Within a week of shooting with the new Meyer-Optik Gorlitz Primoplan P58 58mm f/1.9, it’s very easy to see why this lens costs as much as it does. Just holding the lens in your hand screams the high-end build quality that the German engineer’s require. Seriously, it’s amazing! Keep in mind that this is considered an “art” lens, so properties like the edge to edge sharpness, and vignetting are quite poor, but it’s what gives this lens its character. This is a true artists tool.
As I stated before, the build of this lens is one of the first things that will strike you. I couldn’t find any plastic or rubber anywhere so it’s almost a guarantee that this lens will outlive anyone who owns it. Unlike some of the newest lenses that have the 10 year stamp on the bottom, this is built to last much longer than that. It really screams the amazing build of what this lens was originally modeled from 80 years ago. The lens features an astonishing 12 anti-reflective aperture blades for very smooth bokeh balls at high apertures. I wish that modern, more native lenses from the top manufacturers would have as many blades as this but the blades wouldn’t last long due to the extremely fast shutter speeds on modern sports oriented cameras like the D500 and the D5. The solution to this is to do what Meyer-Optik has done with this lens. The aperture is completely independent from the camera body. This does provide an inconvenience of a darker viewfinder but there are many easy work-around options. To me, this really isn’t a problem, but more of something that helps you slow down your photo taking process. Anyway, back on the build quality. There aren’t set clicks or stops for the aperture, rather, it has a smooth aperture ideal for video shooters. The de-clicked aperture is something that slows your photographing process which is a benefit for people like me. This lens is very small on the camera which is another benefit and it isn’t something that I have heard mentioned on other review sites. This is especially noticeable when it is on a large full frame body like the flagships from Nikon as the lens is almost dwarfed. Overall, I don’t think that the build quality of this lens could be any better than it already is. Now for functionality – I would have preferred the aperture clicks just because I’m a Nikon shooter and the focusing ring turns the opposite way than what I come to expect from Nikon glass. Other than that, this lens is perfect in my eyes and I can see it lasting for many many years to come. Overall, I think I would give it a rating of 9.8/10
The Meyer-Optik Gorlitz Primoplan P58 58mm f/1.9 performs like you would expect an art lens to preform. The corner to corner sharpness is poor but that is not what this lens is for, so I won’t go on about just how soft the corners are on this lens. What is slightly more important is the center sharpness. The center sharpness surprised me, as long as you were on focus, which can be a challenge with faster glass like this f/1.9. Let’s just get this out of the way, it’s not as sharp as the latest f/1.4 glass from Nikon but it’s sharp enough. The lack of sharpness in the corners is what gives this lens it’s personality. It has a unique way of drawing your eye to the subject, especially if they are in the center!
The bokeh from this lens is simply astonishing. It’s one of my favorite attributes of this lens and it truly rediscovers the classic looks that the vintage glass can deliver. The type and the amount of blur is completely controllable as well. I personally haven’t felt this amount of control over my images’ bokeh before. It’s an amazing feeling being able to control whether the lens swirls, creates soap bubble bokeh, or even a very smooth and modern looking type when you stop down the aperture to f/4 or higher. Wide open, the lens performs almost like my Nikon 50mm f/1.8g as if it were on steroids. The slight swirl that I can squeeze out of my Nikon lens is amplified on this. You can achieve the swirl effect at almost any distance from the subject, it’s very versatile and can create some very interesting images. Stopping down to f/2 or f/2.8, and moving closer to your subject can deliver some even more unusual characteristics. At these apertures, the lens keeps intact the perfect circle bokeh balls because of its 12-blade diaphragm. This is something that can’t be found on typical, top of the line modern day auto focus glass. Stopping down to f/4 or f/5.6 can deliver a very modern looking, extremely sharp image. The bokeh gets smoother as the aperture increases, so a simple rule of thumb is to shoot at a larger aperture if you desire a more artistic affect, inverse of this for a more modern, typical looking image. Overall, the bokeh from this lens is what really sets it apart from the equally priced modern competitors. It won’t deliver the “perfect” smooth look that the Nikon 58mm f/1.4g delivers, however, it provides it’s own style that won’t be able to be reproduced in Photoshop. Personally I LOVE the look of this!
Let me start off by saying that this lens practically makes a 2D image look 3D. It’s not explainable but the subject just seems to ‘pop’ out of the frame. This is probably the main reason that I would consider buying this lens other than the bokeh. Every image just has a pop to it, rather it be in b&w or color. In my research, I have found that this comes from a low element count which makes sense because there are only 5 elements in this lens. The difference is very distinguishable, enough for me to be able to easily recognize which images were taken with this lens and my Nikon 50mm f/1.8g. This is the type of effect that almost surprises you when you look at your preview. In my opinion, I think that this lens has taken some of my best images due to this effect, it’s truly astonishing.
Not much can be drawn to mark against this solid piece of glass. The build, color, sharpness, bokeh, and 3D effect are all truly incredible. If you aren’t into the “artistic” vintage look ,then you won’t like this lens by any means. If you like the modern look, I would recommend the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G or the f/1.4G options. A serious flaw to this product is the price, it’s very hard to swallow its price tag. That being said, it is availalbe in the Midwest Photo rental department which is a perfect way to get around the hefty price tag. However, as always, the consumer votes with their dollar. Once their production costs can be lessened, I can see this company being a large, mainstream competitor to the main third party lens manufacturers. But until then, the price is the major flaw. Something to be mentioned is that this isn’t an auto focus lens, rather it’s a manual focus. Personally I enjoy this factor as it helps me slow down my shooting, but some may not.
In conclusion, I think that this lens is one that I would definitely like to keep in my kit of lenses. Over my period of testing, it didn’t leave my camera body. Not only is it a great standard view lens, it can also be used in a professional portrait environment. The artistic view that this can deliver is only similar to it’s 80 year old counterpart, and cannot be reproduced in Photoshop. The sharpness, color, and depth are out of this world and are definitely a strong force to be reckoned with. This lens will provide you with photos that will set you apart from other photographers if you know how to correctly balance your composition and use the bokeh characteristics to its full potential. All in all, I think that this is an amazing option if you are willing to invest in something this expensive, I loved shooting with it!
Written by: Connor Quinn
Connor is a photographer based out of Zanesville, Ohio. He has been in the creative world of photography for over seven years, starting out with a GoPro then moving to a professional DSLR system in the last five years. Currently, he is a junior high school student at the age of sixteen, shooting daily to improve my photos.
You can find some of my photos featured at my Instagram account @43connor