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Who made the best manual focus SLR lenses of each focal length?
Old 10-22-2012   #1
rohankent
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Who made the best manual focus SLR lenses of each focal length?

With film SLR bodies being so cheap, it occurred to me that buying lenses that are exceptional is the best place to start, and pairing bodies to those lenses could be a secondary consideration. Instead of having one brand of body with many lenses to suit that brand, why not go with a range of lenses paired with bodies that were the best of their kind? (I guess weight is the obvious consideration...but, anywho)

Who made the best of each focal length manual focus SLR lens in the 60's, 70's, 80's? 20mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 105mm etc etc
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Old 10-22-2012   #2
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Hmm..interesting, a couple of suggestions:

Konica T(something) with the pancake Hexanon 40/1.8
Spotmatic (or Zenit if you want to be consistent) with Zenitar 50/2.0
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Old 10-22-2012   #3
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58/2 Biotar for portraits. 58/1.4 Nikkor is even nicer but harder to find & more expensive.

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Old 10-22-2012   #4
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These are the best primes from each focal length IMO:

24mm: Canon FD 24mm f/1.4 L, Olympus OM Zuiko 24mm f/2.8

28mm: Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AI-S, Olympus OM Zuiko 28mm f/2

35mm: Zeiss/Contax Distagon 35mm f/1.4, Canon FD 35mm f/2 SSC concave

50mm: Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 AL ASPH, FD 50mm f/1.2 L

85mm: Canon FD 85mm f1.2 L

...and I have heard the latest Leica R lenses are better than anything else
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Old 10-22-2012   #5
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Below what I use / like

20mm Nikkor 20/4
28mm Elmarit 28/2.8; Nikkor 28/3.5
35mm Zeiss Distagon 35/1.4 Rollei; Flektogon 35/2.4
50mm Zeiss 50/1.8; Summicron 50/2; Planar 50/1.7; Canon 50/1.4 FD
85mm Takumar 85/1.8; Jupiter 85/2; Nikkor 85/2
105mm Nikon 105/2.5, Orestor 100/2.8
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Old 10-22-2012   #6
chrishayton
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A few great lenses come to mind off the top of my head, Interesting and great optics
40mm F2 OM
28mm F2.8 Zeiss C/Y
21mm F2 OM
80mm F1.4 Summilux
105mm F2.5 Nikkor
24 1.4 L Canon FD
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Old 10-22-2012   #7
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Nikon-F with the Nikkors, the 28mm,35mm,45mmGN,50mm,55mm-Micro,85mm,105mmf2,5"sonnar",135mm3,5.All with one small filter thread,52mm. I own all of the above except one!
The Pentax Takumars, esp. those with Multi coating are hard to beat.
The 28mm3,5,35mm2.0,50mm1.4,85mm1.9,135mm2.5. The yellowing a problem if one shoots color only.
My Canon 50mm1.8 a very satisfactory lens. i beleive there are few bad 50mm lenses.. The 58mmf2.o Biotar gave great effects. Sorry i traded it!
The original Leicaflex-R series for the 1st and 2nd Leica SLR were outstanding but in the case of the 1st Leica SLR, somebody there was a lunatic! A SLR that had no screen to focus on, or view depth of field.
I know the last one is a poor excuse. The reason i don't own a DSLR.. well one of many..
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Old 10-22-2012   #8
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I find that the split image screen is best for 20mm and 28mm lenses. Now, longer focal lengths I'm not sure I need it. So I have 20, 28, 35, 50, 200mm Pentax lenses in K mount, and I can use any body 35 and above. But I use AF or split screen bodies for the 28mm and below.
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Old 10-22-2012   #9
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I'd say Nikon for 28 and 105, Pentax for 50, Oly for 85, Minolta for 24.
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Old 10-22-2012   #10
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from the ones I have or have had,

Nikon
28 2.8 AIS the best 28 there is.
35 2.0 'O'
85 1.8 K series
105 2.5 AI or AIS superb but not as good as the 90 elmarit.
all sold because I can't focus Nikon F, F2 and F3's any more.

