New Meyer-Optik-Görlitz Primoplan 75/1.9 Prototype – Hands On
Meyer-Optik-Görlitz is an old German company founded in 1896 by famous optician Hugo Meyer and businessman Heinrich Schätze in Görlitz, Saxony. Company passed through turbulent periods in its history, almost disappearing as a brand during cold war (when it was absorbed by VEB Pentacon and VEB Carl Zeiss group).
There were some attempts to revive lens production in 1990-1991, when Feinoptische Werk Görlitz was spun off from VEB Carl Zeiss and converted into a private company, but since they didn’t succeed to attract investors, company was liquidated in mid 1991.
On Photokina 2014 I saw Globell Deutschland announcing some new lenses under famous Meyer-Optik-Görlitz brand and was excited to read about their plans, less so about their price policy. First lenses appeared on market at the end of 2014.
New MOG company claim to produce lenses in Germany. Here is what they are writing on their web:
What does it mean to produce lenses in the tradition of Meyer-Optik-Görlitz?
Quality Made in Germany
We procure the components for our lenses fairly, both in Germany and worldwide. This enables us to offer the best technology at reasonable prices. Meyer-Optik-Görlitz lenses are assembled in Germany, but above all they are tested, measured and finely adjusted in Germany. For this reason, every lens deserves the Made in Germany seal of approval and quality guarantee after undergoing tough testing. Each lens leaves our factory with an individual testing certificate and a five-year guarantee.
Some of the lenses in the offer reminds lenses produced by Zhongyi Optics and sold with brands such as Mitakon e.g. This affects only part of the offer though, which doesn’t have direct relation to the Meyer-Optik-Görlitz heritage, but it also indicates who might be one of Meyer contractors. On the other hand, they offered also Somnium 85/1.5 which reminds Helios 40, made in Russia.
There is nothing wrong with this strategy though, since most of the lens producers including Zeiss e.g. are using third party suppliers from Asia. Petzval lenses by Lomo are produced in Russia and they are not cheap either.
Anyway, new Meyer-Optik-Görlitz, in just two years, managed to deliver to the market impressive number of lenses, many of them being new edition of old legends, such as MOG Trioplan 100/2.8, Trioplan 50/2.9 (pre-order), already mentioned Somnium 85/1.5 (not in the offer recently), Trimagon 95/2.6, Figmentum 85/2 and 35/2 and few others that are to be presented soon.
Company is often using KickStarter to raise the funds and they seems to be very successful in it. One of those Kickstarter projects is revival of the legendary portrait lens – Primoplan 75/1.9 (Trioplan 58/1.9 is on Kickstarter now).
MOG Primoplan 75/1.9 was first introduced around 1930 for Ihagee Exakta cameras. First samples were made of brass and they are usually called – Pre War version. Thinner than later – post war versions, they were much better built, but also much heavier.
Post war version was produced up to 1952 or so, until major part of the company wasn’t included in VEB Pentacon group.
Some of Meyer lenses kept being produced under Pentacon brand, such as Oreston 50/1.8 (Pentacon 50/1.8), Orestor 135/2.8 (Pentacon 135/2.8) etc. This wasn’t case with Primoplan 75/1.9 however, so the lens is quite rare today and its price is very high on the used market.
My friend Jan Tichý – http://jantichyphotography.com/ called me few days back to ask if I have Post War Primoplan 75/1.9 to let him compare it, with his Pre War version (damn rare in Leica threaded mount and in great condition, absolutely beautiful sample!) and new MOG Primoplan 75/1.9 Prototype, which MOG representative brought to Prague for show up.
I was of course excited to join him in this short test, and I used the opportunity to put my dirty fingers on nothing less than prototype lens!
Thanks to MOG representative we had lens for almost 24 hours, but unfortunately I couldn’t get it to my LAB for thorough chart testing.
Together with Jan, we took the lenses outside and tried to capture few comparative shots with the rare Primoplan 75 family.
There are not many sources to be found about Post War Primoplan 75/1.9 and almost none for the Pre War version. I will try to put a little comparative table bellow, but if you can help us to add missing info in the empty boxes, it will be much appreciated…
|MOG Primoplan 75/1.9 New||MOG Primoplan 75/1.9 Post War||MOG Primoplan 75/1.9 Pre War|
|Aperture||f/1.9 – f/16 no click stops||f/1.9 – f/22 no click stops||f/1.9 – f/22 no click stops|
|Aperture blades||14 (anti reflex coating)||15 metal||?|
|Optical design||5 elements in 4 groups||5 elements in 4 groups||?|
|Coatings||MC O’Hara Anti Reflex Coating||Single Coated||None|
|Minimum focus distance||0,75m||0,7m||?|
|Weight||300gr||250gr (M42)||616gr (LTM)|
|Available mounts||Leica M, Leica TL, M42, MFT, Canon, Nikon, Sony E, Fuji X, Pentax||Exa, M42, maybe other||M42, Exa, LTM, maybe other|
Build quality and handling
First of all, we should wait for production sample in order to make a final verdict on new Primoplan 75/1.9 built quality. Lens is made in black with mat finish, with fully metal barrel (no rubber). Metal is probably sort of composite, similar to those used in Mitakon 50/0.95 e.g. Lens is very small for this focal length, at least in Nikon mount version which we had for the test.
