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Dr. Vintage – photo credits: Hegyi Júlia Lily B: Hi Hispan, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to use manual lenses?

H: Originally I studied history at the university (my PhD is still in progress) but I’ve always been interested in theoretical physics and cosmology, which is a quite wide range of interest. Photography came to my life later, in 2011 to be exact, and I was using only modern lenses in the first 3 years. The beginning of my “vintage adventure” dates back to 2014, after I got my first “fast” Canon 1.4/50 USM lens, and I wasn’t really satisfied with the image quality.

I bought my first vintage lens then – a Jupiter-3 – which was an epic fail, because I didn’t know anything about the topic and ordered a rangefinder lens to my DSLR camera. So I switched to a Takumar lens soon. I’ve collected more than twenty fast 50mm lens the next year and created an extensive 50mm lens test (http://hispan.hu/50mm-lens-test/),  which was the first article in my vintage knowledge base (http://hispan.hu/photos/tudasbazis/) and I was pretty surprised how much attention it attracted (more than 30.000 readers during the past years). I wrote 69 articles with 1.715.137 characters and tested thousands of vintage lenses between 2015 and 2019.

During the years I started to repair old vintage lenses by myself. This is also a very important part of my life, because there are only limited quantities available of some of these lenses, and to protect an old lens from decay is a real mission, not just a job.

B: Can you give us a look into your camera bag and tell us a little about your gear?

H: It’s a bit of a tough question, because I’m also a collector. I’ve been collecting interesting lenses and building my own ones from old projection lenses in the past few years.  As soon as I switched from my DSLR to a mirrorless camera I was able to use nearly anything (SLR lenses, rangefinder lenses, projection lenses, microscope lenses and so on).

My Sony A7III camera is always there in my bag. For portrait pictures I use a Canon nFD 1.2/85L lens – a true masterpiece. For longer portraits I use a 3.5/135mm Sonnar or a 2/135 Canon nFD lens (in case the lights are down). When it comes to 50mm lenses I’m still in love with my SMC Takumar 1.4/50, also I have the 4/100mm and the 2.8/100mm SMC Pentax Macro lenses for macro photography. Currently my favourite tele lens is the 2.8/300L nFD Canon and I also use a 40-2 1.5/85 Helios and a Zenitar-M 1.7/50 from the soviet line. In case I want some special effects or extreme swirly background, I just mount my RO-109-1A 1.2/50 projector lens (or anything else from this family) and shoot. I have more than 15 projection lenses by now and this number is increasing day to day.

“baby it’s cold outside” – testing a 5.6/800L Canon nFD lens after a complete CLA; photo credits: Lőrincz Szilvia

Sometimes it’s really hard to decide which lens to take with me. My models must choose the perfect outfit and I must choose the perfect lens. If you are interested in a more detailed list, I wrote an article about my favourite lenses: http://hispan.hu/hispan-10-kedvenc-objektivje/

B: I saw you are also using projector lenses. From my own experience with these I know they are not as straight forwarded to work with, so why did you decide to use them?

H: Projector lenses are usually capable of something special that classic lenses can’t create. It’s because photography lenses are designed to be as perfect as possible. Projector lenses are designed for other purposes so if you mount them to your camera, they can’t produce a perfect image. But this is why I love them – 3D pop, swirly effects, small f number and even extremely sharp images with some lenses (e.g. my 1/50 Meopta lens).

Sony A7II, RO-109-1A 1.2/50 projection lens; photo credits: hispan

It’s a fact that you have to do your own fight with the circumstances, when you choose a projection lens to take photos, and sometimes the post-production takes longer than the actual shooting, but for me it’s worth it.

prototype of a modded 0.75/50 Delft Rayxar lens; photo credits: hispan

And the game doesn’t stop with projection lenses: I finished my Rayxar 0.75/50 lens adaptation to Sony-E last week. This is a huge lens from an X-ray machine, so there is always a crazy idea and a crazy lens in my bag. Test shoots coming soon!

B: In general: are there certain characteristics that you look for in a lens and do you rather find that in older or newer lenses?

H: Yannich Khong wrote an article about “what’s the problem with the modern optics” a few years ago, which pretty much sums up my opinion as well. The purpose of modern lenses is producing a perfectly sharp image from corner to corner with zero distortion, minimal vignetting and avoiding as many optical imperfections as possible. However this is not what I’m looking for, because lenses with “perfect” images usually generate a boring, flat end result without any 3D impression, so even now that I have the possibility to use a Sigma ART line or the best modern RF L or G-Master optics for portrait photography, I have only vintage lenses, not a single piece of modern AF ones. You know, what I mean: a beautiful girl with a little imperfection is much more interesting than a perfect face.

B: Actually, I couldn’t find any traces of you using Autofocus lenses, do you try to avoid them altogether?

H: Yes, as I mentioned earlier I don’t have any AF lenses. After I started photography I thought for a few years that the most important feature of a modern camera is the fast AF. I’m also very impressed by how technology in this area has evolved (human and animal face recognition, Sony’s extremely accurate eye-AF and so on), but now I can’t imagine letting my camera focus instead of me. Modern MF assistant solutions (focus peaking and live view magnification) make manual focusing a child’s play (and for example in low light environment even faster than the AF).

Meometar: a lens created with a Meopta Meostigmat 1/50 projection lens with a focus mechanism of a medium format Biometar 2.8/80, on Sony A5100, photo credits: hispan

The other reason is the small f value in some of my lenses. The smaller the f value, the shallower the  DOF, so modern AF lenses rarely go under f/1.4, because it’s very hard to find the perfect distance with f/1.2, which is obviously not a problem for the human eye. My bad focus image rate has been under 1% since I shoot only in MF mode, and I don’t have to shoot a complete series in hope of a single sharp image; 1/1 is perfectly sharp.

B: Final lens related question: do you have a favorite lens at the moment?

