate 20 Pro on e.g. amazon.com/amazon.de for about $749/749€ new or used/refurbished starting at $500/500€ (affiliate links)

Sample Images Huawei Mate 20 Pro | 27mm equivalent Huawei Mate 20 pro | 27mm equivalent Huawei Mate 20 Pro | 27mm equivalent | tripod Huawei Mate 20 pro | 27mm equivalent | crop
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Introduction Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art on Sony A7rII

You have been asking for reviews of Sigma Art lenses for quite some time now, so I am glad that I can finally present you one of the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art. Let us find out if this is the better choice compared to the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA.

Sample Images Sony A7III | Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art | f/1.4 Sony A7III | Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art | f/1.4 | pano from 4 shots Sony A7III | Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art | f/1.4

Sony A7III | Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art | f/5.6 Sony A7III | Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art | f/1.4

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

Specifications / Version History

The Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art was the first lens of Sigma’s Global Vision lens lineup and the first lens of the Art series. It comes in many different mounts including Sony-E, which is the version reviewed here and has the following specifications:

    • Diameter: 79 mm
    • Field of view: 63° (diagonally)
    • Length: 121 mm
    • Weight: 740g (without hood and caps)
    • Filter Diameter: 67 mm
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 9 (rounded)
    • Elements/Groups: 13/11
    • Close Focusing Distance: 0.30 m
    • Maximum Magnification: 1:5.2
    • Mount: Sony-E

You may also have a look at the official page.

You can usually find the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art on amazon.com/amazon.de, B&H or ebay.com/ebay.de for about $770/749€ new or used for roughly 100 bucks less (affiliate links)

Operation Handling Distance scale on Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art

Unlike other native AF lenses for E-mount the Sigma lenses (except for the APS-C lenses and the 70mm 2.8 macro) feature a physical distance scale and a direct coupling of focus ring and internal mechanics.
To me this is good news, as coupled with the nice resistance of the focus ring this gives a nice manual focus experience, only the rather short focus throw of 90° spoils the game slightly.

The lens further features an AF/MF switch but no other button and no aperture ring.

Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art with hood attached

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

Compared to the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA this Sigma lens is 8mm longer and 110g heavier. As both lenses are big and heavy to begin with I barely noticed this difference in the field.
I greatly prefer working with the Sigma due to AF/MF switch and linear manual focus though, but I would still prefer a GM lens with an added aperture ring and focus hold button.

Build Quality

The outer barrel is made of high quality polycarbonate while most of the internal parts are made of metal, as lensrentals has shown in their teardown. The E-mount version also features a rubber gasket on the bayonet.

The lens is available for quite some time now and so far I haven’t read any reports on these lenses failing, so the construction seems to be quite reliable.


I have 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 (this is true for all wide angle lenses). So at the distances I was mostly using this lens the cameras usually resorted back to face-detect mode.

For my type of shooting there is no tangible difference between this Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art and the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA, but depending on your shooting habits you may arrive at a different conclusion.

Vignetting light falloff

Wide open there is strong light falloff of roughly 2.9 EV, stopped down to f/2.0 this improves to 1.9 EV, stopped down to f/2.8 it is 1.1 EV and further improves to 0.7 EV at f/8.0. You can either correct this in Lightroom or directly in camera.

From f/1.4 to f/2.0 these are very comparable to the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA, stopped down this Sigma shows about half a stop less vignetting.

color cast

I did not detect any color cast issues with this lens.

optical vignetting

Very fast lenses often show 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 was using roughly the same focus distance for both.
As you can see the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art and the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA perform very similar in this category down to the obvious onion ring structures.

Sharpness Sample variation / Variance ©LensRentals/RCicala

It is hard to get decent numbers on sample variation, but the guys from Lensrentals actually measured a host of copies and put together these graphs.

The MTF of this lens are noticeably higher on average compared to those of the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA and the sample variation is also significantly lower. I have used  two of these lenses so far and both were really well centered.

Keep in mind though MTF are usually measured with the lens set to infinity and the performance at other distances can be very different.


The center already looks pretty good at f/1.4, notice the lack of color aberrations compared to the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA. Stopping down to f/2.0 further increases the contrast.
Both lenses share the midzone dip though, so stopping down to f/5.6 is advisable for best performance in the midframe.

Focus on center <-> focus on corner

100% crops from corner, A7rII

The corners suffer noticeably due to field curvature, you can get better across frame performance if you adjust the focus a bit which I did not do for the chart above.

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 border).
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 other 35mm I currently own) so I decided to use it for a comparison.

Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art <—> Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 + 5m PCX

100% crops, 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, yet the situation remains unchanged when the Sigma is stopped down to f/1.7.

