Mitakon 35mm f0.95 mk2 review

A few months back I decided that I wanted to pull the trigger on the Mitakon 35mm f/0.95 mk2 for the Fujifilm system. I had read good things about the lens and seen some great sample images, so I thought to myself “why not!?” – So I ordered the lens from the official Zhongyi website since they had a small sale. Customs clearance was agonisingly slow! – 4 goddamn weeks! – Jeez Louise! – Oh well. It finally arrived some 3 weeks ago, and I’ve been a happy camper ever since.

I never meant to do a review of this lens, but when I posted stuff on Instagram from it, the questions inevitably arose. So I thought, what the heck! – It’s been a while since I did a non-Fujifilm gear write-up, so this is refreshing.

0.95

Let’s start right there, shall we? Zero point nine five. By now, it’s not as exotic a number as it used to be. This mostly because of the micro four thirds systems. With its 2x crop factor the lens manufacturers was suddenly able to make 0.95 aperture lenses at a smaller size. Not having to cover a 35mm full frame image circle, meant that these lenses could be made smaller while remaining relatively sharp at the edges.
The full frame 0.95 lenses are more exotic. We have the old Canon 50mm f/0.95 – called the dreamlens not because of its ridiculous price, but because wide open it renders VERY soft and dreamy. Then there is the Leica Noctilux. This lens will set you back a downpayment on a house! A nice lens, but damn expensive. Then there are SLR magic and some other brands, all those are also very expensive. But then there’s Mitakon!

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For a mere $499 I was able to pick up a 35mm f/0.95 that covers the APS-C image circle. Now thats a good deal. And as I have been witnessing ever since, the Mitakon 35mm f/0.95 mk2 is one of those products where you really get something great for your hard earned money.

Now, the f/0.95 on the APS-C will give you a depth of field close to that of an f/1.4 lens on a 35mm full frame camera. So handling this lens will not be any harder in terms of nailing focus than using said 1.4 lens. It does have a huge advantage over the f/1.4 lenses. It will collect light as a 0.95 lens. Mitakon even writes in the packaging notes that it is a T0.95 lens. So it will really suck in the available light. – This means that you can use higher shutter speeds (one stop), or reduce ISO (one stop) to achieve the same exposure as you would with the f/1.4 mounted on a full frame camera when shooting both wide open. You will end up with the same exposure as the full frame when you take its added ISO benefits into consideration. So for all intended purposes you’re getting the exact theoretical parameters as a 50mm f/1.4 on a full frame.

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Build and Size

The size of this lens is one of it’s most fantastic traits. Its a little thinner than the Fujinon XF35mm f/1.4, and its about a cm longer. – This is quite good considering the extra stop of light that has to pass through the glass.

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The lens is a manual focus lens. This is of course what enables the smaller size, but Zhongyi really reworked the formula. The new optical design is an 11 element in 8 groups structure, including one extralow disperson element. This new improved optical formula is quite apparent if you compare this mk2 to the mk1 version which is both much larger as well as much softer when shot wide open. This lens is nowhere near the size of, say, the Fujinon XF56mm f/1.2. – So if compact and fast is your fancy, you’re in luck!

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The lens is heavy! It really weighs its part at 460g. This becomes much more apparent given its compact size. It feels like a very solid lump of glass and metal! This surprised me a bit when I took it out of the box. The exterior is made of metal, and it has a semi-matte finish. It has yellow and white distance markings. It has a 55mm front filter thread.

Now, I’ve read some reports that it is only held together by a tiny screw on the barrel. There is a screw there. as well as three minor screws along the focusing ring. I tried to tighten them, they didn’t budge…at all. So this is a non-issue for me thus far. But I havn’t exactly taken it to war yet! – So I cannot tell you yet how durable this lens is.

The aperture ring sits at the front of the barrel, and is clickless. This is probably great for those who do video, but me? I hate it! They should have made a click aperture if you ask me. I have not had any issues with it sliding out of place, but I accidentally grab the aperture  ring sometimes, thinking that I’m turning the focus ring. A force of habit so far, I know….but still. If it clicked, it would be much easier to tell them apart.

