Using a different lens every week (ahmm… well) for 70+ weeks (or more)… ;)

Lens Blog

Week 10: Canon FL 3.5/135

(C) www.mir.com.my This FL lens is rather compact for a lens of that focal length. The FL lenses were the predecessors of the famous FD series by Canon.  I use this tele lens on my FTb QL (on film) or adapted to an EOS DSLR or even my NEX-3. But since you need an adapter with a corrective lens inside when you shoot this lens on an EOS body, the image quality can deteriorate. This adapter especially increases the chance for flares and thus can easily reduce overall contrast of an image. Such an adapter also seems to multiply the focal length by about 1.3.

Despite being a compact lens, it is a pretty heavy one and the built is great, very solid. And the results are very good on film. Even on the 5D (which is some kind of tough test for manual lenses) you can grab convincing images:

Canon FL 3.5/135 @ EOS 5D
Canon FL 3.5/135 @ EOS 5D

Canon FL 3.5/135 @ EOS 5D

So all in all this FL 3.5/135 is a very recommendable lens if you still like to shoot with your old Canon SLR.

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Week 9: Vivitar Series 1 2.8-3.8/28-105 VMC Macro Focusing Zoom

Trying to catch up. The holiday season was not really helpful in writing this blog. LOL

This week’s lens is the “Vivitar Series 1 2.8-3.8/28-105 VMC Macro Focusing Zoom”. What a name!
Vivitar put several rather fast zoom lenses on the market that were built by different manufacturers. Especially those lenses made by Kiron or Komine are said to be excellent. I can confirm that and add that those made by Tokina are also very good! “Series 1” lenses were the high-end line of Vivitar, the same way that the “L” labels the top lenses of Canon. So most experts claim that a “Series 1” lens made by Kiron must be the top-of-the-pops. My 28-105 apparently was built by Cosina which is not the worst manufacturer either. Zeiss has their modern ZE lenses built there as well.

With a max aperture of 2.8-3.8 these zoom lenses are some of the fastest universal-zooms around. Apart from the 28-105 there also was a 2.8-3.8/28-90, a 2.8/35-80 and a non-Series 1 2.8-3.8/28-85. The 28-90 is said to be the best model, but I also like my 28-105 a lot.

Here you can find an ongoing discussion about which version might be the best one.

OK, my 28-105 not really a beauty, it’s not downright ugly, but the looks is not all that counts anyway, right? My Flickr-friend Alf Sigaro also owns that lens and also seems to like it. OK, what about it?

Pro:

– Surprisingly sharp even wide open
– Contrasty (stopped down) and nice color rendition (for a zoom)
– Beautiful bokeh (for a zoom that is very surprising)
– Useful focal range 28-105 on fullframe with a neat f/2.8-3.8
– Solid build

Con:

– Heavy copared to today’s zoom lenses (which is not really a “con” for me, personally, though) 😉
– Push pull zoom (you have to get used to it, it can be a good thing, but somtimes it is annoying)
– It’s a varifocus lens, so you have to re-adjust the focus after zooming (bad for filming)
– Some vignetting wide open at 28mm (but hey, it’s a zoom lens after all)
– contrast wide opened
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Week 8: Canon FL 1.8/50

This lens is a rather old version of the standard 50mm SLR lens by Canon. The “FL” shows that it is the predecessor of the “FD” series. You can find excellent information about those lenses here.

The FL 1.8/50 is a beautiful lens with its slivery rings and black barrels. Here you can see some images of different FL lenses. The problem with those FL (and FD) lenses is that due to the shorter register distance, they cannot be easily adapted to EOS cams. If you want to use an FL lens on a digital cam, you have four choices:

1. Use a 4/3 or an EVIL cam.

2. Adapt the lens with an adapter that has an optical corrective lens inside. That’s the way I go.

3. Use the lens only for close-up work.

4. Rebuilt the lens mount. Here you can read how you can do that.

As said, I use a corrective adapter which influences the optical performance a little, not too bad in normal circumstances but it generates flare and thus reduces contrast quite often. I’m going to show some examples soon.

Built and handling are very nice, somewhat typical for manual Canon gear.

