Eric L. Woods

Three paths to a 70mm-ish portrait lens.

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If you are looking for a hobby that makes sense photography is not it. Sure, I pretend to make the odd allegedly logical choice here or there. But a logical decision housed within an illogical artificial relevancy construct holds little merit. But heck. That is half the fun. The senselessness of such an endeavor as capturing light with dedicated hardware utilizing varying analog and digital mediums when most are content with the camera in their pocket attached to their social media consumption device…

Hold up, where was I? (Scans title.) Right. 70mm-ish lenses.

Having three lenses with very similar focal lengths does not seem to make sense. And it does not. That is if you are driven by logic. As stated earlier logic is not a prerequisite for photography. But while logic fails to justify the endeavor there are other reasons.

Wait! Before I go on first fix your gaze firmly so as not to trigger an extraocular muscle sprain due to an involuntary eye roll.

Joy.

I know. I know. But I am serious unfortunately. Here is where I try to explain myself.

  • Process.
  • Image.
  • Sentiment.
  • Versatility.

Each of these lenses excels in each of these areas but for different reasons… I told you this was illogical. Will go in the order of most sensible to least.

Rokinon/Samyang AF 75mm f/1.8 FE

70-ishmm

Process.

  • Bone simple. All the latest and greatest AF and other image capturing aids that one could want. Point, frame, shoot and there you are.
  • Mirrorless technology means that what you see is what you get exposure and image wise.
  • Perfect for when you just want the shot with no muss of fuss.
Rokinon/Samyang 75mm F1.8 Auto Focus Compact Full Frame Lens

Image.

  • Can nuevo vintage look be a thing? Sure. Yes. Right?
  • This is one of the only modern lenses that exhibits that certain glow I like from older film glass while retaining the best attributes of modern glass.
  • Very important for this focal length it makes for a great portrait lens.
  • Great colors. Great background blur. Nice fall off. Well done Rokinon/Samyang.
Rokinon/Samyang AF 75mm F1.8 FE

Sentiment.

  • Full frame mirrorless is a relatively recent thing all things considered. That is not the source of the setiment.
  • Rokinon/Samyang has been around for a minute. I only became aware of them a few years ago when I picked up a Rokinon/Samyang/Bower (Why so many brands names guys?) manual focus MFT fisheye for my first interchangeable lens digital camera… <checks notes> 8 years ago. Have used many of their lenses since so I have bit of modern day sentiment for the brand.
  • No different here.
Rokinon/Samyang AF 75mm F1.8 FE

Versatility.

  • This is a versatile lens in that it is as good for stills as it is for video. This is something legacy glass is not typically good for unless you enjoy manual focusing for video which I do not. Not all modern lenses are good for this also. For example…

So we are done. A bit of vintage look. Modern features. We are all good then. Not so fast.

Pentax HD Pentax-FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited

70-ishmm

Process.

  • This lens sits at the pinnacle of the old school SLR/DSLR lens experience-o-meter.
  • All metal body. Built in slide out lens hood. Felt lined pressure fit metal lens cap. Fantastic looking lens. Heft suitable to stun if caught across the brow in the event of a zombie Apocalypse.
  • Direct mechanical manual focus control rather than fly by wire mirrorless.
  • A very satisfying lens to use.
70-ishmm

Image.

  • You know what else has that film era lens image look? A film era lens.
  • Film era SLR and even DSLR lenses are often known for great image quality.
  • This is another area where this lens shines. It was voted the best Pentax lens of all time by Pentaxian headquarters website Pentax Forums after all.
  • This lens does not disappoint.
77mm f/1.8 Limited

Sentiment.

  • My Father taught me how to use his Pentax ME Super many, many years ago.
  • The Pentax K-1 manages to be the one digital camera that provides that throw back feeling for me. Add the 77mm and you have yourself a vintage/digital experience.
Pentax 77mm f/1.8 Limited

Versatility.

