The Canon 50mm f/0.95 “Dream Lens” – An amazing dreamy classic 50mm on the M 240

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The Canon 50mm f/0.95 “Dream Lens”  – An amazing dreamy classic 50mm on the M 240

Imagine a 50mm f/0.95 lens for your Leica M that is not as front heavy as the Leica Noctilux f/0.95 nor as expensive but yet is able to put out beautiful and some would say, even more artistic results. Imagine a lens that can give you subtly sharp performance and f/0.95 with a little glow added in for effect , great contrast and nice pastel like color. A lens that does not flare easily and a lens that has almost no purple fringing/CA, even wide open. I have found just a lens, and thanks to a reader of this site I have one in hand for evaluation and possible purchase. (if I want it as he is selling it).

See the video below to see the lens, hear my thoughts and see it next to a 50 Summicron.

The lens I speak of is the Canon 50 f/0.95 “Dream Lens”. I believe it has been dubbed a dream lens by the community of users who own one and while it was never made in Leica mount or Leica screw mount, there are some that have been modified for use on a Leica M, meaning, an M mount with 6 bit coding installed so it can be easily mounted and used on your M with full RF coupling and focusing. This is not a typical Canon lens, as it can not be used on an EOS or Canon DSLR. It was built as a rangefinder lens and will only work on rangefinder cameras.

The version I have here with me is almost flawless…I would say a 8-9 out of 10. It focuses silky smooth and spot on perfect with my M 240’s rangefinder, even wide open. No back focus, no front focus, no focus shift. In fact, its focus is so spot on, it does better (focusing) than the Noctilux I was using with the M 240 a while back. Not sure how that is possible but what I have here is a  gem indeed. I recently tested the Canon 50 1.2 and enjoyed it but this one, to me, is a whole new ball game.

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In fact, I have never seen or touched or used a lens like it. For some reason it has a rep for low contrast and softness, and in my copy, this could not be further from the truth. If you get a good clean copy free of haze or fungus, with clean scratch free glass then you have a potential character masterpiece for your Leica M camera that is capable of artsy shallow depth of field images or sharp images when stopped down.

It has shown me that my M can do things I never knew it could and the results truly do fit the nickname given for this lens as for many, it would indeed be a “Dream Lens”. I guess if this one is a dream, the Noctilux would be a “Fantasy Lens” for most. The Canon can be found for $2200 and up these days yet the Leica is $11k new or $7-8k used.

If you can find one in M mount that is clean, free of fungus and haze or scratches, SNAG IT. If you can find one in general that is decently clean, SNAG IT and have it modified by Don Goldberg (DAG). He can clean it up, adjust it and modify it for M mount use. That is, if you like what it does. If you hate the lens signature then it is not even worth $100.

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What I am saying to you here is exactly what I feel and I am blown away by this lens but not because it is perfect or beats the Leica 0.95 as it does not technically come close to that lens. But truth be told, even the Noctilux can not give you what this lens does. I speak alot about “Character” with these old lenses but this lens has the most unique Character I have seen from any 50mm, ever. Yes, we all have personal tastes and my taste buds LOVE what this lens puts out at 0.95. Yes, every image below was shot WIDE OPEN at 0.95. The good thing is that by f/1.4 it gets even sharper and by f/2 it is very very sharp, but the edges to remain somewhat soft. It is not a lens for any kind of photography where you need sharp performance across the frame.

But it is indeed a fat HUNK OF GLASS! Fatter than the Nocti but also much shorter than the 0.95 so it does not feel front heavy, not at all. But it is nowhere near as light and nimble as a 50 Cron :) Some 1st test images from the lens below, which is all I really have right now from the lens. When it arrived I took it out to test it with the usual suspects, my Fiancee Debby and our dogs :)

The 1st image has the glow, the contrast and the sharpness all at 0.95. The color is bold here but I like it like that. Click it for larger and better view.

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The B&W conversion on the 240 with this lens is very nice. If you click the image you can see the subject is sharp but not clinical. The background just turns to mush.

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At 0.95 and this time I used the EVF to capture my little dog scratching her back. If you click the image you will see detail and smoothness as well as great color. 

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No DOF here but the image is sharp, nicely rendered and the color is spot on. My older guy doing what he does 23 hours day these days. 

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Once again Debby posing for my camera without complaining :) Check out the wicked glow and the way the background is rendered. This is one of the most “Artistic” lenses I have ever shot with. No, it IS the most artistic lens I have ever shot with. Period.

