MS-Optical 50mm f/1.1 Sonnetar: magic time

The MS Optical Research Sonnetar is like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. You either get it or you don’t, and if you don’t understand Jacques Cousteau, Willem Dafoe playing a subservient gay German, or Wes Anderson in general, there is no one who can make you like it. By the same token, if you drive Jaguars, no one with a 276hp front-drive Camry is ever going to win you over by telling you it has a higher thrust-to-weight ratio than an XJS V12 with the flying buttress hard top.

You don’t buy a Sonnetar as your only 50mm lens; in fact, you don’t even buy it as your only fast 50mm lens (and by the way, 50s should either be fast or fun – there is nothing more bland than a 50mm Summicron). The Sonnetar has strange controls for most (the rotating front barrel is exactly like using a Contax or Nikon rangefinder). It vignettes like crazy. At any distance, you can have your choice between correct focus and optical correction.

Why would anyone like it? It’s actually a big question whose only easy answer might be that when you have to shoot an f/1.1 lens in ultra-low light conditions, you pick your poison. You’re playing the limits.

N.B. All pictures shot in b/w are shot with a new Leica Monochrom (typ 246). All shots in color are with an M (typ 240). It’s absurd to change color pictures to monochrome to try to judge sharpness.

What is it? The MS-Sonnetar is the second modern revival of the 50mm f/1.5 Carl Zeiss Sonnar (West Germany, 1950s-1960s), the first one being the Zeiss ZM C-Sonnar 1.5/50mm. Why this type of lens is popular today is puzzling; when lens coatings enabled highly corrected 50mm lenses like the Planar, all of the expensive cemented groups of the f/1.5 Sonnar became obsolete. Today, the popularity of the Sonnar pattern might be in its imperfection: focus falloff in the form of field curvature and vignetting. The Sonnar yields marginally smaller and lighter overall packaging than a Planar or Double Guass, and it has slightly higher resistance to flare.

Every Sonnar revival/clone/ripoff over the past 50+ years has had its own set of strengths and weaknesses; it seems that almost none of them shows the balanced performance of the original Zeiss design. They either sacrifice sharpness for bokeh or go gaga for bokeh and live with a lot of focus shift.

The Sonnetar goes for the gusto with fewer elements and only one cemented group; a lighter, more compact barrel; and almost an entire stop of extra speed. It is the fastest Sonnar-style production lens in terms of T-stops, edging out the 50/1.1 Zunow by virtue of having fewer elements and more effective coatings.

Getting a handle on it. The Sonnetar is a very compact lens; the barrel is smaller than a 50mm Summicron, flaring out to a wider front section that takes 52mm filters (and no, full-sized B+Ws do not vignette). It’s hard to say whether it is modeled after a Zunow, a 50/1.1 Nikkor, or an Opton Sonnar. But all of them have a particular shape to them. The Sonnetar looks most like the Zunow, with the focusing and aperture rings reversed.

The frontmost ring is focus (supplemented with a small lever in the back if that’s what you want); the rearward ring is the aperture control, which smoothly adjusts from f/1.1 to f/16. Like a lot of older lenses, as the aperture numbers get higher, they get closer together (it is probably also a side effect of the Sonnetar’s super-nifty, perfectly circular German iris. But no matter in splitting hairs between f/11 and 16; you won’t be shooting there anyway.

The tough part of the ergonomics is something you’d never expect: the rear lens cap. It screws into the rear lens group, which unfortunately is also the thing that is the coma control. As for the front cap (which also screws in), you’ll probably leave that in the box with the hand-drawn spherical aberration measurements and the pretty hood. You’ll either use an MRC filter or a pinch cap to keep your fingers off the front glass.

Overall build quality. Done out in matte black chrome, the finish of the Sonnetar is a good match for a black Leica M-P or Monochrom typ 246. The black anodized finish is very tough, and the mounting ridges that you grasp to mount the lens will take bits of skin along with them. Numbers are clearly engraved and filled in white. They are legible and inoffensive. There is no way to 6-bit code this lens, since the rear flange is integral with the lens barrel (it is very much built like an old rangefinder lens with a rotating optical unit).

