Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lens review Part II: Mir 24n 35mm f2 on NEX

As the title suggest, I'm going to do another quick first impression review of this lens as my Nikon-NEX adapter finally arrived after 3 long weeks, which felt like eternity. As you can see, the lens looks rather big on the camera and yes, it is pretty big - not overly big and uncomfortable however.

Like I mentioned in my last lens review, I bought this lens specifically to be used on my NEX system. The reason I chose the 35mm is that it replicates roughly the same field of view as a 50mm on a full frame body. Having shot full frame for the past few years, i've grown to really love the FOV the 50mm gives. It's a natural feeling view, not too wide or tele, but just right for general walking around and capturing intimate moments.

So, lets get into the nitty gritty, how does it feel and handle. Well first off, the lens does make the camera lens heavy, a lot of the weight is towards the front (obviously) however it doesn't feel too unbalanced. Shooting manually with this lens, my hand is under the lens all the time anyway, so this heaviness from the lens isn't an issue.

Focussing is still an issue with this lens, not the actual mechanism - bit stiff, nothing to cry over - but it does take 2 or more FULL turns to focus from min to max focussing distance. This can be an issue when doing quick focus pulls, as it is impossible to focus that distance within one turn of the ring. My focus is a bit stiff, but i've heard that many Russian lenses are a bit stiff anyway, might have to let it sit in the sun one day and see if that loosens the grease up a bit.

So far the image quality from this lens is awesome. Like i mentioned last time, i'm not scientific lens tester, if a lens is good in real world situations, it's a good lens. As you can see, it's sharp. Shooting wide at f2 is sharp enough for me anyway. Like i mentioned last time, this lens focusses very close, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was a macro shot. The lens produces nice contrast in the images which give it a bit of oomph in the images.

Due to the size of the sensor, the depth of field from this lens is a bit mreh. Obviously comparing 50mm  equivalent on a crop sensor and 50mm on a full frame sensor is like chalk and cheese and to really get a similar result i'd have to buy a 35mm f0.95/1.0? - obviously a lens that would be stupidly expensive. The below shot was shot wide open at f2 and it's not THAT bad. It renders the background out of focus quite well, but again, it's not full frame.

Like i said, the field of view is quite comfortable and very easy to adapt to. The 50mm equivalent is one of my favourites due to its low level of distortion, making it very easy to keep verticals straight. The 50mm also renders a very natural field of view, replicating human vision nearly.

Getting closer to subjects does a good job at blurring out the subjects and really shows off the advantages of having a relatively fast lens. Like I said, incredibly close focussing distance on this lens makes shots like this possible without having to move back and forth.

NOW time for the kicker. I have a 35mm lens already. I have a 35mm lens that's smaller, faster aperture, smoother focus and lighter, so why did I buy another 35mm?

My beloved Fujian 35mm f1.7. This lens has always been my go to lens when going out on social occasions to photograph my adventures. It's small, light, inconspicuous, very cheap and very easy to focus, so what gives? why buy another one. For one simple reason. Spherical focus. The Fujian suffers from spherical focus (ps probably a word i made up), which is basically where the plane of focus in the lens is uneven.

In my crappy diagram, the rings try to illustrate how the focus on the Fujian is. The red in the centre shows the area that has sharpest focus and the outer rings try to demonstrate how focus falls off not in in a straight line like normal lenses, but in a circular pattern that is very unique to this lens, almost Holga/toy lens like.

This effect is negligible when shooting subjects up close, where the effect actually adds to the image and can make portraits look really nice and dream like.

So, as you can see, kind of, when up close to your subject, the spherical focus really exaggerates the focus and makes the lens look like it's shooting at f1.4 or something crazy like that. 

For a clearer example. I've posted these photos below. The Mir 24n, although not super sharp in the corners, GREATLY outperforms the Fujian hands down. The lens has relative corner sharpness and I can shoot distant objects without losing a whole lot of image quality and having the image ruined by spherical focus. 

Mir 24N

Fujian 35mm.

This frustration is pretty much the only reason I bought the Mir. Although I love bokeh and love getting in close to my subjects, there ARE times when you just need to shoot subjects further away than a few meters. Sure, I could stop down, but I love shooting wide open. sue me if you disagree. If you mainly shoot your subjects dead centre of frame, then you have no problem, but like most people, I do like uneven composition every now and then, and from the picture above, you can clearly see how it would be near impossible to have anyone in the corners sharp. Definitely unusable.

Now i'm not bashing the Fujian and saying that it's a sh*t lens, it's absolutely not. It's actually bloody sharp. Can you tell which one was shot with which lens? Most likely not.

So, back to the Mir. It's pretty big.

Although i haven't had a lot of time to play with this lens, i'm already really happy with it - overall. Hopefully over the next few days and nights i'll have more time to take some more real world examples and really show off the full potential of this lens. 

My final thoughts of this lens (for now): 

- Good FOV on the NEX system, very comfortable and easy to adapt to.
- Nice bright f2.0 lens, eats up 1 extra stop of light over a 2.8 lens. 
- Solid design, feels like it's built to last. 
- Extremely close minimum focussing.
- Sharp sharp sharp.
- Cheap for its focal length and aperture size. 

- Heavy - can make the camera feel uneven if holding it with one hand.
- Focus takes 2 - 3 full turns to focus the whole focus range - not very suitable for video.
- Focus is a bit stiff - may need to warm up, but still. 

So these are the pros and cons i've noticed so far, i'm sure a few things will change along the way within the next few weeks and months when I hope to really put this lens through it's paces. And hey, if I really don't like this lens, at least i'll have a 35mm f2 for the D3s.  =D 

That's it for now, hopefully it's shed a bit of light on people wanting to buy this lens for their NEX setup, definitely a good buy if you can get it at a good price!