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Canon 1.2 vs. 1.4 vs. 1.8 LTM, a technical comparison
Old 03-27-2016   #1
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Canon 1.2 vs. 1.4 vs. 1.8 LTM, a technical comparison

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PS (04/05/2016): on suggestion of Steve, I also added 50/1.8 measurements to this thread, post 16 forward, and the thread title was changed accordingly.
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There are lots of opinions, photos, and some comparisons of Canon LTM lenses on-line. But not really much data even though they can be easily collected with a digital Leica today. So I felt the following technical comparison using my 240 would add some value. As a side note, with one exception (Canon 1.2 and 1.4 distortion comparison), please do not conclude anything from the colors below, photos were taken at different day times. Click on the photos to see higher resolution jpegs.

CANON 50mm/1.2 VS CANON 50mm/1.4

I've always been attracted to these two lens designs, because they are quite unique. The 1.4 is the only fast 50 that I know with a straight Planar design. The 50/1.2 is the only 7 element 50 that I know in which the seventh element was added to the front of a Planar, making the lens fat but quite short.

My 1.2 is from the late 50s, my 1.4 comparatively late, from the 70s. I use the original hood on the 1.2, a Hoya 48mm hood on the 1.4 and IR cut filters on both. Both lenses easily vignette with filter and wrong hood added.



CANON 50mm/1.2 VS CANON 50mm/1.4 - TEST PHOTOS

1) Minimum focus, DOF and focus shift, first 1.4, second 1.2:





2) Field curvature at min. focus; take a photo focused in the center, recompose to move the center into the field, and see how much of the cosine effect remains (see also http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...d.php?t=148485). Like this:



Crops:



3) Vignetting for both lenses is similar and not surprising:



4) Close to infinity performance; using the same photos as taken for the vignetting test. If you read other tests I do, you'll know this antenna ... First photo compares center crops, second reasonably off-center crops.





5) Bokeh; these lenses were designed long before the bokeh term was invented, and have mechanically interesting double apertures. Which might surprise you when taking a "bokeh shot" closed down a bit, with the 1.4 in particular. First the 1.4, second the 1.2:





CANON 50mm/1.2 VS CANON 50mm/1.4 - CONCLUSIONS

A) A well calibrated 50/1.4 LTM is an optically outstanding performer for its time, practically very similar to the pre-asph Summilux: high infinity resolution already at f1.4, and a nice flat field. Note that the "Japanese Summilux", and the pre-asph also distort similarly (meaning significantly). If you ignore distortion, wrt resolution, an infinity picture from the Canon 50/1.4 will be difficult to distinguish from, say, a rigid Summicron, at the same f-stops.

B) If you look at field performance, and in contrast to it being often called soft, the Canon 1.2 does surprisingly well, almost comparable to the 1.4, both lenses perform similarly f2 and up. Due to field curvature, however, the 1.2 center remains soft, and only catches up to the 1.4 at f5.6 or higher. Do note that I had to reshim my 1.2 when receiving it. The 1.4 was perfectly collimated out of the box.

C) The 1.2 field curvature compensates perfectly for the cosine effect. This makes the 1.2 an easy to handle portrait lens for "focus and recompose". When you use the 1.4, you have to consciously front-focus before recomposing.

D) Both lenses shift similarly, quantitatively similar to, say, the pre-asph Lux, or a modern 50/1.5 Nokton.

E) If you want beautiful bokeh closing the lens down a bit, these lenses are not for you. Due to the double aperture, there are "spikes" in the OOF circles at f2.0 and f2.8; this effect is more pronounced with the 1.4.

Hope this helps looking for an affordable 50,

Roland.
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Old 03-27-2016   #2
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Thanks for the review Roland.
the 1.4 is an incredibly good lens in terms of resolution.
The distortion made me sell it.
I have now a Nokton 1.5. I hope it's better in that field, but I'm not sure.
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Old 03-28-2016   #3
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Thanks, Michael.

I was thinking how to visualize the most surprising finding of my test. This is the Canon 50/1.2 at f1.2:



People often complain about lack of this lens' resolution. Well it's actually very sharp, but due to field curvature less so in the center than in the area between the two red rings above. If you ignore CA, a little glow and low macro-contrast (i.e., all you B+W shooters out there), this easily beats for instance any Sonnar variant that I have tried, at least up to f2.

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Old 03-28-2016   #4
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Thank you for this technical report, Roland. I have both lenses, and both lenses are "very good" overall. Not "distinguished" though.
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Finally: distortion, color and contrast
Old 03-28-2016   #5
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Finally: distortion, color and contrast

Thanks, Raid.

