What is todays best normal (50-55-58mm) lens?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by braxus, Sep 3, 2006.

  1. braxus

    braxus Member

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    Just doing some research on what people think is the best 50mm lens made either today or yesteryear- but as long as it can still be found. WHat sparked me to think this thread was Canon's announcement for the new 50L lens. I guess in the past Canon's best normal lens would have been the FD 55mm f1.2 AL lens followed then by the FD 50mm 1.2L lens. It will be interesting to see how the new EF 50L fairs in tests and in use. Canon's old EF 50 1.0 wasn't as sharp as other offerings, but it was said to have great bokeh like a Leica. Speaking of Leica I'm not sure what their best 50 would be, but I've heard they were all good lenses. Contax's (Zeiss) 50 f1.4 lens would be a good runner up and years back was rated the best 50mm lens in a photo magazine test. Then we have Nikon's 58mm f1.2 lens. For Pentax I think the 50mm f1.7 was their sharpest. Anyone have any opinions or comments on what they think is the best normal lens out their today, maybe even some from the above list?

    Oh and if anyone remembers which magazine and date that 50mm lens test was- let me know. I think it may have been Pop Photo, but unsure of that or the date.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 3, 2006
  2. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    50mm 3.5 Heliar.
     
  3. Confusion Circle

    Confusion Circle Member

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  4. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    How are you defining 'best'?

    There are quite a lot of lenses that will resolve finer detail than film can capture. Anything over 100 lp/mm will be aleatory, depending on the location and flatness of the film.

    Once you go outside resolution figures, you can define 'best' in a dozen different ways. One Zeiss lens designer of my acquaintace reckoned that he had five different Zeiss 50mm lenses, each of which was 'best' for a particular application. Hell, I like my 58/2 Biotar for romantic colour; I loved the 58/1.4 Nikkor for 'roundness' and a three-dimensional look in black and white; the 50/2 Jupiter-8 has a lovely 'glow' to it; and I sold my 50/2 Summicron, sharper than any of that lot, because I almost never used it. If I could afford it, I'd buy a 50/1 Noctilux (a kind friend lent me one for a year) and I still use my 50/1.2 Canon for some shots: it's superb at f/4 to f/11, and, well, romantic at f/1.2.

    My current favourite is probably the 50/2.5 Color-Skopar because it's so compact.

    Cheers,

    Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com)
     
  5. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    Popular Photography ranked the Contax 50/1.4 as the sharpest, followed closely by the Canon EF 50/1.4. That was for SLR lenses and that was some years ago. That was also Popular Photography so take it for what it was worth. I don't remember the date but I had the issue until a couple of years ago when I cleaned house.

    My opinion: the best normal lens is the normal lens that fits the camera you like to use at the time.
     
  6. onigiri

    onigiri Member

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    why not 40mm?
     
  7. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    I loved my Nikkor AI 50mm f/1.4. But I'm biased...it was my first (and only) good SLR lens.
     
  8. tony lockerbie

    tony lockerbie Subscriber

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    If you are not interested in MTF graphs then the Leitz 50mm Summicron in both R and M series will have to figure high as a real world user.
    The 50 is probably the most developed of the lenses and eveyman and his dog has a really good 50 in their inventory.
     
  9. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    50mm Nikkor AFD f/1.4.
    Why ? Its the one I've got and it fits my camera :smile:
    Cheers
    Søren
     
  10. Seele

    Seele Member

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    I always like my Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50/1.8 lenses, especially the late model for Praktica B-series. But in terms of more "mainstream" ones, I always find manual-focus Minolta very dependable. Bokeh afficionados consider the old MC Rokkor 58/1.2 as the benchmark, but I rely totally on my "lesser" late-model "plain MD"s: 50/1.7 and 50/2 for all sorts of jobs and in the full knowledge that I can count on them to deliver the goods, both for me and my clients.
     
  11. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Best 50? 50/1.025 Krappicron for the Krapca camera, made by the famous firm of Kreitz, Weltzar.

    What does this trollish little question have to do with photography?

    And why do opinions matter? Most of us have too little experience with a wide range of lenses to reply much more than "I have an X and its ok" or "I've heard the Y is ok."
     
  12. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    And when we have used lots -- I must have tried scores of 'standard' lenses over the last 40 years, whether they were real 'users', came with collecible cameras or passed through my hands when testing them for magazines -- our reaction tends to be, 'What do you mean by 'best'?'

    I don't think the question is trollish; just naive.

    Cheers,

    R. (www.rogerandfrances.com)
     
  13. Confusion Circle

    Confusion Circle Member

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    I forgot to mention my Nikon 55mm f2.8 AIS micro. Lovely lens. :smile:
     
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  15. haris

    haris Guest

    There are 2 ways of thinking "best"

    1. Best in a way that MTF charts and other measuring machines and technical characteristic shows as best, and

    2. Best in a way you like photographs made with that lens more than others

    If 1 is what you asking then Leica, Zeiss, Voigtlaender, Nikon, Canon, and others... not allways this order, but for Leica and Zeiss at first two places for sure.

    If 2 is what you asking, sorry, nobody can answer that for you...
     
