Noctilux, Canon, and the Mitakon 0.95’s… Holy Crap that’s fast… Part II of the Fast Fifties.

Mitakon-08681
At just under $900, the Mitakon is the only cost effective choice.
Mitakon-08685
Leica Noctilux, 0.95 Leica feel, Leica Price….
Mitakon-08686
The oldest member of the group and maybe the most legendary, Canon 0.95, 50mm, converted to M mount.

The “Noct”, the “Dream”, the “Dark Knight.” These are the fastest full frame lenses available that aren’t limited in some way (fixed focus, gazillion dollars, limited prod) .  I’ve gathered them together and will attempt to get them on a level playing field.  Many will shout the Mitakon Dark Knight is the only reasonable option! It is the only native FE mount. Will that make a difference?  Is $10,000 (6,852,000 Somalians) too much for night vision?  Is the “dream” a nightmare at 5k?

This is part two of my blog about fast 50 lenses.   “All the tests and pictures here are done on the Sony A7r.  It’s 36.4 megapixel sensor is demanding and shakes out anything not worthy.  With the exception of some wide angle M mount lenses mentioned in previous articles, that suffer from severe vignetting and color fringing(that don’t perform on A7r), lenses that work on the 7r, perform great on the other 7 series cameras.  These gems are not exceptions.

The Big Three 0.95's
The Canon, Leica and Zhongyi, from left to right(order of sexiness!)

The Mitakon weighs the most of the three at 720g, followed by the Noctilux (700g) and the Canon (605g).  None of the trio is lightweight.  There is a price for the large aperture.   The Noctilux is the only one of the three that has aspherical elements and a rear floating element.  The Mitakon has 10 elements in 7 groups(extra glass explains +grams), the Noct, 8/5 and the Canon 7/5.  Mitakon contains 4 extra low dispersion elements, the Noctilux has 5 partial dispersion lenses.  The Mitakon will focus in half the distance of the others at 1/2 meter.  The Noctilux does come in Silver.  The Canon originally was in a bayonet mount particular to the Canon 7 camera.  My copy was converted to Leica M mount by KevinCamera

Those of you familiar with the last blog will recognize a similar test studio.  I shot three apertures, 0.95, 2.8 and f/11 in the studio.   Two remote locations, Auburn Regional Park(CA) and Nevada City, CA for real world photos.  All the photos I took will be available on Flickr, but the really important ones will follow.

BOKEH

Dream Lens-08699
The Canon exhibits bell shaped orbs…which are common to Canon lenses of this era.
Mitakon-08700
The most clinical of the three, the “Dark Knight” is still very pleasant.
Noctilux-08698
The Leica has remarkable feel in both shape and presentation.
Noctilux-08711
The Leica just transitions so smoothly and creates feel without taking away from the shot.
Mitakon-08704
The Mitakon is a slam dunk if on a budget. It’s just plain good enough…
Dream-08780-2
There is a reason they call it the “Dream Lens.” Nothing quite like it!

One of the most difficult attributes to test is Bokeh.  Finding the right conditions outside is challenging.  These first shots are all focused on bottom of test chart for basic shape.  Bokeh is such an individual preference, I find the Canon and Leica are both outstanding.

WIDE OPEN RESOLUTION  The two relevant areas here are pretty basic, centers and edges.   Most don’t expect the ultimate sharpness in a fast lens wide open.  None of these broke that tradition.  All three lenses show some mild vignetting.  Nothing that isn’t correctable.  Noctilux shows some purple fringing here.  If there is a knock on the M mount lenses on the A7r…  It’s purple casting.  It’s slight on the 50mm, but present at wider apertures.

The cleanest edges here were on the Mitakon!  While slightly less sharp in the center than the Leica, it beat both others in edge sharpness.  The Canon shows more DOF coverage @ 0.95 than either.  You can read some of the galaxy etchings in the crystal cube on the Canon which is in front of the flat background.  They’re pretty fuzzy on the Noct & Mitakon.  The Canon is the softest of the bunch in all locations of test chart.

