I finally got a chance this evening to try out my Voigtlander 50/1.1, using my Panasonic G1 with M-mount adapter as the test vehicle.
Normally the way I prefer to "test" a lens is to use it in the type of situation I actually photograph -- which in my case is dance performances and other such low-light stuff. No dance performances handy lately... but a couple of my dancer friends were getting married, in the theater where they had met dancing, so the conditions were at least somewhat similar!
[Disclaimer: I am not a wedding photographer. I have no desire to be a wedding photographer. You wedding photographers out there may feel free to laugh at what unprofessional shots I took of the event!]
One drawback of this style of lens "testing" is that I was introducing a lot of factors that tend to make a lens look worse than it is. For example, I had to start at ISO 800 and then bump up to ISO 1250 as the evening went on. Also, I was hand-holding everything -- some of the pictures in this set were at speeds as low as 1/25 -- so there will be some degree of "unsharpness" that are really the fault of camera shake.
What I really want to do at some point is some more controlled comparison shots that will let me evaluate the "look" of the 50/1.1 vs. the other two 50mm lenses I routinely use -- the Voigtlander 50/1.5 Nokton and the Canon 50/0.95. I didn't want to lug all three lenses to a wedding, so all I can do here is a "virtual" comparison. But enough temporizing, I'm sure you want to see pictures...
Not with the 50/1.1:
I don't believe in lens test charts, especially, but I do look at eyelashes. Here's a photo I made the other day with the G1 at ISO 1250, using the 50/1.5 Nokton at full aperture. I'm pleased with the sharpness of the eyelashes in this photo, so will be using that as my standard for comparison against the 50/1.1.
And now here's a 100% crop:
With that established, let's move on to the wedding and the new lens. All the following were made with the 50/1.1:
A nice trio of bridesmaids --
My focus point was on the center bridesmaid's bouquet. Looking at a crop of that, I think I'll be able to expect some of the same "glow" I get with the 50/0.95, although smaller and better-controlled:
I did notice that manual focus (via the G1's EVF) didn't seem quite as crisp and decisive as it is with the 50/1.5. I think the slight "glow" has something to do with it. With an f/1.1 lens at full aperture, the vast majority of any scene is going to be out of focus, and all that defocused light has to go somewhere; some of it is bound to leak into the in-focus image and reduce its local contrast, so the lens doesn't "snap in" to focus the way the f/1.5 does. Still, I didn't actually have any trouble focusing, although I needed to use the G1's center-focus magnifier more often than I do when shooting with the 50/1.5.
The reception was in the theater lobby, with the wedding party on the main floor and the rest of us up on the mezzanine. Being on the mezzanine was fun because we could look down on the activity and see everything that went on; here's Kristen, one of the bride's friends, doing just that:
I'm no "bokehologist," but the background looks pretty smooth. Note, though, that the out-of-focus lights behind Kristen's shoulder appear to have some "edges" in them; that doesn't bother me, but if it bothers you...
This photo wasn't much good for an "eyelash test" because I was shooting at 1/25... still, here they are:
Here are my friend Deborah and her husband Rob listening to conversation at our table:
Again on the bokeh front, Rob's out-of-focus features nearer the camera seem very smooth. Note the bright background behind Deborah, caused by some wildly-overexposed bare lamps on the wall. I would expect these to flare out somewhat if using the 50/0.95 Canon, but the 50/1.1 seems to control them well:
The bride's sisters got a bit teary-eyed during the maid of honor's speech about her -- rather sweet, really, but why I put it here is the white lightbulbs in the background. The Canon 50/0.95 often produces exotic flare spots when bright light sources are within the picture, but I didn't see any from the 50/1.1 Nokton. The girls' black dresses seem to retain good depth. You'll notice some purple edges around the bulbs nearest the bride and her sisters; I interpret this as "sensor bloom" caused by severe overexposure, rather than lens-induced color fringing.
I had planned to carry on from here, but found there's a 10-image limit per post! So, on to another entry...