The glass (modified Sonnar design, more air-spaced) is perfectly clean and perfectly coated (from what I understand, MS Optical’s multicoating is a simple 2-layer). The reality is that the efficiency of modern coatings and the low element count makes internal flare a non-issue. Interior blacking is actually dark grey, which may seem puzzling, but if it’s good enough for telescopes, it’s probably good enough for camera lenses.

There are some build quality nits. One is that the lens (both on the sensor and in the rangefinder) hits infinity with about a mm of travel left in the focusing ring. This is probably an artifact of having that ring be the same part that provides the rangefinder cam. This might be of concern if you are trying to focus at infinity by feeling for a stop – and it is no different a problem than using an Asian LTM adapter that is a fraction of a millimeter too thin. It almost seems like you could just loosen the focusing ring screws and shift it so that infinity was on the stop

The other is that MS-Optical only uses a couple of actual lens mounts. The 51.6mm lens mount provides cam action that approximates a 51.6mm (Leica-spec) lens. Its frameline selection is determined by whether the mount is compressed around a notch in one of the bayonets or not. This lens uses about 90 degrees to go from 1m to ∞, which is quite short. This gives you a much faster acquisition time for focus but degrades the focus accuracy. Contrast this to 1950s and 1960s LTM lenses (and indeed the 75 Summilux), whose ponderously slow focusing rate can cause you to miss the moment completely. In any case, you are much better off using the ring than the lever because the larger diameter of the barrel provides better precision (because it takes more movement of the control surface per unit of focus change).

The $&@(!#% “coma adjuster.” The most famous feature of this lens is a “coma adjuster,” a ring around the rear element that has a white indicator dot and four distance dots (1m – white; 2m – white, 4m – red, and infinity-white). The lens is sold with an instruction sheet that tells you this is for adjusting “coma,” which would be the shape of point light sources (round or not). Why does anyone care about coma? It’s a big deal for telescopes, and that’s what Miyazaki designed for most of his life. What you get in terms of optical performance in the near range is a set of very subtle changes. Perhaps this operates better at a distance, but for its stated purpose, the adjuster seems a little bit gimmicky.

What is not so subtle is that the same control – determining the position of the rear lens group – has a tremendous effect on focus (because it changes the focal length of the lens) and on field curvature (whether the plane of focus is flat across the field or curved inward at the edges). This almost off-label use is actually very easy to exploit (see the discussion of what the directions actually say below).

Focal length control is very important on a super-speed lens. A Leica rangefinder assumes the same movement as a 51.6mm lens. Nominal “50mm” lenses that have a 51.6mm focal length can rely on simple movement of the lens cell when focusing to track from near to far at the correct rate. Shorter lenses (like 35mm lenses) have to translate a smaller amount of lens cell movement (front to back) to a relatively larger amount of rangefinder cam movement. Likewise, a 90mm lens needs the cell to move more than the cam moves. With most 50mm f/2 lenses, variances of a couple of 1/10s of a millimeter in actual focal length are not of great consequence because the lens has a little depth of field (or “fudge factor”). Lenses that have super-thin depth of field, such as an f/1.1 lens, require far more precision in their focal length to work well with a rangefinder. One can also surmise that the coma adjuster ring also serves as a calibration method for the lens that does not require reassembly.

According to the directions, this is how to use the coma adjuster ring:

Adjacent to the coma adjustment ring, you will find a white reference point (see the above illustration) to which an appropriate ring position has to be matched by rotating the ring. Using the coma adjustment system, a very high level tuning/focusing optimisation is made possible.

[…]

For Leica M Type Rangefinder Camera Users Initially, bring the red dot of the ring to the white reference point by rotating the coma adjustment ring. As you familiarise yourself to this lens, you may wish to change the ring position either to the left or right. For example, at the infinity best point, the actual focus point will be slightly brought forward (therefore, take a photo with focus point slightly backward). At the white dot that is best for 2m distance, a focus point will be slightly brought backward (therefore, take a photo with focus point slightly forward). This might take some practice and experience to achieve best results.

