Friday, May 29, 2020

My Digitals

135/2 Apo Sonnar T*

The Modern Zeiss Sonnar


135/2 Apo Sonnar  135mm f2 T*  ZF.2




135f2 vs 650

Contax 135/2.8 Sonnar, ZF.2 135/2 Apo Sonnar, Contax 135/2 Planar.




horse 650 2

 Alpha 7R, f2.8 1/500, ISO 100, 17 March 2016


One of the issues I face using tele-photo with digital sensor is CA and colour fringing for some of the shooting conditions. Even my favourite Contax 100/2.8 Makro Planar also suffers from the same issues. However, with this Apo Sonnar the CA issues are almost not noticable (actually to date I have not detected any on my photos). 135mm is my favourite long focal length for hand held photography. This Apo Sonnar is also of very high resolution close to the Otus series of lenses. With this lens, together with the Otus 28/1.4 and 55/1.4, one can have a good working range of focal length with Apo design. This lens also has very close focusing distance of 0.8m, much closer than the rest of my 135mm lenses from Prakticar, Rollei and Contax.


apo135 550



buddha 650 

 Alpha 7R, f2.8 1/125-1/250, ISO 1000, Manfrotto 190XPROB/054Mg, 16 April 2016




fruits changi650 

 Alpha 7R2, f4 1/125, ISO 200, Manfrotto 190XPROB/054Mg, 14 Jan 2017.





Alpha 7R2, f2.8/4 1/125, ISO 1000, Manfrotto 190XPROB/054Mg, 14 Aug 2016.


A7R2, f2.8/4 1/60, ISO 400, MT190CXPRO3/BHQ2, 11 Nov 2018


福海禅寺  A7R2, f4 1/13, ISO 100, 190B/410Gear, 30 July 2017.



Woodlands Bus Interchange, A7R2, f5.6 1/125, ISO 500, 30 Mar 2018. 

Otus 28/1.4 Apo Distagon T*

The Otus Wide Angle


Japanese Garden, Alpha 7R2, f5.6 1/250-1/500, ISO 100, 8 Jan2017 


My journey with Zeiss Otus started after the Sony Alpha 7R. The good feelings with the Otus 55/1.4 is overwhelming. Almost no CA even under extreme shooting condition, very high dynamic range, and very high resolution that is visibily noticeable. No doubt about it Otus range of lenses are the best money can buy. Also all being manufacture in Japan, that made the price more 'affordable' or else if made in Germany the price will easily doubles into that of the Leica range.


My photography journey dated back probably 1980s with my East German Praktica BC1 and a set of 28/2.8, 50/1.8 and 135/2.8 Prakticar lenses which certainly are very good value for money.


 Pentacon 135/2.8, BC1, Pentacon 50/1.8, Pentacon 28/2.8.



Over the years I bought more and more lenses, and later went into Rolleiflex 35mm system, followed by Contax 35mm CY mount system. For many years I was still in the film community, until Sony launched the more affordable Alpha 7 series of full frame digital camera. While all my lenses other than the Leica M mount range finder wide angle lenses ( that was really a big disappointment) can be used happily on the A7R, the very demanding digital sensor does expose some of the weaknesses of film age lenses on the ditital sensors. But actually in my opinion Zeiss really made very good optics, that even these old optics designed in the film age actually can be used with very good results on modern digital cameras. Of course the newly designed optics by Zeiss that are optimised for digital sensors are even better, with most of them better flatness of field, higher resolution, and better CA control. The Otus range presents the perfect designs that can be used on demanding full frame high resolution digital sensors. The engineering compromises for the Otus are only weight, size and manual focus. The other one of course is the price. And after so many years I am back to the same start point, if I may say, that now my photography system has gone back to the basic:  Alpha 7R Mk II, Otus 28/1.4 Apo Distagon, Otus 55/1.4 Apo Distagon, and ZF.2 135/2 Apo Sonnar.



Otus 55/1.4, Alpha 7R2, 135/2 Apo Sonnar, Otus 28/1.4. 


