My love for russian glass is growing and not without reason, they are performing much much better than I expected at first, their sharpness is unquestionable, their bokeh smooth round not too dominant, their colors vibrant and well defined and not at least their handling is wonderful. This is my third entry on russian lenses on A-Mount, not counting the first entry on the adapter needed to put the Kiev/hasselblad screw mount lens on to this Sony Platform. The first two articles was at each of the ends of my typical use scenarios, at 30mm and at 300mm. Both really awesome lenses, sharp, good quality and with a nice Bokeh.
I am going to stay on this Russian subject matter for a while, so I sincerely hope you will learn to love it as much as I do. This time I am here with a treat for you guys, the high-quality multicoated kit lens MC Arsat-C/MC Volna-3 80 mm f/ 2.8 (Russian: “Волна”) . This piece of glass is very versatile., it generates rather beautiful and flexible images with a volume, sufficient sharpness of key areas and noble bokeh. By many photographers is it considered the safe choice, it is generally perceived as a predictable and reliable lens when it comes to the final result.
I got great plans in the coming time for this lens, plans that reaches further than just using it on my Sony Alpha A99V; I want to explore its bokeh, and use it as a portrait lens, I am still thinking of how to do this right in the same frame. Also I am being particular interested how it performs compared to my Minolta 50mm f/1.4. I am also very keen to see how much base in reality the rumor has with its woundability towards sidelight. Should you be interested in Russian lenses then this one is particular easy to find at a relative low price on the flea market, and generally at a high production quality.
I have not personally experienced the downside of this lens, but apparently it has todo with side light. I guess this can be corrected with the hood.
About the beast
The brand ‘Volna’ is for many a equal to good characteristics, and MC Volna 3 fully lives up to this. The original lens was among others designed for Kiev 90. My lens is the MC Volna-3B has slightly been modified to suite the Salute and Kiev 88 (Pentacon six and Hasselblad screw mount) . On medium format is the focal length 80 mm, but adapted to my Sony Alpha A99V it is more in the range of 50mm.
Build quality is high, and even the focus ring is of metal. I like the fact that it rotates about 300 degrees, because it makes focusing very smooth and not least accurate. The minimum focusing distance is 0.6 m, obviously is that distance halved on my adapted setup. The short focusing distance is an advantage to me, while it allows me to shoot small objects. When focusing, the front lens does not rotate, this could come in handy when using gradient filters, but be aware that the trunk moves forward for 2-3 cm.
The lens has a good DOF even at F/2.8. The DOF scale goes from F/2.8 to F/22.0. It has 6 aperture blades. The Optical scheme consists of 6 elements in 3 groups
I was surprised to find this imperfection in the lens. Spherical Aberration is more common to find in more complex lenses such as superzooms. In compound primes as this one they are usually not seen as much. Personally I don’t mind that effect much, it could be it is related to the use of an adapter or it could be intrinsic to this lens. The lens can come over slightly soft at F/2.8 maybe it is due to the same spherical aberrations. It seems that the lens doesn’t cope with light sources in the frame. On the other hand is contrast and color reproduction are good. There seems to be no distortion and vignetting. and the lens bokeh looks rather good if not fantastic.
Knockout victory – Minolta vs Volna
In the following i am going to compare the MC Volna-3 80 mm f/ 2.8 (LEFT) to Minolta 50mm f/1.4 (RIGHT) (stepped down to f/2.8). It is not going to be an in depth comparison but just an opinionated statement on the visual differences of two pictures which is taken with the same aperture. Sadly there is other factors such as taking the photos at the same time giving the same setting sun and a change in viewpoint not allowing the light to fall the same way on the subject. I am sorry I did not eliminate these factors and I have to admit that it impacts my argument to some extend.
With these obvious flaws in my comparison, I still think the message still stands clear.
- sharpness, there is no argument here, the Minolta is noticeably sharper than the Volna which comes over with a more soft expression.
- The color balance is slightly off on the left picture, yet the colors and dynamics seems far better on the Volna. The minolta gives a more contrasty color less play. I was debating the photo with my friend Claus Møller, and as he said Volna delivers what I understand as Minolta Colors.
- DOF and Bokeh, the DOF is sort ok at the minolta, honnie cubed bokeh, not really pleasing. Where the Minolta was ok, the Volna gives a epic result with a beautiful round the bokeh .
In this Juxtaposition am i trying to demonstrate the sharpness of the lens and how well it handles sidelight without a hood. Its clear to me that the coating of this lens is not up to modern lenses. the light coming in gives a flat expression to his face.
If you press on the the picture below it will take you to the Aarhus Pride where i used this lens.
Here is a few snaps from European culture capital 2017, the pictures is clickable and should take you to a high resolution edition.