In real life, the tips for using this are:

  • Turning the adjuster toward longer distances will make the lens focus closer to the camera.
  • Turning the adjuster toward shorter distances will make the lens focus farther from the camera.
  • Putting the coma adjuster on 1m will cause a back focus of 15-20cm at 1m, which is not insignificant.
  • Putting the coma adjuster on ∞ will cause the lens not to focus (optically) to infinity.
  • Putting the adjuster about 2mm short of the 4m mark will produce best focus at f/1.1-1.6 from just under 1m to infinity. This is not surprising, since it is a distance of about 50 focal lengths (2.5m), which is a conventional distance at which lenses are tested. It is also apparently the setting used to measure MTF (as shown on the instruction sheet).
  • The lens will decouple from an M rangefinder at the minimum distance stop, so don’t do any testing below about 0.8m.

IN MOST CASES, YOU WILL ONLY BE MOVING THIS ADJUSTER 1 or 2MM FROM THE RED MARK. UNLESS YOU WANT TO GO CRAZY.

It really, really, really helps to have a LensAlign to calibrate the lens because you can see the zone of focus very correctly. Although you can trial-and-err it without this $80 plastic device, the problem is ascertaining the effect of focus shift. You want to hit a calibration where the zone of focus includes the intended point through as many apertures as you can – because like a lot of lenses in this speed class, the Sonnetar has under corrected spherical aberration that causes focus shift with aperture changes. The LensAlign lets you observe a band of high contrast as it moves (and expands) as you stop down. You don’t even need to shoot it head-on as you would with a DSLR; you need to check this from oblique angles too – because that is how you will focus your Leica in real life. Needless to say, if you are going to use this lens with a film camera, it helps to have a digital to get it dialed in.

Even within any calibration, the M viewfinder system (including the improved rangefinders for the M typ 240 and 246) has enough lash in it that the direction from which you focus – as well as small movements that don’t even produce a visible change in the RF alignment – can affect the focus point. So the word is “practice.” Wide-open, you will nudge to a slightly farther focused distance (without making the RF spot move).

Performance. All high-speed 50mm lenses (f>1.4) involve tradeoffs. The simple answer is that the Sonnetar has characteristics that vary depending on the coma adjuster setting, and these correspond pretty closely to the optimization differences in an Opton Sonnar, a 50/1.4 Nikkor LTM lens, and a 50/1.5 Canon LTM lens.

For most testing, I have kept the lens optimized at f/1.1 to 1/6 at distances up to 3m. It performs very well from 0.8 to 10m at f/1.1-1.6. If you get the calibration just right, you can keep it sharp through f/5.6, and it’s sharp across the field. At long distances, however, you get progressive blur toward the frame edges. This is gone at f/8. I suspect that the coma adjuster could overcome things, but distance shots are a little outside the use case for this lens (for distance, you are always better off with a slightly smaller aperture lens).

Sharpness seems to max out at f/1.6 (the dot between f/1.4 and f/2 on the focusing scale). Contrast is about double that at f/1.1. If something like the Canon 50mm f/1.2 LTM lens is your frame of reference, at wide-open settings, the Sonnetar is visibly better (and focuses far more accurately). If you are shooting at f/4 or smaller, something like the Canon provides much more balanced performance.

Here is a sequence that should show the differences at the wide apertures. If you click on the picture, you should be able to see it full-size. First, 0.8m, whole scene. Yes, the 44-year-old unopened bottle of Beam is real, as is the gaffe of keeping champagne at other than depressed temperatures. And no, I can’t explain the presence of the CFL bulb on the bar, since I own no fixture that takes them.

overall

Next, check out the difference between f/1.1 (left) and f/1.6 (right) at 100%. The apertures shown in the metadata are computed by the M typ 246, so they are not entirely accurate. There is quite a bit of contrast jump in one stop.

center-100

Next, here is the same comparison at 200%. The focus point here is the stamp “Spring 1963.”

center-200

Next, here is the mid-right side at 100%. Still holding together.

middle-right-100

Extreme left, 100%. Same story.

corner-100

Real-world, stressed out, trying to get enough distance to focus in almost complete darkness, you still get good results. This is f/1.6 at ISO 2500 and 1/12 of a second:

L1001163

And a bit better at 1/45 sec (by the way, the Last Word is something you ought to try sometime):

L1001126

And this is the obligatory f/8 shot outdoors with a G filter.

