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CF 60mm Your expereince and views matter


Active Member
Many of you helped me to decide upon the CF 60mm Distagon version of a 60mm to add to my kit between the CF 50mm FLE and CFE 80mm I have.

I still have not been able to find an "affordable" version in good order - still have not found a CF version full stop!

However, while away recently and using my 50mm a lot; I really wondered about the real added benefits I'd get from adding a 60mm. I did trial a C T* version just to be sure I liked the AOV which I certainly did.

So my question is of those with both 50mm and 60mm lenses. Where do you find the benefits in having and using both? Is the AOV too close to be of real benefit (I have been on the Zeiss site and used the AOV feature and they do seem very close)? Over time have you found the difference is only marginal, while the lens itself is obviously an excellent performer.

See, I see a lot of potential advantage in the 60mm where the 80mm is too "tight" and the 80mm DOF is too "limited". But is 60mm really just too close to 50mm, which FLE version I am very very happy with - a wonderful lens IMHO.

As a parallel ex&le I have the 120mm and 150mm and they sit between the 80mm and 180mm very nicely - each has its distinct benefits in my kit - none makes another "redundant" - apart from the obvious AOV differences, the 120mm offers added benefit of superb closer focusing; the 150mm has the added benefit of greater mobility when "out and about" over the 180mm (these benefits as an ex&le among others). So at the longer ends also having the 250mm and a 1.4xe I am totally satisfied and each is very much used.

I do see some advantage of the 60mm having half a stop speed advantage over the 50mm (a nominal but sometimes a real benefit); I also see some benefit in the 60mm being less sensitive to "user" created distortion at the edges when hand held (how sensitive that wide angle is to camera angle to subject); and maybe there is some weight/size advantage over the 50mm FLE. But, am I imaginging benefits that users with both may not actually realise (have come to fruition).

So, after that long story, your experience and opinions will be helpful to me. Thanks for your time.
I have both the 50mm FLE and the 60mm CF. My own experience has shown the 50mm FLE to be exceptional, while optically my 60mm has been so-so. Since I don't use the 60mm that much and there is little sense in carrying around both, I'll probably put the 60mm up for sale.

My case may be different in that I use a 16MP digital back (Kodak). With the crop factor my 60mm becomes 90mm, making it my normal lens. However, the 50mm crops out to 75mm, so that can also be used as a normal lens with a digital back.
Thanks Larry, that's an interesting comment but may be as you say under different circumstances. I have no issue about its optical performance.

So, while I finalise my commitment to a CF 60mm (its role and value in my kit) and if you plan to sell you might like to tell me off line about its condition and what you are seeking to get for it. If you later change you mind about selling it, that's fine.
>Simon, I too have experienced the same scarcity of affordable 60 mm Distagons. I suspect that very few were sold as they were too close to the 80. I don't have the 60, but I do have the 50 and the 100 CFs. (My 80 is rather superfluous, but occasionally is indispensible). I feel that the coverage of the 50 is so good that the 60 is unlikely to add much to it.
Simon, I have all the lenses from 30 to 300. all of which are CFi or CFE (except the 300) + the dedicated 38 Biogon.

As you know, as you move toward the wider end, the field of view changes more drastically than at the long end (pictorially speaking). So the 50 is indeed wider looking in actual practice than the 60. You have already mentioned it's advantages verses the 80.

When selecting lenses for an assignment (which includes personal work and vacations), I select a range from the whole collection based on anticipated needs:

For a nice walk-around kit, the 60/3.5 and 100/3.5 (with a 1.4X for longer needs) is terrific. Smaller and lighter with a easier to store shade and same filter size as the other lenses, compared to the 50/4, I'm more apt to take the 60 with me when traveling.

For extensive use, I may opt for the 40, 60, 100 (or 120), 180.

Other times it's the 30, 50, 80, 150 (or 180) ... which is my most used kit for weddings.

The 60 alone is a wonderful journalist focal length, and can be used as a "environmental portrait" lens the way I use the Leica 35/1.4 ASPH. Since I often place the subject off center with such shots, distortion is less of a concern with the 60.

Optically, if my 60/3.5 CFi was any sharper, it would cut my eye just looking through it ; -)

Oh, and another reason I opt for the 60 and 100 sometimes, is that when using the prism meter I don't have to adjust the maximum aperture setting. I can just swap lenses without having to remember to do that. Minor detail, but just a bit more convenient and faster.

Here's my typical travel kit: 60, 100, 1.4X, filters and meter. The film goes in a snap on bag so I can have it hand inspected at airports. It all fits nicely in a LowPro Omni Sport even with the shades attached.

I think Marc used the key words "walk around".

I settled for 50FLE, 80 and 150. They all take the same filter/hood size. If I need 40, I back off and use 50 (it's rare I can't back off enough to "match" the 40.) If I need 180 +, I plan the post-shoot crop at the time of the shoot. That's the beauty of 6x6 6x7 etc ... so much negative/positive to play with post-shoot.

In many ways, I wish I had the 100 instead of the 80, but on the other hand, this latest 80 is so bright and so nice to use, I'm OK with it. The 1.4x would be handy to take the 80 and the 150 up a notch. But I can just walk a little closer most times.

