Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Samyang 135mm f/2 first impressions and samples

Today I had a rare pleasure to lay my hands on an extraordinary lens: Samyang 135mm f/2. Thanks to the guys at who made this possible. It's one of the latest releases from Samyang and I have been waiting for this for quite some time since the lens had a pretty good word of mouth right from the moment it was announced.

But first things first. Since the last time I have seriously upgraded my camera. I went from a Sony NEX5n which I still love to the 24MP Sony A7 so the quality of the photos should be much improved. I will try to post a complex review of the camera in the near future, but I will just say it's an amazing piece of gear and it surpassed my expectations in every aspect.

The Samyang 135mm is quite a bulky lens, but achieving such wide aperture at that focal length just takes its toll and there's no way those laws of physics can be bypassed. The first thing you notice are just huge front and rear optical elements, which are a promise of good optical quality and the first photos you take just confirm that 100%. If I could summarize the experience in just one sentence, it would be: "that is the sharpest lens I have ever used". I have seen a couple tests online prior to using it, but taking the photos myself and then seeing them on a large screen I just couldn't believe my eyes.
Some of my samples, all taken at f/2 because stopping down is not necessary here (and several 100% pixel per pixel crops):

100% crop

100% crop

100% crop

100% crop
But the sharpness is not all. This lens has got amazing colour rendition and contrast...

....and spectacular bokeh...

 ....and the chromatic aberration is basically nonexistent.

Every one of 24 million pixels is put to use by this lens. You can see on some of the crops that the detail is almost finer than the digital 'grain', I would love to see some samples from a Sony A7R or Nikon D600. I have not corrected chromatic aberration on any of the photos.

Using this lens I camer to had to remember to keep my exposure times short (as it is a tele lens) which was more than easy during the day, but in the afternoon I had too boost ISO100 to ISO800 to stay in the safe zone.

There is an old rule of thumb for exposure times. When handholding your shots your times shouldn't be longer than 1/(focal length), so basically for this lens the value was 1/135s and 1/160s when you round it off to an existing value. You have to remember though that this applies to full frame, when using a crop sensor, you need to calculate the equivalent. So when using Sony NEX5n (crop factor of 1.5x) with this lens the safe exposure time would be around 1/200s as 1.5 times 135 equals 202.5. You have to remember that this rule just tells you what is the longest eposure time you can safely handhold, it does not mean that all of those shots will be sharp. Shaky hands can ruin everything, but if you are steady, you can just as well pull off a longer exposure time. But still I think this is very useful to keep that in mind.

* The lens I tested was a Nikon mount and I used an adapter to mount it. This does not change anything, but I thought some people might wanna know that.

edit 19.04.15 - I'm adding some more samples:

Friday, 24 October 2014

Voigtlander 28mm f/2 between two cameras

I've recently had another opportunity to test a lens by Voigtlander. It was 28mm this time. The lens is really compact (you can see how it fits in my palm above) and fast for a wide angle lens as it is f/2. Seems like a perfect lens for a street photographer. I took it for a spin along with a Fuji X-A1 that I borrowed off my mate.

I was expecting a sharp lens and was not disappointed. Stopped down to f/2.8 it really gives satisfactory results. I was really surprised to see that this lens has very little (if any) chromatic aberrations, even when pointed directly at light sources. In the photos above you can see that I was trying really hard to get the worst lighting conditions possible, but the aberrations are at a really low level.
As usual with Voigtlander products the lens renders colour beautifully and the bokeh is pleasant to look at thanks to as many as 10 aperture blades. I would be very anxious to test that lens on FF as it would really spread its wings on a bigger sensor.
Another thing I wanted to do with this lens is compare if it works any different on two cameras by various manufacturers: Sony and Fuji.
My first impressions of the Fuji I was getting to know were not positive. The LCD display is not really easy to judge focus by (much less sharp than my Sony NEX5N's) and the camera on the whole has a much more plastic feel to it. But actually when I uploaded the photos to my computer I found out that the photos are really decent. The sensor is really efficient and similar to work with to that of my NEX5N's. Below you can see some side-by-side comparisons.

I deliberately used the same settings on both cameras and didn't process the photos much. The only difference you notice right away is the was the two sensors render colours and it seems to me that the Sony camera I've been using for the last couple of years produces photos a little tinted with yellowy green warmth, while the Fuji images are much cooler and a bit more neutral, but the difference is very slight.
Kind thatnks to the guys at for sending over the lens for a test. I hope I will be able to test it on FF in the future.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 lens test sample shots

It's one of those lenses that you have to get to know to really appreciate. I've had it for a couple of weeks now and my opinion changed a complete 180. And that just proves that doing tests of studio setups and preparing resolution charts sometimes says completely nothing about a piece of equipment. This lens has integrity and there are no numbers that can express that. Thanks to for letting me test this lens.