Pentax
50 1.4 screwmount super tak' great bokeh sold due dim spotmatic viewfinders
50 1.4 K still have, very smooth bokeh and good sharpness. Better than the later M versions.

Leica R
35 Summicron E55 IMHO the best 35 there is.
50 Summicron 1st version and again the best f2 50 made
60 macro elmarit, simply stunning lens
90 Elmarit E55 sharper than the 90 summicron with equal bokeh and IMO better than the 105 Nikkors.

I still have all the R lenses for one reason, to my eyes they are better than anything else.
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Old 10-22-2012   #11
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Many of the Minolta Rokkors are fantastic ! Some folks have discovered this fact as the prices on'em have doubled in the last couple years. Lots of bodies for them as well.
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Old 10-22-2012   #12
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The notion of "best" is such a murky one. Each user will have his or her own opinions of good and great lenses.
On the other hand, the notion of "terrible" is an easy one. There are simply lenses that should not have been

However, just for the record, these are a handful of SLR lenses I consider to be amazing performers:

Pentax Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4 (M42 Mount)
Revuenon (Cosina) 55mm f/1.2 (K-mount)
Canon FD 50mm f/3.5 S.S.C Macro lens (FD-mount)
Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AI-S (F-mount)
Nikon 105mm f/2 DC (F-mount)
Nikon 135mm f/2 DC (F-mount)

And just about any Zeiss lens in any mount you can get your hands on

I have personally never owned very expensive wide angle SLR lenses, and as such, given my limited exposure to the more "budget" wide and ultra wide angle lenses,
I have never found any of them to be very good. Most modern lenses outperform them greatly.
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Old 10-22-2012   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalintrigue View Post
Everyone knows Zeiss is the best.
I have a few (and they are excellent), but focusing the lens (no matter what make) is the most important (and a tripod).
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Old 10-22-2012   #14
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Interesting question, these come to mind:

50mm f1.4 Summilux (E60 last version) for Leica R
58mm f1.2 Noct-Nikkor for Nikon F
60mm f2.8 Macro for Leica R
80mm f1.4 Summilux for Leica R
100mm f2.8 APO Macro Elmarit R for Leica
100mm f3.5 Planar for Hasselblad
110mm f2 Planar for Hasselblad
180mm f3.4 APO-Telyt for Leica
250mm f5.6 Super Achromat for Hasselblad
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Old 10-22-2012   #15
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Depends on what you consider "nice" - what qualities do you want? Build quality? Overall optical quality? Color rendition? etc. etc.

I personally think the Leitz reflex lenses are not worth the money. The Rollei Planar is a better lens in most major respects than the equivalent Summicron - and costs less than half as much. The Icarex Ultron is legendary... and I'd say it is better than the Summicron too - except that it has rather busy and distracting blur, it's also hard to find and too expensive these days. The CZJ Tessars are really nice (sharper than their West twins even) albeit slowish at f2.8, and shouldn't even be used that wide open IMO.

If you're going to pair the lenses with their original body though... the Nikon F range is probably the safest bet.

My favorite 50 right now is the Yashinon 2/50 because it sharp enough, and it gives nice soft blur which is uncommon in fast 50s. I like using the Oreston 1.8/50 when shooting slides because it renders colors to my liking...
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Old 10-22-2012   #16
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Optically speaking, the Nikkor AF 105/2 DC is without peer that I know in the 85-105 range. The Ai 28/2.0 was also always a favorite of mine.
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Old 10-22-2012   #17
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I seem to be off the OP's question. But I will say again: the Japanese really didn't make any bad lenses from 1975 on. So, focusing ability is (with tripod) the best way to maximizes your lenses. And I doubt if anyone could ever tell which is which (if properly used).
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Old 10-22-2012   #18
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Same here 28 2.8, 105 2.5 and to add the 180 2.8 all AI-s. Never used other brands.
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Old 10-22-2012   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruin View Post
I'd say Nikon for 28 and 105, Pentax for 50, Oly for 85, Minolta for 24.
The 50mm f/2 Nikkor-H gets pretty high marks. I don't have one but I do have the Ai, which is supposed to be the same formula as the H and with better coating. I did a bit of pixel peeping with my sons 5100 and that 50 was outstanding. That being said, my 50 mm f/1.8 long nose has a bit less veiling at 1.8-2 than does the f/2 and is ever so slightly better in the corners. The f/2 has a little more contrast richness in the colors that lends itself to the resolution. This is a 100% DX image that gimp tells me is 68.5 inches wide so the resolution differences are meaningless.