I don't worry about same max apertures as much as I do same diameter for filters etc. All this works nicely via PM45 and L608 spotmeter (the poor man's TCC).

There was a time when I wanted all the lenses. Then, one day I looked though my files of about 20 years worth of Rollieflex TLR with 80 3.5 Tessar. What a perfect, light, easy, uncomplicated, and sturdy MF camera. (I'm so glad I still have it.)

Simon. Don't buy the 60. Spend that money on a flight Aus/Italy, get up into the northern hill towns in the early spring, walk, talk, drink a little red wine from Montepulciano, eat hard goat's cheese, dunk crusty bread in green olive oil... aaahhh. Ahem, sorry! Got carried away for a minute. PS I'll send you a postcard. Heh heh.
In my view, lenses in the 60-120 m range are used mostly for subject at rather close range. At close range, moving back or forward to adjust framing has a great impact on perspective.
So you realy need a wide choice of tightly spaced focal lenghts. The more the merrier.
At the more extreme ends, wide and tele, it doesn't seem to matter so much.

Apart from that, the 60 mm is a a great do-it-all lens. Perfect if you are going to use just one lens.
Except when you're going out birding, or something like that.
Many thanks to each of you.

BUT, Marc you must stop showing me that sensational "fly" yellow 501CM as it makes me so envious

Marc, your comment about a walk-around lens and Leica 35mm analogy remind me of my initial purpose for the 60mm having similar AOV to the Leica (I use the Summicron-M ASPH 35mm as an every-day lens). And your description of lens selection for a planned purpose is similar to how I think before leaving home with a selection.

Added to that, QG's comment puts my purpose back into perspective - a vital consideration easily overlooked - how what seems to be smallish AOV difference becomes quite significant in closer range shooting. Just looking into my 50mm at close range subjects now, highlights how the 60mm would have a less "dramatic" effect on that scene's perspective. Yes, a valuable point indeed.

So I think QG and Marc are reminding me that in 35mm shooting a 28mm lens and 35mm lens have quite different pictorial effects especially in closer range compositions. That is probably why in 35mm shooting I do not have a 28mm, nor really find I need one for what I shoot with my M7.

But in 6x6 given the quite different AOV characteristics (horizontal versus diagonal) sometimes I find the 50mm too wide and the 80mm to short - the 50mm occasionally providing IMHO a too stretched a diagonal view that may be more ideal (gentle) with a 60mm.

I certainly shoot differently in 35mm than I do in 6x6 so do not just replicate focal lengths in each system.

And in a similar way to QG's comment (great do-it-all lens) I think the 60mm is quite a "subtle" focal length - in an ideal situation if I take only 2 lenses out maybe they would be a 60mm and the 120mm even with the 1.4xe.

So, thanks everyone for helping to get my mind back on track here.
Thanks Colin. I agree about filter size and it is one reason why I like the CF series as all my filters are the same.

You made me smile with your comments about Italy (love the north) and must go back soon. While my family is of Irish decent, my father (who died recently) was the first person of non-Italian decent to be made a Commedatore of the Repulic of Italy - that country's highest civil honour. So our links are strong.

But sadly I can never touch the Chianti (or Grappa!) or cheeses again since I developed chronic pancreatitis of no known cause - but the large daily doses of morphine to manage the on-going severe pain make a partial substitute!
Life is interesting!
Well the saga comes to an end. Last month I received a "like new" CF Distagon 60mm lens from its original owner in Sweden who auctioned it on zbay. He being a well known Leica collector enabled me to buy with confidence and save a small amount on a less pristine ex&le available through a well known and reputable US used gear store.

I can only think that this lens had actually never been used since its packing and barrel showed no fingermarks or even any minute black chrome wear on any bayonet fitting - amazing, and made me look closer with a loupe! So I exercised the shutter which sounded (as best one can tell) 100% spot on (and later proved to be on a bench test).

In the field it is a delight to use exactly like all of you who commented above said earlier on. I could immediately see why Marc and QG were so enthusiastic about the Distagon 60mm.

Thanks again to you all. I will post a s&le from my latest Aussie bush trip, which gave me many opportunities to play with the new baby! The trannies were sensational - exceeded my expectations. The highly compressed JPEGs hardly tell the story but you'll get the idea I am sure. Stay tuned.
A couple of ex&les of my first pics with the Distagon 60mm (CF) follow. What I enjoy about this lens in addition to its relative compact size and weight are its razor sharpness and very very low optical distortion.

... and from my recent trip "bush" - Copetoun Dam now at 10% capacity making it appear like a lunar landscape.

The Copetoun Dam image was also a test of how much visible vignetting this lens produces - very very little (I used 100VS) hence the inclusion of so much soft sky during the late sun.

Finally this image of rocks at Copetoun highlighted to me the type of different "look" or perspective between the Distgon 50mm and 60mm lenses - the 60mm giving me the very "natural" image I was seeking when taken at a closer than infinity distances.

During these test shots I was trying to draw out this lens' main attributes and get some comparative context by also framing up with my Distagon 50mm FLE rather than make wonderfully creative images. This image pleased me in that (while I get huge enjoyment form the excellent 50mm FLE) its perspective is so natural just like I find I get from my Summicron-M 35mm ASPH from Leica in 35mm photography. So, hopefully others considering the Distagon 60mm will benefit from this thread.