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Saturday, 3 January 2015

Vintage versus Modern: Battle of the 50's

Since my last post was about comparing two 85mm lenses I think it's only fair to go on to compare a couple of 50mm (ish) lenses as well.

The contestants are:

the fairly new Nikkor AF-S 50mm 1.8G

and a couple of seasoned veterans:

M42 Fujinon 55 mm
M42 Volna 9 58mm
M42 Helios44-2

from left to right: Nikkor 1.8G, Fujinon 1.8, Helios 44-2 and Volna 9

The M42 lenses were used with a M42 to Nikon adapter with an infinity correction lens. I will make a separate post comparing lenses with and without this adapter to pentax and nikon bodies to see how much influence the lens has. My gut feeling, having seen those lenses on the pentax system which does not require a correction lens, is that it actually does not have much of an impact on image quality. But we will see that in a more controlled experiment soon.

So here we go, the shots of the test scene. All were shot with flash and a Nikon D610 on a tripod at 1/160 and ISO100.

Performance when shot wide open (scaled down to 25% of the original size):

(click to enlarge)

Here clearly the Nikkor lens has the lead in terms of sharpness. Helios and Volna don't offer f1.8 and therefore are shown at their respective widest aperture.


performance at 2.8 (widest common denominator)
(click to enlarge)

Here Nikkor and Fujunon lenses show pretty good performance (Nikkor still in the lead in my eye) while Volna and Helios do not come close in sharpness.


performance at 8.0
(click to enlarge)

Here now the Volna shows why it's called a macro lens. The performance at f8 is very good and close to the Nikkor lens. The Fujinon gets a close third place while the Helios still has a rather soft rendition of the scene. For better comparison see the 100% crops below at 1.8, 2.0, 2.8, 4.0 and 8.0.


100% crops close up
(click for full size)

My overall impression is that at f8.0 the nikkor lens and the volna 9 are very similar in sharpness, meaning they are both very sharp and show excellent detail. The nikkor is more contrasty than the volna 9 while the volna, since it's a macro lens, has a very short minimal focusing distance allowing you to get very close to your subject. All in all the Nikkor beats the other lenses pretty good unless you are in for some vintage soft focus effect which is very extreme with the helios 44-2, and present on the Volna and Fujinon lens on wider apertures. The Fujinon overall is a pretty good lens not far behind the Nikkor at apertures above f2.8.


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