Test of Canon's superfast professional-grade standard lenses on Sony A7R II - do aspherics deliver?

Started Aug 14, 2017 | Discussions
jarek leo
jarek leo Contributing Member • Posts: 967
Test of Canon's superfast professional-grade standard lenses on Sony A7R II - do aspherics deliver?
6

I have just completed another of my "a lens through decades" write-ups - this time on Canon's superfast professional-grade standard lenses. Yes, I know, it's Canon again. I simply could not resist the opportunity of being loaned a Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 S.S.C. Apsherical lens, which is extremely rare here in Poland. I added my own Canon FD 50mm f/1,2L and a loaned Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM in the mix and tested them against each other on my Sony A7R II. You can find the full review at my blog. It is in Polish, but I wrote the test summary in English. Photos have captions, which should be self-explanatory, despite different notation in Polish (e.g. Polish "50 mm f/1,2" translates as "50mm f/1.2" in English). Here is the link to the blog entry:

https://towarzystwonieustraszonychsoczewek.blogspot.com/2017/08/standard-wedug-canona-czyli-soczewka.html

Here is the test summary in English, which you will find also at the end of the blog entry:

Test summary

The test reviews three incarnations of Canon’s superfast professional standard lens over decades: Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 S.S.C. Aspherical (manufactured in June 1976), Canon FD 50mm f/1.2L (manufactured in June 1984) and Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM (manufactured in August 2007). The lenses were tested on a Sony A7R II camera. The good news is that the speed of f/1.2 allows for low-light photography and good subject isolation against the background, and in right conditions background blur is pleasant. All three lenses are well-suited to human photography, as the rendering is quite flattering. The latter, however, follows from modest sharpness in the center of the frame, while good background blur is attributable to poor edge sharpness. And this is where bad news starts. If contrast is adequate even at f/1.2, sharpness is poor in the center and disappointing at the edges for professional-grade lenses. Once the lenses are stopped down to f/5.6, they become very good, but the same feat can be achieved with a much cheaper and more lightweight f/1.8 lens. Certainly, there are certain differences between particular versions, and if we need autofocus the choices are limited to a single lens, namely Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM. All three lenses have a visible barrel distortion, strong vignetting and pronounced CA, in the form of bokeh fringing. Technically, Canon FD 50mm f/1.2L is the poorest of the three - with the most pronounced distortion and vignetting and poorest sharpness wide open - but at least it is small and lightweight, making it a perfect match for mirrorless cameras. I would give a nod to Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM as the test winner, mainly for user-friendliness, ergonomics and autofocus, but in all truth the differences in optical properties are minimal at most, and in some categories – such as bokeh or sharpness in the center at f/1.2 – the oldest lens, Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 S.S.C. Aspherical, slightly edges the other two, albeit on the other hand it is the only one in the test to display the dreaded "onion rings". I know that lenses with the red stripe and letter "L" are much coveted by some, but I cannot dismiss results of the test. My experiences in photographing with Canon FD lenses suggest that the New FD 50mm f/1.4 lens – which has no aspherical element – is technically slightly superior to the f/1.2 L-series lens. Of course if you need an f/1.2 lens, only an f/1.2 lens will deliver. But if you are planning to stop down the aperture anyway, you should think twice about what lens speed you really need.

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trungtran Contributing Member • Posts: 949
Re: Nice summary

Nice summary.

Always wanted a 50mm 1.2 lens, but the performance wide open versus cost just didn't make sense to me. If i come across a bargain i may pick one up.

But i'm happy with my 1.4 50's.

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jarek leo
OP jarek leo Contributing Member • Posts: 967
Re: Nice summary

trungtran wrote:

Nice summary.

Always wanted a 50mm 1.2 lens, but the performance wide open versus cost just didn't make sense to me. If i come across a bargain i may pick one up.

But i'm happy with my 1.4 50's.

Is it an FD or EF 50mm f/1.4?

