50mm Lens comparison II – Overview

6 thoughts on “50mm Lens comparison II – Overview”

  1. I’m excited about this test. I also own some of them: the Tessar, Pancolar (newer black version without thoriatium and yellow tint), Planar (though f/1.7) and Helios. I use them on a Sony A6000 for portraits. Yet, I don’t know which to keep. I only tested the Tessar extensively and it’s very good in the fields, although my model produces heavy haze on bright surfaces wide open to f/4. Maybe I should get a different copy. With the Helios one really need an eye on the bokeh to avoid distraction there. I’ll continue my testing during the holidays.

    Merry Christmas

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    1. If you like clean performance, the Planar is a keeper. I really love the character the Helios brings along though, so I will keep mine.

      The Tessar was bad in all my tests so far..


      1. I used all lenses a little bit more over the holidays and it’s still very difficult to decide. All produce very good images but there’re also very little differences in every-day usage (eg. general rendering, colors). When it comes to edge-cases, there you see differences. But there’s not on single superior lens but every one has its own strengths and lows.

        For example, the Planar is super sharp wide open, which makes it very easy to focus (I open the aperture, focus manually with magnification and close aperture to the desired DOF). But OOF backgrounds can be very busy. The Helios is a great lens for portraiture with unsharp corners and nice bokeh rendering (due to the 8 blade aperture). But you always have to keep an eye on your background. It’s also not very sharp wide open, prone to veiling haze and flares a lot. However, the glare (low contrast in backlight) is quite nice. And it’s not a general purpose lens because of the poor corner performance and build quality is also nowhere near the Zeiss lenses. The Pancolar sits somewhere in-between them: not as near as sharp as the Planar wide open but doesn’t get too busy in the background and is significant larger than the others. In comparison with the others, it lacks a little bit purpose. The Tessar however has a very nice rendering, unobtrusive OOF areas, quite resistant against flare, has nice glare, nice color rendering in low light … but slow and (at least my copy) has strong veiling haze up to f/4-5.6.

        So we have the clean sharpness-king, a portraiture specialist, a character lens and a jack of all trades but master of none – for now. I have to do some side-by-side comparisons to get a more concrete feeling about colors, rendering, edge cases and stuff.

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      2. Your findings don’t overlap with mine that much. Although I agree about the bokeh rendering on the Planar, the Pancolar and Voigtländer both beat my 1.4 wide open. But I’ve heard a lot of good things about the 50/1.7 so I’d probably keep that one.

        On the other hand, my Pancolar is very compact and so far the most fun lens to use.

        My Helios is really sharp wide open, and stopped down delivers stunning landscapes, but sample variation was extreme.. And my Tessar.. Well, never mind that one.

        I’ll get two more Helioses (silver with 13 blades and a new 44-2 version) and will do a comparison of these.


      3. Yes, sample variation is an issue with these old lenses. I read, you have troubles with some of yours as well. Maybe/surely that affects the image as well.

        And the F/1,7 Planar is completely different to the F/1,4 and the Voigtlander 1.8. I bought it intentionally instead of the F/1,4. Maybe it’s also a future candidate for your list.

        I’m exited about the other Helios’ and interested to read about the differences. I just bought any copy, didn’t even know the version from memory now, and didn’t read much about different renderings of each version. Let’s see.

        I found a 13-blade Tessar the other day on eBay but very old. I also think the heavy haze on my Tessar copy is not normal (otherwise its nickname “Eagle eye” would be a joke). But I didn’t managed to figure out a proper copy (Early or later versions? Export version?). I even contacted a Carl Zeiss Jena specialized dealer on eBay but he couldn’t answer my questions too. Maybe I’m just a little bit more picky about haze, CA and flare as I don’t find it easy to remove, and am not a fan of super-thin DOF, bokeh for bokeh-reason and use them on APS-C as a short telephoto lens. For me, character and depth is much more important. Do you plan a dedicated test on depth/volume/3D-pop rendering? IMO that’s the part where the wheat separates from the chaff.

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