Posts Tagged ‘NEX-5N’

Sony NEX-5N with rangefinder lenses – part 3 – 50mm – Zeiss vs. Sony

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

The next installment of my NEX-5N test compares the Zeiss ZM 50 Planar (B&H link black silver) against the Sony SEL 50mm f/1.8 lens for the NEX system (B&H link)

I’ll give my analysis upfront – The Zeiss is smaller in diameter, feels more solid, has much better manual focus feel and considerably less vignetting and better sharpness into the corners at wider apertures. But then, it’s optimized for full frame whereas the Sony lens is designed for an APS-C sensor. The Zeiss appears to have better micro contrast or acutance wide open and is therefore easier to focus using the magnified manual focusing assist option.

In my opinion, the difference between f/1.8 and f/2.0 is negligible. If you want AF and auto aperture, the Sony lens is obviously the default consideration, and at less than half the price of the 50 Planar, difficult to ignore. Any other differences…? Yes – the camera automatically switches to magnified manual focus assist when you turn the focusing ring on the Sony lens. But the ‘fly by wire’ manual focus has a disconnected feel and you have to turn the ring a lot to see any focus adjustment, at least at nearer distances. While I didn’t do any photos of brick walls or buildings with the two lenses on the NEX, it appears that the Sony lens might have somewhat less distortion (I think I had auto distortion correction turned off), whereas the Planar does have some barrel distortion (I usually use +4 in Lightroom to compensate).

One relatively big image quality difference is that the Sony has a gentler background blur than the 50 Plannar, which some may prefer. The Planar renders out of focus specular highlights with more strongly edged circles compared to the Sony. Maybe the Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 C Sonnar (B&H link black silver) would be closer to the Sony, but I don’t own one, so wasn’t able to include it. And at nearly 4 times the price of the Sony… even more difficult to justify. Actually, the only reasons I can think of to opt for a 50mm rangefinder lens would be if the NEX is used in conjunction with a rangefinder camera, or if one wants a certain kind of rendering, such as from vintage RF glass. Otherwise, just stick with the Sony 50mm f/1.8. It’s actually, from what I can tell, a very nice lens for the money. Maybe the Zeiss has a bit better contrast, but I’m not sure… Oh, and the Sony also incorporates optical image stabilization – handy in situations where you’re working at slower shutter speeds without much concern for subject movement.

So lets start the shootout!

The usual disclaimer: all images are straight from camera with the default Sony Standard setting. White balance was set to about 5500 degree Kelvin for consistency. These images might be a bit on the flat side and can certainly be amped up in post… but I wanted to keep things pretty simple and ‘as shot’ for these comparisons. Also, all Sony lens images have full EXIF info.

Near infinity focus, with out of focus foreground objects:

Zeiss 50 Planar up first, click on the image for the full-rez f/2 sample, or on the links for the rest, in one stop increments. The first image at f/2.0 is about 2/3 stop over exposed compared to the rest of the series because f/2 at 1/4000 was a bit too hot in full sunlight, but should still give you an idea of near infinity performance of the lens wide open:

f/2.0

f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8, f/11.

Sony 50mm f/1.8. First image is at f/2.2 because it was a touch too bright for f/1.8 without a neutral density filter:

f/2.2

f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8, f/11.

I think I see a bit of fringing around the out of focus foreground branches in the Sony images at wider apertures…

Next up a near focus scene to show off the background blur of specular highlights.

Zeiss, in 1/3 stop increments, click on the image for the f/2 sample, the links for the rest:

f/2.0

f/2.2, f/2.5, f/2.8, f/3.2, f/3.5, f/4.0, f/4.5, f/5.0, f/5.6, f/6.7, f/7.1, f/8.0, f/9, f/10, f/11.

Sony, also in 1/3 stop increments:

f/1.8

f/2.0, f/2.2, f/2.5, f/2.8, f/3.2, f/3.5, f/4.0, f/4.5, f/5.0, f/5.6, f/6.7, f/7.1, f/8.0, f/9, f/10, f/11.

Medium distance scene. Focus was on the tree at right.

