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Attar a rather long(ish) hiatus due to work and family situation, I am back with a new lens comparison. Today we are going to take a look at two, very different, yet pretty exciting in their own ways, 50mm lenses - the rangefinder classic (or arcaic depending on who you ask) Canon 50/1.2 LTM and Sony\'s modern 50/1.8 OS.


Canon\'s RF lenses date back to 1950s, the golden era of rangefinders. Canon produced a total of 8 (!) different designs of the 50mm classic lens before exiting the rangefinder world in late 60s. The most notable designs include the fastest 50mm of its time 50/0.95, the pre-war Zeiss Sonnar copy 50/1.5 and the 50/1.2 - the lens people \'love to hate\'. I owned Canon LTM 50/1.2 for a brief period back in the ole film days but did not use it much and ultimately sold it along with the rest of my rangefinder gear. The popularity of this lens peaked around 70s and has been in the decline since then. These days the lens has become more of a niche play - there is a good reason for that: modern optics have far exceeded the capabilities of this glass, in pretty much every dimension. Then there\'s the obvious issue of the Internet noise - there\'s quite a large and very opinionated group of users which outright hate this lens, claiming that it is soft at wide apertures, has low contrast, produced significant glare, etc. etc. etc. All this obviously also deters the would-be users from trying out the Canon LTM - despite the niche designation (or perhaps because of it), Canon 50/1.2 has managed to retain its value over the years, with most \'decent\' quality copies selling for upwards of $600 these days. Add to that a LTM to M adapter and an M to NEX adapter (if you plan to use it on Sony NEX camera) and you\'re looking at an extra $100-$150 in expenses. Compare that to the modern Sony 50/1.8 OSS with the price of $275 - no woder that an average user would never even look twice at the Canon lens.

I picked up a copy of Canon 50/1.2 purely on a whim, not that I was thinking I\'d be using it more frequently this time around, but more because I wanted to compare it to a couple of other 50mm lenses. As I mentioned earlier, the prices for this lens are quite stable these days, so I did not expect to loose much money when I finally decided to sell it. The comparison with Sony E 50/1.8 OSS is also kind of random - I\'ve been using these two lenses side by side for a few weeks and just decided to write my observations. Ultimately though, I\'d want to compare the 50/1.2 to other rangefinder lenses, both modern and classic - if you have not done so already, take a look at the Alternative 50mm for NEX article to get an idea of what to expect down the road. 

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Today we're going to take a look at Sony's E 50/1.8 lens, one of the newest additions to the Sony NEX lens lineup, and do a quick comparison to one of the best 50mm rangefinder lenses, Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50/2 ZM. The lenses are vastly different in optical construction, build quality, features, but ultimately, both are 50mm primes and can be used on NEX cameras. With the 50mm f/1.8 OSS still being quite hard to come by because of various manufacturing delays that plagued Sony for a few months after the major flood in Thailand, as well as because of the unexpected demand for this lens, users have been resorting to exploring various alternative 50mm lenses. We recently did a couple of such reviews with 8 different rangefinder 50mm lenses (see Alternative 50mm Lenses for NEX), including Zeiss Planar 50/2 ZM. With the final part of that review coming up next week, we will include Sony's 50/1.8 OSS into the group to give you a better idea where the Sony's lens stack up against much more fancy glass. Another comparison but against SLR 50mm lenses will be coming up in mid to late May. But in the meantime, this of this quick test as a preview of things to come. And without dragging things any further, here're our test conditions:

  • NEX-7 with v1.0 firmware
  • Manual, bracked focusing
  • RAW with Adobe RGB color space
  • 3m focusing distance
  • ISO 400, WB set to Tungsten (2,500K, Tint: 0)
  • Adobe ACR with default settings: Blacks +5; Brightness: +50; Contrast +25


Tagged in: nex-7 sony zeiss
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A new day and a new quick test. This time around we're gonna take a look at the UWA lenses for the NEX system. Sony E 16/2.8 was one of the first lenses introduced along the NEX cameras and so far is the widest lens available for the E mount. SLR Magic announced that it will start manufacturing its HyperPrime 12mm f/1.8 lens for the NEX camera, but so far it has been just waporware and the lens is not available anywhere in the world. Sigma's 19/2.8 EX DN is the only other wide angle lens for the NEX cameras and marks Sigma's official entrance into the race. We recently saw how well Sigma's other NEX lens, the 30/2.8 EX DN performed against its Sony competitor, the E 30/3.5 Macro, so obviously there is a tremendous interest in the 19mm lens as well. Can Sigma deliver better performance at a better cost again?

