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The "Nick's lens comparison" thread

Discussion in 'Lens Matters' started by Benchista, Nov 19, 2011.

  1. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    I suggested elsewhere that I would start a lens comparison thread, so here it is. It is entirely subjective, based purely on my opinion of lenses I've owned, takes no account of sample variation (unless I've owned multiple copies of a lens) and may be considered to be entirely partial. If you don't like it, don't read it. If you disagree, by all means do so and say why; that way, the thread might actually develop into something useful...
    I intend to list different focal lengths in different posts, and will revisit them from time to time just because I can.
    The overall rating in my posts will be entirely at my whim, but it's based on a comparison in my own head to the Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f1.4, a lens I have owned multiple copies of in two mounts, each of which has been truly excellent.
  2. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    50mmish SLR lenses - not including macros

    I'll start with this category - the good old standard lens...

    Not in any particular order:

    Meyer 50mm f2.8 Domiplan (M42 screw, the cheapest standard lens for screw-thread Prakticas)
    This is probably the worst standard lens I've used. It has been said that there are good ones out there, but the three I've had have all been pretty grotty. It's a nasty lens to look at, a nasty lens to use (awkward positioning of the aperture ring, terrible feel) and it produces nasty results. Oh, it's not too terrible stopped down, but I can't think of one good reason to use this lens - it's not even bad enough to be interesting.
    Score: 2

    Canon 50mm f1.8 (FD)
    I've a couple of these - one "new FD", the other breechlock. There's a difference in feel, and handling as far as lens mounting goes, but basically, this is an absolutely typical Japanese standard lens from the 70s/80s, and that means it's pretty damn good and scarcely surpassed by current models.
    Score: 7.5

    Meyer Oreston/Pentacon/Prakticar 50mm f1.8 (M42/Exacta/Praktica Bayonet)
    I've more of these than of any other standard lens, and it's a lens I respect. The earlier non-multicoated lenses lose out a bit on contrast in contra-jour conditions, but for the most part, this is a really decent lens that competed on an equal basis with the Japanese big guns of the day. Which means it's still a good choice now.
    Score: 7.5

    Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm f2.8 Tessar (M42)
    I've owned several of these, too - an older, non-multicoated one, and a few more recent. It's a legendary design, but the truth is that it's nothing like as good as the majority of standard lenses for SLRs. Where it comes into it's own is when used reversed for macro; then, it's very good indeed, but for general picture-taking, there are plenty of better options. Perfectly usable at f11, though.
    Score: 5

    Zuiko 50mm f1.8 (OM)
    Often described as a legendary lens, this is a bit of an oddball. Again, I've owned several copies, and my perception is that the resolution isn't actually quite as good as many of its competitors; however, it is a VERY high contrast lens, and that enhances the impression of sharpness. I do like this lens, to be sure.
    Score: 7.5

    Nikon 50mm f1.8 E (Nikon F)
    A very small, very light lens that is optically up with the competition, just feels naff.
    Score: 7

    Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f1.7 (C/Y)
    A truly excellent lens; both examples I've owned have been stunning and it would be my favourite standard lens if the f1.4 version wasn't just as good...
    Score: 10

    Leica 50mm f2 Summicron (Leica R)
    Another truly excellent lens. What more can I say?
    Score: 10

    Pentax 50mm f2 M (Pentax K)
    Not a lens I like much - it's fairly compact, but not really that great, and hasn't got a lot going for it.
    Score: 6

    Pentax 50mm f1.7 M (Pentax K)
    I like this one an awful lot more. Mine is much sharper than the f2, feels nicer - it's a lens I like a lot.
    Score: 8

    Helios 58mm f2 (M42)
    I've had several of these Biotar copies, and they're surprisingly good. Awful handling on the preset diaphragm ones, not great wide open, but very usable within the constraints of the longer focal length.
    Score: 6.5

    Industar 50mm f3.5 (M42)
    A very strange lens in many ways. This must almost certainly be the last standard lens for any SLR that had no mechanism for aiding full aperture viewing. It's also one of the smallest and slowest standards of the last 40 years. And it's not exactly a stellar performer for general photography - pretty low contrast, not especially high resolution - but it has a very flat field. However, shove it on extension tubes or a set of bellows, and it starts to shine. Odd indeed, until you listen to the stories. It is said that it was developed for the KGB for document copying, which certainly starts to make sense in terms of the way it performs.
    Score: 4

    Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Planar (C/Y, Rollei QBM)
    I've four of these, 2 in each mount, and they're just superb. Only downside is the relatively small number of aperture blades, but aside from that, I can't fault them
    Score: 10

    Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm f1.8 Pancolar/Prakticar (M42, Praktica Bayonet)
    I've a couple of the MC version in M42, and one of the PB mount ones - note that many of the PB mount Zeiss Prakticars of this focal length are actually the Meyer lens above rebranded. I like this lens very much indeed; it's sharp, suitably contrasty - there's no shame for the Zeiss name in this lens at all, it's one of my favourites.
    Score: 9

    Zeiss/Rollei 50mm f1.8 Planar (Rollei QBM)
    Yet another lens I've got several examples of; 2 later ones, and an earlier one. It's good, nay very good, but not up to the standard of the other Planars.
    Score: 8.5

    Yashica 50mm f1.7 ML (C/Y)
    A very good standard lens indeed, certainly as good as most of the competition, but destined to live forever in the shadow of the Planars.
    Score: 7.5

    Mamiya-Sekor 50mm f1.7 CS (CS mount for NC1000/s)
    These days, few people remember Mamiya's 35mm SLRs. I've a soft spot for the shutter-priority NC1000s, and even more so for the lenses. It's a seriously good range that also appeared in Rollei QBM mount as Rolleinars and Voigtlanders, as we'll see on some other focal lengths. This lens is typically as cheap as chips, and is of very respectable quality - not dissimilar to the Zuiko, but slightly sharper and slightly less contrasty.
    Score: 7.5

    Rokkor 50mm f1.7 (Minolta MD)
    Another very nice lens, every bit as good as the direct competition. I've owned two of these at different types, and they're just great lenses.
    Score: 7.5

    Chinon 50mm f1.7 (Pentax K)
    This one's a bit of a surprise. It's good: very, very good. In fact it's as good as all the Japanese competition, but was a fair bit cheaper, and the brand always sufferred from a low-end reputation in the UK.
    Score: 7.5

    Ricoh Riconar 55mm f2.2 (Pentax K)
    Technically, I've never owned one of these; it's my wife's. And I don't really like it, I must say. It's really not a bad lens, but neither is it an outsandingly good one. I just can't see any reason for buying one over a slightly faster and somewhat better lens.
    Score: 6.5

    Helios 50mm f2 (Kiev 10/15 mount)
    Almost certainly the most obscure lensmount I own anything for, these very odd cameras carried a rather good standard lens. I'm not sure of its lineage - most Helios lenses were Zeiss copies - but it's a good 'un.
    Score: 7

    Prakticar 50mm f2.4 (Praktica Bayonet)
    I've always assumed this lens is a development of the Tessar, but never been bothered enough to try to find out. It's fairly compact, and reasonable enough, but I just don't really see the point of it.
    Score: 6

    Canon 50mm f1.4 (FD)
    I like this lens. It's very little bigger than the f1.8 lens, is sharp, contrasty and just all-round a nice lens to use - which is of course true for many manual focus lenses of this specification. I've only really shot one roll of film with it, so feel a bit of a fraud rating it at all, but it's my thread, so tough. ;)
    Score: 7.75

    More to follow...
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2011
  3. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    Can't really argue with this one really, but somebody probably will!

    One lens that I found amazing was the 45mm f2 for the Contax G system, it is an absolute gem.
  4. TimF

    TimF With as stony a stare as ever Lord Reith could hav

    Seeing as it's quite hard to design a bad 50mm the Meyer must be truly shocking (or have been put together by semi-trained monkeys!).
  5. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    It's triplet, and fairly fast for a triplet, so it really suffers from the intrinsic downsides of its design.
  6. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    From what I remember the Ludwig Meritar was actually worse than the Domiplan.
  7. SqueamishOssifrage

    SqueamishOssifrage Well-Known Member

    I have three of the Zeiss 50mm Planars - two f1.4 and one f1.7, all Rollei QBM, and agree with the rating of 10.

