Thypoch Simera is a Leica lover’s dream lens
Thypoch just started shipping the new Simera 28mm F/1.4 lens, so it’s a great opportunity to look at both the 28mm (here) and the 35mm (here), and see how they perform in real life. Both lenses are F/1.4 for Leica M. That said, there is a nice trick that fits them on Sony cameras and even provides autofocus. More on this later.
Right out of the box, the lenses feel pretty solid. They are all metal-constructed and have a solid feel to them. You know, the feeling you get from vintage devices when plastic was less common. Even the lens hood is metal, and unlike most modern lenses, it is square. Square means that the hood provides tighter protection to the frame, so you get fewer flares and leaks. On the flip side, it is more expensive to make.
Now, this is something that is woven into the lens philosophy. It is not cheap (each of the lenses is $699), but they skimp nothing, and the offer is very generous with the quality of the kit. Leica lenses come with a square hood, so I guess Thypoch took a mark from them. The hood is not the only thing that “feels” Leica, and the entire design will feel very familiar to Leica shooters.
I am going to do a quick review of the lens features and then share some photos and my impression of the optical quality.
Simera lens – Depth of field markings
When you rotate the aperture ring, a series of red dots changes on the lens, creating a fan shape that changes as you change the aperture. This fan and the focus marking indicate the depth of field for any distance/aperture combination. On my old lenses, there are lines that provide a similar function, but I have never seen this type of indication before, and it feels very futuristic and very retro at the same time. Aside from providing valuable DOF information, they are a great conversation starter :)
Simera lens – Focus and Aperture rings
Both the Simera 35mm and Simera 28mm have an external focus and aperture rings that are beautifully smooth. And they have a few features designed to help with versatility. There is a little lever on the aperture ring that decides if the aperture steps are clicked or de-clicked. If You shoot stills, you’d probably prefer using a clicked ring, and if you shoot video, you’ll want a de-clicked ring. I like this. Instead of releasing two lenses, one for video shooters, and one for still shooters, Simera has them both in one lens.
As I mentioned, the focus ring is incredibly smooth, but it provides some resistance. Kinda feels like an old receiver volume dial. But aside from the smoothness, it has two nifty features. The first is the option to “lock” focus at infinity, so you don’t accidentally shift focus, and the other is a tangible feedback before you hit the end of the focus range at about 0.7 meters. I am all for haptic feedback, and again, this is one of the small things where you feel some extra value crammed into the lens.
Simera lenses on Sony cameras – the Techart PRO adapter
Sadly, I don’t own a Leica (yet). I have a Q2 marked, but I am still saving for it. Luckily, there is a way to mount the Simera lenses on Sony cameras, and still get autofocus, lens information, and so on.
Techart sells an adapter with an exceedingly long name for $400: The Techart PRO Leica M-Mount Lens to Sony E-Mount Camera Autofocus Adapter (Version II). And it’s a little miracle. This adapter replaces the built-in motor that you have in autofocus lenses with a built-in motor of its own, and instead of rotating an internal mechanism that moves elements in a lens, it moves the entire lens forward and backward to adjust for focus. It does this using the focusing protocol from the Sony, so for all intents and purposes, you feel like you are using an auto-focus lens.
You have to follow a weird calibration protocol when you change lenses. It asks you to shoot a “black” photo using a specific aperture, and this tells the adapter the focal lens for the connected lens. It’s not the most comfortable thing in the world, but the reward is so amazing that I did not care.
Simera lenses – optical impressions
Thypoch went for an aperture design with 14 blades. 14 is a very large number when it comes to aperture design. Most Sony GM lenses have 11 Diaphragm Blades, and even the equivalent Leicas only have 11 blades. It’s a bold move, and it paid off very well in bokeh and flare handling. The other thing is that at F/1.4, this lens is amazing for low-light photography. When you couple the wide aperture, Techart adapter, and low-light performance of modern cameras (Sony A7III, in our case), you get a low-light beast.
Before we jump into my personal impression, there is two more things worth mentioning. One is the close focal distance for both lenses. The Simera 35mm focuses at 45cm, and the 28mm focuses at 40cm. This makes both lenses extremely versatile in street photography. If you want to get more technical, check out my impressions below. The other thing is that all the focusing is done internally in the lens, so the front elements don’t move.
Both lenses are sharp enough when you stop them down a bit, but when you go fully open, they have some softness to them. Not in a bad way; More in a vintage classical look kinda way. As far as I know there are no coatings in the lens, and this is where this vintage look comes from. Either way, at F/4.0, the lens is nice and sharp, while still having a distinct look. (click for full size)
By now, this will not be a surprise; the bokeh for these lenses is creamy and dreamy. The 14-blade design delivers big time. Even with the 28mm stopped down a bit, it’s still a gorgeous look. If delivering more bokeh was a thing, then those lenses would be a hallmark for “more bokeh”.
On normal use, you would see very little Chromatic aberration, but just like any vintage lens, it gets more pronounced with more contrast in the frame. Again, this is not a good or a bad thing, but a matter of taste, and it comes with the rest of the vintage look features.
Just like the bokeh, the flare for these lenses is very pleasing and has a lot of “character”. It’s the kind of lens that makes you want to shoot against the sun to generate flares on purpose.
There is some vignetting when you are shooting wide open. Nothing that 10 seconds in Lightroom would not fix, and it is almost completely gone by the time you stop to F/2.8. But like all other optical traits of those lenses, it’s a pleasure “artistic” vignette, and I can see how some photographers will opt not to even touch it.
Both the Simera 28mm F/1.4 and the Simera 35mm F/1.4 ar ea thing of beauty. I say this based not only on the look and photos they create, but also on the their looks and presentation. They feel gorgeous in your hand and have a very pleasing and distinct look to them. At $699, they are not the cheapest, but it feels like every dollar went into designing and manufacturing this lens and for what you get, the price feels in a good sweet spot.
I must admit, I was left wanting more, and I hope that this line expands in both directions to provide both wider and longer lenses.
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