Well, with this set up I get the best image quality you possibily can get, very high resolution and almost no CA. The Otus are very sharp and high resolution even at f1.4, the first time I have so high confident taking photos at aperture of f1.4. Of course the sharpness performance also very much enhanced by modern mirrorless camera with the focus magnifier where photographers can now do very accurate focusing at enlarged view finder images. Of course there is this Otus 85/1.4, but luckily I am not a fan of 85mm focal length so I got to save some money. Instead I go back to my fabvourite focal lenth 135mm and thus the Apo Sonnar. Same as the Otus the Apo Sonnar is very sharp and high resolution at the widest aperture f2. And again CA is almost not visible for this tele-photo design. So in terms of optical performance many critics put the 135/2 Apo Sonnar into the league of Otus series, and I myself fully agree that this lens deserves it.



So back to the 28/1.4 Otus Apo Distagon T*, it can be used as of course a standard 28mm wide angle lens, and now you get very good CA control and very high resolution images right to the corners. With f1.4 of course for those who like to play with narrow depth of field this lens opens up new possibilities with very good image quality.


 Pulau Ubin Chek Jawa, Alpha 7R, f4/5.6 1/125, ISO 400, 23 May 2016


Crop of the centre of the above photo.



Chek Java Pulau Ubin, A7R, 1/125, ISO 80, 23 May 2016.




Changi Point Jetty, A7R, 1/250, ISO 125, 23 May 2016.

Otus 55/1.4 Apo Distagon

Lens of the Century


Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 APO Distagon T*   55 f1.4   1.4/55   55mm







otus planar650






It is no doubt the Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 APO Distagon is the lens of the century, at least for now. Never before, has Zeiss removes the restriction of size and other optical design considerations for the design team of Otus, and deploys one ashperical lens element, 6 lens elements of special glass with anomalous partial dispersion and a complicated optical formula of 12  lens elements in 10 groups for a lens of standard focal length. The end product is a gigantic and beefy modern looking standard lens of Distagon design, a lens with an optical performance that is a class of its own, very well corrected for optically, and with a resolving power that can over match the latest 36 megapix full frame sensors!



As for price, I still believe Zeiss puts some consideration on the final cost of the lens. Although no where consider cheap, but with the type of optical performance, Zeiss still cap the price of this lens to a reasonable level (compared to Leica for example) and for obvious reason the lens is made in Japan rather than Germany to keep the price to an affordable level at least for the professionals.





otus lens elements2 400 otus lens elements description250




As a result of the elaborate design, the distortion is kept to very low.






distorsion2 350





The MTF is very impressive, supercedes all the Zeiss super stars like Makro-Planar 100/2.8, Planar 100/2, Planar 85/1.2, Planar 55/1.2 and Superachromat 300/2.8. The 40 cycles/mm line at f1.4 is already exceeding 60% almost across the field. Stopped down to f4 will further improve the performance but at f1.4 the MTF is already very impressive and setting new standards in lens design. Zeiss has been very stingy in crowning their lenses with APO designation. The previous few are Tele-ApoTessar 300/2.8, ApoSonnar 200/2, ApoSonnar 135/2, Apo-Makro-Planar 120/4 and etc. All of these APOs come with killer performance. Now the APO goes with 55mm focal length, we can expect killer performance from the latest Zeiss flagship.





 mtf 1p4 350  mtf f4 350




The size of Otus 55/1.4 is rediculously huge, with a filter diameter of 77mm and a weight close to 1kg. It dwarfs the Rollei QBM 50/1.4 Planar, which is probably the smallest 50/1.4 Zeiss has made in the history with a filter size of only 49mm. But to me despite the weight and size, the lens is very comfortable to hold and use on a SONY Alpha 7R with vertical grip. But I have to admit the lens is heavy to carry around in the camera bag, but certainly not so when in use.






otus planar sl35se650


Otus 55/1.4 with Voigtlander Nikon F to Sony E adaptor.

On the right is Rollei HFT 50/1.4 Planar with Heliopan metal hood and Rolleiflex SL35E SLR.






The lens optical formula is a Distagon wide angle design to allow more possibilities of optical corrections as compared to the well proven and copied Planar design which more or less has reached the limit of technical possibilities. Focusing throw is very large and smooth, which allows very accurate focusing at f1.4 coupled with full frame mirrorless focusing magnifier function. For this lens Zeiss has moved away from the conventional complete lens group focusing method and using internal focusing. The focusing grip is an adequate ring somewhere in the middle of the lens, and the rest of the lens are just not moving while focusing is done. 





apo distagon300      infinity300





The lens comes with a lens cap of design following the present trend. The lens hood provided is felted. I was considering using a CONTAX 86-77 adaptor ring and a hood 4 for the lens. But I finally settle with the orignal hood. The orignal hood looks plastic to me on photos, but the actual hood is actually made of solid metal and fits nicely to the lens and feel nicely holding it so I forget about the CONTAX metal hood.