H: Yes, it is my Canon nFD 1.2/85L, the queen of the FD line. 60% of my portraits are made with this lens. I wrote a complete article about this lens as well: http://hispan.hu/canon-fd-85mm/

Sony A7, Canon nFD 1.2/85L; photo credits: hispan B: After we have been talking so much about lenses, what is your favorite subject matter?

H: Definitely the portraits. I love to chat with my models during outdoor photo trips, this way we are not only taking photos, but also exchanging ideas thus I get a huge amount of inspiration. Sometimes they say about me I’m a two-legged motivational speaker. But the point is: without my models and friends my blog couldn’t be as much fun as it is now.

Sony A7III, Canon nFD 1.2/85L ; photo credits: hispan

When I want to be alone I love to go and take long exposure photos. Showing the very slow and continuous changes/movements of the nature can create a “wow” effect and I love to see faces of people when they realize how our global environment really works. The air and the silence of summer nights above the city can completely recharge my batteries.

Sony A7II, Samyang 2.8/14 MF; photo credits: hispan

I almost forgot: my new favourite is the macro photography. “There’s plenty of room at the bottom” – as Richard Feynman said, and with some macro photography gear we can be AntMen and discover this extraordinary world. I can spend whole days inside my room trying to capture something that the human eye can’t see without the help of photography.

B: Is there a photographer which has inspired you?

H: I’m following many great photographers on Instagram. It is difficult to name one because I find something interesting in everyone’s work. For example, I love the color grading of @olgaboyko_photo and the natural portraits of @urbanphoto.hu, but I’m also impressed by @hegyijulialilyphotography’s concert photos with those special light effects.

B: As I have seen you also shoot film, what do you think it gives you compared to digital?

H: Shooting film is a completely different process when it comes to portrait photography. Usually when I use digital, I try to avoid showing the images while the shooting/during the trip, because I love to transform the images to a whole new level during the retouching process (my RAW images are really just the beginning of the process). When you shoot film, your model is unable to see the pictures immediately so she doesn’t have to worry about how she looks on the photo. It’s a freer and more creative way but also it requires strictness and planning from the photographer’s side.

Canon AL-1 QF, Canon nFD 1.2/85L, Kodak T-Max 400 BW film; photo credits: hispan

There is one more interesting aspect: when you load a black and white film, you can’t change your mind later, and you have to think in a different way: no colors, only lights and shadows. Because of this the original black and white images have a special feeling compared to the digital ones, which were turned to BW after they were born in a colorful way.

And the fact is that the film also has a much bigger dynamic range than my “DxO Mark winner” “best of the market” Sony sensor. It can reproduce the darker areas in a more detailed way.

my analog portrait kit: Canon AL-1 QF body with Canon nFD 1.2/85L lens; photo credits: hispan

It’s also a great moment when somebody who has been using only digital cameras in his whole life, realizes that those images have been created with a nearly 40 years old (or older) gear and with a single 36 exposures film roll. They often can’t believe how those “historical machines” can create an image as accurate as the newest digital cameras.

B: What do you think is the best picture you have taken so far and why?

H: Hardest question ever. I have a favourite photo but it’s no longer public for personal reasons. So my actual public favourite portrait is a composite image with Lily and a white mask. It always reminds me that you just can’t know anybody 100% even if you’ve lived your life with them.

Sony A7II, Canon nFD 1.2/85L; photo credits: hispan

But if you’d ask me the same question a week later, I’d most probably have a completely different answer.

B: Can you suggest a lens we should review?

H: My ebay wishlist is a never ending story. But maybe you should try some other projection lenses, I’m very interested in a Meopta Stigmar XX 1.5/100. There is a very special portrait lens named Ennaston 1.5/85, it could also be an interesting one. LOMO has a 35KP 1.8/85 lens, that one could be a great portrait lens after adaptation.

B: Where can people see more of your images?

H: Directly on my website (http://hispan.hu), on my facebook-site (https://www.facebook.com/hispansphotoblog/) or on my instagram-profile (https://www.instagram.com/hispans_photoblog/).

The post THE MANUAL PHOTOGRAPHERS SERIES PART 9: Hispan appeared first on phillipreeve.net.

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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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Shoot out: SMC Pentax-M 135mm f/3.5 vs. Canon nFD 135mm f/3.5 vs. Panagor PMC auto tele 135mm f/2.8

In my search for a compact but good budget telelens I came across the SMC Pentax-M 135mm f3.5 and the Canon newFD 135mm f/3.5. Later, I also found a Panagor PMC auto tele 135mm f/2.8 in Canon FD mount. These lenses are cheap, light, and small, but how do they perform?

Disclaimer: I only tested one sample of the Canon and Panagor, and two samples of the Pentax. Since these lenses are old there might be more sample variation than usual, other samples might perform slightly better or worse. Both Pentax samples displayed similar performance. 

Left to right: Panagor, Canon, Pentax Specifications
Specifications Canon newFD 135mm f/3.5 SMC Pentax-M 135mm f/3.5 Panagor PMC auto tele 135mm f/2.8 (FD)
Diameter 63 mm 63 mm 61 mm
Length 85 mm 66 mm 88 mm
Filter diameter 52 mm 49 mm 55 mm
Weight (ex. Adapter) 325 g 270 g 411 g
Aperture f/3.5-32 f/3.5-32 f/2.8-22
Minimal focus distance 1.3 m 1.5 m 1.5 m
Elements/groups 4/4 5/5 4/4*
Aperture blades 6 8 6

(*Based on the optical design of this lens for other mounts)

Versions and History

Canon newFD 135mm f/3.5

There are roughly two versions of the Canon 135mm f/3.5, a FD version and a newer newFD version, but there are three different versions of the older FD model. The first version of these is introduced in 1970 and consisted of 4 elements in 3 groups and had 8 aperture blades. The second version has been introduced in 1973 and has the same optical design but is slightly lighter, still has 8 aperture blades. The third version that consists of 4 elements in 4 groups is significantly lighter and has only 6 aperture blades. This latest version has been introduced in 1976. The older FD versions have the S.C. coating, the newFD version has the S.S.C. coating. The newFD version is quite a bit lighter, has 4 elements in 4 groups and has been introduced in 1979. More information can be found here and here.
Ebay.com* | Ebay.de*
(*Affiliate links, if you buy something via this link I will earn a small commission and it doen’t cost you anything extra )