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I focused on the rake handle where the text is and again, this is wide open at 0.95. The fence and trees in the back look like a painting. AMAZING. Canon should remake  this lens for M mount (of course it would never happen, so I suggest finding one of these to snag while you can).

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Some are going to go bananas over the rendering of this lens and others will say it looks like a pile of dung. It is 100% personal preference. When I look at what this lens together with the M240 can do and then go back and look at what the Noctilux did..me..I sort of prefer the imperfections and beauty of this lens! Call me insane but I judge lenses by what they can do, not how much they cost.  This lens has it all..Color, Unique Bokeh, A smooth as butter rendering, subtlety, and even the design and feel is quality. At the same time, the Noctilux is perfection, like a 50 Lux ASPH in steroids that will give you sharp performance across the frame if  that is what you want. This lens will NOT do this for you. This lens is really a one trick pony and delivers its signature look at 0.95.

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To me, this lens is a rare 50mm masterpiece. If you enjoy shooting at very large apertures, and can not swing the cash for the technically perfect Noctilux this can be an option for f/0.95 at the lowest price yet, BUT…

IF AND ONLY IF YOU GET A GOOD CLEAN COPY. 

If you do not, I suggest sending it in to DAG for a clean, lubricate and adjustment as well as a full conversion to M mount. You will then have something that will produce the rendering that you see here. I have seen images from this lens that did not impress me and I now realize it was either due to being a bad lens, out of alignment RF or both.

Testing sharpness with critical EVF focusing. Focus was on my eye at 0.95. Plenty sharp for me.

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I also predict that in 3-5 years the value of this guy will shoot up as to my eyes it puts out more such unique images that no other lens can touch. This lens is an artists lens capable of magic as well as a more modern look when you stop it down. But it is a large lens and makes my 50 cron look like a newborn baby 50mm side by side. A  good combo to have would be this lens and a 50 cron. One for the times you want pop and sharpness and one for the times you want melty creamy dreamy.

THE DETAILS OF THE LENS AND THE  BUILD OF THE LENS

This lens is well made, focuses smooth as silk and the aperture dial has just the right amount of stiffness. Nothing is to tough to move or too easy. When people see this on my camera they ask me what it is as they are amazed at the huge front element. It looks impressive but is NOT stealthy in any way. But it is built well and my copy, for being so old is still in top notch condition.

This lens has a 72mm filter thread and weighs in at 605g. It is not light but not killer heavy either. It has 7 elements in 5 groups with a 10 blade diaphragm.

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How sharp is it at f/0.95?

Take a look at the image above. Click it for a large size with 100% crop. This image was shot wide open at 0.95 and has decent but not clinical sharpness. It has a softer type of detail with a much desired glow which helps to give it that classic charm. Take another closer look at the image below by clicking on it. You will see that I focused on the grass on the dogs chest, which is decently sharp but again, with a soft glow. This is NOT a clinical lens, not at all. It has sharpness wide open but a pleasant sharpness. Also, the depth of field is so shallow at 0.95 you are working with a VERY thin plane of focus. So when you look at an image from this lens your 1st thought may be “that is soft” when in reality, you are looking at all of the out of focus qualities of the lens.

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Quick Compare! Leica 50 Summicron f/2 vs Canon 0.95 at f/2

I shot the same scene at f/2 with each lens to see how sharp the Canon can be at f/2. I was not disappointed but did find that at f/2 the camera chose 1/1000s and with the cron attached the camera chose 1/500s. Also, to my eyes, the color of the cron shot has a yellowish cast and the Canon does not. This is direct from camera, RAW files. Click them for the full size files. The DOF of the Canon appears slightly more shallow as well. NOTE: The Canon is coded as a Leica Noctilux ASPH.

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What can you expect to pay for a good clean M mount copy?

Anywhere from $2400-$3600 and up. I have seen them go for $2500 and I have seen them go for $4300 all depending on condition, what is included, etc. The copy I have was recently modified and cleaned/adjusted so it is working great. Using the EVF with the M 240 has been a godsend for ever so critical focus as well. If you can find one of these in good shape, and you like the character, as I said earlier, snag it up!

The next few were shot in a grocery store in horrible lighting where it is almost impossible to get good colors

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55 thoughts on “The Canon 50mm f/0.95 “Dream Lens” – An amazing dreamy classic 50mm on the M 240”

  1. Steve (or anyone using this with a Leica M 240), can you use this lens without the hot shoe mounted viewfinder? Thanks all

    1. Yes, those that are converted to M mount are rangefinder coupled so you can focus it as you would any M lens. THOUGH, using live view helps with nailing that focus with a lens like this.

