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Friday, 20 December 2019


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Oh, no ! Forgot Mr Tuck in the daily blog read ? Oh, no, oh,no.....

This lens is particularly interesting when we have wide swaths of the photo innertubes declaring that you don't need anything but a 6.63-ounce iPhone 11 pro for all your visual arts needs.

Is it a coincidence that this lens is so outrageous that the only way a rational and reasonable photographer would get his/her hands on one would be by renting it?

Interesting that you pick that Nikon lens. I own a Nikon Z6 and find that lens too large (long) and expensive for my taste. And I look with envy at the Canon RF 35mm for it''s mirrorless, while I use my 40mm Summicron on the Z6 (when I am not using it's 24-70) and think about adapting my Sony-Zeiss 35 2.8.

I guess I got so accustomed to my Leica M cameras and their 35 Summicrons that I balk at a 3.4 inch long 35mm.

Only question here is- silver or black rim?

Just go with this if you're on Sony:


Amazingly sharp, very small, and in crop mode is a 35mm (although equiv. dof is like a f/1.8 in crop mode). Best of both worlds!

Most often (never "always" with photographs) the purpose of out-of-focus areas is to direct the viewer's eye to in-focus areas. It is one of many compositional tools. Given that, many of us would like the out-of-focus areas to look as pleasant as possible. Bokeh may play a supporting role in a photograph, but it's an important one, integral to the photographic process, and one harder to achieve with small-sensor cameras, including those in mobile phones. "Portrait mode"--yah, I've heard about that, but am not really interested.

At that size/weight/price, the bokeh better be sharp wide open.

DIN could be a good fit for today's cameras, with f-stops and shutter speeds adjustments generally coming in 3rd of a stop increments. But it wouldn't be as much fun to crow about high DINs merely in the 50s or 60s.

Peter Karbe told Hugh Brownstone that the new Leica SL 35 Summicron is the best lens he’s ever produced. All the lens barrels on the SL Summicrons (35, 50, 75 and 90 currently... with 21,24 and 28 to come) are the same size (with some shared internals), presumably to keep costs down*. As a result, the SL 35 is a mere $5k-ish! Karbe explains that the 35 would ordinarily be the smallest of the group, but the extra barrel space allowed him to maximize its relative performance.

*Size matters, as evidenced by the diminutive M 50 APO Summicron at about $8k, compared to the much larger SL 50 Summicron at ‘only’ about $5k. Apples to apples, it’s much harder to make high performing lenses smaller. (Also, the M line has less competition than the SL line, so Leica can
seek higher margins on the M line).

There was me thinking you'd missed a digit, and it was a 135mm lens.

Nikon Nikkor Z 35mm ƒ/1.8 S - am enjoying using one of these on the recently arrived little Nikon Z50 camera. Was going to use an F-mount Sigma 30mm ƒ/1.4 Art lens on the camera, but the Sigma was already heavier than the Z lens before you added the necessary FTZ adapter, which would've also made it longer.

Voigtländer 40mm ƒ/2 Ultron (SLII, F-mount version) - an all time favourite that I don't intend to part with. Likewise with their other similarly teeny SLII Color Skopar and Nokton lenses.


The Sigma Art f/1.4 lens is less expensive than a Pentax 31mm Limited, but it's twice as heavy as the Pentax lens -- despite the fact that the Limited has an "old school" metal body and metal lens hood. The Pentax has 9 elements, while the Sigma has 13 elements. I guess that accounts for most of the weight disparity.

I can't imagine carrying a prime that weighs as much as the Sigma f/1.2 Art lens.

It's just as well it's not available in Pentax K-mount.

Yeah these lenses kind of bum me out. And I like Sigma. I wish they would put all that brain power into making some new compact classic primes.

The Fujicron 23 is quite nice. It can show some haze from lights, but no big deal.

...I like 40mm too...

I have Sigma f/1.4 Art lenses in 35mm and 50mm for my FX Nikon. Both are reasonable in terms of size and weight, and more than adequately sharp, but I'd like a 40mm too.

