I Want Some Long-throw Manual Focus

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by KeithPratt, Mar 21, 2010.

  1. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007

    I'm going to get a 550D/T2i for a mix of amateur photography and videography. To narrow down my lens search I'm trying to find out which brands have long-throw manual focus rings. I'm sure every lens is different, but themes must emerge...
  2. VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    The 17-55 f2.8 is about 1/4 turn. The 18-55 kit lens is about 1/8 turn.
  3. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    If you want long throw manual focus, better look at some MF only lenses. On the high end, stuff like Zeiss or Voigtlander which have been universally praised for their build quality and excellent manual focus. On the lower end, maybe some old MF canon lenses will probably be a lot cheaper and have good MF rings.

  4. funkboy macrumors regular

    Apr 25, 2008
    None of the "old MF canon lenses" will work on any EOS body (film or digital) without an optical adapter that is rare, expensive, and not very good.

    I started out adapting Zeiss lenses from the Contax/Yashica system, which worked OK. These days it's a much better idea to go with a lens in native EF mount, as you get:

    - native electronic coupling (most of the time) so your AF lights & matrix metering work, and your aperture is controlled by the camera in 1/3 stops.

    - less tolerance variation as there's no adapter, so your focus is potentially sharper & more accurate

    IMHO the best ones are the Zeiss ZE series, which is pretty complete these days. They are not cheap at all, so if you're on a budget the Voigtlander SL II series have recently become available in chipped EOS versions. The 40mm Voigtlander Ultron is to my knowledge the first "pancake" lens available in native EF mount with electronic coupling.

    Both are available in the US from Cameraquest. I'd strongly suggest adding a Katz Eye focusing screen to improve MF "focus snap" on your camera. BTW even after changing your focus screen, a 550D is really not the right camera for optical manual focusing as it has a pentamirror viewfinder which was designed to save cost & weight and is really not all that good. You really want a camera like a 7D or a 5DII with a good pentaprism viewfinder.

    On the other hand, if you're getting it for video then you'll most likely be using live view a lot, so rather than change your focusing screen you might want to go with a Z-Finder instead.
  5. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    the longest throws on Canon EOS lenses are ~180 degrees. all the old, arc-form drive lenses that were introduced in the 80s with the EOS system have this (24/2.8, 28/2.8, 35/2, original 50/1.8, 15 fisheye). however, the focusing ring is somewhat scratchy. the 50/1.4 I think is around ~130 degrees. all the other lenses I've used (all USM/HSM motors) are around 90-100.

    if you want a long-throw lens, you will have to look at manual focus. Canon EOS mount can take Olympus OM, Pentax Screw/M42, Pentax K, Nikon, Contax/Yashica, Leica R, and a few other mounts with a simple adapter. all others, including Canon FD and FL and Minolta, require a glass adapter (expensive to get a good one) and lose infinity focus, or need to be modified to the EOS mount.

    I think Nikon (Nikkor), M42, and OM have the best and most affordable options.

    if you know what focal lengths (and f-stops) you want, I might be able to point you to some specific lenses.
  6. KeithPratt thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    Thanks, all, for the suggestions. I've spent the last couple of hours chewing them over on Google. I suspected that this attempt to narrow my options might leave me with more than I started with...

    To give you a bit of background, I originally figured I had two main options:

    One, a Canon 17-55mm f/2.8. Ideal for the photography I'll be using it for, covering my preferred lengths in one neat package. The compromise was on the video side, where I wondered if there were significantly better options in terms of manual focus throw.

    Two, a small set of primes expressly for video. Judging by the two USM lenses I have, I guessed the 17-55mm f/2.8 throw would be a little over 100°. If I could get over 180°, I thought a few primes would be worth considering. But there are a lot of old lenses out there to choose from! And would I be right in thinking I'll have a hard time finding an old 18mm f/2.8 (or similar)?

    Ideally I'd like an 18mm f/2.8, a 30mm f/1.8 and a 50mm f/1.8, all with smooth 180°+ focus.

    I know I'll have to make a compromise — it's just there seems to be a million different compromises to choose from.
  7. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    you'll lose the focus throw, but you'll gain image stabilization. up to you which is more important.

    there aren't many options wider than 24mm...as far as I can tell, the Zenitar 16/2.8 and Zeiss Jena 20mm f/4 Flektogon are the better ones, and the best at a reasonable cost is the Olympus Zuiko 21/2 (and 21/3.5). there's also a 20/2.8 Flektogon, but its results at f/2.8 don't seem to be too great. if you have a lot of money lying around, there's the Zeiss 21/2.8 Distagon, which is probably the best lens in the class.

    at ~30mm, there's the Zeiss Jena 35/2.4 Flektogon, Pentacon 35/2 (Super) Takumar, or Olympus Zuiko 28/2.

    other than that, you need to decide on what optical qualities you want and maybe which mount. do you want total resistance to flare? smooth bokeh? unique (e.g. swirly) bokeh? ultra-high resolution? high contrast or sharpness? how well does it have to perform wide-open (if it's a fast lens)? this holds true for the ~30mm lenses I suggested above, and is especially so for 50mm lenses since there are so many to choose from.
  8. gnd macrumors 6502a