  2. I just love this lens. Since I got a decent adapter, the TV version is travelling with me all the time, on a NEX-7ish body and combined with a B+W XS-Pro Vario-ND filter when used outdoors. This thing is just ideal for portraits… with an RX-1 as second camera, most of my travel cam needs are fulfilled. Fully open the rendering is just gorgeous for portrait, and stopped down to f/8 both of my samples are sharp to the border of the frame on the A7. Lens shades do help to keep flaring at bay…

    Best regards,

    Michael
    =->
    PS: One has to be lucky. I bought my two samples (one pristine RF version with original covers and factory test stickers, looking as if hardly ever used, and one slightly used TV version with original C-Mount adapter) from a “specialist” for night vision gear – he had them in his shop for a while, asking price 25 € each…”nobody seems to want this junk”… I accepted without further ado, and even got an invoice… I fully expected them to be broken or sub-par – but no, they are working _really_ well. When I bought the lenses, I did not know the market price… checking afterwards gave me a bit of a shock… but then, the dealer made the price.

  3. Hi Steve,

    Just wondering after reading this wonderful review why did you decide to sell you copy of the lens? I ask because I am thinking about investing in one. That or the noctilux 0.95. So wondering why you ended up selling the canon? Didn’t use it enough to keep it around… Or just needed one 0.95 I.e the noctilux???

  4. I used to use my Canon 0.95 on a canon 7 body. I bought my body and lens for $600 several years ago. But last year I bought a 0.95 lens to Sony Next adapter. It is a great combination.

  5. Two similar nikon lenses would be the fifty 1.2 and bthe lanthanide helios 81n both deliver dreamy film qualities with the helios making colors pop and full sharp at f2 the nikon does amazing blobs and halos of light aka coma

  6. Hi Steve, I got a copy of this lens together with a Canon 7 RF camera from a famous camera collector in Hong Kong last year, the whole setup is basically in pristine condition. I was tempted to modify it into the Leica M mount but the collector asked me not to do so, probably he wanted me to buy the Canon 7 as well and if I did ask for a modification I would have bought only the lens :) And another reason is that I could not afford a Leica…My copy is as clean as the one shown in your article and is the RF version, it focuses smoothly and same for the aperture blades. The problem that I have with this lens on the Canon 7 RF is that the DOF is too shallow that sometimes I can’t focus it properly, maybe I am new to RF cameras… :) I got an adapter and usually I attach it to my OMD and it works quite nice though it’s very front heavy in that case. The whole setup cost me around $3000USD and I do think its value will go up someday. Even if it doesn’t it’s still an art-piece to me.

    Recently I went to the shopping mall there’re still some copies available, but some were sold. From what I saw, a dusty modified M copy of it from one shop there is asking for $2800USD, so I think mine was a bargain already. And I am quite sure that the collector that I got the setup from should have a number of these available.

    Cheers~!

  7. Hey Steve, YOU persuaded me to buy this lens, yes a clean TV copy from Finland. While looking to talk to someone abt cost for conversion etc-your dude wasn’t picking up-I spoke w another heavy Leica chap who dissed everything and pointed me in another direction, which I checked out and although a much cheaper option wasn’t visually to my taste. So I’m back here trying to get advice. I have a later M6 TTL and Sony nex 7 both using my vintage Leica summilux lenses. When I shoot in low light the EVF and rangefinder are a pain to focus, it’s a gamble, I don’t really depend on the focus ring but my body for focussing. Clearly not the style of my “expert”. I don’t have the $ for the new Leica M so I must work w what I have. Advice PLS ?!

  8. As much as I’d like to buy this lens, $3500 is steep. I could get a Summilux 50 ASPH at that price! But this lens is something else, something I personally love.

  9. Steve: First, so sorry about Scrubby. I’ve been there. Second, thanks for taking real-world shots with every 50mm RF lens known to mankind. I can see your pictures, so I don’t have to buy them all myself. :-)

    I had a feeling you’d keep that 50/0.95. You were fortunate to find such a good one–it’s sharper in the center than the 50/1.2 I used to have and sold. And it does some amazing things with out-of-focus colored lights in the background. Take it out on the streets at night.

  10. You must buy it Steve! This lens is amazing and has one of the best wide open characters I have seen. You would be a fool to pass it up.

