I’m one of those boring chaps that favours the 50mm equivalent focal length. I also do a lot of free-lensing and faux-macro with normal lenses. Fuji’s excellent X lenses just don’t work well for the way I shoot, and because I have perfectly good lenses already, I'm not in the market. Two lenses I’ve had for years: the Zeiss Biogon 2/35 ZM and the 2/35 Canon LTM, are favourites of mine.
Mated to the X-Pro 1, each functions roughly as a 50mm equivalent and therefore, is capable of blurring backgrounds to a comfortable level of oblivion. Being rangefinder lenses, however, minimum focus distances are long. Close focus for the Canon is marked at ~0,9cm, while the Zeiss stops at 0,7m.
To achieve better-than-SLR close focus, I use the Hawk’s Factory X - M mount adapter that adds roughly 4mm between the sensor and the lens rear element, allowing dramatically closer focus for wide angle and moderate telephoto lenses. I will cover the Hawk's adapter in a separate article.
Swirly Bokeh - Canon 35/2 LTM
he Canon LTM produces a classic, engaging background bokeh that, when combined with the right background, creates swirly, painterly (as in the OED definition, not the camera forum definition) bokeh. Highlights are dulled somewhat. Horizontal, vertical, and diagonal background details take tubular form and fly into the centre. Wide open, even on the X-Pro 1’s smaller APS-C sensor, obvious vignetting helps draw the subject into focus.
Mid-ground details swirl less than their background counterparts, but tend towards painterly strokes.
While both lenses are sharp, images taken by the Canon lens exhibit less wide open contrast when juxtaposed with images taken by the Zeiss. It also exhibits more spherical aberrations typical of older lenses. The effect in portraits is stunning, especially in black and white.
Bubbly Bokeh - Zeiss Biogon 2/35 ZM
The Zeiss is a modern lens with modern coatings. Wide open contrast is stronger than the Canon lens, and while it, too, exhibits spherical aberrations, they are more controlled. Colour gradations show starker in back-to-front contrast than the Canon, hence the touted ‘Zeiss pop’. In people photography, however, such contrast will have its detractors as well as its fans.
Backgrounds are smoother, blurrier than the Canon. Details are masked by brighter, bubblier highlights that stand out due to rather meagre vignetting. Fans of images with pop and contrast will probably love the Zeiss, while fans of engaging backgrounds and heavy vignetting will enjoy the Canon.
NOTE: Final image in both sets is taken with the the representative lens at minimum focus distance.
/5,6 - the equaliser
hen stopped down to 5,6, sharpness is equal between both lenses. The bubbly highlights of the Zeiss remain strong, while the Canon’s tendency to mute highlights creates a softer image. The swirlies have all but disappeared from the Canon. The Zeiss image retains its wonderfully symmetrical aperture shape in out-of-focus elements, but the Canon’s scalloped aperture blades forgo strong shapes, creating a smoother image.
Which is better?
ersonally, I’m drawn toward the swirly Canon - if only because I love backgrounds that take shapes of their own. The Zeiss draws more honestly than the Canon. It has no obvious faults, but back-to-back with the Canon, it can, at times, look boring.
NOTE: comparative photos are taken straight from the camera in RAW and processed only for the addition of the Ω image watermark and downsizing for web use.