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Pentacon Pre-set 135mm f/2.8: My Review

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Thread started 24 Apr 2011 (Sunday) 11:14   
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cptrios
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So, I've just realized that I now own three manual-focus lenses that happen to be among the most asked-about by dSLR owners looking for value outside of the AF world. Since there aren't any particularly comprehensive reviews for any of them, I thought I'd take a crack at a few myself. This will eventually (read: hopefully by tomorrow) include the Pentacon Pre-set 135mm f/2.8 "Bokeh Monster," the Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AI-S, and the Zeiss Contax Vario-Sonnar 35-70mm f/3.4. WARNING: these reviews are utterly unscientific and, most likely, quite terrible.

The Pentacon Pre-set 135mm f/2.8 (M42 mount)

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Introduction

This lens' name (also produced as the Meyer-Optik Orestor 135mm) is thrown about online so often as the "bokeh monster" or "bokeh king" that one of those two descriptors usually shows up in auction/thread titles for sales. This reputation is due to its ridiculous 15-blade aperture, shown here:

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I picked it up because, after selling my 24-105L, I had nothing beyond 70mm to work with. The price was right, as I didn't feel like investing a ton of money into what would likely be my least-used focal length (this does not mean that I will reject a gift of a 135L, wink wink nudge nudge). It usually goes for $150-$180 on eBay, but can be found cheaper, with some luck, out in the "real world." Do not confuse it with the vastly inferior Pentacon Auto MC 135mm f/2.8. Doing so will end in tears.

Alright, review time.

1. Operation and Handling

This will likely split audiences right down the middle.

• The build quality, as one might expect from a German-made MF lens, is superb. It could easily be used to club a mugger into submission without incurring even the slightest bit of damage upon itself.

• The aperture (at least on my copy) is "clickless." The aperture ring turns smoothly all the way from f/2.8 to f/32 with no discernible bumps. This is a very nice feature for video (smooth aperture racking...very cool) but is one of the things that makes operation of the lens slow, as it's impossible to memorize click-numbers to get to your desired aperture. The pre-set feature helps with this, as it allows you to set a minimum f-stop...I usually have it set at f/8, so I can pop between it and wide-open with ease. The aperture control is also at the front of the lens, which will be odd for some people.

• The focus ring is very nicely damped, but on the stiff side. This would be fine, except that the focus throw is nearly a full turn. We're talking 359°. I expect this in a fast, long prime, but not at such an extreme. This again makes for slow operation, and virtually eliminates the possibility of quick focus-racking in video. One positive is that the long throw allows for ultra-precise focusing...which would be great if I had a split-prism screen or an AF-confirm adapter

2. Color Rendition, Flare, Vignetting, etc

• Color rendition - I really have no idea how to quantify this, and am of the opinion that it's not an enormously important factor in the world of RAW and Photoshop. I would say that the Pentacon, in comparison to my Sigmalux (my only modern lens) offers slightly less saturated, but slightly brighter colors. Colors are a touch less vibrant than they are in real life.

• Flare - I haven't had time to put it through the paces, but my first impressions are: totally average.

• Vignetting - A bit at f/2.8, pretty much none stopped down.

• CA - Plenty of purple fringing and noticeable CA at the wider f-stops in high-contrast spots. Not the worst I've seen, but not great. Very similar to the Sigmalux in terms of bokeh CA (which I think has an official name, but have absolutely no desire to spend time looking up).

3. Sharpness

Definitely not the sharpest lens I own, but not too bad. This is a portrait lens, through and through. I'll let the samples do the talking...from left to right, f/2.8, f/5.6, f/8, with the top row being center crops and the bottom being from the extreme lower left corner. Note that the center is virtually identical throughout, and the corner improves moderately on stopping down. Also, check out the CA.

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http://img5.imageshack​.us ...632/pentaconsharpne​ss.jpgexternal link
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(Yes, I know the framing is off. I don't have a tripod here - thanks for pointing it out. I hope you feel good about yourself now.)

4. Bokeh

This is the area we're all interested to see, and in my opinion the lens doesn't disappoint. Highlights remain round throughout the aperture range, and results are consistently pleasing. Here's a close-focus sample - focus a nearby iron railing with a lovely shrub about 30ft in the background:

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http://img856.imagesha​ck.us ...97/pentaconclosebok​eh.jpgexternal link
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And a 100% crop of the f/8 bokeh:
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http://img716.imagesha​ck.us ...pentacon8bokehclose​up.jpgexternal link
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And a real-world shot wide open with focus about 12 feet away (pretty impressive here...foliage is the natural enemy of bokeh):
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http://img90.imageshac​k.us ...526/pentabokehsampl​e1.jpgexternal link
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And a final shot showing the nice falloff at a slightly longer distance (f/4):
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http://img812.imagesha​ck.us ...808/pentabokehsampl​e2.jpgexternal link
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5. Hipster Appeal
This section is for those of you who are on the verge of being kicked out of Williamsburg for using *gasp* a digital camera. It's common knowledge that if you must use a dSLR instead of a Holga or an old Kiev rangefinder, the only way to maintain your credibility is to mount a "vintage" lens on it. So, is this the one for you?