SMC Pentax-M 135mm f3.5

There are two versions of the SMC Pentax 135mm f/3.5, a plain SMC Pentax (introduced in 1975) and a SMC Pentax-M (introduced in 1977) version. The lens in the review is the latter one. The two lenses have a different optical design, and there is quite some difference in weight. The SMC Pentax weighs 365 grams and is 2.2 cm longer. I did not investigate whether one of these lenses performs better than the other. More information can be found here.
Ebay.com* | Ebay.de*
(*Affiliate links, if you buy something via this link I will earn a small commission and it doesn’t cost you anything extra )

Panagor PMC auto tele 135mm f/2.8

I could not find much information about this lens. It has been produced in various mounts and there seem to be at least two optical designs, 4/4 and 4/2 (elements/groups). The lens tested in the review has 6 blades and FD mount. Furthermore there seems to be a version with 8 aperture blades. As information on the re-branded third party lenses is very scarce and strongly depends on the actual manufacturer I didn’t invest too much time in my research, if you have additional information please share in the comment section
Ebay.com* | Ebay.de*
(*Affiliate links, if you buy something via this link I will earn a small commission and it doen’t cost you anything extra )

Build quality and handling Canon newFD 135mm f/3.5

Compared to cheaper modern lenses made mostly from lower grade plastics build quality is very good, but compared to the very best manual lenses build quality is less nice. Nevertheless the lens feels much more solid than the newFD 50 mm f/1.8. The focus ring is made of metal with a plastic grip, the aperture ring is made from high quality plastics. The lens barrel is also made from metal. All markings are engraved and filled with paint. The black finish seems to be scratch resistant, my sample looks like new despite being over 40-years-old.
The focus ring has a pleasant resistance and turns ~220° from MFD to infinity. The aperture nicely clicks with a 1/3 stop click stop between f/3.5 and f/4 and 1/2 stop click stops between f/4 and half stops between f/4-f/32.
The built in hood sits very tight and is covered with felt at the inside. The lens feels well balanced on my a7II but maybe a tad to long, especially when fully extended.

SMC Pentax-M 135mm f3.5

Build quality is very high, the lens is made from nothing but metal apart from the rubber on the focus ring. Tolerances are very tight. The black finish seems to be very scratch resistant, my sample still looks like new. Also my sample is completely free of internal dust, something I have never seen before in such old lenses. All markings are engraved and filled with paint The focus ring has a very pleasant resistance and travels ~215° from MFD to infinity. The aperture nicely clicks with 1/3 of a stop click stops between f/3.5 and f/4 and 1/2 stop click stops between f/4 and f/22 and with another click at f/32. Distance between the clicks is small, so it is not easy to set the aperture between two clicks.
The lens also features a build in hood made of metal. When extended the hood sits tight enough, but is a bit wobbly.
Due to its small size the Pentax feels very well balanced on my a7II, its form factor is a big plus to me.

Panagor PMC auto tele 135mm f/2.8

The build quality of the Panagor seems to be quite good, the lens is made from metal and glas only and feels quite nice. All markings are engraved and filled with paint. My lens still looks very good and is, apart form a few dust spots inside, like new. The Panagor is quite heavy and feels very dense. The focus ring travels from MFD to infinity in roughly 245° and feels oké but resistance is a bit on the high side. Furthermore the focus ring on my sample shows a tiny amount of play. The aperture ring feels nice with nice clicks every 1/2 stop, however the distance between the clicks is small so setting the aperture between two clicks is not that easy.
The build in lens hood is made from metal and covered with felt, unfortunately it is very wobbly and therefore feels like a bad joke.

Verdict

All three lenses seem to be well built but the SMC Pentax-M 135mm f/3.5 has an edge here. The Pentax feels a bit more solid and better balanced on the a7II. The Canon still feels very good and better than the Panagor. The build in hood of the Canon sits much tighter though and is contrary to the hood of the Pentax covered with felt. The hood of the Panagor is very wobbly and a joke compared to the competition.

Sharpness Canon newFD 135mm f/3.5

f/3.5: Wide open the center already looks very good, the midframe is a bit soft. The corners look very good.

f/5.6: Across the frame sharpness is very good now.

f/8: Across the frame sharpness is very good the corners are a little bit softer due to diffraction.

f/11: The whole image is softer due to diffraction.

SMC Pentax-M 135mm f3.5

f/3.5: Wide open the center already looks good, the midframe is a bit softer but still good. In there corners a lot of glow is visible and sharpness is not very good.

f/5.6: Stopped down to f/5.6 the center improves to very good levels, the midframe looks very good too. The corners improve a bit and are usable.

f/8 The center looks very good now. Midframe improves slightly and is very good, the corners look good to very good now. This is the best aperture for overall image quality.

f/11 Diffraction kicks in, the whole image is softer now.

Panagor PMC auto tele 135mm f/2.8

f/2.8 The image is soft with quite some glow caused by spherical aberration.

f/3.5 The center improves a bit and glow is reduced. The midframe doesn’t change much and corners seem get a bit worse, possibly this is the result of field curvature.

f/5.6 Resolution across the frame gets a boost, the center peaks and looks very good now, the midframe looks very good but the corners are still rather soft.

f/8 The center is a tiny bit softer due to diffraction, the midframe peaks and looks good. The corners look OK now.

f/11 Center and midframe are softer due to diffraction, the corners peak and look good to very good.