Jarek

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VLreviews
VLreviews Regular Member • Posts: 207
Re: Test of Canon's superfast professional-grade standard lenses on Sony A7R II

jarek leo wrote:

... – the oldest lens, Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 S.S.C. Aspherical, slightly edges the other two, albeit on the other hand it is the only one in the test to display the dreaded "onion rings".

Nice comparison! One detail: I can see a dark dot and one dark ring in the bokeh of the S.S.C. - is that what you mean with onion rings? It looks more like a lens defect to me - doublet separation or such. Typical onion ring patterns found in modern aspherics are caused by the molding process. I think in 1976 aspheres were not molded but polished and therefore should not show onion rings.

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jarek leo
OP jarek leo Contributing Member • Posts: 967
Re: Test of Canon's superfast professional-grade standard lenses on Sony A7R II
1

VLreviews wrote:

jarek leo wrote:

... – the oldest lens, Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 S.S.C. Aspherical, slightly edges the other two, albeit on the other hand it is the only one in the test to display the dreaded "onion rings".

Nice comparison! One detail: I can see a dark dot and one dark ring in the bokeh of the S.S.C. - is that what you mean with onion rings? It looks more like a lens defect to me - doublet separation or such. Typical onion ring patterns found in modern aspherics are caused by the molding process. I think in 1976 aspheres were not molded but polished and therefore should not show onion rings.

There was a discussion accompanying my previous test (of Canon's 85mm f/1.2 lenses) and it appears that hand-polished aspherics did not have onion rings, while machine-polished ones had them - and Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 S.S.C. Aspherical was the version with machine-polished aspherics (as opposed to FD 55mm f/1.2 AL).

Best

Jarek

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trungtran Contributing Member • Posts: 949
Re: Nice summary

jarek leo wrote:

trungtran wrote:

Nice summary.

Always wanted a 50mm 1.2 lens, but the performance wide open versus cost just didn't make sense to me. If i come across a bargain i may pick one up.

But i'm happy with my 1.4 50's.

Is it an FD or EF 50mm f/1.4?

Jarek

Just legacy 50mm 1.4 in general.

For Canon i have the FL, FD Chrome nose, SSC and the NFD, The SSC is my favorite to use.

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ProfHankD
ProfHankD Veteran Member • Posts: 6,697
A radioactive problem...

jarek leo wrote:

https://towarzystwonieustraszonychsoczewek.blogspot.com/2017/08/standard-wedug-canona-czyli-soczewka.html

Excellent review again!

However, radioactive yellowing isn't like having a yellow filter. The yellowing is a chemical change in the glass, and doesn't necessarily just change color -- it can change the refraction and dispersion too. Fortunately, exposure to UV can bleach the glass back to close to original condition -- not just remove the yellowing.

So, what does that mean? Likely the SSC lens is even a bit sharper in the center than you saw. The yellow being darker in the middle also does the exact opposite of what looks good in bokeh, making the bright edge of the OOF PSF thicker.  Overall, the change is probably not enough to alter your summary....

PS: I'll again mention that the TechArt Pro can be really nice for autofocus (or auto-tweak-of-manual-focus) of such lenses on an A7RII... so all three can apparently autofocus. Of course, only one has the aperture controlled by the body; the other two are used as manual aperture lenses (and focus at the shooting aperture).

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MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 38,914
Re: Test of Canon's lenses

Thanks again Leo for taking this trouble and letting us see your results.

As far as I know Canon made several (about) 50mm f1.2 lenses in FL and FD.  Interesting to compare them as well.  I have a cheaper set, there is even less of a wonder in their performances.  In fact I think that the FL f1.4 is a better lens than the base model  f1.2.

I suppose that if people would pay more for "f1.2" capability then we could hardly blame companies if they made them for us

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Tom Caldwell

Lightshow
Lightshow Veteran Member • Posts: 7,107
Re: Nice summary

trungtran wrote:

jarek leo wrote:

trungtran wrote:

Nice summary.

