The Team’s favorite lenses – April 2017 Edition

This is the first article of a new series in which we want to share our favorite lenses and new gear with you. There will be a new edition of it every half year.

Jannik’s favorites

I am still not able to contribute as much as I’d like to because I am very busy with my work. Nevertheless, I’m happy to share my current favorites with you:

Sony A6500 | Zeiss Touit 1.8/32 | f/4

Zeiss Loxia 2.8/21

I have used the Batis 2.8/18 for a while but something just didn’t feel right about it for me. Therefore, I have exchanged it in favor of the Loxia 2.8/21. It is still my all time favorite lens and I prefer it for it’s handling, the beautiful and contrasty rendering and it’s sun stars.

Sony A7II | Zeiss Loxia 21mm 2.8 | f/8

Sony Zeiss Sonnar T* E 1.8/24 ZA*

This lens is currently my favorite 35mm option in combination with the A6500. It offers fast AF, has nice low light capabilities, focuses closer than any other native 35mm lens and draws nicely. I use it primarily for family photography and it is probably my most used lens at the moment.

Sony A6500 | Sony Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm 1.8 | f/3.5

Sony FE 1.4/85 GM

I rarely use it because it’s huge and it has reliable but not blazingly fast AF. All the times when I use it, it pleases me with gorgeous and special rendering, especially wide open. I also like the colors of that lens very much. I am looking forward to compare it to my FE 1.8/85.

Sony A7II | Sony FE 1.4/85 GM | f/1.4
Sony A7II | Sony FE 1.4/85 GM | f/8

New Gear

Sony A6500* – Maybe the most important purchase in the last time. This camera really helps me to take pictures of my lively child. I am really convinced by all the new features of this camera. I will compare it with the A7II if there is some interest.

Sony FE 1.8/85 – Rolling Review still ongoing. Sorry for the slow progress. So far, I like that lens. It is really sharp, focuses very fast and has decent bokeh where it matters. Amazing bang for the buck!

Contax 100-300* – Will bring that lens to my next journey, hope to get enough samples for a review there. I’ve already shot an aperture series and am impressed by the sharpness that the lens delivers.

Voigtländer 5.6/12 III E* – A very special but funny lens. Not really useful in my rural village but essential for my trips. It’s performance is between the Voigtländer 5.6/10 and a good sample (which is not likely to get) of the Voigtländer 4.5/15 III.

Zeiss Touit 1.8/32* – A lens that has got mixed reviews. I have to agree and say at the same time, that I like this lens a lot. It is really like a Contax 1.7/50 with AF and has great plasticity in it’s rendering. Tip: Stop it down to f/2.2 to tame it’s bokeh to a certain degree. AF is noisy and not as reliable as in my Sony FE lenses.

Bastian’s favorites

Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4

loxia zeiss 85mm 2.4 carl sony a7r ii review comparison
Sony A7rII | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/2.4 | higher resolution
16mm+10mm Kenko Extension tube loxia zeiss 85mm 2.4 carl sony a7r ii review comparison
Sony A7rII | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/2.4 | 16mm+10mm Kenko Extension tube

I kinda have the feeling this lens didn’t get much love because of being “only” f/2.4 and a bit on the heavy/large side. I have been using it regularly for 4 months now and could barely be happier with it: the optical quality is just outstanding: contrast, resolution, correction of optical errors, bokeh, I can hardly find any fault with this lens which is something I only very rarely dare to say.
As sometimes I like to get a little closer I paired this lens with  extension tubes (up to 26 mm total) lately and this also works very well for me.

Voigtländer 10mm 5.6E Hyper Wide Heliar

Sony A7rII | Voigtländer 10mm 5.6 HWH E | f/16 | higher resolution
Sony A7rII | Voigtländer 10mm 5.6 HWH E | f/8.0

This is not the lens I use for most of my shots, but quite often the lens I have used for the shots that I like the most. That extreme angle of view is very helpful for my architecture work and can be used for crazy perspectives. In fact it also made my life a little easier, as I don’t need to stitch images as often anymore.

Zeiss ZM 35mm 1.4 Distagon <-> Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 Ultron

zeiss distagon 35mm 1.4 zm sony a7 a7rII portrait street environmental
Sony A7rII | Zeiss ZM 35mm 1.4 | f/1.4
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 | f/1.7

When doing my 35mm comparison I had to notice there is no clear winner when comparing the VM 35mm 1.7 and the ZM 35mm 1.4. After having used the ZM a few months I will now thoroughly use the VM to see which one fits my needs better in the end.