otus55 loc300    zeiss logo300





Optical perfrmance of the lens in real life is of very high resolution and very sharp, even at f1.4. And I would say the Otus 55/1.4 is designed to be used at f1.4. The centre sharpness at f1.4 is incredible, and the high resolution allows you to do very large magnification. I tested the lens hand held but with a minimum shutter speed of 1/125. And with the high resolution of the lens at 1/125 hand held I can comfortably take sharply focused photos with Alpha 7R focus magnifier. I remember in those film days where I first encountered the very fine grain Kodak Ektar 25, I do get pictures that were not sharp due to low shutter speed as a result of the high resolution of the negatives.






Alpha 7R, f1.4 1/125 ISO 250





Below is an example of very good centre sharpness and resolution at f1.4, and at the same time well corrected at the edges of the photo.


Alpha 7R, f1.4 1/125 ISO 500.









Depth of field is of course narrow at f1.4. But a half body portrait with the subject facing fairly direct to the camera both eyes can be adequately sharp like the shot below.



Alpha 7R, f1.4 1/125 ISO 500.





Some other shots taking at f1.4.


Alpha 7R, f1.4 1/500-1/1000 ISO 100.




Alpha 7R, f1.4 1/500-1/1000 ISO 100.



 red lattern650

Alpha 7R - f1.4 1/250 - ISO 320 - 27 June 2014.





As for macro close up shots, it is really very difficult to take at f1.4 at hand held condition. So I settled with f2.8 for the shot below.


Alpha 7R, f2.8 1/80 ISO 100, Manfrotto monopod 134B/234RC.







 The Star Vista Singapore, Alpha 7R2, f2 1/125, ISO 400, 6 Aug 2016.


Alpha 7R - f4 1/500 - ISO 100 - Manfrotto 190XPROB/410  Gear - 28 Nov 2015



Alpha 7R - f2.8 1/15 - ISO 100 - Manfrotto 190B/410  Gear - 25 Oct 2015 


Sony Alpha 7R

My Digital Era …….. SONY Alpha 7R



a7r 650


Sony Alpha 7R, with vertical grip, and the not so compatible ZM 15/2.8 Distagon T*

(Shot by Pentax DL, CY 100/2.8 Makro-Planar T*)


Never really in this stage of my life (LOL, at age 49) I will believe myself converting to digital photography. Had been a hard core film photographer for a long long time, since around 1985/1986. A few reasons I stayed with film, specifically Kodak negatives:  those equipment I used were all very dead ( Praktica, Rolleiflex, Contax ) and none of them were able to come up with a digital body. Yes Contax did have a Contax N1 full frame digital, but used a different lens mount. And also somehow I wanted a full frame digital. I do not really have a very valid reason why a full frame is a must, and I have seen enough fantastic photos from non-full frame cameras. Anyway, in December 2013, SONY launched the Alpha 7R, a full frame 36 MP digital mirrorless body, and by instinct I told myself this is the digital camera I wanted, and I placed a deposit and pre-ordered the Alpha 7R and there it goes, I am into digital photography!


I am probably using Alpha 7R in not really the way it was designed for, in a way  : ). Before I collected the body, I ordered a few adaptors:  Praktica to SONY E mount, Rollei QBM to E mount, Contax CY to E mount, Leica M to E mount, and Nikon F to E mount (no Nikon mount lenses I have at the moment, but wating for the ZF.2 Zeiss Otus). All of a sudden, I have a full frame digital body that is usable with all my Zeiss lenses, and in full frame mode!



Alpha 7R is using EVF electronic view finder. So every composition I see clearly the final effect in the correct exposure. There is no need to fully open and stop down the lens aperture like the conventional way of using manual lenses with lens adaptors. Interestingly my photos have been sharper than before, thanks to the SONY mirrorless focus magnifier, where a selected small portion of the composition can be enlarged for critical focusing.

There are actually two manual focusing aids provided by Alpha 7R: one is peak focusing indication, and one is focus magnifier. For peak focusing, areas in sharp focus will be indicated by some kind of shaded colour. However after using for a while I find this method not very full proof especially for wide angle lenses, and thus I stick to focus magnifier all the time now. The only other accessory I used with the Alpha 7R is the grip which I feel makes the camera much comfortable to hold, especially with heavier lenses.

