Vintage standard lens shootout

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

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.


  1. Very nice test Jonas… That Helios has me drooling…

    More importantly this shows many X-Pro/X-E1 users out there that there are many incredible alternatives to choose from without breaking the bank for newer lenses… I just posted some shots on my blog using the Konica AR EE 57mm 1.4 ( )


  2. I just wanted to send a word of thanks from Canada. I have been considering getting back into photography with the launch of the Fuji X series and your photography and guidance on legacy lenses has been a huge help in researching options. I just wanted to say thanks for the enthusiasm and time and effort it must have taken. Its your kind of enthusiasm and guidance which helps others on their journey in photography.

  3. Can you tell me, how you processed the “The rat-pack” picture? I’m interested in the tondes and colors. Is there a tutorial?

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  5. Wow fantastic site, I have to admit I am a nubie to photography, only got my first DSLR a week ago (a nikon d3200 to learn with). I would love to start a small collection of vintage fast 50s (a friend gifted me a auto chinon 1.4 and a takumar 1.4), what would be your dream collection of reasonablly priced fast 50s?

  6. Nice article. Wish I saw this before I bought my Minolta Rokkor 50mm f/1.4. I bought it on-line without trying it. And I previously rejected buying a Pentax SMC 50mm f/1.4 when I did try it.
    To be honest, I’m not impressed with the quality of the bokeh and/or the contrast for any of these vintage lenses. Wide-open, most are a bit soft or low-contrast. And for all of them, their bokeh is busy — witness the hard edges on the out-of-focus highlights and the non-roundness.
    To me, the best of the bunch is the modern Fuji. The bokeh-ball is more round and devoid of harsh edges. Compare at the resulting “busy-ness” on the handle of the white and yellow cup/pail in the background. It should be softly defined without harsh edges. All the old lenses have harsh edges. Only the new Fuji seems okay. Leica lenses are prized for their ability to render beautifully smooth bokeh — they don’t show harsh edges in out-of-focus areas.
    The Fuji 35mm images aren’t as impressive in this comparison only because the lens has a shorter focal length than any of the other lenses. But just wait and see how the future Fuji 56mm f/1.2 does. I will buy that lens!
    Some of you may think I’m a bit harsh. But this image doesn’t have too many highlights in the background. If this had a tree with sunshine streaming through the leaves, you would see what I mean about busy-ness.
    One of the reasons I’ve decided to buy into the Fuji X system is that most all the Fuji lenses are optically fast, sharp with good contrast at wide-open, and good bokeh rendering.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. But it is what it is. The “Nissen” rings is a bokeh feature that I quite like. If you read through my dedicated reviews of these old lenses you will find plenty of specular highlights, complete with very busy bokeh, which is what these lenses will give you.
      I really like it that way. When I need to do clean portraits, I will always pull out the modern lenses and I must agree that the Fuji lenses are phenomenal. But to scratch that itch in my creative mind these cheap lenses are perfect. The character of these old lenses are what makes them unique.

      I too are looking foward to the Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 It will be a DREAM of a lens.

      Thank you for stopping by the blog.


  7. Hello,

    thanks for your experiment. However, you should compare the lenses on the same aperture.



  8. Hi..
    I`m looking for the Yashinon DX 50mm f/1.7, but this appears to be a fixed lens on Yashica cameras. Any help on how to find this lens separate would be much appreciated.

  9. Hi Jonas! Have you tried the Pentax SMC-A 50 mm/f1.7 (a mouthful) ? I assume it is the spiritual heir to the old Takumar in your test. My Helios 44M was permanently attached on my (former) Canon DSLR until I got this lens. Smooth handling, super sharp wide open, vivid colours and lovely bokeh (not swirly, unfortunately). It is now glued on my X-T1 and has put me off saving up for the XF35/1.4 so far.

  10. Hi ,

    My name’s Max an Italian passionate photographer who lives in Shanghai and since not long time I’ve “discovered” the pleasure of shooting with vintage lenses.
    First of all, compliments for your site and review, it’s also thanks to you that I’ve got the vintage lens bug 🙂

    I’m Interested in getting both the Carl Zeiss Pancolar 50mm f/1.8 (zebra model because apparently is better than the black barrel one) and the Helios 44M (50mm) f/2 which I will use on a Canon 5d Mark II .
    I saw that for each lens there are several different model and I found a list of compatibility (

    My question is how to understand in advance before I buy the lens which one is suitable for my camera and is NOT going to touch the mirror? I would prefer to use the lens ad is and not file or cut it… (for example the Carl Zeiss Pancolar 50mm f/1.8 zebra SECOND VERSION there is one model that doesn’t need to be modified or filed (second version #8555083) at the same time in both first and second version other models can touch the mirror… same story for the Helios 44 …. so, how to check and know in advance ?

    Thank you very much for your kind attention

    Max from Shanghai

    P.S. if you have any suggestion in other brand or model of 50 mm lenses please let me know (I mainly do street photography and portrait)

  11. Nice collection, but you really should use a tripod for this kind of test. (including base iso and longer shutterspeeds if necessary)

    Check out my Blog if you’re curious about some other choices of famous 50mm lenses with a tad more scientific comparisons (though no iso charts and such).

    1. Nice site! – definitely bookmarked it.

      In my defense of that article, it was shot 2 years back, when I didn’t have the same kind of knowledge as I do now. A high ISO indoor low light test to test lens sharpness? I must’ve been out of my mind! 😀 You’ll need to take it for what it is. Thank you for stopping by. /J

  12. I have takumar 55mm f2.. you are right.. this lens is amazing.. i love this lens

  13. Hi Jonas, I recently buy the Helios and I only can say woow!! It’s a really good lens. (Your review was very helpful for buying this lens)

    For now I’m looking for a vintage 50mm and my personal best is the super takumar 1.4.
    Have you used this lens before? How does it performs? Any other recommendations?

    Great photos and very good reviews.

    Greetings from Chile!!

  14. Nice test of those lenses. I actually use a Minolta MC 55mm f1.7 on my Fuji X-E2. The 56mm f1.2 is just too expensive for me as a hobbyist. I am looking forward to the Fuji XF 50mm f2 though. Will be interesting to see how this one compares to those legacy lenses. IMHO it will make legacy lenses obsolete for me (provided Fuji offers it at a reasonable price).

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