Always wanted a 50mm 1.2 lens, but the performance wide open versus cost just didn't make sense to me. If i come across a bargain i may pick one up.

But i'm happy with my 1.4 50's.

Is it an FD or EF 50mm f/1.4?

Jarek

Just legacy 50mm 1.4 in general.

For Canon i have the FL, FD Chrome nose, SSC and the NFD, The SSC is my favorite to use.

I have all those too, the SSC is my favourite, followed by the chrome nose(SC vs SSC),

I actually really like the chrome nose lenses, I just wish Canon had made an 85mm chrome nose.

IMO, the EF 50/1.8 and 50/1.4 are garbage, the optics may be good, but the bodies are trash.

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Alan WF
Alan WF Senior Member • Posts: 1,910
Another Comparison

Thanks.

Jeroen ter Lingen an interesting comparison of the FD 55/1.2 SSC Asperical, New FD 50/1.2L, and New FD 50/1.4. His conclusion? "Get the 50/1.4".

Regards,

Alan

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E Dinkla Senior Member • Posts: 1,774
Re: Another Comparison

Alan WF wrote:

Thanks.

Jeroen ter Lingen an interesting comparison of the FD 55/1.2 SSC Asperical, New FD 50/1.2L, and New FD 50/1.4. His conclusion? "Get the 50/1.4".

Regards,

Alan

The follow up part of that comparison ends with the confession that though not tested he loves the images made with an OM 50mm 1.4.  Which is the one I have and like as well. The FD 55 1.2 SSC here is not used much, weight makes it less usable. Pity though that it was not in both reviews. Sharpness equal or better than the aspherical 55mm if I recall it correctly.

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jarek leo
OP jarek leo Contributing Member • Posts: 967
Re: Nice summary

trungtran wrote:

jarek leo wrote:

trungtran wrote:

Nice summary.

Always wanted a 50mm 1.2 lens, but the performance wide open versus cost just didn't make sense to me. If i come across a bargain i may pick one up.

But i'm happy with my 1.4 50's.

Is it an FD or EF 50mm f/1.4?

Jarek

Just legacy 50mm 1.4 in general.

For Canon i have the FL, FD Chrome nose, SSC and the NFD, The SSC is my favorite to use.

I used to have both the chrome nose and SSC. I agree that SSC is a very fine lens. Optically I think that NFD is equal but the SSC is joy to use. Mechanically it's a gem.

Best

Jarek

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jarek leo
OP jarek leo Contributing Member • Posts: 967
Re: A radioactive problem...

ProfHankD wrote:

jarek leo wrote:

https://towarzystwonieustraszonychsoczewek.blogspot.com/2017/08/standard-wedug-canona-czyli-soczewka.html

Excellent review again!

However, radioactive yellowing isn't like having a yellow filter. The yellowing is a chemical change in the glass, and doesn't necessarily just change color -- it can change the refraction and dispersion too. Fortunately, exposure to UV can bleach the glass back to close to original condition -- not just remove the yellowing.

So, what does that mean? Likely the SSC lens is even a bit sharper in the center than you saw. The yellow being darker in the middle also does the exact opposite of what looks good in bokeh, making the bright edge of the OOF PSF thicker. Overall, the change is probably not enough to alter your summary....

PS: I'll again mention that the TechArt Pro can be really nice for autofocus (or auto-tweak-of-manual-focus) of such lenses on an A7RII... so all three can apparently autofocus. Of course, only one has the aperture controlled by the body; the other two are used as manual aperture lenses (and focus at the shooting aperture).

Thank you, I am aware that the yellowing comes from chemical proceses altering optical properties, I was loaned the lens for the test and did not have time to expose it to UV radiation. Given sample variation I am aware my tests can be copy-specific.

I use a solid tripod and focus on highly miagnified detail so hopefully the test results are not affected by focusing errors.

Best

Jarek

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OP jarek leo Contributing Member • Posts: 967
Re: Test of Canon's lenses

Tom Caldwell wrote:

Thanks again Leo for taking this trouble and letting us see your results.

