2.26.2013

In all the excitement about Sony's cheap, new camera I forgot to make fun of their new 50mm Zeiss lens...

Now don't get me wrong...I love 50mm lenses. God knows I've owned a lot of them. And don't misunderstand me here, I think this lens will be remarkably good. What's not to love about eight elements when two of them are festooned with this magic word that makes us gear junkies swoon, "ASPHERICAL."?

And here's something for all you photo heros who spend all your time trampling through the rainy jungles and alternately trudging through desert sand storms with your lens held out in front of you like a beacon: This lens has been designed to be WEATHER PROOF. That's right. Now when you're at the art festival you don't have to worry about accidentally spilling your Coca Cola on the lens while you are grappling with your turkey leg or corn dog on a stick...

Why am I being so testy? Because I'm pissed that Sony and Carl Zeiss have the big corporate balls to charge a whopping $1500 for a 50mm lens. I think only madmen, Leica owners and madmen rationalize $1500 expenditures for lenses in a class where the 1970's Nikon 50mm 1.1.2 lens might still be the IQ front runner in the field. I guess it will all be okay if Sony also release a Sony branded 50mm 1.4 that's only $750. Maybe I'd buy one of those. But let's get rational for a second.

How much better than the Sigma 50mm 1.4 lens can this one really be and how many of us are going to go through the necessary steps to get the kind of performance that this lens promises in the real world?  For the most part this kind of lens is designed to be a great lens for low light reportage (already an issue for a number of Sony DLST models....) and that kind of shooting is mostly done quickly and handheld. Yes, you'll be holding this impressive monster in your shaky, quaking, vibrating hands and praying to the photo gods that Sony was right about getting three stops of Image Stabilization out of their latest camera bodies.

You may have paid for 180 line pairs of resolution but unless you stick that Bugatti of a lens on a set of sticks I think you'll be tooling along with the rest of us in the lane that gets about 45 line pairs of res from their 50mm lenses.

I'm sure that, at this price, this lens will knock it out of the ball park wide open. But even though I own and have owned BMW's worth of fast lenses over the years, and I always have the intention to shoot them at the bleeding edge of 1.4,  those pesky clients inevitably decide they'd like just a bit more than one lip in focus and we end up using these marvelous optics at f-stops like 2 and 2.8. But when you get to 2.8 you'll have to look hard to find just about any modern 50mm 1.4 variant that's not performing at least up to your ability to hand hold.

So, who is this lens really made for? The people who claim to only want the finest in life. And the finest in their camera bags. But wait, aren't they already shooting with Leicas (large or small)?

Will I buy this instant status symbol and wear it around on the end of my Sony a99 like a Mercedes hood ornament on a gold chain? Not unless Sony rings me up and offers me one for permanent testing (and hey! Sony! if you do that I'll wear it everywhere until I wear it out!!!). It's not that I don't crave, desire and lust after pretty glass that promises instant photographic genius but hey! everyone's got to have limits to their excess somewhere.

What's my game plan? Well, when I compare the pure performance (not the amenities) of the Sony lenses I own with the two Rokinon Cine lenses that I've recently acquired I'm pretty comfortable saying that I'll stick with my old, used Sony 50 1.4 lens (re-badged Minolta lens) right up until the moment I see the Rokinon (or other Samyang variant) 50mm 1.1.2 Super high speed Cine lens hit the market. And if it's priced like history says it might be, and I'm having high roller hallucinations I'll just take the $1500 I might have spent on the Zeiss (in my craziest dreams) and buy four or five of the Rokinons instead.

I'm not putting any links in for the new Sony Zeiss lens. If you can swing that one (and rationalize it to yourself) you probably have someone on staff who can research the best deal for you. Just check in with your house manager, I'm sure they're on top of it.

Important note: As per my track record of consistency in the last four years of blogging I reserve the right to change my mind and run out and get one of these uber-ninja lenses as soon as next week and not even notice the irony....... You've been warned.










30 comments:

Bob said...

Yeah, tell it like it is. More than one lip in focus - I love it!
Bob

Steve Miller said...

"Important note: As per my track record of consistency in the last four years of blogging I reserve the right to change my mind and run out and get one of these uber-ninja lenses as soon as next week and not even notice the irony."

I'd be disappointed if you didn't. As you noted, you are incredibly consistent! :-) I'm still waiting to wake up one day and read that you're back in the Oly m4/3 fold. You know you want an E-M5!

Steve

Kirk Tuck said...

You have no idea how close you just got to today's reality...

MartinP said...

Is that round bit on the bottom a tripod socket?? If so, it suggests that the lens weighs more than the (full-frame) camera . . .

tomt said...

Oh, yeah, dpreview meets and loses to Va Wolf.

ginsbu said...

You'll be pleased by this, no doubt:
http://photorumors.com/2013/01/11/samyangrokinon-working-on-a-new-50mm-f1-4-lens/

I don't think the aperture has been confirmed as f/1.4—faster might be possible!

