Having been diverted by a Tokina standard zoom lens in my last post, it’s back to looking at Zuiko prime lenses on the A7R with its monstrous 36Mp of resolution. The Zuiko 85mm f2 is a fast, moderate telephoto lens which would conventionally be used for portraits and has worked out well so far on other cameras. Being made some time in the 1970/1980s it’s obviously manual focus and there’s no image stabilisation so 1/200th of a second minimum hand-held shutter speed is needed.
Weighing in at around 280 g (10 oz) it looks identical to the 50mm f1.4 apart from a slight extension at the front. Judging by the internal diagram of the lens it may be a modified 50mm f1.4 as the element configurations look similar. The filter thread is 49mm, minimum focus is 85cm (about 2 1/2 feet) which is a bit restrictive, and apertures run from f2 to f16.
The aperture is made up of eight blades which sounds like it would give some unattractive octagonal bokeh, but strangely I’ve never noticed it.
It’s a joy to use on the A7R – depth of field is shallow at wider apertures so focussing is super-accurate with the focus magnify feature of the A7R. The magnification of this focal length isn’t enough to cause too much movement when the image is magnified for focussing. The focus ring is smooth and even, and goes from infinity to minimum focus in a bit more than half a turn.
At F2 the depth of field is tiny and – just like the 50mm f1.4- out of focus parts of the image close to the camera can take on a distinctly ‘swirly’ appearance.
For isolating a subject and blurring away a background 85mm f2 lenses are hard to beat in such a small package.
As the lens is of fairly low contrast it can produce a lovely range of tones. You can always bash up the contrast later in PP if you like but there’s a noticeable difference between these old film lenses wide open and their more contrasty digital equivalents.
With it’s slightly bulbous front element, flare can be a problem so a lens hood would be a good idea working outside. It’s not a bad problem – you just need to be aware of it to avoid it, which is easy enough.
Onto the resolution test :-
As I’d hoped then, this lens is more than useable on the A7R. The edge definition isn’t anything to rave about but it’s good enough, the centre at f8 is as good as it’s going to get and appears to be living up to 36Mp of resolution. The Zuiko 85mm f2 is still fairly cheap at around the £100 mark and is a real bargain.
These old prime lenses – with the limitations of needing some PP and being susceptible to flare – are working out very well on this Sony body. I really doubted they would be up to the job and I’d be extending the mortgage to buy Zeiss lenses, so this is a pleasant – and economical – surprise! I’m so confident after these few test with Zuikos on the A7R I’m selling off my Canon DSLR lenses and buying Zuikos to plug the gaps in my focal length range (the 24-105 f4 ‘L’ has gone in exchange for a Zuiko 18mm f3.5 – but more of that in a later post)!.
Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking.
If you’re interested in using other MF lenses have a look at the other reviews on the film, camera and lens review index tab.
Addition – Nick (in the comments section) has asked for a sample at closer distances so here they are. All ISO 100 at f8 shot from around eight feet away on a tripod. Just an ‘Auto Levels’ on the RAW file as contrast was low. The subject is a David Shepherd painting – not my usual sort of subject but I’m not going outside – it’s raining here!
I think you might be right Nick – the edge of the frame does seem better at closer distances, which I suppose is what we’d expect in a portrait lens.
thanks a lot for these tests!
I really love that mill. Keep on shooting it, please.
Could you confirm anything about on corner weakness/strength on the medium-close distance range? It does seem to be quite a corner-sharp lens if I look at the second car picture.
Some evaluation of that range would be quite helpful, as I do think that is what it’s been made for.
I’ll go out and hunt one for myself now….
I’ll take a shot tomorrow at medium close distance and add it to the post – it’s dark here now!
Hi Nick – shots added at the bottom of the post and looking good.
Ooooh, shame on me!
Just found out you did reply my request. Oh boy.
So thanks a lot for that. And what a nice thing to find – a great resource, yes Chillibrook.
I still wasn’t succesful in my hunt of the OM-version so I had to schlepp a Nikon alongside my OM stuff to Austria. Just mentioning this because on rereading this your minitest I stumbled upon ” minimum focus is 85cm (about 2 1/2 feet) which is a bit restrictive”. Curiosity struck me and I found exactly the same parameters belonging to the Nikkor 85/2, which I didn’t find restrictive at all during my holiday, shooting something like 6 rolls bw film using a 55/3.5 micro-Nikkor alongside. Wondering now what oddball of a mindgame is going on while taking pictures.
It’s becoming more and more complex.
I’ll shurely revisit Sir Rodinals entry at The Search of the Holy Grain now…
No worries Nick,
I wouldn’t me surprised if the Zuiko and Nikkor were exactly the same internal lens layout. Personally I found it restrictive as I do like to isolate smaller objects and 75cm would be much more useful.
The Sony A7 series has made things more complex – it’s possible to attach almost any lens to it so choices are much more difficult! I try to reduce the complexity by just taking two lenses on a casual shoot – a wideangle or a telephoto but always a 50mm, and hardly ever change the lens from the 50mm…
Thanks for the comments, glad you’re finding the site useful.
A very useful series this one Rob and a great resouce! Thank you for taking the time to post your findings.
Hello Chillbrook – Thanks for the comment.
I find doing these tests quite useful for my own purposes. I never used to properly evaluate lenses and would end up disappointed in some images as I didn’t really understand their individual characteristics. Older lenses not only have the usual variation in performance across samples, but have been subject to years of care or neglect by past owners, so checking them out is even more important. I’m pleased – and amazed – at how well these Zuikos are doing!
Hi Rob and thanks for the review.
I like your approach to lens testing. A specific lens is not for all motives and situations. You have to find te best match or at least know what you trade. Your posts are a great help for that!
Somewhat curious about the 18 mm. I actually have an option to buy one, but a bit cautios since I can’t judge the value. It goes for around €600, said to be in good shape. Maybe I should go and have a look? Or wait for your review if there is still time. Any advice would be appreciated;)
Thanks for the comment on lens testing – what suits me might not suit someone else as I’m quite a slow, deliberate photographer, something which comes from using Kodachrome 64 I suppose, as it was too expensive to waste! I also feel that ‘real life’ testing is more useful than MTF charts etc as some lenses which were meant to be great based on scientific testing haven’t worked out that well for me (and vice versa). Really pleased you find it useful.
The 18mm is working out well so far, but as you say it’s not cheap for an old MF lens – but it is cheap by comparison with modern AF lenses. Mine was £370 from Ffordes (who test the lenses for fungus etc before they sell them), and after a few weeks I’m very pleased with it, though the review may take a few weeks as the weather is terrible at the moment and I need some sweeping landscapes to do it justice. At least buying second hand you can sell it without too much of a loss – something which always encourages me to be braver with purchases.
Might be best to go and have a look and make your mind up there – they don’t come up for sale very often.