Wide Open Dream vs Noct edge
The Leica & Canon show similar edge detail. A bit more contrast on the Leica
Wide Open Mita vs Noct edge
The Mitakon has the edge here…
Wide Open Mita vs dream edge
It’s hard to make out the crystal, but the etching (inside NASA’s known universe cube), is actually readable on the Canon which shows greater depth wide open (I have to allow for the possibility that with the M conversion, this lens may not be exactly at .95)

2.8 REASONS to Dream!

Some of you will no doubt just skip anything but the wide open analysis.  Can’t really blame ya for that.  It’s why you purchase this type of glass.  However, 2.8 works for many scenes that just a touch more depth is needed.  The Canon has this!   Still a bit softer in edge detail, it has a big lead in DOF.  A bit of orange fringing was present on the Canon.  Mitakon stays the edge leader here with the Leica starting to pull away in the center.

BYE BYE BLACK SHEEP, F11

You won’t be dreaming anymore…  the darkness of the Knight will be gone…  The Leica really shows what two aspherical elements can do and that floating thingy…  This is a marvelous lens stopped down.  Sharpness is the league of Otus 55!  Hell it should be for 10k.  Canon shows some blue fringing on the edges.  Mitakon, with the extra elements also pulls away from the Canon in center performance at this aperture.   You shouldn’t give any negative points to the Canon here, it’s still damn sharp for a 54 year old lens and can hold it’s own on the 36mp sensor.

WHAT’S IT LIKE OUT THERE IN THE WORLD MOM?

Noct .95-08798
The Noctilux is the most complete of the three. It should be for the price!
Dream .95-08807
Feel & more feel, certainly sharp enough, it’s dreamy quality is tough to beat!
Mitakon .95-08811
If your type of photography requires subject isolation and background feel, with some post processing, the “Dark Knight” is an alternative worth considering.

It has been my quest to not be boring in these two articles!  Ton’s of test shots and the same scene over and over will be minimized (hard to avoid entirely).

Nevada City is a great place for shooting.  It’s small enough that I can walk around, shoot, change lenses and walk around again.  Being an old mining town, the buildings, streets and people… have character.   My second venue, Auburn Regional Park had a kool little stream with some sun poking through.  As you’ll see, the representation of each lens, and it’s feel/character are explored well.

First, above we look at the stream, each lens has a distinct look to it.  The Mitakon gets squashed like a waterbug here in color rendering and contrast.  It may be sharper on the edges, but it doesn’t have the feel of the other two.  The next scene has more elements to it and some good bokeh opportunities.

The following photos you can judge for yourself which lens you prefer…

Dream-08780-2
The Canon competes with the Noctilux for feel & character for sure. Is it’s lack of sharpness going to be a deal breaker on the new A7rII?
Mitakon-08779-1
The ZY Optics (Zhongyi) lens, with some Lightroom 6 adjustments, looks every bit the others…. maybe
Noctilux-08759
There’s something about a Leica, it’s special, the way it renders, it’s ambiance, how it isolates. There are nothing else like them.
Nocting on the Door-08841
An old rusted shutter on the side of Matteo’s Public in Nevada City shot with the Leica.
Noctilux-08837-1
That Leica feel again in an alleyway.
Dream Lens-08852-3
The Canon shooting up past the windows at Three Forks Bakery and Brewing company.
Dream Lens-08845-1
The Dream capturing some sidewalk dining on Commercial St.
Mita Dog-08826
You’re definitely not screwing the pooch here with the Mitakon… After some tweaks, this lens performs great, although it’s not the natural the other two speed demons are…

CONCLUSIONS:

I thought this would be an easy selection, but I guess I was fooling myself. From a budget standpoint, there is one option, the Mitakon Dark Knight. It’s a tad heavier than the others, has enough glass inside to perform really well for any type of close up photography. I’ve tried it a couple times in larger landscapes, and it doesn’t perform. It takes some post processing to get additional feel from it’s shots. Wide open it’s very sharp edge to edge but starts to lose some of it’s strength as you stop it down. Anything under f 6 it’s dynamite!

