There is no end in sight for the bokeh craze these days, and Meyer-Optik Görlitz has engineered lenses with that in mind. The new P58 (type Primoplan) 58mm f/1.9 lens is designed to produce a swirly-er form of bokeh and the triplet optical design of the Trioplan 100mm f/2.8 is made for classic “soap-bubble” effect, out-of-focus highlights.
These lenses are not inexpensive, and part of your purchase goes into the packaging. These Meyer-Optik lenses come in identical gorgeous boxes that you will not want to discard. The unboxing ceremony is YouTube-worthy, but I will proudly sidestep that social trend for now. Once out of their boxes, you see and feel that both lenses are exquisitely constructed—these two lenses are as good, mechanically, as any lens I have ever used. Both lenses offer a fantastic feel on both the aperture and focusing rings.
Speaking of aperture rings, they are click-less. This is for the benefit video shooters, but I prefer clicks at the ½-stop marks, for the simple fact that I want to know when I have the desired aperture dialed in and I want to be able to run through the aperture range without having to look down at the lens to see where I have stopped the ring.
Also, having a ring with detents sets the aperture ring it apart from its twin—the focus ring. Opening myself up to ridicule, when new to a lens like the Trioplan, there were several occasions when I changed aperture instead of focus.
Primoplan P56 56mm f/1.9
The P56 (type Primoplan) 56mm f/1.9 lens is Meyer-Optik Görlitz’s take, not on a classic lens from someone else’s stable, but a re-engineered and redesigned optic from its own storied history as an optics company. The lens elements of the P56 share the same lens body as the Trioplan 50mm f/2.9, and that body is very compact and portable.
Being devoid of space-grabbing electronics and autofocus wizardry, the lens is very small when you compare it to other lenses of similar focal length. The biggest drawback of the design is the aperture ring, mounted near the front of the lens. Unless you dial-in f/1.9 or f/22, you will literally have to look at the front of the lens to see the chevron indicating your current aperture. At night, on a tripod, this involves walking around to the front of your setup to dial-in or verify your aperture.
I do appreciate the hard stop at infinity.
Optically, the P58 is going to be a bit polarizing to photographers. Whether wide open, or stopped down, sharpness decreases at a rapid rate as you move from the center of the frame.
The 14-blade aperture gives you some beautiful 14-point diffraction spikes or sunstars. When stepped down, the bokeh loses its smooth roundness and you can see the 14 blades disrupting the edges of the bokeh balls as a tetrakaidecagon is formed. Wide open, however, the bokeh looks great and even steals some of the overcorrected spherical aberration soap-bubble feel of the Trioplan lenses.
My day and night rooftop shooting excursion did not really seem to produce the swirling bokeh that the promotional shots for the lens illustrate. My guess is that the swirl will be more evident with foliage-filled backdrops that already have some curvature in their existence.
Trioplan 100mm f/2.8
My colleague here at B&H, Allan Weitz, has already put the Trioplan 100mm f/2.8 through its macro paces, but I wanted to spend a little more time looking at the primary reason for the lens’s existence—soap-bubble bokeh.
Like the P58, the Trioplan 100 is mechanically brilliant and well built. Also like the P56, this lens is very small and compact when compared to modern lenses that live around the 100mm focal length mark. Unlike the P58, the Trioplan has a much more practical and usable aperture ring and markings—no more walking around to the business end of the lens to check your aperture.
Meyer-Optik furnished the Trioplan with a 15-blade aperture, which means you get really interesting 30-point diffraction spikes.
If you step down the 15-blade aperture all the way toward f/22, your soap bubbles will start to take the shape of the elementary school geometry favorite, the pentakaidecagon. (Yes, I had to use the Internet to find both tetrakaidecagon and pentakaidecagon.)
Wide open, the Trioplan is not going to amaze anyone with its sharpness—everything seems to get a bit of an ethereal glow—but, if you are looking for the ultimate in soap-bubble bokeh, your search is over. Wide open, the bokeh balls are perfectly round and have beautiful glowing edges. If sharpness wide open is your goal, you might want to check out other options, but if you are dreaming of this lens for soft(er) portraiture—“soft sharpness,” as a co-worker says—my guess is that the feel of the lens at f/2.8 will be just what the doctor ordered.
Back in the optical business, historic German lens maker Meyer-Optik Görlitz is not trying to compete with the modern electronically assisted marvels of optic technology; the company is back to recreate and improve on its classic lenses of yesteryear and has done a great job of achieving that goal. Both the P58 and Trioplan are works of mechanical and optical art. Will they fill the bill for every shooter? In this world of 20 frames per second and blazing-fast autofocus, certainly not, but I will proclaim that they do deserve a place in today’s world of photography.