To compare distortion, color and contrast, I took these two pictures (minutes apart, of my wife's stained glass), 2m focus distance, both lenses @f2:

Canon 50/1.2:



Canon 50/1.4:



In both jpgs above I boosted the low-lights a bit (colors were left as shot), so you could see the red line on top of the stained glass frame. The raw files showed the following level distributions:



1) the red line shows that both lenses barrel distort, the 1.4 more than the 1.2
2) the overall contrast of the 1.4 is significantly higher than the 1.2 @f2
3) the 1.4 renders colors colder than the 1.2

Thanks for looking,

Roland.
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Old 03-28-2016   #6
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Great review and comparison, Roland! Thanks for posting this. It would be interesting, I think, to expand the comparison to include the Canon 50/1.8, which is also reportedly a planar design.
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Old 03-28-2016   #7
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I never noticed the distortion in either lens, though I mainly use these lenses for portraits and/or street photography. The Canon 50/1.4 is the standard lens on my M-240 and MP. The 50/1.2 is one of my favorite portrait lenses. Real unique character when shot wide-open, or near it.

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Old 03-28-2016   #8
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Well let's add a few samples
50/1.4 at f/4:

Sisters by unoh7, on Flickr

50/1.2 at f/4

Driveway by unoh7, on Flickr

50/1.4 WO:

L1042005 by unoh7, on Flickr

50/1.2 WO

Arch by unoh7, on Flickr
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Old 03-28-2016   #9
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Here at F/5.6:

50/1.2:

L1041920 by unoh7, on Flickr

50/1.4

L1041991 by unoh7, on Flickr

To my sensibility it's "Classic" vs "Modern"

I think the 50/1.4 is well understood and appreciated. The 50/1.2 is not understood or appreciated by all that many, and in fact it's a far stronger lens than most assume, but like the Sonnars, the strength is usually in the center. I did not realize how sharp it was in the central frame by F/2 until recently.

Here about 1.8ish:

Hemi by unoh7, Canon LTM 50/1.2

The M9 seems very faithful to these designs.
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Old 03-28-2016   #10
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You’re right. The 50/1.2, when shot wide-open, or near it, is sharpest in the center.

Here’s a pic of a rat-rod shot with the Canon 50/1.2 wide-open. Efke 25 film if I’m right. On my MP.



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Old 03-29-2016   #11
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Thank you Roland for further images of my favourite antenna and surrounds that has taught me much over the years! Well, it's your interpretation really that has done that.

Also good to see samples from more RFF members.

In Canon I've had the 1.4 for quite a while and a 1.5 because they are so different. So far resisted the 1.8 and 1.2 and .95 because of other brand 50s, but maybe one day!

Thanks again for adding to the RFF knowledge base.
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Old 03-29-2016   #12
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Thank you for posting. I have a 50 1.4, found this to be a very interesting read.
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Old 03-30-2016   #13
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In my copy of 50mm f1.2, the oil between the elements, which is a common problem (sometimes etches the elements) affect the degree of glowing and fuzziness at wide open. I clean it by my self and it gives great colors and sharpness on my Nex-7. I will try to post some images.
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Old 03-30-2016   #14
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For a quick comparison, open this page and move the mouse over the image...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ferider View Post
Thanks, Raid.

To compare distortion, color and contrast, I took these two pictures (minutes apart, of my wife's stained glass), 2m focus distance, both lenses @f2:

Canon 50/1.2:



Canon 50/1.4:


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Adding the 50/1.8 to the comparison
Old 04-05-2016   #15
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Adding the 50/1.8 to the comparison

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bingley View Post
Great review and comparison, Roland! Thanks for posting this. It would be interesting, I think, to expand the comparison to include the Canon 50/1.8, which is also reportedly a planar design.
Thanks, Steve ! Alright, so here is the 50/1.8, just for you Lens is clean, serial 299xxx and cost US 170, from a great ebay seller in the UK.

THE CANON 50mm/1.8:

First of all, the 50/1.8 is a very cute lens, tiny really (the M3 in the background has the 50/1.4 mounted, for size comparison). Also, these days it's easier to find 40mm hoods and filters, as Marumi makes them for Fuji cameras.



