One of the lenses that Sony has released in the last year that interested me was this lens. (The other being the instant favorite 85mm f/1.8.) Why? It is 50mm. And I am a sucker for a 50mm sub f/2.0 prime lens.
And now Sony was offering one at an unusually affordable price… for Sony. $249. Not quite the bargain that the $599 85mm f/1.8 is, but I beat that price by finding one used for $156. Even better. So I heard a few murmurs about this lens online so let’s address those first.
There is little greater joy for me than to:
- Save money. Love a good deal.
- Breathe new life in to old gear.
Not the first time I found an affordable macro option. See my frankenmacro blog entry for Sony full frame. I really like macro lenses, but at times they are difficult lenses to justify. Due to their sharpness they do tend to make great lenses for other uses, even portraiture, but owing to their long focus reach they can be a challenge to use with autofocus. Focus limiters do help, but quick focus at normal ranges is not usually their thing and macro shooting still usually favors manual focus.
Fujifilm does not yet have a true factory macro yet since the 60mm does not focus down to 1:1 (cough, not a macro), may not be expensive but is definitely not cheap considering it’s rare distinction of being a relatively unloved Fujifilm lens going on reviews. The Zeiss Touit 50mm native mount option is a well reviewed lens with actual 1:1 macro capabilities, but costs just under a grand and I have a host of excellent lenses around that focal length already. Plus as is usual most recommend using manual focus when shooting macro… So why not get a manual focus lens? Having recently acquired a fantastic Zhongyi adapter that allows native full frame viewing angles with M42 vintge lenses while also adding near a stop of light I zagged to the Takumar 50mm f/4.0 Macro lens. Already familiar with what Takumar lenses can do this was an easy decision. Reminding me of one of my favorite previous macro lenses from Pentax it has a snoot (highly technical I know) that juts out making it’s macro intentions clear.
Sample photos added to the gallery at the bottom.
Soon there will be an Olympus OM-10 This Old Camera Post. A few things.
How? Felt led to visit SE Camera as I wanted another 35mm camera.
Why? Always in the market for another film camera, especially pedestrian 35mm ones as they are often in excellent condition and quite affordable.
I love a good deal. Even more I love a good deal that keeps it’s promises and performs better than I could have ever expected for the price paid.
<In the voice of Morpheus> What if I told you that there was an adapter that would make a vintage 35mm lens perform in all of it’s full frame glory while adding nearly a stop of light on your humble APS-C sensor camera?
Wait. Don’t click away. I’m serious. I have pictures.
How am I confident in making such claims? Glad you asked. I have used an M42 to K mount adapter on film 35mm Pentax cameras as well as the full frame Pentax K-1.
Lenses in question as previously shot on the full frame Pentax K-1:
- Helio 44-2 58mm f/2
- Takumar 50mm f/1.4
Full disclosure: I LOVE 50mm (or near 50mm) prime lenses.
If I could only have one lens that is what it would be. What is not to love? Smaller than a zoom. Not wide enough to distort. Not tele enough to require backing up much if the subject is close. Usually even the most thrifty variants are sharp enough (even if a bit of stopping down is required) to capture a distant subject and crop later. Usually bright enough to offer very nice bokeh and low light capabilities… Ok. I’ll stop. Personal preference of course. Some would go with a different way, but if you are in the market for another lens this is a good choice. Plus even a bad 50mm is usually still a pretty good 50mm. Everyone makes them. The go to lens on all of my 35mm film cameras.
While brand agnostic I have always had Pentax leanings…
and since 50mm lenses are so affordable I have a hard time turning away a 50mm or near 50mm prime. With adding M42 screw mount lenses this number increased further. Up until recently my go to lenses were the Pentax film era AF 50mm f/1.7 for convenience…
when sharpness and low light took precedence over AF. (The newer, still produced AF Pentax 50mm f/1.4 is nice also, if a bit soft at f/1.4.) All was well until I recently went to a local low light gallery event to hear the talented Zun Lee speak at WSSU’s Digg’s Gallery. I went for the Takumar f/1.4 for low light and the fact that the screw drive f/1.7 can be a bit noisy in quiet environments. But usually easy manual focusing was a bit tricky in such low light. Worked, but I saw where a proper AF lens would have made things easier.
