Brief spring review of Rollei-HFT Planar 1,8/50 Made by Rollei @ Fujifilm X-T10

Rollei-HFT Planar 1,8/50 Made by Rollei is a full-frame manual focus prime lens with focal length 50 mm and speed 1.8. It was a standard lens for a family of Rolleiflex SL-35 SLR cameras with Quick Bayonet Mount produced in 1970s. The lens was designed by Carl Zeiss company and initially made in Germany as Carl Zeiss Planar HFT 1,8/50. After some time, in cooperation with the German company Rollei, who owned at the time the Voigtlander trade mark, the lens were also produced under the name Voigtlander Color-Ultron 1,8/50 and later, when Rollei built its own factory in Singapore — as Rollei-HFT Planar 1,8/50 Made by Rollei. Besides, the lens was also produced as Opton and Ifbagon for Ifbaflex M102 35 mm SLR camera (the same as Voigtlander VSL 1) with M42 screw thread mount. In 1981 Rollei went bankrupt, was forced to shut down the factory in Singapore, stop the production of 35 mm SLR cameras and lenses and stop using the Voigtlander trademark. However according to some sources Rollei-HFT Planar 1,8/50 Made by Rollei was produced until 1995.

For the purpose of this review Rollei-HFT Planar 1,8/50 Made by Rollei was used with Fujifilm X-T10 digital mirrorless camera by the means of noname Chinese QBM — FX adapter without focus confirmation chip. The flange focal distance of QBM mount is 44.5 mm, X mount needs only 17.7 mm and the difference which equals to 26.8 mm is physically compensated by the adapter which easily allows to use QBM lenses with Fujifilm X series digital mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses.

Fujifilm X-T10 is a pretty smart camera which has so called Focus Peaking function. Turn it on and the camera will highlight in the manual focus mode the areas of the image which are in focus with one of the user’s preselected colors. The exposure metering is performed automatically in a stop-down manner — the user selects aperture by the means of the dedicated aperture ring on the housing of the lens and the camera chooses the right shutter speed and ISO for proper exposure.

The field of view provided by Rollei-HFT Planar 1,8/50 Made by Rollei on X-T10 which has a crop factor 1.53 is equal to those which could have a lens with focal length 76.5 mm on a full-frame camera. In fact the lens loses its original purpose as a standard lens and turns into a portrait lens. Nevertheless the shooting for this review was carried by me in such a way as if I had to deal with the regular full-frame standard 50 mm prime lens.

The build quality of the lens is excellent which is pretty typical for a models made in 1970s and can’t be compared with modern all-plastic lenses. The housing is lightweight (185 g only) and compact (47 mm when focusing at infinity), solid, painted black, made of metal and the mount is also metallic. The lens looks stylish, in harmony with retro-design of Fujifilm X-T10 and does not look like it was found in your grandfather’s basement.

The focusing ring has width of 20 mm and 6 mm of it are reserved for the distance scale marked in feet and meters. The ring is well damped, has no play but rotates a little tight. The angle of rotation of the ring is at least 225 degrees which allows for very precise focusing. The overall length of the lens is minimal when focusing at infinity. The lens focuses by shifting the whole optical system and the overall length of the lens increases by approximately 7 mm (which is simply an insignificant amount) when focusing at minimum distance of 0.45 m. There is a detailed DoF scale with markings for aperture values 4, 8, 11 and 16.

The aperture ring is located at the rear part of the lens, has width of 17 mm and 6 mm of it are reserved for the markings of the following aperture values: 1.8 — 2.8 — 4 — 5.6 — 8 — 11 — 16. There are no intermediate values between them which is quite convenient according to my taste because I don’t have to count 1/2 or 1/3 stops during the manual aperture control. The aperture is automatic but there’s no aperture mode switch on the housing of the lens unlike the Super-Takumar and SMC-Takumar lenses. Therefore the rotation of the aperture ring does not lead to the immediate closing of the aperture to the selected value. Fortunately, the QBM — FX adapter is constructed in such way that it pressed the aperture pin of the lens which allows shooting at the aperture selected by the photographer via the aperture ring.

The aperture has 6 blades, its opening is not circular, however, it is not surprising since the first lens with circular aperture was produced by Minolta and it happened only in 1987 — 17 year later after the start of production of Rollei-HFT Planar 1,8/50 Made by Rollei. 6 blades is a bit not enough (the more expensive ZEISS lenses usually have 9), but thanks that not 5 as in case of Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 II.

The diameter of the filter thread of the lens is 49 mm. It’s a standard size for the most lenses of 1970-80s and it will be very easy for you to find and purchase such filters. The filter does not rotate during focusing which allows convenient use of polarizing and gradient filters. No filters were used for the purpose of this review though.