Zeiss, 1/3 stop increments. Click on the image for the f/2 full-rez version, otherwise the links below:

f/2.0

f/2.2, f/2.5, f/2.8, f/3.2, f/3.5, f/4.0, f/4.5, f/5.0, f/5.6, f/6.7, f/7.1, f/8.0, f/9, f/10, f/11.

Sony, 1/3 stop increments – You can see here how much more vignetting it exhibits until stopped down about 1.5 stops (of course, in-camera vignetting correction was disabled). Click on the image for the f/1.8 version, otherwise the links below:

f/1.8

f/2.0, f/2.2, f/2.5, f/2.8, f/3.2, f/3.5, f/4.0, f/4.5, f/5.0, f/5.6, f/6.7, f/7.1, f/8.0, f/9, f/10, f/11.

Nearish focus, very distant background, both sets in one stop increments:

Zeiss:

f/2.0

f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8.0, f/11.

Sony:

f/1.8

f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8.0, f/11.

Another near focus scene with specular highlights in the background, this time just a few images. One from the Zeiss at f/2, two from the Sony at f/1.8 and f/2. Here you can see just how much more defined the Zeiss renders the blur disks compared to the Sony. Zeiss first, then the two from Sony:

f/2.0
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f/1.8
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f/2.0

The last set of comparisons is a close up scene. This is one limitation of rangefinder lenses with most focusing down to only 70cm or 1m. The 50 Planar focuses to 70cm. The Sony to 39cm, like a typical SLR lens, but here was kept at the same distance as the Zeiss. I think for this one the Zeiss was at very close to minimum 70cm focusing distance. And for some reason, I didn’t shoot this at f/2 with the Zeiss, rather, starting at f/5.6

Zeiss, click on the photo for the f/5.6 version:

f/5.6

f/8.0, f/11.

Sony, click on the photo for the f/1.8 version:

f/1.8

f/5.6, f/8.0, f/11.

Some random images with the Zeiss, I think all were hand held. By this point, having already shot over 500 frames in a couple hours, I was getting tired of working from a tripod…

Not sure about the f/stop here, but would have been close to wide open:

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Probably at f/2:

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Stopped down about 1.5 stops:

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Probably at f/2 and focused with focus peaking:

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Another close up scene. Not sure the aperture used, perhaps f/2.8:

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Also probably around f/2.8:

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Same here, though at ISO 1600. High ISO noise reduction was set to low.

If you’re looking to buy any of this equipment, please consider using the following links to help support this site:

For all Zeiss lenses (ZM, ZE, ZF, etc.), please contact Rob Skeoch at Big Camera Workshops or his sister site the Rangefinder Store. Rob has been my source for most of my Zeiss ZM purchases and is a great guy to deal with. Free shipping within Canada is included, as is a B+W UV filter with each Zeiss lens purchase. Rob will also ship outside Canada, please give him a call or send him an email for availability and make sure you mention this site as a referral.

Otherwise, please consider using this B&H link for any purchase or the specific ones below:

Novoflex NEX-Leica M adapter
Sony NEX-5N camera only (black only) or kit with 18-55 in black or silver
Electronic viewfinder (EVF) for NEX-5N

Sony NEX-5N with Voigtlander and Zeiss rangefinder lenses – part 2 – a couple 35mm options

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

To continue with the test of rangefinder lenses on the Sony NEX-5N, next up are two 35mm lenses, simply because these are two that I use on the Leica M9 (B&H link – black, silver):

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/2.8 C-Biogon (B&H link black silver)
Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 Aspherical VM II (B&H link)

The Zeiss is a very compact, high performance lens with very nice Zeiss contrast and sharpness. The Voigtlander is the new version of the already highly regarded 35mm f/1.2 that some claim to be as good or better than the Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH non-floating element version, (B&H link to the latest FLE version). I definitely find it to be a good performer on the M9, especially at f/2. Stopped down the Zeiss seems to have better edge to edge sharpness.

Same idea as the previous post – clicking on an image (or link) will download the full resolution version that is straight from the camera with standard Sony settings. White balance was set manually here, at about 5500 degree Kelvin.

