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Canon Serenar 35mm f/2.8 (Leica Thread Mount)


TalkEmount Regular
Sep 30, 2011
Los Angeles
I just acquired a Canon Serenar 35mm f/2.8 (Leica thread mount), a light, compact rangefinder lens. I got a pretty good deal on it (it's more of a 'user' in terms of condition), but it is not an expensive lens anyway. It is not fast (f/2.8), but on the Sony NEX this hardly matters to me (and I am a natural light/low light guy.) I was very interested in finding an inexpensive, compact wide or normal lens, and I think I have found it (the Canon 35mm f/2 would be nice but costs over 2x this one.)

The lens has been described as having good detail and micro contrast, but low to medium contrast overall. I would agree with that description (what surprised me is the overall impact that would have on the images.) I did some test shots of a bookshelf comparing against the Sony 18-55mm kit zoom, and this lens came out slightly ahead overall on sharpness, but overall significantly ahead on overall subjective image quality. I would say the contrast of the lens is medium to medium-low, but most shots do not require PP unless you are going for a contrasty look. If anything, the main adjustment is that I think on the NEX-C3 I will turn DRO off. But most importantly the lens is usable from f/2.8 on- it's sharp in the center. The corners are smeary at f/2.8, but improve significantly at f/4 and are sharp at f/5.6.

I took it out this morning for the first time, and here are a few samples (almost all JPEG straight out of the camera):
Canon Serenar 35mm f/2.8 Samples

Just a couple from the set-
View attachment 24334
DSC02794 by Steve Lang, on Flickr

DSC02738 by Steve Lang, on Flickr

Focusing was off on probably 90% of the shots, but close enough for Flickr. My L39 to NEX adapter does not allow adjustment, so the lens barrel is unfortunately rotated by 180 degrees. Even then, I started getting used to it because the focusing knob is great at getting in approx. focusing range without having to look at the barrel.

So besides all the technical mumbo jumbo, I really liked the look of the images as soon as I opened them on my computer. I would describe this lens as neither 'crisp' or 'dreamy', the words that come to mind are 'clean' and 'gentle' (which does not mean soft or hazy.) This lens has no chromatic aberrations and fringing compared to the Sony kit zoom. I think the lens tends to smooth out the upper and lower shoulders of the tone curve applied by most cameras, so the images look more naturalistic- I don't want to increase contrast on most of them! The morning was overcast which probably accentuated the look of the lens, OTOH overcast days can be very tough to shoot in sometimes, with blown out skies and darkened shadow. I am guessing this lens will do great in sunlight as well.

I was originally thinking about getting a Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f/2.5 but this one ended up being cheaper. The Color Skopar is described as being very contrasty, and now that I've seen images from both lenses I think I like this one better.

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