Sonntag, 5. April 2009

Feelings about a Lens (21 mm f/1.4)


Lux21mm14, originally uploaded by topfloor.

A Flickr user JJSmartman asked me to share some words about this lens after seeing this picture I shot Pipes

This lens (pictured here on the blog) was the reason to move into Rangefinder cameras. In Hamburg, I had the chance to rent a digital Rangefinder and this lens for a day and a night. Walking the streets, bridges and tunnels of the city, taking some hundred shots and reviewing them in LR2, I was very pleased with the results.

Besides the known differences between DSLRs and Rangefinders (such as size, formfactor, shutternoise etc.) that I do not want to discuss here, the this lens is really special. While I am not qualified to do a technical review of this lens, I want to share some impressions and feelings I experienced when using it.

I own this lens for about 3 weeks now and used it in some bigger cities (Hamburg, Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Mannheim) in Germany and for a industrial / architectural shoot in a modern medical industry complex in the northern part of my home state Hessen.

Weight / Size: This lens is - for a rangefinder lens - big and heavy (580 gramms and about 770 mm long). Compared to my DSLRs lenses (14-24 mm f/2.8 or the Sigma 50 mm f/1.4) it is pretty small and defintely not heavy, for me a clear plus of the rangefinder system as I enjoy to have high performance lenses at my hand that weigh less and are comparabily small.

Manual focus: This lens has manual focus (as has the whole Leica M - System), no problem for me as long as the subject does not move too fast. Either I choose hyperfocal settings of was often able to hit the focus point well.

Max. Aperture: This lens is a f/1.4 lens, giving me a shallow depth of field when sot open. This, combined with the 21 mm focal length (wide lens, even on the 1.33 crop factor digital body), makes this lens unique. I was drawn to this lens because of the outstanding combo of wide angle (though not superwide) and limited DoF. Looking for interesting foregrounds and combine them with the limited DoF is great fun and to my knowledge can not be achieved with any other 35 mm - camera-/lenscombo in this wideangle area.

Optical quality: The lens is capable to capture sharp contrasty pictures as long as the photographer (me) does not shake the camera and is able to hit the focus point :-) - the abilities of the lens succeed mine. Of course, the lens is not free from vignetting etc., things that can't be avoided when shooting wide and wide open - but only slightly showing in the pics. I was only able to spot optical effects when scanning the 75 - 100 % zoomed picture on my monitor.

Build quality: This lens is made as lenses should be made - fine metal, smooth moving rings and a superb feeling when placed in my hand. Far superior to most modern DSLR lenses that have a lot of plastic inside and outside.

Conclusion: This lens is really fun and I enjoy shooting it immensly. The emotional factor outweighs other issues of this lens for me. Although I do not really need this lens (as my DSLR system is well stocked with beautiful lenses and bodies) for my shooting, i enjoy the Rangefinder Streetphotography thing very much. Besides this lens, I enjoy the 15 mm f/4.5 Voigtländer and the 40 mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic Voigtländer lens. I shoot film and a 1.33 plus a 1.5 crop factor body with these lenses, mainly cities / on the streets and in buildings.

I can recommend ths lens if you enjoy the same style of shooting as I do and do not mind the price tag that comes along with this lens. But I advise shooters that are making up their mind to buy this piece of glass to try this lens for a day or two first and to check the results. If you like them, the lens is probably right for you if you can afford it.

1 Kommentar:

Ole Begemann hat gesagt…

Thanks for this informative post.

"combo of wide angle ... and limited DoF ... to my knowledge can not be achieved with any other 35 mm - camera-/lenscombo in this wideangle area."

The excellent Canon 24L f/1.4 comes close, especially considering the Leica crop factor when shooting digital.