L1000791

Flare is very well controlled except in extreme side-lighting, where you can get some bizarre effects. This is a characteristic of Sonnar-type lenses. There is some “glow,” which is the normal Sonnar flare on hard dark/light interfaces that occurs when the focus point is ahead of the object. It is more visible in the preview mode of an M camera than it is in the final files. Resistance to extreme backlighting is pretty good, a lot better than with the old Canon 50/1.2:

L1000799

Here is the difficult-to-replicate total flare failure mode. You might want to use a lens hood when the sun is in the corner. Or maybe not.

L1000790

Vignetting is not going to be a huge issue at close distances, since the barrel is extended. At f/2 and down, it is not obnoxious, especially when combined with the automatic corner correction on the M8/9/240/246. If you want to go very heavy duty on perfect corrections, use the Adobe Flat Field plugin for Lightroom. You will need to shoot baseline calibrations at the distances and apertures you normally shoot. You can do that after the fact.

Color rendition can be a little weird. The “tantalum” glass in this lens (probably standing in for less-exciting sounding “rare earth”) shows mild versions of the color enhancing effects of a didymium enhancing filter (like a B+W 491, Tiffen Enhancing Filter, or Hoya Redhancer). Magenta and yellow seem to be favored here. Here are some pictures that should illustrate this. For your evaluation of secondary characteristics, this is at f/2:

L1000689

f/4:

L1000686

f/1.1:

L1000431

f/1.1:

20151010_150258

Chromatic aberration is a factor here but not in the traditional way. Wide-open, this lens tends to have the blur from adjoining colors bleed together. On an M typ 240, this looks a little bit like soft focus. On the M typ 246, this disappears completely, and the lens develops some killer contrast. This is characteristic of sticking a lot of old-school lenses on the new Monochrom body; a lot of older optical designs suddenly start looking awesome.

Bokeh is such a bourgeois concept. With spherical lenses, you either get universally good bokeh but bad focus shift (ZM C-Sonnar) or poor bokeh and reduced focus shift (50/1.4 Nikkor, 50/1.5 Canon). Unfortunately, with high-speed lenses, the latter combination (or in this case calibration) is much easier to live with. With the Sonnetar, you want to get as close to your subject as possible with as great a distance from it to the background as possible. Otherwise, you can enjoy what generation of Canon and Nikon Sonnar clones have experienced. By the way, here is a direct comparison between the bokeh of the 50/1.2 Canon and the Sonnetar. Maybe you can tell which is which?

L1001270 L1001341

Conclusion. If I did not currently own eleven 50mm lenses (just temporarily), I don’t know how I would feel about this one. That said, the Sonnetar is the one that seems to be welded onto my Monochrom. It’s quirky, it takes a lot of practice to use, and even after a couple of months of practice, there is still a lot to master. That said, it’s an elegant alternative to the Coke cans and second mortgages that tend to dominate the super-speed 50mm space.

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23 responses to “MS-Optical 50mm f/1.1 Sonnetar: magic time”

  1. David Babsky says :

    Thank you for your lengthy dissertation! I tried one of these the other year – after waiting more than 6 months for Japan Exposures to send it – and found it abysmal ..but they eventually conceded that I’d been sent a dud.

    (And then I found dozens immediately available at Map Camera.)

    Compared with the similar 1950s Zunow – in short supply, and costing much more – the Sonnetar was less contrasty, less sharp, and ..I found.. rather pointless ..for me, anyway.

    Its pictures may look “dreamy”, but why not just put a stocking in front of a Leica 50mm?

    I suppose I simply don’t appreciate its “unique qualities” ..which are (1) softness, (2) fiddly ‘coma control’ ..the lens has to be taken off the camera to adjust that, as it’s hidden INSIDE the mount, (3) propensity to flare, inability to produce consistently accurate focus from infinity to nearest distance.

