Rikenon 55mm f/1.2 review

Vintage lens review time!

Some weeks ago I was browsing the classifieds as I regularly do, in search of good ol’ photography gold. My search never really broadens enough to include the word “Ricoh” but on this particular day I wanted to see what the going rate for the Ricoh GR was. What popped up was something quite different.

A fast fifty? A really fast fifty? That I hadn’t heard about? That couldn’t be. Nonetheless it was certainly so. The seller seemed to charge a very reasonable price, but I had to check on eBay just to get an idea of the general price range of these lenses. Surprise! Not a single Rikenon 55mm f/1.2 was for sale on the entire eBay network! As I researched further I found out that the lens had some siblings under different brand names. The Yashinon 55mm, The Vivitar 55mm, and The Revuenon 55mm. The lens might have been manufactured by Tomioka in the 70’s 80’s and 90’s, or it might have ben produced by Cosina. I simply couldn’t find a straight answer to the manufacturing site! (if any of you readers know, please leave me a message)

EDIT: Stefano Dessi pointed out that the Porst 55mm f/1.2 is optically different, and that the Rikenon is Tomioka produced. Thank you for that, Stefano!

DSCF2861
Gorgeous Lens – The Rikenon 55mm f/1.2

So indeed quite a rare lens when branded under the Rikenon name it seems, yet its siblings can be had for around 300-400 USD. Thats a pretty damn good deal on a fast fifty that performs like this one.

Build

My copy is a 7 elements in 6 groups, 9-blade aperture, 58mm filter lens. It weighs just around 320g and it is surprisingly compact for a large aperture lens. The barrel is solid metal, with engravings that are unfortunately not etched in. This means that the markings will wear off much more easily. Mine already has some of the markings partly worn off. No big deal, but still…

Focussing is buttery smooth, and from close to infinity you have to turn about 170 degrees. Aperture only has full stop clicks, but they are solid nice feeling clicks.

My copy is a Pentax-K mount. So I had to buy some new adapters. I couldn’t get my hands on a speedster/Lens Turbo for the Fujifilm X mount, so I tested the full frame potential of this lens on my Sony A7

Image Quality

Now THIS was where I was very pleasantly surprised! The IQ of this lens is simply stunning.

Wide open it has lower contrast than many of the other fast fifties I’ve tested. Still sharp, but just low on contrast. This can easily be corrected in post, and in contrary to having super contrast off the lens, the flat appearance actually gives you much more versatility in post. The Black and Whites are a joy to work with, since shadows are retained so very well.

Put this baby in f/2 and beyond and it will sharpen up considerably. It will give punchy contrast off the bat, and at f/5.6 it has its sweet spot. I buy these lenses to use them at wide open aperture, so I don’t care much for the stopped down performance. But if you want to take this into the studio, you surely could.

I did a little comparison with the Rikenon 55 f/1.2 and the Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2. Both shot at f/5.6 the below shots clearly show that the Rikenon can easily hold its own against even one of the best modern portrait lenses around.

And the 100% crops clearly show this as well. Make sure to click these to view the full size file.

Bokeh is a little busy, but nothing too much. I like my booked this way, cause when rendered great by the lens, it adds to that classic look to the images. So if the specular highlights aren’t perfectly smooth and creamy, I don’t really mind. (Just as long as I don’t see onion ring artefacts. HATE those with a passion!)

Bokeh in the Rain
Bokeh in the Rain
Bokeh Boy
Bokeh Boy

Samples

As stated I didn’t have the opportunity the get a hold of the PK-FX focal reducer, so the full frame aspects of this lens was shot on the Sony A7. This gives the true 55mm f/1.2 focal length and DOF. On the X-T1 this becomes an 82mm f/1.8 in terms of focal length and DOF full frame Eq. It will naturally give you some more compressed and cropped images. But the files from the X-T1 sings. This lens is made for night time use, so I made a sample gallery of night pictures as well as the usual general use sample gallery.

Pictures as usual variously processed using Lightroom 5


General usage samples using the Sony A7 and the X-T1


Night of the Rikenon – Shot with the X-T1


Conclusion

The Rikenon 55mm f/1.2 is a great performing vintage lens. Ultra fast yet small, great build, and some SERIOUS image quality. Left wide open it gives your files great flexibility because of the low contrast stopped down it is as razor sharp as the modern Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 lens. No small feat! It performs like a champ in the dark. And coupled with the X-T1 and its incredible ISO performance it gives you some cool after dark pictures.

Its an incredibly versatile lens, and if you can’t find the Ricoh branded version, there are a lot of other branded versions such as Revuenon, Porst, Yashinon, and Vivitar. They are cheap, and most will set you back around 300 USD.

