I really love 50mm as a focal length and by now I have quite the collection of nice 50mm prime lenses. Fate (or GAS if you like) wanted it so that there will be three more members joining the family very soon.
Additionally, I made a decision that will change the world as you know it. Or maybe it won’t.
The decision that I made, however, was not to buy those lenses, my decision was to sell most of my collection after I’m done with the core of this blog (the comparison of vintage 50mm lenses).
My decision further included the crazy thought of using the money that I make selling all these lenses (I will likely keep some, I’m sure.) to buy a Monster McFifty. By now I’ve spent so much money on old 50mm lenses that I’m considering the following lenses to contain the one that ends up as my final accomplishment and therefore my “only” 50mm lens to be used:
Zeiss “Otus” Distagon 55mm f/1.4
I couldn’t even afford it if I sold all my 50mm lenses at a very good price, so it isn’t really a choice. But I would REALLY love it! Additionally, the fact that it comes with a native Canon mount and I therefore could focus, compose and shoot wide-open with the lens stopping down on its own would have me spend a little more over the others in my line-up.
Zeiss Jena Pancolar 55mm f/1.4
My favourite so far, because I adore the Pancolar 50mm f/1.8. Being such a rare lens, however, I’m not sure if the asking price is justified.
Leica Summilux-R 50mm f/1.4
Seems to be an amazing lens and way cheaper than its M-brothers and sisters while still not being an easily affordable lens.
Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 Ai-S
I could use this on my Nikon F2 which would be a plus. Also, I cannot sell the Nikkor if I don’t get this one as a replacement.
Carl Zeiss Ultron 50mm f/1.8
Overpriced if you ask me but I like special/rare stuff.
Olympus Zuiko Auto-S 50mm f/1.2
Finding information isn’t easy and I will have to wait what the f/1.4 behaves like to make up my mind.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM
Once the mk II of this lens is released the prices on the used market should go down to an acceptable level. I really love my 85L and like the image rendering of the 50L, however I feel like I’d be paying extra for the bad autofocus and getting a not-so-great manual focus in return.
Enough with the fantasies…
Who are the new kids on the block?
I will update this post with pictures and some first impressions as soon as the children arrive.
What are their names you wonder?
the first one is very important to me, because I’m still somewhat disappointed with its older brother:
Fuji Fujinon 50mm f/1.4 EBC
I bought the most recent version of this lens to compare it to my oldest version of it. Whereas my Fujinon 50mm f/1.4 is both radioactive and only single coated, the new version lacks the thoriated glass but sports the famous Fuji EBC multicoating. I expect this lens to outperform mine in both sharpness, color-fringing, contrast and maybe even color-rendition.
Got it for 100 bucks in great condition.
The lens came with a HAMA UV filter that I will most certainly never use, but because it has no lens cap yet, it serves as a cap for now.
The seller also included this beautiful metal lens hood that was originally intended for a 35mm lens (it says so on the hood itself) but I will definitely keep it for this lens.
Here are some pics:
As you can see, the lens is in mint condition. The focusing ring turns amazingly smooth and the aperture blades are great too. The build quality is stunning!
I really struggled with the coatings to take my picture.. Most of my images (I took 50!) ended up really weird and I realized too late that I used the macro lens (I tried with the 35mm this time) last time and I also had the lenses positioned more towards the camera with the umbrella close to the camera axis. For the last 15-20 pictures I tried to replicate the setup from last time wherein I also managed to break the umbrella swivels plastic fastener-knob.
I’m not 100% happy with the result, but it got late.
Here’s a side by side comparison with it’s older brother, the radioactive non-EBC coated Fujinon 50mm f/1.4:
I have one problem though: The aperture ring has a small protrusion that collides with my M42-adapter and thus is being prevented from turning at all when the adapter is installed. Also, the adapter can’t push the aperture pin down completely like this.
I will have to put a file on that little protrusion, as much as it hurts to think of it. (I prefer manipulating the adapters but it would need to be completely changed in shape for it to work.
