Compare the Nifties ?

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by Amamba, Nov 2, 2013.

  1. Amamba

    Amamba TalkEmount All-Pro

    Apr 13, 2013
    SE MI
    I wasn't much into the 50mm fixed FL before getting the Nex, so I have limited knowledge of them. For the Nex however they are golden - long enough for portraits, wide enough for many other situations, fast and cheap, with good IQ. So, how would you rate the miscellaneous Nifty Fifties ? Leaving aside the more expensive ones like SEL50f1.8 or Zeiss / Leica. The main criteria being sharpness, color and bokeh, for under $70 on eBay.

    I'll start with what I've used so far.

    Minolta MD 50/1.7 - cheap ($25-30 or less), only a bit soft at f1.7 (not bad though, especially for the portraits), very sharp by f2.8, killer sharp at f4. Nice, warm Minolta colors. Bokeh is nice wide open, however when slightly stopped down the out of focus highlights become a bit more like polygons. Out of all Nifties I had this is my favorite (didn't use many though) and the benchmark to go by. I ended up with two of them and they both perform equally great, no sample variation.

    Canon EF50/1.8 - note that's an AF lens, don't know if it's optically even close to Canon FD. It's very sharp even wide open, the colors tended to be on a colder side, and the bokeh was rather bad, with harsh hexagonal OOF highlights stopped down. I don't have it anymore but I'd rate it 2nd to Minolta as a portrait lens.

    Olympus OM 50/3.5 Macro - this was an interesting lens that I used on Canon DSLR, wish I'd kept it. Extremely sharp throughout the aperture range, with pleasing colors, rather compact. Not much of bokeh to speak of. But overall a wickedly sharp lens, would definitely get another if I find it at a decent price.

    Helios 44-2 58/2 - unfortunately mine broke before I got the Nex. Using it on Canon, the lens appeared very soft wide open, the bokeh was OK but I wasn't much impressed with it. Apparently there's many sample variations and mine probably wasn't the best.

    What do you have and how would you rate them ?
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  2. dshin525

    dshin525 TalkEmount Regular

    Jan 4, 2013
    I had the Minolta MC and MD 50/1.4 as well as the 50/1.7.
    I liked the MC 1.4 the best so I sold the others. Here's a couple samples:

    Both were shot wide open, indoors with crappy/low lighting
    _DSC3958 - Version 2 by dcshin525, on Flickr

    Kosovo Day 1 by dcshin525, on Flickr

    I always felt the pics from the minoltas were a little "underwhelming" in terms of color. But I never had complaints on sharpness and I always got great bokeh.

    I recently picked up a Leica Summicron-R 50/2. I know its not in the scope of your comparison…but I thought I post a pic from it just for comparisons sake.
    I haven't taken too many shots with it. But I love the rich color rendition that it yields.
    _DSC3968 by dcshin525, on Flickr

    I'll probably keep the minolta for low light situations…but the Leica will be on my NEX 6 majority of the time.
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  3. bopfan

    bopfan TalkEmount Regular

    Jul 21, 2013
    Worthington, Ohio
    Compare the fifties or the nifties or the nifty fifties....

    Pretty sure you meant fifties! You might want to check out the Konica 50's (and maybe take a look at the 40mm f1.8 pancake lens). I have a Russian Industar 55mm f2.8 and my particular copy is not too impressive. I have the 40mm Konica. Also a Konica 50 f1.7...which is very nice. In Minolta I have two 50mm lenses ---- the 50mm f3.5 macro with the 1:1 adapter and the 55mm f1.7 Rokkor-PF. The macro is fine for, well macro stuff. Of all of them I like the Konica and Rokkor the best for sharpness and color renditions.

    Here's a link to some great info on the Konica line up.

    You might want to check this site out too:[email protected]/

    • Like Like x 1
  4. Amamba

    Amamba TalkEmount All-Pro

    Apr 13, 2013
    SE MI
    How do you compare the Leica to SEL50 ? IMHO the Sony lens has very good colors, especially in artificial lighting.

    I did say the "Nifties" on purpose. "Nifty Fifty" is a pretty common term for a sharp, optically good but inexpensive kit 50mm prime that practically every camera manufacturer has or had at some time or another.
  5. bopfan

    bopfan TalkEmount Regular

    Jul 21, 2013
    Worthington, Ohio
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  6. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur Subscribing Member

    Nov 13, 2012
    Ad Dieleman
    I have used a lot of them, 50mm lenses, and I actually liked the focal length better on the µ4/3 cameras; on APS-C they're a bit short and I'd prefer something like 70mm. These are my findings.

