35mm comparison

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Lenses' started by addieleman, Feb 22, 2017.

  1. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur Subscribing Member

    Nov 13, 2012
    Ad Dieleman
    A rainy day again, compounded by a severe stroke of laziness, urged me to think of something I could have fun with indoors. And there it is: a comparison of a bunch of lenses that offer 35mm as a focal length.

    The contenders are
    • FE 4/24-70mm
    • FE 1.4/35mm
    • FE 2.8/35mm
    • FE 4/16-35mm
    • Canon FD 2/35mm
    • Minolta MD W.Rokkor 1.8/35mm
    • Minolta MD W.Rokkor 2.8/35mm (55mm filter thread)
    The test scene

    I'll only show things I found remarkable; there's no point in comparing center performance at f/8, they're all good.

    FE 4/24-70mm @ f/4. Not too bad.

    FE 1.4/35 @ f/1.4. Excellent, considering it's f/1.4. A bit of purple fringing that can easily be removed in Lightroom.

    FE 2.8/35 @ f/2.8. Crisp. In practice I use this lens wide-open without giving it a second thought.

    FE 4/16-35mm @ f/4. Hmm, not great, there is detail, but contrast is low and it looks mushy. That's a no-no.

    Canon FD 2/35mm. Reasonable detail, veiling flare and purple fringing. Doesn't look very nice to me.

    Minolta MD W.Rokkor 1.8/35mm @ f/1.8. Even more veiling flare, though detail is still there, purple fringing not too obvious. Not really useable unless you're after a dreamy look.

    Minolta MD W.Rokkor 2.8/35mm @ f/2.8. Surprisingly good, just a little contrast loss.

    Next post: corner performance.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2017
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  2. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur Subscribing Member

    Nov 13, 2012
    Ad Dieleman
    FE 4/24-70mm @ f/4, upper left. Not bad.

    FE 4/24-70mm @ f/4, upper right. Not bad. This sample never lets me down in the range between, say, 30mm and ~55mm. Surprisingly, corner sharpness at f/8 is a tad less, probably due to curvature of field becoming more prominent at smaller apertures. Mind you, I've had other samples of the 4/24-70 that weren't as good as this one, I just went on looking for one that would be useable for landscape shots in the 30-55mm range.

    FE 1.4/35mm @ f/1.4, upper left. Not too bad, considering it's f/1.4.

    FE 1.4/35mm @ f/1.4, upper right. Definitely less sharp than the other corner.

    FE 1.4/35mm @ f/4, upper left corner. Looks good.

    FE 1.4/35mm @ f/4, upper right. Ouch, that's not really sharp. From other experiences I know that my sample's focus plane is far from flat at the right side; it can be sharp but for objects closer to the camera.

    FE 1.4/35mm @ f/8, upper right corner. Despite stopping down further it's still not tack sharp.

    FE 2.8/35mm @ f/2.8, upper left. Good enough.

    FE 2.8/35mm @ f/2.8, upper right. Not as good as the upper left corner, not really sharp.

    FE 2.8/35mm @ f/8, upper left. OK, but not really great, probably due to curvature of field.

    FE 2.8/35mm @ f/8, upper right. Becomes unsharp at the extreme right edge. I have to watch out that I exclude the far right edge for things I want really sharp, I'll crop later!

    Canon FD 2/35mm @ f/2, upper left. Mushy, vignetting, not so sharp. All corners look fairly similar.

    Canon FD 2/35mm @ f/4, upper right. Quite good.

    Canon FD 2/35mm @ f/4, lower right. Worst of the 4 corners. Performance at f/8 is a little better but this corner remains a bit unsharp.

    Minolta MD W.Rokkor 1.8/35mm @ f/4, upper left. Not sharp, other corners are slightly better.

    Minolta MD W.Rokkor 1.8/35mm @ f/8, upper left. Not tack sharp, but only just.

    Minolta MD W.Rokkor 1.8/35mm @ f/8, upper right. Nice and sharp.

    Minolta MD W.Rokkor 2.8/35mm @ f/4, upper left. Not sharp.

    Minolta MD W.Rokkor 2.8/35mm @ f/4, lower right. Remarkably sharp, quite a difference with the other corners.

    Minolta MD W.Rokkor 2.8/35mm @ f/8, upper left. Adequately sharp, other corners are at least as good. Stamp of approval for landscape shots.

    As much as anything, this comparison shows variation across the image field for various lenses is common, a lens that shows symmetrical behaviour across the field seems the exception rather than the rule. And sample variation is also a big factor. I have three samples of the Minolta MD 2.8/35 and the one shown here is the best; the worst is awful wide-open. And don't even get me started on the differences in the samples I tested of the FE 4/24-70mm...

    Smugmug gallery with full-size jpegs
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2017
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  3. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Oct 8, 2013
    "...And sample variation is also a big factor..."

    A significant factor for sure.
    For example, the right corner distortion of the Canon 35/2.0 is bad, but certainly can't be representative of all Canon 35/2.0 lenses as they are one of Canon's most highly regarded FD lenses. I assume that particular lens problem is from an element alignment issue at build time maybe...or dropped...or worked on, etc.

