REVIEW: Carl ZEISS 28mm f/2.8 Biogon T* + 1.5m pcx filter

The Contax G 28mm Biogon was considered one of the best 28mm available on film, but suffers serious issues on digital due to sensor cover glass. Can a simple filter make the lens a competitive performer on Sony cameras? Find out below.

I have shot this lens for years on the Sony A7 and more recently with a PCX filter and then on a Kolari UT modded A7. Unless otherwise noted, all of the tests in this review were performed on a Sony A7RII with a reversed 1.5m PCX filter on the lens (Thanks again to Nehemiah for lending me the A7RII). Check captions on sample pictures to see what camera was used. Bonus: The Contax G 28mm Biogon is both Phillip and my favorite lens on aps-c cameras, so I will also add a second installment later reviewing the lens for aps-c provocatively titled How the A6000 + Contax G 28/2.8 is better than an RX1.

Sample Images

Sony A7 | Carl Zeiss Contax G 28mm f/2.8 Biogon | f/2.8
Sony A7 | Carl Zeiss Contax G 28mm f/2.8 Biogon | f/8
Sony A7 | Carl Zeiss Contax G 28mm f/2.8 Biogon | f/11
Sony A7 | Carl Zeiss Contax G 28mm f/2.8 Biogon | f/11

Continue reading REVIEW: Carl ZEISS 28mm f/2.8 Biogon T* + 1.5m pcx filter

Rolling-Review: Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E Classic

Introduction

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII with Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E Classic

The Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E “classic” was announced alongside the Voigtlander 40mm 1.2 Nokton E and after a slight delay just hit the shelves (02/18). The “classic” designation relates to the heritage of this lens as its symmetrical optical design is very similar to the older M-mount 35mm 1.4. What can we expect from Voigtlander’s first classic E-mount lens?

This is a rolling-review and it will be steadily updated as we get to know the lens better!

Update 02/22/18: close focus performance, loCA and focus shift

Sample Images

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4
voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4
voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4

Continue reading Rolling-Review: Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E Classic

Zeiss Loxia 2.4/25 Announced – Our Expectations

Zeiss has just announced the Loxia 2.4/25. Here is some basic info from the press release.

Specifications

Diameter 62 mm
Length 74.5 mm
Filter Diameter 52 mm
Weight 393 g
Max. Magnification 1:6.4
Close Focusing Distance from the sensor 25 cm
Number of aperture blades 10 (straight)
Elements/ Groups 10 / 8
Price: 1299€ / $1299
Available from: March 2018

Samples Images

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

MTF Data

Compared to the Loxia 2.8/21.

And at f/5.6

Phillip’s Expectations

Well, I am the only one in the team who doesn’t own (and love) a Loxia 2.8/21 but that is only for financial reasons and until now I was close to buying one. Now I might go for the 2.4/25 instead but I am not sure yet.

So far all we have is the press release but it comes with MTF curves which show that at f/5.6 the 25 has even better off-center sharpness than the Loxia 2.8/21 which until now defined the standard for a E-mount wide angle. Since the other specs are very similar to the Lox 21 and Zeiss knows how to make lenses I would be quite surprised if the 2.4/25 would behave any worse than the awesome 21. This is one of the rare cases where I am pretty sure that I know well enough what to expect just from a press release. But of course aspects like flare resistance or bokeh still need to be tested.

So the most important question for me is how well it would fit into my lens kit. I own the CV 2/65 APO and it is my favorite lens still. I have ordered the CV 1.2/40 which will most likely replace my CV 1.7/35. So far I had planned to add the Loxia 2.8/21 but now I think that the 2.4/25 could be more attractive for me because I would gain half a stop, a little better corners (not that I really care) and save 200€ (if I buy new). Looking at the images taken with my 16-35 I use it most often at 16mm and a little more often at 21 mm than at 25 mm but more often around 28 mm than 18 mm. The difference isn’t that significant though so that gives no real indication. I should probably plan to get a Laowa 2/15 in the future once they manage to put 10 aperture blades into it and then a 25mm lens would sit nicely in the middle while the gap between a 40 and 21 would be rather big.

Bastian’s Expectations

The MTF charts of the new Loxia 25mm 2.4 look really promising, and the optical design is very similar to the Loxia 21mm 2.8, so I am not expecting any bad surprise.
The Loxia 21mm 2.8 has probably been my most used lens since I bought it (some samples here) and together with the Loxia 85mm 2.4 it is the one lens I can’t really find any flaw with. While I welcome  a new lens at a different focal length with similar qualities, I never felt like I would prefer a slightly less wide version of the 21mm.

