Archive of ‘Gear’ category

Minolta MC W.Rokkor-HH 35 mm F1.8

Once again this is not considered a review, as I did not try to test everything the lens is capable of. My Sony 35mm F2.8 Sonnar T* FE ZA had its lens hood broken by a hailstorm, so I decided to take some other 35 mm lens I have with me and my Sony a7R. It was not dark, so I had no use for a Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 II Aspherical and decided to take lens I haven’t been using a while with me. That lens was an old Minolta MC W.Rokkor-HH 35 mm F1.8, which is the first all metal version from the 1960’s. There are several versions of this lens and the later ones are smaller, lighter and have better coatings I’ve been told, but some say this older one is sharper than the later versions. I can’t say anything about that as I don’t have the later version and (micro)contrast is almost more important than just sharpness, which can be manipulated later. But you can’t add missing detail to your photos in post processing.

_DSC7884

The lens had a non-working aperture ring when I bought it some years ago, but I got it serviced and it came back looking as new as they cleaned up everything else as well. All glass elements are as clear as possible and it’s only the metal parts that are lost paint here and there. The most beaten up part in that image is the MD-NEX adapter, which has been on the bag for a couple of years. As you can see, the lens is not a small one and being all metal, including the hood, it weighs a lot. The lens itself is a bit smaller, because as you can see, there is the MD-NEX adapter and a lens cap attached to the lens. I know I don’t have a white box in which I could take proper product shots, but maybe I’ll build one some day. Until then, this is what you get.

The lens itself is quite sharp even wide open, but during a sunny day I couldn’t shoot it all the time at F1.8 without ND filter on it. The aperture ring goes from F1.8 to F16 in half clicks and if you do hyperfocal focusing at F16, the image is sharp from about 1.2 meters to infinity, the sharpest area being at around 2 meters (although it must be said that at F16 almost everything is at focus). The lens has some chromatic aberration at F1.8, but you really have to make a worst case scenario to have it show. The following is a crop from a bigger image and it shows the sun shining just in an angle that makes the purple fringing show up. I should take some night shots also to compare it to the 35 mm Voigtländer, which has problems with colour fringing on night shots.

_DSC7582

But if you look at the following F1.8 photograph of a bird in a tree (yes, it is there), the chromatic aberration is not as bad and could be edited away in Lightroom. None of the images here are edited in any way to show the photographs are they come from the camera.

_DSC7577

I wouldn’t take this lens for nature photography as my only lens, as 35 mm on a full frame camera is a bit short for that. But one takes pictures with what one has and in this case I was carrying only one lens with me, which is usually the case.

_DSC7584

The lens has typical Minolta colours which I like very much. One good thing about Minolta lenses is that the colours are about the same from lens to lens, so if you do have several lenses with you, you don’t have to edit them later. The car above was a reminder to myself and to you also: always carry a camera with you. The best camera you have is the camera that you have with you and if you have none, then you will miss the photograph. I’d be sad if I had been able to take that photo only with an iPhone of mine. I had less than 10 seconds to take the picture above (and three others) using manual focusing. Sorry for the background and the angle, but you can not do much in 10 seconds. This wasn’t a car show, it was a local grocery store parking lot.

_DSC7865

I’m very glad that I have this lens as it’s easy to focus, sharp enough, very good colour and bokeh (or which I sadly can’t show an example, because I don’t have permission from the person in the photograph). I paid about 130 euros for the lens and servicing it to good as new (mint) condition cost 90 euros more, but for 210 euros this is a good enough lens for me to not think about buying the new Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA lens, which truly is as good as they say, but unfortunately very expensive also. To me, photographs taken with this old Minolta look good enough, because I’ve seen what this lens truly can do (but can’t post right now). Of course this is not F1.4 and manual focus only, but taking pictures with it is quite rewarding instead of just pressing the shutter again and again and having the lens do the work for you. At F1.8 you have plenty of bokeh if you are into that and it gets very sharp when aperture is closed down.

If you are looking for a good 35 mm lens and can’t afford the new Sony 35 mm F1.4, this is a good F1.8 alternative, although with manual focusing. You might see more of the new versions for sale and I’d probably pick one up instead of this old version, just because of the weight difference. But it must be said that I haven’t seen pictures from the later versions and how they compare to this one, as this is usable even aperture wide open. Outside the chromatic aberration can show up in sharp edges like tree branches, but when taking pictures inside, you’ll see none of that, only the beautiful bokeh. There is also an F2.8 version of this lens (which I also have), which is also excellent if you don’t need F1.8 and need a really cheap quality lens.

