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Saturday, 12 December 2009


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It seems we are all on the quest these days to find the camera whose size fits our needs. We're lucky to have so many choices. I thought I'd share my experience trying to find the right balance. M4/3ds is very appealing, but I really enjoy my optical viewfinder and am only looking for cameras that are very compact and not a hinderence to carry around.

To that end I've recently acquired the olympus e-620 with 25mm pancake lens (50mm equiv). I really liked it and thought the foldout display made it fun to shoot at odd angles. However, that's their only pancake, so I just got the Pentax K-x with the 21mm and 40mm pancake lenses. (31mm & 60mm equiv) The quality is great, and I've got a modern full aps-c sensor camera with a lens that fits comfortably on a small bag on the belt. Also, this small camera has amazing low light performance.

With built-in IS, great low-light perfomance and decently low max apertures, I finally find myself shooting more than ever. It's fun to have around, and the quality I'm used to in a package that sits fine in a jacket pocket. Plus, the k-x camera body is very affordable. (Anybody looking for a slightly used e-620 with pancake lens? ;-)

An interesting lens sideline story, another success for the quirky Cosina product range.

There was a time when 40mm pankakes (or 45mm e.g. Minolta, Contax, Chinon) were available for all sorts of SLR systems, I used the Pentax 40mm on an ME body as a "gone cycling" camera in the 80's.
A pity this new one isn't available in Sony/Minolta AF mount.

Cheers, Robin

Out of curiousity, is the last photo taken from the Babbio center at Stevens Institute in Hoboken? Looks mighty familiar. I graduated from there 3 years ago.

Regarding focusing screens.
For us Pentax users B&H lists:
"Pentax KE-60 All Surface Matte Focusing Screen features an edge-to-edge professional matte finish. When paired with large aperture optics, the screen greatly enhances manual focusing."

Does anyone here know if that screen works like the EG-S James mentions and "returns things to the old state of affairs but with the caveat that, when using lenses with maximum apertures slower than ƒ/4, the camera’s finder goes noticeably dark"?


does this lens have auto aperture on the EOS?

Interesting you wrote about an Ultron lens.

I'm so old - how are old are you? - my camera has whiskers. (bada-bing)

I bought new, a Zeiss Icarex 35 TM. TM stands for thread mount, not trademark. It came with an Ultron 50/1.8. The Ultron was a Voightlander formula, and Zeiss got it when the two merged to save both companies.

What's so unusual, is that the front element is concave! Yes, you read right. It is my personal opinion that this Ultron formula is the finest 50mm in the history of 35mm photography. I actually bought a universal thread mount/4-3 adapter, so I could use it on my dSLRs. It becomes a 100mm, and I use zone focussing - f/8 at ∞ mark. For landscapes, it rivals medium format, maybe 4x5.

I looked once on eBay. Those lenses are going for what the entire kit cost new.

Frankly this review does not surprise me one bit, but is a very welcome confirmation that Cosina/Voigtlander is doing some very wondrous things.

In response to Robin, I am pretty sure at least the last two photos in the article were taken at the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) in Boston. I even went back to look at some pictures I took there and confirmed they were similar.

I have been using a Color Skopar 20mm f3.5 on a Nikon D200 with excellent results, and it is so much lighter than with a zoom. I have been wondering whether this lens would be a good match for the GF1, in which case it would an equivalent focal length of 40mm. Anyone out there done this yet?

Just some notes...
The Pentax pancake IS auto-focus, for those that need it (it also is capable of being used on a full frame (film), K mount body ( despite it's DA designation).
ALL the Cosina SL2 lenses are auto aperture on the brands they are designed to fit, including Canon.
The Cosina 58mm is f1.4 not f1.2, and the 20mm f3.5 is also a pancake (like the 40mm).
Both the pancakes can be used on m4/3, with great fun ;-)

Check some results with lenses and the SL1's on Flickr under "k.j.lloyd", tags : "Voigtlander"

Merry Xmas!

Try here ;-)


Thank you for the review.

Whilst shopping for a lens with a similar view of the world, but on an APS-C Nikon, the 20mm, and 40mm Voigtlanders were tempting. Alas, 20mm was too wide, and 40mm was too narrow. A 28mm lens would be just right, and I've just ordered Sigma's 'close enough' 30mm f/1.4 (with auto-focus... and Mike, your percentage should appear on your Amazon UK cheque for this month).

Isn't the 58mm Voigtlander an f/1.4 lens, rather than f/1.2? This is only currently available in Pentax and Nikon mounts (though it may fit Canon with an adapter).

Hoping to try the 20mm and 58mm lenses at a later date on my D40/D200 Nikons. Suspect a replacement focusing screen won't be necessary for the 20mm, but would be advisable for the 58mm. Nikon don't sell such screens for the majority of their DSLR's. So the only option is third party screens, such as those made by Katz Eye and others.

