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Review: The Handevision Iberit 35mm F2.4 is a budget option for Leica users

Handevision Iberit 35mm F2.4 (Leica M-mount)
$640 (~$600 in Fujifilm X / Sony E-mount)
www.handevision.com

I've been curious about Handevision's small range of Iberit primes since Dan and I saw them in person at last year's CP+ show in Yokohama. Street prices for the lenses range between $640-800 for 24mm, 35mm, 75mm, and 90mm primes in Leica M-mount, and a little less for Fujifilm X and Sony E-mount versions, making them relatively affordable by the standards of all three systems.

Designed in Germany and made in China ('Handevision' is a portmanteau term - ‘Han’ signifies 'China' in Mandarin, while the following two letters ‘De’ represent the first two letters of 'Deutschland') the Iberit line is intended to be a low-cost alternative to 'own-brand' lenses and established third-party primes, for photographers dipping their toes into manual focus photography.

Key specifications:

  • Focal length: 35mm
  • Format: Full-frame (Leica M, Fujifilm X, Sony E-mount)
  • Manual focus
  • Aperture range: F2.4-16 (In 1/2 stops)
  • Filter thread: 49mm
  • Close focus: 0.7m (0.35m for E/X-mount versions)
  • Hood: Included, bayonet
  • Length / Diameter: 35 / 58mm (1.4 / 2.3in)
  • Weight: 220g (7.7oz)
  • Optical construction: 6 elements in 6 groups

Since I tend to shoot mostly at 35mm, I was most interested in the Iberit 35mm F2.4. So when I found a used copy in Leica M mount in my local camera store recently I decided to take a chance and buy it, mostly out of curiosity. If it turned out to be really good, maybe it would find a place in my permanent camera kit. If it ended up being a dud, I had 30 days to return it for a refund.

Design and handling

Of course, when it comes to lenses, things aren't that simple. Most lenses shine in some situations and fail in others. Few are stunning at every aperture at every focal distance, and even fewer can shine in every environment in which they could possibly be used – lens design, after all, is an exercise in compromise. And while I was very curious about the Iberit 35mm F2.4 after handling the roughly-machined prototypes at CP+ last year, I will admit that my expectations were modest.

The Iberit 35mm F2.4 can be 6-bit coded to be read as whatever lens you like, with the addition of some dabs of black and white paint into the pre-engraved spaces on the lens mount.

It's up to you how (or if) you choose to code the Iberit but the Leica Summarit 35mm F2.5 is closest in terms of specification. The 6-bit code is 101011 (1 = black, 0 = white) when the code is positioned at 12 o'clock.

Here I've filled in the black spots with craft paint, as an example. The chrome of the lens mount stands in for white because I'm lazy.

Cosmetically, the Iberit 35mm F2.4 (or my copy, at least) is a lot better than those early prototypes. The focus helicoid operates with an impressive smoothness – not quite up there with a new Leica or Zeiss prime but nicely-damped and with no wobble. An integrated focus tab is a welcome addition to the M-mount version of the lens.

The Iberit's aperture dial is a little dry and could use stiffer detents at its 1/2 stop settings, but it moves between apertures positively enough that I can tell what I'm doing when operating it with my eye to the viewfinder. The lens coatings are bright and even, and nothing rattles when the lens is shaken.

This image shows the view through the Leica M10's finder with the Iberit at its close focus position. As you can see, it intrudes considerably on the lower-right of the scene, even without a hood.

As you can also see, Carey is a man who enjoys his lunch.

Considering its relatively modest maximum aperture this is a big lens though, (especially by the standards of M-mount primes) and while nicely balanced on an M10, it does block a portion of the camera's viewfinder – even without the hood attached. Obviously this won't be a problem with the mirrorless versions.

I didn't experience any problems with focus accuracy or focus shift - at least none that I can blame on the lens

Despite its low cost and fairly light (220g) weight, there is some brass inside the 35mm. This is most visually obvious in the focusing cam, which communicates focus distance mechanically to the camera's rangefinder. My sample of the Iberit is perfectly calibrated on our M10 (ie., the camera's rangefinder and lens's markings agree at infinity). Throughout my shooting with this lens, I didn't experience any problems with focus accuracy or focus shift – at least none that I can blame on the lens.

The mirrorless versions doesn't need the complicated and precisely-calibrated mechanical focus cam mechanism, which probably explains their slightly lower cost.

Image quality

Optically, the Iberit 35mm F2.4 pleasantly surprised me. At F5.6 and F8, this lens is at least as sharp as anything else I regularly shoot with on the M10. There is some very modest vignetting at F2.4-2.8 but it's barely noticeable in normal photography, even with no lens profile assigned. Barrel distortion can be found if you go looking for it, but it's unlikely to trouble you except in close-up images of flat planes (i.e., test charts).

The M10's built-in 35mm F2 (pre-ASPH) profile applies little or no noticeable distortion correction, so this image (shot at F4) is essentially 'uncorrected'. As you can see, with a medium-distance subject, there's virtually no distortion to correct.

