Legacy lenses that are not fuzzy/glowy wide open

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by Steven, Dec 5, 2013.

  1. Steven

    Steven Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2012
    I had a few legacy lenses from Canon/Olympus/Minolta previously and they were all not very usable wide open. Glowy, fuzzy, very soft, whatever you want to call it, I had to stop down. That is why it was such a surprise when I recently picked up a few more lenses that are not that bad wide open and actually pretty usable. One is Super Takumar 50mm/1.4 - very decent if somewhat soft at 1.4, and the other one Minolta 45mm/2.0, also quite acceptable at f2.
    Did I just get lucky with these particular copies or are these lenses known for being better wide open? Are there other lenses known to be good wide open?
  2. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    My contax Zeiss 50/1.4 isn't razor sharp wide open, but it is very usable.
  3. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Real Name:
    Sean Rastsmith
    A large part has to do with previous history. The copy of the MD45/2 I have is great, but it was also purchased NIB Old stock. My Komine Vivitar 28/2 is a bit soft wide open, but at 2.8 improves immensely. Sometimes you just need to check out reviews, and buy lenses that people have mentioned good results with. One example is the MD 58/1.4. Soft and glowy wide open (perfect for portraiture), but sharp from f4-5.6 onwards. All depends on your needs.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 26, 2013
    Real Name:
    Andrew Lossing
    Here's a thought I had recently... Can a lens coating "tint" actually improve the usability wide open for adapted legacy lenses? The reason the thought occurred is that the most useful legacy lens I own is my Mamiya/Sekor 55mm f1.8, which is great by f2, but it also has more of a tint than any of my others. If reflectivity has anything to do with the problem with these lenses on m4/3, maybe a darker tint cuts down on this? Just a wild thought I hadn't troubled to follow up on.
  5. dwig

    dwig Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 26, 2010
    Key West FL
    Coatings don't have a "tint". There is a characteristic color to the reflections that is a factor of the physical thickness of the coating. Check out an online explanation of "Newton's Rings" for the physics. You often see a change in color across the surface of a lens, in particular a very curved lens surface, that results from the light path through the coating layer being longer when viewed at an angle to the surface. This longer path produces a reinforcement of a different frequency (read: color) of light.

    Optimum single layer coatings have a refractive index half way between air and the particular glass used for that element. Different glasses should get different coatings as a result. The chemical difference in the coating can influence the thickness and thus the color of the reflection.

    The only clue about the effectiveness of a lens' coating that you can get from the color of the reflections is that almost all multi layer coating processes have a top outside layer that happens to produce green reflections. When you see this characteristic green reflection you know the lens is multicoated. With multi coating there several layers of coating, each one progressively higher in refractive index. Despite the fact that every one of the many "surfaces" that now exist between the air and the glass, each one producing another reflection, the total of the many reflections is less that what the single reflection off of an uncoated surface would be.

    The biggest thing that causes older lenses to seem "less sharp" is the cleanliness of their interior surfaces. Aerial pollution, cigarette smoke, fumes that outgas from the lubricants in the lens, ... can leave a thin film on the glass surfaces. It doesn't take much to severely degrade contrast, and hence the impression of sharpness, particularity at the wider apertures. Look through a suspect lens toward a dark subject and shine a small pen light into the lens from far side but at an angle so you can't actually see the light from the pen light. This will make any interior haze very visible.
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  6. mrjr

    mrjr Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 25, 2012
    ^^ Wow.

    That's a lot. Thanks for the crash course. I'm following this thread, because I'm interested to read more experiences before I buy any legacy lenses for the purpose of adapting them.

    The bad news is that sample variation and the environment/lifestyle of the lens are such a major factors, so it makes it hard to decide on any one model over any others.
  7. Mellow

    Mellow Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2010
    Florida or Idaho
    Real Name:
    I think the answer to your question is pretty simple--the lenses that are the least "glowy" wide open are probably the ones that are slowest wide open. So I'd wager a 50mm f/3.5 macro lens will be quite sharp wide-open compared to a 50mm f/1.2!

    But if you're asking about lenses which are both fast and 'not glowy', then I imagine it's a pretty short list. I've tried a lot of legacy lenses, and almost all of the reasonably fast ones are pretty soft wide open. The one exception is an old Canon RF 35mm f/2, but that's a relatively rare and unfortunately pretty pricey lens.
  8. Steven

    Steven Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2012
    I was starting to think that too as I was using the Minolta 45mm/2.0 while waiting for the m42 adapter to arrive for the Takumar 50mm/1.4. However the Takumar is also pretty decent wide open, probably even more so than the Minolta. So, I guess it really does depend on the lens.
    here's a photo with the Takumar:

    One with Minolta:
    • Like Like x 1
  9. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 26, 2013
    Real Name:
    Andrew Lossing
    Alright, makes sense. Although, I probably should have been more specific than saying tint, I meant the yellowing that many old lenses get when elements in the glass or coatings age -- not the intended effect if the coatings applied to lenses in their original state when new. But again, it was just a crazy theory!
  10. Neftun

    Neftun Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 15, 2012
    Real Name:
    Patrick Kristiansen
    I do not have a very extensive experience with legacy lenses, but I have 5 that are great wide open:

    Micro-nikkor 55mmf3,5
    Nkkor 180mmf2,8ed ais
    Om90mmf2 macro
    Om50mmf1,8 (far superior to the f1,4 imo)

    These range from dirt cheap to quite exotic, and are highly recommended. I do not want to generalise with little data, but it seems for long and/or bright lenses, they don't come cheap to be good. As all optics, I guess. The cheap and good are either slowish or shortish in my personal experience. But I am sure some expensive lenses can be cr@p too. I read sonewhere that a sensor is much shinier than a filmstrip, and legacy lenses are made for film. The sensor can reflect light back into the lens, generating unwanted effects of different nature. According to a guy called Gary Auton, there are examples of the brightest version of a focallenght being the inferior lens on digital, at least in the om-system, mostly because of these sensor reflections. I'd bet this holds true in other systems as well.

