Review: Lomography Neptune Lenses (Canon EF Mount Adapted to Sony FE)

Everywhere I went, folks were curious about the unconventional look of the Lomography Neptune Lenses.

When the Lomography Neptune Lenses were announced, I was sort of confused. They are simultaneously some of the weirdest lenses that I’ve ever used and amongst the most beautiful lenses that I’ve ever used. In some ways, I want to liken them to something like Zeiss lenses–except that they’re not as sharp (but you wouldn’t be able to tell unless you pixel peeped), have less contrast, more lens flare that I crave, none of the weather sealing, and they aren’t as fast. But if you really use the Neptune Lenses and simply just incorporate them into the way that you naturally work, you’ll be rewarded with image quality that is incredibly unique, versatile, and that you’re probably going to just get anyway if you sit there and apply some VSCO or RNI film presets to your images. But in this case, you won’t necessarily need to.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • All metal build quality
  • Lens flare
  • Various focal lengths
  • They’re sharp, but not contrasty
  • They do some beautiful things when the light hits just right
  • Small and lightweight
  • Sharp
  • No one can look terrible when you shoot their portrait

Cons

  • The base unit is a bit difficult to work with
  • Zone focusing is nearly impossible to figure out

Gear Used

We tested the Lomography Neptune Lenses with the Metabones Canon EF to Sony FE adapter and the Sony a7r III.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the Lomography page listing

Flawless Images at Three Fixed Focal Length

Each component is assembled by using the finest multi-coated glass and crafted to produce exceptionally sharp focus and strong, saturated colors. Inspired by Neptune’s moons, each focal length is determined by the proximity of their lens’ namesake to that distant, blue planet.

Thalassa: 35mm

Perfect for architecture, street and reportage. With a closest focusing distance of 0.25m, you can capture all the gritty details that make this beautiful planet we live on so captivating. Its optimal maximum aperture is f/3.5.

Despina: 50mm

Ideal for fashion, editorial and everyday photography. It comfortably captures everything from full-length portraits to editorial spreads and produces very little distortion. 50mm also produces delicate bokeh — particularly when fired at the largest aperture of f/2.8. Despina’s closest focusing distance is 0.4m.

Proteus: 80mm

80mm has a very shallow depth of field, meaning that it produces beautiful bokeh backgrounds perfect for framing portraits. Bypass the optimal largest aperture of f/4.0 to experiment with the blurred areas in your shot even more. Proteus has a closest focusing distance of 0.8m.

By simply mixing and matching the lens components, apertures and plates, you can adapt the Neptune Convertible Art Lens System to every shooting situation — whether street, fashion, nature, portraiture or just the beautiful simplicity of everyday life.

Compatibility

The Neptune Convertible Art Lens System is compatible with both digital and analogue cameras. It’s available in Canon EF, Nikon F and Pentax K mount, and compatible with a range of other cameras using adapters available from Lomography.

Technical Specifications

  • Mount type: Canon EF
  • Lens Focal length: 35mm, 50mm, 80mm, front lens group convertible
  • Front lens group mounting mechanism: bayonet mount
  • Aperture type: multi-scaled Diaphragm + drop in aperture plate
  • Multi-scaled diaphragm aperture: 35mm: extended and f/3.5 – f/22, 50mm: f/2.8 – f/22, 80mm: extended and f/4-f/22
  • Field of View: 35mm: 63°, 50mm: 46°, 80mm: 30°
  • Filter Thread: 52mm
  • Focusing Mechanism: Helicoid
  • Closest Focusing Distance: 0.25m (35mm), 0.4m (50mm), 0.8m (80mm)
    • Macro Adapter: 0.18m (35mm), 0.22m (50mm), 0.5m (80mm)
  • Lens Construction: Lens base: 3 elements in 3 groups, Front lens group: 4 elements in 4 groups for each focal length
  • Multi coating: Yes
  • Electronic Contacts: No
  • Lens body: Aluminum

Package includes

  • Lens Base
  • Front Lenses 35mm, 50mm, 80mm
  • Front and Rear Lens Caps
  • Macro Adapter
  • Manual and Photo Book
  • Lens Certification Card
  • Warranty Card
  • Cleaning Cloth
  • Lens Pouch
  • Six Special Aperture Plates

Ergonomics

The Lomography Neptune Lenses have a pretty unique look and functionality to them. Here’s just one lens in this image. It’s on the base unit and that unit is adapted to a Sony a7r III.

Here’s what the unit looks like with a lens attached. The unit has aperture control and focusing control. There are marking for the apertures and the focusing control is sort of all over the place. It makes no sense to me and this is probably where Lomo was just like “Screw it.” and didn’t know what they were doing themselves.