Being half a stop faster does not really matter to me at this focal length either; if you want to throw the background out of focus you have to get really close to your subject and even f/2.8 will often not be enough in terms of depth of field.
And if you are thinking about environmental portraits f/2.4 is not fast enough to visibly throw the background out of focus, I would rather use an f/1.2 to f/1.4 lens for that.

I also don’t plan on replacing my Voigtlander 35mm 1.7 + 5m PCX filter with the Voigtlander 40mm 1.2, as Phillip does, because I think the 35 is the better corrected lens (when he performs a comparison we will see whether I am right about that or not 🙂 )
So I am very fine with the 21-35 spacing in my bag.

So while I welcome this lens, as an owner of the 21mm version I am going to pass on it and hope the next one will be something longer or wider.

David’s Expectations

I was going  to sit this one out. Although I have and love the Lox 21, I do find that the small difference between 21 and 25 is surprisingly significant. 25 is a much more general purpose lens, 21 (at least for me) is the first ultra wide. 21 is not an alternative to 25, it’s an alternative to 18. 25 is an alternative to 28. But I have been pretty happy with my current 25 solution, which is the Batis 25. It gives a usable f2 option for environmental portraits and the like, and is excellent stopped down.

Then along comes this new Loxia! At f2.4 it’s way better than the Batis  at f2, and a touch better than the Batis at f2.8, where the Batis is very good indeed. And it’s still better, by what is probably a noticeable amount, at f5.6. And will have lovely 10 pointed sunstars. Hmm. This makes it pretty tempting. All of this is from the published MTF, but then Zeiss is one of a very few manufacturers where you can pretty much tell what the lens will be like in many respects from the published MTF chart. But of course the Batis is AF and faster, both of which matter a little for portraits, though not otherwise. Then it occurred to me: the rumor is that Sigma is planning a full range of FE Art lenses. If that range includes 24mm f1.4, that’s a better speed for environment portraits: at this focal length even f2 doesn’t give masses of separation. So Batis could be replaced with the new Lox and this hypothetical future lens. I hope no-one in my family is reading this….

Our E-mount Wishlist: Slower or Less Perfect Lenses

Lens design, like clothing, is subject to the whims of fashion. These fashions dictate what tradeoffs the designers make. Every lens is a trade-off between many characteristics. The more important ones are in our eyes: speed, sharpness, price, size, weight, bokeh, chromatic aberration, distortion and vignetting.

The currently fashionable tradeoff that  Sony and most others adopt emphasises  performance and bokeh at the expense of  the size of lenses. The Sony FE 1.4/50 ZA or 2.8/24-70 are good examples of that. These lenses are certainly good tools for some applications where only their excellent image quality matters and their significant size and weight does not. Our point  is that a great lens does little good if it is so heavy that you leave it at home because of its weight. So we would argue that probably most photographers would get better results with lenses which are a little slower or a little less perfect but in their bag and not left at home.

Manufacturers focus their resources on faster, bigger and better  lenses, which of course makes perfect commercial sense. The pity of it is that this comes at the cost of less fashionable lenses which many of us would probably enjoy more. This article is about kinds of (older) lenses that we see as inspiration for lenses we would love to see made in E-mount but with the best technology available today. By accepting a few minor tradeoffs, rather than just trying to give the photographer performance and speed bragging rights, lenses can be significantly smaller. Sometimes that tradeoff might be speed only, sometimes a little peripheral performance at wide apertures might be traded off for handling.

Before we go any further: we are not talking about simply copying old ‘classic’ lenses (maybe with minor improvements) and launching them on kickstarter. We want as good performance as possible within the constraints of a reasonable budget and size. We are talking about types of lenses which aren’t now being made in E-mount, and which—with the benefit of modern design, materials and electronic contacts —could be a huge asset to our photography. Comfort certainly plays a role as well: Not having to think about an adapter and having exif simply makes life easier.

We’ll start by giving some examples where we think makers have found a good balance between handling and performance. Then we’ll get down to business: we’ll discuss the older lenses that have no modern equivalent, and should have.

Continue reading Our E-mount Wishlist: Slower or Less Perfect Lenses

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