    Patrick K
  11. fluberman

    fluberman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 19, 2012
    Real Name:
    The Zuiko OM 100mm f/2.8 is also great wide open.
  12. orfeo

    orfeo Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 27, 2013
    The super takumar and SMC takumar 50mm f1.4 is a famous lens! The very first version of the super takumar was produced with excellence. Even today those super takumars and SMC successors are the best manual focus focus constructed lens, that is a statement to beautiful design and craftmanship.
    The first super takumar 50mm f1.4 is sharp wide open. That version is rare and expensive. All the successor have one element less, are reasonably sharp, and is know as the best 50mm ever produced.
    • Like Like x 1
  13. orfeo

    orfeo Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 27, 2013
    I would just add that comparing to Pentax A 50mm f1.2 the 50mm 1.4 is much less glowy, equally as sharp, but it's bokeh while being one of the creamiest is a tak more busy. The 1.2 has one of the best bokeh I ever tried, even though you get some CA, most of the time you don't have that, but when you do, just PP.
  14. snkenai

    snkenai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 5, 2010
    No fast '50' that I have tried, is "sharp" wider than about f 2.0. To my eye, the Pentax-m 50mm, f1.7, is as good as anything that I have ever tried, except perhaps the Konica 1.4. I have not used them all, but have decided, that for my use, the Pentax-M 50, is as good as I need ( and I am very critical of lenses that don't give "clean" images). The combination of good build, light weight, smooth operation, and very acceptable bokeh, just work for me. And that, is after being a Olympus lens fan, for many years. I'm fairly sure that there may be "better" '50's', that I have never tried, but I have found what works to my satisfaction, at a very reasonable cost. So why spend more time and money, chasing the "ultimate".

    Difference of opinion, is the basis of horse trades. :smile:
  15. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer




    All three different things.... caused by different things. I wouldn't clump them all together. The sharpest lens in the world would be Hazzy if the elements have residue (my 90m elmarit in Leica thread mount). A good quality lens with clean elements can produce a growly/hazzy look simply because it flares... or is highly susceptible to veil flare (my 90mm Summicron fat body). An almost perfect example of a lens can have color casts (My yellowed SMC Takumar 50mm f/1.4). etc... Heck, my Noctilux has a bit of "glow" to it wide open and its one of the reasons why people like it.

    A perceived "less-sharp" lens to the untrained eye is often simply a matter of a lens designed to produce lower-contrast image. Closer examination often reveals that the details are still there for you to work. In many cases, this is actually a desirable characteristic especially for those that come from film B&W negative. It gives you more latitude to work in the dark room.

    The only reason why I brought this up is that this discussion which was started around the description "fuzzy" or "glowy" has morphed in to what I believe is an unrelated discussion about "sharpness" which I am convinced for the most part is an illusion.
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  16. McBob

    McBob Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 22, 2012
    Most of my Leica R's (35/1.4, 50/2, 90/2) are sharp wide open. My 28/2.8, not as much, but still not bad.
  17. dadadude

    dadadude Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 12, 2013
    San Carlos, CA
    Real Name:
    I don't get this thing about lenses being glowy or fuzzy wide open. There is a reason the aperture ring is on a manual lens. Stopping down from 1.4 to 2.0 is fine 95% of the time. Slightly more DOF. Other than super low light situations what's the big deal? With the ability to push the ISO up slightly it becomes a non issue. That being said I have a bunch of 1.4 lenses. Minolta Rokkors, Super Takumars, Canon FD and FL, Konica Hexanon, Auto Chinon and many other nifty's in the 1.7-1.8 range and by using a hood and watching the light direction I am shooting towards leaves me with beautiful, sharp images without any glow or fuzziness even wide open. Don't get me going on the sharpness subject. I think there is way too much emphasis placed on that these days. Hyper sharp images are rarely interesting to me, they seem artificial, un-organic and processed compared to what I have become accustomed since I first got a serious camera in 1967.
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  18. MAubrey

    MAubrey Photographer

    Jul 9, 2012
    Bellingham, WA
    Real Name:
    Mike Aubrey
    Of the MF lenses I've used on μ43, the following aren't "fuzzy" wide open:

    Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 Color Skopar
    Konica AR 50mm f/1.7
    Canon FD 50mm f/1.8
    Nikon E Series 50mm f/1.8
    Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4
    Canon FDn 85mm f/1.2
    Deitz (AR mount) 135mm f/2.8
    Canon FDn 135mm f/2
    Konica AR 135mm f/3.2
    Konica AR 200mm f/3.5

    The Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 has plenty of glow at f/1.2, but its gone quickly by f/1.4.

    Edit: I should add, I'm talking about real "glow," i.e. spherical abberration.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. dwig

    dwig Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 26, 2010
    Key West FL
    This yellowing does not occur in the coatings. It usually occurs in the glass itself and sometimes occurs in the cement used to bind multiple elements into a single group. When its the glass that yellows the very slight tint is rarely detectable in the image. This yellowing can be reduced and often eliminated by exposing the lens to strong UV light (e.g. full sunlight for several days, ...).
  20. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 26, 2013
    Real Name:
    Andrew Lossing
    I wonder how much of the tint is corrected by in-camera WB systems!