...The new Sigma represents excess...

Although you wrote that second phrase about the 35mm f/1.2, it also applies to Sigma's 40mm f/1.4 Art lens. Had Sigma offered a 40mm f/1.4 Art that fell between its 35mm and 50mm f/1.4 versions with respect to dimensions/mass and performance, I'd have gone for it. As things stand, no thanks.

So ironic and sad that we finally are getting some smaller bodies with the arrival of mirrorless cameras and they have decided to make the lenses much bigger and heavier! These lenses would be heavy and big on my old Nikon D5's, but on Sony A9 and A7 bodies, they are ridiculous and out of balance.

John Gillooly

Mike, don't look at the Sigma 40/1.4 Art: it's even heavier and is said to be more technically perfect than the 35/1.2!

Nikon's f/1.8 Z-mount lenses have found a really nice balance of size, price, and performance, without too much compromise, and IMO are the most compelling reasons to use a Z-mount camera.

All 4 (along with the the zooms) are by far the best versions of those lenses Nikon's ever made, and several are among the best examples of that focal length from any brand. I'd put both 24-70s (f/2.8 and f/4), the 50/1.8, 85/1.8, and probably the 24/1.8 (because I haven't spent enough time with it yet) in that latter best-of category. It is no exaggeration to say that those f/1.8 primes approach and sometimes surpass Zeiss Otus-levels of performance.

The 35 is a step down only because of its relatively higher longitudinal chromatic aberration wide open compared to its siblings, and the 14-30 is ... controversial. The 58/0.95 isn't for mere mortals but its wide open performance from the photos I've seen is very impressive.

I agree that these monster Mauna Kea-class prime lenses seem excessive for the average happy snapper. And they are! After all, whos's really going to walk around with a 10lb 35mm lens trying to grab street shots in Manhattan?

But you're missing the raison d'etre behind these bricks: video. Remember, hardly anyone under the age of, say, 50, just takes photos with their FF cameras any more. Look, for example, at the sizes and weights of Angenieux cinema lenses and you can see that your "excessive" Tamrons and Sigmas look (and behave) like diminutive bargain-basement home movie lenses to, say, weekend wedding shooters (who sometimes look like feature film shooters)!

Still photos? Pfft. That's so 20th! %-)

I have to agree with you Mike. The lens race seems to be bigger and faster. I guess the manufactures will make what sells and gives them bragging rights.

With regards to Voigtlander 40mm you mention, over the years I have acquired a set of Voigtlander lens (EF mount) - Color Skopar 20mm f3.5, Color Skopar 28mm f2.8, Ultron 40mm f2, APO-Lanthar 90mm 3.5. These are small and light weight lens. Out of curiosity I compared the lens to the equivalent Sigma Art lens (85 for the 90). The Sigmas are faster and have auto focus. The Voigtlanders have consist filter size (52mm) and are seven pounds lighter than the Sigmas. The Voigtlanders lens get the job done for me and are more likely to be brought along than some of my bigger lens.

I did a lens size comparison some time ago looking at 35mm and 35mm equivalent lenses, all with f/1.4 apertures: https://prometheus.med.utah.edu/~bwjones/2018/12/35mm-lenses/ and am still not sure I understand why optical formulas scale the way they do.

But all this reinforces why I've been preferring manual focus lenses for some time, and going back to smaller and simpler in terms of an approach.

The scale I think needs to be compressed is for measuring the heat of a pepper, the Scoville Scale:

It'll be interesting to see if this trend towards larger and heavier is really a winning strategy as a majority(*?) of dedicated camera and lens buyers in the West are in or nearing retirement age.

*(I don't have numbers on the average age of buyers, but anecdotally and from everything I've read, it does seem that the U.S. "baby boom" generation and its equivalent cohort in other countries makes up the bulk of camera buyers in western nations.)

The Leica-R 35mm Summilux weighs 685g. It’s too heavy for me, although it balances very well on the R8/9 and has a look that almost perfectly matches the 80 Summilux.

