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Voigtländer Septon 2/50 for Bessamatic review
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 12:19 am    Post subject: Voigtländer Septon 2/50 for Bessamatic review Reply with quote

Here's a photo review of the Voigtländer Septon 2/50 for Bessamatic.

This review is made of more than 50 photos, so if you don't see them all now, it just means that I still have to load the rest.

The review is my way, of course (no bookshelf tests, just real photography situations).
I will add photos of the lens itself as soon as I can find the time to take them (very busy week).

The Septon is, according to common knowledge, a modified version of the Ultron lens previously made by Voigtlaender for their rangefinder system.
The need of adapting the lens to reflex distance, and surely also budget reason, called for a redesign of the lens, that moves from an Ultron design (double gauss) to a hybrid design,
always of seven elements (hence the Septon name), that has parts of Ultron and, with the cemented double, some Sonnar echoes.
This makes of the Septon a unique lens in the 50mm panorama, well worth the attention of the old lenses fans.

01.
Based on what I read, I was expecting a lens weak on contrast and with flare. How far from real. Since this very first casual shot in my garden, I was confronted with a bold contrasted lens:




02.
And this 100% crop shows that there is good detail, too:




03.
This cityscape at f/5.6 shows good performance, with deep blacks (so deep that I had to attenuate them a bit):




04.
Again the 100% crop reveals good detail quality:




05.
the inevitable Bokeh series of three shots, at f/2, f/3.5 and f/5.6 respectively. Note how the sharpness of the focused street lamp does not change much from wide open to f/5.6,
only the bokeh does (logically) show a visual change:




06.



07.



08.
An extremely high contrast scene taken wide open. I had to do quite some work in Lightroom in order not to clip significant amount of image information from both highs and lows.
The bokeh is of the lively type, but very pleasing, at least to my eyes:




09.
Another Bokeh scene in order to check better the OOF highlights. Shot wide open. The water made a curious shape:




10.
the 100% crop of the bokeh of the previous photo. The circular highlights show a brighter edge, but of moderate intensity, and mostly, there is no inner bright point as it often happens together with the bright edge.
The result is a bokeh that is lively but still mixes well together and it's not obnoxious to my eyes:



(to be continued)


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 12:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

11.
Same scene, this time shot at f/3.5:




12.
Another water scene, the lens renders quite nice deep blues:




14.
A 100% crop of the bokeh of the previous image. I find this bokeh very pleasing:




15.
Another 100% crop. Water is usually the best nest for CA artifacts. But no CA can be seen here:




16.
This image was originally meant to test the foreground blur. It shows a FG blur that has curiously a bit of swirling shape, that is nowhere to be seen in the background blur images that the lens produces.
This image also made me aware for the first time of a focus shift problem with the lens. Image shot wide open:




17.
A 100% crop from the previous image that shows that the lens has great resolvance wide open.
This was one of the big surprises of the day, and a huge confirmation of what I could guess from the street lamp images before.
Note incidentally the excellent edge performance of the lens: in spite of the wide open aperture, there is no loss of definition at the edge.
Very remarkable edge performance! And the camera is a full frame, so edge is real.
Please take mental note of the focus point on the leaf here in the wide open shot:




18.
Same scene, taken at f/3.5:




19.
And again a 100% that shows great resolvance at f/3.5, but of course the remarkable thing is that it's the same resolvance that we could see wide open.
Please note that the focus point has shifted forward compared to the wide open shot. This was caused by the lens.
I did not move the camera, what I did was to focus wide open, shoot, then stop down and shoot again without refocusing.
Having stopped down the lens has caused the focus to shift forward by 4-5 centimetres. Nothing dramatic in a landscape shot,
but something to keep definitely in mind when shooting close distance or portraits:



(to be continued)


Last edited by Orio on Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:44 am; edited 2 times in total


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 12:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's looking good.


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great review! Many thanks!


