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Gear Reviews: Avenon 21mm F2.8



The Avenon 21mm F2.8 – A low cost, fast wide angle lens.


Little much is actually known about this lens. I’ve only come across it when it was introduced by my shooting buddy & mentor, Ben Tay. I think what really catches everyone’s eye on the Avenon 21mm would be the original finder that comes with it. Check out the size of the diameter of the finder:


If you embarrassingly forgot how to read Vernier Calipers, a video guide here.


Seriously mind blowing huge compared to the view finders on the market at the moment. I think the only large view finder I’ve seen on a Rangefinder Camera would be the view finder for the Mamiya Ultra Wide Angle 43mm F4.5 lens.


Generally I am leaning towards wide angles for my genre of photography, street photography. Prior to the Avenon 21mm F2.8, I was using a 35mm lens for street photography. I’ve also had a Voigtlander Super-Wide Heliar 15mm F4.5 Aspherical lens.


I felt that the 35mm gave me what I wanted to capture on the street but it wasn’t wide enough to actually see what is going on in the background of the subject. I’ve tried the 15mm for street as well, it really gave me the background coverage which I really liked but I found myself to me on the verge of bumping & running people down as 15mm was really wide & I had to get close up for a shot.


So, with those thoughts in mind, I set out to acquire a 21mm lens which would satisfy my needs. Being a budget constraint shooter, I generally go for the lens which would be the best value for money performer. I narrowed myself down to 3 choices. They were the Voigtlander Color-Skopar 21mm F4, Leica Super Angulon 21mm F4 or F3.4 & the Avenon 21mm F2.8.
It was quite a straight forward cut for me to choose the Avenon. The Leica was costly & still slower than the Avenon. As for Voigtlander, it was a slower than the Avenon as well & it didn’t look as good as the exotic Avenon in silver chorme.


The Avenon was know as many other brands when it was marketed overseas. It was made in Japan by Y.K. Optical, a small Yokohama, Japan based independent lens manufacturer. The lens had:
- 8 elements in 6 groups
- Aperture at F22-F2.8, aperture clicks at full stops
- 6 blades
- Filter diameter of 58mm
- Rangefinder coupled
- Minimum focusing distance of 1 meter
- Leica thread mount / LTM / M39 / L39


Of course there was a couple of variations through time. The Avenon generally came in silver chrome. The most prominent variation would be the Millennium Avenon 21mm F2.8 which came in black. It featured aperture clicks at half F stops, minimum focusing distance of 0.75 meters. I believe that there was a couple of variants in M mount as well.


It did take me quite awhile to acquire this lens. I had quite a hard time hunting them down. Posted “Want To Buy” adverts on forums, begged a couple of friends to sell their copies, I even had one of our very own RFSG’s members, scouring the streets of Tokyo hunting down the Avenon.
Finally, I found it in re-known Champagne Court, Hong Kong. It was a collector’s piece. It had everything from original caps for the view finder down to warranty cards with matching serial number. I jumped for it & secured the lens.


First impressions on the lens, I would say that it is really well made, not Leica kind of well made by definitely better build than the current Voigtlander/Zeiss lenses made by Cosina. I would say, on par with the Konica Hexar RF’s K-M lenses.
I love the build of the lens, it is 58mm in diameter which makes turning the focusing ring really comfortable & it does not protrude too long in length. At infinity, the lens length should be 35mm from the mount. The Avenon lenses were all well known to be handmade.

At F8, the lens covers the minimum focusing distance of 1 meter to infinity.
As for the performance of the lens, here are a few quotes from various sources:


Camera Quest
“This is a modern rangefinder coupled multi-coated Japanese optic which will probably outperform most examples of the 21/4 Super Angulon.”


British Journal of Photography (November 6, 1996)
“At least the equal of the 21/4.5 Biogon which is sometimes found converted for the Leica, and is considerably better than either of the [Leica] Super Angulons (f/4 and f/3.4)”


Shutterbug (July 1999)
“Produced very sharp images at all apertures… excellent performance for lenses in this focal length range… very well made… you can use these lenses wide-open with confidence”


Now, we come to the obnoxiously huge view finder. It is well build like the lens, solid nice feel. As for the size wise, acquired taste I suppose. Some find it ugly, some find it sexy & eye catching. I guess if it is too huge for your liking, you could just buy a Voigtlander 21/25mm external viewfinder to replace it.
As for the glass optics & brightness of the viewfinder, don’t expect it to be tip top. The original finder, sadly, flares & although the glass is clear & clean, it seems like you are looking through haze. I guess Y.K Optical really did went down on budget for the view finder glass, which is quite a pity, considering the lens is such a fine piece.


Ever since I’ve acquired the Avenon 21mm F2.8, it has been my workhorse, shooting non stop with just one lens. On my last photography trip, I shot Nepal entirely on the Avenon 21mm F2.8 for 11 days straight with RFSG Team Everest.


I love the perspective it captures, you get the dramatic wide look up close to your subjects but still with a wide berth to see what is going on in the background as well.
Of course, wider means going nearer to your subject which might be quite uncomfortable for some photographers to be so close up front to their subjects. But for me, the 21mm focal length has been very engaging when shooting subjects. Depth of field on the lens is just so sweet. Wide open at F2.8, I’m still able to cover a zone focus depth of 1.5 meters to 3 meters, which is fantastic, the camera becomes a point & shoot. You are quicker on the street because focusing issues are taken off your mind, just set your exposure right & you are good to rock.

If you are up for a 21mm lens at F2.8, I would suggest giving the Avenon a go. To me, I think it is the most affordable & value for money 21mm F2.8 lens at the moment. Considering the sum of money I paid for it including the viewfinder, I would not be able to get a Zeiss ZM 21mm F2.8, Leica Elmarit 21mm F2.8 (my dream lens) or Leica Super Angulon 21mm F4 / F3.4
The 21mm point of view isn’t the easiest lens to be shooting street photography with but once you get the hang of it, that is where the fun really starts.

Here is a couple of links for more information on the Avenon 21mm F2.8:


Kuroneko Camera
Camera Quest
Dante Stella
Kobalux.com compatibility list
Video review from Mijonju

Here are some shots taken by my Avenon 21mm F2.8:



Review contributed by Gary Wang


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