The three short tele lenses of F2 vintage, from top; the Nikon 135/2. On the left, the compact Nikon 85/2 and right, the Leica Summicron 90/2.
Diagram of decreasing apertures, that is, increasing f-numbers, in one-stop increments; each aperture has half the light gathering area of the previous one.
From the diagram I hope you realise an F2 (f/2) lens is a very bright, "large aperture" lens ;)
I had wanted to test these three primes on my E-P2 for portraits ages ago, but I cannot find a photogenic model who will pose for this cheap skate photographer F.O.C.! Ha ha ha...
In April 20, 2010 I posted "My Leica E-P2" which is still the post with the highest page view!
I am thankful that our ex-colleague Brook was my model!
This time round, I asked colleague Rebekah; Rebekah possesses a near perfect face for showing off a great prime lens, or is it the other way round? ;)
She agreed to my request! Thank you Rebekah!
I planned the shoot during my half hour lunch break, I estimated I only have about 20 minutes to spare. Those grand newspaper days of taking a model out for hours were long gone ;)
The photo session, like the one of Brook; will have to be done outside the office's corridor; to save time and to meet the targeted 20 minutes.
Martin Mogford would take some pictures of my antics, thanks Martin.
Nikkor 135mm f/2.0
This heavy (860g) chunk of glass have a colourful history! My friend Leonard Foo did a very detail write-up about this chunky prime here.
The Nikon 135/2 attached to the E-P2 with an Voigtlander M4/3 to Nikon F Adapter.
The heavy lens not doing the very light E-P2 camera body any favor! The set up become very front heavy and focusing is difficult. Don't even contemplate using this huge optics without the electronic view finder (EVF)!
The 135/2 on the E-P2 was so front heavy that I resort to using the set up on a monopod with a mini ball-head! Did I tell you it is VERY HARD to focus? ;)
The 135/2 was hard to focus but the extremely bright optics help in that respect. Once it is in focus, man; WHAT A LENS!!
The top picture was shot at full F2 and F4 below.
Look at the fluid bokeh! Love it!
The 135 is a very sharp lens, may be a bit TOO SHARP for portraiture.
The 135 mm lens when attached to the M4/3 E-P2 have the same field of view of a 270 mm telephoto on a 35 mm camera! I have to be that far away just to get a portrait of our model!
Nikkor 85 mm f/2
What my friend Leonard Foo said about this very compact short telephoto:
A classic lens for portraiture either indoor or outdoor. Has enjoy a fine reputation for its excellent sharpness and a clear favorite among many Nikon followers. * Fairly large f/2 maximum aperture is very helpful in shooting indoor sports or stage productions in dim light. * Subtle blurring of the background for beautifully natural and evocative pictures. * Exceptionally compact and light for a telephoto lens. * Focuses down to a close 0.85m (3 ft.). * Supplied with a Snap-On lens hood which can be stored in the reverse position. * Takes popular 52mm filters.
High praise indeed!
The 85/2 on the E-P2, the set up can be very compact if not because of the thick Nikon to M4/3 adapter.
What really impress me was the totally lack of chromatic distortion and colour fringing!
The relatively small size of the lens made for a much better handling, the focusing is quite tight and like all large aperture telephoto with limited depth of field; focusing is unforgiving, the image is either sharp or blur!
LEICA SUMMICRON-M 90mm f/2
In my opinion, the KING of portrait lens :)
Ken Rockwell was so impressed with this lens, quoting him...
"This LEICA SUMMICRON-M 90mm f/2 was Leica's most expensive 90mm lens for 18 years from 1980 until the even more spectacular LEICA APO-SUMMICRON-M 90mm f/2 ASPH replaced it in 1998.
Performance-wise, this lens is better than its predecessor, the LEICA LEITZ SUMMICRON 90mm f/2 (1958-1980), and not as good as the LEICA APO-SUMMICRON-M 90mm f/2 ASPH which replaces it. All three are excellent lenses for anything; the only way to see any optical difference is to shoot explicit tests. For actual photography, one's preference will be based on filter size, exterior style, size and weight more than any optical differences. Unlike lesser makers, Leica has never made any junk"
Shot at full f/2 with the Summicron 90/2, I find the Leica lenses are more gentle on the skin tone and the colour took on a pleasing pastel hue. The Nikon on the other hand is sharp and a bit harsh.
How about sharpness?
The Summicron is a sharp lens but it is not as overly sharp like the Nikon 135/2. The solidly constructed optics show no colour fringing even on strong back light.
Famous Last Words:
So which is my favorite portrait lens for the E-P2?
All thing being equal, the Summicron 90/2 of course!
If you are able to find a good used copy, go for it! You will not regret!
And One For The Album ;)
** Many thanks to Rebekah who made this lens test possible and to Martin for capturing on the side line!
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