Archive for October, 2022

You may remember I wrote rather favorably about a lovely 45/2.8 Chiyoko Super Rokkor lens in LTM mount some time back. Go ahead and check that article out here. These lenses were made by the company that eventually sold equipment under the name Minolta. They had a line of rangefinder cameras utilizing the Leica thread mount. I also mentioned that Minolta had made an f/2 lens for the same series of cameras.

Mindy vegetating on the couch, Chiyoko 50/2 (with 45mp Canon R5)

Well I am happy to announce I found one at the last PSPCS camera show in Kent, WA. This lens is much larger and heavier than the near pancake design of the 45/2.8. It does however offer a full stop of brightness and a tad more focal length. It is proportionately similar to the Canon Serenar 50/1.8 that was introduced in the early 1950s. It weighs in at 258 grams with no caps, shades, or filters attached. Not too heavy but relative to its size it is dense. Like its baby brother, this lens was built to last and it sure has lasted. This example is over 70 years old and still works perfectly. Its ten blade aperture diaphragm leads to pleasing bokeh even when stopped down a bit.

The lens is sharp enough and makes rather nice images, but when you compare it to the 45/2.8 it lacks the character and charm of the smaller lens. I have heard this mentioned before and I do believe that the 45/2.8 is the better lens other than the obvious one stop advantage of the 50/2. I would trade this lens for the 45 since I have other excellent 50/2 LTM lenses already. But if I had to choose between the 45 and 50 and I could only have one, I might take this one as the extra stop is handy and the lens is sharp. But the 45 tends to make a little better image especially when throwing the background out of focus, bokeh is a little better on the 45 but it is not bad on the 50 either.

I feel like I should be comparing this lens to the Nikkor H-C 50/2 I reviewed a few months back see that here. After all they are directly comparable lenses, both 50mm f2. So with that notion I will make the comparison.

Chiyoko Super Rokkor and Nikkor HC

The Nikkor lens is smaller, quite a bit smaller. It is lighter by 34 grams in fact coming in naked at 224 grams. The size should not be taken lightly, both are compact for what they are by todays standards, but the Nikkor is ridiculously compact compared to its contemporaries and you would have to use a collapsible lens to get any smaller in this era. I am not a fan of collapsibles.

The Nikon lens did suffer a little on contrast and against the Chiyoko it is not as contrasty. That said, when shooting digital softer contrast is usually an easy fix. With film its a bit more bothersome, but also somewhat fixable with hand printing. Both lenses fared well with colors for their age and in my opinion are better than average for color compared to their contemporary peers including some Leica glass of the era.

The Chiyoko is definitely sharper than the Nikkor, but some of that could be the contrast advantage rather than pure sharpness. The color rendition on the Chiyoko is a little warmer than the coolish Nikkor. I tend to prefer a warmer tonality personally but others may disagree. I feel like the Rokkor is optically superior in nearly every measure, but the Nikkor is still very good.

The following two photos are unedited and uncropped, just resized for the web. Both were taken from the traditional minimum focus for an LTM lens 3.3 feet (1m). You can compare the results, pictures are resized to 3000×2000 pixel (6mp). I do prefer the Chiyoko unedited.

Chiyoko 50/2 at f2 3.3 feet focus
Nikkor 50/2 at f2 3.3 feet focus

These are 1:1 crops to show detail no editing:

Chiyoko cropped 1:1
Nikkor cropped 1:1

The Nikkor has an interesting feature for an LTM lens. When you near the minimum focus distance for a rangefinder the focus ring hits a semi-hard spot like it is at the end of its travel. Push a wee bit harder, and you can continue to focus all the way down to about 18-20 inches! Of course the rangefinder will no longer work properly at distance closer than 3.3 feet. The lens will yield much better closeups on a modern mirrorless camera without any need for a special macro adapter. Even if you use a macro adapter, the Nikon will still focus twice as close. Below is the minimum focus distance for Nikkor as comparison to the shots above, also unedited and uncropped, just resized.

Nikkor 50/2 at f2 minimum focus (20in) uncropped, unedited

I feel like the Chiyoko has an edge in bokeh, it is a tad smoother, but both look good. Using Lightroom or other editing software can result in fantastic final images from either of these outstanding vintage lenses. I think the Nikkor is just a slight bit better corrected for aberrations with the Chiyoko showing a hint of spherical aberration at full aperture, that could be helping its bokeh.

When running some simple tweaks in Lightroom here is what I got for each lens using the 1:1 crop version of the images.

Chiyoko Supper Rokkor at f2 3.3 feet focus 1:1 crop with some Lightroom edits.
Nikkor HC 50/2 at f2 3.3 feet focus 1:1 crop with some Lightroom edits

Here is a chart with scores from 0-5 ranking these lenses. Of course this is rather subjective but I tried to be as objective as possible. You can’t go wrong with either lens. Honestly I’d take the Chiyoko over the Nikkor but I still have the Nikkor, because I like the small size and the super close focus. I can work around the slightly less sharp images. One other note: if you have above average hands, the Nikkor is a little tougher to navigate the controls, a disadvantage to its diminutive size.

CategoryChiyoko Super Rokkor 50/2 LTMNikkor H C 50/2 LTM
Build Quality44
Color Rendition43
Close Focus24
Mechanical Use3.53

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