    First-off, I've never had a 50mm legacy lens that was really useable wide-open. All of them showed glow and low contrast wide-open and needed at least to be stopped down 1 stop to lose those deficiencies.

    Minolta MD 50/1.7, Rokkor or plain MD
    Many variations, not much sample variation indeed. Sharp and contrasty once stopped down to f/2.8. Corners never get really sharp.

    Minolta MD Rokkor 50/1.4 ø55mm
    My absolute favorite for landscape shots, both on µ4/3 and NEX. Very soft wide-open, but all the detail is there. Stop it down to f/4 and it's almost perfect: sharp from corner to corner with Minolta colors and contrast, no CA, no distortion, no nothing. I must have been lucky with this one, it's a stunner!

    Minolta MC Rokkor 50/1.4
    Amazing lens at f/2, sharp from corner to corner and adequate contrast, although not as nice as the later MD lenses. Wide-open detail is still there, but contrast is low and there is glow around highlights. Stopped down to f/5.6 corners surprisingly are a little bit less sharp if you focus at f/5.6. I use this one as a low-light lens at f/2.

    Minolta MD Rokkor 50/1.4 ø49mm or plain MD 50/1.4
    Both lenses have the same optical design. I've had 4 of them in total and performance was quite variable. The best one is marginally useable at f/1.4 and very good at f/2 and beyond with sparkling pictures, the worst one needed stopping down to f/2.8 to get anywhere near being useful and colors and contrast remained a bit subdued at any aperture. None of them would get pin-sharp in the corners, not even at f/8.

    Canon FDn 50/1.4
    This one is marginally useable wide-open, glow is not too bad, contrast is moderate and it's quite sharp as well. It has a click-stop between f/1.4 and f/2 and at this f/1.7 the glow is still there but a lot less so this gains me half a stop over the Minolta MC 50/1.4. It needs stopping down to f/2.8 to get sharp in the corners and at that aperture it delivers punchy images; stopping down further sharpness increases to excellent across the frame. It has a different character than the Minolta lenses, but it's an excellent lens.

    Canon FD 50/1.8 S.C.
    A little bit glowy, but quite contrasty and sharp wide-open. Even corner sharpness isn't too bad, although contrast is low there. Glow is gone and contrast is very good at f/2.8, although corners are still a bit unsharp. At f/4 it's excellent across the frame and at f/5.6 it's even a little bit better. I have only ever had one sample, but if mine is anything to go by, you can't go wrong with this lens, considering it can be had dirt cheap.

    Schneider-Kreuznach Rollei SL-Xenon 50/1.8
    Nice, sparkling imagery in the center, but not at all sharp in the corners, only reasonably so at f/8. Picked it up at a fair, but sold it off again.

    Yashica Yashinon-DX 50/1.7
    Still got it as an M42 lens to be able to try out M42 stuff. Not too bad, but nothing special.

    Nikon Nikkor 50/1.2 AIS
    Bought this one as a low-light lens in my µ4/3 period, never used it on the NEX-6. Wide-open it had too much glow and contrast was too low to my taste. Once stopped down to f/2 it was hardly better than the 50/1.4 Rokkors I have at the same aperture, so I sold it and freed up the € 300 it cost me.

    Nikon Nikkor 50/1.8 AI
    Still have this one and I don't really like it, not on µ4/3 and neither on the NEX-6. Stopped down to f/2.8 it's adequate but I don't like its color rendition and corners never get really sharp. Mind you, I considered this lens as one of the best on my Nikon F3.

    Nikon Nikkor 50/2 AI
    At f/5.6 this lens shows the sparkle it had on my Nikon F3. It's also very sharp at that aperture, but still I never use it, I like my Minoltas better, their color rendition is lush while the Nikkors are more neutral. Surprisingly, barrel distortion is easily noticeable, even more pronounced than I remember from my F3 days.

