30-year-old manual lens impressive on the R5

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xtam667 Forum Member • Posts: 66
30-year-old manual lens impressive on the R5

Bought a Zeiss Planar 2/45 for Contax G out of curiosity after reading that it was touted in the early 90's as the sharpest lens for 35mm film so far. This is it with the RF mount adapter:

Small and beautiful

After trying a few other "very sharp" vintage lenses from the 70's I had no big expectations. I just was after a nice classic Zeiss rendering. I was prepared to put up with some corner smearing, colour shifts and vignetting associated with short rangefinder lenses on modern digital bodies.

Well, this petite lens packs a big punch on the R5. It is very sharp  in the center at f2. One can see pronounced vignetting, mild softness at mid-frame and bad corners. Bokeh is  below average. However, clarity and contrast is very good already, except in the corners.  At f2,8 most of the softness is gone and by f4 things are beautiful overall. At f5,6 and f8 this lens is extremely good across the frame. I tend to pixel peep but at these apertures I see no flaw whatsoever worth mentioning. There is some flaring and minimal CA if you really want that to happen but contrast holds up very well.

Almost all prime lenses are sharp at f5.6 so this is nothing special in itself. But not many are bitingly sharp in the center wide open with a gracious fall-off and few are so consistently very sharp across the frame at smaller apertures. Even fewer have the nice contrast, clarity, colour rendering, and out of focus transitions that this lens can produce. Yes, this is subjective and you can always tweak in post to a degree.

Modern lenses that are better cost more and are huge by comparison. Those comparable in size cost 12 times more while not really that much better and do not play nice on digital except their own brand (looking at you Leica).

This is how it compares to the smallest Canon lens, both adapted to the RF mount:

Smaller and much better built

By the way, the little Canon 40/2,8 is a steal and I really like it. I used to put it on the 1DX for fun point-and-shoot. People literally ignored me.  A big lens on a smaller camera attracted much more attention. Apparently, perceived professionalism is a factor of lens size and not camera size, but I digress.

And now the bad news. First, this thing has no focusing ring! Contax G cameras are weird  autofocus only rangefinders. A motor in the body drives the lens focusing mechanism through a small and not very confidence-inducing screw. There are a few adapters that can be used, all bad when it comes to focusing experience. Forget smooth.

Second, the bokeh is really not that good. The hexagon-shaped iris surely does not help.

Third, although the lens has electric contacts and can report focal length and probably aperture too, the adapters ignore all that. So no lens EXIF data, which is OK for a lens that does not know anything about itself, but this one is at least halfway to self-awareness

Finally, two casual shots processed to taste in LR without any lens corrections.  Sharpening 100, radius 0.5, detail 37. Keep in mind that this is a $350 lens. What do you think?

Planar 2/45 at f8

Planar 2/45 at f2.8

Canon EOS R5
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