Here is how my copy is calibrated at minimum focus, and how it shifts backwards (like most 50s) when closing the aperture (click on this or the following pictures to enlarge, please)



My copy front-focuses wide open by a little less than an inch, which makes it perform optimally at f2.8, and also helps compensate for the cosine effect (the following has centered focus on the left, and the same focus point but the camera de-centered on the right):



The typical antenna shot to show near infinity resolution in the center:



And the same shot with 100% crop in the field:



Since this turns out to be a nice landscape lens, let's look at coma with an early morning test shot from our deck:



Center crop of the above at different apertures:



And field-crop, to show coma (which basically disappears at f5.6):



And finally a similar distortion test as above, my wife's stained glass at f2, and 2m focus distance; this is at a different time time of day than the respective Canon 1.4/1.2 shots, so please do not compare colors.



No distortion to speak of, and similar contrast as the 50/1.4.

CANON 50mm/1.8 - CONCLUSIONS:

For all practical purposes, the Canon 50/1.8 behaves just like the Canon 50/1.4, without funky bokeh at medium apertures, and without the 50/1.4's (already reasonable) distortion. Not shown here, but the 1.8 is also more flare proof than the 1.4.

That's all folks

Roland.
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Old 04-05-2016   #16
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Thanks, Roland. Interesting results which tend to confirm the 50/1.8's status as a terrific bargain if you can get a clean one. I agree that the lens comes into its own around f2.8, which is good since that's an aperture I often use. BTW, I've found the bokeh on the 50/1.8 to be very smooth. I appreciate the time you took to add the 50/1.8 to the comparison. Thanks again!
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Old 04-05-2016   #17
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Agree, Steve, hard to believe how inexpensive the 50/1.8 is, when technically, it really compares well to - say - an early Summicron (collapsible or rigid). And let's not forget the additional half stop for basically the same size.

Thanks for motivating me to have a second look at it !

-----------

And anybody else, feel free to post examples of any of the 3 Canon 50s in this thread (thanks Helen, Jim and Uhoh7).
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Old 04-05-2016   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ferider View Post
Agree, Steve, hard to believe how inexpensive the 50/1.8 is, when technically, it really compares well to - say - an early Summicron (collapsible or rigid).
I wonder if that all comes down to the handling of the lens. Summicrons have always just been more comfortable to use for me (quicker, shorter focus throw, etc.). Same with the 50mm 1.4 canon vs. the 1.8 (at least the chrome 1.8). I just never got into the way the 1.8 felt. You did say technically though...
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Old 04-05-2016   #19
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Indeed JS, I carefully avoided judgement on handling and build. Got burnt in another thread once .... And it's very subjective, obviously.
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Old 04-05-2016   #20
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Thank you for going through all of the work and posting results, fun to see the comparisons and read your take on things.

Your experiences WRT IQ mirror or largely match my own, FWIW.
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Old 09-06-2016   #21
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Thank you for doing all this work. I recently re-acquired a Reid and Sigrist Model III type 2 LTM camera, after a gap of 50 years. Eventually I would like to get the correct Taylor Hobson 2 inch f2 Anastigmat lens but good copies of these come very expensive.

My alternative was a collapsible Summicron but all the ones I looked at had horrible cleaning damage to the front element. Contrary to what the sellers claim, this will affect the image quality, reducing contrast and increasing both flare and veiling glare.

I eventually decided on a chrome Canon 5cm f1.8 and have found a near mint one from Japan at just 135. I assume Canon's coating must be harder than Leica's as all the lenses I looked at seemed to have far less cleaning damage than the Summicrons or maybe Japanese owners look after them better! Supposedly the earlier chrome models of this lens, suffer less from separation and fogging than the later black barrel models.

BTW if you need a lens hood for the older Canon lenses with a 40mm filter thread, JJC now do a ventilated hood for the Fuji X10 camera, which has a 40mm filter thread. Part no. for the chrome model JJC LH-JX20S.

Here is a picture of the Reid with my 5cm Summitar attached, while I await the arrival of the Canon, currently stuck in French customs at Paris airport.

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Old 09-07-2016   #22
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I have a mint 1.8 and alas when i looked using a bright led lite this morning i see some smudges which I think may be the beginning of fungus. Who is the go to lens guy for these beauties? Or, is it an easy lens to work on?

Thanks!!
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Old 09-07-2016   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ray*j*gun View Post
I have a mint 1.8 and alas when i looked using a bright led lite this morning i see some smudges which I think may be the beginning of fungus. Who is the go to lens guy for these beauties? Or, is it an easy lens to work on?