For the rest I’d like to quote a paragraph by Erwin Puts who knows much more about lenses than I do:

Canon 1.8/50mm FL and FD. Both are classical 6 element Double Gauss designs. Both show strong curvature of field, as can be seen from the figures. If you focus on the center of the image, the outer zones are quite soft and if you focus on the outer zones the center becomes soft. This is a classical dilemma for camera designers. Most lenses exhibit this form of aberration. A lens does project a curved image on a flat receiver (the film). So the designer can select a back focus distance where the tip of the curve intersects the front of the film plane: we have excellent center sharpness. Or the designer can select a distance where the outer parts of the curve intersect the film plane, giving a high quality in the outer zones with a weaker center part. You can count on film curvature to correct the center part, but in any case the designer has a choice here. For a normal standard lens it is important to have even coverage, so the second solution would be wise. for a high speed reportage lens, the first option may be advisable. The official approach in lens testing is to focus on the center part and use this position as an analyis base. Here it comes:
At 1.8 and on axis both lenses have a central disk of about 6mm radius (12mm diameter) of high resolution and low contrast. These lenses resolve easily 125 linepairs/mm but the contrast is very low and some flare can be seen on axis.
In the outer zones the resolution drops to about 20 lp/mm with a higher contrast, but now we see soft edges at the black/white borders. The lvel of astigmatism is very low, which is a major feat. There is low vignetting and some very small pincushion distortion.
Stopping down to f/2 and f/2.8 brings a slight improvement in contrast and it is at f/4 that the lenses start to show a punchy performance. At f8 we have excellent performance with high contrast, and good edge contrast (micro contrast) over the whole image field. The FD version shows a slight improvement in the outer zones, but overall both versions perform identical.There is no decentring: always a good sign of outstanding workmanship in manufacturing and quality control.
As the FL version is steel and glass, where the FD version already uses plastics, my preference would be for the FL version, but generally both are fine performers. There is some tendency to flare and overall contrast is low, giving the pictures a flat and dull appearance when uses wide open. Stopped down the perfomance is very commendable.


Week 7: Canon EF 1.8/50 II

This 50mm lens is one the few lenses I own that is still available in stores. With its Gauss-design it can produce top quality images despite the rather fast lens speed of f/1.8 and at a pretty low price. And even if it is – of course, I might say – softer wide open than stopped down, it can surely be used at f/1.8.

Stopped down this lens gets very sharp and resolves on a high level. The colours are neutral and optically there is not much left to be wanted. You, however, need to accept some drawbacks when you buy a fast lens at that price: the autofocus, though reasonably fast, is not 100% reliable, neither on the EOS 50e, nor on the EOS 40D, nor on the EOS 5D. Especially at f/1.8, when the DoF tends to be pretty narrow, the AF sometimes does not hit. If you know that, you can cope with it by either shooting at f/2.8 (if light allows) or using  focus bracketing – which EOS cams do not allow but which can be done by simply shooting a series at high speed settings. The normal movement of your hand will kind of automatically change the focus position.

The second and much worse drawback is the built quality of this lens. It feels like a plastic yoghurt pot! Nicknames such

as “plastic fantastic” proof that many users share this impression. I would not dare to use the EF 1.8/50 II in heavy duty surroundings. But this lens also is called “nifty fifty” which again is a rather nice nick, isn’t it?

The version II has, as you might have already thought, a predecessor, the EF 1.8/50. That lens uses the same optical layout, but sports a much more rugged body which leads to the strange situtaion that a used first version lens is more expensive than a new version II.

For more information, please check these three reviews:

Bob Atkins
Photozone
SLR-gear
The-digital-picture

And finally, some recent images:

Canon EF 1.8/50 II

 

Canon EF 1.8/50 II

 

Canon EF 1.8/50 II

 

Canon EF 1.8/50 II

 

 


Week 6: C.P. Goerz Dopp.Anastigmat 4.5/90

C.P. Goerz Dopp.Anastigmat 4.5/90 @ EOS 5DThere is not much to find about this lens in the internet. I got it from a photo friend and converted it to an EOS mount by using M42 belllows and an M42-EOS-adapter.

It works pretty well like this but, of course, it cannot be used like a new lens. Handling is slow and you need to be careful to focus correctly. Anyway, it’s fun to use such a lens on a modern DSLR body.

The images it produces are, due to the lack of coating, low in contrast but they show a nice “glow” at the highlights. Contrast is corrected easily in post production but that glow cannot as easily be produced if you want it, it’s a character of the lens. Old Leica lenses also are famous for such a glow and they have a huge fan comuunitiy exactly because of that.

Another photo friend of mine, from Budejky, Czech Republic, wrote: “Double-anastigmat and f/4.5… well, with the exception of super-exotic designs there are only 2 possibilities: it could be double-gauss lens or dialyte (currently better known as helioplan). I know Goertz used dialyte design under name “Dogmar”.

Anyway, both double-gauss and dialyte have 6 inner air-glass surfaces. That’s too much for uncoated lens – according to many collectors 2 inner air-glass surfaces produce good contrast (protar, dagor, ernon), 4 air-glass surfaces produce acceptable contrast (e.g. triplets, hektors, heliars, or early sonnars) and 6 air-glass surfaces are on the low side (double-gauss, dialytes – dogmar, helioplan, veraplan, unofocal…, planars) […] old uncoated Helioplan – I think it will produce very similar images to your Goertz lens.

