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  Reviews by: thesmithbrian  

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Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T*

Review Date: Sep 9, 2020 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $650.00 | Rating: 5 

Pros: Lightweight, sharp, fast af, pleasing bokeh
Horrible flaring and an innefective lens hood

This is a lens that I just could not figure out the hype for. I've seen so many pleasing images come from this lens, that is true. The bokeh is pleasing and it has a bit of that warm contax/zeiss magic. I purchased it, primarily, because it is very lightweight and would save my hands some bruisiing caused by the sony a7iii poor ergonomics coupled with my heavy, adapted Canon 50mm F1.2L. It was also a significant AF improvement in backlighting and when using AF points outside the center.

I sold the lens after about 6 months of use, however. It flares, HORRIBLY. The concave outer element makes it extrememly prone to reflecting light up toward the top of the element when shooting with the sun high and behind the subject. This combined with a completely innefective petal hood made any images shot in portrait orientation have a completely washed out, and even red, bottom 1/3 of the image. I'm not sure how more people don't complain of this oversight. The petal hood works fine when shooting landscape, because the longer petal adequately covers high light from striking the lens surface, but as soon as you rotate the camera into portrait orientation, the small petals no longer block the light. You are left with a very unflattering flare and cast across most of the bottom half of your images.

It seems to me that a simple, barrell lens hood could have fixed the problem.

Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T*

Review Date: Sep 9, 2020 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $450.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Compact, pleasing bokeh, manual aperture control, closely mimic Zeiss 80mm F2 for Contax 645
Suffers from strong spherical aberation and highlight bleed when shooting heavy backlit or into reflective surfaces

The Zeiss 50mm F1.4 Planar lens is compact and when used in ideal light scenarios, slightly backlit sun, it produces dreamy bokeh with a near perfect circular texture and an image that seems more surreal than perfect. It's the closest thing you can ge tto the magic of the Contax 645 Zeiss 80mm F2 on a full frame digital or film camera. However, when lighting conditions are difficult, it suffers from spherical aberation and highlight bleed. This is common to planar lenses but this lens suffers the worst of any I have ever seen.

I used the ZF version of the lens on my Nikon fm3a 35mm film camera and when the lighting was great, I loved the lens. It just seemed that about 1/4 of the images I would shoot on a given roll would be very low resolution or suffer from horrible highlight bleed. The really struggles when shooting into reflective surfaces like white backdrops and brick walls.

I tried adapting the lens to my sony a7iii mirrorless camera and the problems were even worse...completely unusable in many cases. I think something about the mirrorless sensor exacerbates the inherent issues of planar lenses.

Overall, it's an amazing lens if you use if as a character lens and when you really want those few dreamy shots. I sold it in favor of a Nikon 50mm F1.2, still planar but a little more reliable. I also started using my Leica 50mm F1.4 Summilux on my m-a more and adapted to my Sony, where it has few flaws.

I wrote a review of the two lenses (summilux and planar) with comparison images on 35mm film on my blog.