Pros:
• Relatively unique design
• Aperture is interestingly placed at the front of the lens
• Completely impossible to mistake for a modern lens
• "3-point turning" your focus will make you seem very seriously into the photo
• The best feature: "Made in GDR" printed in large letters on the side of the lens. This is a two-pronged benefit: A. it's clearly not an American lens, and B. you will often get the opportunity to explain to people what "GDR" means and make a thoughtfully ironic comment about the Berlin Wall.

Cons:
• Not chrome.

Conclusion in next post...

Post #1, Apr 24, 2011 11:14:41


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cptrios
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Conclusion

Handling: 2.5/5 Shandlings. "OK"

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Color Rendition, etc.: 3/5 Oversaturated Peter Lik Heads. "Not too shabby"
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Sharpness: 3/5 Sharpes. "Not too shabby"
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Bokeh: 4.5/5 Gin & Tonics. "Excellent"
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Hipster Appeal: 5/5 Men's skinny jeans + 0.5 bonus pair of Buddy Holly glasses. "Arcade Fire before they were big"
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http://img20.imageshac​k.us/img20/930/hipster​pent.jpgexternal link
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Overall: Strongly recommended as a cheap portrait lens solution, with a secondary application as a street candids lens (provided one has an AF-confirm adapter). Not recommended at all for action shots or anything for which critical sharpness is necessary.

Post #2, Apr 24, 2011 11:15:26


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Sp1207
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I have the Meyer-optik labelled version of this lens. Absolutely beautiful bokeh. Not the sharpest cookie, and the ridiculous long focus throw can be an issue, but a great value for portrait work. Definitely has a different color spread than modern Canon lenses.

I'll be getting the C/Y 35-70 pretty soon.

Post #3, Apr 24, 2011 11:31:43


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Why do people bother posting "actual shots from XX"? If anything give me the raws.

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JPM ­ Photography
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cptrios wrote in post #12283166external link
Conclusion

Handling: 2.5/5 Shandlings. "OK"
NOT FOUND IMAGE IS A REDIRECT OR MISSING!
http://img192.imagesha​ck.us/img192/2135/hand​lingpent.jpgexternal link
HTTP response: NOT FOUND | MIME changed to 'image/png'


Color Rendition, etc.: 3/5 Oversaturated Peter Lik Heads. "Not too shabby"
NOT FOUND IMAGE IS A REDIRECT OR MISSING!
http://img692.imagesha​ck.us/img692/5418/colo​rpent.jpgexternal link
HTTP response: NOT FOUND | MIME changed to 'image/png'


Sharpness: 3/5 Sharpes. "Not too shabby"
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http://img16.imageshac​k.us/img16/3727/sharpn​esspent.jpgexternal link
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Bokeh: 4.5/5 Gin & Tonics. "Excellent"
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http://img192.imagesha​ck.us/img192/7229/boke​hpent.jpgexternal link
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Hipster Appeal: 5/5 Men's skinny jeans + 0.5 bonus pair of Buddy Holly glasses. "Arcade Fire before they were big"
NOT FOUND IMAGE IS A REDIRECT OR MISSING!
http://img20.imageshac​k.us/img20/930/hipster​pent.jpgexternal link
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Overall: Strongly recommended as a cheap portrait lens solution, with a secondary application as a street candids lens (provided one has an AF-confirm adapter). Not recommended at all for action shots or anything for which critical sharpness is necessary.

I love the hipster appeal section!!
also, looks like a ridiculously beautiful bokeh lens. I have found that the bokeh on my Nikon 135 f/2.8 is kinda lack-luster.

Post #4, Apr 24, 2011 11:34:33


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JPM ­ Photography
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Sp1207 wrote in post #12283266external link
I'll be getting the C/Y 35-70 pretty soon.

I have used this lens on a video shoot with the 5D mkII and it is beautiful!!! absolutely amazing.

