The appeal of lenses

One of the things I like the most about lenses is the way they render what’s in focus and what’s out of focus. I’m not talking about bokeh and I’m not talking about sharpness. I’m talking about the way they behave from their maximum aperture to f5.6.

I can’t deny, I like short depth of field and I almost never use a lens above f8 so it is interesting to go through a bunch of lenses to see the differences between them.

A “softer” lens can render a scene in a way I prefer over the sharpest of lenses.
A slow lens opening at f3.5 can have more character than a lens that opens at f0.95.

I do believe that some lenses have charm, a very special signature… do I dare to say… soul?
In the most naive way I do dare to say that some lenses have soul.

It’s not about quality, certainly not about the price, it’s just about the way they do what they do.

So… here are some samples from various lenses and cameras.

Zeiss 60mm CT for the Hasselblad

untitled-16 Diogo


Zeiss 150mm CT for the Hasselblad

Untitled-3 Untitled-18


Zeiss 80mm CT for the Hasselblad

Untitled-1 Untitled-6


Zeiss 120mm Makro Planar for the Hasselblad

livros (25 of 32) Untitled-10



Zeiss 80mm for the Rollei 6006

Untitled-10-a J7


Zeiss 150mm for the Rollei 6006

Untitled-1 (1) Untitled-1


Zeiss 80mm for the Contax 645

piki novo Untitled-11


Zeiss 45mm for the Contax 645

Untitled-32 dog


Mamiya 80mm for the Mamiya 645 Pro TL

Piki Fev 2011 Forte Fonte da Telha 01


Mamiya 80mm for the Mamiya 645 AFD

Untitled-17 Os estrelas31


Zenzanon 80mm for the Zenza Bronica SQ AM

f 5.6 - 250 f 5.6 - 500 (2)


Mamiya 80mm for the Mamiya 7ii

Yeah Untitled-5


Summicron 50mm/f2.8 on a Zeiss ZM

Untitled-15 Summi 1


Summicron C40mm for the Leica CL

untitled-31 Untitled-100


Zeiss G35mm on a Contax 62

Untitled-9 Untitled-18


Zeiss G45mm on a Contax G2

Untitled-2 Untitled-10


Nikon 28Ti

Untitled-1 01


Ricoh GR1s

Untitled-32 Untitled-18


Konica Hexar AF

Untitled-8 Untitled-17

  1. Mark said:

    Beautiful images as always. I think you’re right it’s the lends that makes the image and some just have a ‘look’.

  2. Bruno C said:

    Dessas todas tens alguma preferência?
    Estou a gostar imenso do desfoque da rollei a 2.8.. bem menos agressivo que a Yashica (que de momento é a única comparação que tenho!)

    Abraço 🙂

    • Ui isso é muito complicado de dizer Bruno…
      Posso confessar que em termos de qualidade pura, digamos assim, a Zeiss 120mm para a Hasselblad é a melhor lente que já usei.
      A 80mm para a Contax 645 a f2.0 é… extraordinária. Muito própria, muita pinta. Também gosto muito da 80mm para a Hasselblad e gosto muito, muito da G35mm 🙂

      A Hexar é “melosa” e a Ricoh agressiva mas tb gosto muito… enfim gosto de imensas.
      Essa Rollei 2.8 tem um desfoque lindo e uma separação de planos brutal.

  3. Derek said:

    Collections of great photos here. Yes I call it the “atheistic” as a whole in the final image given from the lens. Its not the bokeh, its not the sharpness, so i believe we’re pretty much talking about the same thing. Every lens just look difference. Sharpness doesn’t make it great, neither does great bokeh only, it’s that “thing”, or combination of “things”, lol.

    • I feel the same, it’s not about quality but there’s something about some lenses I can’t really put my finger on. And I’m so nerd that I only like certain lenses at a certain aperture 🙂

      • Derek said:

        I compare sounds of shutters. You are not the only nerd 😀

      • Man you should make an audio post! That would be great. 🙂
        What’s your favorite?

      • Derek said:

        SRT 101 sounds good. Nikkormat EL feels the best. Also the fujica 701. Those are on top of my mind.
        I don’t think free wordpress let me do audio.

      • Well you know I like the Canon AE-1 and of course the queen, the loud mouth Hasselblad. 🙂

        On the opposite side I have to say the Ricoh GR1s, what an awful sound.
        The new Fuji Klasse makes this gentle “ztttttttt” which is so cool!

      • Derek said:

        Lol the AE one is at the bottom of my list.

  4. An amazing collection of fine captures, and i ove the square format. Over the years, i have fallen in love with the lenses far more often than the camera bodies they were attached to…

    • Totally agree Alessandro. After all a camera is “just” a light tight box.
      And in this digital age is great to see that brands are concerned about the use of “old” lenses in the new digital bodies. Lenses are not getting any better so let’s keep our old glass. Camera bodies can come and go 🙂

  5. Chris said:

    Some excellent and wonderful photos. Just puts me in the zone for when I go to Portugal at the end of December with my Contax G1, 45mm and 90mm. I agree with you, some lenses are really special and “alive”. Over the last few years I have shed all the rubbish and now, all my lenses are Carl Zeiss. They are better than anything I have used over the years, and I have used some. Even with my Carl Zeiss there are some of these that are even more special. These are 28, 45, and 90 on my G1. 150mm on my Hasselblad. 50mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.4 on my Contax RTS. Wonderful lenses and I love using them.

    I hope you cook film forever

    • “shed all the rubbish” YES!!
      I’ve been doing the same and no matter how many cameras I sell and buy I always keep a Contax G system around. Precious little lenses they are. I forgot to post samples from the G90mm, it does have personality. Lots of people complain about missing focus with that lens but it never happen to me.

      Zeiss… Zeiss is magical. When I sold my huge and heavy Rolleiflex 6006, the decision of getting an Hasselblad was because of Zeiss lenses.

      I’ve tried the Mamiyas but I think they are a bit smooth and Zeiss lenses do have that harsh out of focus which I like a lot.
      On the other hand the Mamiya for the Mamiya 7ii is a great lens. Lots of personality and a very distinct signature.

      PS: By the way, I got a Contax 167 with the Zeiss 50/1.7 today 🙂

  6. David said:

    Thanks for collecting all these in one place. Unfortunately it just provokes a “one of each, please” desire in me. Out of all the lenses I’ve had and no longer have, I most miss the 40mm Summicron-C for CL, the Canon EF 85mm 1:1.2 L, the same in 50mm, and the 50mm for the New Mamiya 6.

    • I think that, in the end, for me, Zeiss lenses were always the motivation to get a certain camera. Rolleiflex, Contax and Hasselblad. I had several Mamiyas 645 but I think the lenses were a little “soft” however, the lenses for the Mamiya 6mf or the Mamiya 7ii have a very personal visual signature.

      The Summicron C is still a hidden gem 🙂
      I’m amazed how the prices are still low and how neglected that lens is. Maybe it’s because it’s a 40mm and it does not have framelines for it on other M bodies.

      My little CL is being repaired for almost a year. The repair guy is rebuilding the whole rangefinder mechanism.

    • Thank you so much Victor, I’m honored by your words.

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