What lense delivers best: Voigtländer, Nikon or Pentax?
Comparing a 35mm lense and two 28mm lenses
Recently I bought a Ricoh GXR and added the M-Module (12 Megapixel) and a Viewfinder to my shoping list. I shoot film most of the time but I liked the concept of the camera plus the fact that it takes lenses with M-mount.
I thought it would not be bad to have a digital backup for my Leica M6 which uses the same lenses. A couple of days later I realized that I would not only be able to use my M-mount but my Nikon and Pentax K lenses as well if I use an adapter. And then there are the M39 and M42 lenses.
I started to test film cameras against each other but that is quite a slow process. Plus some people gave the feadback that a camera is a camera and what actually matters would be the lense. I don´t agree with that but I definetly would like to see the differences between the lenses in terms of character, sharpness or whatever.
So I put three lenses, the Ricoh GXR and two adapters in my bag today and went outside. I did not test them scientifically. I simply used (from some point on) identical speed and aperture (mostly 5.6 or 8) and took the shots with all three lenses in a row.
These were the lenses I had in my bag:
Voigtländer Color-Skopar 35mm 1:2.5
Nikon AF Nikkor 28mm 1:2.8
SMC Pentax-M 28mm 1:2,8
They represent the systems I use most of the time: Nikon for stage or fashion photography, Pentax for travel and outdoor portraits and the Leica for street photography.
Shot #1: Goethestr.with light and shadow
On the first three locations I did not use identical speed and aperture but tried to make them (light wise) look as similar as possible. The Voigtländer has the warmest character of these three. The Nikon seems to be more contrasty and is neither warm nor cold and the Pentax is a bit out of focus (it is sometimes a bit difficult to focuse with the Ricoh) and has probably the coldest tones.
Shot #2: Graffiti and shadow
Shot 2 was taken in the same street but in full shadow. Now the Nikon seems to have the warmest tones what makes me wonder if fast changing light conditions are responsible for the tones in the photos. The Pentax might be a little less contrasty than the other two but not by much.
Shot #3: Red flags against the sun
I think I still adjusted aperture and shutter speed for these but less than for the ones before. Changing the F-stop at the Pentax lense did not have any effect as I realized by this time. Later at home I tried the 50mm SMC Pentax-M and changing the aperture worked there and I was quite reliefed that it does not seem to be a general problem (since I intended to use the Ricoh as digital backup for my Pentax LX as well). The results of the Voigtländer and the Nikon are fairly similar. The Nikon is more contrasty on the ground and the Voigtländer in the sky but not by much.
Shot #4: Schloßgarten (garden of the castle)
This was the first shot where F-stops and speeds were identical for each lense. The sun was in the back and light conditions were easier than at the shots before. Again I would say the Voigtländer is a bit warmer and the Nikon a bit more contrasty but they are both very similar.
Shot #5: same same but different (black and white)
I changed to black and white mode (from now on I kept speed and and aperture) and here it is even more visible that the Voigtländer provides more middle tones and the Nikon more contrast. I still can live with both of them.
Shot #6: Depth of field and color gradiant
Finally there are things to distinguish these three lenses. I set the focuse pont on the knee at the first shot, on the rear guy at the second and on the building at the background for the third shot. By chance even the Pentax worked out here and it comes up with the most noticable depth of field difference. All three were shot at somewhere around F 5.6 / F 8. The sesond thing I noticed is the sky. Pentax and even more the Nikon have a color gradiant while the sky taken with the Voigtländer does not have it.
Shot #7: Contrast and detail
These shots were taken against the sun again. The nikon was slightly out of focuse in the third row but the other two seem to be slightly more contrasty than the Voigtländer. But again - I can live with both versions (in the third row even with the Pentax came out well).
Today I learned one thing I did not expect: I must have turned into a nerd by now. I guess only photo nerds run around with a camera and three lenses with similar/identical focal length to take several photos of the same scenery.
Lense wise I must admit that I expected more noticable differences. And although the set up did not work with the Pentax lense most of the time, I must say that I am happy with all of these three lenses (I used the Pentax a lot during the past year with very satisfying results).
Even the the is no big difference result wise, there is a prise difference between these guys. The Voigtländer is the most expensive lense of these three (approx. EUR 200 on ebay), the Nikon is a bit cheaper (approx EUR 130) and the Pentax is the cheapest one approx EUR 25)
I will do more tests with different focal lengths (50, 100 and 135), may be even at the same spots. And may be I will find out that it is neither only the lense or the camera but the combination of both which defines the character. May be you can only tell a difference if you compare by far more expensive lenses. But I got a fealing that in the end, the person behind the camera has by far the most influence on the quality of the photos than the gear.