Then there’s the one from the monastery (“Omm“) high up on the greek mountain of the gods:
Olympus OM-System G.Zuiko Auto-S 50mm f/1.4
This lens is among the cheapest 50mm f/1.4 you can find and there isn’t much talk about it being special at all. However, the tests usually conclude that it’s a hell of a sharp lens, very neutral and without any major faults.
I wanted one from the 1Mio serial numbers but I got outbid by a friggin’ eBay bot every single time. (2 sec before the end they outbid you by 50 cent, that’s not real!)
I didn’t get the 1,1 Mio version either and because I didn’t want to pay the moon-prices they currently ask on eBay (my limit is a hundred bucks per lens, give or take a dozen) I ended up buying an older one with a serial number at 700’000.
According to this great page here, I have bought a single coated lens but you obviously still can’t be absolutely sure because Olympus seems to have made quite a mess back in the days.
Now I’m very curious to find out whether I bought another soft lemon or if I’m about to be surprised.
I have to report that I was somewhat unlucky with my purchase. The first thing that struck me was that the lens cap fell of during transport (no need to panic like I did, the front element is free of scratches). However, the lens cap cannot be installed anymore (original Olympus cap) and thus leaves me with a total of 4 lenses without caps for now. They are not expensive, but it takes a long time for them to arrive.
Here’s a first image:
Looks great so far, really beautiful lens with the silver part and the orange numbers on the barrel. It’s extremely compact (comparison picture will be updated when I got all the new members to the family gathered.) and the focusing ring is a pleasure to use.
The bad things came when I started to inspect the lens more closely:
Firstly, the aperture ring seems to be designed for video use. It sits in the front of the lens (which is not a problem at all!) and the stops are NOT separated by actual clicks. I don’t know if this is normal with Zuiko lenses but I certainly don’t like it, because I cannot feel when I go from f/1.4 to f/2 and f/2.8.
Secondly, and I only spotted this by chance, when I looked at the lens with a somewhat darker background and a lot of light from top, the interior of the lens has a LOT of dust gathering to take over the world. There are also some oil specks on the glass, but those could also be some kind of fungus.
I therefore demanded a partial refund, because I paid a LOT of money for this lens, assuming that it was in a great condition (given that the multicoated version in mint condition usually sells at the same price). The seller did see my point and refunded me 20% of the price and I’m happy with that. I will try to add the Zuiko to my other vintage stuff that needs servicing.
Last but not least, the most expensive lens in my collection so far.
I first wanted to get the f/1.7 version as recommended by Dustin Abbott but then I had a major GAS-attack and ended up bidding 200 bucks on the faster one (shipping, customs and taxes raised the price by another 50 bucks, unfortunately).
Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 in Contax mount
Despite being a very high price for my usual budget, I got quite the bargain there, because usually this lens sells for 300 to 400 USD (according to dozens of sold articles on eBay) and mine is in a perfect condition!
In addition, I’ve read a lot of reviews and they seem to agree that the new Zeiss Planar 50/1.4 for Canon is both much more expensive and also a lot less sharp than the old Contax version despite being the exact same lens in a new casing.
I’m absolutely stoked to find out how this beauty performs.
I didn’t clean the lens prior to taking some pictures, sorry. Optically, it’s in a perfect condition and looks practically new, if you don’t mind the dust. The distance markings (feet) are in orange, however adjusting the White Balance with my greycard didn’t really result in a nice orange color. Let’s blame that on the Auto Rikenon with which I took the picture (maybe it will be the first one to fail the colour comparison test?).
The lens coatings are beautiful. No, they are absolutely amazing!
The handling of this lens is a pleasure! It’s built amazingly well and feels extremely solid.
The focus ring turns smoothly and the aperture ring is very nice too. The aperture ring is a little close to the camera body, but I had no issues reaching it so far.
I feel like the two of us will become very good friends!
25.09.2015 – Update:
Yes, it happened again.
After reading about Tomioka supposedly copying the Zeiss Jena Pancolar 55/1.4 back in the days and selling their lenses under various brand names (similar to what Samyang does these days) I simply had to get one to see for myself.