    Thanks for sharing your results...
  4. Deadbear77

    Deadbear77 TalkEmount Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Sep 14, 2012
    Northeast Ohio
    Nice...You should try the sigma 35 1.4 with the mc-11 hardly any fringing at all at 1.4 also super sharp. I wanted to try the newer ultron 35 1.7 may be my next lens.
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  5. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur Subscribing Member

    Nov 13, 2012
    Ad Dieleman
    Actually I'm satisfied with what I have now, the FE 1.4/35 has given me some nice pictures. If only it weren't so big and heavy; I imagine the Sigma 1.4/35 with MC-11 won't be much lighter and smaller, if at all, and so far I managed to avoid getting into the minefield of electronic adapters.
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  6. Nexnut

    Nexnut TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Nice shootout, Ad - pretty helpful since I got more headaches from 35mm lenses than from any other FL. Back in the day all of the available 35s I've tried for my Nikon, Rollei or Olympus cameras left me somewhat wanting and I still don't know which 35 I'd pick for a future A7xyz. My ex-Nikon 35/2 AF-D wasn't bad and the new 1.8G looks even better but I have no idea though how they'd perform on a FF Sony - are there any useable AF adapters, especially for Nikon G lenses out there? I really can't imagine lugging one of these heavy Nikon FF monsters around again but never say never ;). In the meantime I'll stick with my 23/1.4 Fujinon on the X-Trans brick, the best (wanna-be) 35 I've owned so far.

    BTW, 'The Man in the High Castle' by Philip K.Dick. ... :thumbup:
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  7. NickCyprus

    NickCyprus Super Moderator

    Oct 11, 2012
    Very informative Ad! Its a great contribution to the community - thank for taking the time for this test :2thumbs:
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  8. GabrielPhoto

    GabrielPhoto TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Jul 3, 2013
    Very nice test, thanks for sharing!
    I wish you could try what I consider the best 35mm I have ever tested, Canon 35mm F1.4 L ii. I sold my Zeiss after testing the Canon. Basically because it is amazingly sharp across the frame at 1.4 (check the dxo field map for example) which I really wanted for my environmental portraits since I do not place the subject dead center which is where the Zeiss shines in sharpness.
    I remember having the Canon FD 35mm F2 as well..but only with the NEX-6 and lens turbo 2 so corners were always iffy.
    The Sigma is pretty similar to the Zeiss as far as sharpness across the field, just remains sharper a bit farther away from the center at 1.4 than the zeiss which degrades much faster. BTW, my Zeiss also had a weak right side..interesting.

    Thanks again for the great work!
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  9. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur Subscribing Member

    Nov 13, 2012
    Ad Dieleman
    I'd love to check that Canon 1.4/35 II, I've read about it too. I'll let you know what I think as soon as I win the lottery :).

    Indeed the FE 1.4/35 doesn't offer a flat field of focus, so focus and recompose isn't going to work with this lens. I put the focus point on my subject and then it's sharp. I checked if the lens is able to form a sharp image at the edges before buying and the 4th (!) sample was OK.

    I do this very simple test, shown here for my present FE 1.4/35mm sample. Shoot a detailed target under 45º and focus in the center. That way you can easily see if the lens is able to form a sharp image, even if that's not in a flat plane of focus. You can check results in-camera or even better on an iPad with Lightroom on it, if you're on the go. When I check a sample in a shop in my home town, I record the serial no. on my iPhone and go home to check on my computer. If I'm happy, I'll go back and buy that very sample; I always tell the seller that I'll only buy a sample that I was able to test.

    Total scene at f/1.4; sidewalks are just fine and can be found near shops and private sellers :). Even in this overview shot you can clearly see that sharpness is asymmetrical, check the upper left and right corners.

    Center crop; you can see focus is a little forward

    Center left, sharp enough for me

    Center right; Yikes!

    Almost extreme lower right; acceptable.

    Other lenses I tested wouldn't become sharp anywhere, mostly at the right side; from memory there was one sample that showed deterioration at the left edge. I could see an optimum but often that wasn't good enough. I can live with this behaviour because I don't use the FE 1.4/35 for landscapes, that's the realm of my despiccable :) FE 4/24-70mm.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2017
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  10. robbie36

    robbie36 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Nov 21, 2014
    No corners for the 16-35 f4?
  11. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur Subscribing Member

    Nov 13, 2012
    Ad Dieleman
    Oops, simply forgot to include them.

    FE 4/16-35mm @ f/4, upper left; not great

    FE 4/16-35mm @ f/4, lower right; not great. All 4 corners look more or less the same at f/4.

    FE 4/16-35mm @ f/8, upper left. Alright.

    FE 4/16-35mm @ f/8, upper right. Alright.

    FE 4/16-35mm @ f/8, lower right. Alright.

    FE 4/16-35mm @ f/8, lower left. Alright. Much darker than the other corners because my speaker box is throwing a shadow here. Now this is what I call even corner performance. The FE 4/16-35mm is often criticized for its performance at 35mm, my sample is weak indeed at f/4 IMHO but it's excellent across the frame at f/8, a perfect landscape option.
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  12. GabrielPhoto

    GabrielPhoto TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Jul 3, 2013
    Oh yeah I am with you, when I buy locally I tell ahead of time that I will be taking some photos, going back home then checking before I purchase. :D
    As far as the Zeiss 35mm I only tried two copies and they both were not sharp for my needs on the edges (the right side was weaker on both btw). I test focusing specifically on each spot I want for composition. I do not require a perfect flat field at 1.4 as long as the lens can focus on either side sharp even then it is fine since the rest of my composition will blurrier anyway. Sadly none of the two copies I tried delivered for me. Glad you found one that works for you! :)
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