Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Comparison ~ 50mm lens out of focus rendition

The Angry Photographer has a lot to say about out of focus rendition (aka: bokeh).  He has a bit to say about the Zeiss Jena DDR Tessar.  And he has a bit to say about the Meyer-Optik Gorlitz Domiplan.

As it turns out, I now have one each super cheap (weighing in at all of 7 Euro each) Tessar and Domiplan.  So... why not take a look at how these lenses compare against my much loved Nikon Nikkors?  Not from a resolution point of view.  I've done that already.  Rather, how about if I took my own look at out of focus rendition?

  • Shoot the same scene (through double pane glass, since it's so freak'n cold here)
  • Attempt to match the size of the out of focus rendition
  • Convert RAW to JPG using Sony's converter software

If you click on the image below it will take you to Flickr where you can look at this in a larger size.  I included the entire scene and a section from that scene.

Out Of Focus Comparisons


What is surprising to me is how similar most of the lenses are to each other.  What differences there are tend to be rather subtle.

To begin with, I very rarely see a 35mm full frame 50mm lens with out of focus area rendition as smooth as longer focal lengths.  There seems to be a lot if "jittery-ness" or "harshness" in 50mm lenses.  Perhaps this is why some people have gone the opposite direction and are celebrating "bubble bokeh" where the out of focus areas are overcorrected.

Here is what I observe about the lenses I compared, starting from the smoothest, most "buttery" out of focus rendition to the harshest, most "bubble bokeh-y" (gawds! try saying that three times fast).
  • Nikon Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5
  • Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.8
  • Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/2 Ai and H
  • Meyer-Optic Gorlitz 50mm f/2.8 Domiplan
  • Zeiss Jena DDR Tessar f/2.8
The Micro-Nikkor is really smooth in it's transition from sharp to out of focus.  The out of focus disks are flat and properly corrected.  It stands pretty much in a league of it's own in this regard.  It's the only 50mm (OK, this one is really 55mm) I've ever seen that can compete with longer focal length lenses in terms of out of focus rendition.  The lens is also sharp from wide open.  A drawback is that the maximum aperture is rather small (f/3.5), which means that the current rage razor thing depth of field is difficult to achieve.

Next comes the 50mm f/1.8 Ai "pancake" Nikkor.  With this lens a photographer can create the kind of razor thing depth of field images that are currently popular.  However, I see some "harshness" starting to creep into the out of focus areas.  I can clearly see a difference between this and the Micro-Nikkor, but I feel it still stands apart from the next two Nikkors, the f/2 Ai and H lenses. 

Beginning with the Nikkor f/2 lenses I feel we've fully entered into the zone of "bubble bokeh." This will make some photographers happy and will drive others nuts.  These two lenses come rather close to matching the Domiplan for their level of harsh "bubble bokeh" rendition.  Though I must say the f/2 Nikkors are ever so slightly less "harsh" than the old German lens.

Finally, the winner in the area of "bubble bokeh" generation is indeed the Zeiss Jena DDR Tessar 50mm f/2.8.  The Angry Photographer seems to have nailed the call on this one.  It gives the harshest and most "bubble-y" rendition of the small stack of lenses I considered here.  Too bad it's rather soft at the focus point.  But that's another matter for another time.

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