Voigtländer Nokton Classic 40 mm F1.4

Voigtländer Nokton Classic 40 mm F1.4 lens is a perfect almost pancake lens for those of you looking for a small lens in Leica M mount. I haven’t tried the 35 mm Classic version of this lens as I have the non-classic 35 mm F1.2 Aspherical v2, which is like 600 g of pancakes, i.e. not pancake at all. The 40 mm lens is a good lens also because of the odd focal length (we come to that later) and it’s sharp enough for most purposes, especially if you close down the aperture. You can buy the vintage Leica and Minolta versions of this same lens for about the same price 2nd hand, but comparing a new lens to a 2nd hand lens is not fair. I’ve seen the comparison pictures and to me they are all close enough and the Voigtländer has the added bonus of going to F1.4 in case you need it, others are F2.0 (but it must be said that the difference is really small, as if the Voigtländer has F1.4 field of depth, but not the light transmission capability). On a Leica M9-P you don’t have 40 mm frame lines, so framing your picture is up to your imagination, but on mirrorless cameras you’re using an EVF probably, so you’ll see what you get. Why manual focus lens on a camera like the Sony a7R you might be asking. Well, on car races they don’t use automatic transmission, do they? Automatic focusing is easy and has its uses, but once you use more and more manual focus lenses, you start to get used to the good properties of manual focusing.

A 40 mm lens is a bit tighter than a standard 35 mm, meaning that it helps framing your picture in a sense that not everything is there unless take walk two steps forward. After those two steps, you are always almost on the face of people and not everybody likes that. On the other end, 50 mm lens is a bit hard lens to use on a street, even though most consider it being the standard focal length for prime lenses. At 50 mm, focusing is way harder than at 35 mm and you don’t always get the luxury of wide-angle by stepping back, because you might run out of space. With a 50 mm lens you will always be framing your picture to something, as the lens is not wide enough.

Voigtländer Nokton Classic 40 mm F1.4

 

Sorry for the poor quality of this quick shot of the lens mounted on Sony a7R. I did not have anything but the iPhone I could use, so that’s iPhone’s best rendering of the scene, which I must say is awfully poor performance for a phone costing a lot (in fact I don’t know, as I don’t own the phone).

I’ll quote Wikipedia, because I’m once again way too tired to describe this more accurately than what is said there already.

“In photography and cinematography, a normal lens is a lens that reproduces a field of view that generally looks “natural” to a human observer under normal viewing conditions, as compared with lenses with longer or shorter focal lengths which produce an expanded or contracted field of view that distorts the perspective when viewed from a normal viewing distance. Lenses of shorter focal length are called wide-angle lenses, while longer-focal-length lenses are referred to as long-focus lenses (with the most common of that type being the telephoto lenses).

For still photography, a lens with a focal length about equal to the diagonal size of the film or sensor format is considered to be a normal lens; its angle of view is similar to the angle subtended by a large-enough print viewed at a typical viewing distance equal to the print diagonal; this angle of view is about 53° diagonally.”

For a 35 mm sensor size, the diagonal of the frame is 43 mm, which is very close to the 40 mm Voigtländer. So, in essence, this quite odd focal length is in fact the so-called normal focal length. It’s no wonder that shooting with a 40 mm lens seems natural, because it’s not wider nor narrower than what you normally see. On a APS-C sensor camera the 40 mm lens becomes effectively a 60 mm lens, so unless you are looking for a long focal length, you should maybe get a wider lens than 40 mm. Even 35 mm is very long on a crop sensor camera and I always use Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA on my Sony NEX-7, effectively having a field of view of a 35 mm (or 36 mm) lens.

The Classic line of Voigtländer lenses are not corrected for every possible distortion or aberration, making the photos look sometimes more interesting than a clinical perfect in every way picture. Same goes for Carl Zeiss Classic line of lenses, like the Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 C Sonnar T* ZM. If measured by technical terms, the lens has many flaws, but it’s up to you as a photographer to use those flaws to your advantage. Also, the Classic lenses are smaller (because of not having so much elements for correcting things), lighter and most importantly cheaper. I paid 240 euros for my multicoated (MC) version of Voigtländer 40 mm. I bought it from a shop in France and it was new with everything else but the lens hood included (the hood is not included anyway, but I’ve just ordered one from Japan, having finally found one for very, very cheap).

I’d post some sample images, but as the photographs taken with the lens are without EXIF data in my Lightroom catalog, I can’t find any good examples. Right now the weather is also very unsupportive for a photographer, as it’s raining and the winter is not completely over yet, meaning everything feels grey. But maybe I’ll do a proper review later, taking the lens outside to the streets of Jyväskylä.

1 2 3 4 5