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Friday, 22 January 2010


I've got two:

I will never part with my Pentax FA 77mm f1.8 Limited. I really plan to be buried with this lens. I can't find anything to fault about it, and I just love the pictures that come out of it. Sharpness, color, bokeh, etc. etc. The lens just delivers. Example Photo

For their 35th Anniversary, Tamron pulled out all the stops and built a top quality 180mm f2.5 for their Adaptall line. They limited production to 3000 units. That's really a shame, because the lens is fantastic. It can be a challenge to use wide open, but it's really sharp at f2.5. By f5.6, it's as sharp as any lens I've ever used. Color and bokeh are equally impressive. Using this one is a true treat. Example Photo

I bought Jonas Yip's square-hooded f/1.0 Noctilux six years ago, and it is my do-not-sell lens. Besides some large format swirl-kings and the occasional Diana shot, one cannot get that cool swirly bokeh/vignetting. And with LF/Diana's, it's either not fast or predictable. Of course, there is a heaping amount of irony to own an expensive Leica lens to replicate a common magnifying glass effect, but hey, I can focus!

Not everybody's cup of tea, but it tastes great to me.

Jonas, did you test out the Noct before deciding on the cheapo lens for your dreamy shots?

Jon Schick wrote: Of my SLR lenses [...] my old Tamron 500mm SP. [...] it's a cheap secondhand buy, compact, a great solution for us city folk who rarely need such a long lens...

So jon, you just happened to take this photograph on a walk 'round the city, did you? I'd like to live in your city! :-D

FA 43, dare I say?
But I´m starting to like the "nice and quiet" attitude of the FA 50. If lenses ever had personalities and talk to you, the FastFifty will be that quiet friend who is there always with a smile, no matter how long you´ve left him behind.

I have really enjoyed going through the comments on this, I hope they continue. I'm pretty new to the sport, but have tried to explore what I could. I think most of my favorites have been mentioned. My first decent lens was the Minolta 35-70 f/4. Not so good for crop digital, but sharp, tiny, and introduced me to the Minolta color. I later had the 28-85 f/3.5-4.5, not as sharp, but more useful on crop, and got a lot of use. I thought about trying to go with Sony FF just to use that 35-70, esp since it would have IS. I also had the 50/1.7 and 70-210/4 Beercan, all of those early Minolta lenses were quite nice, but certainly not designed to ever manual focus.

I moved to Canon in part because used 5Ds are so darn cheap. On Canon I wanted to replicate that tiny 35-70, and the 24-85 3.5-4.5 has come pretty close. Not quite as small and no IS, but bigger range and USM.

There just isn't as much magic in Canon EOS lenses though. A lot of people mention the 35/2, and it is a nice one, but Canon stuff is just consistently good, with less personality.

The Canon 85/1.8 is my favorite by far. It is an incredible lens for the price. Still nothing really magical about it, but it focuses fast, and takes great portraits on crop or FF.

These comments made me decide to try some adapted stuff. I currently have a Helios 44-2 on the way to try out, and if I like it a few are on my list, probably the Zeiss 50/1.4 being near the top.

Besides some large format swirl-kings and the occasional Diana shot, one cannot get that cool swirly bokeh/vignetting.

There are swirly lenses out there. I own two swirlers:

Vivitar 85mm f1.8 Pre-set T-mount Example">http://www.flickr.com/photos/ghosstrider/2946171732/">Example

Vivitar 70-150mm f3.8 (at the 150mm end) Example

Additionally, some of the Yashica TLRs seem to be real swirlers. There's a group dedicated to swirly lenses over at Flickr.

Jonas, did you test out the Noct before deciding on the cheapo lens for your dreamy shots?

David, glad the Noct has worked out for you. When I had it, I kept an ND filter attached and shot at 1.0 for the most part... but the look never really resonated with me, and the handling slowed me down too much (long focus throw), so I found myself not using it. Instead I found that I preferred my other lenses (35,50,75 lux) for wide-open fun... and so now the Noct is yours, and getting used like it ought to be.

The Olympus Zuiko 85mm F/2 (mine is a late-ish MC) has been closest to my heart for 20 years. It's smaller than most maker's 50s.

The Canon EF 85mm F/1.8 is a great replacement - and amazing wide-open - but is twice the size. But then, the 5D is twice the size of my OMs...

My favourite lenses for their beautiful tonal quality and balanced sharpness are

Canon 50mm f1.5 leica screw mount
Takumar 135mm f3.5
Travenar 90mm f2.5 pentax mount

Current lens that impresses me - Olympus 50-200mm

Nikon's 35mm f2 is the lens I'm most likely to stick on my camera if I'm photographing for myself (oddly, whether or not I'm using a DX or FX Nikon).

The Nikon 105mm DC lens is my favorite lens that I still haven't really wrapped my head around. I feel like my best pictures from it are better than most, but I get fewer great photos from it than when I'm using other lenses. I haven't figured out why that is yet.

This is a hard one... 43 or 77? I carry both with me at all times along with the K20. Both are majestic. I will blame you Mike for getting both... Thank You so much! :)

The 43 is well you can do anything with it, low light? no problem, portrait? walk a bit closer, take in a scene? put the camera to your eye and focus. I hesitate to call it an all rounder because that would mean its ultimately deficient somewhere but I have not found any weakness yet except maybe for the possibilty to lose the hood. A couple of my favourite shots with this beauty:



Then there is the 77... You just have to look at it to know it means business and yet... its got a crazy side. My first ever shot with it, grey miserable and wet (typical Irish December) and I was in love :)


What an interesting and eclectic array of answers! Must say those Pentax 43 and 77 lenses look sensational. I like the Summicron 35mm vers IV that was my first Leica lens when I bought into the M system last year. I guess I read a lot about what would be a good first lens beforehand (not least here- thank you!) and I just love that little lens. It is so expressive - the dark to light transition in backlit scenes is super beautiful, as is the sharp/unsharp transition eg http://photoeclipse.zenfolio.com/p788068857/h3b60eb04#h3b60eb04 and I reckon it is more than enough lens to justify an M camera all by itself.

I also look back fondly on photos I took with my old FD 135mm Canon F2.5 - long since stolen, but a lovely soft, silvery quality eg http://photoeclipse.zenfolio.com/p833821484/h56d37b0#h56d37b0.

Oh, and can I sneak in another vote for the Olympus 50mm f2 for four thirds eg http://photoeclipse.zenfolio.com/p790664186/h7687fd6#h7687fd6? If it has to be digital, they don't come any better than this one.

Cheers, Phil

Pentax A* 200mm Macro, followed closely by Pentax FA* 85mm 1.4.

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