As far as I know Canon made several (about) 50mm f1.2 lenses in FL and FD. Interesting to compare them as well. I have a cheaper set, there is even less of a wonder in their performances. In fact I think that the FL f1.4 is a better lens than the base model f1.2.

I suppose that if people would pay more for "f1.2" capability then we could hardly blame companies if they made them for us

Well, as you see already with three lenses the test is quite long. There is a plan to compare standard Aspherical versus non-Aspherical lenses if the company loaning lenses to me has the pool I need.

Best

Jarek

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ProfHankD
ProfHankD Veteran Member • Posts: 6,697
Re: Test of Canon's lenses
1

jarek leo wrote:

Well, as you see already with three lenses the test is quite long. There is a plan to compare standard Aspherical versus non-Aspherical lenses if the company loaning lenses to me has the pool I need.

I have the FL 55mm f/1.2 and, honestly, it's not looking all that different (nor worse, especially given a $200 cost via eBay). The vignetting wide open is pretty severe, OOF PSF have a bright edge, but it is sharp in the center wide open and build quality is excellent.  Actually works better on APS-C with a focal reducer than on FF because the slight crop gets rid of the really dark corners and resolution is still high enough.

As you said, the f/1.4 variants are generally "less funky" than the f/1.2 when used wide open... and stopped down it quickly becomes very difficult to distinguish between them. I think too many people go for the f/1.2 lenses thinking more or bigger bokeh is better bokeh, but that's really not true. Look at the Sony 100mm STF as the ultimate example: it produces near perfect bokeh, but is not a very fast lens. Truth is, the primary motivation for most f/1.2 lenses was originally so that people would see a bright enough OVF view to manually focus in marginal lighting -- they weren't expected to be shooting wide open very much. The FL 55mm f/1.2 is so common (and cheaper) because it went with the Pelix, which lost some viewfinder brightness due to the fixed mirror.

Anyway, the point is that (1) the f/1.2 lenses give more interesting test results than slower normals and (2) there are already tons of comparative reviews of fast 50s. I think your "same lens evolution over time" tests are more interesting than trying to do yet another test of lots of fast 50s.

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jarek leo
OP jarek leo Contributing Member • Posts: 967
Re: Nice summary

Lightshow wrote:

trungtran wrote:

jarek leo wrote:

trungtran wrote:

Nice summary.

Always wanted a 50mm 1.2 lens, but the performance wide open versus cost just didn't make sense to me. If i come across a bargain i may pick one up.

But i'm happy with my 1.4 50's.

Is it an FD or EF 50mm f/1.4?

Jarek

Just legacy 50mm 1.4 in general.

For Canon i have the FL, FD Chrome nose, SSC and the NFD, The SSC is my favorite to use.

I have all those too, the SSC is my favourite, followed by the chrome nose(SC vs SSC),

I actually really like the chrome nose lenses, I just wish Canon had made an 85mm chrome nose.

IMO, the EF 50/1.8 and 50/1.4 are garbage, the optics may be good, but the bodies are trash.

Alas, the 85mm f1.2 was invented in post-chrome nose era. EF 50mm f/1.8 Mark I was mechanically sound. EF 50mm f/1.4 is optically fine but you are right: the body is trash and dust gets inside easily.

Best

Jarek

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OP jarek leo Contributing Member • Posts: 967
Re: Another Comparison
1

Alan WF wrote:

Thanks.

Jeroen ter Lingen an interesting comparison of the FD 55/1.2 SSC Asperical, New FD 50/1.2L, and New FD 50/1.4. His conclusion? "Get the 50/1.4".

Regards,

Alan

I know this comparison, and value it highly. I agree with his conclusion. My intention was a little bit different: to show development of one lens type over decades.