Thanks “no-X” for that explanation.

Here are some (older) images I have taken with this lens on the EOS 5D:

If anybody knows more about this lens, please send me an email. I’d be grateful for any imformation.


Week 5: Asahi Super-Takumar 3.5/135

This week I present the last Takumar lens of my collection. I used to have some more but sold the others – something that I regularly do in order to pay for new gear. 😉

This Takumar 3.5/135 looks like a typical Super-Takumar lens and offers the built and handling quality that each of this series provides. Focus is smooth, the lens feels well constructed and manufactured. You never get the impression that it might let you down.

It’s optical performance is being discussed a lot in all those internet boards and forums. Some say it’s a great lens, others complain about certain flaws. Often a bad bokeh is mentioned. I cannot agree to that. OK, I do have lenses that generate a much smoother bokeh, but the Tak 135 has yet to disappoint me.

Asahi Super-Takumar 3.5/135

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This image shows that even with nasty twigs in the ooF areas the lens behaves well. Bokeh highlights, though, could be rendered a bit more pleasant, I’ll grant you that.

Sharpness and contrast are very good – this is kind of characteristic for Takumars.

Asahi Super-Takumar 3.5/135

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With a maximum aperture of f/3.5 this 135mm lens is not really fast, but it’s not far away from the widely spread 2.8/135 lenses and the f/3.5 makes this lens a little more affordable. This Takumar is an underrated lens. You can find it for rather little money regularly. Thus it’s a fantasic lens for those who want to start a collection or those who want to try shooting with a 135mm lens, as long as you can cope with the minimum focus distance of 1.5 metres. The M42-screwmount is easily adapted to EOS, Sigma, Pentax or Olympus DSLRs.

Asahi Super-Takumar 3.5/135

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Asahi Super-Takumar 3.5/135

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Week 4: Asahi Super-Takumar 2.8/105

Takumar 105After a bad week with bronchitis and conjunctivitis, I now – finally – can add a new lens report to this blog. This time it’s about the Super-Tak 2.8/105.

The second Takumar lens in this blog. Takumars are generally very good. I hardly know bad models and still they are rather affordable, unless you want to buy one of the really rare ones. This 105mm lens is already one of the more expensive lenses and a precious one it is.

It works adapted to an APS-EOS, a fullframe EOS and a Sigma DSLR, thus I can use this lens on all of my digital SLR cameras. Even on my dad’s Fuji S2 Pro it can be used, but you won’t get focus on infinity on a body with Nikon mount. (Well, you can, but then you need to use an adapter with a correction lens.)

One great think about the Takumars is their great built. As long as they are in decent condition they really feel good in your hands. There are different versions of this lens, but in order to find information about these Pentax lens predecessors, I’d recommend the Taunusreiter pages – an excellent source!

This Takumar is a really nice lens. It’s sharp and can resolve some fine details. There is no distortion visible and vignetting is very low even wide open. The bokeh it produces is velvety, but can get a little grumpy with complicated structures such as twigs and branches in the out-of-focus areas. And it neither is the best lens to render those smoothly shaped bokeh highlights, the Tak 105 clearly shows a ring. It is, however, much better than most other lenses. Colour rendition is very pleasant and neutral. If f/2.8 is fast enough for you, there is not much left to be wanted.

Here are some shots, taken with the EOS 5D:

Takumar 105

 

And some images taken with the Sigma SD10:

 

And finally some taken with the EOS 300D:

 


Week 3: Asahi Super-Takumar 1.4/50

The Asahi Super-Takumar 1.4/50 is one of the classic lenses that finds its way into many bags and cabites of lens collectors or freaks. It has a certain reputation of being extremely sharp and rendering a nice bokeh.

Well, one thing is true for sure: it is very well built and feels great when used. And yes, even wide open it is one of the sharpest 1.4/50 lenses I know (and I know several). Although my copy is not in best condition and shows some tiny scratches on the glass elements, it produces very nice images with nice out-of-focus areas.

I used the chance to take some photos with it on my 300D during a lunch break on Monday. I chose the 300D because the rear element of this Takumar protrudes too far to be used on a 5D. The mirror of the 5D would hit the rear part of the lens – something that is not a very nice experience.

Being a f/1.4 lens it can be easily used to generate narrow DoF even on an APS-crop cam. Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of this Tak is that it is already sharp at f/1.4, this aperture is not only a marketing gag, it is definitely usable.

