To follow up the previous post where the focus was on the retro stylish look of the Yashica TL Super, here are some of the shoots out the roll which was in the very same camera. All of these photos have been taken during our last visit to Hungary in the middle of October. The film is Fuji Superia 400, which is lately my choice of color negative film due to it’s versatility and because I had quite a few rolls of it left from my Irish trip from last year. This film works great for me in almost all circumstances from low light situations (when combined with fast glass) to sunny daylight. This time I had mostly enough though not plenty of light as the weather was generally overcast. But the colors of the autumn are well retained and the scattered light helped with the portraits.
I used a single lens, my big favorite the Pancolar 80mm for the entire roll. I try to force myself to carry only one lens at the time. This helps me learn the quirks of the given setup by focusing on it for a longer period. Also if I have only one lens available I need to solve every situation with it which could help me leave my comfort zone and thus contribute to my creative development.
This lens has it’s caveats and sweet spots to learn as well. Others may observe these differently as many aspects of the character of a lens can be judged subjectively. I find myself shooting with the Pancolar most of the time wide open or close to it. This is where the character is mostly evident in the form of beautiful smooth bokeh when the background is right. The lens is plenty sharp in the center at least for my eyes and subjects. Stopping down to medium apertures where the depth of field is still small enough to have some background blur makes it evident that the iris is very far from circular. This case the background can be very busy which is not always desirable. In addition contrast can be too high to my taste especially for portraits.
Of course the photos from this post were not the only ones from this roll. The Yashica was with me on a family hike in the south of Austria where both the light and my subjects were different. I will publish a selection from those shoots in the next post with the hope that I can show the versatility of this film and my single lens approach.
I have already written a few lines about this lens in my Exakta Varex IIa review where I have published some film shots taken with it. Recently I have purchased an adapter which allows me to attach any EXA mount lens to my Canon DSLR so it is about time to inspect a little deeper what is the Meyer Trioplan 100mm capable of.
The Cooke Triplet
The Meyer Trioplan is a classic triplet (it has three strong lens elements separated by sizable air spaces). It is eventually a modern version of the Cooke triplet which was developed by H. Dennis Taylor (1862 – 1943) in 1893.
The simplest design that is capable of correcting all of the seven Seidel aberrations over a wide field of view is the Cooke triplet. H. Dennis Taylor invented this in 1893, using the advances of Seidel’s theory. It is named after the optical company in York, England, for which Taylor worked at the time, Cooke and Sons (later to become Cooke, Troughton and Sims). The lens is described in two very interesting United States patents, Nos. 540,132 (1895) and 568,053 (1896). Taylor’s designs, despite their antiquity, are close to optimum for the aperture and field he intended, given the glass types available in his day. The triplet uses two of the principles of a good design. First, the Petzval sum is corrected by the use of spaced positive and negative lenses, as described in Chapter 9 on telephoto lenses. Secondly, it has approximate front-back symmetry about a central stop, to control the odd-order aberrations, coma, distortion, and transverse color.
Taylor developed his own mathematical tools to design lenses and if we can believe him he never traced any rays. His method was to design and optimize the lens on paper until he reached the best possible solution and then he got the lens manufactured. Finally, changes were recommended based on the experiments on a testbench with the prototype.
Cookie of York is still an existing company with slightly different profile and name Cooke Optics Limited.
Even though triplets are simple lenses it was difficult to manufacture them initially because the position of the lens elements has to be very precise. Therefore many manufacturers preferred to produce four element lenses instead.
Despite that the Triplet design is strongly outdated today, it is still used in the case of many lower-end cameras.
