Thursday, October 25, 2012

Here's A Book For Me - and Maybe For You? And, My Decision To Try A Zeiss Sonnar ZM

Image Source:
Digital Photography Now ( has announced this new book by NK Guy, written with the purpose of helping real photographers (not optics designers or lens testers) understand the terms, charts, and subtle aberrations we're deluged with when we study a new lens.
(Click Here) to see the announcement on dpnow.
I'll be buying this book for sure. If you decide to, please buy it through my link to Amazon below. My sales have been zero for mulitiple months now, so help me out as you help yourself out. Not that it really matters; this blog is my hobby. But, any little commission does help to fund my daily coffee...
I'm interested in this book because, even though I'm an engineer, the technical criticisms that I read about lenses are difficult to understand, weigh, and consider when deciding whether or not to try a new lens.
I'm working on a case in point at the moment. I have traded my used Leica M8 for a used Zeiss ZM Special Edition camera body (no questions there) and Zeiss 50mm Sonnar f1.5 lens. This lens is so highly maligned by the technical folks that if I listened to that bunch, I'd never consider it. The big issue seems to be a focus shift at wide apertures. What this means is that on a rangefinder camera, if you shoot at f1.5 (or maybe f2), the focus point of the lens will be shifted a few inches in front of where your rangefinder tells you to focus. This is a very real effect, and can be troublesome if you're shooting a portrait, and want the focus point to be exactly on the subject's eyes. I know the effect is real, because I've experienced it with my own lenses on the Leica M9. It varies by lens design. My Leica Summicron 50mm f2 is probably the best (smallest shift), and my 1955 Summarit 5 cm f1.5 is the worst. My most valuable Leica lens, the pre-aspheric 35mm f1.4 Summilux, shows the effect clearly at f1.4.
It's really easy to get hung up on these things. However, both of my lenses that exhibit focus shift are personal favorites. Until now, I have always thought that they were just a little "soft" at wide apertures. Now I think it's mostly focus shift. Both of them are masters of the "Leica glow," another highly debated lens characteristic.
Anyway, the newer Zeiss Sonnar is a modern version of an earlier lens design, with known technical peculiarities. Zeiss knows this, of course. In fact, a piece on Luminous Landscape includes a written message from Zeiss at the bottom of the page explaining it. It also explains that this is an artist's lens, not a lens tester's lens.
(Click Here) to read about the Sonnar on Luminous Landscape.
When I think about it, some of my older, less technical lenses are my favorites. Maybe it's my own age creeping in?
In any case, the Sonnar is on its way, and I'll report on whether I'm more artist or engineer in the end :).
Also, I'll let you know how I like this book. Or, you can order it for yourself through the link below (please).