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'The King of Bokeh' killed by its father!

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I have always wondered at the 35mm Summicron IV being called the 'King of Bokeh' as it never seemed much different to any other lens to me.

 

But now Mike Johston, the father of the phrase 'King of Bokeh' for the 35mm IV, has recanted and admitted he never even opened it up beyond f5.6, and now feels a little emabarrassed at being the cause of the myth. So one minute you have a 'King', the next a 'Joker'.

 

The Online Photographer

 

Steve

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I have always wondered at the Summicron-M 35 mm type IV being called the 'King of Bokeh' ...

So did I. I always assumed that it probably used to be pretty good in comparison to other lenses available at the time when this lens was new. Today, a current Summicron-M 35 mm Asph or a Summarit-M 35 mm is, in terms of bokeh, at least as nice as, if not nicer than, the Summicron type IV.

 

The confession that Mike's assessment of this lens' bokeh was based on using it at f/4 - f/5.6 and at medium distance now comes at a surprise. At this aperture and distance, most lenses have nice bokeh. By the way, the current Summilux-M 35 mm Asph also has very nice bokeh—just not at f/1.4 where bokeh is slightly harsh (not too bad but not really beautiful either). Stop it down to, say, f/2.4 or f/2.8, and bokeh will become very creamy.

 

But then, Mike now has nominated a new King Of Bokeh—the Sigma AF 50 mm 1:1.4 EX DG. I've been contemplating this lens for my Sony DSLR for two or three years now, to replace my old and worn-out Minolta AF 50 mm 1:1.4 lens ...

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Regicide? Been there, done that, years ago. I had a V4 Summicron and replaced it with the CV 35mm 2.5 Color Skopar PII precisely because I preferred the bokeh.

 

Checkmate.

 

Regards,

 

Bill

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I have recently sold a 35 Summilux ASPH (pre FLE), have a 35 Summilux ASPHERICAL and access to a 35 MkIV Summicron (brother) and have taken a lot of shots with it. I did a very detailed comparison to my (now sold too) 35 Summicron ASPH. and the bokeh is not IMO very nice at F2 (Nor for that matter is the Summicron ASPH), but at F4 the MkIV draws wonderfully, again IMO.

 

I also have a Summaron F2.8 and my gut (I am yet to do back to back) is the Summaron is preferable (again to me) at f2.8 in bokeh too.

 

The thing I do really like about the MkIV is the colouring and the way it renders at f4. But the nicest lens I have is my 35 Summilux ASPHERICAL, for me by some margin.

 

I am glad to say I only have two 35's, the Summaron and the Summilux aspherical. I might at some point try a MK1 35 summicron and I will compare the MkIV to the Summaron and possibly look to change, but at ISO 1600 for some reason B&W images with the summaron are very filmic and classic. So I may already have my ultimate two 35's. (I don't need two but 35 is my favourite focal length and I don't always want to take my aspherical with me, plus the summaron is not depreciating and I like the classic way it draws, its different)

 

I have shot with a 35 Summicron Mk2 and Mk3 and they look interesting too and I liked the rendering of those lenses. But can't offer any real opinion as it was only very brief.

 

I do think the MkIV is a great lens but it's not the king of bokeh for me.

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Don't blame the lens. I think the lens is nothing short of excellent. Here are two recent photos made with an M9-p and 35mm version 1V sum micron.

 

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Fabulous shots tappan, what aperture ?

 

I would guess about 4-5.6 for the colour ? I found the bokeh a little 'broken and fragmented at wide aperture and the contrast was a little lower than the ASPH wide open. I did definitely prefer it to the summicron ASPH.

 

It also has depth in comparison to the ASPH

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Here are two recent photos made with an M9-P and Summicron 35 mm type IV ...

Uh. Taken at which apertures? The bokeh in the first picture looks fairly good but not excellent; in the second it's just terrible. This lens could never qualify as 'King Of Bokeh' in my book. Acceptable—yes. Pretty good in some cases, actually. King—no way.

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Uh. Taken at which apertures? The bokeh in the first picture looks fairly good but not excellent; in the second it's just terrible. This lens could never qualify as 'King Of Bokeh' in my book. Acceptable—yes. Pretty good in some cases, actually. King—no way.

I agree.

At one point I was looking for a good sample to test, but that is not needed now...

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Uh. Taken at which apertures? The bokeh in the first picture looks fairly good but not excellent; in the second it's just terrible. This lens could never qualify as 'King Of Bokeh' in my book. Acceptable—yes. Pretty good in some cases, actually. King—no way.

 

Yes, regarding my post above. The photos were both at F2. The bubble wand photo I posted here was to show what I consider to be pleasing Bokeh, the 2nd photo (the one of the baby crying) was added here not for the Bokeh but because I like the photo. With the 35mm summicron 1V and M9-P, I can just be "invisible." The lens is so small and the camera is so "unprofessional" looking to the general public.

I have always considered the lens to have nice and pleasing bokeh, but not "king" Bokeh.

Thanks,

Mark

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Almost any lens can produce nice or ugly bokeh in my modest experience. The difference is that some lenses give more often nice results than others and from this viewpoint, the Summicron 35/2 v4 remains one of the best 35 in my book.

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Don't blame the lens. I think the lens is nothing short of excellent. Here are two recent photos made with an M9-p and 35mm version 1V sum micron.

[ATTACH]343071[/ATTACH]

 

[ATTACH]343072[/ATTACH]

 

When I watch movies I often look at the oof areas of close-up shots to see how they are rendered. I often find that I like when the oof areas are blurred in such a way that they don't distract or detract.

