Camera Geekery: MS-Optical-R&D Apoqualia & Perar by Lars-Göran Hedström

Today I have a guest review from a very satisfied customer. Lars-Göran Hedström ordered a couple of Miyazaki lenses from me and decided to write a comprehensive review of his experience with them so far. A very informative and well written piece. Read on…

This time I’m using and writing about lenses from another manufacturer than Leica. No, it’s neither Voigtländer, nor Zeiss, it’s a Japanese retired lens designer who make his lenses by himself and in an artisanal way. His name is Miyazaki Sadayasu and his brand MS-Optical-R & D.
A while ago I came to visit Bellamy Hunt’s very readable netsite; Japan Camera Hunter. Bellamy is of British descent and living in Tokyo, Japan for more than seven years. Bellamy’s occupation (besides analogue photography) is hunting for old and used cameras that me, you and collectors ask him to look for and buy in Japan or Hong kong. As far as I know, he’s doing a great job.

On Bellamy’s site there was a post with a very nice looking lens and an intriguing story of the designer and manufacturer, Miyazaki Sadayasu. As I was searching for a smaller and lighter 50 mm lens than my Noctilux 50 mm f/1.0, and initially was looking for a collapsible Elmar 50mm f/2.8, the story of Miyazaki san grabbed me. After reading and checking out photos on Flickr I figured that Miyazaki san’s lens would match my beautifully drawing Macro-Elmar 90 mm f/4. I also was on the hunt for an Elmarit 28 mm f/2.8 ASPH, assuming that a gang of light brigadeing three would make a nice travelling kit for my M9 and M4-P. I was really intrigued by Mayazaki san’s Apoquaria 50 mm f/3.5.

When studying Mayazaki san´s production more closely I discovered an extremely compact, pancake lens; Perar 28 mm f/4 Super Triplet. Bellamy Hunt has a page on his site devoted to Mayiazaki san. Turns out that this Japanese gentleman is a former designer of toy telescopes! As retired he is able to dedicate all his time to what he most of all want to do – design fine handmade lenses for photography. I had stumbled across Mayazaki san’s designs earlier. His lenses has gained a certain cult status. But then I just passed them by as being odd cult objects. Now Bellamy Hunts site made me interested in this man, his passion for lens design and his artisanal approach to lens manufacture. What else could I do but order one Apoquaria and one Super Perar?

It was simple to order the lenses on Japan Camera Hunter site. At the same time I also added a Ginichi G soft release button to my order. Payment on a Saturday via PayPal worked fine (as always) and Bellamy posted my items Monday and on Thursday same week I hade the precious parcel in my hands. Only four days from Japan to Sweden, great! Packaging was flawless, I noticed fewerishly looking for the small gems. Mechanically the lenses are beautifully made. The 50 mm Apoquaria is delivered with a Leica M 39 screw mount. For use on my Leica M9 or M4-P I had to order an adapter for M 39 thread to M mount. Having the assumption that Voigtländer production is of higher standard than the Chinese produce overflowing e-Bay I opted for a Voigtländer adapter M39 – Leica M 50/75 II, to get the 50 mm frame into my M cameras rangefinders. The miniscule Perar is delivered with a Leica M bayonet that pushes the 28/90 mm frame into M camera rangefinders. Nice. All in all, a two lens package, Ginichi soft release, Swedish customs and Voigtländer adapter set me back a total of 1550,48 €. That´s the amount I probably have to pay for only one used Leica Elmarit 28 mm f/2.8 ASPH 6-bit on e-Bay or Leica User Forum ”Buy and Sell”. Not to mention how much a second hand Summicron 28 mm f/2.0 would set me back!

I must say that the pancakey Perar 28 mm f/4 Super Triplet, collapsible Apoquaria 50 mm f/3.5 and collapsible Leica Macro-Elmar 90 mm f/4 make a nice, light weight, easy to carry around combo with my M9 and M4-P. All together these lenses weigh in at 405 grams to compare with my Noctilux 50 mm f/1.0 in itself weighing a hefty 580 grams. The miniscule Perar looks a bit odd. Not what one expect a ”conventional” lens would look. It´s more of a flattened, truncated cone with a really minute front lens. This design has a real feature – it won´t block any part of the 28 mm view in my M9 and M4-P rangefinders. That´s a really good thing! As I see it, Perar 28 mm f/4 being of true wide angle designs (not a retrofocus) is a hommage to the 28 mm lenses that were produced in the good ol´days back in the 1930-ies as the Tessar 28 mm f/8. A classical five lens in three groups as Leitz Hector 28 mm f/6.5 is very small and looks like a very compressed Elmar lens. Small size used to make lenses a bit fiddly to handle.