Here are two of the other optics. These attach onto the base unit. The base unit attaches to your camera or adapter. The optics are just that: lenses. Nothing else inside of them but glass.

The base unit contains the aperture. When you attach the various lenses, you’ll start to see the aperture stop down or open at different settings.

Build Quality

The Lomography Neptune Lenses don’t have weather sealing built into them, but they’re all made from metal. To boot, they’re still lightweight. The lens caps are screw based and all incredibly solid. The base unit, designed to contain the focusing and the aperture, are also made from metal. So unless you take them into the rain, I don’t think that I’d have any sort of issues with the build quality. At time, the connection to the base unit did feel a bit faulty, but perhaps that is because I’m used to working with super tight seals between certain lenses and the Sony a7r III. But if you compare it to Fujifilm or anyone else’s options, they’re about on par.

Ease of Use

Using the Lomography Neptune Lenses is honestly quite perplexing at times, but after a while you’ll get the hang of it. There is a base unit, said unit contains the focusing and aperture. To change the focal length, you basically just switch out the optic. So essentially what happens is that the base unit mounts onto your camera and then the optic mounts onto the base unit. To boot, each of them have their own different aperture settings. The aperture on the base unit starts pretty darned shallow at maybe around f2 or something. So if you attach the 80mm f4, and then turn the aperture ring, you won’t actually even start to see the aperture close until you get to f4 and go beyond this. Then if you mount the 50mmm f2.8, you’ll start to see the aperture close sooner.

Weird, right? Yeah, but it’s pretty cool. And most of the charm from these lenses come when you shoot them wide open or in this case, beyond wide open. You’ll get all sorts of gorgeous lens flares and overall beautiful moments. I strongly recommend the Lomography Neptune Lenses for video, but even more so for still photography.

Focusing

Focusing the Lomography Neptune Lenses is done manually. With the Sony a7r III, I decided to completely forego the focus peaking simply because it sucks on their full frame cameras. So instead, I just did magnification. I’d compose my scene, focus, magnify, touch up the focus, and shoot. It’s pretty simple if you’re not trying to capture the world around you. Instead, I think that these are more of a creator’s lens. The subject in front of you should be stagnant.

Don’t even try zone focusing, I couldn’t figure out how the system worked for that.

Image Quality

Now, the Lomography Neptune Lenses aren’t the sharpest options on the market, but they’re still pretty darned sharp overall. And in all honesty, I don’t think that that was their full intent. These lenses are more about their character. There is gorgeous bokeh, lens flare galore until you stop the aperture down, beautiful colors that are muted and not too saturated, and overall there is charm. In some ways, I highly doubt that most folks wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between these lenses and those from other manufacturers when stopped down to f5.6 and when not pixel peeping. But what you’ll see otherwise are when shot wide open, you’ll get the most character from them.

Bokeh

I’m going to let the images speak for themselves here. The bokeh is beautiful, creamy, dreamy, and absolutely delightful. It’s almost impossible to make a subject look bad here. The bokeh also isn’t contrasty like Zeiss, Rokinon or other options. Instead, you’ll just get some sharp subjects popping out of the scene and nice bokeh behind them.

Chromatic Aberration

Yes, it’s there. There is slight purple fringing, but it’s very controlled overall. There is lens flare, but that’s part of the charm here. I’m completely smitten with it!

Color Rendition

The colors from the Lomography Neptune Lenses are muted and gorgeous. When you combine your shooting methods with white balancing to film, you’re going to get some jaw dropping images. Some of my favorite moments are when shooting backlit subjects. You get this color that simply just pops off the screen and then when you combine it with the lens flare and the bokeh, there’s nothing that you can really complain about.

Sharpness

Have I seen sharper lenses? Yes. Are these not sharp? These lenses have to be Lomography’s sharpest options designed for 35mm full frame sensors. They have lenses on their Instax cameras that have sharper optics, but these are really nice.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Set of three lenses
  • Bokeh
  • Lens flare
  • Build quality
  • Character

Dislikes

  • Base unit could be easier to operate

The Lomography Neptune Lenses are fantastic in pretty much every way. They’re designed for the photographer that wants a completely different look in camera and can reliably depend on their skill sets in-camera when shooting. They have a character that most other lenses don’t have and they’re built so incredibly well. I’m not one to sit there and become hypnotized at bokeh, but these have some sort of voodoo magic about them. Need them to be sharp? Just stop them down. Need that character? Open the aperture up. They have everything one could possibly want.

The base unit is a bit difficult to wrap your head around and I’m not sure why these aren’t natively made for mirrorless cameras to begin with. But if you’re a Canon or Nikon or Pentax user, then grab one. Otherwise, be sure that you’ve got an adapter.

The Lomography Neptune Lenses are being awarded our Editor’s Choice title and five out of five stars.