    However, on that basis, I would rate the Minolta 50mm f2.8 macro right up there with them, at maybe 9.5+, albeit with the speed loss. I have two of them - the original, and the RS version, which I bought because I heard the original could cause a white spot on the image under certain circumstances on digital (although I have never seen this).

    At wide open, it is fractionally less sharp than either of the Zeiss' at f2.8 (not unexpectedly), but thereafter, at the same aperture, there is nothing in it.
  8. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Oddly enough, I nearly posted that in my previous reply, but I only had a Meritar for a week or so and one film, so it's more a second-hand opinion than my own.
  9. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    You were truly impressed with it then?

    The high reputation and consistency of the Zeiss lenses is partly presumably down to more stringent quality control during production and any final checking.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2011
  10. mike_j

    mike_j Well-Known Member

    Re: 50mmish SLR lenses - not including macros

    I only know this in Leica Thread Mount but I thought it was basically a copy of the f3.5 Elmar
  11. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Re: 50mmish SLR lenses - not including macros

    I dont think so - sure, the earlier rangefinder Industars looked like the Elmar, but in construction, they're more a straight copy of the Tessar, including positioning of the diaphragm. However, the rangefinder and SLR lenses are completely different lenses (although the latter is of course available in M39 thread, but with a different register to Leica thread). My experience with the rangefinder 55mm f2.8 version is actually a lot more positive - it's an astonishingly good lens for the money IMHO. Many years ago now, Mike Rignall did a comparison of the Industar and thepre-war Elmar on here, and he sent me the detailed figures. Suffice it to say that the Industar came out a little better, and that bears out my experience.
  12. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    It was on an Exa 500 that I took back because of overlapping frames. I would probably have kept it otherwise.

    I assume you're right about quality control, but I've got somewhere around 10-12 of the Meyer Oreston/Pentacon/Prakticar 50mm f1.8, and there's not a duff one among them (well, except the one I disassembled! :eek:), and the dear old Lydith always had a good reputation, so there's no doubt that they could do it - one reason why I consider the mythical "good Domiplan" to be precisely that - a myth. ;)
  13. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    Have you had any experience of the Topcon 58mm f1.4, rebadged a few years ago by Cosina as a Voigtlander in Nikon/Pentax mount?
  14. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Are you sure it's the same lens?

    Either way, sadly, no; I've only had a 50mm f2 Topcor on a camera that lasted me a month before it packed up, so I took it back. The lens seemed decent enough, but that 58mm f1.4 is legendary, and I would like to try one someday.
  15. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    CV's Japanese page seems to indicate it is the same lens. I'd happily take it in eithe F-mount or K-mount. Perhaps moreso K as it'd be nice as a standard on film and (being slightly longer than most standards) a really nice portrait length on digital.
  16. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    I'll take your word for it. ;)

    I always found 58mm too long to be genuinely useful on film; mind you, I feel much the same way about 50mm, which is why my next comparison post will be on alternative standards - the 40/45mm lenses and the macros. Once I've got my act together, and stop adding 50s, anyway. :rolleyes:
  17. P_Stoddart

    P_Stoddart Well-Known Member

    Just curious are these all 20th century lenses?

    Second if so how does the modern zoom kit lens compare as this now covers the 50mm focal length?

    Did you test on digital with adapters?
  18. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    He hasn't actually tested any of them, he's just run them through some DxO 'tests' and pasted the results here. ;)

    [grabs coat and runs for the door...]
  19. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    This is certainly developed from this lens, but the coatings have been updated. I have one, it's rather good. In truth the thing I like best is that it is made the way lenses used to be, and also has modern electronics. There sre times I use autofocus equivalents in preference though, I can't focus as quickly as electronics, but it is nice when you either have time to focus or can prefocus.

    The question about kit lenses is interesting, the old 50ish lenses will clearly leave them standing aperture for aperture where the kit lens is virtually wide open, but I would expect the difference to drop at f8-11. Most of the primes optimise at around f4.5-5.6 as a rule. The performance of the heavy expensive f2.8 zooms will be closer, but probably in most cases will be unable to match a prime at the same aperture.
  20. P_Stoddart

    P_Stoddart Well-Known Member


    Fair comment. :)
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2011

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