The interestingness of the Meyer Optik Trioplan is the unusually large aperture (f/2.8) which is remarkable because triplets are usually moderate speed lenses for good reasons. This relatively high maximum aperture comes with a price as the lens shows a wide range of aberrations when used in this setting. On the other hand, this makes the lens somewhat unique with an interesting footprint some might use for artistic purposes. The out of focus areas (bokeh) looks very interesting at f2.8, especially when highlights are involved in the background. The light circles (for examples traffic lights) are surrounded by light circles which makes the bokeh really special and as many say psychedelic. In addition, there is a heavy glow around the objects in the in-focus areas, most notably around highlights. This effect can be very dramatic or almost not notable depending on the conditions of the shoot. Last but not least the produced image is rather soft all around the frame in most cases wide open.
Many buy and uses this lens because of the way it behaves at widest aperture, but we have to admit that this lens is not a bad performer at all if stopped down just a slight bit. At f/4 and below the lens produces sharp images without glow or distractive psychedelic bokeh. In fact, it has some properties which are very respectable. The lens produces a very low amount of purple fringing around high contrast areas even at modern standards. The lens is definitely sharp enough for most purposes an due to the almost perfectly round iris it produces wonderful creamy bokeh. Furthermore, due to the staples aperture ring, it can be appropriated by videographers as it allows smooth continuous aperture control.
How the Trioplan looks like
My Trioplan came as a part of a beautiful Exakta kit along with the original box and invoice.
The lens can be disassembled very easily almost without any tools. I wanted to unscrew the lens hood only but as a side effect, I have managed to remove an entire lens group. It is not that bad as it sounds because eventually, I could take advantage of the accident. I could clean up the dust from the inside of the lens and fortunately, the assembly went well and the lens performs just the way it did before. Last but not least you can get a very intimate view of the wonderful circle shaped iris of the Trioplan.
Wide open softness and glow can be beneficial when shooting portraits, although I admit isn’t fit all portraits.
If you stop down the lens a bit, you are going to get a very respectable result.
Reasonably good image quality when stopped down
Very low chromatic aberration
Good bokeh when stopped down
The special character at maximum aperture (crazy bokeh)
Continuous aperture selection ring without stops/clicks
Good built quality
Aged glue can’t be a problem between lens elements as the number of cemented elements is zero
Focusing is very smooth (on my instance)
The outdated optical formula does not deliver cutting-edge performance
Very soft and loaded with aberrations at maximum aperture
The Meyer Optik Trioplan is a fun lens to use, it is out of the question. It is also a cheap lens so the investment won’t make your family mad on you.
I would recommend to those who like to experiment with old lenses hoping to achieve some unusual results due to the character of the vintage glass. On the other hand, it is not a toy so you can rely on it when you need good image quality, you just need to avoid f/2.8.
Videographers could also appreciate this lens due to the click-less aperture ring so they can change aperture very smoothly while filming.
But this lens is not for everyone of course if you are looking for top image quality or features like auto-focus than you should definitely look elsewhere.
The Pancolar 80mm f/1.8 is a late development of Carl Zeiss Jena which was at that time the East German part of the original company torn into pieces by the WW II. Therefore this lens was accessible in the eastern block mainly and even though now it can be found all around Europe, this is a very rare lens in other continents.
The lens has a high reputation as a sharp, fast portrait lens and it is quite expensive among other lenses of the same era. It has an M42 mount and was produced in both automatic and electronic forms. It was later remounted as the B-mount Carl Zeiss Jena Prakticar 1.8/80. (source Praktica-users.com)
Datasheet and optical formula
Construction:6 elements, 5 groups
Angular field: 30.4°
Minimum focusing distance: 0.8m
Diaphragm action: fully automatic
Minimum aperture: f/22
Maximum aperture: f/1.8
No. aperture blades: 6
Filter size: 58mm screw-in type
Push-on diameter: 60mm
Barrel length: 64mm
This lens is a typical example of the legendary classic double Gauss lens formula also known as Planar.
The Double Gauss was likely the most intensively studied lens formula of the twentieth century, producing dozens of major variants, scores of minor variants, hundreds of marketed lenses and tens of millions of unit sales. It had almost no flaws, except for a bit of oblique spherical aberration, which could lower peripheral contrast. Double Gauss/Planar tweaks were the standard wide aperture, normal and near normal prime lens for sixty years.
