In instalment #149, I announced that I would come back to that theme, once I had more to show and tell about the Touit 12mm. So, why this unusual number? So as not to “burn” # 150, where our Lord and Master, Pascal, has a surprise in store!
But, back to Touit. I left you at the end of the previous article with a clear recommendation for this very good lens indeed. But some of you may have been left wanting more. How does it compare to known and respected lenses, such as Zeiss ZM, or Leica? What is its specific drawing style? In a nutshell, when you go all out with a Touit, exactly how good is it?
The answer is, it is better than that! But, for some, it may not be their cup of tea. Which is not a surprise, I don’t know of s single lens, even the sublime and supremely expensive ones, which are unanimously loved.
My first impression, indeed anyone’s first impression of a Touit, was very positive. All the basics are very well executed. A very visible absence of optical bugaboos. But one issue kept me from calling the Touit one among the world’s greatest wide angles.
The Touit image, with the NEX 7, a very high resolution machine, offers an image of tremendous clarity. To the point that you wonder if that clarity is not achieved at the expense of very small detail. There are examples of that. For example, if you compare a Zeiss ZE 35 f:2.0 and a Zeiss 35 f:1.4, the slower, cheaper, smaller lens offers a more impressive first impression. Tremendous clarity, great “3D”, punchy colours and contrast, you just have to love this lens. Then when you compare it with the f:1.4, the image seems less of all these things with the theoretically superior lens. That is when you begin to notice all kinds of very small detail in the f:1.4 image. An infinite subtlety in the variation of colours and contrast, very delicate spatial positioning even in out-of-focus areas, and so forth.
Basically, it boils down to the larger, more recent lens having more very fine detail, which the MTF curves bear out. That is when I learned to love that subtlety, and where I was searching for it in the Touit, as it was not obvious.
Because, for the price those exalted lenses cost, one tends to want it all. Ultimate detail, ultimate contrast, ultimate clarity. Lenses like my Leica Elmar 24 or Summilux 50, the Zeiss ZE 25 or 35 f:1.4 are amazing in the amount of detail they present, but they are not the ones most noted for their apparent micro-contrast. Could there be a link?
An answer to this is made even less obvious as there I have no way to compare the Touit with anything remotely comparable in focal length that would also rank among the world’s best. Then, of course, comes the fact that the most loved lenses aren’t necessarily the best, many photgraphers loving the “character” of a lens, meaning precisely its imperfections. Which can be charming or beguiling, but are nonetheless imperfections.
That is what the Touit seems to be supremely devoid of. It is almost characterless, which, as far as I am concerned it just about the greatest compliment I can bestow on a lens. Try the Z* Distagon 21 f:2.8, for example. It produces remarkably spectacular images, and the Wow! factor reaches great heights. But try to do something so simple as to be almost austere with it, and you will get a spectacular result! Very impressive, beautiful even, but always with an extra dose of the spectacular. As though it had an extra chromosome…
The Touit has an extra dose of clarity. Which, considering the very wide focal length, is probably a very wise choice. Look at the picture above. How complicated the image is, because of the variety in sizes, shapes, colours, lighting of what is presented. That is typical of very wide angles, and that is what the Touit presents so well, making it easy for the eye of the beholder to look at.
Now, let’s apply, in order to pass final judgement on this Touit, the same experiment as to the Distagon. Let’s try to do what it seems least predisposed towards, and see if its “extra chromosme of clarity” gets in the way. Which is why I chose a very atmospheric shot, before sunup, where the very low contrast robs the Touit of one of its main assets.
So here it is. Extra clarity? Nope, not to my eye. And plenty of very fine detail, both on screen and in large print. That, to me spells a very neutral lens indeed. A masterpiece. Or rather, for it is a German piece of art, ein Meisterstück!
#407. Wide Wide Test. The Zeiss Distagon 2.8/15 ZF.2 review.
# 391. Sony’s A7RII (formerly Leica it or not)
#385. A Black & White walk along Phoenix’s Holbert Trail
#317. Zeiss Distagon T* 1.4/35 ZM: The Full Review
#315. The Zeiss Distagon ZM 35/1.4: First Impressions on a Sony A7r
#175. A visit to “Salon de la Photo” in Paris
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