Post #5, Apr 24, 2011 11:35:57


60D gripped, T2i gripped, Tokina 12-24 f/4, Pentax SMC 50 f/1.4, Nikon Standard Speed Set: 24, 35, 85, 105, 135, 180, Canon 580ex, Calumet Genesis 200
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DreDaze
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i like the unscientific review...

i was sort of looking at this lens, but got the 135mm SF instead...i think it's funny that you point out the hipster part...as i'm heading to NY memorial day, and have been thinking of bringing my camera...oh, and I just looked at renting an apt in williamsburg(i'm not a hipster...but i'm going there for a skeeball tourney...ridiculous i know-but it's free booze all weekend, and i've never been to NY)

Post #6, Apr 24, 2011 11:39:38


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Sp1207
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JPM Photography wrote in post #12283288external link
I have used this lens on a video shoot with the 5D mkII and it is beautiful!!! absolutely amazing.

That was actually one of the reasons for getting it -- I'll be moving to a video-capable body when the 1DsIV comes out (or I get tired of waiting and grab a 60D) and I wanted an ultra-sharp normalish range zoom.

Should be here sometime this week.

Post #7, Apr 24, 2011 11:44:16


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cptrios
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Sp1207 wrote in post #12283266external link
I'll be getting the C/Y 35-70 pretty soon.

I'll hopefully have that review done tomorrow (I know the masses are waiting on the edge of their seats). Long story short: it's an awesome lens.

Post #8, Apr 24, 2011 11:54:43


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OWSIU
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Here's my bokeh monster I had a couple years ago. I did sell to fund something that I can't remember, lol.

IMAGE: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2609/3977670363_ed200c9312_b.jpg

Make sure you get the 15 or was it 16? aperture blade one. The Auto MC does not compare at all.
IMAGE: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2553/3978429042_189fdf7d47_b.jpg
IMAGE: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3509/3978427234_35b3b5f8d1_b.jpg

Post #9, Apr 24, 2011 12:21:02 as a reply to cptrios's post 26 minutes earlier.




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martinsmith
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I have the earlier zebra preset and it's really good. I also have the Carl Zeiss 135 which is sharp, but my favourite is the Tair 11a which although bigger and heavier has the best of both these lenses.

Oh and I also have the 135 soft focus, which, has a bit of CA going on until past F4 in certain situations but also has nice bokeh and is really resistant to flare.

Post #10, Apr 24, 2011 14:02:04


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cptrios
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martinsmith wrote in post #12284016external link
I have the earlier zebra preset and it's really good. I also have the Carl Zeiss 135 which is sharp, but my favourite is the Tair 11a which although bigger and heavier has the best of both these lenses.

Oh and I also have the 135 soft focus, which, has a bit of CA going on until past F4 in certain situations but also has nice bokeh and is really resistant to flare.

Heh, the Tair was actually my first choice, but I needed whichever lens I ended up with very quickly, and the price of the Tair I was going to bid on wound up being (including shipping) about $50 more than the Pentacon. So that made my decision for me!

Post #11, Apr 24, 2011 15:16:20


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Where can I get me one of those!!!!

Post #12, Apr 25, 2011 12:13:22 as a reply to cptrios's post 20 hours earlier.


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Sp1207 wrote in post #12283332external link
That was actually one of the reasons for getting it -- I'll be moving to a video-capable body when the 1DsIV comes out (or I get tired of waiting and grab a 60D) and I wanted an ultra-sharp normalish range zoom.

Should be here sometime this week.

I recently won a 60D from the good folks over at JuicedLink and I love it!!
granted I have never used the 1D series bodies extensively, but...

also, the articulating screen is AWESOME for video.

Post #13, Apr 25, 2011 12:47:58


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fatdeeman
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pyrojim wrote in post #12289261external link
Where can I get me one of those!!!!

Ebay!

I have one of these too and it's a great lens!

You need the 15 blade version for the best bokeh with the lens stopped down but wide open the newer multi coated versions with 6 blades give the same bokeh, they are the same optical formula but have automatic apertures hence the reduction in blades (it's hard to get a small spring to overcome the friction of 15 blades!)

As long as it says GDR on the side you're good to go, the 15 blade versions are the more desirable but the 6 blade ones do just as well wide open and can be had for less money.

There's also a later Praktica bayonet (PB) version based on the same design but watch out because there were also Praktica 135mm F/2.8 lenses that were made in Japan to another design, again if the lens says made in GDR you're good.

I'd advise against using the PB version on EOS, the adapters available on ebay don't give true infinity focus, the adapters are slightly too thick because otherwise they would bend from being too thin. You're safer using PB lenses on mirrorless cameras like micro 4/3 and Sony NEX etc

Excellent review and I LOL'd at the rating system!

Post #14, Apr 25, 2011 13:41:24


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Tony-S
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Wow, amazing what The Google can find for you! I agree with everything you said, but the colors seem really great on the SD15. Maybe it's my post-processing magic of the Foveon data! ;)

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Post #15, Dec 29, 2011 16:58:43


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