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Attar a rather long(ish) hiatus due to work and family situation, I am back with a new lens comparison. Today we are going to take a look at two, very different, yet pretty exciting in their own ways, 50mm lenses - the rangefinder classic (or arcaic depending on who you ask) Canon 50/1.2 LTM and Sony\'s modern 50/1.8 OS.


Canon\'s RF lenses date back to 1950s, the golden era of rangefinders. Canon produced a total of 8 (!) different designs of the 50mm classic lens before exiting the rangefinder world in late 60s. The most notable designs include the fastest 50mm of its time 50/0.95, the pre-war Zeiss Sonnar copy 50/1.5 and the 50/1.2 - the lens people \'love to hate\'. I owned Canon LTM 50/1.2 for a brief period back in the ole film days but did not use it much and ultimately sold it along with the rest of my rangefinder gear. The popularity of this lens peaked around 70s and has been in the decline since then. These days the lens has become more of a niche play - there is a good reason for that: modern optics have far exceeded the capabilities of this glass, in pretty much every dimension. Then there\'s the obvious issue of the Internet noise - there\'s quite a large and very opinionated group of users which outright hate this lens, claiming that it is soft at wide apertures, has low contrast, produced significant glare, etc. etc. etc. All this obviously also deters the would-be users from trying out the Canon LTM - despite the niche designation (or perhaps because of it), Canon 50/1.2 has managed to retain its value over the years, with most \'decent\' quality copies selling for upwards of $600 these days. Add to that a LTM to M adapter and an M to NEX adapter (if you plan to use it on Sony NEX camera) and you\'re looking at an extra $100-$150 in expenses. Compare that to the modern Sony 50/1.8 OSS with the price of $275 - no woder that an average user would never even look twice at the Canon lens.

I picked up a copy of Canon 50/1.2 purely on a whim, not that I was thinking I\'d be using it more frequently this time around, but more because I wanted to compare it to a couple of other 50mm lenses. As I mentioned earlier, the prices for this lens are quite stable these days, so I did not expect to loose much money when I finally decided to sell it. The comparison with Sony E 50/1.8 OSS is also kind of random - I\'ve been using these two lenses side by side for a few weeks and just decided to write my observations. Ultimately though, I\'d want to compare the 50/1.2 to other rangefinder lenses, both modern and classic - if you have not done so already, take a look at the Alternative 50mm for NEX article to get an idea of what to expect down the road. 

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Weather has been somewhat unpredictable lately here In San Jose, so when the clouds finally cleared up on Sunday, I grabbed my bag of photo gear and finish a couple of long-delayed tests. Last week I run through a quick comparison of 50mm rangefinder lenses on Sony NEX-5n and I wanted to finish testing this setup before moving on to something new.  This time around I used Sony NEX-7, but also changed focusing distance, moving closer to the MFD for all lenses - this is where I'm hoping we will see the most difference among all lenses. As in the previous section, this part of the review focuses on bokeh, DOF and color rendering, not resolution or various artifacts like vignetting. I did not use focus bracketing and did not refocus lenses when moving from one aperture to another - this would put lenses that have focus shift (i.e. Sonnar, Nokton, Jupiter...) at a disadvantage, and hence I would not recommend using the samples below for evaluating lens sharpness. In part 3 of this review I will do a bit more comprehensive test for resolution, lateral CA and vignetting. Again, no commentaries - figure out what you like on your own or wait for part 3 if you're curious to know which lens(es) I liked personally.

In the meantime, here's a summary of the shooting conditions:

  • Sony NEX-7 with v1 of firmware
  • WB set to Daylight (5,500K, +10 tint)
  • RAW, Adobe RGB space
  • ACR with default settings: Blacks +5; Brightness +50, Contrast +25
  • JPEG max quality
  • 1.5m focusing distance
  • 2 shots per lens - max aperture, and stopped down to f/4


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Posted by on in Lens Comparisons

With Sony being quite slow in ramping up production of new E mount native lenses, and particularly the E 50mm f/1.8 OSS (I've been on a waiting list with Amazon for over 2 months now), the ever increasing community of NEX users has been actively evaluating a variety of alternative 50mm primes easily adoptable to the NEX mount. This particular comparison traces roots to fredmiranda.com's alternative gear forum, where a bunch of die-hard alternative glass users have been debating the properties of a number of Zeiss 50mm lenses on NEX cameras. I got curious in the topic and volunteered to do a quick test with a few popular, and often considered high-quality, 50s.

This section of the review will showcase bokeh rendering of 8 alternative lenses on NEX-5n. Results below are presented without much commentary - considering that tasted vary quite widely, I will let the reader decide which of the lenses have the most appealing characteristics. I will repeat this test on NEX-7 in a couple of weeks, but will use a different focusing distance, which hopefully would present the readers with a more diverse overview of the tested lenses. Finally, a third part of the review will compare more general characteristics like resolution, vignetting and lateral CA (expect very opinionated commentary in this section).

Before we jump to results, let's touch base on the test conditions:

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