Prototype lens couldn’t focus up to the minimum focusing distance, but that will be of course improved with production sample. Focusing was smooth and thread long enough for precise focusing. Lens has metal mount.
Filter thread is 52mm which is common and filters in this thread are readily available.
Overall lens seems to be well-built, although not at the level of Leica or Zeiss, but that is probably rather subjective impression. Meyer-Optik-Görlitz gives outstanding 5 years warranty on their lenses, so I suppose that they have strong believe in the quality of their products.
While New Primoplan 75/1.9 is smallest of the three, it is not lightest. It is however still light lens and on our Sony A7 cameras with the Nikon adapter, it is well-balanced, unlike super heavy Pre War (616 gr). However Pre War version is so beautifully made, that I’ll gladly forgive it its weight, only if by some miracle I ever manage to get one 🙂 Post War Primoplan is made of light aluminum, so even if it has largest diameter (implying probably most glass inside), it is lightest of the three with only 250gr. At the same time, those aluminum lenses from the fifties are prone to shading and focus lockup.
Disclaimer – without final production sample of the new Primoplan 75/1.9 and strictly controlled tests, we can hardly give reliable verdict about image quality. Therefore we will talk about our initial impression and let you judge presented images on your own. With the old Primoplan 75/1.9 versions, actual condition of the particular sample will have significant impact on the resulting images. Both our old lenses seems to be in very good to excellent condition, but with this old lenses, some degradation over years is to be expected.
Primoplan 75/1.9 was never meant to be super sharp lens wide open, especially when we move toward edges of the frame. Spherical aberration, field curvature, mechanical vignetting, they all are integral part of unique Primoplan rendering. As a portrait lens, it wasn’t so important to make it super sharp, but it was important to make transition to OOF areas smooth. However, original design has over corrected SA and thus creates more pronounced highlight edges in the background and softer in the foreground. Still, the over correction is not that much pronounced like with Trioplan 100/2.8, and the color rendition is very smooth in transitions. Therefore bokeh aesthetic of Primoplan 75/1.9 (as well as for 58/1.9 btw) is very unique.
As we have been told by Meyer representative, they basically used Post War design and tried to make lens that will benefit of modern technologies while preserving the character of the old Primoplan. They used Schott high quality glass and added modern O’Hara Anti Reflex Coating. Together with anti reflex finish of inner barrel and aperture blades, new Trioplan is not only sharper wide open across the frame, but it deliver higher micro and global contrast, resulting in more puncher images.
Bellows are 100% crops of the focus area at wide open aperture. Move slider left or right to reveal images of respective lenses. Use directional buttons to move to the next set.
Lighting has changed during this short test, so we can’t present it as controlled test, but it might give you idea about sharpness. As I wrote above, Primoplan 75/1.9 is not as much about sharpness as it is about bokeh. Differences in rendered out of focus areas and transition to them are sublime. You might notice more pronounced bokeh structure of Primoplan New. This is mainly because it has better contrast, but on the other hand, Meyer deserves a lot of credits for bringing character of blurred areas very close to the Pre and Post war Primoplan versions.
If you want to see images in their original size, please go to this Flickr collection
To properly test for optical aberrations, we would need to make a controlled test in studio, but since I already knew that all Primoplans have pronounced spherical aberration, field curvature, mechanical vignetting and rather well controlled distortion (not unusual with this type of lenses), together with Jan, we tried to set improvised target to check for chromatic aberrations. This small Lens Align target is not ideal and lighting is all but perfect, but if there are to be significant problem with chromatic aberration, we should notice it.
Interestingly enough, from the shots above I found Primoplan New to have slightly more pronounced longitudinal chromatic aberration than its older pals. The level of purple fringing is also slightly more pronounced. Lateral chromatic aberration is bellow any field relevant figures.
In practice however, it will be hard to tell those lenses apart, judging CA only, which is good result for Primoplan New, considering its higher contrast character. In my eyes, Post War Primoplan has best CA corrections, but as I wrote above, differences are rather marginal.