Focus for the forest scene was the tree 1/3 from the left side, set with magnified view with the lens wide open.

First up the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2. Click on the image for f/1.2 and the links for the rest:

f/1.2

f/1.4, f/1.6, f/2.0, f/2.5, f/2.8, f/3.5, f/4.0, f/4.5, f/5.6, f/6.7, f/8, f/9.5, f/11.

Same scene with the Zeiss ZM 35 f/2.8 C-Biogon, in full stop increments. Click on the image for f/2.8 and the links for the rest:

f/2.8

f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8, f/11.

And as can be seen in the two images above, the Zeiss appears to have a slightly narrower angle of view.

BONUS Similar composition, though different tree, with the Leica M9 and Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 II from wide open through f/5.6. Same as above, click on the image for the f/1.2 full resolution version, the links for the rest:

f/1.2

f/1.4, f/1.6, f/2.0, f/2.5, f/2.8, f/3.5, f/4.0, f/4.5, f/5.6

It’s interesting to note the color quality difference between the NEX and M9, with the Sony definitely shifting towards more magenta. My opinion is the Leica color rendition (auto white balance here, so perhaps a bit cool) is more faithful to the actual scene, though the Sony often will look warmer and richer. Of course all of this can be adjusted in post production.

Back to the NEX-5N. Here’s another scene, intended to show the degree of background separation at the various aperture settings. Sorry for the difference in lighting between the two, unfortunately a huge cloud rolled in during the Zeiss captures and I was too impatient to wait it out. Again, color and tonality is straight from the camera at the Standard settings. Focus was set on the bigger birch tree at the left side.

Voigtlander 35 f/1.2 II with 3-stop Hoya ND filter, which I think added a bit more of a magenta shift, click on the image for f/1.2, the links for the rest:

f/1.2

f/1.4, f/1.6, f/2.0, f/2.5, f/2.8, f/3.5, f/4.0, f/4.5, f/5.6, f/6.7, f/8, f/11.

Same scene with the Zeiss ZM 35 f/2.8 C-Biogon, in full stop increments. Click on the image for f/2.8 and the links for the rest:

f/2.8

f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8, f/11.

A couple notes about the lenses:

The Voigtlander typically has fairly nervous background blur at wider apertures with subjects at middle distances. Stopped down both are very good lenses. The Zeiss has perhaps a bit more contrast and though perhaps difficult to tell with these scenes, a bit better corner to corner performance.

Here are some random images with the Voigtlander. Again, click on the image to load the full resolution version:

Not sure what aperture the two below were at, but likely stopped down a bit, probably around f/5.6

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The next three are all wide open, f/1.2:


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The next one was at or near f/1.2 while the second was stopped down two stops, at ISO 800, so the Sony noise reduction, though set to low, is noticeably visible:


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The next three are in order of wide open f/1.2, one stop down, two stops down, ISO 1600 with noticeable Sony noise reduction (though the camera was set to low for high ISO NR). Also, these were hand held, so there will be some framing variation:


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The final two were hand held at ISO 1600 and shot wide open while trying to focus as the runners ran by. Missed the focus a bit, but should still give you an idea of the Voigtlander’s wide open performance:


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You will see that there is some purple fringing with this lens wide open in some high contrast transition areas. My experience with the lens so far indicates that stopping down to f/2 will eliminate it.

If you’re looking to buy any of this equipment, please consider using the following links to help support this site:

For all Zeiss lenses (ZM, ZE, ZF, etc.), please contact Rob Skeoch at Big Camera Workshops or his sister site the Rangefinder Store. Rob has been my source for most of my Zeiss ZM purchases and is a great guy to deal with. Free shipping within Canada is included, as is a B+W UV filter with each Zeiss lens purchase. Rob will also ship outside Canada, please give him a call. Please contact Rob for availability and make sure you mention this site as a referral.

