Posts Tagged ‘sharp’

Last fall at a PhotoFair show I bought this vintage Super Rokkor 45/2.8 for Leica Screw Mount rangefinder. In reality this was designed for a Minolta Rangefinder camera that utilized the LTM mount as did the Canon’s at the time. I was not real familiar with this lens but I did some research and found that Minolta had 3 versions of the 45/2.8 and they also had 50/2 which was bigger and heavier but not “better.” These early lenses were branded under the name “Chiyoko” prior to using the Minolta name on lenses. I have mine adapted to Leica M mount so I can use it on my EOS R or my EOS M5 with a cool helicoil adapter.

These old LTM lenses have the disadvantage of only focusing to 3.3 feet (1m) Many companies are now offering adapters equipped with a helicoil to allow for close up focusing with these older lenses. This particular lens is very small even for LTM. It is almost a pancake design and it looks odd mounted to my full size EOS-R. I also shoot it on my much smaller EOS M5. It is better scaled to this lens’  small size. On that camera with the 1.6x crop the lens shoots like a 72/2.8 and works nicely for portrait work.

The lens is beautifully made and optically quite nice. You can find these in very good shape for around $200 give or take. I mentioned 3 versions above and primarily these were tweaks to the mechanical design not the optical formula. This lens is a bit of a hybrid design it is not a Tessar like the fixed lens Minoltas of the era. The final version was just the version II with a thin optical coating. All three are the same formula of a cemented triplet up front and two elements behind the aperture.

The lens has a bit of a cult following and I’m seriously thinking about joining the cult. As long as I don’t have to chant in a circle of candles, I’m in. This seventy year old lens is razor sharp and has rather pleasing bokeh. It is also tiny, I mean super tiny. It isn’t as light-weight as its size would suggest because it is built to last and that is likely why it still focuses smoothly and operates like it did when Harry Truman was President.

The results of this lens are rather pleasing. Some say it is better suited to black and white, but it renders color in modern cameras very well. Those who follow this blog know, I like to get up real close and isolate my subjects. This lens at f/2.8 struggles at mid range focus to isolate the subject, but does a decent job at the minimum focus distance of 3.3 feet (1m). I used it with a helicoil adapter that allowed me to focus inside of 1 foot (30cm) and really blow out the background. This is one of those lenses that never got its due respect what with all the Leica this, Leica that. I however have owned nearly every Leica standard lens in this era (late 1940s-early 50s) and this Super Rokkor is as good or better than any of them. You need a Summicron to best this lens and the Summicron wasn’t introduced until the mid-50s. Leica designed the Summicron largely in response to superior optics coming out of Japan like these Rokkors and Canon’s famed Serenar 50/1.8. You’ll pay an extra $100 for a Leica Elmar 50/2.8 and will NOT get images this good from it. Hmm, I wonder what kind of chants they require in the Chiyoko cult, I don’t have to climb Mount Fuji, do I? I’m too old for that 😉

Betsy relaxing in the sun, EOS-R, Super Rokkor 45/2.8 and helicoil adapter. 1/800 sec @ f/2.8 ISO 400

Wifey’s bird ornament in the yard. EOS-R, Super Rokkor 45/2.8 and helicoil adapter. 1/125 sec @ f/2.8 ISO 400

Wifey’s bird house feeder, EOS-R, Super Rokkor 45/2.8 and helicoil adapter. 1/640 sec @ f/2.8 ISO 400

EOS M5, Super Rokkor 45/2.8 and M adapter. 1/400 sec @ f/2.8 ISO 400 (I missed focus just a bit behind the eye, my bad)

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The Venerable EF 85mm 1.8 USM