Kirk Tuck said...

I'm sorry. I don't know what that means. Help?

DIS Ottawa said...

Do hands really quack?

Michael Ferron said...

I'll just keep my Minolta 50 1.7 that I paid $95 for. Works good for me and if not quite as nice as the new 50 I'll bet it's not 15 times worse. LOL

Craig said...

Minolta 50 1.7? You betcha! I can't imagine needing a Zeiss 1.4 for this kind of money.

Kirk, you have officially reserved the right to change your mind, buy one, and not notice the irony - but we can gently chide/tease for the irony unless Ben says college is fully funded, right?

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Yeah. Get that Olympus instead. Az least you'll have more than one lip in focus, even at f/2. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Nikon 50mm 1.1.2

What's that?

VirtualMirage said...

No, that is actually the side of the lens with the "round bit" (the picture is showing the top of the lens). I believe that "round bit" is the AF/MF switch. The other Sony Zeiss lenses have an AF/MF switch that is round, just like what you are seeing on the 50mm.

Anonymous said...

I like your Bugatti, BMW & Mercedes motoring comparison...

Carlo Santin said...

Enjoy that lens Kirk, give us an informal review when you are ready.

Keith I. said...

I totally agree. I was all set to sell off my Sony 50/1.4 when I heard this was coming. I did expect a price of $900-1000 but hoped for less, and then they did this. I have every full frame Sony Zeiss so far and love each of them, but this is just too much. Even my 24/2 was "only" $1000 new. All my others were purchased before the prices started going up, which just makes the $1500 that much harder to get over.

My A99 would love it, but it will have to wait for a price drop.

Kirk Tuck said...

It's a manual focus, 50mm lens that Nikon made for many, many years. You might see it written as "Nikon 50mm 1.2" but when people still understood math, and the idea that the lens aperture is a mathematic ratio, people correctly expressed f-stops as 1:1.2.

Corwin said...

Well, I thought its a lot, but then I took small glimpse on Leica M 50/1.4 ASPH MTF. This lens is only bit behind 50/1.4 ASPH. So that price isnt undeserved, if MTF is real. Cause if it is, its one of best 50 for dSLR.

Doesnt mean I would buy that. :D Just its probably worth it, if one can afford it.

Bill Beebe said...

Yes, I'm piling on, riding Kirk's coattails, whatever you want to call it: http://blogbeebe.blogspot.com/2013/02/sonys-50mm-wonder.html

Clay Olmstead said...

You've talked before about how many hits are generated by posts about gear and how few hits come from posts about art. That's a curious inversion of our times, where the tools are worth more than the product. It's as if chisels cost thousands of dollars but statues were everywhere, crowding the streets and blocking the view. We would lust after chisels, but statues would be ignored.

David said...

I think Sony just wanted to one up Panasonic. When the Leica 25mm f1.4 lens for M43rds was announced at the huge cost of $600. Many people complained that lenses were too expensive and all 50mm standards should be $200. Well Sony just upped the cost of the standard. A new achievement.

Bill Beebe said...

Actually, as I noted in my own fabulously written blog post (see here: http://blogbeebe.blogspot.com/2013/02/sonys-50mm-wonder.html) Canon has an EF 50mm f/1.2L USM for $1,500. Sony got jealous of Canon.

Robert said...

They still make it.

David said...

Well sure for f1.2 you can charge more. But here we are talking about f1.4. I did buy the Nikon 50mm f1.2 for $500 brand new back in 2008, but its manual. Also I think the 25mm f0.95 for M43rds are going for $800 to $1200 New, but again thats manual and wickedly fast.

Gregg Mack said...

I still use my Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM lens that I bought in August 2006 for a whopping sum of $349.95. It is a very good lens. That new Sony lens must really be something... but is it really 4.3 times better? (I never could convince myself that the Canon 50mm f/1.2 was 4.3 times better.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Now I understand. The first . should be : in your designation.
That is 1:1.2. rather than 1.1.2

Kirk Tuck said...

You are correct. I should always use the colon in designating a ratio.

Anonymous said...

Lets see, I've got one 50mm f1:1.4 lens, an ancient M42 mount Super Takumar that set me back the princely sum of $25. I have to hang my head in shame when I use it around more well heeled photographer's.

John Robison

Anonymous said...

The thing that is almost sacrosanct with you Kirk, is your uncanny ability to wave that big stick, when price verses performance rears its nasty little head, but reserve the right to reverse tack without notice, dare I say it, that, that territory comes with age and possibly realising the fact cameras should be as flexible as you want to be!!!!!. Keep it up, it is very refreshing.
(It also helps, when buying history, and hindsight are thrown into the equation.)

Lee McCurtayne

Anonymous said...

You never mentioned the equally mind boggling 55mm f1.4 Zeiss ZE/ZF lens that will be coming to drain the wallet of Nikon and Canon owners. I agree with your assessment of this lens, but I have to say they are fun to dream about - never quite sure why, as it really is irrational.