For the sake of convenience, I manually assigned a 35mm F2 pre-aspherical profile in-camera (the v4 'bokeh king' to be specific), so I could organize my files more easily in Lightroom, but if you want to, you can paint in whatever 6-bit code you like (see the table above for how to do that).

Barrel distortion is trivial to correct manually in Photoshop or Lightroom

The closest lens to the Iberit's specification in Leica's current lineup is the Summarit 35mm F2.5 and painting in this 6-bit code leads to effective correction of the Iberit's close-range barrel distortion when the M10's lens profiling setting is left on 'Auto'. If you don't want to go that route (and I would probably recommend you don't, given the lack of distortion at normal subject distances), the barreling is trivial to correct manually in Photoshop or Lightroom.

Handevision Iberit 35mm F2.4: Sample Images

Central sharpness at infinity is decent at F2.4, and good by F2.8, becoming more even at F4, before reaching its full potential at F5.6, with good consistency across the frame and more than enough resolving power to create moiré in fine textures. Wide open though, there's a significant dip in sharpness about two-thirds of the way across the frame, which suggests either complex field curvature or significant astigmatism in that region. At close focusing distances of less than ~1m the Iberit is still capable of resolving plenty of detail wide open, but contrast drops. If you've ever shot arm's length portraits on a Fujifilm X100-series camera you'll be familiar with the effect.

Shot almost straight into the sun without a hood at F5.6, this image demonstrates the Iberit's impressive resistance to flare. The lens's simple 6-bladed aperture creates pretty boring specular highlights (take a look at the sunlight sparkling on the water in the foreground) but CA and fringing are practically non-existent.

Flare is well-controlled, and bokeh wide open is reasonably smooth in the center, although things can get pretty busy and distracting depending on what's in the background, especially towards the edges of the frame. The Iberit's simple 6-bladed aperture is more or less circular until around F3.5 before becoming more angular when stopped down. Sunstars are (unsurprisingly given there are only six aperture blades) not among the lens' strengths.

Conclusion

In summary, the Handevision Iberit 35mm F2.4 is a good lens, which offers solid performance on the Leica M10. It's relatively sharp in the middle and at the edges of the frame wide open, but not to the point you'd expect from even cheap modern lenses with even faster apertures like the Nikon full-frame 35mm F1.8G. Modern lens design has moved optics forward, naturally. But the Iberit is still a pleasant surprise for non bokeh-fanatics.

It's very sharp across the frame by F5.6. Vignetting is negligible, distortion is simple and easy to deal with, and I can't see lateral CA anywhere in my test shots, even with all profiling turned off. There's a tiny bit of longitudinal CA that shows up as green and purple fringing wide open, but it's never distracting. Flare was a non-issue in my shooting, which made me happy, because I don't much like the Iberit's bulky bayonet-mount hood.

By the standards of lenses made natively for the Leica M mount, the Iberit is something of a bargain

In terms of performance, by the standards of lenses made natively for the Leica M mount, the Iberit is something of a bargain, provided you can live with its size. This is my only serious complaint. For a rangefinder lens, the Iberit is big, with a large 49mm threaded filter ring. In fact while markedly lighter, it's not that much smaller than Leica's 35mm F1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE and only about a filter's height shorter than the 28mm F2 ASPH. Considering it can be picked up new for a fraction of those lens' MSRP though, I can live with it.

Shot from about 1m away, wide-open, this image demonstrates the Iberit's rather busy bokeh. Specular highlights get progressively less circular, further away from the center of the image.

The value proposition on mirrorless is rather different. $600 is a lot to pay for a manual focus lens from a fairly obscure third-party manufacturer, when so many other options for X-mount and E-mount exist. Canon's 35mm F2 IS, for example, is easily adaptable to Sony E-mount without significant penalty, and actually costs a little less than the Iberit (not including the cost of a smart adapter, of course...). Sony also makes an FE 35mm F2.8 that will set you back $599 and an E 35mm F1.8 OSS for $450, while Fujifilm's 35mm F2 is available for under $400.

Ultimately, for photographers putting together an M-mount lens collection on a film or digital rangefinder body, the Iberit 35mm F2.4 is worth a serious look. I found mine used and in good condition for less than $300. It's hard to find any (functional) M-mount glass for that price, even second-hand. For mirrorless ILC photographers though, better value options exist.

What we like:

  • Good standard of construction
  • Pre-milled 6-bit coding pattern
  • Decent central sharpness wide open (becoming excellent across the frame at F5.6-8)
  • Practically no vignetting and CA, minimal distortion at normal subject distances
  • Resistant to flare

What we don't

  • Large (for an M-mount 35mm lens): partially blocks M10's viewfinder
  • Soft off-axis wide open (before sharpening up again towards the edges)
  • Busy bokeh at wide apertures (especially towards the edges of the frame)
  • Distortion at close distances
  • Slight softness at close distances
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