Airy's reviews

  • Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD SP

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sharp, stabilized, low vignetting, clean night shots, nice bokeh, close focus...
    Not APO. Slow (but precise) AF.

    I finally found an ideal night shot companion lens for my Df. Night shots are very clean, thanks to low coma and 'bleeding'. More generally, the full aperture is quite usable (night and day), at least on my 16MP camera.

    The rendering is a bit remindful of the Nikkor 300 PF : sharp, but with a somewhat mellow contrast, making it especially suitable for portraits. Nothing to be afraid of, as the very clean and detailed images can be "pushed" towards punchy rendering in PP; the sole obvious artifact is LoCA (bokeh fringing) at times.

    The AF is slow but precise; manual focussing is acceptably comfortable, and very useful for close-up photography. By the way, the lens is well corrected for close range shots, and sharpness remains high.

    Stabilization is efficient; getting a majority of sharp shots at 1/4s is not difficult with some precautions (e.g. "quiet" mode to reduce mirror slap). Bottom line, an extremely versatile lens with very good imaging qualities. Especially suitable for indoor, architecture shots, also because of negligible distortion. Great value. I hesitated between this one and the Sigma A 50/1.4; same price in France, but I do not feel cheated. Since the Tamron better suits my usual subjects, there was no hesitation.

    reviewed January 18th, 2016
  • Olympus 75mm f/1.8 ED M.Zuiko Digital

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Optically close to perfection. Excellent IQ.

    Will deliver excellent shots in nearly all circumstances. Aperture controls the DOF and leaves everything else unaffected. I do know a slightly better lens (the Zeiss 135/2 APO) but that one is for DSLRs.

    From that point of view, I won't even call it expensive.

    By the way, even with the magnificent (and heavy) hood on, it remains a walkaround lens.

    My favourite m43 lens, followed by the Oly 12/2.0.

    reviewed June 16th, 2015
  • Olympus 12mm f/2 ED M.Zuiko Digital

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Very good optics, excellent IQ

    Some say they prefer the 12-40 at 12mm, but not me. I am in particular impressed by its near-Leica rendering (in B&W). The wide aperture is very useful for creative close-ups.

    Good behaviour at night; as a matter of fact it is my favourite for night cityscapes (on a par with the Zeiss 35/2 on full-format cameras).

    Need I say more ? ah yes, only the 75/1.8 might be even better, but that's another FL...

    reviewed June 16th, 2015
  • Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sharpness; low aberrations; close focus; contrast; good working against the light
    MF not that nice; AF precise but slow; size and weight of course

    A f/1.4 lens is meant to be used wide open at least sometimes (otherwise an f/2.8 lens is sure to be cheaper, lighter, and just as good). This one does meet expectations. Images shot wide open are pretty sharp already, and above all very "clean". In particular, I barely see any LoCA or color fringing on OOF objects, which is IMHO the nastiest aberration. So f/1.4 will get you nice pictures with good subject isolation and decent to good bokeh. Flare is also well controlled; shooting directly into lamps and under-exposing will reveal many details, not drowning them into any kind of veil.

    No real cons. Vignetting is reasonable. The MF ring is usable, but focus throw is short and there is some "dry friction" feel that I do not like. Fortunately the AF is precise and does not generally hunt, the chocolate side of it being slow. Max magnification is around 1:5, which is very useful. Color is OK, but tends to be warmish: I preferred the Samyang 24/1.4 tested the same day from that point of view (and, needless to say, the Samyang has a better MF ring).

    I have not tested it yet at night. From other reviews, I suspect that there is some coma (in which case the Zeiss 25/2 would probably be the sole alternative, and twice the price, or maybe the Nikkor 14/24/2.8, which is a totally different animal).

    Bottom line : if you need a f/1.4 lens, this one is for you. If you do not need AF, the Samyang is a reasonable alternative, with somewhat lower resolution but excellent IQ too (maybe even better bokeh on close-up), and at a lower price - but same bang for the buck, so to say.