Now, look at this 100% crop of the image above:

Honestly, I wouldn’t know what a modern lens could do better here!

So, haptics are great, image quality is fantastic, aren’t there any disadvantages?

Well, this lens is kind of prone to “yellowing”, an effect that makes glass elements turn yellowish, amber coloured. This effect does not have any negative influence on image quality but it might cause the actual “speed” (=how much light arrives at the sensor) to reduce a little. Anyway, if you can find a copy in decent condition, don’t hesitate. Its M42-mount makes it a highly versatile lens. If it only were adaptable to a regular EOS 5D without lens surgery or mirror shaving…


Week 2: AGFA Anastigmat Trilinear 6.3/13.5cm

AGFA Anastigmat Trinilear 6.3/13.5cmThis lens is not really a lens that one would use on a DSLR. It was used on Agfa Standard cameras between  1926-31 to shoot on 6×9 film. I have deactivated the internal shutter and adapted the lens to EOS-mount by fixing it to a tube taken from an Olympus-mount SUN 135mm lens (with removed internal elements) and an OM-EOS-adapter. In order to achieve infinity focus (and not beyond!) I had to add a 12mm OM macro tube. This construction perhaps looks a bit strange but it works.

I have found the old medium format lens at the Solms Camera Show near “Leica-City” Wetzlar that I have attended regularly for some years now. Since I know that those old lenses can create very interesting images and effects when used with a sensor (more about this here), I wanted to try this Agfa on my EOS cams. Well, how does it perform? About as I have expected.

This lens does not have the extreme resolution of a modern top-class prime but since only a very small part of th original image circle is used, the lens performs similarly throughout the whole frame when used on a DSLR, esp. when use on the 300D I took the photos on this post with. There is no loss towards the corners whatsoever.

Contrast and saturation are reduced compared to a modern lens and since there is not coating on the elements it is easy to generate flare which again reduces image contrast. A low saturation is not a bad thing, unless you want those Japanese style images that hum with colours and low contrast can be adjusted easily in post-processing. Under an overcast sky or in shadows this lens does not reproduce deep blacks and bright whites, a behaviour that suddenly changes as soon as the sun comes out. Then you get high contrast, but – as said before – you have keep an eye on possible flare.

The Anastigmat renders out-of-focus areas nicely but has problems with bokeh highlights which sometimes seem to be of doughnut shape. Areas in focus are  pretty nice and definitely sharp enough for general use.


Week 1: Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 2/58 (EXA)

OK, here it starts…

Exakta Varex

This week I will shoot with the Zeiss Biotar 2/58, a lens that I just have converted to EOS mount using a LeicaR-EOS-adapter, some superglue and EasyTac. It worked well. Please, don’t hit me for transferring this lens into the digital age! 😉 I have hardly shot with the Exakta Varex that had this lens mounted.

It’s a very nice lens. My Flickr contact Alf Sigaro shows the lens diagram. It’s a 6 element design but my copy does not have the famous T-coating, so reflections can be a problem when the lens is used wide open and with some light from the side. For the same reason there are some coma effects and halos visible towards the edge of the image frame. A good hood helps, though. I use a vented hood for a rangefinder Summicron or one of these classic conical ones.

 

Biotar 2/58

Distortion is nicely low and the bokeh is very interesting, really “characteristic” I’d say. It’s one of those lenses that seem to have their own “personality” which you need to understand in order to use properly. The close-up functionality of this lens is not that good, it only focuses down to about 90cm; you could, fo course, always work with close-up lenses or other additional equipment. This Biotar is not made for all scenarios and certainly not suitable to produce that neutral style of modern AF lenses, but if you find an approach to this lens, it can give you some fascinating shots.

Biotar 2/58 This lens is nicely built and provides a pleasant feeling of solidity – quite typical for the “early” Carl Zeiss Jena lenses. The Biotar 2/58 series was built between 1946 and 1960 in different versions. My copy offers apertures from f/2 to f/22, some copies only go to f/16 (which is not really a problem, is it?). Haptics are great, there is just one problematic issue: with some lenses the focus ring does not turn smoothly any more which is due to a stiff volution. My copy also suffers a little from that, but it’s not too bad, it’s still well usable.

Since the EXA mount gets into the way of the EOS 5D mirror, I shoot this lens on a crop (1.6x) DSLR. My 40D is mainly “reserved” for my AF lenses, so the EOS 300D will be the “weapon of choice”.

This Biotar doesn’t go where my Leica Summicron 2/50 resides at: the top. But it is a fine lens, capable of producing nicely rendered and very special images, if you know how to use it. And it really shines on smaller, e.g. APS-sized sensors.

Biotar 2/58Biotar 2/58Biotar 2/58