Thanks for your insight into the Ultron. I've been intrigued about this lens every since Cosina/Voigtlander announced its availability in EOS mount. By the way, a small correction: the Nokton 58mm is f1.4. The Nokton is obviously a larger lens than the Ultron, but apparently is very good both optically as well as in regard to build quality.
The Zeiss and Voigtlander lines of lenses are filling a niche that Canon has ignored. You'd think that Canon would at least update its 50mm f1.4 lens.

That's a good gear review, brief but informative. I'd never even heard of this lens previously. I note that my local Sydney dealer Mainline has them listed at $495 AUD which seems reasonable compared to the USA price.

I use to have a 43mm (?) Pentax pancake lens on an ME. What a wonderful lens, both focal length and sharpness. To bad my daughter laid claim to it.

I've had this lens on my 5DII for a little over a week now, and love it. Its a nice change from the much larger Canon 35L, and with the EG-S screen is easy to use and focus. And I'd agree with James: it "draws" beautifully. Someone asked if this lens had auto aperture: the mount is chipped for EOS systems, and works like any Canon lens with regards to aperture and metering. Any auto or program modes will work as normal.

I have a test/review of the Voigtlander lenses here:
Comments welcome.

My understanding is that the Nikon version is (now?) fully compatible also with the less expensive Nikon DSLRs, just like an AF Nikkor but without autofocus. Can someone confirm this?

A few days ago, when I took my D40 to a bar where I met some friends, I considered both the AF-S 35/1.8 and the AF 50/1.8; 40mm would not be a bad focal length for that kind of situation. And the smaller size would be much welcome. I would have to practice focusing, though. (In the end, I did take the AF-S 35mm mostly out of lazyness, since the AF will not autofocus on the D40.)

A pancake lens I can use on a 5D? That's great, and 40mm does sound just about right. Did not know such a lens exists. Although I really like Canon's 5D I hate the big size of its quality lenses, which make the whole package a bit obtrusive. This lens could be the solution.


Thanks for all your comments. All of the pictures that accompany the story were taken at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.

As to the 40mm being "about right", it should be noted that film shooters live(d) with a "crop factor". With the exception of those that print their own with oversized carriers in their enlargers, you could never print nearly as much of the image as you can with digital.

Correcting for the common machine printing mask or slide mount, a 40mm on digital "full frame" is about the same as a 35-37mm on film and if you print the slides the additional cropping brings it more into the 33-35mm range. It kinda makes 40mm new "new 35mm".

Mike, also I would bet you know this feature about Nachtwey, I'll suggest it anyway http://www.villagevoice.com/2000-06-06/news/to-hell-and-back/

Not only is the standard focusing screen on the 5d Mk2 pretty awful for focusing, but the markings for the autofocus points and central metering area are NOT on the focusing plane. If you adjust the diopter so that those markings are sharp, then with the excessively bright screen you will consistently front focus.

If you adjust the diopter so that the image is as sharp as possible not the markings, then it is sort of usable. making some pencil markings on the screen or replacing it with the Eg-S makes things better.

It took me a day of fiddling with the live view focusing - which is great BTW - and wondering why it didn't agree with the focusing screen when I was using an circa 1974 Nikkor S.C 58mm 1.2. which is probably the worst case scenario for focusing. It wasn't until I took the focusing screen out and noticed that the markings aren't on the screen itself like they are on the 1Ds that everything made sense.

If you get everything just right the Nikkor S.C 55mm 1.2 on the 5d Mk2 looks wonderful.

I've been using the Nikon version about 4 months ago for my D3 and it's hardly come off. It's hard to make a D3 unobtrusive but this lens helps a lot.

Carsten S, I do not recommend the 40mm for a DX (in Nikon speak) frame camera (although it works fine on my D200)- it's too long to emulate a FF (FX) 50 mm and too short to be a useful a short telephoto - Voigtlander make a 58mm 1.4 mm which is perfect for that (all a matter of opinion and style though) - available in Canon and Nikon too, I believe.

Just a brief note to add a "Hear, hear!" to James's article. I just received a copy of this lens from Stephen Gandy (CameraQuest). I had long been hoping for a pancake-style lens for my EF bodies (and wondered why none existed). I've had the M-mount version of this lens for quite a while and have liked it very much. So I was very excited to read of this lens this past weekend.

My first impressions: Nicely sharp, excellent contrast, and the characteristically warm Voigtlander lens rendering. Just about PERFECT to me.

Thank you, James, for the article (and thanks to Mike for posting it). It's Christmas for me!

Tested and bought today. I am also using it on a 5dII. It´s sharp, has nice colors and manual focusing is pretty easy, even with the standard screen. Finally a lightweight lens for me! I am happy!! Thank you for the article!!!

A few days ago I received the Nikon version of this lens for use on my D700. The 40mm focal length is new to me, I have always been a 35mm type of guy...

I read some criticism of the lens' bokeh on various sites but actually find it quite nice. Similar to the famed 4th-version Leica Summicron-M 35/2, the OOF areas are rendered somewhat harshly at f/2, improve by f/2.8 and are very nice and smooth by f/4. I'm surprised that many bokeh comparisons on the Web show only pictures taken wide open as most lenses don't show their best bokeh at that aperture setting.

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