What to do? After some research I settled on the Sigma DG EX 50mm f/1.4. Discontinued and oddly difficult to find in a Pentax mount however. There was the one concern of getting a bad copy of this lens where accurate focus would be an issue, but since:
- Pentax does not currently offer a silent focus full frame 5omm prime.
- Sigma did not see fit to make a K mount 50mm Art lens to replace the EX. Exceptional reviews, but if I am honest even if they did make a K mount version that lens is:
- …a bit large for my liking.
- …about 3 times what I wanted to pay for such a lens.
- the 50mm EX had love/hate reviews depending on whether the lens received focused properly or not which kept prices in check.
- the one lens I was able to find was from B&H with a top notch rating so I had some expectation that they would not bother to sell a ‘bad’ copy of this lens at such a high rating.
I decided on this lens. Received the lens in like new condition with box, padded case, and all original documentation and after some quick testing I found that it was indeed a good copy.
Before I go on about how much I love this lens I must state one caveat.
Disclaimer: If you do order this lens, regardless of mount, brace yourself in advance for the possibility that you will not get a good one and you may need to return it. It is discontinued so any example purchased will be second hand so buy from those you trust. For that reason I personally avoided ebay (no intended slight on the company itself) for concern that some would try to unload a bad copy on me. I stayed to the big boys, KEH.com, Adorama.com , and BHPhotoVideo.com . From the looks of it non-Pentax mount versions are readily available on one or more of the three.
Now that I got that out of the way HOLY MACKEREL THIS LENS IS AWESOME!… <ahem>…
Where to start?
Look and feel:
- I understand the front element is so large because Sigma really does not like vignetting, but the side result is the beginning of an impressive looking lens.
- Walking around the lens reveals impressive fit, finish, and feel. Very business like.
- Front element movement during focus range is confined within the lenses dimension unlike my f/1.7.
- This is a big lens with dimensions one would expect for an 85mm rather than a 50mm. Not a plus or minus. Just is.
- Only one switch so this will not take long. Since Pentax puts an AF switch on the camera one would think one is not required on the lens. But Pentax offers a catch in focus feature for manual focus lenses that is active when lens AF is off, but camera AF is on. This proves very handy.
- Will set no records, but has proven more than accurate with minimal to no hunting in my experience so far.
- If you can find a good copy prices seem to hover around just above the $300 mark. With HSM and f/1.4 that is hard to beat. You need to look no further than Sigma’s own newer 50mm Art to see that there is value here.
- For those sporting Pentax bodies search B&H for all available as new full frame Pentax 50mm prime lenses and all 4 cost more than I paid as of this writing and of the 4:
- 1 is considered soft wide open and has noisier screw drive AF.
- 1 adds macro capabilities, but offers f/2.8 as it’s widest aperture. For that I may as well use the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.5 that cost me considerably less second hand and offers more focal length flexibility at the same maximum aperture..
- 2 identical lenses with different names do offer very silent focus, but of the manual focus variety.
- On my K-70 it will get me a portrait friendly 75mm FF equivalent field of view so it is like 2 lenses in one.
- Acceptably sharp at f/1.4. Very sharp f/2.0 on.
- I love the way this lens renders colors. Far better than any of my other 50mms with the only possible match being the M42 Takumat 50mm f/1.4.
- The bokeh is just beautiful and the transition between in and out of focus bits is great.
- Owing to that monstrous front element (requiring a 77mm filter) vignetting is no issue at all.
End result? This lens stays on my camera most of the time.
Day 1 I took a chance and tested this lens at a St. Baldrick’s event I was asked to photograph at my job. A bit of a gamble, but given my testing the evening before I had some confidence that it would hold it’s own. Instead this lens performed far and above my expectations. Samples from that event and other photos below and a gallery with updated images here.
