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DPChallenge Forums >> Hardware and Software >> Lesser-known lens gems?
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08/05/2015 03:18:04 PM · #1
Ok, I just saw a Canon 85mm 1.2, salivated, missed my mid-range primes (I've owned an 85 1.8 and a 50 1.4, one sold, one dropped), did some reading, and I discovered the Rokinon 85mm 1.4 for $239.

I asked myself, "Self, how did you not know about this lens?!" It was an insta-buy! I know it's all manual, but reviews are decent and the price for this speed is fantastic! A portrait / still-life lover's dream come true? But curiously, not many dpc owners.

This makes me wonder -- what other lesser-known, reasonably-priced lens gems are out there? Used? Adapted? Niche? What'cha got and what's it best at?
08/05/2015 04:09:58 PM · #2
Definitely get yourself the "Super Precision" focus screen. Focusing an 85mm lens @ f/1.4 manually is a real challenge! I use and love my Zeiss 75/1.5 Biotar, and I do have the super precision screen in my 6D, it makes a world of difference.
08/05/2015 05:35:09 PM · #3
Thanks for the tip!
08/05/2015 06:21:20 PM · #4
I absolutely love my Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8. Under 200 bucks, and plenty of bang for the buck.
08/05/2015 07:28:49 PM · #5
I love my Leica 90mm Summicron f/2 version 2 from 1962. It's a pretty heavy chrome lens for a rangefinder lens but isn't that cumbersome on my Sony A7. I picked it up for £250 because it's got a tiny spot on the front element but that doesn't effect the image at all. I've also got a more recent Leica 75mm but i have hardly used that since i got the 90mmm even though it's probably sharper and a 'technically' better lens. The 90mm has such a beautiful, soft but sharp and kind of buttery rendition to it - at f2 it turns portraits into a painterly image in a way i've never come across before. Here is an example of what i mean.

Message edited by author 2015-08-05 19:32:35.
08/05/2015 07:50:10 PM · #6
You have to spend a lot of time with manual focus lenses to get the best from them and to learn how each particular lens works. It can take a bit of time before you become 'as one' with a lens and get all kung fu with it. I live near a forest and the first thing i do with a new lens is spend hours upon hours walking round and focusing on trees to get an idea of focal distance etc so it comes very naturally. It's good to get all Clint Eastwood with a new lens. Keep in in hand constantly even if you're not really photographing anything. Sleep with it under your pillow.
08/05/2015 08:25:27 PM · #7
Smurf, do you have that Rokinon in hand?
08/05/2015 08:41:40 PM · #8
here's my best lens, period: Pentax SMC Pentax-M 50mm 1/1.4 Asahi. (about 90 Canadian, used).
no auto anything.

here's my next best, fun to use: Pentax Takumar 135mm f2.5. (about 50 Canadian, used).
no auto anything. There are other similar ones, some with auto exposure, and sharper, but there is a sleepy side to this one.

unequalled challenge and reward.
08/05/2015 09:52:55 PM · #9
Originally posted by skewsme:

Smurf, do you have that Rokinon in hand?

Not yet, but it arrives tomorrow!

Clive - thanks for the advice, I'll definitely take a walk with it (and may even sleep with it under the pillow.) =D I totally know that painterly look, definitely hoping for some of that! In fact, I just posted in another forum "the background looks like a painting." I've heard that the mirrorless systems benefit from adapters to almost any system - I assume that's the case here?

Kyle - yeah, the 50mm's are certainly great! Hey you're in Westminster? I'm in Arvada. =)

Timothy - Nice! What subjects or conditions do you find yourself most photographing with the 50mm and 135mm respectively?

Message edited by author 2015-08-05 22:19:59.
08/05/2015 10:03:36 PM · #10
Oh, and Clive, did you switch from an SLR system? I'm intrigued. I don't carry my SLR everywhere, for sure, and don't think I'd mind an EVF or LCD. I've read that focus speed suffers a little (but I suppose with manual lenses it doesn't matter...) P.S. your portraiture section is quite lovely.
08/05/2015 10:49:01 PM · #11
if you look at the equipment/lens for them you will get an idea. I like the 135 for portraits when I can find the victims - and then the focusing and exposure are socially as well as technically challenging.
08/06/2015 07:59:21 AM · #12
Originally posted by smurfguy:

P.S. your portraiture section is quite lovely.


Thanks Jeff. All those are taken with the Leica 90mm actually. All from one wedding a couple of weeks ago. Lots of very photogenic kids there and i thought they made a nice black and white set.

Originally posted by smurfguy:

I've heard that the mirrorless systems benefit from adapters to almost any system - I assume that's the case here?


Yes, very much so. Using an adaptor allows you you use pretty much any lens on them although the Sony's struggle with many Leica M mount lenses wider than 35mm. You need to do a lot of research to find the ones that work well without colour smearing and smudging at the edge of the frame. No problem at all with adapted SLR lenses on them though so i've taken to using Nikon mount lenses for my wide angles. The adaptor adds some size for them though.

Originally posted by smurfguy:

Oh, and Clive, did you switch from an SLR system? I'm intrigued. I don't carry my SLR everywhere, for sure, and don't think I'd mind an EVF or LCD. I've read that focus speed suffers a little (but I suppose with manual lenses it doesn't matter...)


Yea, i did. The first couple of years i was doing wedding photography i used two Nikon d700's (and a D300 as back up) with prime Nikon lenses - a 24mm f1.4 and an 85mm f1.4. but i quickly found that for the way i work - long 12 hour plus days using both cameras at the same time - it was putting a strain on my back. I've never had a bad back but i could tell that i might develop one if i carried on working like that long term.

