State of the 21s

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 Post subject: State of the 21s
Unread postPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 3:48 pm 
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So lately I've been tossing around the various 21mm options... A lot. Here's a rundown.

I chose not to have ties; it's 1-5 stars, period. That said...

It should be noted that in case of IQ (Image Quality) they're ALL really good. There's not a dud in the bunch. At worst, there's some vignetting (mostly corrected in-camera or in post), maybe some minor distortion (also correctable in post). Most are sharper in the center than the edges; only the SEM really sets the standard here for field flatness, followed by the ZM or Color Skopar. "Slower lenses are easier to make better" is what you're seeing. So it's really splitting hairs. You could give the SEM five stars and the rest four if that makes you happy! Saying the Color Skopar is the last of the bunch is like asking which of your fingers is your least favorite.

I didn't list the Zeiss Biogon T* 4.5/21 ZM because of various colorization issues on the M9, using CornerFix, etc. So to me it just wasn't a contender. Though it's an outstanding performer otherwise (in between the 2.8 ZM and the SEM).

I'll be putting together a more in-depth review of the two Voigtländer options in the near future; especially the Ultron, which will be our next big review.

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 Post subject: Re: State of the 21s
Unread postPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 4:55 pm 
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Now some random notes.

Leica Summilux-M 21mm f/1.4 ASPH

This lens is the fastest, most expensive and heaviest of the bunch. Similar in size to the Ultron but shorter, especially If you remove the hood (which you can, but it's not advised). The Ultron is a touch wider. If you must have speed, this is the champ - by 2/3 of a stop. The tradeoffs however are complex (wave) distortion, minor purple fringing/CA and so-so bokeh. It also blocks the viewfinder a lot; not a huge concern if you use an external (a good idea in any event). Uses odd (old) Series filters. This is important if you like ND filters for shooting wide open in daylight.

Leica Super-Elmar-M f/3.4 ASPH

As the Summilux is the fastest, this lens has the best IQ, bar none. If the ultimate IQ is your goal, the SEM is the lens. Tiny bit of wave distortion. The problem is, f/3.4 while not particularly slow - isn't particularly fast, either. Great for landscapes, travel. It shares a common 46mm filter size. Has the best hood of the bunch (same as the 35 FLE, rigid and nearly one with the lens). If you wanted the best all-around lens, this would probably be it.

Voigtländer 21mm f/4 Color Skopar

This lens is such a treat. It's the tiniest, lightest and cheapest of the bunch. Yet it delivers solid performance from wide open... Which isn't a stretch since it's also the slowest of the bunch. It does have a little vignetting, a little distortion. But you could toss this lens in a shirt pocket! Perfect travel lens. Such a sweet lens if you compare against the SEM. For a similar speed lens at nearly opposite ends of the price spectrum... Tough call between an adapted LTM version (smallest size) over the newer M mount (with a real finger tab).

Voigtländer 21mm f/1.8 Ultron

Just got this lens, so it's hard to say too much yet. It's not as big and scary as you might think, considering the spec (f/1.8). Very similar to the 35mm f/1.2 Nokton in size and weight. It's also similar in the bokeh - which is a wonderful thing! With mojo like this, it should become quite popular. Distortion is minimal (barrel) and sharpness high in initial (quick) testing. It's looking like a real sleeper! With integrated (and large) petal hood, the lens cap is seriously fiddly. Like the Summilux, it too has some minor purple fringing and CA wide open. Live fast, die young. Or something like that. Easily fixed in post and just means you have a good lens.

Zeiss Biogon T* 2,8/21 ZM

What can you say? Optically, as with essentially all other ZMs, it is top-notch. Considering the speed, this lens is small as far as ZMs go, comparatively. Similar to the Biogon T* 2,8/25 ZM. Rather flat field, excellent sharpness (micro- and regular contrast). It would tie for best all-around lens... While the SEM is hard coded from the factory it's also a lot more money and slower, but has better build. The ZM also shares a common 46mm filter size. With (optional) hood, the lens cap is seriously fiddly, fine without.

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 Post subject: Re: State of the 21s
Unread postPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:39 pm 
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I loved my ZM 21/4.5 but I love my new SEM even more.

I look forward to what you have to say about the new CV though.

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 Post subject: Re: State of the 21s
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 5:25 pm 
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kokoshawnuff wrote:
I loved my ZM 21/4.5 but I love my new SEM even more.

I look forward to what you have to say about the new CV though.

I can totally understand that. The new SEM is amazing.

Thanks! I'll be working on that as soon as I finish up with the current review. Hopefully I can get a bunch of sample shots in the can with the blizzard hitting this weekend... :)

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