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View Full Version : Help with lens choice, please


pfogle
04-07-2005, 09:51
I'm sort of embarrassed to ask this, but I'm looking for a *fantastic* 50mm for a reasonable price, for portraits that are sharp, but not too brutal.

I have a choice between an overpriced (IMHO) Hexar f2 at around $400, and a black, not latest series f2 'cron with focus lever and the vented hard rubber shade for about $700. Those are rough USA equivalent prices; things generally are pricy over here.

Any advice gratefully received!

cheers
Phil

ps, a couple of pix from a wet weekend in Wales in the gallery!

jlw
04-07-2005, 10:38
You might want to wait for Sean's review to come out. He's going to evaluate several 50mm lenses on the R-D 1.

rover
04-07-2005, 10:42
$30 Jupiter 8 for beautiful portraits. If you get a good example it delivers that super Sonnar look. At the price, you can buy a few to find a good one. It has been said the the Summicron is too sharp for portraits.

The Summar and Summitar are supposed to be more forgiving, the Summitar is said to provide that "Leica Glow" very well. Both have soft coatings though so be careful in handling them.

I really like the Sonnar look, the Canon 50/1.5 is one, but about as common as hens teeth. There are other Sonnar copies too (Nikkor 50/1.4 and 2).

Todd.Hanz
04-07-2005, 10:54
I have heard only praise of the 50/2 Konica, read this one:
http://www.davidde.com/articles/konica50.html
I wouldn't be embarrassed, looks like an outstanding lens!

Todd

peter_n
04-07-2005, 11:33
I would second the Jupiter-8, a terrific lens if you get a good sample. Finding a good sample takes time and the opportunity cost is considerable. If you add the opportunity cost of doing the research and shopping to the cost of the lens + shipping/handling you are in the low hundreds and you might as well buy a used Leica or CV. A really great (alright fantastic ;) ) 50mm is the current Leica Elmar-M. Its a copy of a Zeiss Tessar formulation, sharp but not too sharp, warm color rendition, very nice OOF. Probably around $450-500 S/H in great nick. A fab lens!

Huck Finn
04-07-2005, 12:25
A third vote for the Sonnar, which means not only the J-8 but 1950's Nikkor, Canon, & Zeiss (hard to find in LTM or M-mount). I also agree with Peter about the Elmar.

pfogle
04-07-2005, 12:39
Thanks guys... I used to have a beaut Sonnar in a LSM on a IIIc, but I lost it in a divorce ;)

I've got a Jupiter, and it's quite good, but, I don't know, it seems to lack some guts. Maybe I just feel the mechanics aren't up to it.

I think it'll come down to an impulse buy tomorrow :D

pfogle
04-07-2005, 13:43
Actually, I realize I'm gonna have to have the 'cron, for the same reason I got the R-D1... I'll be kicking myself if I don't ;)

but thanks for the input - it made me think about it a bit more.

Phil

rover
04-07-2005, 14:12
Actually, I realize I'm gonna have to have the 'cron, for the same reason I got the R-D1... I'll be kicking myself if I don't ;)

but thanks for the input - it made me think about it a bit more.

Phil

Ah, the truth finally comes out. :)

LCT
04-07-2005, 15:25
If you mean this Summicron, it is nearly perfect IMHO.
Mine is always in my bag with Summicrons or M-Rokkors 28 and 40mm.
Best,
LCT

peter_n
04-07-2005, 15:28
To quote your original post Phil: portraits that are sharp, but not too brutal. A current Summicron is a fantastic lens but it is painfully sharp. I have seen portraits of older people done with that lens that made me cringe. It has a cool color rendition that somehow adds to the effect. Maybe the older sample you are after is a bit on the kinder side? I hope so! :)

peter_n
04-07-2005, 15:30
LCT - welcome to the forum! I know you well (and your avatar) from the Leica forum in Germany. I think you'll enjoy it over here!! :)

LCT
04-07-2005, 15:45
Thanks Peter.
Pleased to meet you too.
Best,
LCT

Jim Watts
04-08-2005, 01:18
Phil,
I find my 1975 vintage 50mm f/2 Cron is VERY sharp on my R-D1. Certainly sharper than my 35mm f/2 Cron so you might find even an early one too sharp for your purposes. You could of course add a little Gaussian Blur in photoshop to soften it. ;)

pfogle
04-08-2005, 05:14
Hey guys, thanks again for the input!