New lenses / Upcoming articles:

  • Voigtländer SL 180mm 4.0 Apo Lanthar – Finally managed to get one of these. Not exactly in mint condition, but this kept the collectors away I guess. Might be the tele lens I add to my kit after so many disappointments…
  • Leica Tele-Elmar 135mm 4.0 – By Leica standards this is almost a ridiculously cheap lens, but still said to be a great performer. Let me find out if there is truth to that story.
  • Nikkor-S 50mm 1.4 (loaner from a reader) – Nikon’s take on the fast and small rangefinder 50mm lens in the 50s. Optical qualities are comparable to the Jupiter-3 50mm 1.5, the build quality is worlds better though.
  • Nikkor-H 50mm 2.0 (loaner from a reader) – Nikon’s not so fast yet even smaller rangefinder 50mm lens from the 50s. I concentrated on the 1.4 first, but this looks like the better lens in most regards.
  • E-mount extension tubes – I ordered two different extension tubes and I am not exactly happy with either, nevertheless I tried to pick the lesser of two evils.

Later:

  •  Samyang 14mm 2.8 (MF) – this is a good lens for astrophotography, but apart from that I don’t really like it, so I don’t have enough material for a review yet. I actually hope the Laowa 15mm 2.0 FE lens will arrive rather sooner than later…
  • Sigma 150mm 2.8 HSM (non OS) macro – one of my workhorse lenses which I use for almost all of my product shots here, but also a lens I usually don’t take out because it is big, heavy and not so comfortable to use without a tripod

Phillip’s favorites

Sony FE 4/16-35 ZA

I prefer smaller manual lenses but none the less the Sony made it to the list because it is such a handy lens. On my recent trip to Madeira I took more than half my images with it and apart from the average flare resistance I was always very happy with the results.

Voigtlander Ultron 35 1.7 VM

I am still surprised how good this little lens performs and Bastian’s recent comparison has only solidified my respect for Cosina. I like it because it has everything I look for in a modern lens: Good bokeh, high contrast, very good sharpness from wide open, flare resistance and nice sun stars. Handling could be better for a manual lens but it is still much more pleasant to handle than any AF lens.

Minolta MC 1.7/55

The little Minolta is one of my most affordable lenses and it is far away from being optically perfect but it is usually good enough with nice character and it is built to the highest standards. It made it to my top 3 list because I used no other lens than the Minolta MC 1.7/55 this February and really became one with the Minolta.

New Lenses

I have a rather long list of lenses which I have used for a while now and which I would like to review but I find too little time to actually finish as many reviews as I would like. Here is a list of them with very brief impressions

  • Canon nFD 2.8/300 L – A monster of a lens but I have been very pleased by the results so far, very good sharpness and CA correction.
  • Minolta 2.8/24 plain MD – I am much happier with it than with the older Rokkor version
  • Minolta 2/28 plain MD – At f/2 bokeh is busy but it is surprisingly sharp.
  • Olympus OM 2.8/24 MC – I think I like the Minolta a bit better but the tiny Olympus is a solid performer
  • Olympus OM 2/28 – At f/2 it is a character lens with very Trioplan-like bokeh but from f/4 it has rather smooth bokeh and it is surprisingly flare resistant.
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The Team

The team, that are three gearheads Bastian, Jannik and Phillip from Germany who all like to use manual lenses.

22 thoughts on “The Team’s favorite lenses – April 2017 Edition”

  1. Great choices! I have to agree with Bastian and Jannik. The Loxia 85 is my favorite lens followed closely by the Loxia 21. They just have that special something.

  2. Nice series!

    Jannik: How do you find the Touit 32 for whole body portraits? I could never tame its bokeh there and almost every whole body portrait I see with this lens has horror bokeh. Still, at mfd it’s rather nice and it is a very sharp (and sharp looking) lens. Pollen loves the rubber focus grip..

    A manual lens for the A6500 worth trying out, even if it seems like a bit of a contradiction, is the Samyang 12/2.

  3. Phillip and Team,

    I am interested in an wide are lens and am curious of your opinion of the differences between the primes such as the Loxia 21 and the zoom such as Sony FE 4/16-35 ZA

    I have been purchasing older minolta primes and have been quite happy with them but in the wide area lenses most that you give high marks to are fairly expensive. I am wondering if it would be better for me to purchase the Sony FE 4/16-35 ZA to cover more combinations with one lens. Is there a significant benefit of the primes?

