Quick little 50mm shootout

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by Jefenator, Jun 5, 2013.

  1. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    I've been slowly amassing a little arsenal of fast 50s - I figured it was time to put them all to the test!

    Up for bat are: Nikkor S-C 1.4, Canon FD 1.4, Minolta MC Rokkor-PG 1.4, Olympus F.Zuiko 1.8 and Fujinon 1.4.


    The Fuji may not be at its full potential - it still has some yellowing in the radioactive elements as well as a lot of debris and fungus on the inner glass surfaces.

    A few other quick notes:

    The Nikkor is the most rugged (I can see why so many war correspondents used Nikon). It is also the biggest and only focuses to 2' (all the others do 1.5'). Boo!!

    The Zuiko has the compact edge, but it's the only slower lens so that's not really a fair advantage. ;)

    So here's some center crops from a hastily-assembled outdoor test scene.

    Wide open:






    Beyond f/5.6, all lenses grew softer with diffraction.


    The Canon FD seems to have the cleanest renderings at wider apertures. It also seems to let more light through. Not too surprising, since it's the youngest of the bunch. (It does please me to see this, after dismantling the front element group twice to clean out some gnarly condensation stains.)

    The Nikkor and Canon BOKEH is a bit nervous. The Minolta and Olympus seem a bit more pleasing in that department.

    The Fujinon has the most pleasing soft effects, which is good because up until f/5.6 it's not very sharp! (I'll have to see if more UV bleaching and and some inner surface cleaning helps...)

    I've had the Nikkor on road trips and gotten some impressively detailed captures with it. Any of these lenses - even the ailing Fuji - could match this at midday landscape aperture settings. At least in the center. (Still have to run corner tests...)

    With it's small size, good performance and gentler BOKEH, the Zuiko would make a great all-round choice. The Minolta has good personality and decent sharpness. The Canon is the most clinical. The Nikon is the most rugged. The Fujinon might really stand out for soft portraits and such.

    At least that's what I'm finding, so far! :)
  2. xXx1

    xXx1 TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jan 15, 2013
    Now you only need to add more 50mm lenses to your collection. At least a few takumars/pentaxes and Leica and Zeiss and so on ... . ;)
  3. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur Subscribing Member

    Nov 13, 2012
    Ad Dieleman
    Thanks for that! To me it seems that all lenses except the Fuji do a very good job at f/2.8 and that all have some sort of glow wide-open, Canon showing the least of it. Can't wait to see your corner tests... No pressure (well, maybe a little bit then :)).
  4. xXx1

    xXx1 TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jan 15, 2013
    Canon may be the cheapest too.
  5. Jaf-Photo

    Jaf-Photo TalkEmount Veteran

    Mar 25, 2013
    Excellent thread! Thus kind of informative work cannot be praised enough.

    I'm surprised by the evenness of these lenses, at least on my iPhone screen.
  6. davect01

    davect01 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 20, 2011
    Fountain Hills, AZ
    A nice spread.
  7. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Corners Compared

    Well, here they are! We'll start with wide open:


    Then f/2.8. I added a surprise extra contestant to fill in the empty space: my Leica 60mm 1:2.8 macro. Just to see how it fares! (I never promised this shootout would be scientific... or fair. :p )


    And the corners at their best. The stronger lenses max out at f/5.6, then diffraction sets in - the weaklings seem to need the extra help from the narrower aperture at f/8.


    The Nikkor did about as expected. Not the absolute sharpest, but definitely right up there.

    I was disappointed by the Canon - I had such high hopes for it after the center shots, but here it didn't even make the top 3. (Might not be Canon's fault - I did after all perform surgery on it twice.)

    To my eyes, the Minolta really takes the prize, here. Super-clean corners AND character. Not bad for an older lens with cleaned-up fungus stains marring the rear coating.

    I had hoped the Olympus might rally stronger. This may fall into the category of the slower, cheaper 50mm "kit" primes that never quite keep pace with their more serious faster siblings.

    The Fujinon surprised me - a real comeback kid! If one were looking for the most radical personality shift from wide open to f/8, this would work well!
  8. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    And wide-open BOKEH





  9. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur Subscribing Member

    Nov 13, 2012
    Ad Dieleman
    Thanks again. Doesn't look like I have to start collecting other brands than Minolta :). I only have the Minolta 50/1.4 you tested here and my experience is that this lens is still freakishly sharp across the frame and contrasty at f/2.
  10. serhan

    serhan TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2011
    Thanks for the detailed testing.

    Another good review I saw yesterday was for rangefinder 50mm lenses:
    ferider's Photos : Technical : Raids 50mm Tests

    So yours and the link should give lots of options for people looking for 50mm lenses. Lately I prefer the slr lenses since I can use them with the speed booster, otherwise rangefinder lenses are very good due to their sizes on nex cameras.
  11. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    I like my MC-Rokkor at f/2 - the clarity is all there for in-focus subjects and the BOKEH actually seems a little nicer as well.



    Lucky for you you're starting off with one of the very best! ;) It's a bit time-consuming, doing these comparisons but at least it's not expensive. (The Nikkor I bought used for $100 in 1989. I'm in to the Canon for about $20. The Minolta was $15 and the Olympus and Fujinon were given to me.)

    I have not gone down the nifty-fifty rabbit hole nearly as deeply as many, and I probably won't. I am still curious about a few things, though. I might have to try a Leica Summicron (f/2) some time, see how that stacks up.
  12. texastee

    texastee TalkEmount Rookie

    Jun 18, 2013
    Forney, Texas, USA
    from what I could see on these jpg's the OM ZUIKO, even the lowly 1.8, kicks some serious butt in the comparisons. Great contrast, even colors. Also, it is very rugged. I shot both the Nikkor and Zuikos at one point in my past life and the Zuiko was solid and reliable. Small, light, smooth focus and it makes a great compliment to the size of the NEX-6 I am currently using. I have the old, plain, slow (but extremely sharp) Zuiko 28/3.5 and this same 50/1.8 that you tested. Also, I couldn't tell if it was the one that says "Japan" on the front bezel. If so that was the sharpest of the Zuiko 1.8's. If you can find a Zuiko 50/1.4 in the 1,000,000+ serial numbers try it against these other 1.4. I think you will be impressed.