A thing that have resulted in discussions on the net is the fact that this petite gem of a 28 mm lens have it’s ten bladed aperture diaphragm in front of the first lens! Fully exposed to the environment. As an old cinematographer I have no issue with this design. On the contrary. In combination with the lenshood the aperture diaphragm at smaller f-stops will very effectively diminish lens flare and increase contrast. The aperture diaphragm in combo with the hood will prevent stray light from glaring the front lens. The main concern in the writings on the webb have been the possibilty for dust and debrie entering the aperture and make it stuck. In the good ol’cinematography days, when you had to do almost every effect in camera on location, a diaphragm was placed in front of the lens to make fade ins and fade outs as well as framing certain parts of the picture. This was in the days before editing the negative and optical printing was routine. I´ve used that technique myself and these diaphragm work in all weather and dusty environments. The exposed aperture diaphragm is not an issue in my opinion. But beware of pocket lint!

The only problem with the small Perar is when I want to use a filter. It is possible to put a 19 mm filter into the threaded lens hood. But where to find a 19 mm filter UV or ND? For instance, old Leica Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 had a 19 mm filter thread. But still, 19 mm filter are hard to find. The small Perar 28 mm f/4 (if I may trust the leaflet and test certificate delivered with the lens) is designed as a modern refined version with Tantalum glass of the old Cooke triplet. Developed by H. Dennis Taylor in 1893. A straight three lens construction. The classic old Tessar and Elmar designs are also triplets by design. Today triplets are found in many cell-phone cameras. So, maybe back to basics and less is more! Theoretically all triplets suffer from astigmatism when wide open and they are prone to geometrical distortion that distort circles to ellipses. According to the hand drawn MTF diagrams the Perar is a competent lens. From delivered data this lens seem to be fairly low on distorsion. Weight is a smallish 50 grams!

The lens is delivered with a screw in back cap inside the lens. It was a bit strenuous to uncap the lens. The very small frontal lens cap, which is mounted on the Perar by a thread, is very tricky to handle. Could easily be dropped and lost. If I would like to put on the dimitive front end lens cap and the back cap for the inside of the lens it´ll take dexterousness and time. Nothing I would recommend doing out in the field. To cover the back of the Perar I use an ordinary Leica M rear lens cap. But for the front I have to find a small plastic cap, 19 mm diameter or a small canister to keep the Perar safe from pocket lint. Because it´s very pocketable. With the cute little lenshood (also serves as a 19 mm filterholder) in place the Perar is easy to handle. Lens has only four f-stops (f4 through f16) and there are no click stops. The 10 bladed aperture (for smooth and pleasing bokeh) is made in Germany by Otto Niemann Feinmechanik GmbH, Berlin. There is a small focus handle which makes focusing easy and precise with a very short 90° throw. It took me some time to find the smallish handle automatically, and by feel (not looking).

Apoquaria 50 mm f/3.5 (true focal length is 51.6 mm) is a ”bigger”, collapsible lens. Weight is a low 115 gram. This lens is a decendant of the old collapsible Zeiss Tessar 50 mm F/3.5, Leitz ”Classic” Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 and Voigtländer Heliar 50 mm f/3.5. According to the ”cut away” drawing in the test certificate Mayizaki san’s lens is built from five lenses with two pair cemented together which result in three groups that look Voigtländer Heliar alike. Apoquaria 50 mm f/3.5 is (maybe) a hommage to the Voigtländer lens design. It´s said that Miyazaki san with his Apoquaria wanted to recreate the apochromatic performance of Heliar lenses. Mayizaki san use lanthanium glass in this design as Voigtländer do in APO-Lanthar-series. Lanthar glass is characterized by high-index-low dispersion. Contemporary Lanthar lenses have wrongly been accused for being radioactive. In the beginning, when lanthanum and thorium were mixed together in the glass mould, lenses were radioactive. Thorium is radioactive.