Well... I went back to the shop I visited yesterday, and guess what? Both the summicrons had been sold the previous afternoon! No joy there. So, to cut it short, I ended up getting the Hexar, and so far it looks good. Plenty sharp enough, and easy to focus (I prefer a ring rather than a lever, esp for vertical shots). It has a crap built in shade, but I've got a vented Hoya one that fits, and looks the part. I'll put some results up after the weekend.

Cheers
Phil

peter_n
04-08-2005, 06:21
I hate those built-in shades... :( The one on the current 50mm Summicron sucks.

vincenzo
04-08-2005, 06:33
Phil, I also had this lens with my RD-1 but I sold it along with the hexar body. It was a sharp lens and very well made. Regarding the Jupiter/Russian lenses; its very hit and miss but I met a dealer in Minsk, Belarus who has very high quality specimens of the whole range.
If you or anyone else is interested I can get hold of them quite easily. I took a black J-3/1.5 from 1984. He only sells the higher quality versions, usually the black newer models from the 70's and 80's. His lenses although more expensive than average were in pristine condition cosmetically and mechanically and I tried each one out on my RD-1. The younger versions are uncoated and very prone to flare.
I'm going to buy the new 21/2.8 Biogon soon. Anyone tried/bought this?

pfogle
04-08-2005, 07:56
Hi Vincenzo... at first look I'm very pleased with the look of the files from the Hexanon... it looks crisp without battering people with too much micro-contrast. I think the J-8 I've got isn't too bad - it has a bit of what looks like fungus damage on the back of the front element, but it's not visible when you look through the lens, and I had to shim the focusing cam slightly as it was back-focusing.

I read a bunch of reviews of the Hexanon, and the were positive, though there was one guy who thought it flared badly when shooting into the light. Did you find this lens flared badly? There's no sun here at the moment so I can't test it. This IS England, after all ;)

Re the biogon, I asked about it today at our local Leica shop. They have three CZ lenses, but didn't have the Biogon. They did have the pricelist, however, and it's about half the price of the Elmarit. We'll have to wait for Sean to update his wide-angle review! I'm really looking forward to trying that baby out. The CV 21mm is a fine lens, but I'm converting my RAW files in RawShooter rather than PhotoRaw, so I don't have the anti-vignetting option available, and I'd like to find a f2.8 21mm with a more even field of illumination (without breaking the bank).

cheers
Phil

Jim Watts
04-08-2005, 08:37
Phil & Vincenzo,
U.K list price for the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 is 745 +vat = 875.38
Plus 240 +vat = 282.00 for the 21mm finder. You would not need this finder for the R-D1 of course (but the VC 21D) and if you use the lens on a full frame 35mm body as well then the VC full frame finder would be a cheaper bet.

I am interested in the Zeiss 21mm or possibly the 25mm. Even though I am quite happy with the VC 25mm the fact that it couples and is an extra stop is attractive. I handled both at Focus and they are well built and smooth to focus, but they woundn't allow me to take pictures with them so I am also awaiting Sean's report.

I hope the street prices turn out to be a little lower, butI expect it will not be by much as Hasslebad is the distributer.

mtokue
04-08-2005, 09:09
Phil,
Have you looked at the Avenon (Kobalux - depending on where you live)
I just got one myself last week for about 200 pounds.
It is a 21mm f2.8 Leica screw fit .
I have some shots in my gallery.
Great lens for the cost.

Reviews Here (http://www.nemeng.com/leica/029ba.shtml) and Here (http://www.dantestella.com/technical/kobalux.html)

Mike.

vincenzo
04-08-2005, 09:41
Hi Phil, I had no remarkable flare problems or any other notable problems. It was an all round performer and has a lovely weight/feel/construction. The built-in lens hood is not that bad either..!
Avenon: Mike, I tried one in in a camera shop in downtown Kiev last week....fine looking lens on the rd-1, low vignetting, excellent performance edge to edge. Its a shame they stopped production. They are very difficult to find now. The one in Kiev was priced at $900which I felt was a little high...Still waiting for the Biogon 21)

mtokue
04-08-2005, 09:53
Well at this moment in time I know where 3 of them are for about
the same sort of price as I paid for mine.
I could probably be persuaded to help someone get one from overhere.

