Archive for the ‘Lenses’ Category

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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Light Lens Labs, 35/2.0 Summicron

One of the latest new lens companies, Light Lens Labs is making faithful replicas of an amazing legend. They have launched a new 35mm f/2 Summicron replica using excellent materials and solid builds. I am excited about having a representative from Light Lens Labs at the next PhotoFair show this weekend in Portland, OR. Visit the PhotoFair website for info here. This new version of an old classic is based on the original 1958 Leica Summicron 35mm which featured 8 elements and had superior sharpness to future variants at the expense of some color and contrast losses. I have owned that 35 Summicron M version 1 and it was spectacular. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these new replicas to try them out. Light Lens Labs offers other lenses as well and some will be at the show in Portland.

The same representative will have products from both TTArtisans and 7Artisans lenses. I have reviewed several of their products on this blog and I have been impressed. The 7Artisans lenses have been particularly impressive considering their ridiculously low prices. You may remember the following reviews here:

Canon EOS M5 with Leica M Summicron 35/2

One of my favorite pictures of my wife was taken with a Leitz Summicron v1 35/2 mounted on an APS/C Canon EOS M5 back in 2016. The Bokeh is beautiful and the lens is razor sharp from f/2.8 down and is very sharp wide open. It happens to be one of the best geometrically corrected wide lenses ever made.

Light Lens Labs has used the same type of glass, old school lens coating, and an exact copy of the Summicron v1, 8 element formula to render images that seem like they were taken with the original. If this turns out to be true, and some reviewers say it is, this will be a great bargain. Unfortunately the lens is in short supply so Ebayers are selling them for double and triple the list price of $499. But once supply catches up the $499 price will look very tasty.

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