Today I found the time to google around the web looking for a fast lens to buy for my future Olympus m4/3 camera. So far as I know Olympus want release a very fast micro four thirds lens this summer (but I hope I am wrong). So I started my searching adventure from the very good cameraquest website. You can find almost every information over rangefinder cameras and lenses.
What exactly am I looking for?
The most important thing to know is that…
1) I have a very limited budget (less than $1.000).
2) I need a very fast lens preferrableÂ faster than 1.7.
3) I will use this lens mostly as portrait lens that’s why 28mm (keep in mind the Olympus x2 factor) would be my preferred choice. But there is no fast enough lens (only the voigtlÃ¤nder 1.9 comes close to my required limit). So I am looking for lenses between 35mm and 50mm (at this focal lenght you have the widest lens options).
The 35mm lenses
VoigtlÃ¤nder 35mm f1.2 lens (M-mount)
At 35mm you can find some fast VoigtlÃ¤nder modern lenses (Canon and Nikons counterparts are very old and difficoult to find, Leica is to expensive). There is the VoigtlÃ¤nder 35mm f1.2. It seems to be a very good lens with no weaknesses. Sean Reid reviewed the lens for Luminous landscape :”The aperture ring, beyond F/1.4 has click stops in 1/2 f/stop increments and each stop felt distinct and precise. The focus ring moved smoothly and was well weighted.” The only thing I do not like is when I compare the lens size with the size of the VoigtlÃ¤nder 35mm f1.4. WOW! This lens is available at adorama.com for $899.
VoigtlÃ¤nder 35mm f1.4 (M-mount) on a Bessa R2A
At first I thought this is THEÂ lens I need! But after reading some reviews I began to fall in troubles. It seems the tiny f1.4 lens performs not very well compared to the f1.2 lens. You can find a very good comparison at luminous landscape. For the record, there are two versions of the lens. One is single coated and one is multi-coated.What does change? Theoretically the single-coated lens should have lower-contrast and to quote Cosina’s President Mr. Kobayashi “The 40 f1.4 SC lens was produced for those who believe single coated lenses give more beautiful imagery in Black and White.” But people seems to not see any visible difference. I found a usefull review of the 35mm f1.4 lens here. You can buy the lens at amazon.com
We make a very short VoigtlÃ¤nder break and we take a look to Canon’s alternative: The Canon 35 f1.5 ! Again from luminous landscape: “In terms of absolute sharpness and contrast it isnâ€™t in the same league as the Voigtlander…“. This lens is an older one and it seems to suffer from ghosting effects when used wide open (you can read the thread inside rangefinderforum where the problem has been discussed.).
I skip the VoigtlÃ¤nder 40mm f1.4 lens which is similar sized like the 35mm f1.4 and seems to have the same performance. I preferr the 35mm focal lenght.
The battle begins, the 50mm lenses
Nikon 50mm f1.1 (for Nikon SP cameras)
The 50mm f1.1 Nikon Rangefinder Lens is probably the hugest 50mm lens ever made. I hear only good things over it but the problem is the price.
Looking for cheaper lenses the Canon 50mm f1.2 seems to be a good choice. It is a cheap lens, and like the expensive Konica 50mm lens it has a very interesting f1.2 aperture. At photo.net you can find some threads where people share their opinions. It seems most of them like the lens. So may it will be an option for me…
What really appeals me is the new NEW Super Fast VoigtlÃ¤nder 50mm f1.1 ! Incredible fast, incredible small (if compared to Konica, Canon and Nikon counterpart). It costs me exactly $1.149. This is the most interesting option I found.
In fact there are many other lenses, the old Nikon 50mm f1.5 for example. Than we have exotic lenses like Soligor ‘ITV’, Carl Meyer ‘Moviar’, Angenieux ‘Type M1’ but I believe with such a big palette of good lenses may I should go for modern lenses only.
Sonnar T* 50mm f1,5 ZM
Finally I found a very well made review at rogerandfrances.com. With this kind of reviews I can have a very good idea over the strenghts and weaknesses of the Zeiss Sonnar lens. I invite you to read the article. I find that the strenghts of the lenses far more important to me than the limits the lens has. So may this Zeiss is an option for me! The lens isn’t to expensive at ebay.
Canon megafast 50mm f0.95 lens! M-mount
May you don’t know it, Canon made a hole range of M-mount lenses. You can see the list at cameraquest. When I saw the f0.95 lens I thought I have to buy it only because of the f0.95 aperture! I found an ebay auction (it ends tomorrow) and it seems to be not sooooo expensive. The image quality seems to not be bad at all!
Coming back to VoigtlÃ¤nder I could go for the 50mm f1.5 lens. It seems to have a better image quality than the 35mm f1.4 VoigtlÃ¤nder. The only thing I do not like is the size. It is bigger than the 35mm f1.4 ! It s a really cheap lens (more or less $300),
UPDATE: Some readers gave me some more tipps. There is the Zeiss Planar 50mm f1.4 which should be sharper than the Zeiss Sonnar. Than we have the Leica D Summilux 25mm f1.4 ASPH (after a quick look the lens seems to have as only downside the bigger size compared to some of the other lens I mentioned in this article).
Frank sent us a very interesting link: http://www.outbackphoto.com/
It seems in some cases you have to be carefull using a M-mount lens on a m4/3 camera.Not every lens performs well on m4/3 sensors!
I stopped here. There are other lenses I could look for but this are my preferred options. As you have seen I skipped all the Leica lenses only because of the price. It will be a difficoult and long trip in Oceania and Asia, and I risk to loose, break or see stolen my equipment. I can’t afford to loose $2.000 on a single lens.
Summa Summarum I have some nice options, the VoigtlÃ¤nder 35mm 1.4 (tiny and cheap) the VoigtlÃ¤nder 50mm 1.1 (fast and good image quality) the Zeiss Sonnar (tiny and very good image quality). 35mm would be my preferred focal lenght the 50mm could probably be to close in some cases.
May you have experience with some of the lenses. Would be nice if you can write your opinion as comment on this article.
UPDATE: Where can you buy the lenses?
VoigtlÃ¤nder lenses are available at adorama
Zeiss lenses at adorama