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A solution for this is a small piece of masking tape on the bottom of the barrel, locking it at 0.95 (cause why would you ever shoot it otherwise? 😛 )

The lens itself is multicoated, but it does flare quite a lot. The flaring is purple’ish. I recommend you to buy an aftermarked lens hood – cause Mitakon isn’t including one in the package.

The lens really looks right at home on the X-Pro2, and viewfinder blockage is minimal. (A small tip: You can use manual focus in the X-Pro2 OVF by using the small EVF pop-up window and then center focus using that)
It also looks great on the X-T2. Size wise it’s a match made in heaven for the Fujifilm APS-C bodies.

Image Quality

Alright. This is the interesting part. How well do this lens really perform? Is it more than just a gimmick of numbers? Is it really usable wide open at 0.95? Well, I’m here to tell you that yes this little lens performs WAAAAY better than its chinese production and small(‘ish) price tag suggests!

First of all I get bitingly sharp center focus from this lens if I nail focus. Its sharpness does falloff into the corners at 0.95. I would not recommend shooting corner action and landscapes with this lens wide open. But, seriously…who would even do that anyway. At f/1.4 its better at the corners, and at f/2 it’s completely usable for corner sharpness. Sweetspot sharpness-wise is at f/5.6. – But let me tell you this right now. For the Fujifilm-X system you buy fujifilms own 35mm f/1.4 or f/2 if you want better sharpness at these mid range apertures. You buy the Mitakon to shoot wide open.

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So, yes. The sharpness is great if you nail focus. It is actually not hard to focus this lens at f/0.95. Mainly because the contrast between the sharp, and very narrow, focus plane and the out of focus areas is so pronounced, making the focus peaking incredibly easy to use.

It focuses quite close at 35cm. This gives a bit of distortion to you portraits at this distance, but it makes this lens even more superior to the Leica M system rangefinder lenses that only focuses to about 70cm. At 35cm distance the f/0.95 DOF is so incredibly shallow that you have to hold your breath, and your model likewise to not miss the focus. (I had some fun with my kids over this! 😀 )

Well let’s talk bokeh! – ‘Cause face it! Thats the reason you’re here – you bokeh-addict, you! – The bokeh is VERY good. It’s so good that I decided I wanted to test it head to head with a lens that is quite infamous for its incredibly smooth and pleasing bokeh; The Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH.
I did a blind testing to a facebook group audience  ( I know…very scientific, right? – good thing I expect more from my medical literature 😉 )a while back and the results were 50/50 with regards to guessing which combo took which picture. Most of them even stated that regardless the equipment used they preferred the quality of the image shot with what was later revealed as the X-Pro2/Mitakon combo.

You can see the images for yourself and download them to view the EXIF. Then I’ll let you decide. They are very close. The bokeh of the Summilux is better if you ask me, but I like the sharpness and falloff of the Mitakon better. – One thing is for certain – take the price into consideration, and the Fujifilm/Mitakon combo is a no brainer. It’s costs less than 1/5th of the Leica combo.

I also took some shots to compare the image quality wide open between the Mitakon, the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 and the Fujinon 35mm f/2. – All of them shot at their widest aperture. This is just to show what kind of DOF one can achieve with the different lenses. These shots are jpegs straight from camera, only resized to 3000×2000 and exported. They are not standardised in any way or form, so take them for what they are.

I really like the look of the Mitakon for close up portraits. Shooting it wide open and using flash lights and an ND filter, renders some AMAZING looking images. – Who says you need medium format or full frame for this kind of DOF and tonality. I was really, really pleased with the outcome of these.

Samples

So to end this thing, here is a big pile of mixed sample shots. They’re mostly shot wide open, although for some of the street shots I used f/5.6 to give some DOF.

I have started using Capture One Pro 10 for all my processing, so all of the images below have been processed using that software. I love that software, and finally got around to switching my workflow to Capture One entirely. It works miracles on the Fujifilm RAF files, and the skin management tools (especially for my ginger children and their magenta skin) is out of this world. I will do a much more lengthy blogpost about my switch to capture one soon

A lot of images of my kids in this pile, but that is quite natural since I photograph them ALL the time! 😀

I hope you find this review helpful in deciding whether or not this lens is for you. Since receiving it over month back it hasn’t left my X-Pro2. It’s a bargain lens to say the least. It comes highly recommended. It’s sharp, has amazing bokeh and best of all it’s so much fun to use.