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fast 50mm focal length lenses

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The holy grail for many is a 40mm-60mm lens which at a wide aperture of f/1.4 or faster, is sharp with creamy bokeh.

Unfortunately, the reality is that with most legacy fast 50mm lenses used on digital cameras, they tend to be soft wide open with considerable ghosting and CA, and although they have thin depth of field, and thus great for blurring backgrounds, their bokeh can be quite busy and harsh.

Which lenses for which camera?

  • Nikon cameras – only Nikon mount lenses can be used on Nikon cameras and still focus at infinity.
  • Canon EOS cameras – most mount lenses can be used with notable exceptions of rangefinder lenses, cine lenses, Olympus Pen, Four Thirds, M43, and with modification, you can use Hexanon, Minolta Rokkor, Canon FD/FL (but requires optical adapter for infinity focus) – see here to convert Rokkor lenses for EOS
  • Olympus Four Thirds dSLRs will take anything Canon EOS takes but also Four Thirds lenses
  • mirrorless camera systems will use almost ANY lens including rangefinder, cine, Olympus Pen, Konica Hexanon, Rokkor, Canon FD or FL without need for optical adapters or modification.

For the Micro Four Thirds system user, the 50mm lens makes a great portrait lens giving a field of view of 100mm in 35mm camera terms. I have also listed here prime lenses for MFT which give a 50mm field of view in full frame terms

wide aperture 50mm FF fov equivalent auto-focus lenses for Micro Four Thirds:

Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2

  • optically superb, weathersealed, silent, incredibly fast and accurate CDAF even at f/1.2, minimal coma - almost a perfect lens, great for portraits and astrophotography

Panasonic DG 25mm f/1.4

Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.8

Panasonic 20mm f/1.7

  • a little wider field of view equating to 40mm in FF terms
  • a favourite lens for many as it is a tiny pancake lens but very sharp
  • problems with busy bokeh and moderate CA in highlight edges
  • banding issues at ISO higher than 1600 on some Olympus cameras

wide aperture 50mm focal length lenses in Micro Four Thirds mount:

Olympus m.ZD 45mm f/1.2:

Cosina Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 manual focus lens

Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2

Olympus m.ZD 45mm f/1.8:

  • in 2011, Olympus at last introduced a relatively affordable (RRP $US399) portrait lens for Micro Four Thirds
  • high quality optics for a consumer-level lens, with near silent and fast AF for HD video

Fast 50mm auto-focus lenses for Four Thirds:

Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 1:2 macro:

  • one of the sharpest lenses ever tested on
  • Like most digital modern lenses, it has circular diaphragm blades to give more rounded, less busy bokeh when stopped down. See my photos with it here.
  • it allows AF on M43 cameras albeit slowly (but no AF on the initial Panasonic cameras such as G1, GH1 and GF-1).

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM:

  • a full frame lens introduced in 2008 and available in Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma, Sony, and Four Thirds mounts
  • 9 rounded blades, 1 aspherical element, min. focus 0.45m, 77mm filter thread, 505g, RRP $US500
  • not as sharp as the cheaper ZD 50mm macro at f/2.0 but you get a usable, albeit a little soft f/1.4
  • “At wide apertures (F1.4-F2), it clearly outperforms either the Canon EF 50mm F1.4 USM or Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm F1.4 D, providing far more consistent sharpness across the frame and especially towards the corners, coupled with lower axial chromatic aberration;”

Olympus ZD 35-100mm f/2.0 Zoom:

  • a unique super pro quality zoom lens being the only zoom in this range with a constant f/2.0 aperture
  • big, heavy and very expensive – Olympus’ “equivalence” of a full frame 70-200mm f/4 IS but with f/2.0 light gathering capability.
  • no AF on early Panasonic M43 cameras and slow AF on other M43 cameras

The ultra fast aperture lenses:

Leica-M Noctilux 50mm f/0.95 Aspherical:

  • production started in 2008; super expensive ~$10,000
  • “Even when just slightly stopped down, the result is outstanding image quality, comparable to the Leica Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH, which is considered the best standard lens ever produced.”
  • see here

Mitakon Zhong Yi Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95 Pro

SLR Magic HyperPrime 50mm T0.95 APS-C

SLR Magic HyperPrime 50mm T0.95 full frame CINE

Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/1.0:

  • produced 1976-2008, replacing the 50mm f/1.2 Aspherical; 60mm filter; 584g; ~$US5000 used;
  • “massive edge fall off, very low contrast at f1, not particularly good at medium f-stops”

Cosina Voigtlander 50mm f/1.1 Nokton for Leica M:

  • 7 elements in 6 groups; 10 blades; close focus 1m; 58mm filter; 428g; $US1000 RRP; – see here.
  • they also make a 35mm f/1.2 Nokton!