  • This is not a matter of stills and video flexibility. Technically you could use it for video by using manual focus, but there are better tools for that task.
  • Versatility here is format. A great lens on digital. A great lens with film Pentax cameras courtesy the venerable K mount. And like any SLR lens you can adapt to mirrorless. Courtesy TECHART and Sony AF can be on the table.
77mm f/1.8 Limited

So what else could you want? How about a third option.

7artisans Photoelectric 75mm f/1.25

70-ishmm

Process.

  • Manual focus is the draw here.
  • MF works well enough with mirrorless cameras and focus peaking. Of course a bit more Zen is available for a bit more spend if you go the native rangefinder route. There is something special about having to manual focus. You think differently. You think more. When time allows I find it to be a more enjoyable way to shoot.
  • It is definitely more rewarding when you get it right and occasionally you appreciate the surprises that come when you get it wrong.
  • Add in the look and feel of this lens as a positive also. In hand of course it does not achieve Leica levels of refinement. But it does not embarrass itself either. The all metal build. The etched and painted markings. The look is such that a fellow photographer approached (and startled) me mid focus on a recent walk through local gardens to inquire, “Is that a 75?”. To which I replied, yes a 75mm, but not THAT 75mm (Would have likely said the same even if it was. Not trying to get knocked out for a lens.). Still, we spoke for a few moments afterwards and traded social media handles, as you do. Take it or leave it but I am fairly certain that would not have happened with either of the lenses above… Ok, a Pentaxian may have reacted to the 77mm Limited in a similar fashion.
Meet JJ at Lowes - Sony A7c - 7Artisans 75mm f/1.25

Image.

  • That f/1.25 though. Really makes for some nice looking blurred backgrounds. I have heard tell that the aperture is adjustable. Kidding. But I only ever recall regularly adjusting the aperture while shooting film where both ISO and shutter speeds have their limits.
  • It is, of course, not as sharp as the over $14,000 Leica original. But it does not embarrass itself either. Well done considering the less than $500 asking price.
  • I like the colors also.
  • A great lens.
A7c/7Artisans 75mm f/1.25 MF

Sentiment.

  • This is a call back lens. 7Artisans has not been around that long, so this lens has not been around that long. But it is built to emulate older, rangefinder glass. And like the 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4 before it this lens is built in a more convincing manner than the 7Artisans lenses that came before them.
  • I cannot put my finger on why precisely, but I tend to have a sentimental attachment to images created with rangefinder glass. And this lens is no different as evidenced by this image I took of my wife.
A7c/7Artisans 75mm f/1.25 MF

Versatility.

  • I touched upon versatility above when I pointed out the ability to close focus this M mount lens when using a helicoid adapter and a mirrorless camera.
  • Contradicting the manual focus draw to this lens AF is available when using the M to FE TECHART AF adapter. Used it with this lens once or twice as a proof of concept, but have manual focused it ever since.
  • Not only can you shoot this lens with mirrorless cameras and M mount digital cameras… which are the original mirrorless cameras, but this also means that you can use this lens with older M mount film cameras as well. The shot below was taken using a Leica CL of all things. Rollei RPX 400 if you were wondering. Wildly imbalanced pairing, but it was fun nonetheless. Have since sold on the CL, but the 75mm is not going anywhere.
Leica CL - 7Artisans 75mm f/1.25 - Rollei RPX 400

So… If you were expecting me to pick a winner I have bad news. This is not one of those posts. My goal was to share my thoughts about the virtues of all three. Hopefully I succeeded. Does that mean all three are necessary? Nope. Not at all. I might not keep them all.

A lot of virtual ink is spilt declaring one lens above another. One system above another. One manufacturer above another. And on and on. Different sensor sizes. Different film types. Black and white vs. color film…

But none of that matters. I am in this for another reason and it is not to argue about gear. Prepare for eye rolls.

Joy.

For different reasons each of these lenses produces images to my liking. Each lens brings a smile to my face. Provides a distraction from the insanity of the world. Each helps me focus on and appreciate the beauty all around us hiding in plain sight. And I will take all the distractions I can get my mitts on.

-ELW

70-ishmm

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