Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The 50mm Alternative

It is a well known fact that Leica lens don't come cheap, new or used.  I have been rather fortunate to get a hold of some used Leica lenses at reasonable prices.  Even then, I had to sacrifice a few precious items for them!  In the last few months that I've been shooting the M9, I've always wanted a full 3-lens kit that I can comfortably take with me anywhere.  My main problem is really the Noctilux which weighs more than half a kilogram!  It is a real nice lens but I normally don't bring anything else if I have the Noct mounted on the M9.

So, I had been keeping my eyes open for a used 50 Cron, also one of the best lens Leica makes.  These don't come cheap either, provide that one can even find (used) one in the first place.  Recently, I start looking into the Zeiss ZM Planar 50/f2.  It's priced reasonably, small, and very sharp.  After a few phone calls, browsing the internet, a week later I have the Planar in my hand.  It feels well-built and solid (but not quite as tactile as Leica's).  The focus ring seems a little slow at first, but it does loosen up after a week or two of use.  The hood, purchased separately, is identical to Voigtlander's lens hood.  It screws and locks on the silver ring around the front of the lens.

The ZM Planar travels with me on our latest family trip to Koh Samui in the south of Thailand.  Immediately on the first day, I can appreciate how light and compact it is, staying in my bag with the 35 'Lux, and an EP-L1 with 20mm/1.7.  The bag (more on that in another update) feels a little heavy but is manageable through the entire trip.  If I had replaced the EP-L1 with my D-Lux 4, it would have been lighter for sure.  So the ZM Planar passes its first test with flying color.

With the ZM Planar, I set the M9 to manual lens coding.  I shoot the ZM Planar from f2.0 through f5.6 most of the time, and rarely go beyond f5.6.  It seems (to the naked eyes) that wide open, it isn't tact sharp but it's still very good.  Stopping it down a few clicks and the images are even sharper. Below are some quick comparisons between two different aperture settings.  

ZM Planar @ f2.0

ZM Planar @ f4.0

ZM Planar @ f2.0 (Center)

ZM Planar @ f4.0 (Center)

ZM Planar @ f2.0 (Lower right corner)

ZM Planar @ f4.0 (Lower right corner)

The following are some of real world photos taken with the ZM Planar at various apertures.  This lens, given its more affordable prices and compact size, makes a great 50mm alternative for your M9.  

Some fun with Color Monochrome adjustments

Have a great week,


No comments:

Post a Comment