Using APS-C sensor sized cameras has its little quirks in comparison to using full frame. The X-Pro1 is no exception. The crop factor not only limits field of view, but it also enhances depth of field. So what can you do when you need paper thin depth of field and lots of creamy bokeh and abrupt falloff into blurry mush-town? You look for some ultrafast glass!
Of course one could buy the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.1, or the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2, a Canon FD 50mm f/1.2 or maybe even a Leica Noctilux 50mm f/0.95 (at 8000$ its a real bargain…..!!! /sarcasm)
What I stumbled upon was a great gem of a lens the Minolta Rokkor MD 50mm f/1.2. It’s not as well renowned as its “bigger brother” the 58mm f/1.2, and it is often not given quite the credit that it should be given. Over at Rokkor Files Antony has made a great and very thorough comparison between the two Minolta f/1.2’s and he came to the conclusion that the 50mm, although having pleasing bokeh, did not have the über-creamy bokeh of the 58mm. It was, however, sharper wide open.
As with all my other legacy glass I found a real good bargain on my copy of the lens. Mint condition, only 1/4 of the price that they usually sell for on e-bay. The f/1.2 sticker really makes these lenses alot more expensive than their f/1.4 sisters. They go for just around $500.
The lens is like all the other 1970’ish legacy lense a really solid and well-built piece of tech. It’s metal and glass. I have the version with a rubberised focus ring. The focus is smooth and the aperture ring is as well. This is of course a huge step up from eg. the russian lenses, but so is to be expected as this was a premium pro lens back in its day (the minolta glory days, that is). It is a rather havy lens, and the amount of glass contained is incredible. It has a 55mm filter thread. For the X-Pro1 I ordered a cheap MD mount to X-mount adapter on ebay. It works really well, although there is a tiny amount of give between the adapter and the camera mount. The MD part of the adapter is nice a tight with no give at all. Mounted on the X-pro1 it is the same size as the Fujinon XF 18-55mm or the Fujinon XF 14mm. And it lokks REALLY good on the camera!! It has the perfect styling for the X-Pro1. VERY nice combination.
So what can you expect from this lens?
Crazy sharpness like Fuji’s own 35mm? NO!
Edge to edge sharpness and no light falloff at the edges? NO!
Ultra shallow depth of field? YES!
Oldschool lens characteristics? HELL YES!
This lens gives your images a nice kick in the behind. First of all focussing a f/1.2 lens manually is a task on its own! The X-Pro’s focus magnification of 3x and 10x is very helpful for this. But shooting this lens wide open (as it should be! thats why you pay a premium for that f/1.2 moniker) on the streets is a very challenging task. A fun one, but challenging!
The lens is soft wide open. No doubt about this. There is a subtle glow to it. This is partly because of the relative ease with which you misfocus a f/1.2. For portraits of women this is quite a nice feature though. At f/4 it is very sharp. f/8 is maximum resolution for this lens. There is a slight light falloff towards the edges, which I really don’t mind, since I always add vignetting in post process anyway. (landscape photographers…move right along 😀 )
The background blur is GOOD. It goes from sharp in focus to complete bokeh creamy-mosh in just under 0,5 cm at 1m shooting distance. It really is something! There are some noise in my out of focus specular highlights, but it is due to the variable ND filter that I have mounted on it. The ND filter is an absolute must when shooting this lens open in sunlight. A 3 stop ND is enough. The color rendering of the lens is nice. Colours are natural and they have nice contrast. There is not a lot of chromatic aberration, if hardly any. I do think that this lens is best suited as a black and white lens, though.
So what do you get with this lens?
You get a very affordable, very fast lens, that looks like it was designed with the X-Pro1. It has a soft look with lots of contrast, and it gives you a crazy cool shallow DOF and focus falloff. The built quality is great, and it is just a very fun lens to shoot.
Below are my usual type of sample shots. The images has been post processed in various ways, as I always do. These are a representation of the conditions under which I use this amazing 50mm lens.
So there you have it. A really nice lens, that excels in a lot of different scenarios. It is fast, gives shallow DOF and has the lovely charming quirks of a vintage lens.
What I would recommend this lens for is mostly portrait work. On the APS-C its a 75mm FOV equivalent. The soft glowy appearance and the shallow DOF makes it ideal for the purpose. But as a street photographer you will have a blast with this lens. It is not as cheap as the helios, and you can get a 50mm f/1.4 at a 10th of the price…. but there is just something awesome about that f/1.2 number.
Thanks for reading.