Sunday, 20 September 2020

Three Lenses I Regret Selling


FM2n, Nikkor 35mm f1.4 AI-S, Ilford HP5+ @ EI3200

The 35mm f1.4 is a loved & hated lens, largely because it has two very distinctly different characters. Wide open and slightly stopped down it's full of CA & abberations and is very much a character lens, but with some very 3D rendering. Stopped down past f2.8 and it turns into a great landscape lens, sharp across the frame, low distortion, good 3D.

It was a fun lens and it's surprisingly small compared to other 35mm f1.4 options. Not the best 35mm f1.4, in fact from a technical standpoint it's the worst one in F mount. But it's also decades older than the other options, there wouldn't be another f1.4 at this focal length until the 35/1.4G AF-S, followed closely by the ZF.2. Now there are 3 others, with Sigma, Tamron and Samyang all having offerings here.

Definitely on my to re-acquire list as I've only got the 35/2 AI right now and that's my least favourite of the four general-purpose Nikkor options at 35mm.

FM10, Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f1.4 SLII, Ilford HP5+

This is one of my favourite normal lenses. Longer than the typical 50mm, I quite liked the extra bit of reach. It has a fairly soft rendering, but very sharp and very well behaved optically. It was also great on APS-C digital in part because it offered the field of view of an 85mm on FF.

These are still available new, but I don't like the redesigned barrel of the current version nearly as much. Voigtlander went to a knurled metal focus ring similar to classic pre-AI lenses and I definitely prefer the more modern design of the SLII version with its rubber focus ring grip and AI-style cosmetics.

I've never liked Nikon's f1.4 offerings at 50mm and this was a great alternative. Definitely preferred over the f1.4 options, although I'll admit that for the same money a 50/1.2 AI-S is a solid alternative, albeit one with very different rendering. The Nokton has better OOF rendering, the 50/1.2 is punchier, has more vivid colour and an extra half stop.

F2A, Nikkor 85mm f1.8 K AI'd, Agfa APX100 (original)

This is just a gem of a lens. Often overlooked in favour of the later (and larger & heavier) 85/1.4 or the earlier single coated versions (the Nikkor-H 85/1.8), this late Pre-AI lens has AI-style cosmetics and is often confused for an AI lens if equipped with an AI kit. Nikon even sold these with a factory-installed AI kit, so the confusion is partly their fault. It is however very definitely a pre-AI lens, lacking the maximum aperture indexing tab of a real AI lens.

It's very much a character lens when shot wide open. Some swirl in the bokeh and softness outside of the center deliver that very 70's street look. Stop it down and it gets quite good, although it does not have the abrupt personality transition of the 35/1.4 AI-S, you just see the character progressively smooth out and the edges sharpen up quickly as you stop down.

Of the three lenses on this list, this is the one closest to being bought again, as I have no 85mm options except my not very loved 50-135/3.5 AI-S. A 135 is next, but afterwards I will be getting another one of these. Might grab the optically-identical Nikkor-H.C depending on pricing, but I definitely prefer the handling of the K version and its rubberized focus ring.

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