    P.S. make sure that AF is properly calibrated, or test the lens using manual focus before you make your mind. I had to fine-tune mine, due to significant front focussing. Also, buying the dock may be a good idea.

    reviewed July 11th, 2015
  • Nikon 105mm f/2D AF DC Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sharpness, IQ
    Purple fringing wide open

    I tested it thoroughly before buying... well, a Zeiss 135/2 and a 105/2.5 AIS.

    This lens seems to have no weakness, except some CA and purple fringing wide open. Here the Zeiss is vastly superior, especially in handling bright light sources. And of course it is sharper.

    Apart from that, IQ and sharpness were convincing, at least from f/2.8. The defocus control actually works and is a delight for 'slow' and/or technically interested photographers (if you like tilt & shift, you know what I mean). If money were not limited, I'd definitely buy one.

    AF (screwdriver-powered) is slow but accurate, so I do not care.

    reviewed April 26th, 2015
  • Nikon 20mm f/2.8 AIS Nikkor

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    Small size, good sharpness when stopped down, close focus
    soft wide open, wavy distortion, flare

    It is a pleasure to shoot such a small wide-angle : unsuspecting passers-by will take it for a standard prime, and not be aware that they are actually in the frame. It is my smallest prime (except the 50/1.8 AIS short nose)

    That being said, sharpness is adequate from f/5.6 on. Focussing is very difficult on modern DSL-Rs, better use LiveView ! Large apertures are funny though on close focus pics, where center sharpness is OK and corner sharpness does not matter.

    For architectural shots, beware of moustache-distortion. Since however the optical formula is the same as the AF version, you may apply the autocorrection proposed for the 20/2.8 AF and get rid of it.

    For outdoor shots, beware of flare. The shade is sold separately, looks like a big metal saucer, will not help a lot and is quite conspicuous.

    reviewed April 26th, 2015
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sharpness from f/2, bokeh
    High barrel distortion, some CA

    A lens with a dual personality :

    At 1.2-1.4, you get a sharp center but the whole pic looks veiled and dreamy. I could get "underwater" rendering without ever getting wet.

    From f/2, it is as sharp as any modern 50mm lens, and flares reasonably.

    An extremely useful lens that fits many shooting styles, from the creative to the detached/neutral. Much better value, IMHO, than the 50/1.4 or 50/1.8 AIS. Barrel distortion and CA are present but easily corrected in post processing.

    Not that suitable though for night shots because of coma wide open ; the widest apertures are for low light (portrait, boudoir, nude...), not to be confused with night photography.

    I use it mostly on a Df with the standard matte screen, plus a DK-17M loupe. It takes some training to focus properly, but it's feasible.

    reviewed April 26th, 2015
  • Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR AF-S Nikkor

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    Good IQ in general, efficient AF tracking, reasonable weight and size
    Botched VR

    The fresnel lens allows a compact construction and light weight, so finally we got a 300/4 lens that is a good travel companion (esp. with smaller FX cameras such as Nikon Df or D750).

    There are few signs revealing the fresnel technology - shooting into the blazing sun will get you some psychedelic highlights in the overexposed parts ; contrast is slightly less than with conventional lenses, but that's all very acceptable.

    Very useful lens for birding, as AF precision is very good (AF tracking is very efficient, even with the Df). Also, MF action is smooth and adequaltely short for shooting birds through foliage or twigs.

    VR disappoints big time. While I could get sharp handheld shots at 1/20s (nice), in the 1/60 - 1/125s region, you will hardly get any sharp shot with VR on, unless maybe you would use the "Quiet" mode on the camera. Trouble was signaled with D800, but it is also there with the Nikon Df. Sharpness loss expresses itself in the form of double edges, so there is nothing to mitigate here. Note: my copy is a late ser. No. where the VR issue was supposedly corrected.

