Comparing 9 fast 35 mm legacy lenses

After a number of months of intermittent work, JAPB has finally published its comparison of nine 35 mm focal length legacy lenses. The entire comparison is available through following the link above, but bare with us while we say a few things about the comparison.

First, as stated in JAPB’s principles for reviews and comparisons, about the purpose of a comparison: “Comparisons are not multi-reviews, in that comparisons cannot be as in-depth. Instead comparisons offer breadth. The whole point of doing comparisons is to add perspective. The benefit of perspective – for you – is to know what can feasibly be expected of a lens, and to show you that typically one lens (sample) may outperform another lens in one respect, while struggling in another. Because there (typically) is no such thing as an overall best lens (or other piece of kit).”

Second, this comparison focuses on comparing nine interesting alternatives for a legacy lens shooter looking for a fast 35 mm focal length lens. While we (sadly) cannot cover all the alternatives, we managed to collect a very nice bunch of lenses for this comparison. The list of compared lenses is (alphabetically):
• Canon FD 35 mm f/2 (concave) (FD-mount)
• Carl Zeiss Jena 35 mm f/2.4 (Praktica B -mount)
• Konica Hexanon AR 35 mm f/2 (Konica AR -mount)
• Minolta MD Rokkor 35 mm f/1.8 (Minolta SR -mount)
• MIR 24N 35 mm f/2 (Nikon F -mount)
• Nikkor Ai 35 mm f/1.4 (Nikon F -mount)
• Nikkor Ai 35 mm f/2 (Nikon F -mount)
• Nikkor AF-D 35 mm f/2 (Nikkor F-mount)
• Porst 35 mm f/1.8 MC (M42-mount)

Third, the link above takes you to the introduction page of the comparison. Correct, the comparison is so extensive (60+ pages when printed), that we were forced to divide it into several pieces (simply to keep loading times decent). Here’s the entire TOC (as a teaser):
• Part 1: Introduction, the lenses: pedigree and handling
• Part 2: IQ-comparison I – The Brick wall test
• Part 3: IQ comparison II – Urban vistas
• Part 4: IQ-comparison III – Bokeh and feel
• Part 5: IQ-comparison IV – Night-time vistas
• Part 6: Summary and conclusions

Fourth, as expected, we did not find an overall ‘winner’. Instead, the comparison was able to ascertain the respective strengths and weaknesses of each tested lens. Sadly, there is no meaningful way to summarise the results here and now, so we will have to ask you to read the comparison.

Finally: Man, did it take some doing. Honestly, we were (naively) surprised by how much work (and time, as we have day-jobs and families) it took do do a detailed, nuanced comparison of nine lenses. And it is not the snapping of the hundreds of test pictures which takes doing, but the analysis and write-up. This puts us in a quandary: On the one hand, we already have the test imagery for two/three other comparisons lined up (focusing on f/1.2 and f/1.4 standard lenses), but how shall we find time to do the analysis and write-up?

Don’t worry. We’ll get there one day, but if you want to heighten our motivation, show you care: Get in touch, give comments, send feedback. Because we’re doing this for you.

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