I would say that the Pentax SMC 50mm f/1.4 (the screw mount version) is the top of the heap of all the 50's I've used, followed closely by the 50mm f/2 Nikkor.
Some people are like Slinkies. They're really good for nothing, but they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a flight of stairs.
Canon NFD 50mm F1.4 is one of my favorite lenses. I can live with this 50mm, and 28mm F2.8, and 135mm F2.8 for my New F1 body with the eye-level finder.
Also NFD 50mm F3.5 macro is really good, too. I like it without the extension tube.
Both the smc-m 50/1.4 and the smc-a 50/1.4 are excellent. I have no personal experience of the screw mount version, but I hold the Pentax 50's in very high regard.
Originally Posted by bobfowler
Men, said the Devil, are good to their brothers: they don’t want to mend their own ways, but each others.
-- Piet Hein
This is an old old question that was beaten to death roughly every other year from the late '60s to the early '80s in Modern Photography magazine. What they found every time was that at and below f/5.6 all "decent" (=, I think, 6/4 or more complex double Gauss type) f/1.7-f/2 50 mm lenses produced equally good results. Wider open than f/5.6 the differences weren't large enough to justify choosing one over another. They're all as near perfect lenses as can be bought.
There's an interesting article from MP on the possibility of resolving 100 lp/mm with normal lenses for 35 mm SLRs. Short answer, they did it on TP but doing so took ideal conditions and technique; so much effort than in practice none of us can hope to come close.
Faster 50s as reported on by MP are another story entirely. I've always thought, with not a lot of data to support the idea, that the 57/1.2 Konica Hexanon is the best of that class. Yeah, its longer than 50 mm but it was the fast normal lens for Konica AutoReflexes.
Tony, if you want improve to the image quality you produce with 35 mm film, the magic bullet you're seeking is not a lens. Improve your technique and use the highest resolution film you can deal with. By the early 70s the "slow" normal lens wasn't the weakest link in the process.
I haven't used a lot of 50's, but my vote goes to the Leica 50mm Dual Range Summicron. Very high resolution without too much contrast. I only shoot black and white and don't know how any lenses look with color film.
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
Ya but Dan,
Originally Posted by Dan Fromm
it is always good to hash it out again, every once in a while! Some of us don't remember the time frame from the 60's to the 80's, big blur, with lots of fun in between!
Yes, probably has been argued black and blue but it's always interesting to see where people are at. I have no problem with getting good quality with 35mm and I have heaps of them from Zenits to Contarexes. The mark of a good lens is the maximum aperture performance and the gong here usually goes to Leica. My personal favourite at the moment is the 50mm f2 Septon on my Bessamatic, tack sharp but with a little of that old fashioned quality that marks the good German lenses.
This is probably the hardest question to answer, because there is hardly a more refined focal length in 35mm lenses - its that one lens that at its worst is still very good (as has already been mentioned). Because of that, I tend to agree with Dave that "Best is subjective at Best". Aside from phenomenon such as the "Leica glow" and other highly questionable claims, I look at these lenses like so: the budget brands that usually are a little more flare prone and show some of that angular bokeh (apparently due to the number of apperture blades), and everything from 1.4 (usually - but not exclusively - this is the threshold, please keep in mind exceptions of high end, lower speed lenses) up. In a special place are the things like the Nocti-Nikkor that is specifically corrected for night photos, the legendary Noctilux, and the Canon 1.2 SSC ASP, which apparently outperforms them both... On the other hand is the argument that those lenses are so optimized for wide open, high contrats night work, that they are not nearly as good for general photography as their less exotic cousins...
One could go on, and on, and on...
But, perhaps a more productive approach would be to ask:
"What is YOUR favourite 50mm, and WHY?"
That way we could see the little individual traits that endear one lens to one person for one reason, while keeping in mind that these are preferences not be all and end all judgements based on miniscule differences.
34 years ago I did a quick, but very critical, test on about 35 lenses for 35mm cameras, mostly Leica and Nikon. The four best were 55mm f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor, 45mm f/2.8 GN-Nikkor, 50mm f/2.8 Elmar, and 50mm f/2.8 EL-Nikkor. Most other Leica and Nikkor 50mm lenses lagged a little behind. A 50mm Pentax macro lens wasn't as good. Unfortunately, I didn't keep notes on each lens.
The testing was done by projecting a Spiratone microfilm copy of the entire Bible on one 2x2 inch chip through the test lens onto a screen. Even the best of lenses showed some unsharpness and color fringing of such a high resolution target. With some lenses the text was entirely unreadable. Standard MTF or resolution tests on film would be far more realistic and objective.
My very favorite 50 is my Canon FL 55mm 1.2. It's fun to use and gives me wonderful images. I doubt that I'll ever buy another normal lens for 35mm again, unless I buy another one of the same for a gift or spare.