Otherwise, please consider using these B&H links:

Novoflex NEX-Leica M adapter
Sony NEX-5N camera only (black only) or kit with 18-55 in black or silver
Electronic viewfinder (EVF) for NEX-5N

Sony NEX-5N with Voigtlander and Zeiss rangefinder lenses – part 1 – ultrawides

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

f/11

There has been a lot of discussion about how well the new NEX cameras will work with wide and ultra-wide angle rangefinder lenses. Apparently the NEX-3 and 5 did not work well with many, resulting in color shifts and smearing in to the edges and corners.

With the release of the NEX-C3, reports trickled in of much better performance. Many naturally hope this will hold true for the 5N and the much anticipated 7. However, from early results posted by Steve Huff in his mini-shootout between the 7 and the Ricoh GXR with M module, the 7 definitely appears to have issues with some lenses, such as the Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 Super Wide-Heliar. Coincidentally, the 15mm is also a difficult lens on the Leica M9 (B&H link – black, silver), also due to strong edge color shifts and vignetting (though much better now with the latest firmware).

So, what about the NEX-5N?

I had a 5N on loan for a few weeks and spent some time trying all of my rangefinder lenses on it.

To start off, here are results from my three super wide angles – the Voigtlander 12 (the Leica screw mount version) and 15mm and the Zeiss ZM 21mm f/2.8 Biogon.

As you will see from the images below, all work well on the 5N with no adverse color shifts and sharpness is retained into the corners (with some catches).

What surprised me though was that of the three, the Voigtlander 15mm (M mount version) trounces the other two until about f/8.

On my M9, it is the problem lens, yet not here on the 5N.

On my M9 the 12mm is pretty good, though with some edge softness/smearing. On the 5N it looks terrible along the left edge until about f/11. I should point out I’m using a Novoflex M to NEX adapter, which is probably the most expensive on the market, and one would expect, with its German manufacture, to be held to the tightest tolerances of any of the adapters currently available. However, based on these preliminary results, I’m a bit suspicious about the adapter because the 12mm looks so bad. On the M9 it is very usable even wide open, though I can detect a slight band of softness/smearing in the left third of the image. It’s possible that the 16MP 5N sensor is exaggerating this defect in the lens. FWIW, when I bought the lens in person (rather than online), I was able to test it against another one in stock, which was markedly worse with much stronger chromatic aberrations and much, much softer corners (though on the M9)… but it would seem it could still be better.

It could be possible that what works well on a full frame M9 sensor doesn’t translate exactly to the NEX APS-C sensor due to factors such as the NEX’s much higher resolution of the very central part of the lens’s image circle, as well as optical issue with the lens and misalignment with the adapter. It’s also worth stating that alignment tolerances are considerably more sensitive the more wide angle the lens.

The Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Biogon is kind of a surprise on the 5N. I didn’t expect there to be as much sharpness issue into the corners as I see in my initial results, however, if one examines the Zeiss MTF for this lens, one will see it falls off in sharpness towards the edges at wider apertures (on full frame). And it has a fair amount of field curvature, from my experience. So this is probably coming to play against it on the NEX. Stopped down to 5.6 and higher though it’s really pretty good. And this is also my opinion of it on the M9. The Zeiss is a pretty good performer but I wouldn’t use it to photograph flat objects wide open, especially at closer distances, but past f/5.6 it’s very good across the frame.

It would be interesting to compare the Zeiss C-Biogon 21mm f/4.5. It’s technically a better performer than the f/2.8 version, however, like the Voigtlander 15mm, it’s notorious for extremely strong edge colour shifts and vignetting on the M9. In fact, the resulting characteristics are nearly identical. Given how good my 15mm is on this NEX-5N, I’m now very curious about the C-Biogon, though probably not enough so to spend about $1100 for what will be a 30mm equivalent field of view and not very usable on the M9.