I did not have the opportunity to shoot Sigma Art and Sony ZA side by side, but for my review of the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA I took similar shots from the same distance and also compared those to the Voigtlander.
Contrary to the situation at infinity the ZA fares slightly better at this distance, but while that difference is minor, the Voigtlander is significantly better than both here.

close (0.30 m, 1:5.6)

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Tamron 46A 70-210 mm f/3.8-4

The Tamron 46A 70-210 mm f/3.8-4 was the final version of their affordable tele zoom lenses line.The handy zoom range is combined with a minimum focus distance of 90 cm which results in a max magnification of 1:2.9.
How does this cheap zoom perform in the modern age? Read on to find out!

Tamron 46A 70-210 mm Tamron 46A 70-210 mm Tamron 46A 70-210 mm Tamron 46A 70-210 mm Tamron 46A 70-210 mm Tamron 46A 70-210 mm Tamron 46A 70-210 mm Specifications
Diameter 66 mm
Length 139.4 mm (focused at infinity)
Filter Thread 58 mm (metal)
Weight 580 g (without adapt2all mount)
Max. Magnification 1:2.9
Close focusing distance 0.9  m
Number of aperture blades 9 (slightly rounded)
Elements/Groups 12/9
Versions and history

The Tamron 46A 70-210 mm f/3.8-4 was the final version of their affordable tele zoom lenses line, the previous models were the 80-210 mm 03A and 80-210 mm 103A. The 46A was produced between 1986 and 1988. It was part of the adaptall-2 series which means the lens mount is basically an adapter that could be changed if one switched to another system.
These Tamron zooms had the reputation to be pretty good, especially taking their low price in account.
More information can be found here and here.

Build quality and handeling

It seems Tamron made some concessions in the material department to keep the costs down. Quite some plastic was used in the Tamron 70-210 mm 46A.
The lens barrel is made from metal, the aperture and focus/zoom rings are made from plastics. The focus ring has a plastic knurled diamond pattern, the focus ring on my sample has a tiny bit of play.
Markings on the lens barrel and aperture ring are engraved, the markings on the focus ring are only printed. Unfortunately depth of field markings are absent on this lens.

The Tamron 70-210 mm 46A is a push and pull zoom, the focus and zoom ring are the same ring. By turning the ring one can focus, zooming can be done by push or pulling along the lens barrel. I personally don’t like this design much, focusing precise can be a challenge. Also zoom creep can be a problem you need to be aware of if you are using the lens under an angle. Unfortunately the front ring turns when focusing which makes the use of a CPL filter not very straightforward.
Because of the plastic focus ring and the small amount of play the lens feels a bit cheap. Nevertheless resistance is actually nice. The aperture ring feels good too.

The Tamron 46A is very cheap and can be had for ~25€/$.
If you decide to buy the lens, please consider to do this via our affiliate* links. We will earn a small commission to keep the blog running, and it doesn’t cost you anything extra
Ebay.com* | Ebay.de*

Tamron 46A 70-210 mm Tamron 46A 70-210 mm Tamron 46A 70-210 mm Sharpness and contrast Infinity

At 70 mm the Tamron 70-210 mm 46A performs good.
The center already looks pretty good from wide open, as are the corners. The midframe stays a bit behind due to field curvature. Stopping down to f/5.6 improves sharpness a bit, especially in the midframe. Performance peaks at f/8, at f/11 diffraction is clearly visible. At 70 mm the lens is certainly usable wide open.

At 105 mm things still look good. Wide open the center is good, midframe and corners are OK. At f/5.6 the center is excellent, midframe is good and the corners are OK to good. Contrast improves.
At f/8 midframe is excellent and corners gain a bit and are good now, diffraction kicks in at f/11.

At 135 mm things look a bit less good. Sharpness in the center and midframe are still comparable with what we see @105mm, but the corners stay behind and never get very good. At f/5.6 midframe sharpness seems to be a bit worse than at f/4, this is probably caused by focus shift in combination with field curvature. The midframe is focused slightly past infinity here, a shorter adapter would fix this.

At 200 mm performance takes a hit. Wide open contrast is very low and some glow can be seen. The center improves a lot after stopping down to f/5.6 and looks very good. The midframe is a little less sharp due to the focus shift and field curvature as described in the 135 mm section above. At f/8 midframe and corners improve a bit and are usable. Midframe and corners peak at f/11 but the center is a lot softer. I would recommend to use f/8 for the most balanced performance at 210mm.

Close-up and Portrait

Wide open at MFD the image is a bit soft at 210mm but usually good enough for web size. However a bit away from MFD, even at 210mm things look good. When focused for, you can get very good sharpness at every position in the frame at closer distances. At those distances bokeh is really good as well so for close ups of flowers and stuff the Tamron is a good tool.
At typical distances for a half body portrait or a head shot the Tamron 46A is very sharp, even wide open. However at full body portrait distance sharpness is lacking a bit wide open. Also hand held focusing at longer distances is a pain, even with IBIS on my a7II.