There’s no bayonet mount for the lens hood but it is possible to use 49 mm screw-in hoods. Actually I did use such metallic accessory made by noname Chinese manufacturer. I bought it for one of Pentax manual focus nifty-fifties but it also fits well this Rollei-HFT Planar 1,8/50 Made by Rollei. Moreoever you can also use Pentax 49 mm snap-on front protective cap with this lens.

Optically the lens consists of 7 elements in 6 groups (no special elements) and is a typical representative of the family of Planar lenses which is well known for its very good correction of optical aberrations. The elements are treated with HFT coating which is actually the same as Carl Zeiss T* multi-layer coating.

No matter how I tried, I wasn’t able to make this lens autofocus with Fujifilm X-T10 🙁 Therefore I had to focus manually. Fortunately it was quite convenient — ZEISS knows how to produce lenses which are excellent both ergonomically and optically. However I still won’t tell you how many shots were ruined in the process of shooting for this review (it’s a commercial secret).

The situation with image quality of this lens at the fully opened aperture is somewhat sad — there is a noticeable residual spherical aberration and color outlines at the transition zone (so called longitudinal chromatic aberration). The image produced by the lens at this setting can’t be called sharp enough. Unfortunately some traces of these aberrations can be seen also at F/2.8. Only from F/4 the defects are gone and the lens starts to show its strength — the sharpness is great across the APS-C frame. With Fujifilm X-T10 you may easily close down the aperture up to F/11 and will never notice even slightest worsening of the image quality.

F/1.8, focusing at short distance
F/2.8, focusing at short distance
F/4, focusing at short distance
F/5.6, focusing at medium distance
F/8, focusing at medium distance
F/11, focusing at medium distance
F/5.6, focusing at infinity
F/8, focusing at infinity
F/11, focusing at infinity
F/5.6, focusing at infinity
F/8, focusing at infinity
F/11, focusing at infinity
F/11, focusing at infinity
F/11, focusing at infinity

There’s no such defect as lateral chromatic aberrations with this lens. ZEISS is so ZEISS. Nothing to correct in Lightroom.

F/5.6, focusing at infinity
F/8, focusing at infinity
F/11, focusing at infinity

You can also forget about distortion with this lens. But it’s quite understandable — first, full-frame nifty-fifties rarely suffer from noticeable distortion, second, the lens was reviewed on an APS-C camera and its sensor captures a smaller image circle compared to that produced by the lens. Peripheral parts of the image are not captured by the sensor and the distortion manifests itself straight in that part of the frame. All in all there’s nothing to correct in Lightroom again. It becomes a bit boring.

Vignetting at F/1.8 is moderate with APS-C sensor but won’t be noticeable with closing of the aperture by F/2.8.

The background blur can be described as noble. It is very creamy and the transition between in-focus and out-of-focus zones is smooth at F/1.8-2.8. The quality of blur however may deteriorate in situations when the background is distracting and located close to the subject. The out-of-focus highlights are uniformly rendered and circular at F/1.8, of course, remain circular at F/2.8 and become hexagons from F/4.

F/1.8, focusing at short distance
F/2.8, focusing at short distance
F/4, focusing at short distance
F/4, focusing at short distance
F/1.8, focusing at short distance, a well-known Ethiopian guy, guess who
F/2.8, focusing at short distance
F/4, focusing at short distance
F/1.8, focusing at short distance
F/2.8, focusing at short distance
F/4, focusing at short distance

The lens does not «like» direct sunlight even with the lens hood (however there is a strong suspicion that you actually should blame a satanic Fujifilm X-Trans CMOS sensor for that):

F/11, focusing at infinity

PROS:

  • Excellent build quality, fully metallic design
  • Compact, lightweight, stylish
  • Convenient focusing and aperture rings
  • Excellent sharpness across the APS-C frame at F/4-11
  • Lateral chromatic aberrations fully corrected
  • No visible distortion
  • Good bokeh quality

CONS:

  • Spherical aberration and color outlines in the transition zone at F/1.8-2.8
  • Moderate vignetting at F/1.8 with APS-C sensor
  • Could have more aperture blades (9, for example)
  • The focusing ring rotates a little tight

Rollei-HFT Planar 1,8/50 Made by Rollei is an impressive Carl Zeiss designed lens which can put to shame many modern autofocus prime lenses. The lens does not leave much to be desired in the terms of build quality, as for its optical characteristics at the fully opened aperture, it is wise, apparently, to accept them and close down the aperture at least by F/2.8 in order to obtain both the pleasant background blur, shallow DoF and more or less sharp images across the APS-C frame. The rest of apertures are available with yout kit lenses.

All photos which illustrate this review were made in RAW and impertinently developed in Preview App (a part of OS X 10.11.4) without pulling out of details in shadows or highlights, without correction of white balance, sharpness or any other settings.

The author of the review and photos: Evgeny Artemov, eugene.artemov@mail.ru

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