UPDATE 2011.12.13

Zeiss has published an interesting piece about their wide angle lenses, which contains some relevant information explaining the poor performance of the ZM 21mm f/2.8 on the NEX on page 12 here (pdf). To quote directly:

Lenses with a very large beam tilt (from the rear element to the corner of the sensor) react in a much more sensitive manner to a change of refractive index in the image space caused by filter plates in front of the sensor (such as low pass and IR-blocking filters). If the filter plate is not considered in the design of the lens, the edge definition will suffer. The effect of the additional path through the glass grows exponentially with the beam inclination. A Distagon which never achieves more than 20° beam tilt in the corner of the image reacts more tolerantly than a symmetrical wide- angle lens, which might reach a 45° tilt. This is why filters in digital Leicas are very thin – to remain compatible with older optics.

If the filter is significantly thicker, the contrast transfer for the image edge becomes worse for tangential structures. In the graph of the curves, this looks like the old retrofocus lenses but is caused by astigmatism rather than lateral chromatic aberration. The focus is shifted to greater distances for tangential structures by the additional path through the glass. If the best edge definition is to be achieved, then all that can be done is to stop down further.

Advantages of nearly symmetrical wide- angle lenses (such as the ZM 21mm f/2.8):
• Small size and low weight
• Very good, uniform definition despite
moderately high effort required
• Usually excellent freedom from ghost
images
Disadvantages of nearly symmetrical wide- angle lenses:
• Cannot be used with every camera
• Require specially matched digital
sensors
• More sensitive to the change of optical
parameters in the image space
• Greater natural fall-off of brightness
toward the edge of the image

Based on samples in various photo forum discussions the ZM21mm f/4.5 seems to perform better on the 5N than the 2.8 version. Why it does, and the f/2.8 doesn’t, yet both are highly symmetrical lens designs, is a mystery to me. But one conclusion drawn by many is that the ZM 18mm f/4 Distagon is a better option than both 21s, though it is somewhat larger.

Below are sample images. Clicking on the image will point you to the full size, straight from camera JPEG file. The camera was set to the default settings – Standard color profile – and high ISO noise reduction was set to low (you can’t turn it off in-camera), though these were mostly done on a tripod at ISO 100. White balance was on auto, so some of the sequences show variations in white balance as a result.

Planar object (building) with the Voigtlander 12mm, 15mm and Zeiss ZM 21mm f/2.8, focus was set with magnified view, dead center:

12mm at f/5.6, 8 and 11:
f/5.6

f/8 f/11

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15mm at f/4.5, 5.6, 8 and 11:
f/4.5

f/5.6 f/8 f/11

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Zeiss ZM 21mm at f/2.8 through f/11 in one stop steps:
f/2.8

f/4 f/5.6 f/8 f/11

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The same building from the side with the Zeiss ZM 21mm f/2.8 Biogon, again f/2.8 through f/11 in one stop steps:
f/2.8

f/4 f/5.6 f/8 f/11

Forest scene. The focus was on the near tree trunks at the left side of the frame.

12mm, f/5.6 through f/11:
f/5.6

f/8 f/11

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15mm, f/4.5, 5.6 through f/11:

f/4.5

f/5.6 f/8 f/11

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Zeiss ZM 21 from f/2.8 through f/11:

f/2.8

f/4 f/5.6 f/8 f/11

I should note that all images were focused wide open using the magnified view, without focus peaking to get the best visual idea of correct focus.

If you’re looking to buy any of this equipment, please consider using the following links to help support this site:

For all Zeiss lenses (ZM, ZE, ZF, etc.), please contact Rob Skeoch at Big Camera Workshops or his sister site the Rangefinder Store. Rob has been the source for most of my Zeiss ZM purchases and is a great guy to deal with. Free shipping within Canada is included, as is a B+W UV filter with each Zeiss lens purchase, and Rob will ship outside Canada. Due to the scarcity of many Zeiss lenses at this time, it is best to contact Rob for availability and please mention this site as a referral.

Otherwise, please consider using these B&H links:

Voigtlander 12mm f/5.6
Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5
Zeiss ZM 21mm f/2.8 black silver
Zeiss ZM 21mm f/4.5 black silver
Zeiss ZM 18mm f/4 black silver
Novoflex NEX-Leica M adapter
Sony NEX-5N camera only (black only) or kit with 18-55 in black or silver
Electronic viewfinder (EVF) for NEX-5N


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