For me the f/2 wins because I like that veiling at f/2 and because it cost me thirty dollars. You're bang on about the 28 (AiS) and the 105.

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Old 10-22-2012   #20
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I think Pentax made the best 77mm prime - the FA 77 1.8 Limited.
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Old 10-22-2012   #21
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I'm gonna throw the Canon FD 24mm f/1.4 L into the mix.

This is a lens that I've only had the opportunity to use a little bit on loan but that short period of time has filled me with the urge to own and shoot one of these stellar gems. There is nothing wrong with it whatsoever. Perfect.

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Old 10-22-2012   #22
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If by best you mean high contrast sharp lenses with good build quality I would recommend the Zeiss Contax system lenses.
Pretty consistent overall. I especially like the f2.8/85, f1.4/85, f2/100, and f2.8/180mm.
The wides are also excellent but, they are not cheap. I use the distagon f2.8/21mm and f1.4/35. both are now hard to find at reasonable prices.
The f2.8/85 is just a peach and super cheap for what it will do for you in terms of output.
If you own a 5D(ii,iii) make sure and get a couple chipped adapters for this mount. These lenses perform great on the 5D models.
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Old 10-22-2012   #23
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Not an exhaustive list, but a few favorites I won't part with:

90mm f/2.8 Elmarit (can be adapted to Nikon mount)
135mm f/2.8 Elmarit (can be adapted to Nikon mount)
180mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt (can be adapted to Nikon mount)
28mm PC-Nikkor
35mm PC-Nikkor (latest)
55mm f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor (f/2.8 version almost as good)
15mm f/3.5 Nikkor
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Old 10-22-2012   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rohankent View Post
Who made the best of each focal length manual focus SLR lens in the 60's, 70's, 80's? 20mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 105mm etc etc
20mm (OK, 19mm here): Leica Elmarit 19mm 2.8, version II
24mm: Nikkor AI-S 24mm 2.8
28mm: Leica Elmarit 28mm 2.8, version II
35mm: Zeiss Distagon 35mm 1.4 MMJ
50mm (55mm here): Canon FD 55mm 1.2 Aspherical
50mm Macro: Pentax SMC Macro Takumar 4.0
85mm: Canon FD 85mm 1.2
105mm: Nikkor 105mm 1.8 AI-S

I'll leave stuff above that range to others, as I don't have much experience with telephoto lenses above 105mm.
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Old 10-22-2012   #25
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Oh, yeah, I agree with these two too !!! Fantastic lenses from Canon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dirk View Post
...

50mm (55mm here): Canon FD 55mm 1.2 Aspherical

85mm: Canon FD 85mm 1.2
...
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Old 10-22-2012   #26
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Leica R
To this day a lot of this glass is hard to beat. My Summilux-R 1.4/50 still is the best fast 50 I have used for an SLR and I've owned many from Zeiss, Nikon, Canon etc. The 50 Lux and Summicron-R 2/50 are the two reasons why I still shot with R bodies.

Other notables include the Summicron-R 2/50, Macro 2.8/60, Summilux-R 1.4/80, Summicron-R ASPH 2/90, APO 2.8/100mm. These are really, really good lenses and just like with the M glass, I do see a noticeable difference in scans and wet prints, between the R glass and the Zeiss and Nikkors I shoot.