    Jun 2, 2008
    At my cat's house
    I think you're in the wrong camp. If you want great manual focus for video, you want stabilization and a chance to switch focusing screens. Pentax can give you all of that. You get stabilization in the body, so any of the K-mount lenses you use will be stabilized. Which also means you can use old manual focus lenses which all have a very long throw and thus very accurate focus control. Also, on most of the Pentax bodies, you can change the focusing screen with the split-prism type, which helps enormously with manual focusing.
  9. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Apr 26, 2008
    He is in the right track already. There are lenses available for what he wants to do. All depends on how much he wants to spend on a lens.
  10. VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    I'm assuming you are either considering or have considered a follow focus ring as well?


    I think that one's made from a jar opener :eek: :D
  11. KeithPratt thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    Thanks again.

    I've decided I'll try to pick a trio of manual-focus primes and then decide between them and the 17-55mm f/2.8.

    For the 50mm, the Voigtlander 58mm looks promising. Any cheaper, older lenses you'd recommend I take a look at?

    I already have a Canon 28mm f/1.8, and the focus throw is not terrible, but I'd be interested in something with around 180° rotation. Again, any recommendations?

    For obvious reasons, how long and smooth the manual focus is is less of a concern for wides. I'd be interested in hearing your recommendations for cheap and for more expensive ultrawides (primes or zooms). I'd use a more expensive one for stills too, but a cheaper one I'd be content to use just for video.

    On a general note, I don't mind a bit of flare, but nothing in the extreme. Clean bokeh would be nice, but speed and focus throw are my main concerns.

    The 17-55mm is around $1100, so I'll set that as a collective cap for three primes. Cheaper would be nice as it'd leave me with a bit to put towards a dedicated stills lens.

    Yeah, but never that one.

    A slight side-question: are there any decent fisheyes made for APS-C cameras? I'd imagine one designed for a full frame camera would lose a lot of what makes it a fisheye, ending up with an image that just looks warped.
  12. Patriks7 macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2008
    Depends how much you have to spend.
    This one seems to be quite a favorite:
    Read quite a lot of good stuff about this one:
    Don't know much about this one, but if you need something cheap:
    Zoom option, which I hear is pretty good:
    http://www.amazon.com/Tokina-10-17m...1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1269419472&sr=1-1 (there is a Canon version, just can't find it).
  13. funkboy macrumors regular

    Apr 25, 2008
    If the Voigt 58mm had been out in EF mount when I got my ZE 50mm Planar, I would probably have gone for the 58mm instead. They're both made in the same factory & the VL is almost half the price.

    I've got a Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon on an adapter (C/Y mount) that is my 2nd most used lens after my 24-105L. It's just brilliant, & I got it for 350 euros. Zeiss makes a 35 in ZE mount but it's pricey & "only" an f/2, and the 28mm f/2 is even more expensive (about the price of my 24-105L!).

    16-9 has done a ton of adapted manual focus lens tests on Canon bodies and I find his comments to be very valuable. He's also got a few lenses with adapters for sale from time to time.

    photozone also has a lot of reviews of adapted lenses on Canon bodies. One of my favorite features of his reviews is his extensive bokeh tests, which will probably be useful to you for video.

    BTW I haven't verified this, but I would imagine that in Canon land the Macro and TS-E lenses have pretty long focus ring travel as well as they're more designed for MF than other EF lenses. Worth checking out. The EF-S 60mm macro is really good for the price (esp. as they're starting to be readily available used), and the new 100mm IS macro rocks. I've got to say that video looks really cool on a tilt-shift lens as well as long as the effect isn't overdone. There are a lot of used 24mm TS-E Ls on the used market now that the II version is out; I've seen several good examples in shops around town for 7-800 euros.

    Hartblei Super Rotators are Super Cool (and the new versions are Super Expensive as they use Zeiss glass), but also pretty rare used & I think they've stopped making the non-Zeiss models...

    Mirror telephoto lenseswill also have a super-long focus throw as only the new Sony one is AF. Evidently there's an old Vivitar model that has a fanclub. If you like doughnuts...

    Some other crazy stuff to check out that's come on to the market recently:

    The dirt-cheap but optically good Samyang 85mm f/1.4. They're sold as "Boyer" at B&H. They've also got a 14mm f/2.8 on the way that's supposed to be pretty good. Note that though they use a phyiscal EF mount they have no electronics.

    Noktor is a new company that seems to be adapting closed-circuit night surveillance lenses to camera mounts. We'll see how that works out...

    Trust the Ukranians for fisheyes. The Pelengs & Zenitars are optically about as good as a fisheye needs to be, & you don't give a toss about focusing. I believe they come from the same glass factory that Hartblei used before they switched to Zeiss optics.

    Lots of choices to make... Good luck & let us know how it works out.
  14. KeithPratt thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    Thanks for all the help, it's been invaluable. Still putting it to good use.

    This one is something I've been vowing to mimic since I first saw it.

    This company has more brand names than lenses!

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