The Canon “Dream Lens” is really stuck in the middle here. The softest of the three, it shows a unique perspective that can’t be found in any other lens made.  This antique is marvelous on an A7r. untitled-08929 It’s as distinctive physically as it is in photographs.  I’m not alone saying it’s awesome being seen with this lens on the camera!  With the upcoming A7rii, I’m afraid it’s lack of sharpness will be even more exposed.   The Canon holds it’s own in larger scenes, keeping it’s sharpness as it stops down.  Even at 50 plus years old, this is a better all purpose lens than the modern Mitakon.

Finally the Leica Noctilux…  Sure you can scream that it’s not worth over 9k!  Why would you buy a lens that’s not as sharp wide open as the 900$ Mitakon?  My best analogy is a new Shelby Mustang is a really fast car that looks fantastic, but it’s not a Ferrari.  The refinements that Leica brings are evident in quality, feel and character.   The Noctilux is a complete lens, sharp as hell after f 2, and at smaller apertures, it breathes the rarefied air of Otus…  It’s that good.   When the scene allows I’d shoot it as a landscape lens which isn’t true of the Mitakon or the Canon really(better, but not great).   If price isn’t an object, then this is the clear choice of the three.  You really get what you pay for here.

purple cast on noct-09376
Upper center of frame has purple bands on high contrast areas with bright light behind it…

ADDENDUM to the Leica review.  I didn’t come up in any of the scenes during my review, but further use has showed the Noctilux has purple banding near the center of the frame on darker objects with bright light behind it.   I haven’t tested it enough to know if it’s at all apertures, but wide open, and at 1.1-1.4 this exists and is a huge disappointment on an otherwise wonderful lens.  I am getting a copy of a Kolari Vision thin sensor stack replacement  A7r and will do further tests.

If I have to rank the three based on all criteria….  The Mitakon, Noctilux, then the Canon, in that order.   The Noct just isn’t practical for most, the Canon really is a specialty piece of glass, and unless you need your 50mm to be a primary landscape lens, the Mitakon wins easily.  My personal view…. save your money and buy a used Noct one day!!!!   Look for a Canon & Mitakon on ebay soon…  Til the next time, ET

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Fast Fifties, modern 50’s… Normal lenses you want to look at for your A7r (A7/A7ii). What’s right for you? Part I

50mm or thereabouts, is considered the “normal” lens length for a full frame camera. What’s a normal lens? Wikipedia states “a normal lens is a lens that reproduces a field of view that generally looks “natural” to a human observer under normal viewing conditions.” That’s good enough for this forum.  According to many, including sites like DXOmark, the Zeiss Otus 55mm is the ultimate normal lens.  Leica people will throw the Apo Summicron 50mm into that mix, which I’m sure it deserves.   I will be using the Zeiss as the benchmark lens.   It’s fast enough at 1.4 to compare well with these wonderful antique fast 50’s.  If someone wants to lend me the Summicron, I’ll use that too!  Part one will look at 11 of these marvels, saving part two for the three super fast, 0.95’s

For more than 200 photos & comparison shots, see the Bitchinlight Flickr Page.

The lenses

  • Zeiss Otus 55mm 1.4 ZE

    The Zunow-08028 low res
    Incredibly rare Zunow, Telkoku Kogaku 5cm lens
  • Sony/Zeiss FE 55 1.8
  • Canon 50mm 1.2 Rangefinder
  • Canon 50mm 1.5 Rangefinder
  • Canon FD 50mm 1.2 L
  • Konica Hexanon 57mm 1.2
  • Zunow 5cm 1.1 (leica screw mount)
  • MD Rokkor 58mm 1.2 PG
  • Nippon Kogaku S.C. 5cm 1.4 (s mount)
  • Nippon Kogaku S Auto 55mm 1.2 (Nikon F)
  • Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2
  • Mitakon 50mm 0.95 Dark Knight
  • Canon 50mm 0.95 Dream Lens
  • Leica 50mm Noctilux 0.95

The difficulties I faced taking on this project were many.

  1.  how to put all these lenses on a level playing ground
  2.  keep investment in time reasonable
  3.  use what I have available
  4.  how to present the data
  5.  keep it interesting
  6.  not be too frickin long!

This is the criteria used for the basic testing.

