The lovely Lydith lens – a German classic

When Hugo Meyer founded his optical works in 1896 in the town of Gorlitz, little did he know that many of his lenses, including the wide-angle Lydith lens, would become cult classics in the years following the digital camera revolution. These days, Meyer-Optik Gorlitz lenses are very popular amongst legacy lens enthusiasts and often go for high prices on well-known auction sites. After 1971, Meyer lenses were branded as Pentacon.

The Lydith 30mm 3.5 lens is not a fast lens. Nor is it especially resistant to flare, due to the early glass coating methods in place at the time of manufacture. But what it lacks in speed and light dispersion qualities, it makes up for in acuity and sharpness. This is the Exakta mount Lydith lens on my Olympus EM5 camera (they also come in M42 mount):

Lydith 30mm lens on Olympus OMD EM5 body

Lydith 30mm lens on Olympus OMD EM5 body

The Lydith lens is well made and solid, but not overly heavy, and the zebra pattern adorning the aperture and focus rings make it an attractive lens. The wide 30mm focal length translates to a normal 60mm field of view on Micro Four Thirds, and a 45mm equivalent field of view on APS-C sensor cameras.

We recently went on a trip to the tiny town of Auburn here in South Australia; a quaint settlement on the edge of the famous Clare Valley. Here are some photos:

Lydith lens - sharpness

Lydith lens – sharpness

The image above displays the centre sharpness of the Lydith. On a crop sensor like Micro Four Thirds, the sharpness of the lens will be immeditealy apparent due to the fact that the sensor uses only the centre area of the lens. Using such a crop sensor camera with old lenses like this is an advantage if you’re the kind of photographer to whom sharpness is very important.

Lydith lens - 30mm 3.5 - Auburn, South Australia

Lydith lens – 30mm 3.5 – Auburn, South Australia

Whilst the Lydith is not especially fast, with 3.5 being the widest aperture, it still produces some pleasant and smooth out of focus areas. Once again, the sharpnes of the glass is presented here, and edge acuity is impressive even on a moderately backlit subject at even the widest aperture of 3.5. There is also no chromatic aberration to speak of from the 5 element Lydith in these samples. These photos are all straight out of the camera on the Natural colour preset, without additional processing.

Lydith lens - bokeh

Lydith lens – bokeh

Lydith 30mm 3.5 - pretty in pink

Lydith 30mm 3.5 – pretty in pink

The bokeh could be considered distracting, but there’s enough subject seperation to make it acceptable I think. It’s smooth enough, and background highlights are well rounded. The 10 bladed iris helps in this area. Sharpness is definitely the most compelling feature of this lens.

Meyer Lydith - Auburn SA

Meyer Lydith – Auburn SA

I’ve recently acquired a cheap Samsung NX200 camera ($100 would you believe!), so it will be interesting to see the character of the Lydith on an APS-C digital camera body.

The Lydith is one of my favourite lenses. Despite not being fast, it more than makes up for it with impressive centre sharpness and contrast. The photos straight out of the camera display pleasing natural colours, good contrast and excellent acuity and sharpness. It may not be one of the most sought after Meyer lenses, but there’s certainly a lot to like about it.

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