Modern vs Classic lenses: which one is better?

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by albert_ang, Jun 13, 2012.

  1. albert_ang

    albert_ang Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 5, 2012
    Melbourne, Australia

    I already have Pana 25mm and Oly 45mm.
    But, i'm eyeing for fast classic 50mm (f1.4 or f1.2) to get even shallower dof. The main use is for portrait.

    My concern of classic/legacy lenses (Pentax Takumar, Canon FD, Nikon ais, Minolta MD, CV Noktor etc) is they all have old optical designs and therefore, very soft wide open and even at f1.8, Oly 45 will be sharper.

    Is it true? Is there any sharp legacy lenses at wide-open or at f1.8 sharper than Oly 45mm?

    • Like Like x 1
  2. Justified_Sinner

    Justified_Sinner Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 11, 2010
    Scotland, UK
    Real Name:
    Dauvit Alexander
    Manual but not legacy, my Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f0.95 and 50mm f1.1 are both incredibly sharp by the time you stop down a little. The 25mm is very sharp at f1.4 and the 50mm by about f1.8 or f2, though it is still softer than the 25mm.
  3. Printfolio

    Printfolio Mu-43 Regular

    May 6, 2012
    Kortrijk, Belgium
    Real Name:
    This is difficult to tell and should be sujected to objective testing of course. There is one "legacy" lens I can think of that "may" be sharper than the Oly 45 at wide open and it's the Contax G Carl Zeiss 45 mm. It's not really a legacy lens of course as it was still sold a couple of years ago, you could still find them for 100-200 USD until a couple of months ago, but the increasing popularity of MFT and adapters seems to have caused a price increase...
  4. RSilva

    RSilva Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 24, 2011
    Sharpness is not the most important thing on a lens but these old lens can be sharp wide open! Some of this older designs are even more great than new lenses because they have a particular type of aberration that makes nice photos. For example, the Helios 40 1.5/85 has a swirl bokeh and sells for a lot of money, more than the new Samyang 1.4/85. Others like single coated lens will produce images with less contrast but great for B&W work. Helios 44-2 or Pentacon 1.8/50 area great for this.
    From the lens I have, the ones I prefer are:
    1- Super Takumar 1.4/50 - For the price this is a must have lens that can compete with any modern design, at 1.4 it´s just magical and sharp!
    2- Takumar 3.5/24 - Very sharp wide open, outstanding colors and personality with a m43 body but visible distortion on a full frame body
    3- Takumar 4/200 is very very sharp even wide open, with nice bokeh, much better than panasonic 45-200@200mm

    Most of the time the guilt for an unsharp photo is due to the photographer.
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  5. Justified_Sinner

    Justified_Sinner Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 11, 2010
    Scotland, UK
    Real Name:
    Dauvit Alexander
    Love it!
    Thanks for the other comments on the lenses too.
  6. RSilva

    RSilva Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 24, 2011
    For portraits you don´t want a very sharp lens, some older designs where purposely soft wide open for female portrait photography (this is where the oly 1.8/45 fails).
    For that purpose I would advice the SMC Takumar 1.8/85:
    - Wide open with magical dreamy effect.
    - @f2.8 Sharp but micro details are soft (I mean it softens the skin but details like hair remain very sharp.
    - @f4 and more it is really very sharp and good for male portraiture.

    Bokeh is creamy.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. TDP

    TDP Guest

    Very informative post, thanks to the OP and commenters.
  8. sLorenzi

    sLorenzi Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 15, 2010
    Real Name:
    Very good topic indeed. It' nice to have some legacy glass, for its other characteristics, not only for sharpness.

    Sent from my BlackBerry 9000 using Tapatalk
  9. albert_ang

    albert_ang Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 5, 2012
    Melbourne, Australia
    Thanks for the reply.

    I agree with the unique look is one of the main selling point of the lens. Out of topic, will it still capable to show obvious swirl bokeh in smaller sensor like m43? From my understanding, this effect will be significantly less than if it's used in bigger sensor as only center part of the lens is used.

    How do you find the Super takumar with respect to Oly 45mm or the modern Nikon 1.4G or slightly older Nikon 1.4D or Canon 1.4 USM?

    I'm kinda agree with this, but I can simulate the softness through pp if it's needed later, but if i want to get the sharp one, it's hard to get from 'dreamy' photo. Moreover, with pp, i can control the level of softness and which area still remains sharp.
  10. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    Define "better."

    While you can't state any absolutes, as there are great old lenses and mediocre new lenses, in general modern lenses are sharper, more contrasty, less prone to flare and distortion. Modern computer-aided designs, greater use of aspheric elements and high-tech glass, and even digital correction has improved the breed.