Compared

f/3.5 The Canon looks the best and is a little bit sharper than the Pentax, the Panagor is quite soft and is noticeably worse.

f/5.6 The Canon looks the best again, the Panagor has improved a lot and is now a little bit sharper than the Pentax.

f/8 Still the Canon looks best, the Pentax improves and is a bit sharper than the Panagor.

f/11 Diffraction is visible in all three lenses.

f/3.5 The Pentax looks best, Canon is second and the Panagor is the clear loser.

f/5.6 The Canon looks quite a bit better than the competition. The Pentax and Panagor look very similar.

f/8 The Canon has a little edge over the Pentax with the Panagor a little bit behind it.

f/11 Diffraction is visible and degrades image quality.

f/3.5 The Canon blows the competition away, the Panagor is clearly the worst.

f/5.6 More or less the same as at f/3.5

f/8 The Canon and Pentax are both excellent, difference is really small. The Panagor stays behind by quite some margin.

f/11 All three lenses are very comparable

The Canon newFD 135mm f/3.5 is the clear winner. Wide open across the frame sharpness is very good already and stopped down to f/5.6 sharpness across the frame is simply excellent. The SMC-Pentax-M 135mm f/3.5 performs quite similar in the center but is quite a bit weaker in the corners. Stopped down both lenses are excellent performers. The Panagor is significantly weaker, diffraction starts to kick in quite early in the center but the corners peak at f/11.

Canon f/3.5, Pentax f/3.5, Panagor f/2.8

At typical portrait distances the Canon is visibly sharper too. The Pentax and Panagor show very similar performance. All lenses are plenty sharp to use wide open for this type of photography.

Vignetting
Aperture Canon Panagor Pentax
f/2.8 1.4
f/3.5 1 1 1
f/5.6 0.4 0.2 0.4
f/8 0.2 0.2 0.3
f/11 0.2 0.2 0.3

All lenses show a good performance here. Wide open there is some vignetting and already at f/5.6 vignetting is reduced to negligible levels. The Panagor performs best shortly followed by the Canon, the Pentax sits close behind the Canon. These differences are very small and not relevant in the field.

Bokeh

  • Canon newFD 135mm f/3.5 | f/3.5

  • Panagor PMC 135mm f/2.8 | f/2.8

  • SMC Pentax-M 135mm f/3.5 | f/3.5

Bokeh is a very subjective topic and therefore I tried to make a few comparisons that help you find out what rendering you like the most.
I have a few personal criteria to asses the bokeh as good:
– The bokeh balls don’t have (much) outlining, this helps to get a calm background which I think is important.
– The cats eye effect (oval shaped bokeh balls towards corners) is not too pronounced, the swirl caused by the cat’s eyes draws attention away from the subject
-No onion rings, I think onion ring bokeh is very ugly.

Your view on the points above might vary, it’s only there to explain my assessment.

Taking the points above into account, the Canon has the best bokeh. It shows noticeably less outlining than the Pentax and Panagor, which results in smooth bokeh. The Panagor and Pentax show a significant amount of green bokeh fringing, the Canon is not free of green fringing either but it is much less pronounced.

The Pentax and Canon both show a slight cat’s eye effect, but nothing obtrusive. The Panagor however shows more pronounced cat’s eyes, therefore bokeh can be a bit busy towards the edges. None of the lenses shows onion rings, a result of their simple optical designs devoid of any aspherical elements.

  • Canon newFD 135mm f/3.5 | f/3.5

  • Panagor PMC 135mm f/2.8 | f/3.5

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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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The Sony 1.8/135 GM is a highly anticipated lens that has been rumored for some time. Being a GM lens, it is part of a line which includes some of my favorite lenses like the Sony FE 1.4/24 GM and the Sony FE 1.4/85 GM. My expectations are as high as its price – can it live up to that?

Sample Images Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8 | full size Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8 | full size Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8 | full size

Specifications

The Sony FE 135mm 1.8 GM has the following specifications

    • Diameter: 89,5 mm
    • Field of view: 18° (diagonally)
    • Length: 127 mm
    • Weight: 950g
    • Filter Diameter: 82 mm
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 11 (rounded)
    • Elements/Groups: 13/10
    • Close Focusing Distance: 0.7 m
    • Maximum Magnification: 1:4
    • Mount: Sony E

For $1899/1999€ you can order this lens from amazon.com, amazon.deEbay.com,Ebay.de (affiliate links).

Build Quality / Handling

The build quality of the Sony FE 1.8/135 GM is exceptionally good. The polycarbonate body is sturdy, stiff and scratch resistant like we know from the other GM lenses that we have reviewed. The focus ring is rubberized without being sticky. Like all recent Sony lenses, the focus ring has linear coupling and has a 135 degree throw from the minimum focusing distance to infinity. In the typical portrait range, this is a bit steep, but due to the sheer width of the ring (89,5mm) and the good application, it is very precise and it always possible to find the right setting.

The lens has all features of current high end Sony lenses. As well as  the declickable aperture ring (1/3 stop detente), there is an AF/MF switch, two programmable buttons and a focus limiter. The latter is very welcome because the lens has great close focusing capabilities (1:4 max magnification).

On the rear of the lens, you can see that the lens has a rubber gasket around the mount. The lens is dust and moisture resistant like the other GM lenses.

The lens hood is massive and very sturdy. Its front is rubberized for further protection and the inside of the hood is flocked. It also features a release button which prevents the lens from mistakenly dismounting. With a weight of 78g, it’s still acceptably light but it adds significantly to the bulk of the lens:

This lens is big and heavy (950g), no doubt about that. If you take its focal length, speed and maximum magnification into account, this doesn’t seem too excessive: other options with these specification are larger and heavier.

The most comparable lens is terms of size the Sony 2.8/24-70 GM. The 135 is a bit smaller and thinner but feels quite comparable in handling and has the same 82mm filter thread.

Having a larger grip helps a lot to handle these large and heavy lenses. I currently use the Meike MK-X1EM, there is also the native Sony GP-X1EM or several battery grips and L-brackets.

