Telegram to Johnny: Sharpness turned up in shots with “The Butter Knife” Raynox 135mm lens

Comparing the sharpness of the Raynox M42 135mm f2.8 with the vintage Canon FD 135mm f2.5 lens

The Raynox 135mm f2.8 vintage lens was a discussion topic in the Classic Lenses Podcast episode ““#53 Wet on Wet Bokeh!”. In the Facebook Group Photography With Classic Lenses, Johnny Sisson called this lens “The Butter Knife“:

Johnny Sisson and the Butter Knife lens

Et Voilà! Let’s see, if the sharpness test results will wipe Johnny’s smile off his face! (Sorry, Johnny)

I donated two Coffees for Johnny, to kindly bias him re-thinking his verdict about the Raynox lens. Here you can send him a cup of Coffee too: https://ko-fi.com/M4M1KKZE

The very unknown and inexpensive Raynox “sleeper lens” is an interesting lens, because it delivers a unique style of pleasing bokeh, which corresponds to the wet-on-wet technique for watercolor paintings (see here). Despite it’s unique bokeh, there are many doubts about it’s sharpness.

Please pixel peep following testshots and judge yourself to answer the Question: Is the Raynox 135mm f2.8 lens soft like a butter knife or sharp like a miracle blade? You will find all test photos in full 24 megapixel resolution for further analysis or download at the end of this article.

 

Test location: cabin with bavarian weather station

To make the “measurbation” more entertaining, a traditional bavarian weather station in the woods south of Munich, Germany, was used to compare the sharpness of the Raynox 135mm f2.8 vintage lens with two other lenses.

A weather station is a facility with instruments and equipment for measuring atmospheric conditions to provide information for weather forecasts and to study the weather and climate. The “traditional” bavarian weather station works by analyzing the stone hanging in front of the device, e.g. if the stone is wet, it must be raining! Here are all possible measurement results: 

Stone rocks – windy
Stone calm – windless
Stone wet – rain
Stone dry – no rain
Stone warm – sunshine
Stone cold – no sunshine
Stone white – snow
Stone holey – hail
Stone invisible – fog
Stone fallen down – earthquake
Stone gone – stolen
Stone seen twice – alcohol intoxication

Test procedure to compare the sharpness of the lenses

Following lenses were tested for center and corner sharpness:

Canon FD 135mm f2.5
Raynox M42 135mm f2.8
Sony FE 24-240mm f3.5-f6.3

 

The Canon FD 135mm f2.5 lens was selected to compete with the Raynox lens, because it is widely known as a decent sharp 135mm vintage lens for an acceptable price.

The modern Sony FE 24-240mm zoom e-mount lens was used at 135mm and f8 to have some kind of reference quality compared to the vintage lenses. The slow Sony FE 24-240mm was only compared at f8, because it’s open aperture at 135mm starts at approx. f5.6. See Ken Rockwells verdict about this modern zoom Sony FE 24-240mm lens here. Those photos are shot with a different color profile (“yellowish”), for easy destinction.

Bavarian Weather Station - lens sharpness test
The lenses were compared with their sharpness in the center and corner section of the photos.

Camera used for testing the lenses: Sony alpha 7ii fullframe mirrorless camera at ISO 800, several test photos were shot for each lens and aperture value to check a potential variation of test results. Focus peeking and max. focus magnification was used to carefully set the correct focus for the lens.

Sharpness test results

The test results show, that 40+ year old Canon FD 135mm f2.5 beats the modern Sony FE 24-240mm lens in corner sharpness, but is not a serious contender to the Raynox 135mm f2.8 regarding sharpness in center and corner. The next try to beat the Raynox 135mm f2.8 in sharpness will be with the sharp Nikkor Ai-S 135mm f2.8 lens in an upcoming test.

The depth of field is very small with the Raynox lens at open aperture f2.8. But if the focus is correctly set, sharpness is great as following photos show.

Test photos in center and corner at f2.8

Canon FD 135mm f2.5 at f2.8 - center
Canon FD 135mm f2.5 at f2.8 – center
Raynox M42 f2.8 at f2.8 at f2.8 - center
Raynox M42 135mm f2.8 at f2.8 at f2.8 – center
Canon FD 135mm f2.5 at f2.8 - corner
Canon FD 135mm f2.5 at f2.8 – corner (upper right)
Raynox M42 f2.8 at f2.8 at f2.8 - corner
Raynox M42 135mm f2.8 at f2.8 at f2.8 – corner (upper right)

Test photos in center and corner at f8

Canon FD 135mm f2.5 at f8 - center
Canon FD 135mm f2.5 at f8 – center
Raynox M42 135mm f2.8 at f8 - center
Raynox M42 135mm f2.8 at f8 – center
Sony FE 24-240mm at f8 - center
Sony FE 24-240mm at f8 – center
Canon FD 135mm f2.5 at f8 - corner
Canon FD 135mm f2.5 at f8 – corner (upper right)
Raynox M42 135mm f2.8 at f8 - corner
Raynox M42 135mm f2.8 at f8 – corner (upper right)
Sony FE 24-240mm at f8 - corner (upper right)
Sony FE 24-240mm at f8 – corner (upper right)

As you can see in above test photos, the sharpness winner at f2.8 and f8 in the center and the corner is clearly the Raynox 135mm f2.8.

DISCLAIMER: The difference in sharpness between the Raynox M42 135mm f2.8 and the Canon FD 135mm f2.5 vintage prime lenses is much larger than expected. I hardly believe it myself. I will double check the test results in a second comparison test with a different test setup. If you have any ideas why my test results could be wrong (other than lens variation), please leave a hint in a comment. 

Translation of the Bavarian Weather Station measurement values 

Boarische Wedastation
Bavarian Weather Station

Stoa schaukelt – Wind 
Stone rocks – windy

Stoa ruhig – Windstill
Stone calm – windless

Stoa nass – Regen
Stone wet – rain

Stoa trocken – koa Regen
Stone dry – no rain

Stoa warm – Sonna
Stone warm – sunshine

Stoa kalt – koa Sonna
Stone cold – no sunshine

Stoa weiss – Schnee
Stone white – snow

Stoa löchrig – Hagel
Stone holey – hail

Stoa unsichtbar – Nebel
Stone invisible – fog

Stoa obegfoin – Erdbeben
Stone fallen down – earthquake

Stoa weg – gschtoin
Stone gone – stolen

Stoa doppelt segn – Sau Rausch
Stone seen twice – alcohol intoxication

 

Test photos in full resolution

Canon FD 135 f2.5 at f2.8 - click on the photo to view in full resolution of 6000 x 4000 pixel
Canon FD 135 f2.5 at f2.8 – click on the photo to view in full resolution of 6000 x 4000 pixel
Raynox M42 f2.8 at f2.8 - click on the photo to view in full resolution of 6000 x 4000 pixel
Raynox M42 f2.8 at f2.8 – click on the photo to view in full resolution of 6000 x 4000 pixel
Canon FD 135 f2.5 at f8 - click on the photo to view in full resolution of 6000 x 4000 pixel
Canon FD 135 f2.5 at f8 – click on the photo to view in full resolution of 6000 x 4000 pixel
Raynox M42 f2.8 at f8 – click on the photo to view in full resolution of 6000 x 4000 pixel
Sony FE 24-240mm at f8 - click on the photo to view in full resolution of 6000 x 4000 pixel
Sony FE 24-240mm at f8 – click on the photo to view in full resolution of 6000 x 4000 pixel

 

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