All posts by The Team

The team, that are four gearheads: Bastian, Jannik and Phillip from Germany as well as David from Australia. All like to use manual lenses and have a passion for the outdoors. None the less they are specialized in different areas so they can provide you with a wider perspective.

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

Guide to Ultra Wideangle lenses for the Sony a7 series v1.1

super wide angle ultra uwa swa

We summarize our experience with all the native E-mount and a few (manual) legacy lenses in the 10-20mm bracket to give you a compact and independent resource for choosing the right super- to ultra-wide-angle lens for your Sony a7 cameras. In this summary we also included some adapted lenses we think are worth mentioning.

We also have a guide to 21-35mm lenses.

We have no association with any lens manufacturer apart from occasionally loaning a lens for a review. Before any short introduction we tell you how long we have used a lens and if we have borrowed it from a manufacturer. But in most cases we have bought the lenses new from retail stores or on on the used market. If you want to support our independent reviews please consider using one of the affiliate links. It doesn’t cost you anything and helps us a lot.

If we have left any question unanswered please leave a comment and we will do our best to answer it.

Voigtlander 5.6/10 E

Status: Sample loaned by the manufacturer reviewed by Bastian, who bought one for himself at retail after that. Still often in use.

voigtlander_10mm_5.6

  • At f/5.6 most of the frame is pretty sharp, only the extreme corners are somewhat soft. Contrast is always high.
  • You have to use f/11 for best across frame sharpness, the corners never reach excellent values.
  • Almost no distortion, quite good flare resistance, beautiful 10-stroke sunstars.
  • Small and lightweight, decently priced.
  • Widest rectilinear lens there is in a small package. Downsides are huge vignetting throughout the aperture range and maximum aperture of only f/5.6.

375g | $1300 | full Review | aperture seriessample images

buy from ebay | buy from amazon.com (affiliate link)

voigtlander hyper wide heliar 10mm 5.6 stuttgart sony e a7 distortion stuttgart mercedes benz museum

Continue reading Guide to Ultra Wideangle lenses for the Sony a7 series v1.1

The best lenses below $499 for the Sony a7 series v1.1

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You can easily spend a fortune on lenses for your Sony a7 but you don’t have to. These 34 lenses all cost less than $499 and give you great image quality on your Alpha.

There are certainly other lenses which would deserve a spot in this list but we only include lenses we have used ourselves, so please don’t take it personal if we haven’t included your favorite lens.

We changed the format a bit from our other guides: For each lens we have summarized the defining strengths and weaknesses. We hope this will make it easier to decide for yourself, if the lens could fit your needs.  Please make sure to check out our in-depth reviews for a much more detailed discussion of each lens.

Voigtlander 5.6/12 M39

Compared to the DSLR lenses (like the Samyang 14mm 2.8) this lens is ridiculously small. This is a lens that will always easily fit into your bag, which is great if you not intend to shoot this wide on a regular basis. With the filter adapter it is even possible to use standard 77mm filters.

You should be aware of: The corners never reach excellent levels, huge vignetting, slow, not a good match for A7r.

175g + adapter | ~$450 | full Review | aperture seriessample images

buy from ebay | Sony E-mount adapters (affiliate links)

dancing houses prag prague praha gehry sony a7s voigtlander 12mm 5.6

Continue reading The best lenses below $499 for the Sony a7 series v1.1

The Team’s favorite lenses – October 2017 Edition

Half a year has passed and much has changed, not only in our camera bags. With David from Australia we have a new author (as you may have noticed already), who will support us, so that we can cover more lenses and other interesting topics.

David’s favorites

Hard to know what a favourite lens is. Is it the workhorse that gets use all the time? Is it that exotic piece that just occasionally gets used, but is thrilling and irreplaceable when it is? I guess any of these. My list will just contain three optics that I find to be very special in different ways.  Of course that’s not the same thing as three I’d necessarily recommend together as a kit.

Voigtländer Macro Apo-Lanthar 2/65

This is not a lens I’ve reviewed: Phillip reviewed it here, and that was one of the reasons I purchased it. A manual focus lens, fast but not that fast, an unusual focal length, and macro but, well, not all that macro – it focuses only to 1:2. So why is it on my list?

Simply it’s the finest production lens for the 135 format that I’ve ever used, and possibly the finest ever. It’s incredibly sharp wide open – enough so I can see aliasing at f2 on a 42 MP sensor! One stop down and it’s even better, and the corners have gone from being great to being super great. This brings with it creative possibilities: when f2 is so sharp, you can create images with a remarkably sharp subject set against a nicely blurred backdrop.

But sharpness is not even its big party trick. That’s colour correction. It has less LoCA and spherochromatism than any optic I’ve used. Those nice backgrounds seem to be full of light and space because they are so clean: the white highlights are, well, white, and it’s surprising what that can add to the image. Add to that lovely sunstars and excellent performance against the light.

It’s not even absurdly expensive. A definite pick!

Continue reading The Team’s favorite lenses – October 2017 Edition