Carl Zeiss Sonnar 135mm F3.5 mad in JENA DDR
The classic SONNAR lens design stands for excellent sharpness a good contrast and low chromatic aberrations.
My first impression of my 135mm the lens was full of respect to the great build quality, the smooth focusing and after the first test shoots a complete "yes" to all the mentioned characteristics of the SONNAR.
For 135mm the minimum focus distance of 100cm is outstanding. Other 135mm lenses like the Minolta MD Rokkor are in this discipline with 150cm far away form the Sonnar. This gives you some more close up capabilities even wide open at 3.5 with good contrast and great color reproduction with this MC (muliti coated) lens.
The integrated lens hood works as well as on the first day. The feeling to work with such an old manual focus lens is something special. The click of every aperture is exact and well defined. The well damped smooth focus is on par with my finest manual focus lenses like the TAKUMAR or the "tank-like" TAMRON SP 90mm 2.5 MACRO 52B (early full metall version).
For my way of working with manual lenses, adapted on a FUJI X or Olympus Pen together with the focus peaking and 10x zoom of the focus point is essential for the joy of use and the result, that the focus way is long enough and with no variable resistance. I have a copy of a Russian Biotar copy the Helios 44/2; a great optic but with a bad manual focus feeling. Thus no joy to use! Iam shure the SONNAR will be with me not only for the test shooting.
The next two shots how smooth the bokeh of this lens is and with a very low level chromatic aberrations. The micro contrast gives you a lot of opportunities for monochrome Lightroom work.
All shots here are wide open at F 3.5.
The next test shots are in competition to the Minolta Rokkor 135mm 2.8 and the modern zoom Fuji XF 18-135 3.5-5,6 for the comparison of the F5.6 shots.
First round the Sonnar and the Rokkor wide open. Here the Minolta Rokkor 135mm 2.8 on the left the full picture on the right a crop of the same picture.
A smooth bokeh but some visible chromatic aberrations visible on the right capture in the upper right of the lantern.
Now the SONNAR wide open at F3.5.
A great performance wide open with very low chromatic aberration a tiny hair more sharpness and contrast as the Rokkor. But both lenses are here on the same level.
Lets see what stopping down to F5,6 gives us more.
First row the Rokkor , second the SONNAR and third capture the FUJI XF 18-135.
The Rokkor show an increase in contrast and sharpness but you see the hexanon shapes of the F5.6 aperture in the bokeh. Lets see the SONNAR.
This is the point where the SONNAR shines! Stepped down to F 5.6 the sharpness and contrast is increasing to a top level but the character of the bokeh is not changing.
A very pleasing result! Todays lenses are using rounded aperture blades to get this effect, the SONNAR used only a great lens design and glass! WOW!
Lets see in comparison a modern and highly recommended lens at 135mm and F 5.6. My "swiss-knife" for my FUJI X. The great 18-135mm XF 3.5-5.6.
For a allround lens a good result. But the clear winner at F5.6 is the SONNAR with a pleasing bokeh and the best sharpness and micro contrast of the three.
At F 2.8 the both legacy lenses are on par with a touch more bokeh for the Minolta with F2.8 and a touch more contrast ans sharpness for the SONNAR.
PART 2 - the final challenge SONNAR vs XF 50-140 F2.8
Motivated by the great results of the SONNAR esp. at F 5.6 I tried a bit of an unfair comparison.
A legacy lens with used value between 70 and 100 Euro and vs the flagship lens of the FUJI lineup the red badged constant F2.8 50-140 with a current used price over 1.100 Euro.
Lets get read to rumble.
Round 1 : wide open F 2.8 vs F3.5
Not so much difference as expected. But first round goes to the FUJINON XF 50-140.
Round 2: F 5.6
WOW! There is no winner! Both lenses are here on a top level. As expected the current star of the FUJINON Zoom Lens range but I did not expect that this classic lens design hold up in this special comparison..
Don´t take this comparison serious. It was just a test to see where each lens has its strengths. I don´t like pixel peeping but I like to know what my equipment can do. For me its a way of reminiscence to the great engineering of the past and of today.
Here some work post processed with FUJI SENSIA RNI Filmsimulation in LIGHTROOM.