/Jonas

(Stay tuned for a review of the Minolta Rokkor MD 85mm f/1.7)

jr050680

21 thoughts on “Rikenon 55mm f/1.2 review

  1. Nice review – I own the Revuenon MC 55 1.2 which is exactly the same lens, only branded differently. To be more precise, Porst were definitely manufactured by Cosina with a different optical scheme (6 elements in 4 groups, 8 blades, 55mm filter ring) and they generally deliver little less IQ than the Tomioka clones.

  2. More, more, more, feed us more…………

    Cosina ironically now makes lenses that Tomioka once made, or is it ironic? ……. Kyocera (Tomioka) stopped lens production. Cosina lenses were sneezed at because they were associated as low price cheap quality, mass production utility lenses. However, Cosina today now manufactures manual focus SLR lenses for Carl Zeiss with Leica (ZM), Nikon (ZF), Pentax (ZK), Canon EOS (ZE), and M42 screw mounts (ZS) also CSC lenses (Touit and Sonnar T* E for APS-C format such as Fujifilm X-mount and Sony E-mount. Cosina actually built cameras for Yashica. The point if any, is that the partnerships in Japanese camera and lens manufacturing are long tried and true practices. What’s fiction and based heavily on opinion and speculation is making a definitive statement in regards to who made what when…… There are no facts and only speculation involving much of the tree in Japanese lens lineage.

    You basically tested what is perceived to be a Tomioka made Rikenon against a Cosina made Fujinon. But there is a chance Cosina could have had a hand in the Rikenon simply because there are no facts to support who made what then.

    The big point is how Cosina suffered an image issue and as a result were frowned upon in general yet it’s possible they made some thought to be Tomioka lenses and eventually inherited what they have now despite public doubt. Designs between lenses can differ, but that does not mean some other maker produced that different lens.

    The thing that is amazing is how a late 60’s early 70’s lens stacks up against a modern lens regardless of who made either. Just because we read a piece about Tomioka or accept the folklore people just blindly accept as if factual, the truth is in the amazing partnerships, trust, sharing, joint ventures, and goals that were involved where no records exist or were necessary.

    Start viewing Japanese lenses as marriages and not single company oriented like the Germans were, even the Germans learned the Japanese way obviously….. your source for information is the internet and there are little to no citations to support much at all when you read on line about lens pedigrees and family history.

    1. Thank you so much for that!!!

      I have to agree with you that Cosina is indeed suffering a bad rep, which is not at all deserved. The Voigtländers coming out of there are amazing optics. The 50 f/1.15 ASPH being just the latest.

      I definitely agree that the big picture here is that the vintage lens can hold its own against its modern day equivalent.

      Thank you for reading.
      /J

  3. Hey Jonas!

    Really cool pictures. Love your website and especially your reviews! 🙂

    Besides that – i think i read it a lot of times…, but just realised that your navigation is saying “MY356″ instead of “365” 😀 was that made up intentionally?

    Keep on going and take care.

    Daniel

  4. Jonas, I am enjoying your blog posts on vintage lenses, and am looking forward to your review of the Minolta MD 85 1.7 (I purchased one last month!). Your Helios 44M post prompted me to pick up one of these from eBay. Keep up the good work.

  5. Hi Jonas,

    Great review and so much so that I have just bought a mint copy of this lens myself and am awaiting it arriving. Will also be using it with the new Zhong Yi Lens Turbo ii so can’t wait.

    What I am wanting to ask you however is if you would give permission for me to use your images of the lens and it attached to your X-T1 on my blog site? I too have a X-T1 Graphite and I intend to use the Rikenon exclusively for a while (until I have saved for Fuji 23mm) and wondered if you wouldn’t mind. Obviously the images would be credited to you and I would make this known on my blog site at the footer as well as on the images themselves. The WordPress theme I am wanting to use in called Port and they would look wonderful. I haven’t another camera to be able to take my own and especially not like yours.

    If you could let me know your thoughts either way I’d really appreciate that and thank you for your inspiring work.

    Kind regards

    Iain

    1. Hi Iain. Congratulations on your purchase. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

      Of course you can use the photos. no problem 🙂

      Cheers,
      Jonas

      1. Great, thanks Jonas 😀

        My blog/website is going to be one good looking site now.

        Kind regards

        Iain

    1. The 55 1.4 types are generally a Double Gauss Biotar/Xenon type with 7 elements and an enhanced rear group of 2 elements , the 1.2 lenses are a later Double Gauss Ultron type with 7 elements and an enhanced 4 element rear group also by Tronnier. So they are quite different and the only thing in common was the designer who created the types.

      Also note note that Canon 58mm, 55mm and Nikon-S 55mm 1.2’s were Biotar 7 elements with 2 element enhanced rear groups just like above while the later Canon FD 55 1.2 was an 8 element type, the only 8 element type Biotar at 1.2.

