The Not-so-lux

I know, dad joke as a title. Seems to be fitting though.

So with my recent acquisition of my M-P typ 240, I realized that dreadful thing when purchasing a Leica- I need some glass. Shit.

So here I am, looking at old M39 canon and nikon lenses as affordable options, when I keep seeing 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 show up more frequently than not. Hm. Can’t be worse than the Voigtlander 50mm f/1.1 I had once upon a time…and it’s less than half the price it was too? Seems worth a shot.

1/2/18 – So here we are- a real world, completely un-paid, 100% honest review. No MTF charts, no images of white walls comparing vignetting, no photos of cats (that’s absolutely 100% a lie, there WILL be photos of cats in here), and no telling you numbers- you can find the numbers online if you really want to. So this will be a “rolling review” of sorts, where I update this so long as I own it. As of 1/3/18 (yikes- 2018) I do not have the lens, but it is currently en route. I purchased this lens for $369.00 USD prior to theft (aka taxes) via amazon here. (I don’t get money from this link, it’s just an amazon link). Yes- That’s 369 dollars for a BRAND new lens. How can they do that? It’s Chinese.

I know- instant skepticism. Not the optimistic kind either. I’m skeptical myself, prior to receiving this- but the sample images I’ve seen from various shooters have shown me (what I believe to be), at worst an affordable 35 nokton-esque 50mm lens. Sounds a little too good to be true. From what I’ve read, the biggest issues with QC reside within the paint differing on the mount vs barrel, screws not being tight enough (what-up purple loctite), and conflicting reports of being unu-sably soft wide open vs barely usu-ably; but we’ll see in a day or two when it arrives.

1/3/18 – It arrived today, and initial impressions are good. It doesn’t feel as good as a 50 Summilux (haven’t ever held a Noctilux, so can’t compare to that), but it definitely feels just as good, if not better than the 50 Nokton I had many a time ago. Focus feels smooth, with just enough resistance to hit focus wide open (or so I think, anyway- we’ll see come Thursday when my M-P arrives). The lens cap is pressure fit and sits perfectly tight on the lens. Proportionately the lens itself balances perfectly on my M3. Doesn’t feel too front heavy, but doesn’t exactly feel like nothings there- it’s presence is known, but not obnoxiously so.

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The box had some lint or something in it, and was quite dirty inside the box itself- granted, for the price, I’m not expecting a mahogany display box with silk pillows lining it, but the lack of cleanliness raises concerns for me regarding dust and stuff inside the lens itself. The markings on the barrel are very nice, but would definitely benefit some deep engraving and better paint- the paint on the distance markers seems as if it could flake off over time.

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The de-clicked aperture ring is probably the thing I didn’t like most about this lens going into this purchase, as the aperture clicks are something I rely on when changing aperture on the fly- be sure to know this ahead of time if you do purchase this.

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For videographers it’s of my understanding that this is indeed a good thing for changing aperture on the fly when shooting video. Photographers- not so much. Easy to change aperture and botch a shot (or worse, several). One issue the first few models of these had was a clearance issue with the lens release button on M4’s and I believe M2’s (could be wrong on the models)- which I can see how that’d be the case. Presumably this is the updated model with that issue resolved, but clearance between the mount and camera body is very tight.

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One thing I will say is a DEFINITE plus is the 6bit coding. For any digital users, this is very convenient for exif data and helping with lens correction in post- I believe this is coded as a 50mm F1 Noctilux via LR6, but I’ll get back to you on that one in a few days after I put this through the ringer.

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All in all, I’m very impressed so far. This seems like a no-brainer buy for those on a budget, but the true test is yet to come. So far? 9/10, easily.

1/17/17– So after a few snapshots around the house and a quick outside run in the snow, I’ve learned two very important things about this lens: 1. this is Jekyll and Hyde’s photo-graphical incarnate, 2. this is a pretty damn awesome (and frustrating at the same time) lens. These statements sound similar, but I promise do contrast one another.

Jekyll and Hyde– So, about this. Simply put, at f1.1 and f1.4 (and F2, especially), you’re getting two different lenses for the price of one, basically. To put it out there, yeah, it can be soft (wide open) and has pretty low contrast throughout all apertures. Having not used this on my M3 yet, I can see this being an appealing thing for film users (especially those who scan their own images and want to adjust contrast themselves or let the film stock do the work there) but using this primarily on digital, it’s not something that can’t be fixed with a little bit of fine tuning in Lightroom. Organic? No. But it gets the job done. Remember- this is a $369.00 lens, brand new, shipped from amazon.com. This is the not-so-lux.

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At f1.1 you get this creamy, dreamy, some-what almost sloppy looking bokeh (see above). That being said, this does have a signature all it’s own, and reminds me of my old 5cm Summar I had, once upon a time. Tough to see here (see my flickr for larger shots) but this shot is actually pretty sharp. At f1.1 also keep in mind your focal plane is very shallow, thus having a very slim window for error. The vignetting is heavy wide open. If you’re shooting in a dimly lit situation, it’s about to look a lot darker. Even shooting against snow outside today the vignetting was very, very prevalent. Again, correctable and does add character, but don’t expect 50mm F1.4 ASPH clinically precise images here. Chromatic aberrations both in purple and green on heavily contrasted areas are there, as to be expected with most super fast primes at wide open apertures. Below is a 100%, unedited cropped screen grab from LR.

50mm @ 1.1 100 percent crop

At F1.4 and F2 is when things get interesting. Vignetting is diminished by at least 50%, center sharpens up a ton, and you get more of a vintage M39 Canon circular bokeh going on. I’d say worst case scenario, this seems like an insanely affordable 50 Summicron in regards to center sharpness, vignetting, and build similarities (see: well built, NOT built as well) at this point.

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Above is wide open, and as you can see, vignetting is definitely making it’s presence known. As you get closer to the corners, sharpness diminishes drastically at wider apertures, as easily seen above to the right of the frame. Sharpness at center frame is still phenomenal however. Below you can see a very good boy Shelby and I met named Cocoa (quite a floofer also) who gladly modeled for us, and Shelby for some solid portraits. All taken at various apertures ranging from F1.1 to F2, some more noticeably wider than others.

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More portraits to come! Until then, 9/10 for this lens. Still very impressed, still loving it quite a bit. Held up to the weather pretty well from what I can see too, and certainly wasn’t babied.

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