Lens arrives. We take it for a walk. We approve. Welcome ancient artifact!!!

Coffee under the big awning at MaƱana Coffee.
Good drip stuff. Better cappuccinos. 
Clean, new tables outside. 

Yesterday I took possession of a used Zeiss 50mm f1.4 ZF.2. It's a manually focusing normal lens and this copy was made for use with Nikon SLRs and DSLRs. It will communicate with a Nikon camera body but since I'm using it with a simple adapter on the L mount cameras it's essentially completely incommunicado with the cameras I use. I have both an F and an F2 Nikon around the studio but I prefer to use this lens on one of the Leica SL or Panasonic S bodies. 

While I purchased the lens lightly (if at all) used you can still buy this lens new at B&H. I much preferred the used price I got shopping at CameraWest.com. The copy I received is nearly flawless. 

I always like to test lenses as they come into my possession. I want to make sure there aren't any surprises if I go on to use the lens for a client job. I hate surprises that make me look bad too.

The lens is built in the old school style. All metal, as heavy as it needs to be, but much smaller than comparable lenses from Leica, Panasonic, et al. A 58mm filter size. A long, long throw focusing ring. A focusing ring so perfectly smooth that you might tear up just a little bit the first time you put your finger on it to move it in one direction or another. A perfect example of lenses built to work for decades. But only if you are willing to focus manually; and in the case of using it on L mount cameras an additional willingness to meter only manually or in aperture priority. 

Initial reviews by people using them on early (pre-2010) Nikon digital camera bodies mention that the lens is not so sharp wide open. That perception changed when mirrorless cameras were enhanced with the ability to "punch in" and magnify the spot being focused for greater accuracy. My take is that the lens if as sharp as any other reasonably priced 50mm high speed lens, if you have the means to make an accurate focusing technique bolstered by lots of finder magnification. (See image just above...).

Today was a poor day on which to test a lens like this one. After lunch, and before I could get downtown, the day turned windy and very overcast. The weather seemed to suck all the color out of the scenes in front of me. But that's fine. The walk itself is a reward. 

Today I put the Zeiss 50mm ZF on an adapter and onto a Leica SL2. There were no fun events downtown, no throngs of glamorous people to photograph. No parades. No vendors. Just a few folks milling around looking in shop windows and channeling their central Texas tourist energy. And beer.

I shot what I could and then returned to home base to review the results. My take? It's fun to use. Rides well on the camera. Does beautiful out of focus areas at wide apertures. Has neutral color. Gets contrasty when you glide by f5.6 and up. In short it's a treasure. And it looks serious on the front of the SL2.

Even with the F to L mount adapter it's still smaller and tidier than the big Sigma 50mm f1.4 or the Leica 50mm f2.0 Summicron SL. I can't wait to line up a model and do a photo shoot to really test out how this lens performs with skin and skin tone. 

This time around with this lens makes me feel unsettled about my short relationship with its sibling the 85mm f1.4 from Zeiss. When I had that lens live view had not yet been implemented into Nikon DSLRs and I could never hit sharp focus with that lens wide open. I also found the lens to have some focus shift so that if one focused with the aperture wide open and then stopped the lens down before shooting the plane of focus would shift in front or behind the point you assumed you focused upon. With the high hit rate of EVF cameras with built-in live view and "punch in" capability it may be that the 85mm needs an updated trial. That's certainly my feeling after having shot a couple hundred images with the 50mm. 

In the days of DSLRs with optical finders that were no where near optimized for manual focusing it was easy to just blame the lens. Once the focus becomes more fool proof there may be a long of lenses that can deliver very high quality files but fell victim to the vagaries of bad focusing screens. Sad realization. 

Now ogling the 85mm which is still available new for around $1300 or used, but nice, for around $750. 

The 50mm is enough to keep me distracted and happy for a while. It's a sweet lens and it feels just right.
Happy that it also performs quite well. 

Branches included for those who like to look for chromatic aberrations and 
purple fringing. Done at f4.0. None that I can see and I have the big files
here with me....

What a happy flare test...

luscious bokeh. Almost as edible as whipped creme. 

Not "old." But quite VINTAGE (referring to the photographer...).  Focused on the type in the lens right on the front of the lens.Seems to work fine. Tried it in color and black and white (in post). 
Seems very workable.

Nice color even in low light and with a single lighting fixture 
fitted with a crappy, non-corrected LED bulb. 

She's back!!!

Watching the big game from the sidewalk in front of the bar at the Marriott.

Austin's latest bout of never-ending construction. 
It just won't die off....


A blog post from the distant past. Just the perfect summation of Summer Swimming...


Timmie's News Alert. Mostly written to rile up my Canadian friends....

 On January 2nd I wrote a blog post expressing alarm and a sense of deprivation because of Austin not having enough good donut shops. Later I found that a campus favorite, Ken's Donuts, had permanently closed. Despair. 

But last week our local newspaper announced the intention of Tim Horton's donut chain to install not one or two but up to 40 retail locations across the Austin area over the next two years. Starting in 2023. 

I am keenly aware that TM's are not the "best" donuts on the planet but it certainly is a step in the right direction. Soon we will no longer be a "donut desert."

And, of course, since my ego knows no bounds, I am fully convinced that it was my post in the earliest days of the year that induced (or compelled) Tim Horton's to rise to the Texas challenge and bestow at least adequate donuts on a much deprived community. (Apologies to Salty Donuts.... it's a matter of scale). 

So there.