Therefore I just bought a
Ricoh Auto Rikenon 55mm f/1.4
I’m really curious to see how this performs and I will dig for more information as to what really is behind all these brand names and the optical design of this lens. If it really were a copy of the Pancolar, that would be awesome.
Here are two pictures taken with the Zeiss Planar T*:
On the outside, the lens is completely made of metal and you can see that it has been used. It reminds me of the Fujinon 50mm f/1.4 non-EBC, with the silver ring at the bottom and the green markings. It shares the same yellow-ish markings that aren’t quite white anymore.
This lens, too, has a very beautiful coating. It looks like pure gold and I really love it!
Great addition to my collection.
The lens is said to be extremely heavy, but it doesn’t really feel like it. Sure, it’s quite big, but it also requires the most glass of all my fifties. The focus ring turns extremely smooth but it’s a little too easy to turn, so you can easily mess up your focus if you aren’t careful. The aperture ring works really nicely too and the lens looks to be extremely sharp once stopped down a little.
EDIT: June 05. 2017
Last week, I took a Geiger counter to the Rikenon because I’ve been suspecting something for a long time now. When I first used the lens, it showed significant yellowing (+650K to the warm side) and the light transmission was off by a lot (-0.86 EV in fact, which relates to about f/1.9 instead of f/1.4). Also, curing the lamp under the Jansjö resulted in a complete removal of the colour cast and a slight improvement of light transmission as well.
Now I used a Geiger counter and did a quick check to realise that the rear element of the Rikenon is highly radioactive. I didn’t do any exact measurements and had no other lens with me to do a comparison, but the activity is higher than our radioactive samples at school.
I also bought a Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f/1.7, but unfortunately I cannot use that lens on the Canon DSLR.
I didn’t know that when I picked up the camera (a Konica Autoreflex T3) at the store, but at 10 bucks I didn’t bother to research it.
The camera/lens combo will probably end up as a cheapo film camera for someone who wants to join me to shoot/develop some film when I go out with my Nikon F2.
It’s a beautiful lens, very big and in a perfect condition!
The camera works fine, though the shutter cannot do slower than 1/60s anymore. It won’t close the curtain anymore. But hey, it was 10 bucks and the lens alone is worth 4 times that. Plus, it looks great on my shelf until someone uses it.
On a side note
Why do I long for such fast and expensive lenses? The internet is bursting with statements claiming that the f/1.8-version of lens X is superior to its f/1.4-version. It can be found for the Takumars, the Planars, the Zuikos and even the Nikkor.
I am aware of that and to some extent I even believe it. My tests so far turned out in favor of the Pancolar and the Color-Ultron 50/1.8 and the Takumar, Fujinon and Nikkor 50/1.4 lenses couldn’t quite keep up. Maybe the new members of the family will change this?
On the other hand, when you work in low light, f/1.4 can make all the difference over f/1.8 for image quality, when your camera handles okay at iso 800 but really sucks at iso 1’200 or higher what good are sharp corners when all detail is lost in the noise?
At f/5.6 and f/8 all these lenses are really sharp and they handle great on a tripod with loads of light and/or a static subject, but that’s not usually what you care for in a fast prime because the zoom lenses nowadays can match these qualities when stopped down.
Additionally, while the f/1.4 lenses usually aren’t that sharp in the corners (there’s more glass curvature and they didn’t change the optical formula. Look at the Otus and you’ll see what was needed to get a perfect f/1.4 lens: a Distagon, not Planar formula!) they are more than sharp enough in the center of the image. For me, being a portrait-guy that’s all I really care about.
As I have stated before, I will update this article as soon as I get my hands on the lenses and add pictures and first impressions. I will pick up the Fujinon and the Olympus next weekend and the Zeiss will arrive sometime in October coming from the US of A as does the Auto Rikenon. Adapters are already ordered and should arrive in October too.
Due to the fact that I have to spend the next 4 weeks in military service, I won’t be able to conduct much testing during the time to come, but I will make sure to bring along some of my lenses from time to time to capture the beauty of autumn. After all, I promised you a real-world-color-comparison.
I will probably redo some of my tests to include all of my lenses in the comparison. (There’s not much sense in trying to replicate my testing procedure because those aren’t simple lab tests)