Mike.

vincenzo
04-08-2005, 10:07
Cool! I would be happy to pay something similar to you Mike. Let me know if we can do a deal...)

pfogle
04-08-2005, 13:57
Mike-
Any room on this bandwagon for me? ;)

BTW a Pasoptik 21/2.8 (I think it's a rebranded Avenon) went on UK ebay last month for about 240. Looked nice.

cheers
Phil

pfogle
04-08-2005, 14:04
Vincenzo... I just tried shooting in the living room, nearly into the sun. Sadly, erased the files! However, there is considerable veiling across the pic, like the old 105 Nikkor P used to do. It's not unattractive, but really cuts the contrast. A good lens shade would fix it, but the guy who didn't like the Hexagon like to shoot into the light, and I can see he would have had a problem!

As for me, I'm going to see if this lens grows on me over the next few days. I do like the build - the shape seems a bit more comfortable than the 'cron. Images are reallly nice; so it's just a question of seeing if the flare's a problem in real life situations. Let's hope for some nice weather this weekend!

cheers
Phil

Sean Reid
04-08-2005, 15:43
Phil & Vincenzo,
U.K list price for the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 is 745 +vat = 875.38
Plus 240 +vat = 282.00 for the 21mm finder. You would not need this finder for the R-D1 of course (but the VC 21D) and if you use the lens on a full frame 35mm body as well then the VC full frame finder would be a cheaper bet.

I am interested in the Zeiss 21mm or possibly the 25mm. Even though I am quite happy with the VC 25mm the fact that it couples and is an extra stop is attractive. I handled both at Focus and they are well built and smooth to focus, but they woundn't allow me to take pictures with them so I am also awaiting Sean's report.

I hope the street prices turn out to be a little lower, butI expect it will not be by much as Hasslebad is the distributer.

Hi Jim,

I'm hoping to have a test copy of the 50 in a couple of weeks but I may not see the 21 to test for quite awhile. Sorry bout that...

Cheers,

Sean

David Kieltyka
04-08-2005, 17:58
Sean, I was able to try out a copy of the new 35mm Biogon late yesterday afternoon. A friend bought one and wanted to verify it worked properly via my R-D1. (This camera has made me very popular with my two RF-shooting friends. "I think my [insert lens name here] is flaring too much...can I take some test shots with your Epson?" "Just in case I get an R-D1 I wanna see how well all my lenses work on it. Can I borrow it for a couple days?" It's a wonder I ever get to use it.) Judging by the photos we took I'd say the Biogon performs very much like the 50mm Planar. You get a wider view but the same image characteristics are there. Consistent performance across the frame even at f/2, high but not hard contrast, smooth out-of-focus rendition. I really liked what I saw.

-Dave-

Sean Reid
04-09-2005, 03:00
Hi Dave,

Thanks for the info. I've been thinking that Zeiss might try for a "family" look with these lenses, just as there is a "family look" to the 35/1.4 ASPH and 50/1.4 ASPH.

When I looked at your Kobalux 21 samples, they were JPEGs right? Might I be able to look at a couple RAW files from you? E-mail me if you get a chance, please.

Cheers,

Sean

David Kieltyka
04-09-2005, 14:12
Sean, I've found my copy of the Kobalux front-focuses on my R-D1. After my initial okay but not great results from the combo (with some pics posted here and a couple full-size JPEGs e-mailed to you) I used the lens on my M2, with much better results. So I tried again on the R-D1, tweaking the focus distance, and discovered the problem. It's most evident at distance...with the Kobalux set at infinity, as it was for most of my example pics, the point-of-focus is noticeably in front of where it should be. I've tried a few different LTM-to-M adapters with no change in behavior. This particular lens just doesn't get along with this particular camera.

-Dave-

Sean Reid
04-09-2005, 17:04
I see...so that's why they looked soft to me. It will be good to look at some samples form other Kobalux examples to see how widespread the issue may be.

Cheers,

Sean