KamLan 50mm F1.1 Mark I : Is it really so bad?

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Tom Schum
Tom Schum Veteran Member • Posts: 9,900
KamLan 50mm F1.1 Mark I : Is it really so bad?
2

Having seen that the general consensus about the original KamLan 50mm F1.1, the Mark I, is that it is not very good, I took mine out today shooting.

It is a small and light lens compared to the Mark II, and fits my X-E1 quite well.  The front hood is plastic, but fits well if you mate it carefully to the front of the lens.  There is no need to remove it from the lens after that, since it is not very deep.

Shot with Fuji X30, the perfect camera if you use ebay. Left side shows it small on the X-E1, and right side shows the business end, the F1.1 front element.

The big complaint about this lens is that it isn't sharp.  Well at least my copy is good enough.  Not perfect like the big heavy Mark II which I also own, but still pretty nice.

F5, infinity focus.  Actually, focused at F5 on the center of the metal radio tower.  Note the top of the tower is not sharp.  By focusing on the top of the tower, focus cannot be improved.  This is quite a bit away from the center of the image, which has good sharpness.

F5.6, focused on the second bike from the front.  Not bad.  Depth of field at F5.6 will make adjacent bikes soft but this is not the fault of the lens.

Close view, F5.6, focused on the center of the larger mushroom.  Nice clarity, and softness away from center does not matter here.

See second post for more images.

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Tom Schum
OP Tom Schum Veteran Member • Posts: 9,900
Re: KamLan 50mm F1.1 Mark I : Is it really so bad?

Second post, more images here.

F5.6. Focus on dog's nose. Nice and sharp.

F8. Nicer and sharper. Again, focus is on dog's nose.

F5.6. Focus on "Food Mart". Softness at image edges is unavoidable, makes this lens not optimum for landscapes. But many street shots do not need complete sharpness edge-to-edge.

Overall, and mostly because this lens is small, light, and unobtrusive, the Mark I lens is a better lens for general use, street, grab shots, portraits and so on.  At least, it is in my opinion.

Excellent mechanical build quality and F1.1 capability make this lens a very good value.

If you need clinical sharpness and F1.1, the Mark II is going to please you, but it costs $80 more than the Mark I and it is a lot bigger and heavier.

For me, this Mark I lens is a lens I like to use.  The Mark II sits in a shrine at home more of the time than the Mark I.

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Il Mostro Regular Member • Posts: 320
Re: KamLan 50mm F1.1 Mark I : Is it really so bad?

Not bad at all, but I think a lot of people like to shoot this (and similar) lens wide open in order to use its inherent "flaws" to create unique images -- similar to the way the Helios lenses are used.

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Tom Schum
OP Tom Schum Veteran Member • Posts: 9,900
Re: KamLan 50mm F1.1 Mark I : Is it really so bad?

Il Mostro wrote:

Not bad at all, but I think a lot of people like to shoot this (and similar) lens wide open in order to use its inherent "flaws" to create unique images, similar to the way the Helios lenses are used.

Of course this is true! The Mark II came with a 4x ND filter accessory, I'm sure with this F1.1 shooting in mind.

I also have a Mitakon 35mm F0.95 Mark II lens, and it is excellent. I have used it with a 8x ND filter to shoot in daylight wide open, and it delivers some very nice results this way:

Mitakon 35mm F0.95 at F0.95, using 8x ND filter.

I have tried shooting at F1.1 but not for street. At longer focus distances maybe 20ft and more, it should be easier to keep the subject in focus. But for portraiture, the depth of field is so shallow that I think I really need good autofocus to nail the sharpness in a living breathing person. Manual focus just isn't fast enough.

I've gotten great results doing portraiture at F2 from the Mark I lens. See:

https://www.dpreview.com/galleries/1438043515/albums/kamlan-50mm-f1-1-original-version

I've gotten some nice bokeh-filled images from the Mark II lens too. See:

https://www.dpreview.com/galleries/1438043515/albums/kamlan-50mm-f1-1-ii

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Rightsaidfred
Rightsaidfred Contributing Member • Posts: 571
Re: KamLan 50mm F1.1 Mark I: Key application is wide open IMO
1

Il Mostro wrote:

Not bad at all, but I think a lot of people like to shoot this (and similar) lens wide open in order to use its inherent "flaws" to create unique images -- similar to the way the Helios lenses are used.