I have the feeling the Tamron 46A 70-210 mm wasn’t optimized for infinity but for typical portrait distances and close ups. Nevertheless the lens can deliver at infinity as well, especially until 135 mm.

f/3,8-4 1,75 EV
f/5,6 0,8 EV
f/8 0,3 EV
f/3,8-4 1,2 EV
f/5,6 0,4 EV
f/8 0,1 EV
f/3,8-4 2 EV
f/5,6 1 EV
f/8 0,4 EV

Vignetting is not much of a problem, at the short and long end vignetting is most pronounced. At f/5.6 at the long and short end vignetting will only be visible in very few situations. At f/8 vignetting is negligible.

Chromatic aberrations

Lateral CA is corrected quite well at the short end, however at the long end LaCA is correction isn’t good and LaCA can be visible.

Tamron 70-210 46A LaCA @f/8 Bokeh

Bokeh is a mixed bag. Bokeh balls show only a little outlining and union rings are no problem. Mechanical vignetting is very obvious though, cats eye effect is clearly visible and bokeh is swirley.
To give you an idea how bokeh looks like in practice I have made some series at different focal lengths and focusing distances

70 mm

105 mm

135 mm

210 mm

I also made a comparison with the Canon nFD 135mm f/3.5, a tele lens of comparable speed with very nice bokeh (in my opinion).
Canon left, Tamron right.

Focused at 2 meters

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Sony just announced the  35mm F1.8. We will preorder it and review it as soon as possible. Here is what information we have found so far.

Diameter 66 mm
Length 73 mm
Filter Thread 55 mm
Weight 280 g
Max. Magnification 1:4
Close focusing distance 22 cm
Number of aperture blades 9, rounded
Elements/ Groups 11/9 – one aspherical element
You will be able to pre-order it soonish at amazon.com | B&H Photo for $748 and support the blog (affiliate links). The price in Germany will be 699€ and it should be available from August.  Handling

Comes with AF/MF switch and configurable focus stop button.

Sony claims linear focus. Yay!

Hands-on images


Sample Images

Sony.net – some are available in full resolution, heavily processed

Promo video with more bokeh samples

Images Quality Bokeh

The first samples don’t tell us much. In the not that demanding scenario bokeh looks smooth without the stronger bokeh fringing of the FE 2/28.

One still-frame of the video shows busier corners at longer distances and also some LoCA in the model’s hair but it is a more challenging scenario.


The off-center eye of the model shot at f/1.8 looks very sharp. There are no samples yet to judge sharpness of the corners.

Sony’s MTF diagram looks very promising as well. Sharper in the center than the 1.8/85 with little astigmatism one only a little stronger falloff in the corners and certainly sharper than the FE 2/28.

First Impressions

From the spec sheet two aspects stand out to me: The weight and the magnification. At 280g the Sony is 90g lighter than the competing Nikon Z lens and 20g lighter than the Canon RF lens. it is less than half the weight of Sony’s own ZA 1.4/35. While it doesn’t reach the 1:2 magnification of the Canon RF 1.8/35 macro a magnification of 1:4 is very respectable for a 35mm prime.

The samples available so far don’t tell me a lot: Bokeh can be nice in less challenging situations and the sharpness of the very few high resolution samples is without fault.

I was a bit surprised by the price in the US, usually we have to pay quite a bit more in the EU but the difference is smaller this time. Prices are at the upper limit of my expectations but since Sony’s last releases were rather good designs it might be worth it.

The post Sony FE 35mm F1.8 announced appeared first on phillipreeve.net.

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Tokina has made some popular macro lenses. So, how did the Tokina FiRIN 100mm F2.8 macro turn out? Check out my review for the in-depth analysis.

Image Samples

You can find most images shown in this review in full resolution in this album: Tokina FiRIN 2.8/100 Macro.

Diameter 74 mm
Length 123 mm
Filter Thread 55 mm
Weight 570 g
Max. Magnification 1:1
Working distance 11.5 cm
Number of aperture blades 9, rounded
Elements/ Groups 9/8
As of July 2019 the Tokina FiRIN 2.8/100 sells for $599 at amazon.com | B&H Photo, about 650€ at Amazon.de (affiliate links). Disclosure

I bought the review copy from amazon.de with my own money and used it for about three weeks.

Versions and History

A “legendary” ancestor of the FiRIN is the Tokina 2.5/90 macro. I don’t know when exactly it was released but certainly before AF was a thing and when most manufacturers didn’t offer a f/2.8 macro. For it’s time it is a really impressive lens with very smooth bokeh and excellent sharpness which was ahead of the time. Today it is still a very enjoyable lens but it has become rather expensive.

In 2005 Tokina released the Tokina AF 100mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro which actually uses the same optics as the reviewed FiRIN 2.8/100 Macro. At this time a lack of optical stabilization, an extending inner tube and a 11/8 optical design were not unusual.