The double Gauss lens consists of two back-to-back Gauss lenses (a design with a positive meniscus lens on the object side and a negative meniscus lens on the image side) making two positive meniscus lenses on the outside with two negative meniscus lenses inside them. The symmetry of the system and the splitting of the optical power into many elements reduces the optical aberrations within the system. (source: Wikipedia)
I have got mine from the girlfriend of my father with the original case. She never used it, it was basically on the shelf without a camera since ages.
Probably she didn’t know what was the value of this lens, so I didn’t know neither. As it turned out it is an expensive lens among the usually very cheap M42 mount lenses. The market price is very similar to a new Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, which is why I am often thinking about selling it. So far, I decided to keep it, because of the nice performance, character and because I can use it on many crazy cameras of mine.
The front cap was missing and the aperture blades were stuck, otherwise, as you can see in the photos below, the lens was in a really good shape. The glass was clean, no dust, no scratches, no fungus and it was obviously not used too much. I have substituted the missing front cap with a Canon cap of the standard 18-55mm kit lens. I tried to use other Ø 58mm caps, but this was the only one which was not tending to touch the front lens element.
The way it looks
This is one of my favorite lenses. The images are always very sharp and have a good contrast with it. I can say that there are very little signs of any aberrations or distortions over the frame. I have not tested the lens scientifically yet so I cannot compare the performance in numbers with other lenses. But real word experience is quite pleasant for me.
At wide open, sharpness and contrast are a bit lower than stopped down by one-two stops, but still quite nice and I think this is very common with almost all fast prime lenses. Besides a slightly softer result can be beneficial for some portraits where little details of the skin can be smother and this way the model could look more perfect. The 80mm Pancolar is really not much softer wide open though. Colors are also rich and lovely and somehow different from my other lenses when using on the same digital body.
Dept of field & Bokeh
I like this short telephoto lens because this focal distance allows me to take nice shoulder portraits while I am still close enough to the model to interact with.
Also, this lens has the ability to blur the background (like hell) very much because of the large maximum aperture. In fact, the depth of field can be so shallow that sometimes you get only a few centimeters of it and it has a risk that you miss the focus. A good example when only one eye of the model is in focus.
Speaking about bokeh (quality of out of focus elements), this lens produces a lot and the quality is superb, creamy. I know it is subjective to judge this property, so please have a look at the sample shots and decide yourself. The only caveat with it is the fact that the lens has only 6 aperture-blades. It could produce a not circular (multigonal) spots of highlights in the blurred background. It is a subjective thing again to like it or not, personally I prefer the perfect circles. This is not a problem when shooting wide open as the aperture is round at that case.
The Pancolar is a very well made lens which has a full metal + real glass construction. It looks absolutely beautiful, feels solid and has a good weight to it. The aperture ring clicks at every half stops and operates very smoothly and precisely. The focus could be the same if I had got the right grease into it. -I will get it fixed soon. – The lens barbell extends a few milometers while focusing, but not seriously and the front element does not rotate -> there is no problem with polarizing filters to use.
There is a switch on the lens to set automatic or manual mode. When set to automatic the aperture stops down only when you press the shutter button and then it returns to full size when mounted on a compatible camera. In the case of manual mode, you must pre-set the aperture manually. This could be a nice feature too for videographers.
I have found a short summary on a nice website (Prime35.com) which is a perfect quote to close this post.
CZJ Pancolar MC 80/1.8
I’d say this is the best choice for versatile and sharp M42 80mm lens. It’s contrasty, it has the best wide-opened performance of all f/1.5-f/2 M42 portrait lenses. Center is close to Biotar, but borders are much sharper. Great colours (MC) + great bokeh. It also isn’t as risky as the early post-war lenses, because its coating is much harder, so cleaning marks are not an issue. For me it’s the best post-war Jena lens. (source: Prime35.com)