Noktor 50mm f/0.95 hyperprime:

  • a “budget” f/0.95 lens with budget optical quality at $US799 – see here.
  • The lens appears to be based on the $US900 Senko/Navitron/Yakumo C-mount TV camera lens.
  • currently only in M43 mount.
  • 8 elements in 7 groups; Min. focus 0.6m; 8 blades; 480g; 62mm filter;

Canon EF 50mm f/1.0L USM:

  • introduced in 1989; 985g; min focus 0.95; 72mm filter; 8 blades; aspherical;
  • see here

Canon S mount 50mm f/0.95 for Canon 7 rangefinder:

  • world first f/0.95 production lens.
  • Gauss type 7 elements on 5 groups; min. focus 1m; 72mm filter; 605g;
  • see here

Canon TV lens 50mm f/0.95:

The f/1.2-1.3 50mm lenses:

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM:

  • 8 circular blades; aspherical lens made of highly refractive glass
  • expensive, big (72mm filter) and heavy (590g), but very nice wide open. ~$A2000 RRP

Samyang XP 50mm f/1.2

  • announced Feb 2018; Canon EF mount; manual focus only; 9 blades; 86mm filter; close focus 0.45m; 1.3kg; EUR949
  • designed to resolve over 50 megapixels for photography purposes, and easily capture crisp 8K video

Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.2:

  • MF lens, 7 elements in 6 groups, 52mm filter, min. focus 1.7′, 359g, $US700 RRP – see Nikon

Nikon Nikkor 55mm f/1.2:

  • no longer made

Nikon Noct-Nikkor 58mm f/1.2:

  • Ai version initially introduced in 1977 and was the first Nikkor with a hand-ground aspherical front lens which was designed to reduced chromatic aberration at full aperture.
  • AiS version in 1982.
  • 52mm filter; 480g; ~10,000 lenses were produced until production ceased in 1999.

Minolta MC Rokkor-PG 58mm f/1.2:

  • one of the better legacy f/1.2 lenses
  • similar to the Rokkor 50mm f/1.2 but nicer bokeh although not as sharp at f/2;
  • soft wide open with significant vignetting;
  • said to be the same design as the expensive, old Noct-Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 lens

Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm f/1.2:

  • soft wide open with significant vignetting, while bokeh not as creamy as the 58mm f/1.2 Rokkor
  • 6 bladed diaphragm
  • see here

Konica Hexanon 57mm f/1.2:

  • said to be one of the sharpest f/1.2 legacy lenses wide open

Leitz Noctilux 50mm f/1.2 Leica-M mount:

  • 700-1500 lenses were produced 1966-1975 thus are collectors items demanding high prices
  • 6 element design with two hand made aspherical surfaces produced by only one man entrusted with the skills
  • designed to perform well optically wide open, but not as good as a Leica Summilux 50mm f/1.4 wide open, and is better at f/4-5.6.
  • see here

Olympus OM 50mm f/1.2:

  • soft with ghosting and CA wide open on Four Thirds cameras
  • introduced in 1982 to replace the 55mm f/1.2, making it even smaller at an incredible 285g and with a 49mm filter thread, while being improved optically!
  • see here

Olympus OM 55mm f/1.2:

  • soft with ghosting and CA wide open on Four Thirds cameras – see John Foster’s test – not worth using on Four Thirds cameras!
  • may need prolonged UV light to remove yellowing from the radioactive elements used.
  • probably introduced in 1974; 55mm filter;
  • see here

Olympus Pen 42mm f/1.2:

  • designed for 1.4x crop film; 49mm filter; 255g; min. focus 0.35m;

SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/1.2:

  • several versions including “gold” and “special”

Canon FD 50mm f/1.2 L:

  • introduced in 1980; 380g; min focus 0.5m; 52mm filter; 8 blades; – see here
  • non-L version introduced in 1980 as well at only 315g and half the price of the L version – see here

Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 SSC Aspherical:

  • introduced in 1971 to compete with the Leitz Noctilux and is better than that lens wide open and stopped down.
  • SSC version introduced in 1973. 575g; min focus 0.6m; 8 blades; 58mm filter;
  • see here

Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 AL :

  • rare and expensive; AL = aspherical lens;
  • 1st version in 1971 with a SSC version in 1973
  • 575g; min focus 0.6m; 8 blades; 58mm filter
  • see here

Canon FD 55mm f/1.2:

Canon FL 55mm f/1.2:

  • introduced in 1966 to replace the 58mm f/1.2; 480g; said to be very nice

Canon FL 58mm f/1.2:

  • introduced in 1964, see here

Canon S mount 50mm f/1.2 RF/LTM for rangefinder:

  • introduced in 1956; 7 elements in 5 groups; 11 blades; 322g
  • Leica thread mount
  • crazy, unique bokeh but very soft, low contrast, washed out wide open needing lots of post-processing
  • see here

Computar 50mm f/1.3 TV lens:

Ernitek 50mm f/1.3 cine:

Tokina 50mm f/1.3 cine:

An old German sharpness ranking of manual focus f/1.2 lenses wide open starting from best:

  • Pentax SMC 50mm f/1.2
  • Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.2
  • Canon FD 55mm f/1.2
  • Minolta MD Rokkor 50mm f/1.2
  • Canon FD 55mm AL f/1.2
  • Yashica ML 55mm f/1.2
  • Olympus Zuiko 55mm f/1.2
  • Nikon Noct-Nikkor 58mm f/1.2
  • Leitz Noctilux 50mm f/1.0
  • Konica Hexar 57mm f/1.2

The 40-60mm f/1.4-1.5 lenses:

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM ART

Leica-M Summilux 50mm f/1.4 ASPH:

  • produced since 2004 and is said to be, along with the 5th version Summicron 50mm f/2.0, the best image quality full frame 50mm lens in the world being the sharpest with least distortion and the only one using aspherical optics, and the only one to use floating elements to retain this performance at all focus distances
  • 335g; 46mm filters; RRP $US3700

Zeiss Otus 1.4/55

  • perhaps the best 50-55mm lens ever made2)
  • manual focus in Nikon or Canon mounts with full electronic communication with the camera but the mechanical aperture ring is only present on Nikon mount versions
  • very difficult to focus accurately and consistently with today’s DSLR focusing screens and dSLR focus confirmation dot is useless too – it stays lit for too much travel of the focusing ring
  • very large lens (~1kg) as image circle is actually larger than 35mm FF
  • finish looks good but far too easily dinged and scratched, and impossible to keep clean
  • no weather sealing and there is a small hole that may make it vulnerable to water
  • 77mm filter
  • 9-bladed diaphragm but not truly circular
  • true APO 12/10 design with a rear telephoto group to ensure telecentricity of the outgoing ray bundle
  • lovely bokeh. almost flat focus plane with minimal CA, LoCA, coma, ghosting, flare or other aberrations other than 1.6EV vignetting and some residual second order CA
  • over 100 different types of lacquer are applied to the edges of the glass to absorb any stray light
  • extremely sharp across the frame wide open3)4)
  • $4000

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4:

  • being a EOS lens, you cannot change the aperture whilst on a M43 camera – but like any EOS lens, aperture can be changed while mounted on a Canon body and locked at this aperture by removing the lens whilst holding the DOF preview button down.
  • moderately expensive – $US325, $A660 RRP; Ebay prices tend to be $A400.
  • soft wide open, especially edges, not as good as the more expensive Sigma 50mm f/1.4

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 58mm f/1.4G

  • announced Oct 2013
  • $US1699
  • 9 elements in 6 groups with two aspherical elements
  • nano-crystal coating
  • 9 rounded blades
  • USM AF
  • close focus 0.58m
  • 365g (13.6 oz); 70mm long x 85mm diam;
  • 72mm filter thread
  • high centre sharpness when stopped down but less sharp in corners than the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lenses and not as sharp wide open in the centre or in the corners at f/2.8 as the 50mm f/1.4G
  • low levels of vignetting and exceptionally low chromatic aberration compared with other Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lenses, and apparently better corrected for sagittal coma and better bokeh, all of which may be more important to some than the slight loss of sharpness wide open
  • most will be better off buying the much cheaper and sharper Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.4G:

  • being a Nikkor G lens, you cannot change the aperture whilst on a M43 camera, but you can get a Nikkor G-EOS adapter which will allow you to change the aperture, then just use a EOS-M43 adapter and all is well.
  • new design introduced in 2009 with Nikon Super Integrated Coating (SIC) and 9 rounded blades and SWM AF
  • Nikon AF lens, 8 elements in 7 groups, 52mm filter, min. focus 1.5′ (0.45m), 280g, $US490 RRP – see Nikon
  • not as good as the aspherical Sigma 50mm f/1.4

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.4D:

  • 7 blades, SIC, 7 elements in 6 groups, 52mm filter, min. focus 1.5′, 230g, $US370 RRP see Nikon
  • introduced 1995-2009
  • soft wide open across the frame with lots of CA centrally; best at f/2.8-5.6;

Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.4:

  • MF lens, 7 elements in 6 groups, 52mm filter, min. focus 1.5′, 246g, $US470 RRP – see Nikon

Sony 50mm f/1.4:

  • very soft edges wide open, no aperture ring,
  • “performs extremely well on APS-C for a conventional (all-spherical) design, outclassing the equivalent lenses from Canon, Nikon and Pentax. It shows unusually high central sharpness even wide open, and as usual benefits from the ‘sweet spot’ advantages of low distortion and minimal vignetting which are common to using full-frame lenses on APS-C.”
  • “Compared to the Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM, the Sony shows higher central sharpness (although with noticeable halation) but less consistency across the frame at wide apertures.”
  • “Compared to the parent Minolta 50mm 1.4 RS, the Sony lens shows increased sharpness at all settings, but at the expense of measurably higher chromatic aberration; all other characteristics are virtually identical.”

Yongnuo 50mm f/1.4

  • AF lens in Canon EF mount announced May 2018
  • loud AF motor, wide open, has better contrast than the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 but neither are great lenses optically
  • $US199

Olympus OM 50mm f/1.4:

  • 8 blades, 7 elements in 6 groups, 0.45m close focus, 49mm filter, 230g,
  • soft edges wide open but much improved stopped down to f/2.8, and becomes maximally sharp at f/5.6-8
  • minimal distortion
  • more ghosting wide open than the f/1.8 lens when used on Olympus Four Thirds dSLR system
  • sharper wide open than the Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4 lenses but perhaps not quite as sharp as the Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.4
  • early “silver-nosed” versions marked as G.Zuiko are not fully multi-coated and is 2mm shorter than later versions
  • versions after 1984 with SN up to 1100000 are marked MC to indicate multi-coating
  • “Zuiko MC Auto-S Serial #1,000,000 to 1,100,000 has a blue MC that gives a pinkish tinge to your photos. It is very sharp and gives good contrast. It has a 2 piece mount.”5)
  • serial numbers greater than 1100000 are said to be the best versions - eliminated the blue MC for standard gold color MC and dropped the MC from its designation on the front.

Olympus Pen 40mm f/1.4:

  • half frame lens

Voigtlander 40mm F 1.4 Nokton Classic

  • very compact MF lens in Leica M mount and thus usable on most mirrorless camera systems
  • introduced 2004
  • bokeh is said to be poor at f/1.4, good to neutral at f/2, and neutral at f/2.8 and it is softest in the zonal areas in a donut at about 18mm away from the center 6)
  • lacks the microcontrast and flare resistance of its Leica counterparts7)
  • 43mm filter
  • 10 straight blades diaphragm
  • half-stop clicks
  • close focus 0.7m
  • 7 elements in 6 groups
  • MC and a S.C. single coated version
  • 197g and 30mm long
  • $US449

Pentax smc DA 55mm f/1.4 SDM:

  • designed for dSLRs, hence no aperture ring
  • a touch sharper in the centre than the 50mm FA version but more central CA and still very soft across the frame wide open

Pentax smc FA 50mm f/1.4:

  • AF lens, the last of the Pentax lenses designed for film SLRs
  • very soft across the frame wide open

SMC Pentax-A 50mm 50mm f/1.4:

Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 50mm f/1.4:

  • one of the better legacy 50mm f/1.4 lenses
  • introduced in 1965 with 7 elements in 6 groups which was continued in later versions
  • initially in Pentax M42 screw mount, and later as Pentax K bayonet mount
  • relatively heavy and solid

Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 58mm f/1.4:

Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 SSC:

  • personally, I am not a fan of the bokeh of this lens
  • 3 versions – with the first in 1971 then the last 2 being SSC which was introduced in 1973
  • 350g; min. focus 0.45m; 55mm filter;
  • see here

Canon FL 50mm f/1.4:

  • version I and II;
  • see here

Leica Summilux-R 50mm f/1.4:

Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4:

  • available in a variety of mounts including Nikon (ZF version), Contax/Yashica, etc

Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Tevidon 50mm f/1.4 cine:

Voigtlander AI-S Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II:

  • Nikon mount lens produced by Cosina in 2007; 9 blades; 58mm filter;

Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 for Leica M:

Taylor Hobson Cooke IVOTAL Anastigmat 2 inch F/1.4 C Mount:

  • cine lens; Ebay ~$A600
  • Gauss type design by Warmisham et al

Angenieux 50mm f/1.5 S5 Bolex cine lens:

Cosmicar 50mm f/1.4 TV lens:

Wolensak 50mm f/1.5 cine lens:

The f/1.7-2.0 lenses:

There are a multitude of 50mm f/1.8 lenses as these were often the “standard” entry-level lens with a film SLR from the 1970′s onwards.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8D:

  • budget lens, 7 blades, SIC, 6 elements in 5 groups, 52mm filter, min. focus 1.5′, 359g, $US135 RRP – see Nikon
  • reasonable wide open but soft corners

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II:

Konica Hexanon 40mm f/1.8:

Olympus OM 50mm f/1.8:

  • one of the smallest f/1.8 50mm lenses available
  • very cheap, but well built and compact, perhaps the best wide aperture OM 50mm for Four Thirds as the f/1.4 and f/1.2 have more ghosting and CA wide open
  • very soft corners and somewhat soft centre wide open with purple fringing on high contrast edges but both of these improve on stopping down.
  • much better image quality if stopped down to f/2.8 and sharpest at f/5.6
  • 6 blades, 49mm filter, 0.45m close focus
  • older silver-nose version marked F.Zuiko, 170g, 6 elements in 5 groups, single-coated
  • new version (c.1982 onwards) marked Zuiko, 165g, 6 elements in 4 groups
    • the ones marked Made in Japan (“miJ” version) on the front are said to be multi-coated and the best versions

Olympus OM 50mm f/2.0 1:2 macro:

  • a high end macro lens, great performer even on digital cameras

Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.7:

  • budget version for Contax/Yashica; lots of CA at most apertures!

Carl Zeiss PLANAR 50mm F2 Arriflex Movie version:

  • cine lens; Ebay $A900

Carl Zeiss tevidon 50mm f/1.8 cine lens:

Cosmicar 50mm f/1.8 TV lens:

Kodak Cine Ektar 50mm f/1.9:

Lens Baby Composer:

  • 50mm f/2.0 special purpose lens – buy it in Nikon or Canon mount then use via adapter om M43.

Leitz Leica-M 50mm f/2.0 Summicron:

  • this lens set a new standard when it was introduced in 1953 and gave similar performance to the Elmar 50mm f/3.5 lens at all stops and was the first to give good edge-to-edge image performance rather than just central sharpness.
  • original version was in a collapsible mount, but a rigid mount version with a different optical design and better images wide open was produced in 1956-1968, and screw mount version of the rigid lens became available ~1960.
  • a dual range (DR) closer focusing version was also produced.
  • a 3rd version “type-3″ was produced 1969-1979: 200g. 39mm filter thread
  • a 4th version from 1979-1994: 195g, 39mm filter;
  • the current version 1994 onwards is one of the best 50mm full frame lenses ever made – 240g 39mm filter black version, and a 335g chromed brass version.
  • best at f/4.0-5/6.

Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA

  • introduced in 2013 as a full frame lens for Sony E mount
  • extremely sharp across the full frame wide open with minimal CA or distortion8)
  • 1.6EV vignetting in corners; ~1% barrel distortion
  • $999

Web resources:

photo/lenses_50mmfast.txt · Last modified: 2018/06/21 21:29 by gary1

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