Eric L. Woods

A frankly frivolous fifty mm and medium format fakery free for all.

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Subtitle: How many ‘f’s could I get into a blog post title.

There is nothing serious or remotely scientific about this post. There is also a good dose of subjective bias involved as well. Be warned. This is more of a thought experiment and personal distraction in written form than a gear post.

The other day I started thinking about a few minor obsessions of mine:

  • 50mm-ish equivalent lenses.
  • Medium format cameras.
  • Adapted lenses.
  • Full frame digital cameras.

Why no APS-C or other crop cameras/lenses?

  • APS-C Cameras: Let go of the rest. Have had Nikon, Pentax, Fujifilm, and Sony APS-C cameras in the past, but given my druthers I will go with full frame all day. With the price of entry for full frame lowered I prize sensor size over feature set.
  • APS-C Lenses: While there are excellent lenses like the Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 R and Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary that could hold their own mostly this is not the comparison for them.
  • Would not subject prior MFT cameras/lenses to this type of scrutiny. In isolation they would do just fine, but not in this company for me. Personal opinion.
  • I have one APS-C in house. But it would not be fair to subject the one APS-C camera/lens I have (little old NX300) to this abuse.

Ok. Ok. I will also admit I compared what fell easily to hand at the moment that could be put together in short order.

There are plenty of ways to skin the proverbial cat where a 50mm field of view is concerned. And each of the solutions listed below vary quite a bit.

The test subject was also what was easily at hand. I looked up and saw the lamp in our pandemic era Woods enterprises offices and that was it. Lined them up and took the same shot.

There will be no winner declared or even a ranking. Not what this is about. More about the why at the end.

To the contenders with one sample shot, my overall thoughts on each set up based on experience, and a wrap up at the end. The sample shot is meant as a quick reference and not as a sole basis for comparison. Experience outlined below the photos are the basis for comparison.

Focus here will be on the lenses, not the cameras.

Old Guard DSLR

Pentax SMC F 50mm f/1.7 (AF)

K1 50mm f/1.7 SMC AF
  • IQ
    • Sharpness
      • It’ll do quite nicely wide open.
    • Colors
      • One of my favorite things about this lens is the colors it captures.
    • Bokeh
      • Very pleasing to me.
  • AF
    • Swift. Accurate. Not silent. Face AF in Live View. No such aids with OVF.
  • Value
    • A K-1 makes sense taken at specs for dollars alone if purchased used. A 36MP, IBIS having sensor with built in GPS and built like a weather resistant tank for a little more than $1,000. The lens can be found online for less than $100 on the used market all day.
Punch Buggy
  • Thoughts
    • If you do not mind carrying around the cinder block of a camera attached this is a great way to go.

Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM

EOS RP 50mm f/1.8 STM
  • IQ
    • Sharpness
      • Well done Canon. No complaints here.
    • Colors
      • A bit cooler than the Pentax, but still quite a performer.
    • Bokeh
      • I love the bokeh that this lens produces.
  • AF
    • All of the modern conveniences like Eye AF and such are all there and accounted for.
  • Value
    • At $199 this lens is all I ever wanted from a fast 50mm prime. Add to that the least expensive but perfectly capable full frame mirrorless cameras on the market and that is the definition of a value.
RF 50mm f/1.8 STM - EOS RP
  • Thoughts
    • I am biased. This set up was the entire justification for me purchasing my way into the Canon RF system. Arguably this is the most “sensible” option listed in this post.

TECHART PRO LM-EA7/7Artisans 50mm f/1.1

A7c 50mm f/1.1 7Artisans
  • IQ
    • Sharpness
      • Not this lenses strong suit wide open. But serviceable.
    • Colors
      • A bit cooler than the Pentax, but still quite a performer.
    • Bokeh
      • This is this lens’ party piece. Can be wonky, but also quite dreamy under the right circumstances.
  • AF
    • Courtesy of the TECHART AF does just fine for stills. Even allows for use of modern advances like Eye AF..
  • Value
    • Well… See below.
7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
  • Thoughts
    • While it makes a bit more sense than the set up below this is an acquired taste. If you already have an M Mount lens and a Sony camera a TECHART may make sense. Have only one or neither than this is a difficult set up to justify. I love this set up, but this is not a set up for everyone.

Kipon Baveyes 0.7x Optical Focal Reducer/Zeiss Hasselblad 80mm f/2.8 C T*

A7III adapted 80mm Hasselblad
  • IQ
    • Sharpness
      • It is a Zeiss lens..
    • Colors
      • Very nice. It is a Zeiss lens.
    • Bokeh
      • Smooth as butter like any Zeiss.
  • AF
    • N/A. But easy enough to manual focus with modern mirrorless focus aids like focus peaking and punch in to focus.
  • Value
    • Nope. This is not a value proposition in isolation. But if like me you were tempted to jump to a wonderful but wholly impractical Hasselblad 907x it is cheaper than that (As outlined here.).
Kipon Baveyes 0.7x Optical Focal Reducer Lens Adapter
  • Thoughts
    • It succeeded in its mission. No longer rolling by 907x online listings on a regular basis. Capable of creating fantastic images with full frame mirrorless as it was with film. Mission accomplished.

The point of the common lamp image across all three was not to say one image or lens is better than another. Each image has their own special characteristics that are pleasing to me. Each varies in the capturing experience whether it be manual focus, somewhat wonky adapted automation of what was manual focus, old school DSLR AF, or latest and greatest mirrorless AF. Each unique. Each with its technical or experiential benefits.

The bottom line is any of these would do just fine in capturing an image of my liking. While we are at it the same could be said for crop options mentioned earlier if I were so inclined.

But let me be clear. I am not one of these “gear does not matter” types. It does matter. There are times where certain gear is better suited for different purposes. I am also not one to say that expensive gear is not necessary. The high stills and video capabilities of some recent cameras are quite amazing and have use cases. I will say that some or even many likely have no need for these high end capabilities. Some gear exchanges great sums for feel and/or heritage. But I would not fault anyone for purchasing a camera beyond their needs or for look and feel. Why not? This is a world that also contains Lamborghini SUVs. Have at it. And as I often quote:

So what is the point of this all?

While I enjoy a diversity of image capturing options I could rid myself of all but one camera and one lens and could make do.

Gear does matter but I am now of the opinion that the occasion and the experience matters more.

I have always been one to walk away slowly when debates on one bit of gear or another start up. Pointless. But in the past I also have spent entirely too much time attempting to predict the predicaments that will be faced on a given day before selecting the proper tool to capture images. Often times bringing far more than what was needed. So much time wasted. In the end whatever was brought sufficed.

I will try to remember this going forward and spend more time enjoying what unfolds before me rather than fumbling between an overabundance of options or wishing I had brought something else.

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