I’ve become quite interested in the manual focus vintage lens craze sweeping the mirrorless camera genre. After reading several articles online and visiting some Flickr pages (although they are few and far between for vintage lenses), I decided to see what all the hype was about. After researching the market via eBay for several weeks I decided upon my fifth purchase…..the Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 135mm f3.5 lens with an adapter to mount on my XT10. This particular lens was released in the late 80’s comprising of 4 elements in 3 groups, aperture from f3.5 to f22, minimum focus distance of 1m, made of metal with metal mount and weighing about 430g. This is actually a small lens for its focal distance.
When the lens arrived it was in immaculate condition, just as the seller had promised – phew. Many old lenses like this one can often have nasty fungus, haze and scratch surprises so you need to shop carefully from people who have good a good seller rating and have experience in selling and rating lenses. Generally sellers from Japan and Germany are highly trusted and value their feedback fiercely. This one I bought from a seller in Germany.
The lens was quite easy to mount onto the camera, and I lucked out on a K&F Concept adapter also on eBay – highly recommend as solid and a snug fit. It’s important to remember to switch the camera over to “use without lens” in the menu otherwise it won’t work. There is no auto focus. Scary huh! Well after some practice you can learn to focus quickly thanks to the XT10’s focus peaking. Really it doesn’t take all that long. A word of caution – you will need quite a lot of practice to nail the focus for moving subjects….and for moving subjects I’d still prefer to use Fuji’s excellent AF lens lineup. But I suppose you could set your aperture to say f8 and use a fast shutter speed for capturing fast street shots, just like zone focussing.
So why bother? These older lenses are heavier because I believe there’s lead in the glass….so what? Well lead is a supposedly a great conductor of light and colour to the sensor that you cannot find in modern lenses. This theoretically means you get finer detail and more nostalgic colours – to my eye anyway. Secondly the cost. This lenses was about $130 AUD. Some you’ll find cheaper, you may even luck out at garage sales or pawn brokers and find a bargain. Thirdly they are small and easy to focus. The focus throw is firm without being tight, and easily manipulated between the thumb and index finger for smooth operation. Thirdly less elements in less groups = less possibly of light being distorted through the lens.
Without further ado here’s some sample shots. The Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 135mm f3.5 renders very sharp photos and beautiful colours. I’m not going to list the EXIF data because the aperture won’t register (no electronic connection) and the pictures speaks for themselves. All processed raw files in Iridient Developer – OMG the best Fuji raw converter I’ve used. If you shoot Fuji raw files you must get Iridient Developer, just sharp detail. Click pictures for larger view. Enjoy.
Note: the birds were very hard to get in focus and because of the failing light I had to use ISO 4000 and F3.5 to make things more difficult.