They tell every new photographer that a 50mm lens should be their second lens after the kit lens that came with the camera. If you can afford it, get the f1.4 version. The 1.4 versions are usually twice to three times the price of their f1.8 counterpart.
Now that we have full frame mirrorless cameras, we have the opportunity to adapt all types of lenses.
I would love to own a Leica Summilux-M 50mm f1.4 ASPH, but even on the used market, that is a $2000 lens. So I will have to settle with the three 50mm f1.4 lenses I already own, the Canon 50mm FDn f1.4, the Asahi Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 50 f1.4 M42, and Nikkor 50 f1.4 A.I.
These lenses should be fairly easy to find for under $100 and easily paired up to your Fujifilm or Sony mirrorless cameras with the right adapters. I took out these three lenses to and did a few side by side shots. This is something I would never normally do, but I was compelled to see them side by side.
Nikkor 50mm f1.4 A.I.
I just recently found this lens a thrift store for $10. It is a beautiful lens. I’ve owned this lens once before back in the 90s, but i didn’t really appreciate it at the time. As I was primarily shooting Canon EOS. Well, now I have it again, it is a perfect partner for my FM2n. This lens typically goes for about $100 – $150. The word on the street is, the A.I.S. version is an optically better lens. i have also read reviews online, the f1.8 A.I. is also sharper wide open. If you see this lens for a good price, you should pick it up.
Canon FDn 50mm f1.4
I’ve owned this lens for a long time, this is a great lens, but there are some things to keep in mind. When this lens is mounted to an adapter there is a ring that’s on the adapter that engages aperture blades. So you have to make sure that is engaged, otherwise it opens the aperture.
I like that the aperture click at half stops. The lens does feel a little plastic-y, but it feels very good in the hands. I do like the image quality from this lens.
Pentax SMC 50mm f1.4
This is hands down my favorite lens to use. This lens feels so nice in the hand. It’s built really well, and it is absolutely beautiful to look at. I love the scalloped all metal focus ring. I prefer this type of focus ring over the rubberized rings on most lenses. This lens is also really sharp. The focus throw, is damn near perfect too. M42 mount lenses are plentiful and just dirt cheap these days. I use this lens to shoot live music all the time.
There is a little quirk with these old Takumar lenses. The coatings contain thorium oxide. When these lenses are left to sit in a dark camera bag for a lot of years, they may develop a yellow haze. It is possible to clear to clear it up with ultraviolet light. You can read more about radioactive lenses on Camerapedia.
Side by Side
For this test, I set my Sony A7II on a tripod and set the camera to manual and shot all the images at the same f-stop and focus distance. I imported the images to Lightroom Classic CC and only applied the Adobe Color standard profile. No other adjustments were made. I exported as web ready jpegs.
This next set was to show flair, unfortunately the sun was changing rapidly because of cloud cover, so allowed the camera to meter the shutter speed.
What does this all mean?
They are all pretty close. They all have some vignetting, distortion, and chromatic aberrations. Looking at these all in a row, I could see that the Pentax lens’ yellowing is quite apparent. It’s easy to fix in post, but I kind of like the warmth it has.
All of these lens perform just fine. Any of these lenses would be great to have in your bag. If you also shoot film, then stick to the lenses for that system. I happen to have Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Konica, and Minolta cameras, so I have a lot of lenses. For the most part, my Nikon FM2 is my favorite camera to use, but the Pentax lenses are so beautiful and great to shoot that I use that system often as well.
These have been worked over in Lightroom.
At the end of the day, we can use whichever lenses we like, thanks to mirrorless cameras. Go grab a lens and an adapter and away you go. Adapting vintage lenses to my mirrorless cameras has made photography fun again.
Photographer, videographer, and lover of all things analog.