 

Taste is very different but IMO these two shots - while excellent; the first one is pretty inredible technically speaking, and the second one has captured an absolutely lovely and touching moment - display very poor oof backgrounds. The first one has a strange jagged (look at the face of the lady to the right) appearance which detracts from an otherwise excellent image. The second one has a disturbing background which almost looks smeared as if fingerpainted. Not my taste but, again, we're all different.

 

I know it isn't easy to post here and one can get all kinds of comments so please take this for what it is worth: not much and only my personal opinion.

 

Sure, I like "glittery" boke, too, like that from the pre-asph 50 Summilux for instance or older screw mount lenses. There are many excellent examples in the View Through Old Glass thread. But that type of boke is (imho) to be used sparingly and for particular situations. Always to have exaggerated Christmas tree lights surrounding portraits, for instance, will not look nice.

 

When shooting wideish open (which I do when it suits the subject and not for its own sake) my general preference is clean, unobtrusive oof areas which draw the viewer's focus to the subject. That's the predominant use of the wider stops, as I see it. To illustrate what I mean (50 Asph, Tri-X):

 

/applications/core/interface/imageproxy/imageproxy.php?img=http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8054/8105660952_1e7bc3aa6e_b.jpg&key=00de2142eb7fdf66400e37fefe4e6823588f164c02ee5da60dc6e05f081ee2fa">

Lonely in the subway | Flickr

 

I own the 35 Summilux II which I really like because I find it a very consistent performer in the boke department, much like the 50 Asph.

Edited by philipus

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I have a 35/2 Summicron Mk IV and while I really like the lens I've felt for some time that its out of focus areas are just not as pleasing to me as those from the old rangefinder Sonnars (sorry, I can't speak for the ZM Sonnars as I don't have one).

 

Apologies because I've posted this shot before but it shows what I mean. Carl Zeiss Jena 50/2 Sonnar at f/4 with an M9-P.

 

 

Pete.

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OK folks, you just killed one mith.

I wondered too how the v4 performed. I did my homework and based on the samples I found on flickr I think that quite often the bokeh of all versions of the Summicron 35 at full aperture is quite crummy.

To Tappan's honor, his shots prove his remarkable skills and strong sense of composition but the bokeh provided by the lens seem quite sonnarisms gone bad...

Which doesn't solve my own doubts, namely which fast/medium speed 35 mm I might get myself.

I'm personally a fan of the 50 'lux PreAsph. I won't bother posting some shots again otherwise Philipus will bash me again

but so far I can't find a 35 mm that renders in a similar fashion. Maybe and that's a maybe the Summilux PreAsph comes quite close with the extra Leica glow at full aperture which one might like or hate. Suggestions are welcome.

 

Cheers,

Bruno

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I fully agree, Bruno. I certainly didn't mean to come across as dismissive. Now, home at my computer, I see clearly the very sharp focus that Tappan achieved on both shots. This was not clear on my office computer earlier today. In either situation it would have been difficult to focus accurately fast, but focus is nailed both on the bubble and on the woman's eye lashes. Impressive and very competent indeed.

 

Cheers

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Thanks Philipus,

I never ever meant you were dismissive. Funny thing is that basically we share the same opinion, perhaps expressed in slightly different ways.

As to my direct mentioning you, I actually referred to a post of mine in "The view through older glass" which didn't exactly met your favour. But I meditated on your words and finally I realized that whilst I can have whatever opinion of my work, if it's not appreciated then it's failed work and it's entirely my fault because I missed my purpose at the very core, namely sharing a feeling and/or conveying an impression. An image that requires explanations or justifications is just bad work. Period. Your judgement was a reality check and I ultimately would express my gratitude to you for that.

 

Cheers,

Bruno

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An image that requires explanations or justifications is just bad work. Period.

No, it isn't that simple.

 

Umm ... or it is when you're working on assignment. Then the customer's satisfaction must be your ultimate goal. But when shhoting as a artist to express yourself then looking for others' acclamations actually is a bad thing. Don't shoot what you think others will appreciate! Shoot what you feel like shooting! If someone doesn't understand your work then it doesn't necessarily mean it was bad. If many don't understand then it still isn't bad. If you show it to 1,000 persons and finally one says, 'oh, I see what you mean,' then it's good work, even when 999 don't see anything.

 

It's a difficult topic. Often, an artist's work isn't appreciated because it is just bad. Sometimes, it isn't appreciated because it's ahead of the time or above the heads of most people. So, being an artist with underappreciated work—how to tell one case from the other? I don't know. But if you don't like your own work then no-one will. If you do like your own work but no-one else does then keep going your way. Normally, you get better at whatever you're doing by practice and by accepting critique and learning from it. But in the field of art, responding to critique is a double-sided sword. It may help you to get better, but it also may make you lose your way.

 

Good artists just go their own way. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean that boldly going your own way will make you a good artist. But when not going your way then you will never create good art.

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I have a 35/2 Summicron Mk IV and while I really like the lens I've felt for some time that its out of focus areas are just not as pleasing to me as those from the old rangefinder Sonnars (sorry, I can't speak for the ZM Sonnars as I don't have one).

 

Apologies because I've posted this shot before but it shows what I mean. Carl Zeiss Jena 50/2 Sonnar at f/4 with an M9-P.

 

[ATTACH]343901[/ATTACH]

 

Pete.

 

Ahh....... Haworth .....vey nice.

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