Before we begin, and before you flood us with thousands of messages, let's be clear that this is not really an apples to apples comparison - you can't compare a 16mm lens to a 19mm lens. Well, you can - that's what we're doing here obviously, but the comparison is biased in a couple of ways. Firstly, a 16mm lens is wider and hence at the same focusing distance will have different EFOV and different DOF. To solve the EFOV problem, we used a larger target with the 16mm lens, which placed the measurement areas roughly into the same place as with the 19mm lens. But only roughly - we can say that we measured MTF50 in the corners for both lenses, but the points of measurement were different between the two lenses - the variance of 10% in true distance from the image center to the corner points of measurement between the two lenses is quite probable. We can't obviously do anything about the DOF difference, so we just ignored this issue. Secondly, we can't really do anything about the variance in optical characteristics of lenses that can arise due to the difference in the true FL - for example we can't compensate for distortion to measure true resolution, so again, we simply ignore this. But not everything in this test has as much variance - vignetting and lateral CA measurements are, for example, more comparable than say raw MTF50.

So why are we doing this comparison, knowing all in advance that this is an apples to oranges comparison? Curiosity, which as they say, 'killed the cat' (please note that no cats or other animals were actually used or hurt in this test). More importantly, this test can give the foundation for intuitive guesses that many practitioners have been expressing in online forums - after all, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's most likely going to be a duck. And so with that...

Tagged in: nex-7 sigma sony
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Today we're gonna do a quick comparison of Sony'e E 30/3.5 Macro lens against the new kid on the NEX block, Sigma's 30/2.8 EX DN lens. Sigma has just released two dedicated primes for the NEX systems (also available for the m43 platform) and based on the initial feedback from the user community, the new 30/2.8 EX DN is quite a performer. But really, how good of a performer? Let's check it out...

But first thing first. The two lenses are really targeting different segments of users - Sony's lens is a 1:1 macro while Sigma's lens, well, it's just a general purpose lens. If you're even remotely interested in macro photography, this comparison is useless to you - just go get Sony's lens. On the other hand, if you were considering getting Sony as a general purpose prime (given it's EFOV of 45mm, you get a normal-ish lens), than read on - you're the primary target for this review.

Even before we compare the actual resolution, vignetting etc. numbers, Sigma already holds an advantage over Sony - it's cheaper, lighter, smaller and faster. Sony sports slightly better build quality with aluminium barrel, but Sigma's barrel is just  fine as well - I managed to bump the lens a couple of times and it does not show any damage. It's not clear how well either of the lenses would survive a fall from say 3 feet, but whatever - few lenses would survive such a fall anyway.

Tagged in: nex-7 sigma sony
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Weather has been somewhat unpredictable lately here In San Jose, so when the clouds finally cleared up on Sunday, I grabbed my bag of photo gear and finish a couple of long-delayed tests. Last week I run through a quick comparison of 50mm rangefinder lenses on Sony NEX-5n and I wanted to finish testing this setup before moving on to something new.  This time around I used Sony NEX-7, but also changed focusing distance, moving closer to the MFD for all lenses - this is where I'm hoping we will see the most difference among all lenses. As in the previous section, this part of the review focuses on bokeh, DOF and color rendering, not resolution or various artifacts like vignetting. I did not use focus bracketing and did not refocus lenses when moving from one aperture to another - this would put lenses that have focus shift (i.e. Sonnar, Nokton, Jupiter...) at a disadvantage, and hence I would not recommend using the samples below for evaluating lens sharpness. In part 3 of this review I will do a bit more comprehensive test for resolution, lateral CA and vignetting. Again, no commentaries - figure out what you like on your own or wait for part 3 if you're curious to know which lens(es) I liked personally.

In the meantime, here's a summary of the shooting conditions:

  • Sony NEX-7 with v1 of firmware
  • WB set to Daylight (5,500K, +10 tint)
  • RAW, Adobe RGB space
  • ACR with default settings: Blacks +5; Brightness +50, Contrast +25
  • JPEG max quality
  • 1.5m focusing distance
  • 2 shots per lens - max aperture, and stopped down to f/4


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