Sony FE 1.8/135 GM next to Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM

In contrast to the Sony FE 1.4/85 GM, the AF performance of the Sony FE 1.8/135 GM is sensational. Two linear motors are used to move two different groups silent and fast. This helps a lot to keep the focusing fast over the whole focal range. Even at the minimum focusing distance, the focus is very fast which is quite different to dedicated macro lenses like the Sony FE 2.8/90 macro lens. This makes macro photography much easier and faster, especially for less patient or advanced photographers. I also think that this will be very useful for wedding end event close ups.

In general use, the focus is very fast and almost instantaneous. The focus limiter can help to minimize hunting. In my short time of use, the lens had no issues tracking my wild running kid, even in complicated light. Furthermore, focus acquisition is extremely fast. This will be very welcome for action and sports photographers. This makes the lens very different to lenses like the Sony FE 1.4/85 GM or third party lenses that offer decent but not action-ready autofocus.

Sharpness

infinity

I will skip the detailed discussion of the different apertures as it will be very boring. From f1.8 to diffraction limit, this lens performs exactely the same (on my A7iii) with the exception of vignetting wide open. This is nothing short of sensational and probably the best performance we have seen yet on the blog. Seeing that, I have no reason to disbelieve Lensrentals claim that the Sony FE 1.8/135 GM is the sharpest lens out there besides super telephoto lenses.

Close Up

Close up sharpness is great wide open. I gets a little boost in contrast when stipping down to f/2 and f/2.8 but I doubt that choosing any of these stops will have a field relevant difference in sharpness (except of increasing depth of field of course). At f4, diffraction already starts to show, there is no focus shift.

In the sample below, you can see how much detail can be resolved when using the Sony FE 1.8/135 GM wide open for close up shooting:

Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8 Chromatic Aberrations

Longitudinal

LocA is very well controlled and can be only spotted in the harshest contrast. The sample below (100% crop) shows the largest amount of LoCA that I have seen yet.

100% crop, Red LoCA can show up

This is what the fountain test looks like. I think this is a very good performance that can only be beaten by slower APO-lenses like the Zeiss Batis 2.8/135 or the Voigtländer Macro APO-Lanthar 2/65.

Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8

Lateral

I can’t find any, not even in uncorrected JPEG files:

100% extreme corner crop of an uncorrected JPEG file. Flare resistance

Ring Flare & Ghosting

This lens can show ghostings with the bright sun in the frame. The glossy filter thread causes reflections that show in a ring flare.

Glossy filter thread

Flocking the thread or using the proprietary lens hood a small hood (a short one like this is enough) can prevent the lens from this behavior. Ghostings can appear as well.

Like the Sony FE 1.4/85 GM, the lens doesn’t like the sun just outside of the frame:

Veiling Flare

Like almost all fast telephoto lenses, this lens shows veiling flare when pointed against the sun in several angles:

Distortion

Minor pincushion distortion. LR correction value is -1.

Vignetting (light falloff)

With a maximum value of 1.65 EV, vignetting is low even wide open and mostly gone at f2.8.

Bokeh

In contrast to the latest GM prime lenses like the Sony 1.4/24 GM and the Sony 1.4/85 GM, the Sony 1.8/135 GM lacks any spherical aberrations (in the transition zone) wide open, optical errors are generally better corrected and contrast is extremely high, even wide open. This also results in more contrast in the bokeh which makes it more neutral and less “creamy” looking:

Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8 | full size

Bokeh balls at f1.8 show a slight and thin outlining and are very clean otherwise:

At the edges and at f1.8, the Sony FE 1.8/135 GM shows cat eye shaped bokeh balls (mechanical vignetting) which get more rounded when stopped down.

A closer look at the cat eyes (mechanical vignetting) shows that they are much more rounded at f2.8 and practically gone at f4.

Stopped down, outlining gets stronger and a slight onion ring pattern starts to show around the edge. This is mostly distracting in small to moderately sized highlights like in the sample at f11 below:

Alternatives

Sigma Art 1.8/135 FE*

Being comparable in specs, this lens is the most obvious competitor to the Sony FE 1.8/135 GM. The Sigma also comes with native mount and almost native like performance. First tests showed that the Sony focuses faster and more reliable than the Sigma which is not a surprise. The Sony is sharper but the Sigma is no slouch either, this should not be the deciding factor. The rendering is very comparable, check out Fred Mirandas comparison. The Sony is better equipped, lighter and smaller while the Sigma is quite a bit cheaper. If you can afford it, the Sony is worth the premium price in my opinion.

Zeiss Batis APO-Sonnar T* 2.8/135

The Batis and the GM are both native lenses with almost the same price tag. Both lenses are terifficly sharp and contrasty. The Sony offers more speed, better AF (although the Batis is not bad) and more manual controls. The Batis doesn’t exhibit any LoCA, is lighter, a bit smaller (although unnecessary bulky) and offers better flare performance. For most people, the GM will be the best choice but if travel or landscape photography is you main subject, the Batis is worth a thought.

Canon EF 2/135 L

This is the cheapest way to get a fast 135mm lens with autofocus. Optically, this lens starts to feel dated but it is still capable of delivering fine images.

Samyang 2/135

The Samyang 2/135 offers very good image quality for a very low price tag. It is very large and offers only manual focus, but if you shoot mostly static subjects, this can be worth a thought.

Sony Zeiss Sonnar T* 1.8/135 ZA

This is the real ancestor of the Sony FE 1.8/135 GM. This lens doesn’t offer perfect results wide open but beautiful and strikingly soft bokeh. Because of the screw driven AF and the dated LA-EA4, it can be a pain to use these days.

Conclusion
good
  • sharpest lens that we have tested yet (true for infinity and close up)
  • extremely high contrast
  • size & weight (for a lens in that class with that magnification)
  • great GM build quality, comes with a lens pouch
  • useful buttons and aperture ring
  • action-ready AF with focus limiter
  • CA correction (LoCA and LaCA)
  • useful max magnification (1:4)
  • low distortion
average
  • general flare resistance
  • high contrast bokeh not as “creamy” as we have seen before
  • price tag
not good
  • effects caused by glossy filter thread (ring flare)
  • Incompatibility with Sony Teleconverters

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the sharpest of them all? It is the Sony FE 1.8/135 GM, at least for all lenses that I have used yet. It is the first lens where nothing happens when I stop down except of decreasing vignetting and increasing diffraction. Even the macro and microcontrast is completely there wide open.