  • light enough background to check vignetting
  • Multiple depths within the scene for 3d
  • contrast points on edges
  • flat surface extending to edges to check shallow performance frame wide

    Otus @ f13-08445
    Test Kitchen… All the elements for basic resolution testing
  • different colors, surfaces
  • two different lights to check bokeh detail
  • two test f stops, wide open and f 8.
  • Crops done at 3:1

Perfect right!!!  Probably not, but it works and doesn’t leave too many holes.

Hexanon-07929
Early version of the Hexanon
Hexanon at f4-08462
The Konica is reasonably sharp, easy on the eyes

First up, the Legacy Glass:

Konica Hexanon, 57mm 1.2KR to NEX adapter, 463g, 62mm filter. 1st introduced in the late 1960’s.  There is a mild yellow cast to this copy which isn’t that uncommon inside older lenses.  Some time under a LED light can clear it up in most cases.  This Konica has a warm feel and I liked it instantly.  It shows a bit of vignetting wide open, but nothing that effects image quality.  I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t have a 62mm filter laying around.  It’s  an odd size.  It’s very consistent across the frame at both test apertures with a dramatic increase in sharpness as it stops down.  Cost, 375-800$.  Don’t confuse this lens with the amazing Hexanon 50mm 1.2.  Well over 3,000$

58mm Cover photo-07095
MC Rokkor-PG, reputation for wonderful Bokeh and subject isolation!
otus vs rokkor58 at f8
The 58mm Minolta has some light fall off & softer at extreme edge at 1.2, but this is still a sharp lens @ f8!

MC Rokkor-PG 1.2 58mm, MD to NEX adapter, 474g, 55mm filter.  Shortly after receiving this lens I had a new favorite!   It was introduced in 1966 and the MC version was produced into 1972.  I thought like many, that this was a specialty lens, great bokeh, really fun for low light photography.  When I tested this lens for sharpness I was blown away!    Fairly typical wide open, touch of vignetting and loses some sharpness on frame edges.  At f8 this lens is tack sharp!  Cost, 375-600$ (Don’t pay more than $425, plenty of great copies in that range available).  This is a must have for legacy collectors!

canon 1.5-08466
Canon chrome 1.5 Beautiful, small and good color rendering

Canon 50mm 1.5 Rangefinder, L39 to NEX adapter, 269g, 40mm filter.  This Leica copy(summarit 1.5) is tiny.  Sharpening up after f2.8, it’s the softest lens here wide open, also the slowest of the bunch.  Color is spectacular and it’s very capable for high quality photos stopped down.  Like most of the smaller 50’s, it can be tough to focus, even at 14.4x(A7r magnifier).  The little Canon is rock solid and beautiful.  Note:   M39 to M plate can be used if you already have a M to NEX adapter.  Cost, 300-400$

FD 1.2L vs Otus f8
The 35 yr old FD lens has modern performance.

Canon FD 50mm 1.2 L, FD to NEX adapter, 376g, 52mm filter.  The distinctive red circle around on the front tells you instantly this is a different lens from other FD 50’s.  It has a floating aspherical element which makes it extremely advanced compared to most any lens then and now.  Introduced in 1980,  Ken Rockwell fawns over this lens, not that he fawns over anything…   The FD does set itself apart from many 1.2’s.  It shows remarkable DOF and sharpness at 1.2.   Stop it down and it’s crisp!  I don’t expect a 35 year old lens to compete with the near perfection of Otus, but comparing the two at f8 will leave many wondering why you’d spend another 3200$   It may be the best of the fast fifties…  Cost, 675-1,300$

Canon 50mm 1.2 Rangefinder, LTM L39 to NEX Adapter, 346g, 55mm filter.   Reasonably sharp with less contrast than the Otus wide open, this lens was first seen in 1956.  My copy was made after 1961.  It does show mild vignetting at 1.2 but like all the early Canon’s, it has great bell shaped bokeh and good color.  At f8 this lens gets much sharper as you’d expect, but loses some clarity towards the extreme edges.  Overall very usable in most any situation except close ups.  Minimum distance at least a meter!   Cost, 450-900$

Otus vs nikon 55 @f8
Edge contrast and sharpness is spectacular on this 50 yr Nikkor Kogaku @ f8