    And then there are of course the 50mm or 55mm macro lenses. In short: the Nikkor 55/3.5 AI is a cracker up close from f/5.6, but nothing special further out. The Nikkor 55/2.8 AIS is a bit low in contrast but excellent in sharpness further out; as a macro lens it's definitely inferior to the Nikkor 55/3.5. I have 3 Minolta 50/3.5 macros, they're worthless wide-open but very good at f/5.6 and beyond. One of the three isn't perfectly sharp across the frame, the other 2 certainly are; my favorite is a Celtic MC 50/3.5, beautiful tone and warm colors.
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  7. Zanner

    Zanner TalkEmount Veteran Subscribing Member

    Aug 19, 2013
    Wisconsin, USA
    I am in love with my Pentax 50mm 1.7. I just bought the Pentax 50mm 1.4 and am waiting for it to arrive on Tuesday. I'm just starting out with taking pictures, but I do love the Pentax lenses. I ordered a Minolta Rokkor-X 50mm 1.7 to compare it to as well.

    These are all off my Pentax. Excuse the dolls. I was doing a "photo shoot" for my daughter ;)[email protected]/10630905375/in/photostream/[email protected]/10630937874/in/photostream/[email protected]/10631193863/in/photostream/[email protected]/10631007175/in/photostream/[email protected]/10631046396/in/photostream/
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  8. Amamba

    Amamba TalkEmount All-Pro

    Apr 13, 2013
    SE MI
    Thanks, Ad ! This is very comprehensive. Now, if you take your landscape hat off, and put the portrait hat on :), which one do you think is best for portraits ? (i.e. good critical sharpness in center, great colors, great bokeh, can be as soft in the corners as it wants to be).

    For a portrait 50, I'd say - for me at least - it's bokeh > center sharpness > color. With sharpness and color being very close. The reason being, a tiny bit of softness can be fixed in post (algthough I'd rather have a really sharp photo to start with); color can be tweaked, although, again, I'd rather deal with good color straight out of the can; but bokeh is unfixable, you get what you get.
  9. f/otographer

    f/otographer TalkEmount Regular

    Aug 20, 2013
    The 50mm lens. A mainstay of film photography for for the better part of a century. The focal length the human eye sees naturally. THE lens of Henri Cartier Bresson. A staple lens of almost every 35mm camera manufacturer ever.

    Fact of the matter is that its hard to go wrong with a 50mm lens. The formula is proven and perfected over the ages so that only slight differences crop up in different lenses from different makers. Sometimes a sweet spot is reached when one company got just the right formula with just the right glass and just the right coating to make something extra special. But to be honest even a 'bad' 50 is capable of great photography in the hands of a master of the craft.

    One HUGE factor in any 50 you may consider is sample variation. This cannot be stressed enough. I may have a great copy of brand X 50mm lens and show great photos from it and you may go buy the same lens and it turns out to be a dog. One simply has no way of knowing what has happened to individual lenses over the years. Bumps and drops can effect the alignment of internal elements, coatings can wear, internal glues can start to degrade or the lens could simply have been a lemon straight from the factory because that particular worker on the particular day just didnt assemble it correctly. I often laugh at 'definitive' forum tests where people go thru all the trouble to test a slew of lenses against each other by shooting brick walls and then declare proudly "THIS lens is clearly the best!". No, THAT lens was the best of THAT small group of lenses that YOU shot on THAT particular day Mr. Tester. It has no bearing on the overall family of lenses that any given lens comes from.

    But yes, there are some 'known' standards in the industry that generally every one agrees on. Zeiss and Leica lenses are 'known' to be generally good, with less then normal sample variation. This matters not at all in the hands of someone who cant shoot worth a crap. Conversely, some lenses with reputations as dogs can turn out heart wrenching photos in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing. Honestly, nobody has ever looked at the greatest, most powerful photos of the Twentieth century and said "Wow, look at that. Its sharp from corner to corner." And if it ever was said it wasnt said by a photographer.

    As I say on my flickr page...."There is no Pulitzer Prize for sharpness."

    Best thing I can recommend is go out and shoot a lot of 50's. Try different lenses from different makers, see which traits start to come out that speaks to you and your photography. Old 50's are cheap and plentiful. Find them in thrift stores and garage sales. When you find one you like go get another copy of that lens and compare the two. See which is better. For me, after a long time shooting lots of old manual glass, Minolta and Yashica became my favorite lens lines due to many different personal factors.