Hi Tom

Much appreciated, many thanks. You know I own the Mark II, and your previous comments were actually one of the reasons that triggered my decision. Thanks again. I am super happy with the Mark II, I don't consider it clinical at all, it is still a character lens IMO.

But, back to the topic. I am thinking in the same direction as Il Mostro. People don't buy these lenses to shoot at f/5.6. People buy them for playing with super fast aperture! So, would be nice if you could post one or two direct comparison scenes of the Mark I and II at f/1.1

Kind regards,

Martin

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Tom Schum
OP Tom Schum Veteran Member • Posts: 9,900
Re: KamLan 50mm F1.1 Mark I: Key application is wide open IMO
1

Rightsaidfred wrote:

Il Mostro wrote:

Not bad at all, but I think a lot of people like to shoot this (and similar) lens wide open in order to use its inherent "flaws" to create unique images -- similar to the way the Helios lenses are used.

Hi Tom

Much appreciated, many thanks. You know I own the Mark II, and your previous comments were actually one of the reasons that triggered my decision. Thanks again. I am super happy with the Mark II, I don't consider it clinical at all, it is still a character lens IMO.

But, back to the topic. I am thinking in the same direction as Il Mostro. People don't buy these lenses to shoot at f/5.6. People buy them for playing with super fast aperture! So, would be nice if you could post one or two direct comparison scenes of the Mark I and II at f/1.1

Kind regards,

Martin

Good idea!  I'll work on it, will post the images in this thread in a few days.

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Tom Schum
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KamLan 50mm F1.1 Mark I vs Mark II
7

Here are the comparison images.

I found a willing subject (me). That was the easy part.

After quite a few shots I got these images. Focus is on the eyes, and you can see the outside parts of the eyebrows are in focus or nearly so. Also the tip of the nose is out of focus, as is the upper lip. So I think I got pretty close to the same focus for both shots.

Raw developed in Iridient X-Transformer v1.6.6, then opened in Photoshop Elements 2020 using the bundled Camera Raw v12.0. I did no processing except adjust brightness so both images are about the same brightness. Differences in white balance are random and not corrected. No other attempt was made to improve the appearance of these images. They are not sharpened in Photoshop Elements 2020.

After saving JPGs, I ran them through JPEG Mini for optimization. Original JPG file sizes are 3 to 4 times larger than these. Same number of pixels, same visual appearance etc., just shorter waits for download.

KamLan 50mm F1.1 x-mount Mark II lens at F1.1. 2.6mb download.

KamLan 50mm F1.1 x-mount Mark I (original) lens at F1.1. 3.4mb download.

Comments welcome!

PS here is how the two lenses compare in size:

Mark I on left, Mark II on right.

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boogisha
boogisha Senior Member • Posts: 1,702
Re: KamLan 50mm F1.1 Mark I vs Mark II

Tom Schum wrote:

Here are the comparison images.

I found a willing subject (me). That was the easy part.

After quite a few shots I got these images. Focus is on the eyes, and you can see the outside parts of the eyebrows are in focus or nearly so. Also the tip of the nose is out of focus, as is the upper lip. So I think I got pretty close to the same focus for both shots.

[ snip ]

KamLan 50mm F1.1 x-mount Mark II lens at F1.1. 2.6mb download.

KamLan 50mm F1.1 x-mount Mark I (original) lens at F1.1. 3.4mb download.

Comments welcome!

Hmm, sharpness difference is clearly visible when looking at large.

BUT, if I may, I think I actually prefer the overall looks of the first/original version photo anyway (the bottom one) - contrast seems better (if that is the correct description of what I`m seeing, though it could be scene/lighting/processing influenced, too, not perfectly matched between two shots), and background bokeh seems "softer", too (mark II showing some distracting outlines).

Considering size (and probably price?) difference as well, first version does look like an interesting option Thanks for sharing!

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Tom Schum
OP Tom Schum Veteran Member • Posts: 9,900
Re: KamLan 50mm F1.1 Mark I vs Mark II
1

boogisha wrote:

Hmm, sharpness difference is clearly visible when looking at large.

BUT, if I may, I think I actually prefer the overall looks of the first/original version photo anyway (the bottom one) - contrast seems better (if that is the correct description of what I`m seeing, though it could be scene/lighting/processing influenced, too, not perfectly matched between two shots), and background bokeh seems "softer", too (mark II showing some distracting outlines).