The collapsible Apoquaria 50 mm f/3.5 look much like an old Leica Elmar 50 mm f/3.5. But contrary to Leica, the collapsible part on the Apoquaria is anodized black instead of chrome as on Leica collapsible lenses. It´s far more discreet to have an all black lens than one that´ll reflect light strongly. Apoquaria come with a threaded lenshood and a screw on front end cap. The hood can be transported reversed over the lens and capped with the lens cap, nice. The 12 bladed aperture, also of Otto Niemann Feinmechanik GmbH, Berlin produce, is scaled from f3.5 to f22 with no detents for stops as the Perar 28 mm. Filter diameter is 30,5 mm, maybe a wee bit easier to find. With the Voigtländer adapter M39 – Leica M 50/75 II focusing is very fast and exact due to a short focusing throw. Only a quarter of a full round needed. Another nicety with this gem is that the focus grip and focus ring is machined from one piece. No plastic focusing knob. One note; At first focusing won’t go to infinity. It’s due to a heavy greased helicoid thread. It’ll settle very quickly when using the lens.

Both MS-lenses seem slightly prone to lateral chromatic abberation (CA) resulting in loss of detail at picture edges when I´m pixel peeping at 100% magnification. CA is pronounced with a digital camera. Problem might be the extremely short depth of focus in a digital sensor. The analogue Ag based light sensitive emulsion is much thicker and therefore more forgiving. Maybe this edge unsharpness is less pronounced in analogue. I will be back on this issue using my Leica M4-P and the good ol´ Ag-based photography. There is an apparent softening of picture detail at the edges and corners as well. Some coma is also apparent. But away from corners and edges and in picture center, these lenses are sharp as a razor and boast a wounderful color contrast. The color rendition at most part of the picture is exquisite and both lenses show the same color character. A whee bit on the cold side. This doesn´t matter to digital photography but it sure does to analogue! What I like with the Apoquaria 50 mm f/3.5 is the way it draws out of focus details when focusing at close range. Due to slight spherical distorsion, as my Noctilux 50 mm f/1.0, out of focus parts create as I see it, an eerie vertigo effect due to field curvature. Very nice, and can be used as an expressive element. On the madatory ”brick wall test” (who is shottin´brick walls?) the small, three lens Perar doesn´t show much geometric distorsion other than CA induced corner distorsion! The glass laden Apoquaria is almost perfect. When pixel peeping (100% enlargement) at corners, CA add some light distorsion. By the way, I even find diminutive CA at picture corners in my Noctilux!

What I like in both lenses is that there is almost no vignetting all. Especially in the wide angle Perar this is an appealing quality. Also the abscence of geometrical distorsion is a prominent quality of the little Perar 28 mm f/4. Contrast is most adequate in the Perar but in the Apoquaria 50 mm f/3.5 it´s perfect. Pictures by the Apoquaria do look like they have been exposed with an apochromatic lens. Sharpness and color contrast is really this lens forte. I´ve used these lenses on my M9 without any in camera correction, for test purposes. When shooting regularly I found that the pancake Perar 28 mm/4 work well with my M9 at menu lens setting 28 f/2.8 11804. For the Apoquaria 50 mm f/3.5 I found that the setting for 50 f/2.8 works just fine. I could live with the ”Automatic” setting (no lens identification in camera) but then I wouldn´t have any EXIF information on focal length of lens in use. Which I prefer to have. One more thing, the focus cam adjustment in both lenses was perfect according to Leica standards. Rangefinderfocus is dead on with my M9 and M4-P. Both lenses focus down to 0.8 meter.
What I really like in these two lenses from Mayazaki san´s mind, hand and workbench is the sharpness, color rendition, color contrast, the absence of vignetting and the ability to convey texture in the subject. Add to that these lenses don´t block any part of the ramngefinder view. Only issue I have with these two lenses, as with many other lenses, is CA and corner unsharpness. But for most of my pictures, that won´t matter at all.

Lars-Göran Hedström

You can see more images on my Flickr page.

Some images from the Perar:

Some images from the Apoqualia: