Which retro wide lenses are sharpest?

eriksen

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I need to know which cheap manual focus lenses from 15 to 35mm (not zoom) are regarded as the best among photographers. Are Nikon lenses better than Takumar in this area?
 

Derrel

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Look for the on-line lens reviews from Bjorn Rorslett as a place to start. Note that the reviews show specific lens model performance on specific cameras; a lens is no loner "just a lens" when shot on a digital sensor. Different sensors perform differently with the various lens designs.

Nikon invented the floating element system they eventually named CrC, for close-range correction. Many older wide-angle designs do not have any real, significant optimization for closer-range focusing, such as you might do in social photography, or in nature, or close-up shooting.

In my experience, some of the older wide-angle lenses are very poor when shot onto Nikon digital sensors in the 6,12,and 24 MP sizes...those lenses were designed for FILM, which can easily handle light rays that strike the film plane at less-than-straight-ish angles...

Digital sensors are NOT film...they have no emulsion...
 

Dave442

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Really 20mm and wider lenses from the time of the early Nikon F mount cameras were very wide lenses and are still expensive. The 24mm, 28mm and 35mm were much more popular and the prices of those manual focus F-mount lenses are much cheaper.

There are a lot of different models out there of each of these lenses. At $100 or less I would just look for one that was in very good condition. I particularly like the early non-AI versions with the metal focus ring.

I had a 28mm Takumar and it was also a good lens. I also had a 28mm Celtic from Minolta (same optics as the nicer Rokkor-X lenses I had but the focusing was not as smooth). As I used these on film cameras at the time I never was comparing one lens to another, but those Nikon lenses were one reason why I use Nikon DSLR's today.
 

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24mm f/2.8 Ai-S has CrC, and is a good close-range wide and farther too, but it is NOT "all that awesome" on digital...it was meant for FILM. Stopped down to f/8 it is good though. I still use it, but I do not think it is anything "special", but on FX 24-MP Nikon, it is decent.
 

Tim Tucker

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As @Derrel says, wide angle lenses are an area that has universally benefited from computer aided design. All MF Nikkor wide angles are bettered by their more modern counterparts.

You will find that although some MF Nikkor wide angles have a good reputation that the range, or "band", in which they give good results can be quite narrow. Because of the wider FOV and earlier coatings you have to watch for flare and ghosting.

Some older ones with comments:

Nikkor 35mm f1.4: Has CRC and can be very sharp from f2-f5.6 especially for closer objects. Suffers a distinct curvature of field and the aberrations are far from corrected wide open. Very expensive second hand and for the same price you can get a much better modern lens.

Nikkor 35mm f2: Actually not a bad lens for the price if you can get it for £100 or less. Reasonably sharp except in the extreme corners, but not stellar.

Nikkor 35mm f2.8: It does have some good points, sharp between f8-f11 with a pretty flat field, that's it. Softer at distance and very soft corners wide open, needs stopping down to at least f5.6. I wouldn't bother with this one.

Nikkor 28mm f2.8 CRC: The later AiS are CRC lenses (focus to 0.2m) and are quite capable and sharp for closer objects when stopped down to f5.6. Less good for landscape as slightly curved field and a little softer at distance. The earlier non-CRC is not that remarkable.

Nikkor 28mm f2: Quite expensive and quite a good lens, sharp and contrasty. but do not expect corner to corner sharpness even stopped down to f5.6.

Nikkor 28mm f3.5: Cheap and cheerful, not great in the corners. Ok with film but shows it's age on a 24mp sensor.
 

odagled

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I always liked my 20mm f/4 AI lens. The photos come out very sharp at f/8 and lower. I use it mainly for hiking because of its small size and ruggedness.
 

JTPhotography

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As @Derrel All MF Nikkor wide angles are bettered by their more modern counterparts.

Totally disagree. I don't agree with KR on everything but he is right on here. I would put my 24 2.8ais against the 24-70, 14-24, and 16-35. I have owned all four lenses and the 24 ais is as sharp as any of them at 24mm, but there is also something special in terms of depth and contrast that these low element primes offer.
 
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table1349

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Leica SUMMILUX-M 21mm f/1.4 Aspherical Manual Focus

Zeiss/Hologon 15mm f/8.0
 

greybeard

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I need to know which cheap manual focus lenses from 15 to 35mm (not zoom) are regarded as the best among photographers. Are Nikon lenses better than Takumar in this area?
Ken Rockwell writes a column of which many on this forum love to flame and make fun of. He does however, have a section on his page that addresses your very question and I have no reason to flame him on this one.
Nikon Cheapskate Lenses
 

Solarflare

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I need to know which cheap manual focus lenses from 15 to 35mm (not zoom) are regarded as the best among photographers.
IIRC the recommented wide angle lenses for Nikon are:
AI or AI-S 20mm f3.5
AI or AI-S 24mm f2.8 (there is also an AF and AF-D version of the exact same lens)

As others have mentioned, you have to stop them down to f/8 for really good performance.


Are Nikon lenses better than Takumar in this area?
I dont know.



As @Derrel All MF Nikkor wide angles are bettered by their more modern counterparts.

Totally disagree. I don't agree with KR on everything but he is right on here. I would put my 24 2.8ais against the 24-70, 14-24, and 16-35. I have owned all four lenses and the 24 ais is as sharp as any of them at 24mm, but there is also something special in terms of depth and contrast that these low element primes offer.
I dont think he was talking about zoom lenses ?

Do you have compared your 24 2.8 against the modern AF-S 20mm f1.8 ?
 

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