So, today I wanted to share a little something that I did last night. I have been collecting vintage prime lenses around the 50 mm FOV for a couple of months now. I’m really fond of each and every one of them.

However they do render so differently. It is, by now, no secret that I REALLY like my Helios 44m-4 58mm f/2 lens. But how would it stack up against all my other primes, such as the excellent Super-takumar 55mm /f2 or the beast of a minolta 50mm f/1.2?

What I really like about these vintage lenses is their ability to render black and white. This is due to their old coating which doesn’t supply much contrast, so for b&w I have a lot more dynamic range, and I can play with contrast in post process. Coupled with the high ISO look of the X-Pro1 you get some output files that looks VERY film like.

So, thats what I tried to set up. I did a simple test setup. I set it up at night, with low light as to get grain from hi ISO, I took a shot in colour and subsequently did a straight desaturation to black & white. The test enviroment featured a messy background so as to compare bokeh quality.

The lenses tested are:

Asahi Pentax Super-Takumar 55mm f/2

Fujinon M42 50mm f/1.4

Helios 44m-4 58mm f/2

Yashinon DX 50mm f/1.7

Minolta Rokkor MD 50mm f/1.2

Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4

DSCF1556-2

The rat-pack

All lenses were shot at their maximum aperture, since that is how I use them. So this is a “wide open” test. I used ISO 3200 and shutter speed of 1/125 (1/250 for the fast minolta).

Below are the shots. I will link each shot to their respective lens at the end of this post. Let me just say that I’m AMAZED at just how well the Helios performs. To me, this lens delivers the best image of ALL of the lenses. This is even including the new Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4!!

Takumar 55mm f/2

Takumar 55mm f/2

Fujinon 50mm f/1.4

Fujinon 50mm f/1.4

Helios 58mm f/2

Helios 58mm f/2

Yashinon 50mm f/1.7

Yashinon 50mm f/1.7

Minolta 50mm f/1.2

Minolta 50mm f/1.2

Fujinon 35mm f/1.4

Fujinon 35mm f/1.4

 

The colour shots clearly show the difference in these lenses each with their own unique character. To me, the best performers in this test are the Helios and Super-Takumar. The poorest is the Fujinon 50mm. The minolta is so soft it hurts, but look at that shallow DOF. The bokeh is just a big pile of blur. Amazing.

Takumar 55mm f/2 b&w

Takumar 55mm f/2 b&w

Fujinon 50mm f/1.4 b&w

Fujinon 50mm f/1.4 b&w

Helios 58mm f/2 b&w

Helios 58mm f/2 b&w

Yashinon 50mm f/1.7 b&w

Yashinon 50mm f/1.7 b&w

Minolta 50mm f/1.2 b&w

Minolta 50mm f/1.2 b&w

Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 b&w

Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 b&w

In the black and white shots, the Minolta sure performs great. Still very soft, but the low contrast gives great dynamic range. The Super-Takumar is very good here as well. The helios does show a good deal of contrast, hence having dark shadow falloff.

In all. The best of the buch to me is the Helios. In second place we have the Super-Takumar, closely followed by the Minolta. The Yashinon and Fujinon 50mm are average performers, the Fujinon being quite soft. For fun, I put into the mix the current generation Fujinon 35mm f/1.4. This lens is very sharp, but you can actually achieve very similar sharpness with the Helios and the Super-Takumar.

So there you have it. A quick and VERY non-scientific little test. I did this mainly for my own curiosity, but thought it might be fun for others to read.

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18 Comment on “Vintage standard lens shootout

  1. Pingback: X-Pro1 w/Konica AR EE 57mm F/1.4 – Gobs of Character + Classic Rendering… » IK Photography | All things photography

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