The Summilux-R 1.4/35 is underrated, as is the last version of the Summicron-R 2/35. The ultra wides get very good reviews (19mm ? etc). A lot of the long Leica R glass is truly outstanding, as are the 2.8/35-70, 4/35-70, 28-90, 4/80-200, 2.8/80-200.

But as with everything Leica, their pricing placed them totally out of the mainstream. I think the 2.8/80-200 went for $6000 in the early 2000's.


Zeiss Contax
I never owned a Contax, but two of my friends did and the results were impressive. But I now have the 2/35 Distagon, Planar 1.4/50 and 1.4/85 in Nikon F mount and as expected these are really good lenses.

Canon FD
Canon made some very impressive glass in the old FD mount. Erwin Puts speaks very highly of this line up. Lot's of impressive high speed 50's and I think Canon was one of the first companies to start to use ASPH surfaces.


Nikon
I'm also a Nikon guy, but I always felt that their lens lineup was somewhat uneven. You have real standouts like the 2/28, 2/50, 1.4/50 AIS, Micro-Nikkor 3.5 (2.8) /55, 1.4/85mm, 2.5/105. But then there are lenses like the 2/35, which to be polite, is really weak. The 1.4/35 also never impressed me. Really soft at 1.4. There are some really cool f1.2 fifties. Not the sharpest, but they render really beautifully.

I always thought that Nikon made the best SLR bodies around, but for some reason they would keep a lens in their line up for 20 years and never update it, while the rest of the industry did.


Early on I also shot a little Pentax and really liked their fast 50's. Maybe not the sharpest lenses, but my god did they draw beautifully in b/w. Mike Johnston waxes about this lens on occasion. It's like the SLR version of the Leica M Summicron-DR 2/50.
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Old 10-22-2012   #27
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Beyond what has been said, I have now and enjoy a lot the Minolta Rokkor 58/1,2 PG
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Old 10-22-2012   #28
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Out of the Nikon, Minoltas, Olympus and 3rd party brands that I have tried, I usually find Nikkors to have the slight edge, particularly the 24/2.8 and 35/2 AIS.

Minolta teles give surprising bang for the buck as I have good experiences with the 135/3.5 MC and 200/3.5 MC.
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Old 10-22-2012   #29
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Low contrast shots on a sharp digital sensor are my game.

On the D3100 I shoot:
  • Nikkor-S 1.4/58mm
  • Nikkor-P 2.5/105mm (1st version, Sonnar)
  • Tamron BBAR 2.8-3.5/35-80mm Adaptall
  • Tamron BBAR 3.5/24-48mm Adaptall

Haven't shot the 24-48mm yet (it's arriving next week) but if it's anything like the other BBAR lens, I'll be happy with it!

Extra perk is the Nikkors fitting onto any AF-S body (3100, 5100, 3200), Nikkormats, the F2, F3? and F4, while the Adaptalls... well they fit onto anything when you switch mounts! And they were cheap too!
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Old 10-23-2012   #30
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A skunk at the picnic here. In my opinion most Hexanon AR prime lenses wipe the floor with Nikkor lenses of the same FL.
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Old 10-23-2012   #31
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A skunk at the picnic, eh? Well, I'll be the hippopotamus at the picnic. I saw Vickko above suggesting 'Blad lenses, so the medium format foot is already in the door. There has been mention of 55mm lenses, so let me suggest the SMC Pentax 67 55mm f/4, last version (I think from the mid 1980s). Very good! Nettar
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Old 10-23-2012   #32
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31, 43, 77mm = Pentax Limited.