    Not sure I'll keep it - sure there is more to a tele lens than just VR, but I sometimes need the feature, and above all I feel cheated here.

    --- Edit ---

    Well, I kept it. It happens to be an excellent portrait lens... I have used it for close-up shots of street musicians, for instance, with excellent results.

    Concerning VR, I'd recommend switching to manual mode, 1/30s, in low light, and let AutoISO tune the exposure. I consistently get sharp (and low noise) shots that way, with static subjects of course.

    reviewed May 10th, 2015 (purchased for $2,240)
  • Carl Zeiss 35mm f/2 Distagon T* 2/35

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sharp, crisp rendering, excellent against the light
    nothing important

    A very high contrast lens. My best performer so far for shooting against the light: flare is very well controlled, there is nearly no loss of contrast, and what gets lost can be recovered in post-processing. Night shots are good too, as coma is not outrageous. Color and micro-contrast are always excellent; images really "pop".

    The usual shortcomings (high vignetting wide open, CA, distortion) do not really matter.

    The lens is very long and pretty heavy:elaborate retrofocus design, I guess. Maybe this is one reason for good performance on digital full-frame.

    reviewed April 8th, 2015 (purchased for $600)
  • Carl Zeiss 135mm f/2 Apo Sonnar T* 2/135

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sharpness, contrast, flare control, APO, close focus (1:4)
    price ; bulky when hood is mounted

    The perfect lens, maybe. I could not find a circumstance where it would deliver disappointing pictures : day, night, against-the-light, etc.

    Also very useful for stage shots, if you can live with manual focus. The cylindrical metal hood gives perfect protection against shocks and stray light. And since f/2 already delivers outstanding center sharpness and contrast, you may consider that aperture is only there for setting the depth-of-field, and auto ISO would take care of the light.

    Bokeh, while not at the level of, say, the Nikon 85/1.4G, is 95% close to it, and not an issue.

    reviewed April 8th, 2015 (purchased for $1,800)
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Contrast, flare behaviour, against-the-light shoooting, point light sources
    lightly built

    One of my best nighttime performers, better than the 50/1.4 AFS and than most other 50mm I tested (but the Noct of course), including the Voigtlaender Nokton 58/1.4. Good results in low light, generally speaking. Wide open, it vignettes a lot, but pictures do have some punch already.

    Otherwise it is roughly equivalent to the 50/1.4 AFS.

    AF is decently fast and more accurate than was the case with the 50/1.4 AFS (it tended to be erratic).

    Very, very good value for money. I was surprized to see it sold as a kit lens with the expensive Df, but that makes sense.

    reviewed April 26th, 2015
  • Nikon 55mm f/2.8 AIS Micro-Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Very good allrounder, no obvious flaws
    More flare-sensitive than recent lenses.

    I mostly use it (via Novoflex adapter) on an OM-D now, where it acts the 1:1, 110mm equivalent. On full frame : sharpness wide open is good, but it has less contrast than recent 50mm lenses, especially when bright lights are in the frame. On the other hand, CA is very low and there are few artifacts when shooting, e.g., shiny metal pieces at macro or even distant settings.

    Bottom line : a very good allrounder if macro or close-up is a frequent use case.

    reviewed April 26th, 2015
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Exquisite IQ, good night performer
    Some LoCA wide open

    Sharpness wide open is more than decent, but I'd typically stop down to f/2.2 for "dreamy" portraits because some DOF must be... but you'll always get sharp eyes.

    Night shots are very clean (low flare or bleeding) ; there is only some coma in the corners, looking like flies (two distinct small wings, no smear).