One of the problems with the current sharpness race is it is happening so fast it’s hard to get a matching set of lenses. I wonder if Sigma has a matching 50 and 85 planned?


Old skool 35mm f/1.4 lenses:

-Nikon AI-S (1981): length = 62mm | weight = 400gr

-Zeiss Contax-Distagon (1975): length = 76mm | weight = 600gr *)

-Leitz Summilux-R (1983): length = 76mm | weight = 685gr

*) 470gr in Rollei-mount (1972): it has a 3-bladed aperture, hence the difference ;-)

"Bigger is always better in this age of inglorious excess." Yes, it's the Amuricun way, damned the environmental damage, resource use, and inconvenience to others. Just look at the typical pretentious McMansion with towers, turrets,and entry atrium. 6,000 sq.ft. is the new normal. And look at the size of the tires on the typical new pickup truck or SUV/crossover play trucklet. They guarantee that the owner/leaser can't change a flat tire himself. I suppose your peer social group nowadays won't consider you a real photographer without one of these new, heavy, penile-shaped lenses. Perfect for those jpegs on social media. Sigh.....

What puzzles me: In what kind of situation do you need to rent or use a lens like the Sigma 35mm f/1.2? Size and weight aside.
In the stone age of my design years we once rented a 400mm f/5 Telyt for a Leica rangefinder to obtain a flat medieval sort of perspective, that we sometimes rented large format because they weren’t daily practice or purchased an Olympus PEN half frame for a special beautiful grainy effect. All those different tools had their charm and therefore their reason of existence.
The age of inglorious excess in lens design can be explained by the need for a different, unique look as well. Just wondering what kind of quality this Hummer lens can bring that others can’t and what the means in the daily practice of image making and taking.
In the meantime praises and admiration for Sigma trying to stretch the limits.

Consider me a cantankerous old fool but I simply can't get into these lenses. They're too big, too expensive and too perfect. I prefer my tiny Fuji 23/2 and 35/2. And for the Nikons, I've bought a few of the older D-series lenses with the screw driver focus. They may not be sharp by today's standards but they've got optical soul when it comes to the way a picture looks.

“Internet boils with scorn” Love it! Happy Christmas Mike.

I’m fine with my $230 Samyang 35mm f/2.8 FE Lens on my Sony A7.
Weighs a little more than a lens cap, is small enough to wear inside a jacket and is sharp enough. 5.6 is my favorite f stop anyway.

At this point I think the obsession with lens sharpness has very little to do with actual photography and more to do with for lack of a better term "gear wanking." It's a bit boring and certainly isn't going to make any photographer Diane Arbus or William Eggleston or Walker Evans or Saul Leiter. It just makes you a guy or a gal with a stupidly heavy lens that you can brag about. Sorry, but it's really silly. Sharp does not make a photo good.

Tripod for sharp images. Anybody?

If I built lenses they would be in the Pentax Limited style, so you can count me out ;)

Hi Mike,

I have a very specialized interest in both bokeh and 35mm lenses, and I think I can answer why they are producing these.

Basically, people who like using TLRs wide open, want to get square format images with blur at infinity that is the same.* Infinity bokeh is determined by the absolute aperture size in mm, so moving across formats creates some problems.
For example:
80mm f/3.5 lens on a Yashica has aperture size of about 23mm, which corresponds to a 35mm lens at f/1.5 if you crop the 2:3 sensor to a square.
A 80 f/2.8 on a Rollei, however, has an aperture of almost 29mm, which works out to be very much like 35mm f/1.2

Never mind that people traditionally did not shoot TLRs wide open, we all looked through the viewing lens that was always wide open! (And that didn't always make a recipe for pretty bokeh.)

But what do people really want from this retro experience? I think people want the compressed highlights of film, and lower contrast in the areas outside the zone of sharp focus. Basically, I don't think people want less depth of field, or necessarily tons of infinity blur, they just want less contrast in the areas they think are less important. My hunch is that spherical aberration** and field curvature*** is what gets you that quality, and since that doesn't test well, manufacturers keep making these ultra-corrected monsters instead.