My Minolta Rokkor MD 100/2.8 is a fantastic piece of optical engineering.
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Old 10-23-2012   #33
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It is hard to add to the list above -- hard because so many good lenses have been mentioned, and hard too because I own a lot of the lenses mentioned, but have not made a comparison that would allow a categorical testing like "best." Some favorites:

35/2, 50/1.4 Pentax screw-mount lenses
57/1.2, 50/1.7 Konica Hexar AR
35/2, 105/2.5 Nikon

[Edit: of course these are just the SLR lenses] The Leica 50/1.4 Asph, 35/2 Asph, 24/2.8 Apsh, 90/2 Apo Asph, 75/2 Asph are really, really good. I mean for my photography they are class-by-themselves hard to beat. And also -- that super-sharp modern look is not always what is wanted. But the question always comes down to whether the "advantages" are worth the expense for a particular photographer. And as much as I like those lenses, on my most recent job I used all Zeiss M-mount lenses: principally the 25/2.8 and 35/2.

I have never tried the Carl Zeiss/Yashica SLR lenses -- always wanted to, though.
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Old 10-23-2012   #34
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As others have mentioned it's what you as an individual like in a lens. Some have mentioned the Planar 50 1.7 which is no doubt a great lens but one which I really disliked the bokeh of so sold it after a few rolls.
The other problem is having too many different bodies to match your lenses. I've slimmed down my manual gear to a Pentax and a Leicaflex but at one time had Olympus, Nikon and Contax going at the same time just to be able to use the lenses. Nightmare. If I had to pick only one system to use it would be my cheapy Leicaflex with the R lenses. I have a feeling that R lenses are climbing steadily in value though and are no longer the cheap option s/h.
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Old 10-23-2012   #35
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I tried a lot of systems over time and found that most first party lenses are superb. I really like so far:

OM 24/2.8
C/Y Distagon 28/2.8
Minolta MD 200/4 and 85/2 (both unbelievably good)
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Old 10-23-2012   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nobbylon View Post
As others have mentioned it's what you as an individual like in a lens. Some have mentioned the Planar 50 1.7 which is no doubt a great lens but one which I really disliked the bokeh of so sold it after a few rolls.
The other problem is having too many different bodies to match your lenses. I've slimmed down my manual gear to a Pentax and a Leicaflex but at one time had Olympus, Nikon and Contax going at the same time just to be able to use the lenses. Nightmare. If I had to pick only one system to use it would be my cheapy Leicaflex with the R lenses. I have a feeling that R lenses are climbing steadily in value though and are no longer the cheap option s/h.
YES!

So buy a Type 240 (or an Alpa, if you like film) and solve the problem...

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R.
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Old 10-23-2012   #37
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60mm Macro Elmarit for Leica R is a big favourite
560 Telyt 6.8 for Leica R is specialist and simply stunning (could probably be adapted to fit anything)

I was going to put the 21 4.0 Super Angulon but I am not so sure...maybe others would like to comment.

Sorry, but I am a Leicaflex SL nut.

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Old 10-23-2012   #38
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Micro-Nikkor 55/3.5
Nikkor-H 85/1.8
Nikkor 20/3.5 AI-S
Nikon 105/2.8 AF-D Micro
Nikkor 28/2 AI
Nikkor 180/2.8 ED AI-S
Micro-Nikkor 200/4 ED-IF AI-S
Nikkor 50/1.2 AI

SMC Pentax FA 43/1.9 Limited
SMC Pentax FA 77/1.8 Limited

These are what I've used and remain memorable to me.
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Old 10-23-2012   #39
Photo_Smith
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Posts: 1,480
Too many to list really. All I can do is give a few of my favourites.

50mm ƒ2 H Nikkor

28mm ƒ2,8 AIS (one of the best wides ever)

85mm ƒ1,8 Canon FD or even the 100mm ƒ2,8

Contax Planar 50mm ƒ1,7

Canon FD 24mm ƒ1,4L
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Old 10-23-2012   #40
Roger Hicks
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Aquitaine
Posts: 23,947
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalintrigue View Post
Lots and lots of good SLR glass. In fact, there are far more winners than losers.

Leica R glass I have enjoyed shooting, but not carrying. Too heavy. Over-engineered, super smooth, but overkill mechanically for the most part.
Try Zeiss lenses for the Contarex Cyclops/Bullseye! A bit slippery, too, some of them...

Cheers,

R.
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