Nippon Kogaku, Nikkor S Auto 55mm 1.2 Nikon F to NEX adapter, 424g, 52mm filter.   Introduced in 1965 in the Nippon Kogaku version, Nikon later dropped the Kogaku designation and continued production until 1978.  Some say this lens doesn’t have the contrast it’s constituents do.  That might be true on the edges @1.2, but this lens ROCKS!  It does show some vignetting.  Bokeh is excellent.  Once I started cranking it down… as sharp as anything here.  I’m thinking we have another front runner for best classic lens….  Cost, 200-450$

Zunow 5cm Telkoku Kogaku 1.1, L39 to NEX adapter, 411g, 54mm filter.  This is the rarest and most expensive lens in my collection.  It is second only to the Leica Noctilux in price.  A chrome beauty, it fetches well over 5,000$ in good condition.  The black models can go upwards of 19k!   Zunow II-08201Early versions were seen in 1953 and it was the fastest lens of its time.  Despite it being a highly valued collectors lens, I’m still trying to find it’s happy place!  Very soft at 1.1 and difficult to focus, the Telkoku does produce spectacular backgrounds and has the fluttery bokeh characteristic of Petzval lenses.  It’s tack sharp in the center at f11 and improves going up from f2.  Cost, 5,000-20,000$

$_57
This copy shows some oil on blades

Nikkor S-C 1.4 5cm, Nikon S to NEX adpater, 171g, 45.4mm filter.  The smallest lens tested, it’s also the coolest looking!  Coupled with two possible adapter options, it weighs a bit more than the Canon 1.5.  Being an internal S mount it requires a focusing helicoid of some type to operate.  At f 1.4, this is the worst lens tested.  Grainy, no contrast and easily the least sharp…  I shot it with both adapter options, gave a bit more light, still horrible.  You’d think at 1.4 it would perform pretty well.  For a small lens, focusing isn’t an issue.  It sharpens up quickly as you bring the aperture tighter for reasonable pictures at f8.  Even with it’s good looks, given the choices out there, pass on this lens.  Don’t pay more than 300$ if interested, Cost, 200-500$

Pentax 1.2 vs kogaku 55 1.2 @ 1.2
Edge detail on Pentax & Kogaku 55, shows vignetting darkness and decent sharpness for 1.2
Pentax 1.2 vs Otus 55 1.4 @ f8
The Otus out resolves the Pentax & shows better depth, however the Pentax is a great value!

SMC Pentax, 50mm 1.2, PK to NEX adapter, 394g, 52mm filter.   People often overlook this speedy Asahi Optical Co. lens.  You shouldn’t!   Every bit the equal of the other 1.2’s for character, this lens has worthy sharpness wide open with slight to moderate vignetting.  Compared here to the Kogaku 55mm, this lens does show edge darkening and softness.  Introduced in 1975 and manufactured to 1984, in the next photo with an Otus close up as a comparison, it does quite well.  Collectors haven’t missed this treasure, prices continue to climb, Cost, 375-800$

 The Modern Contenders

Zeiss Otus Distagon 55mm  1.4, ZE, EF to NEX (smart)adapter, 1030g, 77mm filter.  Bad ass, nothing better made in full frame normal lenses, especially at 1.4.  Cost 3990$

Sony Zeiss Sonnar T*, 55mm 1.8 FE, no adapter….   281g, 49mm filter.  Some call it the “Baby Otus”   Best FE lens made, period.  “best autofocus lens ever” according to DXO.  Cost, 998$

Honorable mention, Loxia 50mm 2.0, Leica Apo Summicron 50mm 2.0.  Don’t have these to test, but they have to be considered in a modern lens search.

Based on size, convenience and cost the “Baby Otus” wins by a landslide.  The differences in IQ are almost negligible as we will see.   Color rendering, feel, bokeh and edge to edge sharpness, personal preference make this a difficult choice.   First look at the DXO ratings, on the equivalent sensor to the A7r (D800e).  Big edge to the Otus in sharpness and this shows in some of the test shots.FE 55 vs Otus 55 1.4 DXO  Wide open the DXO rating seems accurate.

As we stop it down the Otus continues to pull away from the FE.  Again, this isn’t by a large margin.   One thing that really impresses is the focusing ease on the Distagon.  The Otus in the viewfinder or on the LCD is like a fine pair of binoculars.  Clear, like you’re right there.  The FE isn’t bad in this regard but the disparity is noticeable.

