Registered: Jul 16, 2011
Total Posts: 806
Country: United States
Since this is the Zeiss Discussion thread, I want to discuss Zeiss lenses
I am overwhelmingly a ~50mm shooter. I own more of them than some people own total lenses. The current count is 5 and I have owned 10 ADDITIONAL ~50mm lenses. Those 10 were 2 Zeiss, 3 Zuikos, 3 Nikkors, 1 Leica and 1 Rokkor. And don't think I'm done, either.
The previous 'jewl' of my collection, by which I mean the most valuable lens I owned, was the Zeiss 50 Planar ZM, which I bought new shortly after purchasing my Leica M2. I didnt have my own scanner and was still shooting a bit of color film at the time and to be honest since I couldnt evaluate sharpness I was pretty happy with the color handling and flare suppresion, which to that point were the best I had seen.
A shot from my first roll
Things changed for me when I got a film scanner. It's not the fanciest thing in the world but it's served me well for it's price and I've always dumped money into lenses over anything else. When it comes to gear, lenses are my true love. But like I said, the arrival of a film scanner ushered in a completely new way of photographing things for me. It didnt help that I had moved from bustling Boston to borderline rural Texas. But, I went back to developing myself and even using a touch of digital here and there. Which subsequently meant scanning my own film. It may not be a D800, but this was a big step up from Walgreens, lol. But, unfortunately, it was also the beginning of the seed of doubt for me with the ZM50P
An early Scan
The sharpness of the 50 Planar should never really bothered me. Sure you can look at the MTFs and you'll notice that it's 40 lp/mm measurements aren't so great, but it does a great job with contrast at coarser levels. I will admit before I applied the usage of a loupe to my negatives, I had some misconceptions. It certainly showed some good lenses who was the boss at relevant levels. But after a while, it sort of dawned on me that I didn't really like the Planar's contrast presentation and transition to OoF. But I couldn't admit it. It was hard for me to accept I had spent three or four times what I had ever spent on a lens on something that I wasn't 100% happy with. I had been continuously in school for nearly 18 years including going to a graduate school in an expensive city and had never bought such an expensive toy for myself. Sound familiar? I believe the term is cognitive dissonance.
foreground bokeh, the only part of the OoF rendering of the ZM50P I actually liked
What sealed the deal for me was when I purchased an OM 50/2 Macro off KEH. To be honest, I was exceptionally close to purchasing a 60/2.8 Macro Elmarit R, but when I saw the Zuiko for a few dollars less and it was for my other film system I jumped on it since they dont come up for a good price from reputable dealers very frequently. And, sadly, I finally had the lens I wanted. For half what I paid for the Zeiss. What I had was a faster version of my beloved 50/3.5 Zuiko Macro. A lens which has vanquished TWO 55/3.5 Micro-Nikkors and which has some of the most electric bokeh Ive ever seen. You could make a Geico commerical about how much I love the OoF transition of the 50/3.5 Zuiko. But, for me anyway, it's a one aperture lens. F5.6. I use F8 5% of the time, f3.5 1% of the time and f5.6 the entire rest of the time. And while it wasn't as "sharp" as the Zeiss under a loupe, my scans always made me feel like it was sharper. And more 3D. For no money.
I don't feel the ZM50P is weak at reproducing detail, I just don't like HOW it does it
And now, I had that. But it went to F2. And after a few rolls of shooting the Zuiko, I was done with the Zeiss. I tried so hard to like it, but in the end I failed. So, I put it up for sale. And for a while, I thought I was done with Zeiss. I evaluated a few options, you know, mostly the ZF 50P and the C/Y 50P, I took another look at the 60 Elmarit-R and the 50 Summicron-R. But I never could quite convince myself to go for one of those. Sure I would see the occasional shot where it looked amazing, but nothing too much. And so I nearly gave up.
Of all my shots, this is my personal favorite from the ZM50P.
The 50MP has always been a "sort of" interest for me. I like Macros, and I do own quite a few as you can probably tell by now. But I had just sort of forgotten about it since not a lot of people use it on film which is my primary interest. But, being pretty obsessive about lenses, I convinced myself I ought to take a good look at the lens and I noticed that while there are a lot of toolbags who can't post-process at all (hey, Im not necessarily separating myself from them), even they couldn't hide that the 50MP has a pretty special OoF rendering/transition. Of course it is sharp, all Zeiss 50s that are meant to be sharp are sharp. At least where it matters to me. But OoF transition is one of those areas where if you like a specific type you are going to obsess over it. To this day I still believe the 105/2.4 SMC takumar is the finest lens Ive ever used, even though the Mamiya 7 80mm was sharper and 135 format lenses are a lot more convenient. Of course FM doesnt help my pocketbook here as the shots were pretty good. A special shoutout to Luca, whose lens examples were really helpful to me. So, I got a 50MP from a fellow FMer and got a cheap Nikon F3HP off KEH.
Zeiss with the offending Zuiko. Yes I use an OM-2SP and like it. The series 2 focusing screen makes it my user over my two OM-1s.
I have had the lens for one half of one day, but I already know that even if I don't keep it forever, this lens ticks more of the boxes for me than the ZM50P was ever going to, no matter how hard I tried to pretend it wouldnt. Close focus for little plants? Check. Absurd 40 lp/mm contrast levels? Check. Shouty, crunchy contrast? Check. Energetic transition to OoF that has nothing in common with the tame ZM50P? Check Check Check.
Bokeh should aid in your picture feeling alive, IMO. In the absence of human emotion, I at least want to have energy project from my images.
It was hard to say goodbye to my M2. I tend to be an absolute and in the face of an M2 every other camera is "junk". Especially Nikons But for now, I have a lens that I hope will better suit what I like. I know it won't make my pictures better (afterall, it's not like I'm wanting for macro lenses that are sharp enough). I know it's big and heavy and only goes to 1:2. However, I think I made the right choice. Only time will tell if I did.
1024-2048s, but mainly 1600s are available if you click through, should you actually care to see my pictures larger.
Sorry for the blog post of length that is sufficient to be the next book in A Song of Fire and Ice. I hope I have included enough images so that as you skipped through at least you had something to look at. But I just wanted to talk for a bit why I made what I consider to be a major gear change in going from a RF to an SLR, even with a lens of the same focal length and aperture.