As a photographer, your camera body is only half the battle. Lenses play a supreme role in deciding overall image quality. Today I got a chance to work with two new manual lenses from Meyer Optik Goerlitz, the Primoplan 58mm f/1.9 and the Trioplan 100mm f/2.8.
OK, I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of the latest trend of gear unboxing videos that have entered the world. Either they make me want to buy a new piece of gear that I don’t really need or they just make me wonder aloud, “Why am I spending 20 minutes of my life watching someone I don’t know, describe a product I can’t afford, and enjoy a benefit I am not getting?” But even old bitter me will admit that opening up the Meyer Optik Goerlitz lenses even made me consider making a video of my own.
We’ll get to the performance of the actual product in a moment, but I will admit the lenses have major curb appeal. These aren’t bargain basement lenses nor do they feel like it when you open up the embossed black boxes which enclose glossy protective designer cases which come with each lens. You almost feel as though you are cracking open the holy grail and the presentation does get one excited about using the actual product.
Why Shoot Manual?
Now that I’m done with my initial new gear high, you may be asking yourself why would you waste time manually turning the rubberized grip encircling your lens barrel in search of the perfect focus when so many cameras can handle this activity for you with the half press of a shutter? Precision. Don’t get me wrong. I do love my autofocus. And with me being blind as a bat, I more often than not trust that little beep my Nikon gives me to tell me a subject is in focus over my own personal judgment. But there are times, whether they be poor lighting conditions that make autofocus difficult or critical focus moments where things need to be sharp down to the millimeter, when taking over control of focusing can be a benefit. The small focus ring of the barrel, on the 100mm especially, is a pleasure to turn. Just the right amount of tension. The 58mm is equally smooth in the turn, albeit with a much narrower target for your fingers.
Of course, the reason the 58mm has such a smaller focus ring is because the lens itself is but a whisper of a device. Bordering on a pancake lens, the 58mm is light, unobtrusive, and nimble. With the focal length of 58mm being just slightly longer than the traditional fast 50mm, this lens would be ideal for lifestyle and street photography applications. The additional focal length should, in theory, also make “natural” portraits taken with this lens slightly more flattering than your basic 50mm, keeping in mind that “flattering” is a wholly subjective supposition. It may also be of interest for those who own crop sensor cameras that 58mm equates to roughly 87mm on a Nikon DX mount. (The models I tested were with the Nikon mount, but the lens is also available for Canon and Leica as well).
The 100mm is also on the slight side. Despite its longer barrel, the lens is fairly narrow compared to other lenses of similar lengths. The lighter weight could be a benefit to those looking to work with the lens over the course of longer shooting days.
Now a bit of the nitty gritty. The two lenses are 58mm and 100mm respectively and serve different functions depending on the type of photography you perform. Both lenses are built for full frame camera systems.
The 58mm has an aperture range of f/1.9 to f/22 leading to some very pleasant bokeh at the wide end. Minimum focus distance about two feet. The 100mm has an aperture range of f/2.8 to f/22. Minimum focus distance just over three feet.
Both lenses are physically very light, but feel sturdy when in operation.
In action, both lenses perform about the way you would expect. The images had a very pleasant bokeh when shot wide open. The 58mm even goes to as wide as a staggering f/1.9 for extremely shallow depth of field.
The focus wheel was easy to turn. I took a couple shots with both lenses as well as my Nikon 24-120mm to get an idea of how they compare. Obviously it’s not apples to apples when comparing any zoom to a prime, but not having either a 58mm prime or a 100mm prime in my possession, I went with the best lens I had with similar focal lengths. The image quality was comparable with all other settings and equipment kept the same. Sharpness was neither spectacularly improved nor diminished in either case.
As I previously mentioned, lenses have different benefits depending on who is pulling the trigger. In my case, as a commercial activewear photographer, my main interest is in how these lenses would perform shooting people. The 58mm I could see making an excellent lens for lifestyle photography. Trying to create a realistic world while still maintaining a pleasing focal length for spontaneous portraits. The small and lightweight profile of the lens also has me looking forward to using it on my Nikon when mounting to my gimbal during video shoots. The camera is nicely balanced in the hand under that configuration and I will definitely be looking for more opportunities to get it a little game time.
I am really looking forward to using the 100mm to try to create some portraits with a shallow depth of field. 100mm is a great length for photographing portraits which is where I see it fitting best into my own workflow.
- Slim profile and lightweight
- Smooth focus pull
The minimum focus distance could be shorter. I’ve become fond of getting in close to my subjects from time to time to generate a specific reaction, so for me, the smaller the minimum focus distance, the better.
A pleasant set of lenses with outstanding presentation which offer a high usability factor and smooth operation.