*close up depth of field and bokeh varies in a more complex way, partly due to format size issues, and partly due to unit focusing lenses changing their effective focal length. And I'm sure you know that, but I don't know that everyone does.
**Hi Sigma 45/2.8!
***Hi Olympus 45/1.8!

p.s. I suspect one of the reasons the 50/3.5 and 90/2.5 macros of the film era made pretty good portrait lenses was that they _weren't_ corrected for infinity, and thus produced lots of low contrast detail at people distances and very low contrast at infinity when focused at people distances.

I think the trend towards large and expensive lenses says more about the state of the shrinking camera market than anything else. Lower unit sales but higher margins. They just need to then sell those lenses to a smaller but well heeled group of customers.

It's not all doom and gloom in new lenses:

The 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens for the Nikon Z50 (APS-C) is a tiny collapsible zoom.

It's good to see that after even the micro four thirds manufacturers started building out-sized lenses, Nikon (!) comes up with a tiny lens.

""Roger Cicala, the lens guru whose blog is the only must-read on the PhotoInternet for me...""

I am cut to the quick. And now despondent for the holidays..... (visual: tear drop rolls down one cheek and splashes onto the full frame sensor of the camera on which I was changing lenses when I looked up to read your post. Sensor is destroyed by the salty tear).


[Oh, dear, now I've done it...I owe Kirk a new sensor! And all for nothing, because OF COURSE I read VSL. Because who doesn't??? :-) --Mike]

So, Mike, one question:

What other photo blogs do you read beside Roger's?

Inquiring minds, and all....

Did Roger get in touch to tell you he’s the founder and not the owner of Lensrentals? I noticed you changed it. You had me wondering when you called him the owner.

[No, I just noticed that that's what he calls himself on his website. --Mike]

A couple of years ago I was stunned to see how big the newer, fast prime lenses have become. They are huge compared to similar lenses from the 1980s and 1990s. While I do not expect such lenses to be as petite as the Olympus OM-mount 50mm f/1.8 lens I once owned, I also don't know why so many of these lenses are approaching the size of the old Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 lens. Although most of the lenses I own are fairly slow, they are also relatively lightweight and compact. I don't feel like I am going through a strength-and-endurance trial every time that I use them.

We've almost forgotten that there used to be a time when 35mm format cameras such as the Leica were referred to as "miniature" cameras. And part of the marvel of miniature cameras was their miniature interchangeable lenses. Their small size was a sensation.

With this latest iteration of miniature cameras, such as the Nikon Z mirrorless cameras, designers have clearly forgotten all that. It's a delight how small the bodies of the Nikon Z5, Z6 and Z7 are, compared to their DSLR cousins, but their lenses are dismayingly large, unbalanced lumps that hang off the front of the camera.

Perhaps the lens designers are at war with the camera body designers, and wish to spite them?

Oy! What a story. All I know is I finally bought my first DSLR (having been Olympus Pen all this time for Digital) today winning on Ebay a Nikon d3200 and it's (dx) 35/1.8 normal prime. Thanks to the crop it's my prefered nifty fifty ish field of view but that's not the biggest thing - rather the important bit is that it's small, unlike the ones above. :D

In re your comment of not liking to see fancy uber-designed lenses used only wide open, here's an example of the type of planar separation that the current line of Karbe/Leica SL Summicrons produce. Both resolution and contrast rolloff away from the plane of focus are designed to give extra separation close in. Normal circle of confusion rules apply for things further away:
https://flic.kr/p/2i3omu2 (35mm SL Summicron @f/2.8)
Karbe's public stance is that he wants to see his lenses used with aperture set only to give the required DOF.

Worth a read of another Lens Rentals article: “ The more expensive f/1.4 primes, then, are better than the less expensive primes at wide apertures. They’re ‘laboratory’ better even stopped down, but at f/8 the difference is fairly small.”