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

20.
This image was meant to verify the compresence of foreground, mid-ground, and background elements, and possible happening of "3D" effect.
This shot is taken wide open, and once again I find myself loving the bokeh:




21.
A 100% crop of the OOF highlights of the previous photo. Here the contrast between the highlights and the darks is topical.
The bright edge can be seen, but again we note the absence of an inner bright point.
We also note that the CA is present only very faintly, so faintly that we can safely define it "irrelevant".
This is really a top performance from a 50-60s lens. Very very remarkable CA performance:




22.
Same scene as before, taken at f/3.5. The bokeh of course becomes smoother, but it's still exquisite, in my opinion.
3D perception improves with the slight stopping down, as it was to be expected:




23.
Here's another scene where I wanted to test how does the rendering change when focusing an object at middle distance.
Of course the effect is not as dramatic as in the street lamp scene, but the f/2 aperture here still creates a nice separation, that can be
best appreciated by looking at the water trails:




24.
At f/3.5 the separation attenuates, but the 3D increases, as you can verify by looking at the left side of the image.
In the wide open shot the background is a bit more blurred but the focused object has not much solidity.
At f/3.5 the background is a bit clearer but the focused object increases solidity a lot, and this creates a better dimensional perception:




25.
This is a flare test shot. I took the lens hood off for this test. The sun is just outside the frame, on top right.
Lens stopped down a bit in order to better identify possible ghosts.
However no flare or ghosts what so ever appear in the image. Remarkable performance:




26.
Here the sun is in the frame. Hood off.
Image taken wide open in order to maximize the input from the surface of the lens and see if the edges may induce veiling flare.
That did not happen as you can see, contrast remains optimal.
Also in the ghost department the performance is very good, you can only see one ghost near the sun, and that was really unavoidable.
No other ghosts can be seen, and I have to say that the shape of the shining sun is very pleasing to my eyes.
Another AA class performance from this lens which is surprising me more and more:




27.
I wanted to try another image with the sun just outside the frame to see if the previous clean image was just casual. Again, hood off.
But this second image (even more difficult) proved again a perfect result. No veiling flare (except a little bit on top left, but looking good)
No ghosts either, and an excellent contrast all over the frame. Image taken at or around f/4:




28.
Geometrical distortion department. Classic building shot. Again a stunning performance. I can see no distortion here.
If there is distortion, then it's only of the instrument-measurable type. My naked eyes are perfectly convinced
(and they are not the easy type to be convinced in this department). Taken at f/5.6:




29.
A 100% crop from the previous image shows a stunning detail performance: we can recognize the broidery on the surface of the curtain!:




30.
A second geometry test. Again passed with a complete satisfaction.
Do not mind the low wall in the foreground: it is oblique and sloping.
Look at the building: geometry seems perfect also near the edges (and remember we're testing with a full frame camera):



(to be continued)


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

31.
Another bokeh small set, this time with an oblique framing to enhance perspective.
Shot wide open and at f/3.5:




32.




33.
Shadow play. Here I was hoping for a bit more "pop" in the image. Contax lenses have spoiled me Rolling Eyes :




34.
Another medium distance cityscape at f/5.6. The performance is good but not unforgettable.
The fact that the adapter I bought does not allow for perfect infinity forces me to stop down to at least f/5.6 for acceptable distance shots:




35.
A 100% crop small set from the previous image, to verify the lens performance in reading details in the shade.
In this first image, we have details in half shade, and the performance is sufficient:




36.
But as we move to a full shadow area, the rendering becomes muddy.
The lens has great macrocontrast, but the microcontrast is weak, compensated only in part by a great resolvance.
I don't know when the Septon was made, but it surely has the typical character of the old lenses: great resolvance, moderate microcontrast:




37.
Another medium-to-long distance shot at f/5.6. Ideal illumination.
Taken into account the limitation in performance caused by the adapter, the result is good:




38.
A 100% crop from the previous image shows again the great resolvance of the lens.
I did not sharpen the crop on purpose. So you need to take into account the effect of the AA filter of the DSLR. On film it would look sharper:



(to be continued)


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

39.
An old thermal water pit, shot wide open. The bokeh is subtle due to the fact that the focus point is distant. But I like the effect:




40.
A 100% crop to show the edge performance. It is excellent. You can also verify it previously in the thread, with the foreground blur images (I forgot to mention it then).




41.
Another 100% crop to check for CA in this window. There is a very faint CA, barely discernible. Performance is virtually CA free:




42.
Same scene, at f/3.5:




43.
This 100% crop of the above picture shows a remarkable lens performance.
The subtle shadings created by humidity and by the layers of glasses are perfectly rendered, with a gentle touch that marries perfectly with the subject. I bet that this lens would do great at female portraits:




44.
Reflection play, wide open:




45.
100% crop of the water bokeh of the previous image:




46.
Same scene at f/3.5:




47.
And 100% water bokeh oat f/3.5:




48:
Wide open, dimensionality test set. I have noticed here a focus shift problem of the lens, that I also noticed previously in the foreground blur test set:




49:
a 100% crop that shows that the focus point is on the edge of the stele:




