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02-24-2012, 12:31 AM   #1
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Surprised by 50mm 1.7 SMC-M

I bought several fotodiox adapters so I can use various lenses on my Olympus E-PL2. This of course led to head to head tests and comparisons.

Here are the lenses I compared for Bokeh, Sharpness, Contrast, Color Saturation and just overall look/feel:

Pentax 50mm 1.7 SMC-M
Pentax 50mm 1.4 SMC-A
Voigtlander 40mm F2 Ultron
Contax G Zeiss 45mm Planar
Leica 25mm F1.4 Sumilux

All these lenses are really great on all counts of course.

All tests were done at F2.

Crop factor on the Olympus 4/3 sensor is 2x.

So we are talking portrait lenses here which is my primary use of them anyway,

The 50mm 1.4 SMC-A is smooth as silk, soft and had great bokeh and produced a very “film like” look to the pictures on the digital sensor. An older more classical less sharp. less corrected and glowy look. Lighter color saturation and lower contrast.

The Voigtlander is much sharper than the 1.4 SMC-A and has a modern high contrast high color saturation look. It is a grainy lens and has sharp bokeh and there are some rings on the circumference of the bokeh blobs that can be distracting. The bokeh can also get very noisy depending on the background. There is something about its look that is grainy and lends itself well to B&W high contrast images. I am not sure how the lens makes such a sharp grainy look but both on digital and on my K1000 with film it does this.

The Contax G lens had nice bokeh but it was pretty noisy at times, there are some rings on the circumference of the bokeh blobs like the voigt. It is not too bad but I note it. The 1.4 SMC-A never showed this effect. It had solid blobs all the way through. The G lens is also a lower contrast lens then the voigt but definitely much higher contrast than the 1.4 SMC-A. This is also a very sharp lens at the tested F2 and is slightly sharper than the voigt at F2.

The Leica is super sharp, astonishingly so, and clean at F2. It is a total modern scientific instrument. Fully corrected. Not a hint of noise or grain. Very, very clean. Bokeh blurs extremely well with not the slightest sign of rings on the circumference of the bokeh blobs. In fact the blobs were so perfect that they resolved into airy discs. This is a sign of ultimate resolution and is a test usually reserved for high-end refracting telescopes. Yet with all this precision the Leica still has personality. Contrast is medium and color saturation high. A very nice combo. The Leica is modern and proves that it can squeeze every ounce out of the 12mp 4/3 sensor and still show that “Leica look.” It is difficult to fault this lens.

I saved the 50mm 1.7 SMC-M lens for last because this lens surprised me. It was super sharp, second only to the Leica and really just slightly less sharp. Contrast is very high and color saturation also high. Bokeh is smooth but not Lecia smooth. Also at the tested F2 you see 6 sided bokeh blobs with not the slightest sign of rings on the circumference of the bokeh blobs. They are filled all the way through. I kind of like these 6 sided blobs, they are interesting and not distracting. I really am shocked how sharp this lens is at F2 but the 4/3 crop factor must help matte off the weak perimeter of the lens and show only the wonderful center. Also this lens has rightness to it. It looks classic and has that older rendering that is very desirable. Oddly this lens is almost a full stop dimmer than all the other tested lenses on the 4/3 sensor. Not sure why. I have used this lens on my K1000 for years and it always produced really sharp wide open shots. But I did not really know how great/sharp this lens was till I mounted it on the Oly and did these tests. I plan on using the 50mm 1.7 SMC-M on the new OM-D with new 16mp 4/3 sensor.

So there you have it, two clear winners for me: The Leica which is a 50mm equivalent on the 4/3 sensor and the 50mm 1.7 SMC-M which is a 100mm equivalent on the 4/3 sensor. Both lenses are super sharp and colorful. The Leica has much smoother bokeh blur but the 50mm 1.7 SMC-M does it “his way” and that way is very nice and classical. The 50mm 1.7 SMC-M blew the voigt and 1.4 away in the sharpness category at F2 and pulls a nice sharp 3D fore image making its bokeh seem all the more smooth. There is always the desire to find better lenses but these two are so good it is hard to justify a need to get something more, if there is such a thing. How much sharper can a lens get? How much smoother bokeh? At this point it is really up to the artist to use these lenses and stop shopping.

02-24-2012, 12:49 AM   #2
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Interesting write-up.
The 50/1.7 SMC M justifiably has lots of friends, myself included.
02-24-2012, 01:43 AM   #3
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Noisy grainy bokeh? I'm not sure what you mean by that since noise is inherently a sensor/camera/ISO issue and not a lens issue, and you shot them all at f/2 so I'm guessing exposures should be quite similar.
02-24-2012, 05:42 AM   #4
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Let me be the first to actually Welcome you to the forum! Quite a first post, thanks for the time and effort to put it all together for us to read.

02-24-2012, 09:24 AM   #5
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All lens were shot at the same f stop and iso.
I have found that some lenses like the voigtlaner despite low iso and perfect light have a quality of etching or gain in how they resolve things. It appears as a very sharp noise like effect, like unsharp mask was used too strongly. I have used this lens a lot and get this effect. It is fine for the fore object but causes the bokeh to be too noisy and less smooth.
Go to this link and you can see examples of all the lenses I tested that I have used for my model photography and you can compare the effects.
Descriptions of film and lens are below each picture:
Where Professional Models Meet Model Photographers - ModelMayhem
02-24-2012, 09:45 AM   #6
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This was a comparison test I did which also shows the M50 1.7 to be very sharp in comparison to several other normals tested. x posted
QuoteOriginally posted by Schmidlapper Quote
I have placed on Flickr a fairly well controlled comparison of my various normal lens choices, to include A50/1.7, M50/1.4, M50/1.7, SMC Tak 55/1.8, Tamron 17-50/2.8 and a DA55-300/4. The samples shared are for wide open, f5.6 and f8 for center resolution. Corner resolution did not change order of sharpness nor appear out of line. This was only a one lens sampling, but may be interesting, and it helped me change my own usage decisions. I now use my M50/1.7 over my M50/1.4 as my take along bag normal as it was the sharpest of the lot, for pTTL flash portraits I use the A50/1.7 as it was a close second . I had thought my 55/1.8 was not focusing correctly prior to this test based on some photos, but it came in third overall in my opinion in this test. To round out the manuals the M50/1.4 came in fourth for wide open resolution in my view. The link is Collection: My Pentax 50mm normal resolution comparison test and gives the general parameters of my method of testing. I am not picking on anyone else's pet lens but I feel this would be a worthwhile method for anyone who has multiples and variations to determine which is their sharpest. Let me know if this is helpful information on here?
02-24-2012, 10:51 AM   #7
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Try the A 50 1.4 but on 2.2( I know this from my FA 50 1.4 which is the same but with AF, it's strange but from 2.0 to 2.2 there is difference!) If you can close it down it is not so much worse than the M 50 1.7, It has 8 blade diaphragm and this makes the bokeh more rounded. The M 1.7 is with 6 not very rounded blades and for me personally the bokeh is weird but the 1.7 is so much usable, I like it very much especially for night portraits and against the sun(it has very strong SMC!!!). You must try also Pancolar 50 1.8 MC(like a helios 44 but more sharper), Zenitar-M 50 1.7 - smoothest bokeh ever seen, Mamiya Sekor 55 1.4 - nice lens and sharp wide open.
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