    So, many thanks for this finely detailed guide to its idiosyncratic adjustment, but I’ll continue with the Voigtländer 50mm f1.5 or the Leica 50 ASPH.

    I just don’t “get” the Sonnetar – perhaps that’s just my loss; but I don’t think so.

  2. dantestella says :

    I’d love to see your apples-to-apples test pictures showing how a Zunow is sharper and contrastier that a Sonnetar. You can post the link here when you have them ready.

    • David Babsky says :

      Dear Dante,

      I’d love to provide some apples-to-apples comparison photos, but – unfortunately – Ivor Cooper (..of Red Dot Cameras in London, to whom I took the Sonnetar for a third-party opinion..) has deleted the shots from his camera, and I from mine. Neither of us gave a thought to keeping them for posterity.

      Ivor had no axe to grind: his Zunow isn’t and wasn’t for sale, so he didn’t want me to buy it from him in place of the (frankly, abysmal) Sonnetar. I’d taken the lens to him for his opinion as I thought maybe I was mistaken or was missing something. Was it really as silly a lens as I thought, or was I overlooking some important characteristic?

      Ivor’s a Leica specialist – but he also sells other brands of lenses and bits and bobs – so I thought he’d be a good person to put a Leica-mount lens through its paces. I can only tell you that the Sonnetar which I was sent ..which I had bought.. was very fuzzy at its, supposedly, sharpest setting (meaning in best focus at f1.1 and at other apertures, and with its ‘coma’ adjustment set as described in its info sheet) and that Ivor’s old Zunow at f1.1 and other apertures was clearly sharper, more ‘biting’, and more contrasty.

      The new, clean Sonnetar behaved as though it had fungus inside, diffusing the image and softening it. The Zunow was sharp and acceptable.

      Eventually, as I said, Japan Exposures refunded my money, as they agreed that this brand new lens (number 016) was, er ..what did they say?..

      “Hi, the lens is back from the workshop. Focus was indeed off (backfocus problem).

      We will make the arrangements for the refund later this week by means of payment to your bank account.

      Regards

      Dirk”

      But having used the lens, I was really put off by the ‘economy with the truth’ presented in the marketing description: it DOES have a ‘coma adjustment’ to fine tune its focusing at different distances ..but it’s only when you have it in your hand that you find that to use this fine tuning you have to take the lens off the camera, adjust it, and then re-attach it. There is no external lever for that. It’s only when you have the descriptive leaflet in your hand that you read that this fine-tuning-by-distance is not recommended for Leicas (..or other rangefinders..) and that one should just set it and forget it for those cameras (..yet I’d been led to believe that the distance-dependent fine tuning was one of the big selling points of this lens).

      The fine tuning is, really, like a floating focus element at the rear of the lens, but one that’s not activated by – and is completely disconnected from – the focusing ring! So to use it, you have to take off the lens and adjust the floating element when you change focus distance!

      This is like having a car in which the carburettor is tuned for driving it at 0-30mph. To go faster than 30mph, stop the engine, get out of the car and adjust the carburettor, get back in again and restart the motor: it’ll be a bit lumpy at 0-30mph, but then it’ll run smoothly from 30-60mph. If you want to go faster than 60mph, stop the car, get out and adjust the carb, get in and restart the engine, have a rough ride up to 60mph, and then it’ll be OK from 60 onwards. This is farcical.

      So I’m sorry that I don’t have the comparison pics to show you – believe me; I’d have kept the lens if I thought it was any good – but I really didn’t (..and nor, it seems, did Ivor..) bother to keep the photos, as that seemed so pointless.

      If you ever come to London, do call in and see Ivor and Elaine, and I’m sure they’ll be happy to let you use their Zunow so that you can see for yourself.

      Thank you for all the enjoyment I’ve had over the years from reading your blog.

      Happy New Year,

      Yours, David.

  3. KB says :

    I presums that lens align only useful if mounted to a digital m?

    • dantestella says :

      If you used film to test a film camera with LensAlign, it might be slow torture. But with a film M, you could put a groundglass and loupe on the film rails and adjust pretty much in real time.