The Tokina FiRIN was released in 2019 as Tokina’s second lens after the FiRIN 2/20 which came as a manual focus and as a AF version.

Build Quality

The Tokina 2.8/100 Macro has a body from high quality plastics and a rubberized focusing ring with no play and a pleasant resistance. The filter thread seems to be made from metal while markings are only printed on and not engraved. There is no gasket around the mount and Tokina claims no weather resistance. Overall it feels solid enough.

Features and Handling

The Tokina FiRIN 2.8/100 is defined by the lack of any features, especially in comparison with the Sony FE 2.8/90 Macro:

  • no focus limiter
  • no focus scale
  • no optical stabilizer
  • no focus hold button
  • no manual focus clutch.
  • it doesn’t focus internally so it extends a lot when focused at 1:1.

The Tokina’s focus ring is rubberized and offers good grip. It has no play and offers a little less resistance than I would like. Coupling is linear and from the close focusing distance of 0.3m to 1m it takes 3 and a quarter rotations (that is over 1000°) and a further 180° to focus a infinity. This is a very indirect transmission.

I found manual focus at longer distance was what I would expect from a focus by wire lens: It kind of works but isn’t enjoyable because of the typical small lag. Also focusing at infinity is difficult because there seems to be only a limited number of focus positions. At closer distances I usually focus by moving the camera so for focusing the very indirect transmission was less of an issue but it takes me 5 to 6 seconds to change focus from infinity to 1:1 magnification which is annoying. The Sony 2.8/90 solves this much better with the extra focusing clutch and the manual Voigtlander 2.5/110 is way more pleasant to fovus.

Macro lenses are usually slower to focus and the Tokina 2.8/100 is no exception to this rule. In fact it is one of the slowest focusing E-mount lenses I have ever used.  Precision was okay in my limited testing. The lacking AF speed made me usually switch to manual focus. Maybe performance would be more enjoyable on a gen. 3 camera.


The Tokina FiRIN 2.8/100  Macro comes with a bigish hood made from solid plastic which can be attached in reverse to the lens. Since it doesn’t fit into my normal camera bag and the front element is deeply recesssed anyway I never had it with me so I can’t tell you how effective it is.

Size and Weight

The  is one of the larger E-mount lenses. The Tokina FiRIN 2.8/100 MacroIt is taller than the FE 4/16-35 but not as tall as the FE 4/70-200 and a little smaller than the Sony 2.8/90 Macro. Since it isn’t very heavy it still balances quite well on my Sony a7ii.

Optical performance

These results are based on the use with a Sony Alpha 7II.

Flare Resistance

Flare resistance has historically been an issue with many Tokina lenses but I think thanks to a deeply recessed front element the FiRIN 2.8/100 turns in an average performance with minor ghosting and some veiling flare under challenging conditions.




Not a strength of the Tokina. It has 9 rounded perture blades wich result in rather fuzzy 18-pointed sunstars.


In general the Tokina has really smooth bokeh. Out of focus highlights transition smoothly even in challenging situtations and there are no onion rings. Cat’s eyes are present but less pronounced than with Sony’s 2.8/90. The only minor issue I see is a moderate degree of bokeh fringing which is better controlled by some competing macros. As you stop down oof-highlights stay mostly round thanks to a rounded 9 bladed aperture.

Chromatic Aberrations

100% crop from the image above

This is a 14-years-old optical design and this really shows when you look at the CA correction. For some subjects this isn’t an issue but for metallic objects it can be rather annoying as this comparison with the Voigtlander APO 2.5/110 illustrates:


Vignetting at f/2.8 is 1.1 stops which will hardly ever be an issue. Stopping down to f/4 reduces it to 0.7 stops which are hardly noticeable. At f/5.6 vignetting is hardly noticeable at 0.5 stops and at f/8 I measure 0.3 stops. These are good figures, both the Sony 2.8/90 and the Voigtlander 2.5/110 show stronger vignetting.


The Tokina 2.8/100 Macro shows close to zero distortion.


Just like the Tokina FiRIN 2/20 I reviewed some time ago my copy of the 2.8/100 is decentered to an to me unacceptable degree.

This is just one case and I can’t draw any conclusions from it about variance of the FiRin 2.8/100 in general but it certainly did not improve my trust in Tokina’s quality control. It also limits the validity of my sharpness test for which I used the best corner but since it is broadly in line with other people’s tests of the older SLR-version I decided to publish it none the less.

f/2.8: Very good in the center and midframe area with slightly reduced contrast. Corners are good.

f/4: Excellent in the center with very good corners. Contrast increases.

f/5.6, f/8: Hardly any difference from f/4.

f/11: Slightly softer due to diffraction.

The sharpness figures at infinity are very good. There are few scenarios where I see any reason to be unhappy about the Tokina’s performance.