If you consider to buy Primoplan, you are most probably looking for its unique rendering of out of focus ares. Surprisingly, differences between all three versions are sublime and hard to differ. As written above, Primoplan New, due to the improved contrast, seems to have also most pronounced structure in the bokeh, which might be good or bad depending on your taste, but character is definitely very similar.
Primoplan 75/1.9 Pre War
Primoplan 75/1.9 Post War
Primoplan 75/1.9 New
Notice the nice round shape of the highlights even when lens es are stopped down.
Day session in comparative mode. Move slider left or right to reveal images of respective lenses. Use directional buttons to move to the next set.
Differences in composition are result of limited minimum focus distance of the Primoplan New Prototype. Looking at the first set of image however, should give you good indication of similarities in rendering character.
Primoplan 75/1.9 New
Primoplan 75/1.9 Post War
Flare and back-light behavior
Primoplan New, due to its complex anti-reflex finish and modern coatings, certainly holds most contrast in back-lit situations, especially when the source of light is present in the frame (sun e.g.).
Post War version with its single coatings has very smooth transitions and probably least pronounced flares, while Pre War Primoplan has strong flaring, but it also show capability of creating “fire ring” flares which many photographers like to use as a creative element.
None of those lenses will stand up in comparison to modern Zeiss lenses when it comes to flare resistance, but New version is certainly closing the gap. Older versions however, are capable of interesting “retro” style rendering, where low contrast and flaring can be used for intended aesthetics.
You can find all test images in their original size in this Flickr Collection
Price and availability
As per value, Primoplan 75/1.9 Pre War version in LTM is in a different league, with prices reaching astronomic figures. Large part of that is certainly its rarity and collectible value. New Primoplan 75/1.9 is projected at 1999 EUR,- but you can still pre-order it for 1499,- EUR with a 50 EUR deposit. Post War version price depends on the condition and it varies from approx. 700 – 2000 EUR (mount also plays a role, with M42 being preferred over Exa).
Regarding availability, you will hardly ever see and even less probably buy Primoplan 75/1.9 Pre War in LTM. Post War version is however also rare and you won’t find many in mint condition either.
New Primoplan should be readily available once it comes to the stores. It’s price of 1999 EUR is however very high, considering that it doesn’t have collectible value and that is specialty lens with specific character (not everyone likes it…) If you want it, I would suggest that you pre-order it now, because for 1499 EUR, you will get unique lens for the price that is somewhat easier to digest.
(Being basically new player in the game, Meyer has to do couple of things – by raising funds through Kick starter, they need to push the price in order to fill the objective, while making delivery of the first batch to the investors – realistic. Meyer doesn’t count in this moment with high production figures, thus profit on the single item must be higher. Braking into distribution chain, they need to raise profit margin for the dealers above usual value, to make them intrigued. Without proper advertisement, they might run in cash flow problems and over-investing problems. All those reasons stands behind high initial price of new Mayer lenses, higher that we might like, but if they keep delivering quality products with unique selling proposition, things might change in the future, with prices going down. This is of course just my personnel analyze and opinion and it is based on pure speculation.)
There is no doubt that recent owners of Meyer Optik Gorlitz brand, did a good job with new Primoplan 75/1.9 when it comes to the revival of the old Primoplan rendering style and look. We need to hold with our final verdict about image quality until production sample doesn’t come to the market (we hope to get one for fully test procedure), but if we have to judge according to the first impressions, New Primoplan 75/1.9 is sharper, especially toward edges, it has better contrast at the price of slightly more nervous bokeh, but most importantly – it is real Primoplan, not just famous name on the barrel.
Post War version has smoothest focusing and it was easiest to focus with, but that might change with the New Primoplan production version. Copy that we had was well used, having some issues with the focusing toward minimum focusing distance as mentioned earlier.
At the end we agreed with Jan that Primoplan 75/1.9 Post War was probably best compromise between old and new, but differences are so sublime than it will come down to personal preference. If I could choose, I will take Pre War LTM any time, but I can’t choose so that’s out of debate 🙂 New Primoplan 75/1.9 gets closer to its older peers than I thought it will, bringing into game more sharpness and contrast. Is that positive evolution? That is million dollar question in fact and it comes down to who will answer it.
Since all three versions have much more in common than not, if you like Primoplan rendering and have tolerant partner, this new MOG version should be no-brainer when it comes to your wish list priorities.
We are recently trying to get a set of new Meyer lenses for a more thorough testing and arranged portrait and glamor sessions, because we would really like to see what New Trioplan 100/2.8 or Primoplan 58/1.9 and others are alike. Let’s hope that we will be heard 😉
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