Besides sharpness, I can also praise the good CA correction, low distortion, low vignetting and the close up sharpness.The proven GM build quality makes using this lens a joy, especially the large amount of manual lens controls is very useful.

A major design flaw and the only real weakness is the glossy filter thread that makes the flare performance look worse than it actually is. Using a lens hood or flocking the thread is highly recommended.

Having used this lens for a few days now, I can say already that this lens renders very differently to the Sony FE 1.4/85 GM. The 1.8/135 lacks the ultimate creamy bokeh and shows more cat eye shaped bokeh balls. It is much sharper wide open and focuses as fast as is imaginable in a lens like this.

This makes it a top pick for action and sports photographers. Given the stunning optical performance, I can’t understand why Sony decided to exclude compatibility with teleconverters. Portrait and wedding photographers will also love this lens as it is very reliable and versatile (for a 135mm prime lens).

I read quite a few negative comments about the price. I can say with confidence that this lens..

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The Sony 1.8/135 GM is a highly anticipated lens that has been rumored for some time. Being a GM lens, it stands in line with some of my favorite lenses like the Sony FE 1.4/24 GM and the Sony FE 1.4/85 GM. My expectations are as high as its price – can it live up to that?

Sample Images Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8 | full size Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8 | full size Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8 | full size

Specifications

The Sony FE 135mm 1.8 GM has the following specifications

    • Diameter: 89,5 mm
    • Field of view: 18° (diagonally)
    • Length: 127 mm
    • Weight: 950g
    • Filter Diameter: 82 mm
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 11 (rounded)
    • Elements/Groups: 13/10
    • Close Focusing Distance: 0.7 m
    • Maximum Magnification: 1:4
    • Mount: Sony E

For $1899/1999€ you can order this lens from amazon.com, amazon.deEbay.com,Ebay.de (affiliate links).

Rolling Review Done:

21.04.2019:
– Build Quality / Handling
– Sharpness infinity
– Bokeh
– Flare Resistance
– Chromatic Aberrations

Planned Updates:

– Vignetting
– Close up sharpness
– Other Options

Build Quality / Handling

The build quality of the Sony FE 1.8/135 GM is exceptionally good. The polycarbonate body is sturdy, stiff and scratch resistant like we know from the other GM lenses that we have reviewed. The focus ring is rubberized without being sticky. Like all recent Sony lenses, the focus ring has linear coupling and has a 135 degree throw from the minimum focusing distance to infinity. In the typical portrait range, this is a bit steep, but due to the sheer width of the ring (89,5mm) and the good application, it is very precise and it always possible to find the right setting.

The lens has all features of current high end Sony lenses. As well as  the declickable aperture ring (1/3 stop detente), there is an AF/MF switch, two programmable buttons and a focus limiter. The latter is very welcome because the lens has great close focusing capabilities (1:4 max magnification).

On the rear of the lens, you can see that the lens has a rubber gasket around the mount. The lens is dust and moisture resistant like the other GM lenses.

The lens hood is massive and very sturdy. Its front is rubberized for further protection and the inside of the hood is flocked. It also features a release button which prevents the lens from mistakenly dismounting. With a weight of 78g, it’s still acceptably light but it adds significantly to the bulk of the lens:

This lens is big and heavy (950g), no doubt about that. If you take its focal length, speed and maximum magnification into account, this doesn’t seem too excessive: other options with these specification are larger and heavier.

The most comparable lens is terms of size the Sony 2.8/24-70 GM. The 135 is a bit smaller and thinner but feels quite comparable in handling and has the same 82mm filter thread.

Having a larger grip helps a lot to handle these large and heavy lenses. I currently use the Meike MK-X1EM, there is also the native Sony GP-X1EM or several battery grips and L-brackets.

Sony FE 1.8/135 GM next to Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM

In contrast to the Sony FE 1.4/85 GM, the AF performance of the Sony FE 1.8/135 GM is sensational. Two linear motors are used to move two different groups silent and fast. This helps a lot to keep the focusing fast over the whole focal range. Even at the minimum focusing distance, the focus is very fast which is quite different to dedicated macro lenses like the Sony FE 2.8/90 macro lens. This makes macro photography much easier and faster, especially for less patient or advanced photographers. I also think that this will be very useful for wedding end event close ups.

In general use, the focus is very fast and almost instantaneous. The focus limiter can help to minimize hunting. In my short time of use, the lens had no issues tracking my wild running kid, even in complicated light. Furthermore, focus acquisition is extremely fast. This will be very welcome for action and sports photographers. This makes the lens very different to lenses like the Sony FE 1.4/85 GM or third party lenses that offer decent but not action-ready autofocus.

Sharpness

infinity

I will skip the detailed discussion of the different apertures as it will be very boring. From f1.8 to diffraction limit, this lens performs exactely the same (on my A7iii) with the exception of vignetting wide open. This is nothing short of sensational and probably the best performance we have seen yet on the blog. Seeing that, I have no reason to disbelieve Lensrentals claim that the Sony FE 1.8/135 GM is the sharpest lens out there besides super telephoto lenses.

Close Up

I will investigate this further but so far I have no reason to doubt that the performance is consistent  throughout the whole focal range.

Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8 Chromatic Aberrations

Longitudinal

LocA is very well controlled and can be only spotted in the harshest contrast. The sample below (100% crop) shows the largest amount of LoCA that I have seen yet.

100% crop, Red LoCA can show up

This is what the fountain test looks like. I think this is a very good performance that can only be beaten by slower APO-lenses like the Zeiss Batis 2.8/135 or the Voigtländer Macro APO-Lanthar 2/65.

Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8

Lateral

I can’t find any, not even in uncorrected JPEG files:

100% extreme corner crop of an uncorrected JPEG file. Flare resistance

Ring Flare & Ghosting

This lens can show ghostings with the bright sun in the frame. The glossy filter thread causes reflections that show in a ring flare.

Glossy filter thread

Flocking the thread or using the proprietary lens hood a small hood (a short one like this is enough) can prevent the lens from this behavior. Ghostings can appear as well.

Like the Sony FE 1.4/85 GM, the lens doesn’t like the sun just outside of the frame:

Veiling Flare

Like almost all fast telephoto lenses, this lens shows veiling flare when pointed against the sun in several angles:

Bokeh

In contrast to the latest GM prime lenses like the Sony 1.4/24 GM and the Sony 1.4/85 GM, the Sony 1.8/135 GM lacks any spherical aberrations (in the transition zone) wide open, optical errors are generally better corrected and contrast is extremely high, even wide open. This also results in more contrast in the bokeh which makes it more neutral and less “creamy” looking:

Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8 | full size

Bokeh balls at f1.8 show a slight and thin outlining and are very clean otherwise:

At the edges and at f1.8, the Sony FE 1.8/135 GM shows cat eye shaped bokeh balls (mechanical vignetting) which get more rounded when stopped down.

A closer look at the cat eyes shows that they are much better at f2.8 and practically gone at f4.

Stopped down, outlining gets stronger and a slight onion ring pattern starts to show around the edge. This is mostly distracting in small to moderately sized highlights like in the sample at f11 below:

Preliminary Conclusion
good
  • sharpest lens that we have tested yet
  • extremely high contrast
  • size & weight (for a lens in that class with that magnification)
  • great GM build quality, comes with a lens pouch
  • useful buttons and aperture ring
  • action-ready AF with focus limiter
  • CA correction (LoCA and LaCA)
  • useful max magnification (1:4)
average
  • general flare resistance
  • high contrast bokeh not as “creamy” as we have seen before
  • price tag
not good
  • effects caused by glossy filter thread (ring flare)
  • Incompatibility with Sony Teleconverters

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the sharpest of them all? It is the Sony FE 1.8/135 GM, at least for all lenses that I have used yet. It is the first lens where nothing happens when I stop down except of decreasing vignetting and increasing diffraction. Even the macro and microcontrast is completely there wide open.

Besides sharpness, I can also praise the good CA correction and the close up sharpness. A major design flaw is the glossy filter thread that makes the flare performance look worse than it actually is. Using a lens hood or flocking the thread is highly recommended.

Having used this lens for a few days now, I can say already that this lens is very different to the Sony FE 1.4/85 GM. The 1.8/135 lacks the ultimate creamy bokeh and shows more cat eye shaped bokeh balls. It is much sharper wide open and focuses as fast as is imaginable in a lens like this.

This makes it a top pick for action and sports photographers. Given the stunning optical performance, I can’t understand why Sony decided to exclude compatibility with teleconverters. Portrait and wedding photographers will also love this lens as it is very reliable and versatile (for a 135mm prime lens).

I read quite a few negative comments about the price. I can say with confidence that this lens reflects a decent price/performance ratio and that this lens is a premium performer at a premium price tag.

I am very happy with what I saw so far and I look forward with excitement to put the lens through all the paces.

For $1899/1999€ you can order this lens from amazon.com, amazon.deEbay.com,Ebay.de (affiliate links).

More Sample Images

All sample images and many more can be downloaded in my flickr album of the Sony FE 1.8/135 GM.

Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8 | full size Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8 | full size Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8 | full size Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8 | full size Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8 | full size Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8 | full size Sony A7iii | Sony FE 1.8/135 GM | f1.8 | full size
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PR: Dear Mr. Li, let me thank you for this opportunity to ask you some questions about your work and the process of designing a lens.
But first we would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your position at 7Artisans?

Mr. Li: Hello. I have always been a big fan of photography and I am really obsessed with photography equipment. I have collected and used about 90% of the lenses produced since the 1980s.

I am the founder of 7Artisans and I am in charge of product design. 

PR: We think your 7Artisans 28mm 1.4 FE+ is a very interesting and capable wide-angle lens with a highly desired focal length and maximum aperture combination. To be honest I was really positively surprised by it. So naturally I am curious about the process of designing this lens.
The previous 7artisans lenses have mostly been what is often described as “character” lenses and are usually based on the “Sonnar” design principle. This 28mm f/1.4 lens on the other hand has a very complex optical design with aspherical, ED and high refractive elements.
How come you now decided to design a lens like this and what were your design goals?

Mr. Li: The first thing that came to my mind was designing a lens with a 28mm focal length. On full frame it gives a very widely used angle of view, since almost 90% of the smartphones use 28mm equivalent lenses in camera modules. But if we made a 28mm with a slower f/2.8 or f/5.6 aperture, the pictures might not be end up being very different from those taken by smartphones. Therefore, our goal was to design a lens with good performance in low light and the possibility of shallower depth of field, so that it could stand out from those smartphones with the same angle of view.

Sony A7rII | 7artisans 28mm 1.4 | f/1.4

In designing a high quality 28mm lens we considered the following factor: 28mm is different from mid-telephoto lenses like 50mm or 75mm. These longer lenses are often used for portraiture, so only small parts of the frame will be in focus. Therefore they don’t need high performance in the corners at wider apertures, so the design can instead focus on the bokeh rendering.

However, 28mm lenses are used for a wide range of applications, and for some of these applications bokeh is not the most important feature. Instead it needs to perform very evenly – so we have to make sure that it gives great performance across the whole frame. It has to be sharp enough to use at f/1.4 at the very least.

Optical formula of 7artisans 28mm 1.4

To realize these design goals within the limited size of a rangefinder lens, we had to adopt a complex optical design. This has been a challenge for us. Even with the help of optical design software running on two workstations simultaneously, we still spent 6 months just on the optical design alone. This was also our first design using a double-sided aspherical element.
I am very happy with the finished product.