At 1:1 magnification the Tokina is a little weaker with less even sharpness and a little less sharpness in general but overall results are still good.

Both the Sony FE 2.8/90 Macro and the Voigtlander 2.5/110 perform better especially at 1:1 magnification and I suspect that this would be even more noticeable on a 42 MP sensor but you need to print really big and work very carefully to actually notice this in the real world.


Sony FE 2.8/90 MacroThe Sony has a number of features the Tokina lacks: It offers optical stabilization, focuses internally, has a focus clutch, a focus limiter and an AF/MF switch. It is also optically superior with significantly better CA correction and better sharpness. Half a stop less vignetting and no onion rings are the only advantages of the Tokina I see. The Sony costs $400 more  but that price difference seems justified.
630g | $998 | amazon.com (affiliate link)

Sigma 2.8/70 Art Macro: I haven’t used it personally but by other people’s reviews it ia the lens I would have hoped the Tokina would have been: A significantly cheaper alternative to Sony’s 2.8/90 macro with competetive optical performance. It is just a little short in focal length for my taste.

Voigtlander 2.5/110 APO Macro: The heavier and more expensive Voigtlander is a joy to handle and optically among the best lenses money can buy at the moment so you don’t have to worry about CA and it is noticeably sharper.

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In the Episode 1 of LensTalk Bastian, Juriaan and Phillip speculate what we would expect from upcoming Sigma lenses designed for mirrorless, what role legacy lenses have today and we also discuss a number of published and unpublished reviews.

The post LensTalk Episode 1 – Sigma mirrorless lenses, Legacy lenses and many reviews appeared first on phillipreeve.net.

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Introduction Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E on Sony A7rII

Zenith is mostly famous for still producing decade old designs like the Helios 2/58 and some Kickstarter lenses like the Petzval. But this Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E is a completely new design with staggering specs. But how does it stack up to the Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95?
This was supposed to be a full scale review, but unfortunately this lens is so inherently flawed that I decided writing one would be a waste of time, read on to find out why.

Samples Sony A7III | Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E | f/0.95 Sony A7rII | Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E | f/0.95 Sony A7rII | Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E | f/0.95


This lens was kindly provided by a reader who bought it directly from Zenith in Russia.

    • Diameter: 85mm
    • Field of view: 47.5° (diagonally)
    • Length: 119mm
    • Weight: 1110g
    • Filter Diameter: 72mm
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 14 (rounded untif f/1.2, then inwardly curved)
    • Elements/Groups: 9/8
    • Close Focusing Distance: 0.7m
    • Maximum Magnification: 1:10.8 (measured)
    • Mount: Sony E

At the time of writing this report the only way to get this lens is to order directly from Zenith in Russia for ~880€ or hoping one shows up on ebay.com/ebay.de (affiliate links)

Build quality / Handling Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E

The focus ring has medium resistance and has a scratchy feel towards infinity. It rotates ~120° from the minimum focus distance (0.7 m) to infinity.
The clickless aperture ring has a slight scratchy feel at f/0.95 and is really stiff near f/16.

The Zenitar weighs a hefty 1.11 kg, so I was expecting it to be an all metal construction, but interestingly the aperture and focus ring seem to be made from plastic. Markings are also not engraved but simply painted, I am pretty sure over time they will wear off.

Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E and Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 MK II

Compared to the Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 MK II this Zenitar 50mm 0.95 looks really huge, but while the outer diameter is quite big, the front element has only a  diameter of 54mm.

Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E with extended hood

The Zenitar 50mm 0.95 offers a built in retractable hood. I am a huge fan of these in general, but this one is a bit wobbly and the inside is not even matte but rather reflective.


Wide open there is massive vignetting of roughly 3.7 EV in the corners, stopped down to f/1.4 this improves to 2.8 EV, stopped down to f/2.0 it is still 2.5 EV and then – interestingly – gets much worse as you stop down and amounts to a whopping 5 EV at f/8.0. There is no Lightroom profile available for this lens.

As you can see on stopping down you get pitch black corners which looks very distracting in actual pictures:

Sony A7rII | Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E | f/8.0

There are two different causes I can think of: either the image circle of the lens is too small or the aperture diaphragm is in the wrong position in the optical path. Neither is good news.


As most people will be using this lens at portrait distance this is what I will have a closer look at. Furthermore you buy this lens to use it at f/0.95, if you are okay with a slightly slower lens save yourself some trouble and get the Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 E Nokton.
So I will compare it to the Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95 E MK II.

Zentiar 50mm 0.95 E <—> Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 E MK II

100% crops, A7rII

In the center the performance is similar, but the Zhong Yi is slightly contrastier. Differences are much bigger in the midframe area (where I usually put my subject): the Zenitar’s contrast is really low here.
You should keep in mind that you are looking at 100% crops from 42mp files. You will rarely see fine details like these, but the contrast does matter.
The Zhong Yi allows to take decent portraits where the subject is in the midframe at f/0.95, with the Zenitar that is almost impossible, especially as focussing is much harder (even more so on higher resolution cameras).

