Having just banged on about how little I care about comparing lenses, it might seem odd to post a lens comparison.… of sorts.

Lights streams from cars at night

Photo taken with a Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA24mm and a Sony Nex-7 camera

But this isn’t a lens comparison, in the usual sense of the concept. I’ve little idea which of these lenses is ‘better’ or ‘worse’, in relation to each other, or anything else for that matter. This post is more a report of some creative observations that I made, having taken them out for some long-exposure night photography recently, with a mirrorless digital camera and some adapters.

The lenses

The lenses involved are the following. Firstly, a Nikon Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AI-s. The only reason that I have this lens, is that I bought a Nikon FM2n SLR camera a while ago which, unfortunately, turns out to have dodgy shutters and costs far too much for me to get fixed. But the lens itself is in pretty good condition.

Secondly, a RE Auto-Topcor 58mm ƒ1.4, which came with a Topcon RE Super SLR, which I bought for little reason other than I liked the look of it.

Finally, both these lenses were up against a modern Sony/Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA24mm lens, which is built to fit the camera that I was using for this – a Sony Nex-7. Obviously, the Nex-7 having a APS-C sensor meant that the focal length of all of these lenses is longer than their label. But let’s not worry about that.

I see starbursts

Firstly, from what I could tell, the Zeiss was far sharper than the two older lenses. Also, upon zooming to 100%, both the legacy lenses seemed to me to have a slight ‘pixelation’ effect in some places – which disappeared when resized (downwards) in Photoshop. I’m guessing that there are all sorts of optical resolution reasons for this, which I’m not going to go into. And I haven’t done any test prints to see how this manifests.

I should also say that, the photos with the two legacy lenses were taken on a different day to the modern Zeiss and so exposure settings were probably different. And yes, the images have been cropped and otherwise digitally tweaked slightly.

The most interesting difference, for me, was the way in which the starburst light effects from the streetlights presented in the photographs. I believe that the number of bursts, is due to the number of aperture blades in a lens, and that the burst intensity is due to the f-stop used.

Lights streams from cars at night

Photo taken with a Nikon Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AI-s, mounted on a Sony Nex-7 digital camera

The Nikkor has similar startbursts to the modern Zeiss. Perhaps slightly more symmetrical.  But what I really liked was the slight ‘other-worldliness’ of the Topcor lens. Smooth and, it seems to me,  an almost 1970s feel to it.

Lights streams from cars at night

Photo taken with RE Auto-Topcor 58mm ƒ1.4, mounted on a Sony Nex-7

So there we go. No conclusion or grand statements. Just some photos with different lenses. And another few hours avoiding what I really should be doing. Fantastic.