Best

Jarek

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jarek leo
OP jarek leo Contributing Member • Posts: 967
Re: Test of Canon's lenses

ProfHankD wrote:

jarek leo wrote:

Well, as you see already with three lenses the test is quite long. There is a plan to compare standard Aspherical versus non-Aspherical lenses if the company loaning lenses to me has the pool I need.

I have the FL 55mm f/1.2 and, honestly, it's not looking all that different (nor worse, especially given a $200 cost via eBay). The vignetting wide open is pretty severe, OOF PSF have a bright edge, but it is sharp in the center wide open and build quality is excellent. Actually works better on APS-C with a focal reducer than on FF because the slight crop gets rid of the really dark corners and resolution is still high enough.

As you said, the f/1.4 variants are generally "less funky" than the f/1.2 when used wide open... and stopped down it quickly becomes very difficult to distinguish between them. I think too many people go for the f/1.2 lenses thinking more or bigger bokeh is better bokeh, but that's really not true. Look at the Sony 100mm STF as the ultimate example: it produces near perfect bokeh, but is not a very fast lens. Truth is, the primary motivation for most f/1.2 lenses was originally so that people would see a bright enough OVF view to manually focus in marginal lighting -- they weren't expected to be shooting wide open very much. The FL 55mm f/1.2 is so common (and cheaper) because it went with the Pelix, which lost some viewfinder brightness due to the fixed mirror.

Anyway, the point is that (1) the f/1.2 lenses give more interesting test results than slower normals and (2) there are already tons of comparative reviews of fast 50s. I think your "same lens evolution over time" tests are more interesting than trying to do yet another test of lots of fast 50s.

I totally agree, a lot of people mistake bokeh with background blur. I have Sony 135 STF and love it - it is atually a T/4.5 lens.

I am interested in getting a historical perspective so i try do test development of a lens type over decades - of course a lot depends on what the company loaning lenses to me has available.

Best

Jarek

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Re: Another Comparison

E Dinkla wrote:

Alan WF wrote:

Thanks.

Jeroen ter Lingen an interesting comparison of the FD 55/1.2 SSC Asperical, New FD 50/1.2L, and New FD 50/1.4. His conclusion? "Get the 50/1.4".

Regards,

Alan

The follow up part of that comparison ends with the confession that though not tested he loves the images made with an OM 50mm 1.4. Which is the one I have and like as well. The FD 55 1.2 SSC here is not used much, weight makes it less usable. Pity though that it was not in both reviews. Sharpness equal or better than the aspherical 55mm if I recall it correctly.

Ernst, op de lei getypt.

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So many lenses have been made that is we try to test all 50mm f/1.2 and f/1,4 lenses the task will become a mission impossible. I intentionally limited myself to historical development of a single lens type of a single brand over decades.

Best

Jarek

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MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 38,914
Re: Test of Canon's lenses

jarek leo wrote:

Tom Caldwell wrote:

Thanks again Leo for taking this trouble and letting us see your results.

As far as I know Canon made several (about) 50mm f1.2 lenses in FL and FD. Interesting to compare them as well. I have a cheaper set, there is even less of a wonder in their performances. In fact I think that the FL f1.4 is a better lens than the base model f1.2.

I suppose that if people would pay more for "f1.2" capability then we could hardly blame companies if they made them for us

Well, as you see already with three lenses the test is quite long. There is a plan to compare standard Aspherical versus non-Aspherical lenses if the company loaning lenses to me has the pool I need.

Best

Jarek

Jarek

I apreciate the trouble you have taken.  I was not asking you to test any more. I was only commenting on the fact that there were even more "f1.2" lens versions from Canon at this focal length in FL and FD style mount.  I have a couple of them but I don't qualify myself as a serious tester of lenses.

I do have one of the "cheap FD 50/1.2 lenses but it arrived with some fungus and it never made me excited.  I must get it out once more but it was a "budget F1.2" lens in the first place.

I do have a copy of the EF 50/1.2 as well - which is my go-to of this type and which I can use focal reduced in AF mode on a M4/3 camera body.  It does what I need and I am happy with it.

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