At f/1.4 the image quality of the Zenitar improves noticeably, but why buy a 1.1 kg 50mm 0.95 to use it at f/1.4?

I am also not so sure the lens has actually been optimized for the Sony E-mount filterstack. The field curvature is really massive (similar to the 7Artisans 50mm 1.1 designed for the Leica filterstack).

Sony A7rII | Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E | f/0.95

The focus is actually on that pillar in the center. But notice how the top left corner is also in focus, despite being ~30 m behind that pillar?

Flare resistance Sony A7rII | Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E | f/0.95

The Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95 shows a weak flare resistance, so this is one category where I was hoping to see an improvement. This is not the case, the Zenitar shows even worse flare resistance.

When shooting against the sun wide open you will get frame filling artifacts. The performance slightly improves on stopping down, but there will still be ghosts all over the frame (and you will find having pitch black corners again).

Sony A7rII | Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E | f/0.95 Sony A7rII | Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E | f/8.0 Bokeh Sony A7rII | Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E | f/0.95

The Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95 II (and III) offer very smooth bokeh with even lightspread and very little outlining. The Zenitar is very different with often busy bokeh, looks more comparable to the 7Artisans 50mm 1.1 at times.

Even when focusing on something close to the camera you can see lots of outlining close to the borders.

Sony A7rII | Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E | f/0.95

Focusing on something farther away you will start to notice the high field curvature. At half body distance it is noticeable:

Sony A7rII | Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E | f/0.95

But at full body distance it starts to become really distracting:

Sony A7rII | Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E | f/0.95

The Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95 offers much smoother bokeh rendering which is what I like and the reason I kept it for so long.
If you prefer rather busy bokeh with lots of field curvature it might make sense to have a closer look at the 7Artisans 50mm 1.1, which will do the same thing for much less money and bulk.

Distortion Sony A7rII | Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E | f/2.8

There is unusually high pincushion distortion for a 50mm lens. Dialing in -7 in Photoshop/Lightroom somewhat corrects this but a wavy sub frequency remains.


So much is wrong with this lens, I don’t even know where to start.
The lens is super heavy, yet the build quality isn’t exactly great. Both rings are a bit scratchy with uneven resistance, markings are not engraved, the lens hood is wobbly and reflective on the inside.

Sharpness and contrast at f/0.95 are far from good, especially off center. By f/1.4 the lens starts to show acceptable resolution and contrast, but there are many more reasonable 50mm f/1.4 lenses available that offer the same and more for much less money and bulk.

Distortion is unusually high for a 50mm lens. Astigmatism and coma are both very badly corrected. You get completely black corners when stopping the lens down and flare resistance at wider apertures is the worst I have ever seen.

Now all those things may still be acceptable for some, if the only alternative was the Leica Noctilux 50mm 0.95 costing 10 grand. But that is not the case. We have the

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The Voigtlander 1.4/21 is a relatively compact super fast lens for the Sony FE system. In this review I evaluate it’s performance in a wide range of scenarios.

Image Samples

Diameter 70.5 mm
Length 79.5 mm
Filter Thread 62 mm
Weight (no hood, no caps) 539 g
Max. Magnification 1:7
Close Focusing Distance from the sensor 0.25 m
Number of aperture blades 12
Elements/ Groups 13/11

The Voigtlander 1.4/21 sells for $1199 at CameraQuest | Amazon.com or B&H .(affiliate links).


  • 28.6.2019 – Start of review


This copy was loaned to me free of charge from RobertWhite.co.uk for about three weeks. 


The Voigtlander Nokton 21mm F3.5 is a fully manual lens so you have to change focus and aperture by yourself. The camera can’t change the aperture so S- and P-mode will not work as with native lenses.

It has electronic contacts to communicate with the camera though. That provides correct EXIF-data, the OSS in all Sony cameras with IBIS will automatically know the correct focal length and the focus magnification can be automatically activated when the focus ring gets turned. Unlike Loxia lenses the Voigtlander has a distance encoder so the camera will show a pretty much useless digital distance scale and stabilization might be a bit more effective.

Build quality

The Voigtlander 21mm F1.4 feels really solid. The lens hull is made from nothing but metal and tolerances are very low. Most but not all markings are engraved.

There is no gasket around the mount and Voigtlander does not claim any weather resistance.

Of course I can’t tell you how durable the lens will be in the long term. All I can do is give you my superficial impression which is very positive in this case. Should you ever need a repair keep in mind that with Voigtlander lenses these are usually done in Japan and take several weeks.


If you have used Zeiss Loxia lenses you will probably have been frustrated by the fact that there is no good place to grab them when you change lenses. This is not an issue with the Voigtlander since you can easily grab it by its base which is textured for better grip.