The biggest disappointment I have with the Alpha 7R is that for Leica M mount lenses with focal length less than 35mm they are not totally usable with the 7R full frame sensor. For some photographic situations the corners suffer from obvious vignetting, colour shift and loss of image resolution. But some time it is a hit and miss thing where in certain situation the lens produces images that are very usable, like this one shooting using the ZM 25/2.8 Biogon below:


 P Ubin Singapore, f5.6 1/125 ZM 25/2.8 Biogon T*, ISO 100, 1 Dec 2013.


This is another shot using the ZM 28/2.8 Biogon at a toy stall in a rest point along Malaysia KL north-south highway. The photograph is usable with very good centre details.



 f4 1/125 ZM 28/2.8 Biogon T*, ISO 400, 10 Dec 2013.



The ZM 15/2.8 Distagon, despite a Distagon design, the rear of the lens is still too close to the full frame digital sensor and thus the corner light rays attack angle is still too steep. However, in certain situation the photographs taken were totally usable, like the shop display below. In fact a close up examination of the lights at the corners there are little colour fringing and image issues.


f4 1/60 ZM 15/2.8 Distagon T*, ISO 800, 24 Dec 2013.


The ZM 50/2 Planar and the 85/2 Sonnar work perfectly well with the Alpha 7R. High resolution apparent, nice bokeh. The 85 Sonnar is kind of special. The photos taken on film already different from the rests of the Zeiss, and with a very high resolution it is well suited for the 36 MP Alpha 7R.



f2/2.8 1/125 ZM 50/2 Planar T*, ISO 800, 1 Dec 2013

Zeiss always shines under low light condition  : )



P Ubin Singapore, f2.8 1/500-1/1000 ZM 85/2 Sonnar T*, ISO 100, 1 Dec 2013. 






Using medium and long tele lenses on Alpha 7R is really an enjoyment. I am getting much sharper pictures than before, partly thanks to the wonderful focus magnifier with mirrorless camera, and partly my deteriorating eye sight that cannot focus that well with optical finder anymore. I used a very old Schneider Tele-Xenar 135/3.5 taking a statue at Malaysia Batu Cave below.

 f4/5.6 1/500 135/3.5 Tele-Xenar, ISO 100, Manfrotto 190B/410 Gear, 12 Dec 2013.

Old lens with a new life ........


A few shots with Zeiss Contax 300 f4 Tele-Tessar. I have never taken such well focused shots with this lens before, partly also thanks to the easily adjustable ISO setting with digital camera that I can now use higher shutter speed as far as possible.

River Safari Singapore, f4 1/500 300/4 Tele-Tessar T*, ISO 100,

Manfrotto 190XPROB/410 Gear, 25 Feb 2014.


 Singaore Zoo, f4 1/250 300/4 Tele-Tessar T*,

ISO 400, Manfrotto 190XPROB/410 Gear, 23 Mar 2014.


I jumped into Contax system with the reason wanting to try out Zeiss zooms. But after a while I go back to primes and not really working a lot with the zoom lenses. But I was quite please with the recent results with the Zeiss 80-200 f4 Vario-Sonnar tele zoom at the zoo of Singapore. Below is a shot of an iguana and I am impress with the high resolution apparent of the lens.


Singapore Zoo, f4 1/125-1/250 80-200/4 Vario Sonnar T*, Manfrotto 190B/410 Gear, 30 Dec 2013. 



For the first time I am able to take some photos with the 180 f2.8 Sonnar at the night safari of Singapore with very high ISO setting at 6400. Direct JPG, noise is visible but no choice for such shooting condition.

Night Safari Singapore, f2.8 1/60 180/2.8 Sonnar T*, ISO 6400, 22 Dec 2013. 




I am a lazy photographer where post-processing is never my cup of tea. I am very please with the Alpha 7R in-camera JPG outputs. Like the one below shooting with ZM 21/2.8 Biogon T*, not only the photo is usable despite it is a M mount super wide angle, the photo attached here is pushed by one stop due to the original one being under-exposed. And I did the exposure adjustment on the original JPG file, not the RAW file. 


 Bubble Shrimp Restaurant, f4 1/60 ZM 21/2.8 Biogon T*, ISO 1600, 12 Dec 2013.




Now I am waiting for an expensive and heavy Zeiss 55/1.4 Otus. But at present this lens is out of stock, despite its high price. Hope the lens can create some magic and sparks with the Alpha 7R.





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