50:
Same scene shot at f/3.5:




51
Here the 100% crop shows that the focus has shifted to the centre of the stele. I did not move the camera, I only changed the aperture.
So the shift of focus is caused by the lens, because I did focus wide open for the first shot and did not refocus for the stopped down shot:




52.
A simple scene to test the bokeh with a busy building set.
This first image is wide open and there is no harsh result here. On the contrary, it's very pleasing, really convincing for me:




53.
Same scene at f/3.5:




54.
And finally another medium distance cityscape at f/5.6.
Performance is good, but after this testing I would say that as far as I'm concerned, this lens gives the best in the short to medium distance, because of great resolvance and helped by a beautiful bokeh:




End of the review. If you find it a useful review, please rate the first post of the thread. Not for an ego trip, but to help other people find the review in the future. Thanks.


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Attila wrote:
Great review! Many thanks!


Attila, you can put the images in your gallery if you like.


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 2:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It looks good to me too.
Pleasant bokeh, contrast, natural colors.
Would you care to upload a picture with the lens mounted on?
It was a custom made adapter or it's something available on the market?


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, thank you for the perfect testing.
I like these pastel toning the lens produces.

Luckily I got this lens in a near mint condition about 2 weeks ago for an acceptable price. I didn't order a DKL adapter by now as I am not aware of the differences.

Maybe a DKL-M42 adapter would be fine as I could use my M42-EOS AF-confirm adapter. But using two adapters will add the tolerances of each.

Which adapter do you use?

A portrait series with this lens would surely be great.
I didn't expect this lens to be so flare resistant.

Have fun with the lens and I am curious to see more images.

Very Happy


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 8:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Orio - very impressive indeed. Your results bear out exactly what my old camera shop boss used to tell me back in the mid-1960s - Voigtlander lenses were wonderful and hugely under-rated.
He used to grunt and mutter about the Septon being far better than the Leica Summicron, to which my cheeky riposte was "Maybe, but the Ultramatic is big clunky monster and no match for an M3".
Which was true, in a way. I had an M3, but with an Elmar.

Mr Beckett, who's now "long gone to his reward", used to insist that the 40 Skopagon was even better than the Septon. He had every lens that Vogtlander made for their slrs, even the whopping 350 (was it a 350?
I can't be sure now). All in a leather Kritzler-Omnica suitcase. Ahhh, happy memories . . . .


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The adapter I bought is this:
Click here to see on Ebay
Fast free shipping, and very well built, but unfortunately it does not reach infinity.
Given the type of adapter, however (it needs to host the lens aperture system), I would doubt that other more expensive adapters can. But of course you can always take your chance.

@ scambrook: nice story about Mr. Beckett. Smile Sooner or later we will have to open a thread to tell about those old camera shop owners and photographers. Smile
But no, the Septon is not better than the Leica Summicron Wink But nice to read of someone passionate to defend the lens.


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 9:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you Orio, great review of very unusual lens.


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A really fantastic (and time consuming I imagine) review, thanks Orio! The only problem is that a review like this makes me immediately want to go out and buy the same lens. Smile

And now you're really making me wish for more reviews of this kind, especially of lenses most of us have and regularly praise.


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 11:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Orio.

It's very pleasent to me, as I was a voigtlander collector for 20 years. I know the lens very well, and find that your test is very adecuate.

And don't forget that the septon was the last lens designed by voigtlander's optics for a bessamatic/ultramatic cams. Not professional market. The septon rendering is in that line.

But Zeiss took something of that design. Why? The planar 1,8/50 (in Icarex line, and after in contax one) was 7 element not the 6 of the contarex planar.

With the septon design, something have changed in the 50 mm lenses history.

Rino


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ludoo wrote:
A really fantastic (and time consuming I imagine) review, thanks Orio! The only problem is that a review like this makes me immediately want to go out and buy the same lens. Smile

And now you're really making me wish for more reviews of this kind, especially of lenses most of us have and regularly praise.


Thank you! Yes, it was time consuming, but when I don't have time or occasion to photograph better subjects,
I think it's better to do this that to take many random shots of the knick-knacks at home Smile

And yes I would like too to read more reviews like this one. I made precisely the type of review that I would love to read as reader: no bookshelf tests
(which are very partial, not to say useless, because most lenses are not optimized to work at close focus range),
but real use in real photographic situations, facing the real photographic problems that we all meet when photographing outside:
flares, CA, highlight bokeh, edge performance, geometric distortion, and so on.