Focus Ring

The focus ring travels around 110 degrees from 25 cm to 1 m and a further 20 degrees to infinity. I think that is a very reasonable transmission and I had no issues to focus precisely at longer distances. The ring itself is well textured and the resistance is about perfect.

Aperture ring

The aperture ring situated at the front is a joy to use. It is made from metal with distinctive stops and a very pleasant resistance. I would have preferred 1/2 or even full stops but 1/3 stops work ok. The Voigtlander stops down to f/16.


The Voigtlander 1.4/21 has a medium sized hood which locks into place very well and adds 26mm mm to the length of the camera. It can also be mounted in revers for storage. It is made from metal and weights 27g but it feels a little delicate to me, so I wouldn’t store camera and lens on it like I would with a more solid feeling and rubberized lens hood as found on Sony GM lenses.

Size and Weight

The Voigtlander 1.4/21 is a medium sized lens. At 539g, it is about 70g heavier than the Sony GM 1.4/24 but less than 50g heavier than the 1 stop slower Tokina Firin 2/20.

Close Focus

The Voigtlander focuses down to 25cm which can give an interesting perspective emphasizing a subject while including the background.

It also maintains sharpness very well at close distances.

LR default settings, crop from center Optical performance

These results are based on the use with a Sony Alpha 7II.

Flare Resistance

As always evaluating flare is a complex matter since you can get any lens to look bad if you push it hard enough and a slight change of scenario will affect results a lot.

I think the Voigtlander compares well to other lenses, especially in regards to veiling flare. There is a small purple ghost in some more demanding images.

I will post a few more scenarios in the next update.


Voigtlander lenses are known for their very defined sunstars. Personally I like this effect a lot, other people don’t. You just need to stop down to f/1.7 until you get very well defined 12-pointed sunstars.


Thanks to the very fast aperture you can get a decent amount of subject isolation with the Voigtlander 21mm F1.4 so it makes sense to have a closer look at it.

So far I see neutral bokeh with no outlining of out of focus highligths. I also don’t really see any cat’s eyes and a mostly smooth focus transition. So far I also see little deterioration of aperture shape as you stop down but my subjects so far weren’t really critical.

Longer distances will be included in the next update.

Chromatic Aberrations

Axial CA and bokeh fringing are controlled quite well. You see some but compared to other faster wideangles the Voigtlander turns in a very respectable performance.

100% crop | f/1.4

Lateral CA correction I would rate as average

crop from extreme corner | f/5.6 Vignetting

Vignetting is very high at 3.4 stops wide open which is reduced to still high 2.2 stops from f/2.8. This is easily visible in images and detrimental applications like astro-photography.

Aperture Vignetting
f/1.4 3.4 EV
f/2 2.6 EV
f/2.8 2.2 EV
f/4 2.0 EV
f/5.6 1.9 EV

to be added later


This copy isn’t well centered. It is actually at the limit of what I would accept from a lens so keep this in mind when you look at the results below.

f/1.4 | extreme corner | 100% crops

The Voigtlander turns in a very respectable performance with very good sharpness also in the midframe area from f/1.4 and good corners which improve to very good from f/2.8.

There is some field curvature at which I will have a closer look in the next update.


Sony GM 1.4/24: They are 3mm apart in focal length which is quite a bit for two wideangles but for reportage and astro the GM is certainly a strong competitor. We were all flabbergasted how much performance Sony managed to get out of such a light lens.
review | 445g | $1399

Tokina Firin 2/20: The 1 stop slower Tokina is close in weight and a very harp lens, yet I was less happy with it in backlit scenarios.
review | 490 g | $799

Sigma ART 1.4/20: The only other f/1.4 super-wideangle in E-mount is a little cheaper but weights twice as much. On reason is that it is a converted SLR-lens.  lenstip review | 1050g | $899

Leica Summilux 1.4/21: The only other lens with the same speed and focal length. It costs about 6 times as much, doesn’t focus as close.

Zeiss Loxia 2.8/21: The reigning champion for landscape photography.
review | 394 g  | $1499

Preliminary Conclusion
  • Build quality
  • Handling
  • Sunstars
  • Sharpness 
  • Flare..
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Introduction Laowa 15mm 4.0 macro on Sony A7rII

The Laowa 15mm 4.0 macro is a very unique lens, being the only ultra wide angle lens that can focus close enough to offer a maximum magnification of 1:1. But how useful is an ultra wide angle lens optimized for such magnifications? Let us find out in this review!

