Porst MC Color Reflex 55mm F1.2 Review – Part One

Early Copy of the Porst 55mm F1.2 in Pentax K-Mount

I’m posting this short review which will continue in future posts in my hope to liberate this beautiful lens against those who don’t know how to use it and claim that it’s not sharp wide-open. All the photos in this were shot between F1.2 through to F2.8. The only time I stopped down during my photoshoot was when it was too bright outside to shoot wide-open and I had no neutral density filter. Even landscapes were captured wide-open when possible.

The reason I chose this lens over the insanely expensive Tomioka-made 55mm F1.2 is because the price for the Porst is around $250-350 dollars on eBay. The Tomioka design is a classic one that has developed a cult following on various forums throughout the internet where dedicated photographers that collect vintage lenses congregate. Several threads talk about the legendary bokeh of the Tomioka glass. Tomioka itself was a Japanese company that was purchased by Yashica (back in the day) and it’s the source where many Yashinon branded lenses were made. In the old days Tomioka used to make these classic 55mm F1.2 lens for several manuafacturers and re-badged them for Porst, Cosina, Ricoh, Chinon, Vivitar, Revuenon and finally Yashica while also being branded with Tomioka in the early models. They are all similar in design with different multicoated variations, some of which were manufactured by Cosina as well. It is said that the Porst versions were Cosina-made. I have a Revuenon MC 55mm F1.2 copy which I believe is Tomioka glass but Cosina assembled that I will also be reviewing soon when time allows.

Following Images Shot on Sony Alpha A7R – Full Frame

ThePorst 55mm F1.2 is very adequate and capable of excellent image quality wide-open. You can get enough sharpness that it makes very artsy images when wide-open. As I’ve read through several threads on MFLenses.com, FredMiranda.com, and PentaxForums.com; posters seem to point out that the Porst is inferior or less sharp wide-open, milky, and hard to nail focus at F1.2 when compared to the Tomioka derived lenses. Maybe they just don’t know how to use the lens or haven’t practiced enough? I’m perplexed by those comments because the Porst is amazing! I have a Revuenon MC 55mm F1.2 lens as well and it doesn’t focus as close as the Porst copy that this review is covering. 

I took a leap of faith with the Porst when I got it. While it can be somewhat “milky” and soft on sunny days, I don’t think that shooting in those conditions is suitable with this lens. It is more suited for diffused light. If you look for stormy days or enter a shady century-old homestead where you get out of direct sun light;  this is where the lens really pops! The bokeh is astounding to me, emotive, and wildly different than many of the postmodern digital lenses that I have shot.

I go through these abandoned places all over the American Southwest and a lens like the Porst is able to help me achieve the goal of creating moody and dramatic images that draw a feeling of time and place. I’m showing LOVE to these places using the vintage Porst glass and it shows through the images that I’m trying to capture and document.

I don’t understand why anyone could bad mouth and bash this beautiful piece of glass? It is so full of character and the background blur is simply breath-taking. Very few lenses get me excited like this. There are a few others that I want to acquire that seem to equal the Porst but also very different. One lens with it’s own dimension is the Canon 50mm F0.95 “dream lens” which runs into the thousands of dollars on eBay!

I burned a lot of time researching thousands of images by various photographers using different vintage lenses and the Canon is one choice that stands out and really impresses me. I particularly loved this review by Paul Marbrook.

Some photographers will not understand my fascination with these super fast lenses but I literally obsess over beautiful bokeh and the types of vintage glass that create visual impressionism with the right kind distortion or blur. Most of these lenses are not totally super sharp wide-open but in truth, sharpness is seriously overrated. There are many variables for a photographer that go into what I consider to be the near perfect lens; or perfect artistic lens.

I even shot this high desert landscape in Southern Utah – wide open with the Porst. Yeah, I’m breaking the rules of landscape photography when messing with the DOF.

It was a total rainy day on the porch of this deserted house in the ghost town of Lund, Utah.

Another shot in an abandoned house just down the road from the previous one. Rain was falling and coming through the roof of this home. I can feel the memories of these ruins. Some dreams have been forgotten but the people who once loved these homes still seem to linger?

Oftentimes when exploring the eroding ruins of our Western Culture, I am reminded that our time on this planet is short.  As a documentarian, I’m capturing these moments as they decay in realtime. The desert is rotting these places and the constant winds are tearing them apart slowly. Every time I revisit some of these houses, they’ve changed so much. Sometimes vandals hit these places with so much disrespect it totally breaks my heart as a photographer. It’s often college or high school students who have no respect for the history. So these days, I no longer share locations out of fear that the young punks will find and destroy what beauty is left. Unfortunately it’s becoming too late for the ghost town of Lund, Utah, an old rail-road pitstop that was bypassed in 1969 by the construction of I-15.

When I was in the hallway of this old trailer, I felt a strange presence in the home that created a tingling sensation which told me I wasn’t alone. Something was still lingering in this place and I had to capture the mood when I focused on this curtain with flowers… I shot it wide-open at F1.2.

Images Below Shot on Olympus OMD EM5 – Cropped Sensor

Captured this rope hanging in an old barn in Milford, Utah.

Inside a deserted copper smelter west of Milford, Utah.

Rusty handle on an old homestead not far from the ghost town of Frisco, Utah.

This rusty nail is a favorite example of what I can accomplish with the abrupt extreme falloff in the (DOF) that I was able to get using the Porst. This is totally my “dream lens” at the moment while on a starving college student/artist budget, whois also trying to organize a UFO Fest in Utah.