FE 55 vs Otus 55 1.4 left edge WO
Edge detail goes to Otus wide open.
FE 55 vs Otus 55 1.4 @ max f stop
At max aperture settings, these lenses are both wonderfully sharp in spite of physics. The FE looses a bit more sharpness on the edges than Sir Otus!

Another thing I find amazing about the Otus line is it’s diffraction characteristics.  Cranked down there is very little clarity loss.  By the laws of physics it has to diffract some, but I can’t see it.  Here’s both lens maxed out.  I won’t bore you here, but the FE softens some at this setting for sure.  Check out the entire F stop side by sides directly here.

Bokeh Comparison
The Otus Distagon & the FE 55 have good feel.

For bokeh, they’re both pretty clinical compared to the older lenses.  The Otus is a bit faster has more character.

Conclusions…..

Wow, a ton of data to mull!  If I had to pick one classic it’s a toss up for first place between the Rokkor 58mm and the FD L, Canon.  They are both super sharp for an old lens.  In side by side testing against the Otus and a 100mm Makro Planar, the 58 held it’s own!  Only in extreme edge detail does the disparity become apparent.  Neither of these lenses will do landscapes like the two modern Zeiss’s, and the color rendering of Distagon & Sonnar are amazing.     Of the non 0.95’s, which will be featured in part II, the Zunow gets the nod for the dreamiest of the bunch.  It’s just unique enough to make it worth the large investment, even if it’s not sharpest tool in the shed….

Best value of the classics is easily the Nikkor Kogaku 55mm 1.2.  Kogaku copies, or just the Nikkor S labels, are cheap, great quality and have comparable characteristics of the others here.  Those of you who’d prefer to grab a 1.4 lens, to save money, can spend a few extra dollars to acquire this sensational light gatherer.

The Konica Hexar, Hexanon 50mm 1.2 should really be here.  It’s pretty expensive and while that’s never stopped me, I have plenty of fast lenses….  I would like it if someone had some shots utilizing this lens.  I’d be happy to put them into a album on flickr for comparison to the others.

I will be adding more photos as I go along.  The baby dream lens, 1.2 Canon LTM, isn’t represented very well.  I really look forward to the 0.95’s!

Eric

The “Un-Official” Non Native Lens Guide for the A7 Series cameras…

Otus in Mitakon eyes-07457
The ultimate lens, shot with hottest super fast entry, Mitakon 50mm 0.95, Dark Knight edition

In an effort to find the best lenses out there for the A7r, I put forth a simple open source Google sheets spreadsheet guide, that has started to take off! Starting with my own collection it’s now close to 80 lens profiles!   The “UN-Official A7r Non Native Lens Guide”  is public access, anyone can add a lens to it.  It is deliberately kept very simple with few headings with only short notes on each entry.  Essentially a quick reference guide to see if the lens you’re considering for your A7 series camera is worth investigation!  WE ask that people who participate keep it simple….  If two people have different experiences, just add them.  It’s not to argue, debate or judge.

Many wonderful legacy & modern options have made it on the list,

  • Canon FD 50mm 1.2L
  • Voigtlander 50 F1.1 Nokton
  • Zeiss Apo Distagon, Otus 55mm 1.4
  • Minolta Rokkor MC, 58mm f1.2
  • Mitakon 50mm 0.95 Dark Knight Edition
  • …. plus many more

The Sony A7 series is such a wonderful system with a litany of glass available, it seemed a natural fit to make this resource guide.  Never is it to be used for profit and it’s link is easily accessed in many Sony A7 related Facebook Groups.

Many adapter types are listed so you can see what was paired with the lenses.   For more in depth analysis please utilize Brian Smith’s awesome Sony A7 adapter guide.

I do ask that anyone sharing this guide please copy a link to my blog, webpage or both. I do have ongoing aspirations to be known as a Fine Art landscape photographer and some of my work has caught a bit of recognition.   I look forward to additional comments and suggestions!

The Canon FD & MC Rokkor PG 58mm captured with Pentax SMC 50mm 1.2