Review: Meyer Trioplan 100mm 1:2.8

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The Meyer Trioplan 2.8/100 is one of the most hyped lenses of the moment and prices have exploded to absolutely crazy levels. But do you get anything special but that soap bubble bokeh for your money? Read on if you want to know.

Specifications

Diameter 64 mm
Length 36 mm
Filter Thread 49 mm
Weight 150 g
Max. Magnification 0.15
Close Focusing Distance from the sensor 1.2 m
Number of aperture blades 15
Elements/ Groups 3 / 3
Price (September 2016): $500 in good condition.
Check current prices at ebay.de or ebay.com (affiliate links).

Image Samples

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Versions

There are quite a  few versions of this lens and it came in several different mounts. There even is a modern version of this lens which you can buy for the very affordable price of just 1.499€.

I didn’t spend too much time on research and found no good resource about the history and different versions. So all I can tell you is that my copy comes in M42 mount but there are also many version with Exakta mount.

Build quality and handling

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The lens is made from aluminium and it feels a bit delicate if you ask me, the fact that it is quite thin might play a role here but I felt that I had to be more careful with it than with my SLR lenses from the 70’s.

Focusing Ring

The focusing ring travels around 330 degrees from 1,2 m  to infinity. It feels very smooth and is a pleasure to use.

Aperture

The aperture ring has no stops but a long way of travel and you can select any value form f/2.8 to f/22 very precisely.

The lens has 15 straight aperture blades so specular highlights stay round even stopped down.

Hood

The hood is just an about 15mm long silver ring which offers some protection against damage but it doesn’t shield the front of the lens effectively.

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The lens itself has a black front, the ring above is the lens hood

Size and Weight

The Trioplan is a small lens, especially the diameter is unusually small but it is also somewhat detrimental to the handling if you ask me.

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Optical performance

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

Flare Resistance

In short: Lousy.

Ghosting isn’t the issue but you often have to carefully shield the front of the lens with your hand to fight the veiling flare. Especially when you want to provoke the one effect this lens is known for, see bokeh.

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Bokeh

The Meyer Trioplan 2.8/100 is known and loved (by some at least) for it’s rather distinctive rendering of specular highlights at f/2.8 wich is a nice way of saying that it there is very strong outlining going on in the background.

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I have used the lens on a couple of trips but I haven’t warmed to the effect. I still think that it usually distracts a lot from my subject and only very rarely adds to the image. Here is a  comparison with the Minolta MC 2.5/100 (which costs a lot less than the Trioplan).

In my opinion the Bokeh of the Trioplan catches the viewers attention and leads it away from the subject to the background while the very soft background of the Minolta doesn’t call for any attention and lets the viewer focus on the subject.

The Meyer Trioplan 2.8/100’s bokeh characteristic changes dramatically from f/2.8 to f/4:

So at f/4 bokeh is actually very smooth.

Chromatic Aberrations

Lateral CA are corrected perfectly which is unusual for a 100mm lens.

Sharpness

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f/2.8: Decent resolution in the center but very low contrast. The midframe area is barely sharp and shows even lower contrast, the corners are soft.

f/4: Good contrast and sharpness in the center, corners are soft.

f/5.6: The Trioplan is less sharp in the center than at f/4 and contrast is lower as well. Never before have I used a lens on my a7 which showed this behavior so I repeated the test with the same result.

f/8: Contrast is even lower but now the midframe region is very sharp as well.

f/11: A significant improvement of the corners, they are sharp now. Contrast overall is pretty low though.

So all in all a rather pitiful performance here, more “modern” lenses from the 60’s and 70’s perform significantly better.

 Alternatives

  • Minolta MC 2.5/100: Cheaper, sturdier build, sharper, much smoother bokeh at f/2.5. Of course it lacks the Trioplan’s “feature” of the soap-bubble-bokeh.
  • Zeiss Sonnar 3.5/100: Even sharper and contrastier than the Minolta. Bokeh is quite smooth as well.
  • Olympus OM 2.8/100: A tiny lens which performs much better in any aspect and costs less.

Conclusion

Pros

  • “character” at f/2.8 (if you are into it)
  • Bokeh from f/4
  • Zero lateral CA (not that the corners are ever really
    sharp and it matters)
Average

  • Build quality
Cons

  • Price
  • Bokeh at f/2.8 
  • Soft at f/2.8
  • Corners need f/11 to be somewhat sharp
  • Flare resistance
  • Low contrast
  • Contrast decreases from f/5.6

In a technical sense there is little positive I could say about this lens: It is soft with very low contrast and very distracting bokeh at f/2.8. From f/4 it is a decent perfomer with good bokeh and decent sharpness. Curiously the contrast drops at f/5.6, I have no explanation for this behavior. The corners only become somewhat sharp at f/11 and the Trioplan flares very easily.

I think I haven’t reviewed a lens with such a low performance before. I guess that’s what makes the lens attractive for quite a few people who call these deficits character. If you are of the opinion that optical defects adds to your images then it might actually be a good lens for you. The current price of $450 and more is absolutely bonkers if you ask me, but again, people will disagree with me here as well.

So, all in all the Meyer Trioplan 2.8/100 is a one-trick pony with a hefty price tag.  I don’t get the trick but it seems that many other people enjoy it quite a lot.

Price (September 2016): $500 in good condition.
Check current prices at ebay.de or ebay.com (affiliate links).
If this review was helpful to you, please consider using one of my affiliate links. Thanks 🙂

Images Samples in full resolution

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Further Reading

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I like to be outside with my camera and I am also a gear head with a love for manual lenses.