    1. The Loxia will give you a bit sharper corners and better flare resistance. It is of course am manual lens with better (in my eyes at least) handling. Isthat a significant advantage? Depends on what is important to you. Personally I enjoy the flexibility of the 16-35 and it is a bit more affordable as well so for the time being I will stay with it.

  4. Hi Jannik/all. I for one would be interested in your comparison between the Arii and A6500. While we all may someday have lenses like ye I think few or us (or at least me) will attain the talent to use them to create pictures as good as ye put on this blog.

    1. Thanks a lot, Dave! I have written down some thoughts about the A6500 vs. A7II topic while I was debating if the A6500 is a good Idea. I will fill it with a few images and I think it will be quite useful for the ones who have to make that decision 😉

      1. Making that decision next week myself (both A7ii and A6500 are the same price), replacing my broken A6000. Im probably going to go with the A6500 even though I would rather have the bigger body of the A7 series but would also like to shoot water sports so would like the auto focus of the A6500 even though it will be with Sigma MC11 adapted glass (Sony 100-400 GMaster way further than you can see out of my budget. I have kinda convinced by self that the stabilization will help with focusing on manual glass (view finder more stable under magnification and take lower shutter speed shots that I might not be able to achieve other wise. Finally a speed booster can give me some of the attributes of full frame kind of giving the best of all options with the A6500. Unfortunately it didn’t arrive until 3 days after I broke my camera so guessing at this.
        If I hadn’t broken the A6000 I wouldn’t be changing till I got better but I did notice the limitations for me from above that have me going for a higher model.

  5. A question: So I’m of to spain at the end of the month with a couple of days in Madrid, Valencia – the beach -and probably a day in Barcelona and will be taking picks during the day as well as trying to get some early morning and sundown shots. So I have a number of Minolta primes I was going to take with me on a speed booster (trying to get a feel for full frame) but I have never taken shots where the weather will probably be very good (bright sunshine). Grey in Ireland most of the year. Would it be worth putting a polarizer or ND filter on the Minolta lenses for wider open shots ?, they are all the same filter thread so it would only be one I would need. If so any suggestions as to a brand, or anything else .

    1. I think a polarzier is very often useful for landscape photography, regardless whether you are shooting in Spain or “grey Ireland”.
      If you want to shoot at say f/1.4 or f/1.8 under a midday sun an ND filter (my recommendation would be 3 Stops) might indeeed be necessary.
      Regarding polarizers I recommend the Hoya HD series, regarding ND screw in the Haida filters.
      Do yourself a favor: stay away from variable ND filters unless you need them for filming.

  6. I just received my Loxia 85mm today. I have to say I thought I was never going to even consider buying this lens. But after reading Bastian’s review and his occasional comments on it, I decided to give it a try. Based on the few images I’ve taken with it, I’m pretty impressed. Sharpness, contrast, colors, handling are all fantastic. My only problem now is that I upgraded to Sony A7RII from A7ii for the improved autofocus system. Now I have the Loxia 21, 35, 85 and Zeiss 135 APO, none of them has autofocus.

  7. @Jannik: about the 5.6/12 “It’s performance is between the Voigtländer 5.6/10 and a good sample (which is not likely to get) of the Voigtländer 4.5/15 III.” I’m confused. Does that mean “worse than the 10mm but better than the 15” or “better than the 10 but worse than a good sample of the 15”?

  8. Interesting reading your opinions regarding the Zeiss Distagon 35/1.4 ZM and Voigtlander Ultron 35/1.7. It’s a tough choice whether using a front filter or not. I currently use the Zeiss having sold and sometimes missing the Voigtlander. They render differently but both are quite wonderful!

    Nice article gentlemen . . . thank you!

  9. “Voigtländer SL 180mm 4.0 Apo Lanthar – Finally managed to get one of these. Not exactly in mint condition, but this kept the collectors away I guess. Might be the tele lens I add to my kit after so many disappointments…”

    Hi Bastian, I think there is a good chance, that this marvellous lens will make you happy.

    1. I have used this lens quite a lot already on my last trip and I am quite happy with it so far.
      It is pretty much what I hoped the (very disappointing!) Leica-R 180mm 4.0 Elmar to be.

      1. I see the Voigtländer APO 180 next to the Leica APO Telyt-R 3.4/180 mm in terms of optics (although I’ve never tested the Leica), but the CV coming in a very tiny package. The prices on the market reflect this, the Voigtländer is selling a little bit higher because of the limited number of build items.

        I’m looking forward to your review!

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