    Here is a smattering of examples from some different 50's (and 55's) that I have shot with over the last few years. Most of these are shot wide open or close to it. Macro shots are either on tubes or with a Minolta Close Up lens No.2

    Minolta MC Rokkor PF 55/1.7 (stunning lens with great build quality, one of my faves. MY COPY is great)


    Yashica ML 50/1.7 (series 2. Great lens, my fave along with the above Minolta. Made by Tomioka)


    Yashica ML Macro 55/4 (a pure Tessar lens, 4 elements in three groups. Great like most macro lenses, also Tomioka)


    Zeiss Planar 50/1.7 (what more needs be said? C/Y mount)

    Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50/1.7 (I have never met a Rokkor I didnt like)


    Minolta MC Rokkor PG 50/1.4 (another Minolta great)

    As you can see, corner to corner sharpness doesnt figure in to most of my photography. The only place I can see it being really important is in landscapes where you need that clarity across the entire frame. And you generally dont shoot landscapes with 50's. In reality, for most photographers shooting most photos, you simply need a lens that is sharp enough.

    That describes almost every 50 ever made.
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  10. davect01

    davect01 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 20, 2011
    Fountain Hills, AZ
    Wow, lots of great info here. Some of you have been through a lot of lenses.

    The only prime I have in this range is a 45mm Rokkor, F2.0

    One of my favorites, my "I won't sell for anything" lens. The 2.0 gives me some great low light capabilities, and is pleasantly sharp and easy to focus. The only issue is the minimum distance is pretty far, so in small room/intimate settings it gets a bit difficult.




  11. TonyTurley

    TonyTurley TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Apr 24, 2013
    West Virginia, USA
    f/otographer, I really like your style with the OOF areas leading into the main subject.

  12. f/otographer

    f/otographer TalkEmount Regular

    Aug 20, 2013
    Thanks Tony. I often shoot wide open this way and my style has developed accordingly. Im glad you like it. :)

    davect01, contrary to what I said in my post there actually is a Minolta lens I dont like. I have never been able to gel with the MD 45/2. As you say it has a long minimum focusing distance and I shoot a lot of stuff up close. But there is just something about the lens that I dont like. Cant put my finger on it. Might just be a combination of its plastic build, funny shape and minimum focusing distance. For whatever reason the 45/2 never sits well with me.
  13. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur Subscribing Member

    Nov 13, 2012
    Ad Dieleman
    Well, putting a portrait hat on (is that turning a landscape hat 90°? :)) doesn't really help because I never, ever make portraits. Bokeh is hardly relevant for me, except for when I'm doing mushroom shots and there I use a Minolta 100/4 macro.

    The bokeh of the Minolta MD Rokkor 50/1.4 ø55mm is not very nice at wider apertures, some double-line effects are visible. The MC Rokkor-PG 50/1.4 is OK at f/2 for me, but bokeh has to be quite bad for me to notice it.

    Here is an example of the Minolta MC Rokkor-PG 50/1.4 at f/2, the cat of my son's girl-friend. See the EXIF for more info.

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  14. Deadbear77

    Deadbear77 TalkEmount Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Sep 14, 2012
    Northeast Ohio

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  15. Amamba

    Amamba TalkEmount All-Pro

    Apr 13, 2013
    SE MI
    Thanks ! It does look great.

    Sent from my EVO using Tapatalk
  16. Karl

    Karl New to TalkEmount

    Nov 5, 2013
    Remember the crop factor

    Do remember that these legacy fifties were designed for 35mm film (FF), so the equivalent focal length on APS-C is now 75mm. Which really is a short telephoto, lovely for portraits, but not anymore the optimal walkaround lens.

    Then again, if you have/are getting the A7(R), it's back to main business.
  17. f/otographer

    f/otographer TalkEmount Regular

    Aug 20, 2013
    I saw no reason to describe the crop factor since the OP had already mentioned using some of these lenses. I was merely describing the 50mm lens as it has come down thru the years. And the last part of my quote you listed covers the 35mm part.

    But if we want to talk crop factor, on an APS-H camera the 50mm will become a 65mm and on a micro 4/3's it will become a 100mm.

    But I use my Yashica 50/1.7 on my NEX 7 with a speedbooster where it is almost returned to its original angle of view. For all intents and purposes it becomes a 53.25mm f/1.2 which is a great walk around lens.

    So yes, crop factor is very important.
  18. Amamba

    Amamba TalkEmount All-Pro

    Apr 13, 2013
    SE MI
    I shot APS-C ever since getting into digital, so I know the FOV of 50mm on crop.