  16. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    Hmm, this leads to Roger's other thread.
    Cheers
    Søren
     
  17. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    What is todays best normal (50-55-58mm) lens?
    Same as it's always been -- Pentax SMCP f:1.4, followed closely by the DR Summicron.
     
  18. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

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    Some very good lenses have already been mentioned. I see in your original post that you mention fast lenses, though the best 50mm to 58mm lenses from many manufacturers have not been their fastest lenses. Several f1.7 or f1.8 lenses fall into that, and even a few f2.0 lenses. I always felt the 50mm f2.0 from Leica was better than any of their f1.4 lenses, though I have yet to try the absolute latest version. In Nikon lenses, I have never tried the rare and expensive 58mm f1.2, though I did use the not so great 50mm f1.2, and went through a few f1.4 AIS versions before finding a good one. The one that I feel produces the nicest images is the 50mm f2.0 AI long barrel version, a lens dismissed or ignored by many.

    I rarely use 50mm lenses at infinity. My preference is for close in shooting. I think when people only look at MTF charts, they might be missing some aspects; those charts are a good starting point, but I think seeing image examples can help.

    One surprising (to me anyway) lens I saw some examples from recently was the re-issue from Nikon of the 50mm f1.4 S on the S3 Millenium rangefinder. Basically the same as the original design, with modern coating, and maybe slightly different glass. What surprised me was how good the images were from something that was designed a long time ago.

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat
    A G Studio
     
  19. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I use the Canon FDn 50mm F1.4, because thats the one that fits my cameras, I have had it for nearly twenty years and it is still a better lens than I am a photographer, if and when my photography improves I'll thank about getting a better one.
     
  20. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    In Nikon land I have used the 50 F1.2 and found it to be really hard to get sharp focus anywhere, when used wide open.

    I have used 50 f1.4 but gave it back after a 4 week trial, I then opted for the 50 f1.8 and found it to be really nice. Still have that one.

    In the meantime I have had a Micro Nikkor 55mm f2.8 AIS for the last 20 years and I would say it's the best 50-55-58mm lens I have had the pleasure of owning/using, because of it's all round ability.

    It is very sharp across the whole width of the frame, suffers virtually no flare because of it's recessed front element, close focuses to ½ life size without spacers and will do lifesize with the PK13 spacer. Takes 52mm filters which are common and not highly priced. When attached to bellows it is terrific for duping and/or high(ish) magnification work.

    It's slightly longhish length, means you can do acceptable head shoulder portrait work.

    In short it does a real lot of different things easily and well.

    Mick.
     
  21. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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    Dear Braxus
    The best lens is one that you like and fits your artistical requirement and you still is able (afford) to use. This is really very practical answer without pretending on philosophy.

    Just one example: what a point is Leica Summicron-R 2/50 to one that do NOT want details in shade and mostly use F11 with iso400 film.

    So short answer is: there is not such a lens as universally the best lens. It does not exists.

    www.Leica-R.com
     
  22. rfshootist

    rfshootist Member

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    Nonetheless many bite. As always. Tho there is no answer. Dan's remark says it all.

    bertram
     
  23. purple

    purple Member

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    I agree with the guy above who said it was the one that fits his camera. Minolta f1.7 MD. I've got a treasure trove of glass, but I'll always carry my fast 50 with me :smile:
     
  24. Philippe-Georges

    Philippe-Georges Member

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    Verry right indeed!
     
  25. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    I use a Leica f2.0 50mm Summicron. But, that is what I purchased with my Leica R4S (later modified to R4SP) back in 1984. I do not use it that frequently, but I will say that it performs extremely well. I would say that it performs better than the Canon f1.4 50mm FD lens that I had previously for my older Canon F1n system.

    Rich
     
  26. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    Interesting. The f/1.4 (and f/1.2 and faster) 50s are rarely the best 50s, actually. (Even Popular Photography's glowing review of the Canon EF 50/1.4 rated it rather mediocre at f/1.4 and f/2, although exceptional from f/2.8 down.) Typically, the f/1.4 version of a company's 50mm lens is a little inferior to its slower 50. (Canon's current 50/1.8 Mark II is a cheap plasticky lens with a plastic mount so that's one exception, although it still isn't awful.)

    I currently own three 50mm Nikkors: AF 50/1.4D, AI 50/2 and Series E 50/1.8, plus a Micro-Nikkor 55/3.5, and have owned in the past a Micro-Nikkor 55/2.8 and a non-AI Nikkor-H 50/2, along with an AF 50/1.8. They are all good lenses. The 50/2 is probably the sharpest at middle apertures. (It's also one of the least popular Nikkors out there because it's a lowly f/2 lens.) The 50/1.4D is a really good lens but I tend to use it when I need the speed. If I don't need speed and I don't need AF, I tend to use the 50/2. The Series E lens is not bad - it's probably the most underrated Nikon lenses - but I don't use it much.

    The 50s that I recall reading were exceptional were the Pentax 50/1.7 in K -mount and the Planar T* 50/1.7 in Yashica-Contax mount. Honestly, I've never shot with either but based on what I've learned since, they could well be among the best 50s.

    Slow 50s are cheap so get one for quality, and a fast one for low light.