Sample Images Sony A7rII | Laowa 15mm 4.0 Macro | f/4.0 Sony A7rII | Laowa 15mm 4.0 Macro | f/4.0 Sony A7rII | Laowa 15mm 4.0 Macro | f/8.0

Sony A7rII | Laowa 15mm 4.0 Macro | f/11 Sony A7rII | Laowa 15mm 4.0 Macro | f/8.0

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: 84mm
  • Field of view: 110° (diagonally)
  • Length: 94mm
  • Weight: 470g
  • Filter Diameter: 77mm
  • Number of Aperture Blades: 14 (rounded)
  • Elements/Groups: 12/9
  • Close Focusing Distance: 0.122m
  • Maximum Magnification: ~1:1
  • Mount: E-mount

The lens is also available for several other mounts: Nikon F, Canon EF, Pentax K and Sony A.

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€.


The Laowa 15mm 4.0 Macro was kindly provided free of charge by Venus Optics / Laowa for reviewing purpose for a few weeks.

Handling / Build Quality Focus ring and aperture ring of Laowa 15mm 4.0 macro

So far all the Laowa lenses I reviewed had very nice build quality and this holds true for this ultra wide macro as well. The outer casing seems to be made from a mixture of metal and high quality polycarbonate. Markings are engraved and filled with paint.

Laowa also offers the 15mm 2.0 ultra wide angle lens. Despite being faster it is slightly smaller as it is a true mirrorless design while the macro is a DSLR design with “built in adapter tube”.

Laowa 15mm 2.0 and 15mm 4.0 Macro

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 ~90° from the minimum focus distance (0.12m) to infinity.
Unlike other Laowa lenses this one’s aperture ring has no click-stops (and also no declick feature) and it takes about 45° from f/4.0 to f/32.

The lens also features a rather simple ± 6mm shift mechanism, but its usability is pretty much restricted to APS-C cameras, as on fullframe you will be leaving the image circle of the lens very fast which will either result in completely black corners or significantly reduced corner resolution.

Laowa 15mm 4.0 macro with hood attached

A quite big petal shaped bayonet type lens hood (plastic) is part of the package. The lens does not feature electronic contacts to communicate with your camera.

Vignetting and colorcast

Wide open there is very strong vignetting of 3.2 EV in the extreme corners, at f/5.6 it is 2.5 EV and stopped down f/11 still 1.9 EV. Laowa’s UWA lenses are usually smaller compared to the competition, high vignetting figures are part of the price you have to pay for that.

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.

This is mostly visible when shooting something white, so this what it looks like in a real world picture:

Sony A7rII | Laowa 15mm 4.0 Macro | f/8.0 xSharpness xinfinity

Most ultra wide angle lenses are optimized for best resolution at infinity and struggle near their minimum focus distance (where they usually show a high amount of field curvature).
With this lens I expected the opposite and it seems the lens met my expectations.
The center always looks great, the midframe never reaches this quality but is still quite good from f/8.0 to f/11. The corners on the other hand never look that great, this is partly due to field curvature, so at the cost of resolution in the center you can make them look better.

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

close focus (1:2)

100% crops from center, A7rII

With the minimum focus distance of just 0.122 m you can get really close to your subject and you will be shading it with your lens. Therefore I cannot offer you an assessment of the quality at life size magnification as I don’t have a high resolution backlit subject that I could show you.
Instead I show you these crops from pictures taken at half life size (1:2) magnifcation. Already wide open the quality is very usable and further increases on stopping down.
The borders and extreme corners lack a bit behind, but my usual close focus setup is no exact enough to properly evaluate this.
Furthermore I doubt anyone will want to use a 15mm lens to take repro shots of stamps.
For the intended subjects the quality here is more than good enough.

Distortion Sony A7rII | Laowa 15mm 4.0 Macro | f/8.0

Unlike the Laowa 15mm 2.0, 12mm 2.8 and the 9mm 2.8 APS-C this 15mm 4.0 macro is not part of Laowa’s “Zero-D(istortion)” line and it shows: there is very strong wavy distortion, similar to that of the Samyang 14mm 2.8 MF. There is also no Lightroom profile available for correcting this.
When mostly taking pictures of flowers and insects (what this lens is designed for) this will usually not be visible, but if you want to primarily shoot architecture there are much better options out there.

Bokeh Sony A7rII | Laowa 15mm 4.0 Macro | f/4.0

Not a topic I usually cover in the reviews of slower ultra wide angle lenses, but the Laowa 15mm 4.0 macro is a different case, as when you focus at something close to the camera you can get quite a decent amount of bokeh in your shots.

Towards the corners the bokeh looks a bit stretched, which is usual for an ultra wide angle lens:

Sony A7rII | Laowa 15mm 4.0 Macro | f/4.0

To get a decent amount of subject separation you have to be close to your subject, very close. See what difference a few cm further away or closer to your subject makes:

A7rII | Laowa 15mm 4.0 macro | f/4.0

Generally I quite like the bokeh of this lens and when you are taking pictures close to the minimum focus distance it surely doesn’t look like a slow ultra wide angle lens.

Sony A7rII | Laowa 15mm 4.0 Macro | f/4.0 Sunstars
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