      • KB says :

        Do I have to make my own GG by cutting and grinding?…..or can I find an appropriate matte GG that fits the rails of an M body camera? Where would that be?

      • David Babsky says :

        Why not just use tracing paper, KB, flat on the film rails? So much simpler, and thinner, and so much more like film.

  4. Hank says :

    I just reread your review, and after using my Sonnetar for several months now, I have to say I love it. Once it got it “dialed-in”. It is practically welded to my Monochrom, where is plays very nicely with the sensor. I find it “best” between f1.6 and f4 for most of my shots, but perfectly acceptable for general use at f8. It IS a bit wonky to use at first, but it has now become second nature. All in all, I’m very happy to have this lens.
    Thanks for the great writing and reviews!

  5. Wayne says :

    thank you for the review. I am stuck- in decision mode- between: Sonnetar; 50mm Summilux II; accepting the fact that my Canon 50mm 1.2 LTM, Leica 50mm Summitar 1.5 are good enough.

    My experience with MS Optical is my 35mm Perar. That lens is nothing, if not a case of accepting fiddly, pain-in-the-rear handling in exchange for the benefits of minuscule size……combined with very good optical performance. I admit to frustration pertaining to pain-in-the-rear operation, but appreciate the advantages of size and weight.

    In reading your review, I assume Sonnetar is, to some extent, a case similar to Perar.

    I am incapable of close technical analysis of lenses. I can only go with what appeals to me. The quality of your sample photos are of such a quality, they appeal to me.

    My questions:

    Does Sonnetar offer such a substantial advantage in size that you prefer it over Canon 50mm 1.2?

    Do the operational quirks, once lens has been properly calibrated, require constant need for examination of the lens during use, e.g. does the fact that the aperture control ring does not have click stops result in frequent, unintended, aperture changes while you rotate the focus ring?

    • Hap says :

      Wayne
      The lens is fiddly……period. It’s unique. I wouldn’t sell mine in fact I even use it on a Nikon 1 v1 for Iive view and effective foca length of 180mm. I never really bothered to test……set coma to red and off I go. I wish I had a digital m…..but I don’t. I think to extract potential without going test crazy…..best on digital m.

      I do very much like the idea of small lenses with potentially very good optical performance. Not a batis or otus…..but these things yuuuuuuuuggge!

      I’d love to have the tiny 35 or 28 to try.

      I still read and reread Dante review for understanding and inspiration

    • David Babsky says :

      As you’ll see from my comments above, I do find – or DID find, but then sent it back – that it had “..fiddly, pain-in-the-rear handling..” and couldn’t really see the point of it.

      You ask “Does Sonnetar offer such a substantial advantage in size that you prefer it over Canon 50mm 1.2?” ..and it’s definitely smaller than the Canon 50mm f1.2.

      You ask if “..the aperture control ring does not have click stops result in frequent, unintended, aperture changes while you rotate the focus ring?” ..the aperture ring wasn’t a nuisance for me.

      But you say you’re undecided between a Sonnetar, a Summilux II, a Summitar 1.5 and a Canon f1.2. I’d choose a good Summilux II.

      The Sonnetar is – for me, anyway – soft and silly and fiddly. The Canon is usually very soft wide open. The Summitar is an old lens, and – but maybe you like things to look like that – is usually soft wide open, and usually has plenty of contrast-reducing flare.

      The Summilux, if you get a good, clean one, is sharp, generally has less flare – in my experience, anyway – than any of the others, and gives a “crisper” result.

      But only you can decide, of course. I’ve used, or own, or have owned, all of these, and my own preference is for the “no-nonsense” Summilux or Summicron. The (largish) Voigtländer 50mm f1.5 is a great lens, too. I don’t like – but plenty of other people do – the Zeiss 50mm f1.5 (..ugh!..) with its bright chrome front ring (easily painted over) and peculiar out-of-focus ‘bokeh’, and its inconsistent focusing.

      I’d guess that what you’d probably like best of all of these is the Voigtländer. If you’re anywhere near a decent second-hand shop (..or even a shop which stocks new lenses..) try one for yourself.

