CANON S 50mm f/1.4 II
One of my first screw mount lenses Leica Thread Mount (LTM) lenses is the Canon 50mm F1.4 II. It was affordable, and it is dubbed by many as the Japanese Summilux.
At Sydney Camera Market years ago, a seller was selling all his Canon screw mount gear. On offer was 50mm F1.8 (small and light), 50mm F1.4 II (one discussed in this article) and 50mm F1.2 (which is large and heavy, soft wide open). I like the one in the middle, given it can be used with a LTM to Leica M adaptor on both my film Leica CL and my micro four thirds cameras at the time.
I love vintage lenses. Lenses from the 50s were great. Japanese manufacturers start making lenses that good quality, fast aperture with high refractive glass and first generation lens coating. Both Nikon and Canon has a history before their SLRs. The specification is most compatible with the Leica rangefinder cameras.
Not all the 39mm thread mounts the same, especially if you use rangefinder cameras that require precision for focusing. LTM, LSM, L39, M39 standards may look the same, but they are slightly different in flange distance and thread pitch. You can read up at photo.net and fotodiox. Modern mirrorless cameras with through-the-lens liveview compensate most of the minor differences.
Body Design and Built Quality
According to the Canon official museum website, my lens debut in late 50s, with Double Gauss / Planar type design of 6 glass element in 4 groups, 9 aperture blades. There is a glass tint on the front element, so it is designed differently compare to the Sonnar type Canon/Serenar 50mm 1.5. The construction is very solid, black-chrome appearances, 246g. It has firm click stops. Focus from 1m to infinity in 180 degree with infinity stop. The 1m minimum focus distance is a bit limiting, but it can be used with a macro helicoid adaptor on the SL2 to bring it much closer. There is a red ‘R’ is indicating focus offset when used with infrared film. In front there is a 48mm 0.75 pitch filter thread.
It is sharp for the full aperture, with slight glow wide open. It is not as smooth/soft as the Canon S 50mm F1.5. It has more modern micro-contrast and details but not as clinical as modern optics. A very good performer considering its age.
The single coating brings a slight warm tone, and it is not as flare resistant as modern multi-coated optics. The aberration is presented as rainbow circular rings that is quite attractive if you point the lens toward the sun. Some may find it distracting, but I like the atmosphere it brings.
The out of focus bokeh is swirly, with deformed bubbles. Vignetting presents in open aperture, and it is welcome for me. Subjects are rendered in a unique way. Not the special effect filter you can replicate in digital filters.
The advantage of a fast aperture lens is always going to be at night. Available light scene can be taken with ISO 400 with 1/60-1/100s speed. The vintage glow character is nice and not overpowering. Images are dynamic and not static. It carries a cinematic feel.
I like the way this lens renders. Its images are distinctive and expressive. While I love my Sonnars more, the Canon 50mm F1.4 II is a classic of a different type. This lens has been with me for a while now, and it can be used on all of my interchangable lens cameras.
On Lumix G and OMD cameras, it is a great portrait lens of equivalent of 100mm.
On Leica M cameras (film CL, M9M, M246, M10) the rangerfinder focus is accurate.
On L-Mount cameras with macro adaptor it can be used at much closer.
Do you like this lens?
- great build
- full manual control
- balance of micro-contrast with sharpness in focus.
- unique vintage look
- quality image at full aperture
- some may not like the infinity lock
- full stop aperture, not half or third stops.
- flare is present on digital
The Japanese Summilux – Jason Howe