Zeiss Planar 45mm F2(test with X-Pro 2)

A few months back I procured the well regarded Zeiss Sonnar 90mm F2.8 (G fit). I was suitably impressed with this somewhat small marvel and the review is buried on this site somewhere! It was small, well made, EXTREMELY sharp – and ultimately convinced me that buying the Fujinon XF90mm may not actually be necessary. I’m not saying it was better (it likely wasn’t/isn’t) but seeing as that focal length is not really what I use anyway (I do mainly street stuff and use the 23mm nearly all of the time) I figured the £600 I saved by not getting it could be put to better use. So I went to Whitstable for a few days with my bird…had a great time.

I have always been a fan of the Contax G1/2 – I worked in photo retail for many years, straight out of school, in fact, and this titanium tank still has a huge following today. One of the reasons people bought these beauties (and still do) was the lenses available. The most popular of which was the Planar 45. Years later, as bench tests became more advanced and sensors started to out perform film emulsion etc, this optic became something of a star, especially in the digital mirrorless world. Swedish website ‘Photodo’ actually declared it performed better in terms of overall sharpness than the Leica 50mm Summicron, and many others have it ranked the 2nd or 3rd best production lens of all time. Not that it matters THAT much, of course (as someone recently pointed out to me, sharpness isn’t necessarily the the be all and end all when it comes to a great lens) but I’ve always wanted one – especially now, as I truly believe the Fujifilm X-Trans III sensor found on the X-Pro 2 is an incredible chip – and one recently came up going for a song, so I took the plunge….

The 45mm, in APS-C terms, is 67.5mm equiv. A short tele, and most certainly what I would not normally use for street work. In addition, its obviously a manual focus optic on the X-Pro 2, and adaptors, especially the cheaper ones are not what I would call user friendly. Fotodiox do a decent one, but its £85, and I cant really justify that on a lens I wont use a lot, so I battled through using a £25 version I already had from my 90mm.

untitled (2 of 2)

I’ll be honest – its a ballache to focus. Even with peaking, you are by no means assured of a sharp image. I consider myself pretty good at focusing by hand, and the X-Pro 2 accounts for this better than any previous X-series camera I’ve ever had, but its still….not perfect. The focus ring is almost flush with the camera body too, which doesn’t make life easier, so if you rely a lot on AF – especially the new and awesome AF found in the later bodies – think carefully before blowing some fairly serious bones on this lens.

So this morning, I got on the train to London and jumped on the Victoria Line to Brixton. I went to this part of South London because, quite simply, its a street photographers dream. I never have to work too hard to get some half decent shots, so I figured, even with less than snappy focus at my disposal, I would at least get out of there with SOMETHING worth showing you. And I did….AND I had fun too.

There are no focus distances inscribed on this lens, which makes it practically impossible for hyper focal shooting. Therefore pretty much everything was shot from eye height – I’m a deceitful bugger when it comes to street shooting and much prefer a stealth approach as I prefer capturing natural behaviours. This wasn’t possible this time, so I had to pretend to be a people person. This was tough. I cant stand people. I know, right? A street photographer who doesn’t like people…

In addition, I shot pretty much all of these wide open at F2 (occasionally 2.8) as I wanted to see what the bokeh was really like. Anyway, this is how it went:

This lens is incredibly sharp (please note WordPress compression isn’t the best. Go to my Flickr below for full res). I was actually shaking my head when I was editing the images. These were all RAW images, converted in Lightroom with minimal post. I barely needed to adjust anything, but I am a ‘contrast’ whore – its just how I like my shots to look. Sorry if you don’t like them. Bokeh? Not as awesome. Its OK – my 35mm 1.4 is way better at this – but its passable. For me, this lens is all about the sharpness. Holy CRAP, its sharp. Its hard to use, but the rewards are most certainly there. I’m going to stick my neck out and say its sharper than my XF60, which up to now was the sharpest lens I owned. This is a 100% crop:

untitled (28 of 47)

(from the Bowie memorial – he was a Brixton boy)

As for as colour reproduction? Not much to say really – the RAWS look like they do from any of the Fujinons. Maybe slightly magenta, but I don’t see how this matters much.

What would I use this lens for? No idea – definitely NOT street, its not user friendly and it doesn’t have AF – but I felt it did a lovely job on some head and shoulders portraits. It focuses pretty close, so maybe a lens for copying? It certainly brings out the detail! Anyhow, if you want to see more images please feel free to visit my flickr site:

untitled (3 of 47)

or better still, stop by my Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/capitalfaces/ – Im posting like a demon on there, and could do with some followers!

As always, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you have any questions, I shall always answer them.

Cheers!

 

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3 comments

  1. lefey · August 21

    I don’t think it is you.. I have found focus peaking on the XE2 to be a little off sometimes, when using my manual focus legacy lenses. Nice work, cheers Drew

    Like

    • jezmouk · August 24

      Thanks Drew – youre right, the XE2 gave me issues as well. Works fine when you’re manually focussing XF glass, but not the legacy lenses.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Zeiss Planar 45mm F2(test with X-Pro 2) | Capitalfaces

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