Voigtlander as a brand has been known to combine new technologies with tons of legacy and I would say that this lens is a great example of that approach. First of all it is really compact and light and has got a fantastic feel. It just is a small piece of craftsmanship. I know that those things don't affect the way it takes photos, but they do affect the smoothness of focus and aperture rings which is just amazing. The lens feels really solid and there is exactly zero backlash so if at any point you feel like changing the direction of focusing you just do it without the unpleasant rattling. Another thing is that the focus throw is rather short which I adore so you will be able to run through the whole focus range without having to let the focus ring go at any time. (some people might not like this, but it wasn't a problem for me)

The next thing that I really appreciate is the bokeh. Not only is it amazing, but it is in perfect sync with my preferences when it comes to stopping down. Most lenses will have the best bokeh at maximum aperture, but to my amazement this one has the best bokeh just a little stepped down. This will probably be caused by the aperture having as many as 10 blades. (Nikkor 50/1.4D has 7 blades for example) Many photographers I know will usually step down half a stop or a whole when they use very fast lenses just to get that sharpness kick in. When I did this with the Voigtlander 50/1.5 I realised that the bokeh at f/2 is even better than at f/1.5. That's why 95% of the photos were taken at f/2.

All the sample photos taken with my Sony NEX5N through a Voigtlander NEX-VM adapter.
What I love: great bokeh combined with superb sharpness (100% crop below) at f/2

butterflies' 'horns' and the fabric of the dress are sharp as a tack at f/2

Another thing that most of those modern lenses lack is the ability to preserve crispness of colour. No trouble with that here:

colour and contrast rendering abilities are just top notch

exceptionally good bokeh visible through the window and pleasantly soft out-of-focus legs

super lens for portraits (100% crop below)

really nothing much left to wish for when the details are as fine as the 'grain'

No lens is perfect and this one isn't either. At f/1.5 the centre of the image is very decent, but like with the lenses from the olden days the corners in this one are just a tad soft. Thankfully stopping it down does a lot of good to the focus as well as the bokeh so no harm there. Another weak point is the hromatic aberration, but this is an issue that all fast lens freaks have to deal with in their own fashion. ACR comes to the rescue so you can remove those green and purple ghosts as easily as it gets.

some chromatic aberration in contrastive sections, nothing serious though


- outstanding bokeh (10 aperture blades)
- solid, well designed and compact body
- sharp enough at f/2
- good colour and contrast rendering
- comfortable focusing / high precision focus ring
- vintage feel


- some chromatic aberration

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Voigtlander 17.5mm f/0.95 lens test sample shots

The Voigtlander 17.5mm f/0.95 brags spectacular specs and I was wondering if it's all that great. I've recently had a chance to test one of the fastest lenses available in the market thanks to good guys at who made this test possible, so I borrowed my friends Olympus OMD-EM10 (great camera btw) and began the tests.

First of all this lens mounted on EM10 looks just great. The retro elegance is amazing and as it turns out it fitted my palm just right even though the camera is rather petite.

reminds a mint film camera innit?

I needed  just a few seconds to decide that the first results looked great, but I was still rather sceptical until I saw them on a larger screen.

I am quite suspicious of the micro 4/3 system in general as those sensors are considerably smaller. In this case the 2x multiplier comes in handy - it makes the lens a 35mm equivalent for the full frame and fast 35mm lenses are notoriously used for all kinds of photography. Many photographers consider this focal length even more versatile that 50mm. It's good for landscape, portrait and perfect for street photography. But in the DSLR world you don't even come close to f/0.95- you have to make do with f/1.4 and you end up with a really large lens. Twice as big and heavy as this one anyway.

I was booked for 3 portrait shoots on the weekend anyway so I took those babies for a spin and... I took about 15 shots total with my NEX5N + 35/1.4 lens that I adore. I took the other 3000 shots with the Olympus + Voigtlander.

The lens is tack sharp already at f/1.4-2, and still very decent at f/0.95 which I found almost unbelievable.
at 0.95 the image is perfectly acceptable
at f/0.95

at f/4

Sharpness almost all the way through apertures shown on 100% 1:1 pixel crops. The range between f/2.8-f/4 is the sharpest, f/1.4 is the sweet spot IMO
How do the portraits look? Take a peek yourselves:

Shallow (yet very sharp) depth of field is just amazing. I used it at f/0.95 almost all the time, occassionally stepping down to f/1.4 for some shots.
Colour reproduction is great too. Skin tones and the green of the plants look amazing straight from the camera so I only gave it a bit of postprocessing to get this result.

The lens focuses so close you can easily use it for some softcore macro without using any additional macro lenses etc.

With such a fast lens the only annoying thing are those chromatic abberrations as you might have guessed, but I have seen some f/1.4 lenses that had more ACs than this one at f/0.95. Luckily they are easy to get rid of with ACR or Lightroom so I didn't worry about them at all.