    In any case the bokeh is extremely smooth. Watch out for LoCA wide open (even though modern software can correct that). Be sure to check AF calibration ; it is easy to be off and that will be seen immediately.

    reviewed April 26th, 2015
  • Carl Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar T* 2/50

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sharpness, bokeh, image quality, low CA and distortion
    Price, size, weight, sensitivity to backlight

    An excellent but not perfect lens, as it has numerous minor drawbacks :

    f/2 aperture is, photometrically speaking, rather f/2.5
    Vignetting (wide open) is high
    Sensitivity to backlight is obvious, sometimes inducing an increasing loss of contrast when stopping down from f/2 to f/8 for instance (typical case : shooting a pipe organ case against stained glass windows). Fortunately f/2-f/2.8 are quite good in terms of sharpness, so stopping down does not feel necessary for flat subjects at least.
    Coma is not outrageous but still significant (yes, I use it for night shots with good results).
    1:2 magnification ratio at best (consider an extension tube)
    Slightly warm (yellowish) cast (I own a ZF2) ; the Nikkors 50/1.2 AIS or 50/1.8G are no doubt more neutral
    Nine lens blades, but straight ones, yielding nice sunstars but also sharp enneagons from time to time (less nice).

    On the positive side, sharpness, bokeh and overall image quality are excellent. Distortion is negligible (but for certain reproduction works). CA is also extremely low, in particular longitudinal CA. While not an APO lens, it comes very close.

    Also, while heavy and bulky in the bag, with the camera in hand (Df in my case, most of the time) it balances well and is very pleasant to handle. I use it more often than all other 50mm (AIS or AF) together.

    reviewed January 31st, 2015
  • Carl Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon T* 2/25

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sharp and contrasty at all apertures and distances. Low coma, low "bleeding", very low flare, good contrast when shooting against the light.
    Vignetting Field curvature Difficult to focus, as all wide angles are on DSLRs

    I bought this one second hand, otherwise the quality/price ratio would become problematic as there are good alternatives on the market (e.g. Sigma 24/1.4 A, or Nikon 24/1.8). It is an excellent fit for the Nikon Df for instance, also in terms of size and weight.

    This lens exhibits a very high contrast and sharpness right from the widest aperture, at all distances. Vignetting is on the high side though (about 2 IL), so it may need correction, depending on the subject.

    The lens unfortunately exhibits a significant field curvature, the corners of the sharpness plane being bent rearwards, even at infinite setting. You better be aware of that when shooting flat subjects. Otherwise, this lens yields images with the typical Zeiss look - high microcontrast, saturated colors. It is also a brilliant performer at night, since point light source do not give rise to any significant artefact.

    Manual focussing is on the firm size, a bit too stiff for my taste, but comparable with other Zeiss lenses. As usual with WA, it is difficult to focus precisely on the matte screen; depending on the subject and lighting conditions, you may want to revert to LiveView.

    Bokeh is unusually good for a WA lens.

    Needless to say, manufacturing quality is top.

    Image quality is consistently good, and the widest aperture is particularly attractive, at least when vignetting is not a problem. The images just pop.

    reviewed April 16th, 2016 (purchased for $900)
  • Zeiss 50mm f/2 Macro Milvus 2/50M

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Contrast, sharpness (also wide open), resistance to flare
    Aperture ring gets too easily manoeuvred inadvertently. More over, the half stops are too close to each other. I'd prefer a long throw and full stops.

    This lens overcomes the main shortcoming of its ancestor, the 50/2 Macro Planar: shooting against the light works better now; while the former MP would increasingly flare while stopping down, this one is fine. The main difference, apart from the styling, seems to be the coatings.

    Sharpness wide open is probably the best one can get at that aperture (f/2), at least as sharp as the Summicron-R and with much higher contrast.

    There is little barrel distortion, albeit more than one would expect from a macro lens, but it does not matter practically. CA is minimal. Some complain about the relative short focus throw at long distances; this is not a real problem as the focus ring offers some resistance. It won't defocus itself, by the way. On the contrary, the aperture ring is not so good for instinctive shooting. You'd better check its position before shooting.

    A fine allrounder, and not too big if you leave the shade in the bag (the front lens is well recessed). And never say "macro lenses are not good for portraits". This one is, also because of the nice bokeh.

    reviewed October 14th, 2016