Considering size (and probably price?) difference as well, first version does look like an interesting option Thanks for sharing!

Thanks for taking a look!

I didn't do anything to change white balance or contrast, so at least some of this is due to the differences in the lenses.  But, every time I hit the shutter button for the 10-second timer to start, the camera took a reading of available light and set exposure.  Unfortunately I had the camera set to use auto white balance too.  If I were doing this again, which I never intend to do, I would set up my camera for custom white balance.

I like the look of the Mark I image better, too.

Yes the Mark II does better with sharpness, and until I did this test and you pointed it out, I did not know that the bokeh from the Mark I is better at F1.1.  But it certainly is!

I think lots of sharpness is good with male portraits, where the subject wants to look rugged and manly, and this is getting to be a portrait style these days.  I see this frequently in the New York Times magazine in the Sunday edition, for example.

I think the muted microcontrast of the Mark I is actually better for portraits because it does not get a whole lot sharper at pixel level when you stop it down.  This de-emphasizes complexion detail a little, and I think this is better for a portrait.

I think the Mark II gets a whole lot sharper when you stop it down to F2.  At F2 and above it is at least equal to the sharpness of the Fuji 50mm F2 WR in my opinion, and to me this is maybe too sharp for much portraiture.

I also think that these are not very good portraits because so much of the face is blurred.  This is why I prefer F2 and above for portraits, even though the bokeh is going to be more difficult.

At F1.1 everything in front of and behind the plane of focus just turns to fluff.  There are a lot of artistic reasons to shoot at F1.1, but I don't list portraiture among them.

All of this is just my personal opinions though.

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Rightsaidfred
Rightsaidfred Contributing Member • Posts: 571
Re: KamLan 50mm F1.1 Mark I vs Mark II // Many thanks

Dear Tom

Many thanks for this! It gives really a good impression. I downloaded the photos and took a closer look.

I personally prefer the sharpness of the Mk II over the character and smaller size of the Mk I. Here's my first impression of the Mk IIfor those who are interested. Tom knows it already

How did you manage to focus? There must have been someone skilled in MF behind the camera I guess. I'd say it is impossible with the self-timer.

Best regards,

Martin

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Tom Schum
OP Tom Schum Veteran Member • Posts: 9,900
Re: KamLan 50mm F1.1 Mark I vs Mark II // Many thanks
1

Rightsaidfred wrote:

Dear Tom

Many thanks for this! It gives really a good impression. I downloaded the photos and took a closer look.

I personally prefer the sharpness of the Mk II over the character and smaller size of the Mk I. Here's my first impression of the Mk IIfor those who are interested. Tom knows it already

How did you manage to focus? There must have been someone skilled in MF behind the camera I guess. I'd say it is impossible with the self-timer.

Best regards,

Martin

Thanks for the compliment!

I was also very highly impressed with the Mark II.  It's a great lens.

Yes in a real situation it is going to be virtually impossible to hold good focus on the eyes at F1.1.  Something like the Fuji 56mm F1.2 with autofocus would really be what is needed for this kind of shooting.

Anyway, I found something to take the place of my head, and put it where I expected my head to be, then focused on that. It was a book placed on a small table at what I thought would be the right distance.  I had to fine tune the focus for a while for each lens, taking a sample shot, then chimping, making a small change in the focus setting, then trying again, again, again.

Then I took maybe 20 shots or so (10 second self timer), and later picked out the best one. I was up against a small bookcase, so I basically sat in the same place for each shot and just held my head a little different to change where the best focus was.

Back in the days when you had to sit still for 30 seconds for a portrait, photographers had head braces set up.  The subject would basically stay right there.  These might be hard to find nowadays.  I'm not old enough to know what these look like anyway.  Is anyone?

Really, at F1.1 it is just hit and miss.

I had to re-do the Mark I image because I didn't get a good image the first session with focus maximized on the eyes. This was all trial and error and it took a couple hours.  Since the last shot was maybe 1.5 hours later in the morning the light might have changed a little and made the Mark I yield a nicer color balance, I don't know.

It's been an interesting few days playing with these lenses. They have returned to their honored storage area for now.  I need to do some low light F1.1 street shooting with them sometime.  I know the Mitakon 35mm F0.95 Mark II does quite well this way.

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