      ______________________________________________________________________________________

      “Porst” was a German distributor of camera goods and not a manufacture who purchased lenses and relabeled them much like Vivitar, Soligor, Asanuma, and many others who were ‘not’ manufactures. To say the Porst is inferior is to the others was an inaccurate comment that could mislead readers, because it is in fact the same exact lens as the others.

      (Black body camera versions don’t make a camera better than a chrome version, however the market doesn’t share that sentiment even though film has no way of knowing…..it’s more flattering to own a Black body just as it is more flattering to own a Tomioka than a Porst, so the Porst has less market value….all the above are exactly the same in performance however with absolutely no differences)

      ______________________________________________________________________________________

      It’s not very well known who, where, and what Ricoh obtained lenses from. It is widely accepted that Ricoh had no glass foundry and as such, manufactured no lenses of their own or completely of their own. It is semi-believed that Tomioka or Cosina made many, as well as Chinon supplying tubes and hardware while other makers supplied glass, and some were assembled by Ricoh to create Rikkenon…..

      One should realize that the Japanese reverse engineered existing designs, experimented (Asahi Pentax) greatly with some and improved upon, so without being there to know what trade deal existed and what technology was shared or what deals were struck it is a great mystery over all.

      1. The website reports falsely that “6 months after the Tomioka Ltd. was taken completely by the company Carl Zeiss”

        Actually, Yashica in fact had a licensing agreement with Carl Zeiss that included Yashica acquiring the naming rights of the label “Contax” but Carl Zeiss did no purchase, buy, or “take” Tomioka and although the website looks nice and real…it is exactly what it appears to be “a nice looking website that looks real” but it is not and a fabrication only. This agreement was complex and sophisticated and the details are still a guarded secret by design today. Why on earth would these 2 giants disclose details within an industry known so well for copying and stealing? The German industry needed the mass production abilities of the Japanese to compete globally, compromises and trades resulted because good people are shrewd and poor business people are just that, broke and out of business.

        Chinon was known for manufacturing high quality barrels, state of the art, glass foundries have little historic fact behind them, but it is 100% conceivable that several manufactures could have had a hand in the production of a lens because that’s what the Japanese invented, outsourcing productions in a harmonious fashion where all involved jointly honored the final product. European industry was still proprietary and hands on, a marriage was required. But just imagine what results when 2 giant egos collide?

        Computer aided design was a sole USA invention, if a Japanese company applied it early on as a “first” I have to laugh at that notion because our own government in the US was super restrictive on sharing or releasing such technology for security purposes….. you had to live in the 50’s and 60’s to understand how protected the technology was then. Kino optical had to completely start up a US enterprise in order to take advantage of the technology back then and were still restricted, they hired Ponder and Best engineers to work with former Nikon engineers. Ponder and Best R&D was ahead of Yashica in CAD, and Yashica Tomioka was hardly a first in CAD, maybe a first in Japanese CAD that was still severely limited. Why? Because USA policy was to make sure the Japanese did not produce military might simply put to limit computer technology….which was highly regulated in that time.

        CZ did batch formulations for CZ labeled products, very basically and simply said; measurements of specific batches of CZ Planar lenses were sent to Germany where in Germany the coating processes were formulated and returned to Yashica to be applied corresponding to the individual lenses of a batch. The main purpose was to have an even consistency in productions run where as any lens picked from a batch would perform as evenly as any other.

        There is little truth in that provided website link because it has obvious and bad misinformation supplied. If people want to accept it as a factual website I can’t control that, you can’t control that, no one can control what people want to believe. But it goes without saying, people will “polish turds” simply because other people are impressed with glitter and glitz and are easily blinded, very eager to dismiss the stench of BS.

        Every other door in Tokyo seemed to be the source for some photographic industry in the past, it’s history completely shrouded in mystery when one attempts to uncover the relationships and links all had, and this even includes the links, joint ventures, partnerships, and other things foreign companies linked up with Japanese companies with….. it’s just not recorded or known outside the secret circles.

        I like it, it’s intrigue. What I can’t stand though is people trying to make facts out of fiction. Only they can answer to why they do this but I can assure you this much, when pressed they can not support it or supply the facts to support these contentions they propose, and supplying a website as proof or fact today is a joke……

  6. The only lens I intentionally own as a two of. One left in Pentax mount and one converted to Canon. Reversibly, of course:-) Can only reccomend it!

  7. I bought the same lens in August 2015, but i could find any articles related to this lens. Until i found this website. Indeed, this lens really unique. I love the clarity of the images and bokeh of the lens. And in my country very hard to find this lens. Thx buddy for your review. 🙂

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