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Inner Dharma contains essays about Classical Martial Arts, Photography, Hatha Yoga, Philosophy, and Physics.

06 Feb 2015: 135mm Comparison

tags: art

I shoot both film and digital; lately I've been trying to hone my skills with a Sony/Minolta A7R digital camera. I shoot primarily in black & white, and while I do shoot some sports in the form of martial arts gatherings when I am able, I primarily shoot as a travel and street photographer. I'd been interested in getting some longer lenses for my A7R, and decided to explore Leica R mount lenses. Leica R mount lenses can still be expensive, but are often much cheaper than M mount lenses, since the R system has been discontinued.

I purchased a used, almost new condition, Leica R 135mm/2.8 Elmarit lens to use with my A7R. It has been quite enjoyable to shoot with, and I have been curious how well it compares to the new Zeiss 135mm/2.0 APO lens. I rented the latter from and walked around the Inner Harbor a bit, shooting first with one of the lenses and then with the other.

Leica 135mm Elmarit-R f2.8

The Zeiss and Leica seem to have equivalent sharpness -- I can't really differentiate between the images of both lenses as far as sharpness goes. The Zeiss is more contrasty -- I applied the same development settings in Capture One, and light was similar in the two sessions (one followed directly after the other). The Leica 135mm seems to have a more natural contrast and tonality to it.

The Zeiss 135mm is very large, as it goes down to f2.0 and has a long flange distance, being designed for DSLRs. The Nikon mount ZF.2 has a manual aperature, which I can control while it is attached to the A7R. It worked well on the Sony but its size removed many of the advantages of having a mirrorless camera. In contrast, the Leica R seemed to fit more naturally on the A7R body; it is narrower with a 55mm filter diameter in contrast to 77mm for the Zeiss.

Zeiss 2/135mm APO ZF.2 at f2.8

I am excited to try some of the Zeiss wide angle Nikon mount lenses on the A7R and compare them to the 16-35 Wide Angle Zoom I have. It seems to work well at the wider end of its range, and I mostly shoot 50mm, not 35mm, so am not so concerned if it falls down a bit at 30-35mm. So, it is a good compromise. I sold the 18mm/4 Zeiss ZM lens, finding it a bit too wide for my tastes. I got some good results with it on my trip to Colorado last year, but it does seem to suffer at the edges of the image circle, in terms of smearing. Color cast I was able to manage, as I don't shoot color often, and when I do, I can use a lens calibration card, but having a native wide angle lens seemed a better path forward.

Zeiss 4/18mm ZM at 12,000 feet.

I am excited by Mansler's other designs, besides the 135 Elmarit and 180 Telyt-APO. The 35mm Summicron-R II is within my reach if I save up; it would be interesting to compare it to the 35mm 1.4 that is in Sony's roadmap.

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