Of course one test can not say all the truth about one lens. One should try it in many light situations, like overcast, night, indoors, etc....
and ideally also one should test different copies of the same lens to exclude from the judgement the copy variation factor...
but I think that this is still much better than the rather diffused and useless habit of photographing one thing at one aperture with one type of lighting and comment like "this lens is great".
Those are the "reviews" that help nobody - not even the owner, I would risk to say. They only make things more confused for the newbies.
Yet it's what we read the most. I think we all should make an effort to change that. If one does not have time, better to make one full comprehensive and detailed field test of one lens,
than to make 1-shot tests of twenty lenses (or comparing 10 lenses based on one bookshelf test and from there make a ranking).
And above all, be honest, and not spare a lens not showing difficult situations that would show the weaknesses.
We are not here to defend this or that lens or maker, but to understand free from all prejudices.


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 3:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

estudleon wrote:

And don't forget that the septon was the last lens designed by voigtlander's optics for a bessamatic/ultramatic cams. Not professional market. The septon rendering is in that line.


Yes, it's really good to see this type of performance from a budget lens of the time. I wish the budget lenses of today could perform like this. Rolling Eyes

Quote:
But Zeiss took something of that design. Why? The planar 1,8/50 (in Icarex line, and after in contax one) was 7 element not the 6 of the contarex planar.


I'm not sure about this. Sure it's true that the 7 elements design was a novelty (although I don't know if Septon was the first 7-elements 50mm lens),
and it's true that some makers like Zeiss arrived later in producing 7-elements 50mm lenses.
But the number of elements itself does not mean that a lens was copied or used for inspiration:
if you look at the schemes of the Contax Planar 1.4/50 and 1.7/50 you see that they have 7 elements, but you also see that they look very different from the scheme of the Septon.
I don't have the scheme of the Rollei Planar 1.8/50 at hand, but I'd say for sure that the Septon has nothing to do with the design of the Contax lenses.

Quote:
With the septon design, something have changed in the 50 mm lenses history.


Again, this sounds like a quite bold sentence, but it should be supported by facts; as far as I know, there is no other lens with the scheme of the Septon,
so, based on my current knowledge, I would rather define it like a quite unique and orphaned offspring of the double Gauss concept.
Which makes it very interesting, as it's evident from the images (I think)
that the lens does indeed render differently from all other double gauss lenses, especially in the bokeh.


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Orio wrote:
estudleon wrote:
But Zeiss took something of that design. Why? The planar 1,8/50 (in Icarex line, and after in contax one) was 7 element not the 6 of the contarex planar.


I'm not sure about this. Sure it's true that the 7 elements design was a novelty (although I don't know if Septon was the first 7-elements 50mm lens),
and it's true that some makers like Zeiss arrived later in producing 7-elements 50mm lenses.
But the number of elements itself does not mean that a lens was copied or used for inspiration:
if you look at the schemes of the Contax Planar 1.4/50 and 1.7/50 you see that they have 7 elements, but you also see that they look very different from the scheme of the Septon.
I don't have the scheme of the Rollei Planar 1.8/50 at hand, but I'd say for sure that the Septon has nothing to do with the design of the Contax lenses.


I didn't explain in adecuate way. I tried to say that Zeiss, when purchased voigtlander, took the idea of change the design of the 50 mm for their new middle range cam, the Icarex. The Ultron of the Icarex can be considered like the antecedent of the planar for the rollei (like the color ultron in voigtlander's rollei cams) and the planar for the contax. The septon has not the same schame than the planars for the 35 mm system, only seems to give to Zeiss the way to change the traditional schame of the planar for the contarex. But the septon has the same scheme than the planar 2,8/80 for hasselblad.

The HFT rollei planar 1,8 (gerrman and singapour versions) as the color ultron for voigtlander rollei cams, have the same schame.

Regards.

Rino.


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Orio, thanks for the VERY extensive report on the Septon. It must be the best practical MF lens test I have ever seen. I'm not lazy, but I don't think I would ever have the drive to post that many pictures in almost one run. So, a lot of kudos to you (and well deserved)!

Since I had (!) the Septon too, I can relate to your findings, and that's that I completely agree with everything you have written. Surely it's not the best lens ever, but still it's a remarkable achievement. Quality like that is certainly not produced anymore, as it comes from an age where people took more time to get things right. Today everything needs to be made fast and as cheap as possible. Of course not everything. Since you are living in Italy: I have the feeling that in your country there are still many quality companies left, such as Riva, I'm sure you know the wooden Riva Aquarama motorboats.

