6.04.2016

In your search for great full frame lenses just how weird and counter-intuitive can you get?

This is a full frame image with no post production or cropping. 

I picked up a used Sony A7ii today because it was too cheap to pass up. That's another story. I brought it home and gave it a good once over, was satisfied that everything worked as expected, and then proceeded to update the firmware from 1.20 to 3.30. That took a while... but it worked.

I may be the laziest photographer alive because after I upgraded the firmware I decided to shoot some quick shots and needed a lens for the camera. I could have stood up, walked across the room and grabbed one of the Sony/Zeiss beauties out of the cabinet drawer but instead I looked around on the top of the desk and found a totally inappropriate lens to try out. It was providence, since the lens already had a Sony E adapter on it. 

It was a lens made many, many years ago for a much different kind of system. In fact, it was made for system with a film size that was slightly less than half the area of a full frame sensor. Not even as big as an APS-C sensor. I was certain that the lens would have a very small circle of coverage and that anything I shot with the lens would have a center circle of image on the frame surrounded by a terrible and quite obvious vignette. But, of course, I was too lazy to get out of my chair and go off in search of something more optically appropriate. 

I clicked on the camera, adjusted the various settings and then pointed the camera and the misfit lens at general stuff in my studio and then clicked the shutter. Then I sat up a bit straighter in my chair as I reviewed what I had just shot. The image was sharp and as far as I could tell it covered the vast majority of the full 35mm frame with very little vignetting. Oh yes, the very corners of the frame showed vignetting but just the tiniest bit. I was stunned. Here was a forty something year old lens, designed for a manually focusing, half frame camera, and it was basically doing double duty as a full frame lens. 


This is a full frame image with no post production or cropping. 

The other thing that surprised me was how filmic and sharp the images created by the lens were. It was rendering banal images beautifully and, even close to wide open, whatever was in focus was sharp. Sharp in a (better?) different way than the Zeiss lenses I have been using. You know, the ones computed to cover full frame?

This is a full frame image with no post production or cropping. 

Since I saw so little vignetting in my interior shots I started wracking my brain to figure out what was going on here. Both of my initial shots were done near wide open which should have accentuated the vignetting. But, both of the initial shots were taken at distances of less than ten feet, and the closer you focus most lenses the more of a frame they tend to cover.  I decided to test the opposite extremes. How would the lens stand up to a shot at a small aperture like f11 while set at infinity? That should show me some clear vignetting. And yes, you can see it in the bottom left corner of the shot just above. 

But it's nothing dramatic. While not convincingly eradicable in the lens correction panel of PhotoShop it's also nearly invisible in the zone in which I typically work: portrait distance and nearly wide open.  A bonus is that shooting in an aspect ratio 16:9 or 1:1 shows no vignetting at all !!!  
In fact, hours later, it's the lens that's on the front of the new camera right now. 

Which one is it? One I have written about many times. It's the Olympus Pen F (half frame film camera) 60mm f1.5 lens. Smooth as silk in the focusing ring and some of the loveliest out of focus rendering I've seen in a normal focal length. 

It's not supposed to work this way, though. I'm supposed to have to spend big bucks on top glass for the full frame cameras. I don't want the more talented tier of photographers to look down on me for not have bespoke magic glass. It's bad enough that I don't personally own any Zeiss Otus products already....

But you know what? There seems to be a perverse charm in finding ways to use totally inappropriate, ancient lenses to do fun things on full frame, very modernistic cameras. Casual environmental portraits, here we come....

4 comments:

Mike Hendren said...

Nice find, Kirk. My wife was shopping in a local thrift store and found a Lentar 135mm f2.8 for $10. It happened to have a Pentax M42 mount, so I can use it on a Sony a7RM2 with an adapter. And while it's not "tack sharp" at f2.8, overall it does a very nice job. When I put it on my Olympus PEN-F (2016 version), it gives me a (equivalent) 270mm / f2.8. :-)

Fred said...

Kirk,
I always assumed that the whole purpose of these cameras was to use inappropriate lenses on them. That's why Sony hasn't filled out their lens lineup. And since you don't have any of those Zeiss lenses you won't be disappointed with their look, that is you will miss Otus regrets.

Paul said...

I'm not using modern lenses on my A7r at all. All my lenses are Olympus OM Zuiko and I couldn't be happier.

jw52tx said...

Get yourself a Techart Leica m to Sony auto focus adapter and some M to whatever ( I'm using OM, Nikon, and M42 lenses on mine) Works great, just know batteries will only last about 150 exposures. I have my second adapter on order!