PR: When looking at other 28mm 1.4 lenses the Sigma 28mm 1.4 Art and the Zeiss Otus 28mm 1.4 come to mind. Both follow a recent trend in the industry to produce huge and heavy lenses with many elements to provide best possible image quality already at a very fast maximum aperture. What compromises did you have to make to keep the 28mm 1.4 as compact as we know it?

Mr. Li: The angle of incidence of the light in the corners is so steep that it cannot meet the needs of the sensor design of both Leica and Sony at the same time. So we needed to make separate versions optimized for the specific requirements.

Had we decided to design a much bigger lens, it would be possible to make it compatible with both sensors at the same time.

PR: The casing of your 28mm 1.4 clearly took inspiration from the Leica-M-lenses, but I was surprised how good feel and build quality actually are (I really like the full-stop click-stops and the resistance of the focus ring). Not quite what we are used to see from younger lens makers. How did you achieve this?

Mr. Li: This was the easiest and hardest thing when we designed this lens. It was easy, because it was only a matter of trial and error until we had a mechanical design that feels right. And it was hard, because we had to do lots of testing.

7artisans 28mm 1.4

We also have to adjust and assemble each and every lens that leaves the factory manually. 

PR: Not long ago you introduced an FE+ version of the 28mm 1.4, optimized for Sony E-mount cameras. As we know about the issues when using lenses optimized for film or thinner filter stacks on Sony cameras we are glad you did.
Many of us wonder though: what adjustments to the design were necessary to improve the image quality on Sony cameras in the corners by such a high margin?
And also, why did you decide to keep the M-mount bayonet instead of using a native E-mount bayonet with this version?

Mr. Li: The main reason why we need to make separate adjustments for Leica and Sony cameras is that the sensor designs of them are different. The central area is not affected. But if we want an optimized image quality in the corners, we need to adjust the optical design.

7artisans 28mm 1.4 FE+ (left) and 28mm 1.4 M (right) @f/1.4 on Sony A7rII, crops from corner

So we had to change the angle of incidence of the light in the corners by adjusting the spacing between the elements.

The reason why we don’t use a native E-mount bayonet with this version is that for Nikon Z, Canon R or Fuji users this version also offers better performance than the M version, and now they can use this on their cameras with just an adapter.

But we may consider making a native E-mount version of this lens in the future.

PR: By now you have produced 13 lenses. Can you tell us one thing you have learned in the process of realizing these?

Mr. Li: You need to make a lens that you love to use yourself. If you produce a lens that you don’t like, nobody will want to buy it.

PR: And now that you have (successfully) designed and produced a complex lens like the 28mm 1.4, do you consider designing more lenses with the same signature in the future? And if so, maybe a hint what focal length to expect next?

Mr. Li: Yes. We will try using two double-sided aspherical elements and other more advanced optical materials to realize more compact lenses with high image quality. The next one will be a 75mm f/1.25 lens.

PR: Nowadays there are several websites conducting more or less sophisticated measurements of lenses and then coming up with a rating of some sort but at the same time they often show only very limited sample images. I personally think those tests rarely reflect the actual quality of a lens and are often performed at too short distances. Still, many people use these ratings and tests to base their buying decisions on. Do you have a look at the tests of your lenses and are those tests something you already think about when designing a lens?

Mr. Li: It depends on what you need. If you are a professional commercial photographer who has clients demanding very large print size you definitely need to focus on some specifications like the resolution.

Sony A7II | 7artisans 50mm 1.1 | f/1.1

However, if you are just a shutterbug, focusing on these aspects might not be that useful for you. It may be better to explore other characteristics like bokeh or lens rendering in general by trying different lenses and see what works best for you.

PR: Is there still a lens you would love to make, but so far you couldn’t? What would it be and what is keeping you from producing it?

Mr. Li: We want to make autofocus lenses. But we will need access to the autofocus protocols of the various camera makers first to make this possible.

PR: Your brand name is 7Artisans, may you explain to our readers the meaning behind this name?

Mr. Li: A group of Chinese camera enthusiasts gathered together for a dinner in summer 2015. They were discussing their passions over the dinner table. Some were interested in optical design, while others were more skilled at running factory production lines, and one was an avid Leica lens collector. Everyone who participated came to the same conclusion; “If we combine our skills and work together, we can create new and original camera lenses.” That is how the 7Artisans Project began.

In the early stages, many different people joined the project gradually forming the initial team. They expected it to be a long journey before they reached their dream. That story began with testing prototypes and identifying problems, improving the designs as well as streamlining assembly and identifying further issues. We used the opportunities to fix problems as a way of further improving our ideas. Trial and error cycles never stopped. We originally started with many members, but some of them left the project due to long product development cycles. By the time the production of our 50mm f/1.1 lens was completed, only 7 members remained.

And now each production packaging says, “7Artisans (Chinese: Seven Craftsmen)”. This is in honour of the members who believed in the project from the beginning and embodied the spirit of craftsmen. We are named 7Artisans in celebration of their confidence and determination.

PR: Over the last few years we have seen many new lens manufacturers, especially from China (e.g. Laowa, Zhong Yi, SLRmagic, Viltrox, Yongnuo, NiSi). How does 7Artisans fit in there, what is unique about your brand?

Mr. Li: To be honest, I bought their products and I thought they are not good enough. Therefore, I started making my own lenses. (laughs)

PR: And a final question: Do you use the lenses you have designed yourself? And if so, what is your favorite lens and what do you use it for?

Mr. Li: I didn’t design our lenses by myself. Our lenses are designed and produced with the help of our partner DJ and our engineer Mr. Du.

My favorite lens is our 28mm f/1.4 lens. I often use it for street photography.

Sony A7rII | 7artisans 28mm 1.4 | f/1.4

PR: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions.

Mr. Li: I am glad to have had the opportunity to talk to you.

Further Reading

The post The Man behind the Lens: Li Qing (7artisans 28mm 1.4 FE+) appeared first on phillipreeve.net.

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