85mm1-8-blog4-1361Canon has offered the EF 85mm 1.8 USM for a very long time now. In fact this lens was introduced way back in 1992 when the EOS system was still fresh and new. Canon of course had a FD 85mm 1.8 for many years prior and they had the amazing 85mm 1.2 L in FD. I have owned both of those FD lenses and both were spectacular products. In the EOS world, the EF 85mm 1.2 L and the newer Mk II, are both excellent lenses, but they are enormous in size and weight and the focus is not considered to be that fast, at least by standards set with Canon’s other lenses. Now let’s be clear, if you can afford the 85mm 1.2L Mk II at some $2000 it will perform a little better from f/2 on down, all the way to the far corners of the full frame. This 1.8 version is 1/5 the cost, just as sharp everywhere except the last bit of the corner on a full frame camera and is so fast and easy to use, it is a wonderful choice for the photographer looking at a short portrait lens. I have always liked the 85mm focal length especially at f/2. At 1.2 the focus is so shallow that it is nearly impossible to shoot a head shot and have the facial features uniformly sharp, so often stopping down to f1.8 or f2.0 is needed anyway.

I haven’t shot actively in the studio for many years but I had both the 85mm 1.8 and the 85mm 1.2 L back in the early 90s with the bulky and heavy lens almost exclusively used in studio, and the lighter 1.8 in the field. Now I own the 85mm 1.8 USM lens and honestly I don’t use it a lot, because I just don’t take formal portraits very much. I shoot many portraits of my dear and lovely wife, but I do those informally when we are out and about and I use my EOS M3 for those with either the Zeiss 35/2 (56mm effective) or the Canon Rangefinder 50/1.2 (80mm effective).

85mm1-8-blog-0936This 85mm f1.8 Canon lens is a gem. With a street price in the $320-400 range new, and even less for used examples at eBay or camera shows like, PhotoFair, it is one of the great photo bargains. The autofocus is instant and very precise. The bokeh on this lens is truly delicious. The USM is silent and the lens has a solid build quality. Not like an L lens of course, but better than average. This lens also enjoys Canon’s instant manual focus feature allowing manual override with a simple twist of the focus ring. There is no need to toggle a switch.

About a month ago my wife bought a couple of wigs just to horse around with short hairdos and I shot a few pics in the living room with the 85mm 1.8 on my EOS 5D Mk II with the 580EX flash on camera.

So my wife and I both qualify for AARP, so to keep the home life happy I applied some classic overexposure and a little softening. But hey, isn’t that what most good portrait photographers would do for their clients anyway? Of course it is 😉85mm1-8-blog-0936-2

The shot up top is uncropped. I took the same shot and cropped it tight into a head shot to show the lens is sharp and the f/1.8 provides crazy shallow focus as you will see; the right eye which is slightly closer to the lens is sharp and the left is soft. This is a fabulous lens and the 85mm focal length on a full frame camera is just so versatile for people, even a small group of three for a head and shoulders will deliver a nice soft background with sharp eyes and face.

I decided to snap a few shots around the house to show off the lens’ versatility and its delicious bokeh. I have a couple of shots of ornaments on the tree as well as some spontaneous shots outside, and finally a lovable doggy shot. Who doesn’t like a doggy picture?

My wife is a high school teacher and needed some head shots of her students for a project. I used this lens for the photos and the students were delighted with their pics, many choosing to post them on Facebook. It wasn’t me, I never was that good at portraits, I am more of a landscape, cityscape, wildlife guy. It’s all about that lens. Well, a little Photoshop/Lightroom too 😉

For readers of this blog shooting Nikon, they have a nice 85mm 1.8 lens as well and I hear it is a fabulous lens. The 85mm focal length is just wonderful. You can also read about the amazing value proposition from Vivitar with the Series One 85mm 1.8 from a previous post.

The Canon EF 85mm 1.8 USM is outstanding. If a short telephoto lens is a big part of your shooting life then Canon may be a wise choice in bodies because all that I have read suggests that this may be the best 85mm consumer grade lens in the market place. Overall I keep asking myself, why the hell did I wait so long to add this lens to my bag? I bought it about 6 months ago.

Here are the other shots I took with the lens today:


Maggie Mae, 1/400 @ f1.8 ISO 400


Ornament, 1/250 sec @ f/1.8 ISO 800


Stubborn Leaf, 1/320 sec @ f2.5 ISO 400


Ornaments, 1/160 sec @ f/1.8 ISO 800



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