Not long ago you would find a medium format camera on my person or nearby. Why? Glad you asked. While I always admired the look of the cameras themselves once I obtained one for myself I was hooked by the ‘look’ of the images they produced. Sometimes when people talk about a certain brand or format’s look admittedly I roll my eyes. But to my surprise when my very first roll of medium format film came back the difference was right there before my eyes.
As much as I tried to emulate this look with digital I could not with the tools I was using. That is until recently. Truth be told I had given up and had accepted the fact that I could not afford digital medium format so I split my photography in to practical (digital) and optimal (medium format film) and would usually carry one of each. My fascination led me to purchase 2 more medium format film cameras. I love each for entirely different reasons.
A full frame camera with an insanely fast lens previously did not quite hit the mark owing more to personal taste than anything else. A fine camera and a stellar value, but I never did warm up to the Sony A7. One issue was the fact that I could not afford Sony’s fast zoom lenses. With the release of the K-1 40 years of legacy native and 3rd party lenses opened up, many offering autofocus, with many being readily available and quite affordable. While Pentax offers a fine, newer autofocus 50mm f/1.4 reviews indicated that this lens was not the sharpest at f/1.4, but at f/2 it really sharpened up. That information led me to try out the older film era 50mm f/1.7. I saved a few more bucks by buying one with a cosmetic defect (crack in the clear plastic over the DOF calculator) from KEH.com.
Is it dead on medium format look appropriation? No. Of course not. One cannot simply flaunt the laws of physics. Surface area rules in areas of light gathering and ultimate resolution. Is it close enough? The subject isolation, color rendering, transition from in focus to out of focus? To my eyes and for my purposes combined with the amazing IQ of the Pentax K-1 (called a full frame marvel for a reason) yes. Enough where I can stop hemorrhaging cash getting film developed weekly and reserve film time for fun and special purposes like a recent family portrait session that included my Grandmother below.
My experience with this lens completely shifted my fo… Nope. This totally changed my shopping list. Instead of looking at newer Pentax and 3rd party glass I started looking at legacy glass even scoring 4 M42 screw mount lenses. In order of purchase (galleries linked) the surprise hit Vivitar 200mm f/3.5 ($30), Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 swirly bokeh machine ($47), the technically excellent and pin sharp Takumar 50mm f/1.4 ($100), and one I picked up recently just because it was so inexpensive, the Takumar 55mm f/1.8 ($43, no album yet).
I still love film and will continue to shoot with it regularly, but now that I am getting the look I want from digital I can either save a few bucks (hah!) or divert the savings towards even more inexpensive glass that performs well above expectations.
It was all a blur. Since their release I have been impressed with the Sony A7 line in all of it’s mirrorless, full frame, with killer EVF glory. While the price was very reasonable it was still a bit too rich for my “can’t see body prices over $1,000” blood. That all changed with the release of the very nice A7II. Did the new feature set, including the image stabilization licensed from Olympus that I used to enjoy on a previously owned E-P5, move me to see above $1,000. Nope. Still too
cheap frugal for that to happen as long as I am a hobbyist. No, the news that got my attention was not in headlines, but it was seeing that Sony reduced the price of the original A7 to $998. Huzzah! As usual this led to fits of gear trading and selling that are still in play as I write this, but has already allowed me to get my mitts on the A7. No lenses yet, but I have legacy 35mm film lenses and that is a huge perk of the A7. Sure I had used them before with adapters, but having a full frame sensor backing them would be even better I thought. And make it better it did. Just received the camera Friday and below are some impromptu shots taken over Father’s Day weekend. I look forward to getting out and about with this camera. Will report back with more images and some native lenses, The plan so far is to get the 24-240mm next. Sure their are optical compromises, but after going prime crazy recently I am looking forward to having a good all ’rounder on body as opposed to a bag full of perfect for certain situations on my shoulder. Preference. Plus it has gotten respectable reviews. After that most likely a flash, but then who knows? Take it easy. -ELW