      But, of course, these are only my opinions. Others may say something completely different!

      • David Babsky says :

        .
        No; CORRECTION: I said “..it’s definitely smaller than the Canon 50mm f1.2..” ..but I’ve just checked, and I don’t think it is smaller (I was thinking of the much bigger Canon 0.9) ..they’re about a similar size ..but the Sonnetar is LIGHTER than the Canon f1.2.

        The Sonnetar’s weight is about 200 grams. The Canon 50mmf1.2 weighs 345 grams.

      • Hap says :

        The sonnetar is very small indeed. I concede that I have to spend time at each usage getting familiar with the fiddly controls and especially the aperture ring and strange focus. I do not mess with the coma or focus shift control ….but if I had a digital M and certain specific purposes I would consider. It would be interesting to know if Dante still has his copy.

        I have not owned Leica fast 50’s. The voigtlander is a very good choice, but large. Roger HIcks reviewed the Zeiss and many people find it extremely good. I also have a J3 and it performs very well…..so who knows? Brian Sweeney is expert at tweaking performance. He did a fantastic job on my J8.

        The sonnetar wide open is not going to be soft in the center…..it will sharpen substantially stopped down to edges. It has fantastic color (IMO) and great coatings. DOF is razor thin wide open. It’s a “look”…so you have to like it…or not.

        Although I dn’t have a digital M I do wonder if it wouldn’t be better to have a bit slower lens and use higher and noise free higher ISO. Still trade offs there.

        All that said…..I still have interest in the MS Optical tiny lenses as a good match for my film M’s. A 28 could be good.

      • The Machine Planet says :

        Still have it – it’s the only 50 I consistently use!

        Dante

        >

      • Hap says :

        Dante

        Thank you for weighing in on this anniversary of your initial review. That says a lot.

        Hap

      • Hap says :

        I”d like to know from anyone reading here whether they have tried or can recommend any one of the MS Optical 35 or 28mm tiny lenses.

      • Hank says :

        I own the 35 perar and did own the 35/1.4. I sold the 35/1.4 as I just couldn’t get along with it. The 35 perar is better than it should be.
        I’ve ordered the new 28/2, but my copy arrived defective and I am waiting on the replacement. I have the 50/1.1 and absolutely love it. It’s funky, but it’s good funky.

      • Hap says :

        Well put……Hank

        Because it is semi affordable, but not common, I am thinking of the 28/4 Perar. It would seem to suffice on the street. the others are a bit pricey . I can see why you would be interested in the 28/2. Having a 28 is a roundabout (thinly thought through) justification for me keeping my M4 P.

  6. Wayne says :

    Thanks for the responses. They are a help.

  7. Wayne says :

    On the small Perar lenses:

    Without doubt, the most annoying thing about the 35 Perar lens is its tendency, when not extended, to flop in and out of the base….it does not lock into the collapsed position. I am not certain if this is a problem with my particular lens, or if all of these lenses suffer from this characteristic. The optics seem to be of very high quality. However, having lived with the 35, I would now choose the 28 to avoid the problem I have described with the 35.

  8. meanwhile says :

    I use the Sonnetar 50mm on a Sony A7ii, with the Techart Leica-M Autofocus Adaptor. It overcomes both of the major issues people are discussing – the fiddly focus changing aperture (because I don’t need to use the focus ring most of the time); and the minimum focus distance, which is much shorter with the Techart adaptor.

    • David Babsky says :

      The Techart Leica-M Autofocus Adaptor really is a great little device: it’s terrific for Leica-fit wide-angle lenses on the A7 series ..but I’d never have thought of using it with the Sonnetar! Great idea. (..I sent back my Sonnetar, but you’re right: it really would get rid of much of the “fiddliness”, but still doesn’t address the – redundant? – USP of the Sonnetar’s “coma adjustment”.)

      • meanwhile says :

        I haven’t experimented enough yet to know if it’s redundant, but I don’t find it annoying – and it’s there if I need it at some point. Set it to what you suggested (just shy of 4m) and all has been good.

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