    To me, 50mm is a perfect lens for someone who's mainly shooting portraits with occasional landscape, as it's still wide enough for many situations when you have room to step back, yet long enough for a great bokeh.

    I went to Chicago when my AF died on F3 and ended up with Minolta 50/1.7 as my only lens (and I only took it along at the last moment just for fun).

    Still worked out great:

    View attachment 38428
    untitled shoot-085.jpg by BugsDaddy, on Flickr

    View attachment 38429
    2013 Chicago with MMM-71.jpg by BugsDaddy, on Flickr

    2013 Chicago with MMM-79 by BugsDaddy, on Flickr

    View attachment 38431
    2013 Chicago with MMM-92 by BugsDaddy, on Flickr

    untitled shoot-190.jpg by BugsDaddy, on Flickr
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  19. Shutterdad

    Shutterdad TalkEmount Regular

    Nov 28, 2013
    Dallas, Texas
    Good info guys!!!

    Sent from my iPhone using TalkEmount
  20. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    In chronological order:

    Micro-Nikkor 55mm 1:3.5 - almost impossible to distinguish from the Leitz 60mm macro when pixel peeping close-up stopped-down frames. I prefer the overall rendering of the Leitz just ever so slightly and the Micro-Nikkor doesn't seem so good for distant subjects.

    Nikkor-S-C Auto 50mm 1:1.4 - super rugged (as are all pre-AI Nikkors). Loses points for bulk, close focus and BOKEH. After trying various other 50s for telephoto landscapes, I eventually came back to this one. You might say it is the infinity focus champ in my stable.

    Pine Forest Range, Nevada by Jeff Addicott, on Flickr

    Minolta MD 50/1.7 - light & compact - seemed optically "meh"

    Canon FL 55/1.2 - hazy & dreamy yet actually pretty darn sharp, wide open. Amazingly sharp and clear corner-to-corner at f/5.6. BOKEH not so great and it's big and heavy!

    Sandstone Vase by Jeff Addicott, on Flickr

    Canon FDn 50/1.4 - one of the cleanest, wide open but failed keep up, stopped down. (It was disassembled and had funky delamination scarring cleared out by me, so take this impression with an extra grain of salt.)

    Leitz Macro-Elmarit-R 1:2.8/60 - phenomenal handling for product shots - focusing feels like you're calibrating a scientific instrument. Big and heavy but just gorgeous. Center and corner sharpness reach their apex in perfect harmony at f/5.6. Seems to ace the infinity test as well - something my other normal-range macros don't do so well. Alas, I get ugly ghost-like blobs with bright sun spots (the other 50s do this as well - curiously my 100mm macros do not).

    Ruby Vein Paperweight, March 2013 by Jeff Addicott, on Flickr

    Minolta MC Rokkor-PG 50/1.4 - a great all-round nifty fifty. Nice BOKEH - cleaner & sharper at f/2 than my Leica Summicron-R. Has what I describe as that "smoky" Minolta vibe.

    Olympus OM 50/1.7 - meh… another one of those "kit" 50s (i.e. does some things decently but nothing especially well, compared against the others). It is nice and compact.

    Olympus OM 50/3.5 macro - does fine close-up, but alas, not so hot for landscape use (which is too bad because I'd love to have one cheap & compact 50 I could bash around on camping trips and use for landscapes and on-location "product" shots). Downright tiny for a macro - much smaller and lighter than the Leitz 60mm and hard to distinguish between the two optically, close-up at f/16.

    Fujinon M42 50/1.4 - my copy had a fairly bad fungus infestation and rendered very yellow-ish. (I tried bleaching it out with sunlight without success.) This lens had some of the best BOKEH but the least sharpness, wide-open. It improved dramatically when stopped down - definitely the most schizophrenic lens I've tried and that's actually pretty cool!

    Leitz Summicron-R 50/2 - a real gem, apparently made out of cast iron and lead. That is to say, tiny but HEAVY. Definitely the most "usable" wide-open performance I've seen in a 50 - pretty darn good as a matter of fact (though many 1:1.4 will be slightly sharper, stopped down to f/2). Field curvature can throw you a curveball - or be used to one's advantage. Lots of personality - I could see this being my overall favorite. (Costing more than most of the others combined, one would sort of hope it would be!!)

    The Uphill Trudge by Jeff Addicott, on Flickr
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