I’ve always seen a difference between the Canon 85/1.2L and 35/1.4L2, and the f/1.8 versions. It’s nice to have some measurements backing it up. I use the smaller, lighter, cheaper versions when travelling light (one lens on the camera, the other in a pocket), I just don’t kid myself they are as good.

And I always thought that my Zeiss 35/1.4 ZF.2 was big and heavy for a lens of that focal length. Turns out it weighs in at 'only' 890 g.
BTW I hate using it on my Nikon Z7. While the image quality is great, the whole contraption is so front-heavy it isn't fun anymore.

>>Of course, I'd be even happier with the 23mm Fujicron (which I don't own yet)<<

I'd love to read your comparison of said lens to the Fuji 23/1.4 once you get your hands on one.

Your title says it all. At first, I avoided the bazooka-sized 24-70mm f/2.8 zooms -- too much to hang around your neck for even an hour. Now, the multi-$k primes have become too much to hang around the neck. I personally get more images when I go out with a lighter-weight body and a single prime of reasonable physical size -- e.g., a 35mm f/2 or 50mm f/1.4 either in MF or AF. But take no more. This I can handle hanging from my neck all day long. If the camera is out and ready, your gonna get more images. Period. Time to stop pixel peeping and settle for comfortable lenses that are sharp-enough in center and stop insisting on uber corner sharpness. Who to heck puts a key element of the image in the corner, anyway??

35mm is my favourite focal length, and I want to give a shout out to my latest acquisition: A Leica 35mm f/2.4 Summarit. (I already own other 35mm M mount lenses, but 'needed' to add this one.) It is not an inexpensive lens, and probably does not test as well as the Sigma. (Is that blasphemy!) But of course, I don't know for sure as I don't own the Sigma. What I can say is that the optical performance leaves nothing to be desired, the lens is beautifully built, is absolutely tiny, and has a square opening lens hood, which the round (metal) lens cap goes over with a snug fit. Or if the hood is not in use, the same lens cap fits directly over the lens. Very ingenious! And it weighs under 200 grams, or less than a fifth of the Sigma! It has been my most used lens by a good margin since I bought it.

Now that's the kind of lens engineering I am willing to pay for (and use).

You remember what happened when Olympus OM-1 entered the market in the seventies?

I agree with you that for most still photographers the 'New Giants' are probably excess, but as someone already pointed out, that is less true if you shoot video. It is also less true if the lens allows you to do something new or better or easier than more historically conventional lenses.
The other thing that is at work here is that FF Mirrorless with the short flange focal distance really has allowed manufacturers to do things that were in some cases not possible in the world of retro-focus designs.
So like every new thing that allows old boundaries to be pushed further, we are seeing just how far they can be pushed.
As the 'excesses' find new boundaries the technologies and manufacturing techniques perfected during excess will come back to benefit the less extreme lenses.
Sadly, excess is how you get noticed in the new economy so we can't really blame the manufacturers.
All in all, I think it's a good thing that will sort itself out.

After many years it's still possible to take pictures with the 40mm/f2.8 STM Canon lens and an old Canon 6D.
Weight just under 1 kg. Camera + lens.

I feel this very much since I've been in the market for a 35 mm lens for Sony. I like the idea of the Sigma, high performance and an ultra-fast aperture. Hey, I could probably play with f1.2 even if I'd use it rarely. But the size and weight are just too much, particularly since I usually want to stop down. So I bought the new Sony 35/1.8, which is smaller and lighter than the Nikon you mention and turns out to be an interesting lens in its own right. Of note is that it has a lot of "snap", the bokeh has worked very well for my use and the AF is very fast and accurate. It has annoying vignetting though, but the lens is so immensely practical that I use it anyway.

I think this is the perfect lens for street photography.

Or just get the outstanding Olympus OM-System 50mm ƒ/1.4 and put a Metabones Speedbooster Ultra on it, and you'll have an incredibly sharp 35mm ƒ1.0 at a third of the weight and size!

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