This is the eighth of a detailed series of posts for photographers who are thinking of using relatively cheap old manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. This time the full name of the lens is ‘Meyer Optik Gorlitz Primotar E 50mm f3.5’ which an impressive start!
Very soft pastel colours and a soft diffuse glow at maximum aperture – nice!
It’s an old East German-made lens in M42 screw fit and usually was sold with Exactas and Praktica cameras as the mid 20th century version of a ‘kit lens’ – i.e. a 50mm. On an APS-C DSLR it’s the equivalent of an 80mm lens. My hope was that with only a few lens elements, no multi coating and a relatively low contrast, it might be good to give a classic 1950’s look to images.
Closer to infinity, and again a strange ethereal appearance – I’m beginning to like this effect. It’s more noticable at larger image sizes.
The bokeh is unusual too.
The barrel is solid turned aluminium which is good, but the controls for focus and aperture are very thin making using it uncomfortable to use on a cold day. The min focus is around 50cm, filter size 40.5mm and the aperture range is f3.5 to f16. Oddly, the aperture is hexagonal at max aperture on my copy – which means hexagonal bokeh at all apertures. With the mount adaptor, there’s only stop down metering available.
The lens from the top and the thin focus and aperture controls. At the top the last ring has black and red dots – operating on the original cameras the red dot aligned with the red arrow keeps the aperture open for focus, moving the ring so the black dot is aligned closed the aperture to that chosen on the aperture ring. Unfortunately on the mount adaptor it makes no difference!
It’s quite a nice lens on the 60D – despite being small these old lenses are heavy.
So having notched up some nice initial impressions, off to the mill for a quick test.
The test frame in all it’s glory.
f3.5 – soft in the centre and very soft at the edge, with that odd max aperture sheen seen earlier. On the Zuikos it was a bit unpleasant but on this lens it’s quite nice.
f8 – very sharp in the centre and not bad at the edge
f16 – softening again but the edge is better.
Viewed as a ‘normal’ lens it’s not bad, except at f8 to f11 where it’s very sharp. However at f3.5 it’s age and flaws give it’s results something of the look of a Lensbaby plastic lens at smaller apertures where the softness is better controlled. The soft rendition, pastel colours and the way light bleeds into shadow when light and dark areas coincide are a nice effect. It certainly lives up to expectations in producing vintage looking images, and would make a very good 8omm equivalent portrait lens.
So if you see one cheap (it’s much cheaper than a Lensbaby) give one a try – even 50 year old lenses can sometime produce a pleasant surprise.
Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking.
If you’re interested in using other MF lenses on your DSLR have a look at the other reviews on the film, camera and lens review index tab.