    Of course, as some have pointed out, sharper and more contrasty isn't necessarily what you want for every subject. But it's easier to soften a photo made with a sharp lens than to sharpen a picture made with a soft lens.
  11. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    Real Name:
    Would like to thank everyone for the info on older lenses. I'm enjoying this thread, keep it up! :smile:
  12. Iconindustries

    Iconindustries Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Personally I like to have a sharp lens to start with, that way I can always soften the image which is looks more natural than trying to sharpen a soft image.

    My first legacy lens was (and is) the 45mm Rokkor. Since acquiring the oly 45mm I use it more just because it's easier and quicker to focus. But imho the 45 Rokkor and 45mm oly are so close to being identical. The FOV between the 2 is slightly different which surprised me as they are both 45mm, The Oly has slightly more contrast but the sharpness is the same.

    Here is a picture using the Rokkor 45mm

    <a href="" title="P1160666 by iconindustries, on Flickr">[​IMG]"640" height="428" alt="P1160666"></a>

    Here is a picture using the Oly 45mm

    <a href="" title="P1020299 - Version 2-2 by iconindustries, on Flickr">[​IMG]"640" height="481" alt="P1020299 - Version 2-2"></a>
  13. chasm

    chasm Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 2, 2010
    There's one lens I would love to put toe-to-toe with an Olympus 45mm, and that's my Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f1.7 (Contax mount) - since I bought this a couple of months ago I've been really impressed by the resolution and contrast.
  14. Farcanalman


    Feb 12, 2012
    Of the ones I have my Pentax SMC-M 50mm f1.7 is a gem.

    Sharp from wide open and very shallow to mid+ f-stops and wide as you like DoF.

  15. RSilva

    RSilva Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 24, 2011
    I don't have the helios 40 but I have used the Helios 44 with m43 and also got the swirl bokeh. If it would be more pronounced with a FF camera I don´t know.

    I have compared the 1.4/50 Tak with the very well reputed Sigma EX DX on a Nikon D700 and it did great! At f1.4 both are very sharp but the tak has a dreamy glow. At F2 they are almost equal but for me the tak has better bokeh and better colors. Seeing the results my brother was amazed, is sigma cost him 550eur and my Tak just 50eur.
    Compared to the oly 45 the tak is a really diferent kind of lens. I will post some examples later.

    It's true you can soften a image in PP but it´s not the same thing. I guess it´s like trying to simulate film grain or film colors.
  16. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    My Konica 50/1.4 (on the left below) is not quite as sharp wide open as the O45 but one stopped down it is sharper, has better bokeh and IMHO renders the image more beautifully. In fact there are several legacy lenses that are as good or better than the O45. The OM 50/1.4, Pen-F 40/1.4 and the Super Takumar 50/1.4 all come to mind. It really depends on your needs. The O45 is a nice, light, sharp lens with fast AF and terrific bokeh...but depending on your needs there are plenty of options.

  17. stratokaster

    stratokaster Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 4, 2011
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    Real Name:
  18. Portrait of who?

    I have two "portrait" lenses. My daughter looks great through the m43 45/1.8, but wife likes me to use the OM 50/1.4 for her portraits....
    The OM looks like someone drove nails with the front element, I got it for free from the old-time shop I bought my two Vivitars from. Sharp it ain't, but it does soft real well.....
  19. wlewisiii

    wlewisiii Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 16, 2011
    Hayward, WI
    Real Name:
    William Barnett-Lewis
    Some thoughts on some of the ones I've used and liked:

    Nikkor 50/1.4 Pre-AI (best all arounder I've ever owned)
    Canon FD 50/1.4 S.S.C. (Close second to the Nikkor)
    Leica 50/2 Summar (wildest OOF I've ever seen)
    Leica 50/2 Summitar (better for portraits)
    Leica 50/2 Summicron (sharper if you really want that)
    Industar-61 L/D 55/2.8 (Classic Tessar design. Smooth wide open, sharpens fast as you stop down.)
    Jupiter-3 50/1.5 & Jupiter-8 50/2 (Classic fast Sonnar design. Everything good about a Tessar only more so.)

    As a point of references, I still have the Nikkor, the Summitar & the Industar as each has it's own special niche. Make of that what you will...
  20. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    I was thinking the same thing but I kept getting the same result and over multiple pictures. I suppose the light weight of the lens was causing it to shake when I took the picture. but I wouldn't think there would be an issue hand holding it at 1/100th.

    Here's a better example.