19 thoughts on “Review: Meyer Trioplan 100mm 1:2.8”

  1. This is one of those strangely wanted from many people lenses that produce bad results and they want it exactly for that. It is just a cheap and poorly designed lens from a long time ago… but today there are people who like lens babies and other bad lenses…
    I can’t imagine myself doing portrait with this lens, it creates so flat and busy pictures… There are so many less expensive and better ones like Kaleinar 5N 100 2.8 for example.

  2. I bought the Trioplan more than two years ago. At the beginnings I was really puzzled about the light bubbles in the very peculiar shots I was seeing… As Phillip, I found that the were distracting.

    Today… I still think so. I don’t mind expressing minority opinions, but I’m happy that now I can quote a reputed blog for the same opinion.

    Given that, I still like the lens a lot. As said, stopping down a bit greatly reduces the phenomenon and the other characteristics of the lens still have a value. In particular, I’m using it most of the time for flowers and such. In some very rare cases, I see some photos with the light ball effect which makes some sense (e.g. the last one in this review).

    It should be considered that is a specialty lens: it fits only a very small percentage of shots. I’m not surprised that some like photos made with a lens which in the end has a lots of defects. For instance, people like also the “washed out” effect of old prints, so…

    The price is crazy, but as soon as there are people buying it… Honestly, I paid it about 500€.

  3. Human nature is unpredictable. Some people like perfection, others like ugliness. For the time current, and in reliance on the astronomical price of this bad lens, the preference for ugliness is rather a political choice of ultra-liberal globalists.

  4. I believe a 20 euros helios 58 f2 has great swirly bokeh and is a good performance for the price. Maybe another russian like Jupiter and that s all you need to play with the funny bokeh!

      1. I too have a couple of Helios, a great little Zeiss Tessar and must say they cut a nice compromise between the vintage and modern lens performance we are used to. They both provide soapy bokeh and shoot sharp images – and for a pittance compared to the ‘holy’ Trioplans! Good review Phillip – people ned the facts on these mythical optics to find the real values out there…

  5. “I still think that it usually distracts a lot from my subject and only very rarely adds to the image.”
    Ah, but the whole point with this lens, is that you have to shoot in such a way that the bokeh is an essential part of the image, not just a “background”, it’s a completely different way of thinking/shooting.
    ….such as here, where both the bokeh and “poor” flare characteristics are employed to max:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/46569894@N06/4855983141/in/photolist-8p7bBg-93LzWK-8W2ccH-8a6r9b-8p7bm4-cPatod-qh4QRS-8nVsS4-98DBDR-djEeEq-8UzgeH-ad3yMn-ed4ak8-7HLKqB
    That said, I still find “a little goes a long way”. Though I’m glad I got one before the prices shot up, as just occasionaly I like to indulge.
    (You could easily buy three and still have change from £100 about 10 years ago ;o))

  6. I’m outing myself now: I’m a great fan of the Trioplan. I fully support what Tim Hall said before. You’d have to know what to use it for, how to use it and use it FOR its unique character. It is definitely not a lens to cover your everyday shooting.
    It is your kind of lens if you want to create art, not if you want to show the world as it is.

    You can use it for flower macros (especially in combination with a macro ring). It can turn your background into something weirdly structured and interesting (not only bubbles). Some people experiment with overlaying textures to their images in Photoshop. The Trioplan does that all by itself.
    Also it is great for colorful lights (like a shopping window at night), but the lights have to be part of the composition.
    It can turn a street scene into an August Macke-like painting.
    To see what I’m trying to say, feel free to look at my Trioplan images on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/123888038@N07/albums/72157663569662841
    In my eyes the late success of the Trioplan is due to its unique character that sticks out in the world of millions of images that are being shot everyday.
    One more thing: To improve contrast and flare resistance I use an additional rubber hood (also some Lightroom and Photoshop ;).

    1. I have to say that you make a much more compelling case for the Trioplan than I did. Guess I like some character in my lenses but I don’t like it overtaking the image even though I have to agree that some photographers get much better results out of it.

  7. I fully agree with Tim Ball – it is a special lens and it should not be compared against the regular lenses. The effect it produces can be awesome for some and can be annoying for the other. It is like Helios 40-2 (85/1.5), which is so swirly that some people feel seasick when they browse pictures. But add two shots like that to the wedding set and customers will be happy!

  8. The bubble ball effect is a nice effect with lots of drops in the background. But it gets stale very quick.
    The fun part is that you can achieve the same effect with almost the same image quality with much cheaper 100/f2.8 (or the more common 80/2.8 which is not as good) Diaplan lenses out of old GDR slide projectors… They go for about a tenth to a fifth of the price of a Trioplan, plus some fiddling with the mount and housing.

  9. I suppose if it flies your kite, why not? Personally, it doesn’t fly mine. The effect some like is just too distracting for me. I can look at any number of lovely flower shots in a row, but if they all had this horrendous bubbly, and sea sickness inducing bokeh, I’d have need of a couple of aspirin. But those with the real Cheshire cat smiles are they who sold them at today’s prices to willing buyers.

    But if one thinks this lens is expensive for what it is, a Dallmeyer f1.5/50mm Septac sold for in excess of £10,000 on ebay recently. This lens was the original in that it had no camera focusing mount as it was intended to be fixed to an X-ray camera, or an oscilloscope when it was attached to its intended body made by Nagard Ltd. Now this lens adapted with a Leica M focusing mount has sold for in excess of £20,000. What on earth is going on?

  10. X-Fujinon 55 f2.2 soap bubbles for days at 2.2. Then when stopped down is quite sharp and has good contrast. Oh yeah, they can be had for less than $10.

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