Thanks!!
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Old 09-07-2016   #24
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hi wilson,

thanks for the hint to the hood.

cheers,
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Old 09-07-2016   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wilsonlaidlaw View Post
BTW if you need a lens hood for the older Canon lenses with a 40mm filter thread, JJC now do a ventilated hood for the Fuji X10 camera, which has a 40mm filter thread. Part no. for the chrome model JJC LH-JX20S.

Wilson
I have one of these hoods for my 1.8 and it does fit but the thread pitch is slightly different and it does not screw in all the way. It works but one has to be careful about its stability.
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Old 09-07-2016   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ray*j*gun View Post
I have one of these hoods for my 1.8 and it does fit but the thread pitch is slightly different and it does not screw in all the way. It works but one has to be careful about its stability.
I guess the Canon 40mm thread will be the older fine thread pitch of 0.5mm which ran right up to 43mm filter thread diameter whereas now 0.75 pitch starts at 37mm and larger diameter. Leica just to be different used 0.5mm on 43mm diameter until not very long ago.
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Old 09-07-2016   #27
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These are almost 70 year old lenses, one copy of each. Would people say this would be representative of Serenar 50's in general? Never had one though they are frequently considered.
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Old 09-07-2016   #28
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I think the one of the main problem with older lenses, if they are in good condition is the reduction in optical quality arising from gas bubbles in the glass. Now I know that some say this does not affect the image quality but if this was the case, why did Leica for some of their raw glass materials, stir the molten glass for up to 6 months in a platinum crucible under very low pressure helium atmosphere. Schott glass (part of the Zeiss Foundation), who now make the lens blanks for Leica, has developed methods of treating glass in a special way, to remove most of the bubbles much more rapidly, thus avoiding the very laborious, slow and expensive platinum crucible batch method. http://www.schott.com/advanced_optic..._glass_eng.pdf

Obviously lens computation and design has also advanced enormously from Nikkor's 200 ladies with abacuses (abaci?) sitting in a room for 6 months, re-computing the Zeiss Sonnar 5cm f1,5 to the Nikkor 5cm f1,4 and in the end, coming up with a lens which only works well up to about 7 metres distance.
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Old 09-07-2016   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ray*j*gun View Post
I have a mint 1.8 and alas when i looked using a bright led lite this morning i see some smudges which I think may be the beginning of fungus. Who is the go to lens guy for these beauties? Or, is it an easy lens to work on?

Thanks!!
I have cleaned a 50/1.8 Canon of fungus by removing the rear element group and reaching through the aperture with a cotton bud dipped in alcohol. In this case it was relatively simple to clean as the fungus was only on the two dished surfaces either side of the aperture. So it depends if you are happy to do this sort of work and have a pin wrench to undo the holding ring at the back of the lens, and on the location of the fungus or smudging.
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Old 09-07-2016   #30
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Quote:
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I think the one of the main problem with older lenses, if they are in good condition is the reduction in optical quality arising from gas bubbles in the glass. Now I know that some say this does not affect the image quality.............
Believe it or not, having air bubbles in optical glass was once considered a sign of quality.

From an article written by Andreas Feininger in a Popular Photography magazine back in 1946, Air bubbles will be found in most high-class lenses and are a sign of quality, rather than a defect, since at present it is impossible to make certain optical glasses absolutely bubble-free, their presence doesnt affect the quality of the image in any way.

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Old 09-07-2016   #31
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(1)
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcfingon View Post
I have cleaned a 50/1.8 Canon of fungus by removing the rear element group and reaching through the aperture with a cotton bud dipped in alcohol. In this case it was relatively simple to clean as the fungus was only on the two dished surfaces either side of the aperture. So it depends if you are happy to do this sort of work and have a pin wrench to undo the holding ring at the back of the lens, and on the location of the fungus or smudging.
(2) You can also access these two surfaces from the front. There is a tiny lock screw in front of the aperture on all Canon 50mm lenses. You unscrew it, and then you can unscrew the front half of the optics by hand.

And if you need to clean the aperture you can do both (1) and (2).
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Old 09-07-2016   #32
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Quote:
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These are almost 70 year old lenses, one copy of each. Would people say this would be representative of Serenar 50's in general? Never had one though they are frequently considered.
Canon made these lenses for a long time. Like I said in the OP, my 50/1.4 is from the 70s, the 50/1.8 Serenar was first manufactured in 1951. I'm sure at least coatings changed in these 20+ years, and probably performance factors like flare, contrast and bokeh, too. Then again, basic design-cause aberations like field curvature, distortion, etc., likely remained similar. And as always, center resolution will strongly depend on how the lenses and your camera work together.
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Old 09-07-2016   #33
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Thanks guys. I will generally not risk doing work my self but I am going to look at this operation more closely.
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Old 09-07-2016   #34
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Quote:
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(1)

(2) You can also access these two surfaces from the front. There is a tiny lock screw in front of the aperture on all Canon 50mm lenses. You unscrew it, and then you can unscrew the front half of the optics by hand.

And if you need to clean the aperture you can do both (1) and (2).
Same principle used on many Canon RF lenses, including the 1.2 50mm, which you can quite easily clean from haze yourself:

http://www.johanniels.com/index.php/...ngefinder-lens
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Old 09-08-2016   #35
ray*j*gun
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Thanks johan.... I just need to get a spanner.
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Old 09-08-2016   #36
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When the 50/1.2 is clean from haze, it is a very sharp and nice lens. Here is an example wide open:

Boss by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr

Here is at f4:

Boss 2 by Palenquero Photography, on Flickr
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Old 09-13-2016   #37
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Well after a bit of a fight getting French Customs to release it, My Canon 50mm f1.8 has arrived. The parcel was not opened nor was I charged duty, so the Customs had just been hanging onto it for 10 days, just because they could.

The good news is that as described by the seller, on shining a UV rich light source through it, nothing fluoresces and it looks as clean as a whistle (are whistles especially clean?). Unlike all the collapsible Summicrons and f1.5 Summarits I looked it, the front element has not been scrubbed to death and has virtually no cleaning marks at all. I have checked the RF cam with my Leica M240 against optical focus at various distances and it seems accurate. I then checked its optical quality on the M240.

Well all I would say is that I have been rather spoilt by modern Leica and Zeiss glass. Now this is a pretty early example of the Canon lens with a low serial number of 97476 and maybe they got better later. It is pretty soft in the corners at f2 and I would class it as maybe on a par with my 1952/3 hex diaphragm Leica Summitar (a coated version of a pre-war design, with a weird convex diaphragm to try and reduce aperture shift). It is not as good as my 1954 Zeiss Contax Opton Sonnar 5cm/f1.5 but I suspect my father may have been lucky enough in 1954 to get a very good example. I would guess the Canon is not as good as a clean example of a Rigid Summicron.

The Canon will do just fine on the Reid for the moment until I source a TT&H Anastigmat 2 inch f2 lens.

Wilson
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great!
Old 09-13-2016   #38
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great!

Thanks for the review, very nice.

The 1.2 lens is really a superb glass!

Renders beautiful images at 1.2 and even its quite sharp in the centre at that aperture.
Stopped down to 5.6 is excellent +,

I sold mine only because its focus throw was too long!
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Old 09-13-2016   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wilsonlaidlaw View Post
Well all I would say is that I have been rather spoilt by modern Leica and Zeiss glass. Now this is a pretty early example of the Canon lens with a low serial number of 97476 and maybe they got better later. It is pretty soft in the corners at f2 and I would class it as maybe on a par with my 1952/3 hex diaphragm Leica Summitar (a coated version of a pre-war design, with a weird convex diaphragm to try and reduce aperture shift). It is not as good as my 1954 Zeiss Contax Opton Sonnar 5cm/f1.5 but I suspect my father may have been lucky enough in 1954 to get a very good example. I would guess the Canon is not as good as a clean example of a Rigid Summicron.

The Canon will do just fine on the Reid for the moment until I source a TT&H Anastigmat 2 inch f2 lens.

Wilson
I have a very late 1.5 Sonnar and a clean rigid, and I concur with your assessment - on the 240 that is. Both latter lenses are outstanding wrt resolution though, and do beat even some of my modern 50mm lenses. Not sure I would see the difference on film (meaning my typical HC110 or Rodinal developed TMY, for instance).

Thanks !

Roland.
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Old 09-15-2016   #40
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What a nice test, thank you, ferider!

From what I found, the 50/1.8 is the best "landscape lens" and has a very high resolution from center to corner even wide open, and very low CA's. At f/5.6 it is *very* sharp. The 50/1.5 (later version, brown coating) is very soft wide open, but at f/5.6 it catches the 50/1.8 except from the outer corners. It has "warmer" colors than the later "chrome-black" series.
The 50/2.2 is also very sharp and has few CA's, but it isn't as good in the outer corners than the 50/1.8. It performs still better than the "newish" C/V Color-Skopar 50/2.5 though! Plus it is even smaller, weights less and is a bit faster...
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