Having looked at the wide-angle lenses between 20 and 28mm, I’m now going to look at the 35mm and 50mm lenses. 35mm is without doubt my favourite all-round focal length and across systems – I have a bunch of them. I have some superb lenses in this focal length, but had heard good things about the FDn 35mm f2. People seem to be parting with a fair amount of money for this lens and even more for the ‘concave SSC’ version. So I thought, hmmm, I wonder if this is as developed as it is with some Leica lenses, where a lens reaches cult status but is actually no better or more useful than something cheaper or newer. IMO, its like the 35mm V4 Summicron (please, no lynchings), which is supposed to be the bokeh king, but is out-bokehed by the ‘boring’ 35mm Summarit-M, which sells for less on ebay in as new condition compared to old rattly Canadian V4 crons. Go figure.
Before buying, I saw a test which suggested that once at middling apertures, the 35mm f2.8 FDn is every bit as good as the much more expensive 35mm f2 version, which sells for three (or more) times the price on ebay. As I’m primarily looking at budget landscape gear, this made me curious… how will a £40 lens stack up against the blistering 35mm f2.8 FE Sonnar?
I have also seen some bold claims for the 50mm f1.4 FDn, which one person claimed has been tested to outperform the Leica 50mm Summilux asph at middle apertures. This seemed a bold claim, but then I noticed they were selling keenly on ebay and well priced items were gone in 24 hours. The 50mm Zuiko OM f3.5 Macro is universally lauded as a fine macro with excellent all round utility and this appealed to me in particular because of projects I am going to shoot soon. So, I expected lots of the good stuff in this focal length range and here goes!
Once again, I’ve emphasised f11, due to potential application (landscape).
FDn 35 f2.8 & Sony Zeiss FE 35 f2.8
First for the overall view, as shown in Part 2.
… and the central crops. Please note no exposure compensation has been used to match exposures:
Now for the edges:
Summary: At wider apertures, there is nothing that can touch the Zeiss 35 FE (not that I have seen or used). It’s remarkable. However, at smaller apertures, as good as it is, its not the best lens out there. My CV 35 1.2 does put in slightly superior edge performance at f5.6 and beyond (equalling the Zeiss on centre), but weighs a tonne. The interesting thing is that this flyweight 35mm FDn just surpasses the 35 FE in terms of over all performance at small apertures. If I hunt around the entire frame, I can find areas where the FDn is a little better, probably due to field curvature affecting the Zeiss (which is better at f4 than f11, even at the edges). The Canon lens is absolutely brilliant and if you do not need AF or a fast aperture, it should be given very serious consideration. At f8, performance is gains a touch on centre and loses a touch on the edges. The good news is that the Canon FDn is very light weight at well under 165g, assuming you are buying an adaptor for other lenses, its a very light weight option too. It may slightly lack the sparkle of the Zeiss under flat light and extremely fine detail can be better rendered with the Zeiss at f4-5.6, where the FE is something else, but its 98% of the Zeiss for landscape use at 6% of the price. It is a lens you can put on an A7R without feeling you are hobbling it. Its up there with the very best. What an encouraging start.
These examples also show that the Sony 28-70 OSS zoom just cannot compete. On centre its a touch softer than both other lenses here (but not too far off) but at the edges it does not come close. In truth, at modest print size, you will not see any difference. However, if your goal is to produce large prints of exceptional quality, you will.
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