That Special Pop

Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) – Wheaton, Maryland

One of my all time favorite lenses is the Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50/1.5 ZM, which produces an amazing “pop” to a subject when used with the aperture wide-open. It’s very light and quite compact for its specific focal length and aperture, comes with the renowned Zeiss T* anti-reflective lens coatings, has the Leica M-mount which can be used on a wide variety of camera bodies, and creates that special “pop” that some Zeiss lenses are legendary for. For a good example of what I’m describing, check out an earlier post of mine here.

Usually one can get good separation between the subject and the background by using a telephoto lens, but that gets more challenging as the lens focal length gets shorter, even with bigger apertures. It also gets even more challenging when using digital cameras versus 35mm film, because digital is so unforgiving. When using digital cameras, my all-time favorite 50mm lens is the Leica Summilux 50/1.4 ASPH, which produces the smoothest, most buttery-gorgeous bokeh I’ve ever seen in a lens. It’s also horrifically expensive ($4,795). When using 35mm film cameras, my all-time favorite 50mm lens is the Zeiss Sonnar that I already mentioned, at a much more reasonable cost ($1,261). However, the Zeiss Sonnar is a classic lens design dating back to the 1930s that doesn’t play well with color digital images, due to pretty severe chromatic aberrations. If the digital image is converted to monochrome, then the Sonnar 50/1.5 really sings with its beautiful separation between the subject and the background. But color imaging remains problematic for it.

Enter the Voigtländer APO-Lanthar 65/2.0 Macro lens.

Unlike the prior two lenses that I already mentioned, the Voigtländer 65/2.0 APO was designed from the ground up to be specifically used for Sony digital cameras. Even though the 50mm focal length has been a longtime favorite of mine, I love the results from this slightly longer 65mm lens even more – because I can use it as an all-around super lens. The APO in the name denotes that this is an apochromatic lens design, which focuses light so precisely that it virtually eliminates chromatic aberrations. Likewise, when shooting this lens wide-open, it delivers that “pop” between the subject and the background that’s so reminiscent of the classic Zeiss Sonnar look that I love, along with creamy bokeh that is reminiscent of the Leica Summilux that I love. But wait, there’s more! It’s also an APO macro lens that focuses down to a reproduction ratio of 1:2, and – the best part yet – it’s very affordable ($949). Quite the package for just one lens.

At any rate, I plan to introduce more images shot with this fantastic lens over time, as I get more comfortable with using it.


Photo info:
Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)
Brookside Gardens
Wheaton, Maryland
July 2021
Voigtländer 65/2.0 APO Macro lens
Sony a7 III digital camera

Over Two Decades of Progress

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) – Wheaton, Maryland

Here is a comparison of two different images taken 24-years apart. The top image was taken yesterday, and the bottom image was taken back in 1997. The top image is digital, and the bottom image is a scan from a 35mm slide. They were taken an entire continent apart from one another, in different light, and at different times of the day. The top image I could see instantly and the bottom image I couldn’t see until the film was returned to me after processing a couple of weeks later.

As much as I’ve always loved the super-saturated colors of the bottom image – Velvia slide film is known for that – I feel that the upper image is more accurate in terms of color, saturation, and natural-looking bokeh.

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) – Laguna Beach, California

Technology marches on. I imagine someday that I’ll be able to take a photo with a smartphone that will eventually equal or exceed the quality of either of these two images, both of which were taken with state-of-the-art camera gear of each era.


Photo info:
Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia)
Brookside Gardens Conservatory
Brookside Gardens
Wheaton, Maryland
June 2021
Voigtländer 65/2.0 APO Macro lens
Sony a7 III digital camera

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia)
Heisler Park
Laguna Beach, California
May 1997
Fujifilm Velvia 50 slide film
Leica Noctilux 50/1.0 lens
Leica M3 35mm film camera