Conclusion to This – Part One

I’m not totally savvy on writing reviews, in fact, I just wanted to share my thoughts on this beautiful lens. Practice will make perfect!  Even if the Porst is SLIGHTLY softer than some of the other legendary F1.2 bokeh kings why let that stop you from cashing in with this amazing piece-of-glass? I would even argue that this lens is in a league of it’s own. On many occasions, I found the “bokeh” the Porst 55mm F1.2 could  produce was far more to my liking than many other fast lenses; even those considered to be sharper by the forum posters. Don’t let peoples opinions stop you from considering the Porst. It’s certainly cheaper than the ridiculously expensive Tomiokas which only use a single coating on the lens. The Porst is multicoated! You really can’t go wrong with it if you have experience and skills! One can can learn about the strong points of the Porst, and the weak spots. I will post more about the Porst as I develop more compositions with it.

I also signed up for the eBay affiliate program to help me develop Talking Tree Photo and write more about the gear that I love. If you are interested in the Porst, just visit the link below and see what’s on the Bay. It will help me if you make a purchase. Please leave your thoughts in the comments if this article inspired you?

Porst MC Color Reflex 55mm F1.2 on eBay

Photoblogs.org Is Returning! – Help Us Build It!

Photoblogs.org is Returning

For veteran photographers like me, Talking Tree, we started out posting photographs through a photoblog between the years of 2004-2010 and then came Instagram. Since corporations have started clamping down on organic social reach – people like myself are returning back to our roots and this comes as GREAT NEWS!!!

Some of you caught hints of this already! – This is Brandon Stone’s official announcement:

He’s bringing back Photoblogs.org! Brandon had this to say:

I need your help. This is a big deal for me. It affects my livelihood and the decisions I’ll be making for my future. I rarely ask anyone for anything, but I am right now. If you have ever wanted to see photoblogs succeed, now is the time to help. I’m ready to build something cool and I’m looking for your support. I can’t do this without you.

We had such an amazing community of photobloggers back in the day and I would like to see if we can make something new that can at least capture some of what once was.

I have a lot of ideas for how to make independent photoblogging as easy and simple as Instagram and this is just the first step toward that greater goal.

Thanks to all of you for being my friends over the years. You are all such a great group of people. Here’s the fund drive link again. Any amount will help and if you could spread the word, that would definitely be appreciated. Thanks again!

Here’s the link to the fund drive page: photoblogs.org/fund-drive

Also, if any of you are on Twitter, it would be really helpful if you could RT this: twitter.com/LBStone/status/789136814955257856

Voigtländer Heliar 15mm F4.5 Superwide for Sony E Mount – Test Drive

Voigtlander Heliar 15mm Test Drive

The other day I had the opportunity to take the new Voigtlander Super Wide-Heliar 15mm f/4.5 Aspherical III Lens for Sony E for a test drive using the Sony A7R. The results were pretty otherworldly for amazing landscapes. The sharpness of the lens, all the way into the extreme corners, passed my professional scrutiny. What is really pleasing is the fact that the Sony E-Mount version of the Voigtländer communicates all necessary EXIF data to the camera. It also automatically engages manual focus assist when you turn the manual focus dial on the lens.

I had to trade out several legacy lenses in order to raise enough money to cover the cost of this lens. Here’s a few more test examples from the same shoot, below.

Other thoughts regarding the Voigtlander…

All-in-all this lens really nails everything I need in a ultra wide for landscapes. When I finally switched to Sony Full Frame a few months ago from Micro Four Thirds – I was completely surprised by the unexpected learning curve that came with moving back into full-frame. The truth is, legacy glass works well on cropped sensors because the small sensor cuts out the imperfect corners of most legacy lenses while only utilizing the best part of the lens in the center. Switching up to a 36 megapixel sensor on a Sony Alpha A7R amplifies the smallest flaws of old 35mm lenses. So the HUNT for decent wide angle turned into quite a chore.

Bad Experiences with Samyang vs Voigtlander!?

There are a few legacy lenses that work nicely with the Sony but when shooting with Micro Four Thirds, I was used to shooting super-wide for landscape work. So my initial choice was the Rokinon 14mm F2.8 Ultra Wide Lens. The first copy of this 14mm lens turned out to be a de-centered piece of trash aka a $300 dollar paper weight. The whole right side of the frame was terribly blurry. I ended up trying three times to get a decent copy of the lens and finally gave up. When I tried to reach out to Samyang /Rokinon about this negative experience, they ignored me and deleted my comments on their Facebook fan page. That inspired me to do some research which led me to Voigtlander’s offerings. I was able to secure a near-perfect copy of the Heliar 15mm III on the first round despite the fact that Cosina/Voigtlander has had some manufacturing issues with the 15mm, as well,  resulting in this thread on Fred Miranda. However the latest copies of Heliar III  (as of Sept. 2016) seem to be totally fixed and I got my copy from one of their latest production batches.Yes, I also heard about the new Rokinon 14mm F2.8 Auto Focus Lens for Sony E-Mount. It was announced while I was investigating the Voigtlander.

Long Hunt for a Superwide Finally Settled! 🙂

With Cosina’s ability to listen to customers, fix any quality control issues they may have, as well as having a long history in the camera business; I am decidedly in favor of Cosina/Voigtlander and their high quality products. I’m happy with this iteration of the classic Heliar 15mm Super Wide lens. It reminds me of the days when shooting with Voigtlander’s 35mm Best-L camera with a 15mm Heliar attached. I miss those old film days and I’m glad to be shooting landscapes with a Sony Full Frame.