Welcome to part #6 of Vintage Lens Jeopardy. Today I am taking a look at the Weltblick 35mm F3.5 moderate wide angle lens for M42 mount. I really like the 35mm viewing angle for street and city shots. This also means that I have a sizable collection of 35mm lenses. This one is without a doubt the worst one I have tried. I did pay 10€ including shipping for it. Come to think of it I almost paid more for shipping than for the lens. And it came in a nice box with quality bubble foil which I can reuse. Maybe that is worth the money.
Apologies for the lack of actual city and street photos. As I am writing this we are still under lockdown and the city center is under mask mandate. Not only do I have strong objections against those mandates but I can’t bear the depressed empty downtown area right now. So more images from the beautiful parks then.
“Weltblick” was a store brand for the German mail order company “Neckermann“. The company no longer exists but the brand is being kept in use by rival retailer “Otto”. The brand “Weltblick” was used for cameras, lenses and other optical gear like binoculars or telescopes. The “Neckermann” company sourced these lenses mostly from Japan and little is known about the actual manufacturers. While researching for this article I found a couple of reviews (mostly in German) either praising the surprising quality or cursing “Weltblick” lenses as just another dud. Considering the fact that I like obscure store brands I had to grab a “Weltblick” lens. Unfortunately vintage “Neckermann” catalogues are rare online so I have neither the original retail price nor any catalogue images.
Weltblick 35mm F3.5
There are several versions of this lens. Mine is the latest version found here. It was probably introduced in the late 1970s or 1980s. According to the serial number my copy might have been manufactured in 1982. The use of ribbed control rings instead of leather or rubber and the overall construction feels very 1980s. It reminds me of my Pentacon lenses from the same era. From what I could gather this lens was made by Tomioka which produced some quality lenses but also cheap stuff for US and European store brands.
The lens itself is solidly built but does not feel premium in any way. It is mostly metal and the markings are infilled etchings. The control rings are small and sit very close together. In fact the lens itself is small and moderately light with 68mm in length and about 200g in weight. It does not show anywhere on the lens but the filter thread is a weird 46mm. This lens has no aperture pin but instead comes with an aperture preselector ring. Now that is an interesting construction. The top most ring presets the aperture in full stops. The ring below then opens and closes the aperture blades. Turning it fully clockwise closes the aperture and vice versa. This was quite useful on old film SLRs without any aperture control mechanism. The user could preset the aperture and keep it fully opened to have a nice bright viewfinder for composing and focus. Before releasing the shutter the user just twists the control ring to stop down the lens and shoots.
Before that people had to either compose stopped down with a dark viewfinder or manually set the aperture after composing. How useful this system was in practice is debatable as this lens only has six aperture stops which could be memorized easily. I know for sure that this preset aperture mechanism is a terrible nuisance on digital cameras. Most digital cameras are now mirrorless. Instead of looking through the lens the user looks at a digital viewfinder, a screen so to speak. Depending on the settings used this viewfinder tries to present a properly exposed image. Essentially a “what you see is what you get” design. No matter the set aperture the viewfinder keeps the same brightness which makes it quite difficult to know if the aperture is now open or closed. The ring turns very easily too so I always I have to check if it is in the correct position. Something made difficult by the ring having no markings at all. If you close the aperture you have to move the second ring too. If you open it up it turns back automatically. It is very inconvenient and I would rather have a normal aperture ring. Even if I were to shoot film cameras. There is one upside though. You can preset the aperture to the lowest value and then use the second ring to smoothly control the blades without any clicks. This would be ideal for videographers.
The control rings are nothing to write home about. The focus ring is a bit stiff and uneven but still perfectly usable. The aperture ring has clear and noticable clicks but feels like ratchet toy for children. The second aperture ring is very thin and spins way too easy. Just carrying the camera over the shoulder will inevitably move the aperture control. This ring turns maybe 30 degrees and should be considered like an on/off switch. I wish it would click in place. The focus ring turns about 55 degrees which is a bit on the short side for accurate focusing at F3.5
Image Quality and Samples
The lens has actually quite acceptable color rendition, natural with a slightly warmish tinge. The film simulation used here is more on the desaturated side but I feel that the greens come out nicely. The image looks slightly distorted to my eye though.
Another nature shot. The out of focus areas on the left and right are alright. I had sunlight shining in from an angle into the lens but I got no flares or ghosting. A slight loss of contrast though. The front element is somewhat recessed into the lens body. That certainly helps. Colors are a bit flat so a hood might have been good idea. But with a 46mm thread none of my hoods would fit.
This kind of shot is where one can use the quirks of this lens for good effect. The statue is reasonably sharp with the soft edges leading the eye to the subject. The head is not really in focus but I wanted to show the heavy vignetting of the lens wide open.
I took this one while waiting for a friend. The barrier tape in front of the café captures the current situation and mood quite well. Only the Portra160 film simulation makes the image look kind of pleasant. Even at F8 the corner to corner sharpness is pretty weak. I posted this one on Instagram already.
Let’s look at this lens wide open. Center sharpness on the flat sign is decent. But the out of focus areas are atrocious. Almost like the swirley bokeh of a famous Helios 44 lens but somewhat uglier. I like the image though. It looks sinister and post-apocalyptic. The background seems so disturbingly rendered. It does work on this image but more often than not the this optical quality is a detriment and not a useful feature.
The ubiquitous mask. Again shot wide open this time against the flat ground. You can clearly see the heavy vignetting and terrible corner sharpness. I know that especially wide angle lenses are prone to vignetting but 35mm is barely wide angle especially for a 1980s lens. It is not even a very fast lens with a F3.5 aperture. But again the flaws work for this image. I would have liked to get closer but the minimum focusing distance is 80cm. This is just awful. All my other 35mm lenses have a minimum focus of at least 50cm some even go down to 30cm. This takes away a lot of creative options.
This wooden cow is a favorite on the playground. Kids love to sit on it were it not too high. The lens does not work for this. The corners and the out of focus area behind are distracting too my eye.
A cheap lens all around. There is no reason to buy this lens over any other 35mm lens except for people like me who actually like bad and obscure lenses. It can be made to work for certain subjects especially when pared with flat backgrounds or against the sky. It might be useful for making the viewer focus on the center 1/3 or 2/3 of the frame. For general photography the lens simply underperforms in terms of sharpness, vignetting and bokeh. The color rendition is alright though. A big negative is the aperture preselector. What was once (maybe) useful on film SLRs is now just annoying on mirrorless cameras. The optical properties would (maybe) make me keep this lens for special shots like the sign post or statue but the aperture mechanism and unimpressive minimum focus distance did annoy me so much that this lens will need to find a new owner.
What makes me wonder is that this lens was marketed towards low budget consumers. It already was a slow lens at F3.5, it has no coatings and it simply does not deliver as a general purpose lens. Sure one can use this creatively but the potential buyers just wanted something wider than the usual 50mm that they got with their camera. And these kind of buyers would probably take vacation shots with it. Something this lens is definitely not suited for. Maybe they could have omitted the preselected aperture mechanism in favor of a slightly better optical formula. Compared to the really cheap kit lens Porst 55mm F2.8 this one is worse. Even the Eximar 28mm F2.8 is more usable at least stopped down at F8. In fact I kind of regret selling the latter one.
– small, lightweight, solid construction
– quirks and flaws can be used for some effect
– natural color rendition with slightly warm tinge
– heavy vignetting
– terrible corner sharpness
– annoying aperture control for modern cameras
– impractical minimum focus distance of 80cm