So i looked around for a lighter alternative. Last year i used two Fuji X-Pro-1's with the 23mm 1.4 and the 56mm 1.2 (with an xe1 as back up) and that really solved the problem weight-wise. The Fuji X system is fantastic and i loved many things about the cameras and the lenses but after about 25 weddings last year with them i wasn't totally happy. I found that the auto-focus wasn't as good as what i wanted but also the manual focus wasn't quite there either. I think the more recent Fuji's are much better in both regards but at the time i read a lot about the Sony's and their focus peaking etc i also quite liked the idea of having full frame again.

So this year i took the plunge and went with an all adapted, manual focus lens kit and i'm very pleased so far after 14 weddings. I use two Sony A7's (with a surprisingly good RX10 as back up for the moment) and a range of lenses - Voightlander 20mm f3.5 (nikon mount) - Zeiss 25mm f2.8 (nikon mount) - Zeiss 50mm f1.5 - Leica 75mm f2.5 - Leica 90mm f2 - and i've almost got the system as i want it. I'll typically choose a lens pairing for each part of the wedding - 28/50 or 50/90 - or 25/75 etc - although i don't really like changing lenses much during a day so i might get get another Sony as third camera/back up and have a three camera/lens kit for the day - 25/50/90 or something. Like i said above - it takes a while to get used to each lens to manual focus but i've found that once you are quick enough then weddings are doable with them. I much prefer working that way anyway and i love the look the Zeiss and Leica lenses give which suits the documentary/portraiture approach i take.

Message edited by author 2015-08-06 08:12:23.
08/06/2015 08:58:14 AM · #13
Originally posted by kirbic:

I do have the super precision screen in my 6D, it makes a world of difference.


question, how does this work with focusing a wider manual lens? also i read reviews that you need to use lens 2.8 or wider because of a darkened viewfinder. does this interfere with 2.8 sensitive cross type AF when i'm not using manual lens and i want to use AF?
08/06/2015 09:38:02 AM · #14
Originally posted by Mike:

Originally posted by kirbic:

I do have the super precision screen in my 6D, it makes a world of difference.


question, how does this work with focusing a wider manual lens? also i read reviews that you need to use lens 2.8 or wider because of a darkened viewfinder. does this interfere with 2.8 sensitive cross type AF when i'm not using manual lens and i want to use AF?


Nope. The AF system is not in the same optical path as the viewfinder, so it is not affected by the viewfinder screen installed.
08/06/2015 09:50:24 AM · #15
where does the screen get installed? in the view finder?
08/06/2015 10:22:02 AM · #16
I'll tell you what this is the sweetest lens I have...it's my go to for all things close. It's totally manual but the pictures are amazing!!! I only paid $135 for it.

08/06/2015 10:36:57 AM · #17
Originally posted by Mike:

where does the screen get installed? in the view finder?


Yes. It replaces the normal screen. The new screen comes with a tool and instructions for changing the screen.
08/06/2015 10:41:27 AM · #18
thanks, i've been looking into getting some manual lenses just for fun. what are the best places to research and buy them?
08/06/2015 10:43:15 AM · #19
Originally posted by Ja-9:

I'll tell you what this is the sweetest lens I have...it's my go to for all things close. It's totally manual but the pictures are amazing!!! I only paid $135 for it.


Nice! There are some really great old macro-or near-macro lenses about. I used to have the old Nikon 55mm f/3.5 ai which was a lovely cheap leans. You're often better off without auto-focus for macro photography anyway.
08/06/2015 10:55:26 AM · #20
This guy: http://www.dpchallenge.com/lens.php?LENS_ID=1937&view=owners

We bought it with a homemade adaptor to fit it on the DSLR. The 1.2 aperture is stunning.
08/06/2015 10:58:00 AM · #21
Clive, stunning web site.

From the About section:

"Three artistic principals that come to mind when I think about why I am a wedding photographer. Three principals..."

It should be principles not principals.
08/06/2015 11:23:40 AM · #22
Clive, thanks for all the details. I'm gonna have to get a Sony A7 in my hands to get a feel for the differences. The weight and adaptivity seem like big perks.

Originally posted by Ja-9:

I'll tell you what this is the sweetest lens I have...it's my go to for all things close. It's totally manual but the pictures are amazing!!! I only paid $135 for it.

Awesome - I don't have a macro yet, I'll definitely keep an eye out for this one!

Originally posted by posthumous:

This guy: http://www.dpchallenge.com/lens.php?LENS_ID=1937&view=owners

We bought it with a homemade adaptor to fit it on the DSLR. The 1.2 aperture is stunning.

Wow! Where ever do you make such finds?! I'd get an adaptor custom made for a gem like that! I bet a college kid with access to some maker machinery would do it for a pizza. ;)
08/06/2015 12:30:06 PM · #23
Originally posted by smurfguy:


Originally posted by posthumous:

This guy: http://www.dpchallenge.com/lens.php?LENS_ID=1937&view=owners

We bought it with a homemade adaptor to fit it on the DSLR. The 1.2 aperture is stunning.

Wow! Where ever do you make such finds?! I'd get an adaptor custom made for a gem like that! I bet a college kid with access to some maker machinery would do it for a pizza. ;)
skewsme does it all...
08/06/2015 12:47:29 PM · #24
Originally posted by posthumous:

Clive, stunning web site.

From the About section:

"Three artistic principals that come to mind when I think about why I am a wedding photographer. Three principals..."

It should be principles not principals.


Dang! Thanks for that Don. I'll get it changed.
08/06/2015 03:18:17 PM · #25
if you're wanting quality fast glass at a fairly reasonable price, Voigtlander is a good choice.

I have the 35mm 1.2 Nokton

They also make a 50mm 1.1 Nokton

Both for around $1000.

These are in Leica M Mount. There are many adapters out there for Leica M.

Voigtlander also makes lenses in Micro 4.3 mounts
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