But I digress. Now on to the fact that I don't own the Septon anymore. I just have too many fifties, and I made a choice based on personal preferences. As much as I liked the Septon, I would probably never use it again (or only a few times). I'll stick with what I have. But you never know, in the future I'll probably get seller's remorse Embarassed


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Peter, as a country with near zero natural underground mineral resources, we were forced to specialize in the quality manufacturing: we import raw materials and we export finished products. That is the only kind of commerce that we can make, except for a few things like fruits, vegetables or fish, that are about the only raw goods that we are able to export.

I admit I never heard of Riva motorboats, but then, I could never afford a motorboat, so I never got interested. Maybe my cousin (who is a millionaire lawyer) knows about it! Laughing
But of course we have lots of top quality products, from clothes to shoes to food to wine to motorcycles and cars. Ferrari and Ducati are both based in my region, Emilia.
Unfortunately in some sectors like clothing and food we are suffering the invasion of clone products (mostly from Asian countries) that are sold at a fraction of the price, and also ruin our reputation because foreign people buys the chinese imitations thinking they are original Italian and then get appalled by the poor quality and durability of the manufactures, and blame on us the bad quality Sad .
Even in the food, studies have been made that the most part of the Parmigiano cheese that is sold in foreign countries is not only not from Parma, but also not even from Italy. It's local imitations with very questionable quality and taste and that also ruins the reputation of our products.

But I digress Smile

Getting back to lenses, I full understand when you talk about the need of selling some lenses. I will have to do that too massively one of these days. It makes no sense to keep stuff that I am not really using. Better to sell it and let other people enjoy it. I plan to make similar reviews of all the lenses that I have. Then when each review is finished I will sell the lenses. But I think I will keep the Septon for some more time. I want to test it in different situations. Smile


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spotmatic wrote:
I have the feeling that in your country there are still many quality companies left, such as Riva, I'm sure you know the wooden Riva Aquarama motorboats.


Completely OT, but when I was kid I used to spend summers on the Lake Maggiore, and a friend of my parents who had a Riva made me want one at all costs. Smile My uncle has recently acquired a junked Aquarama and had it restored beautifully, if you ever get here send me a PM we can probably arrange a tour of the lake. It's not Portofino, but it has its really nice spots like the islands in front of Stresa.

And Orio, we have one of the best marbles in the world, and have always we exported tons of it. Ok, maybe it's the exception to the rule. Smile


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ludoo wrote:

And Orio, we have one of the best marbles in the world, and have always we exported tons of it. Ok, maybe it's the exception to the rule. Smile


Yes, true Smile

But marble can not heat the house in the winter Sad

P.S. I will take your tour boat offer if you don't mind Smile I love Lago Maggiore


PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Only like a curiosity, I found these sites. Sure you know both. There you can see the schame of the septon and the hassy planar 2,8/50. Very similar.

SEPTON 2/50:

http://www.taunusreiter.de/Cameras/Bessa_RF_histo_dt.html#Septon

PLANAR 2,8/80

http://www.zeiss.de/C12567A8003B8B6F/EmbedTitelIntern/PlanarT2880CFE_Engl/$File/planar2_8_80cfe_e1.pdf

Who was the first? Very Happy

Rino.


PostPosted: Sat Oct 23, 2010 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I would say identical indeed! Great find!

Thanks to my books, I am able to trace the date of the first batches of the Planar 2.8/80:

- the first batch for Rolleiflex is dated 20 October 1953

- the first batch for Hasselblad C is dated 31 August 1955

If you are able to put a date on the Septon, then we can solve the quiz Smile


PostPosted: Sat Oct 23, 2010 10:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Orio wrote:
Yes, I would say identical indeed! Great find!

Thanks to my books, I am able to trace the date of the first batches of the Planar 2.8/80:

- the first batch for Rolleiflex is dated 20 October 1953

- the first batch for Hasselblad C is dated 31 August 1955

If you are able to put a date on the Septon, then we can solve the quiz Smile


Thank you too.

The rolleiflex (TLR) planar 2,8 has a different schame than the hasselblad one:

http://www.taunusreiter.de/Cameras/Biotar.html

The planar for the rolleiflex SL66, posterior cam of photokina 1966 has the same schame than the hassy one.

http://www.sl66.com/pg/lens_index.shtml

The septon 2/50 seems to have been programed in 1958

http://www.taunusreiter.de/Cameras/Bessa_RF_histo_dt.html#Septon


Rino.