  11. Hi Steve,
    I’m happy to see your good old dog still around. When your new dog was introduced as ‘model’ in your recent pictures I wondered if Scrubby had passed. Give him a little dog hug from me :-)

    Robert

    1. Well it appears we are making an appt at the end of the week to put him down. He doest eat (has been 6 days) , has lost alot of weight, throws up green bile every day and can barely walk. His ribs are sticking out as I type this. He is 14. It will be a very hard day for me, this I know. Thanks for the kind words.

      1. I’m very sorry to hear that. As much as he has been part of your life, I feel he has also been part of the huff family here online, making a regular appearance in your pictures. I wish you strength!

        Warm wishes,
        Robert

  12. Very nice lens, I just love how it renders the background. It has character for sure. This brings up the next question of the day: How many 50mm lenses will be in Steve’s walk around bag until end of the year :-)

    Plenty of interesting legacy lenses out there. Did you consider using some R-lenses on your new M? Fairly cheap compared to the M glass, of course fairly large too.

  13. Steve, fascinating article and an amazing lens! As an aside I see you are using the Leica Electronic Finder on the M 240 does this imply that you prefer the electronic finder over the optical one inside the camera itself?
    Just wondering ;)

    Ian Palmer

    1. Thanks Ian! As for the EVF, that all depends on what I am shooting and with what lens I am using. With a lens such as this, the EVF makes sure I get perfect precise focus. I enjoy using it. I also love the RF, and luckily, mine is spot on anyway but still, with the EVF what you see is what you get and you can preview DOF, etc. I am one who welcomes and enjoys live view.

      1. Thanks Steve, just watched the Video of the lens and it a big beast but somehow looks not out of place on the camera, probably because it does not project much further out from the body as per the Leica 50 f2.

        One further question, if I may, My wife has the Nikon V1 and when I have just it the electronic finder freezes when the shot is taken, is this the case with the Leica as well? As a DSLR user I find this a bit strange particularly when doing follow on shots.
        Ian

    1. It would not work out on an SLR- the “back-focus” of this lens is made for an RF camera, would also work on a mirrorless camera. Adapters are available on Ebay for most mirrorless systems.

      To work on the M 240, the “breech-lock” needs to come off and an M-Mount go on. The hard part is making the RF cam, has to be exact for the rangefinder to focus properly.

        1. The lens is a standard Planar, with the front element split into two elements of lesser power- identical block diagram of the 50/1.2. Canon had developed a (then) new high-index of refraction glass with low-dispersion to make this and the 50/1.2 possible. That glass was damaged easily by lubricants – so that is the “to watch out for” of Canon RF lenses. It’s the small back-focus that made the layout work. The Nikkor-S 5.8cm F1.4 in F-mount is fairly close to the layout- but the curvature of the two front elements is no where near as wild as the Canons. The Bokeh of that lens is very different, looks almost like a Summarit.

        2. http://www.canon.com/camera-museum/camera/lens/s/data/50-85/s_50_095.html?p=2

          http://www.canon.com/camera-museum/camera/lens/s/data/50-85/s_50_095.html?p=1

          If you’ve not run across the “Canon Museum” online, it has a lot of good information including the optical block diagram of most of their lenses. I’ve gone through 50/1.2 first hand, making a working lens out of two incomplete lenses: one missing the front section with the rear welded in (broke 4 dremel cutting disks), and the second missing the rear section.

    2. You either love this lens, or you hate it. My most “Faved” Flickr shots were with this lens. You are not going to achieve the same effect with Photoshop because it is a function of distance from the main subject, distance from the center of the image, and aperture setting. Over-correction for spherical aberration and physical vignetting are the main contributors for the Bokeh of this lens.

  14. Great writeup Steve! I also have a copy of this lens and have been using it on my MM with beautiful results. The images it produce has a different quality/character to it that even the Noc 1.0 nor 0.95 (which I also own) could not duplicate. This lens has been stuck on my MM ever since I got it.

  15. I had the f 1.2 for a while and found it already too creamy, still held on to the wonderful f 1.4 though

    thanks for the nice comparisons, the last shot is top

  16. There were two versions of this lens made, both optically identical. The Rangefinder coupled version of the lens was made for the Canon 7 (Rangefinder) “Breech-Lock” mount. This version has part of the rear optic cut away and an RF cam mounted. This version is easier/cheaper to convert to M-Mount, but usually cost more up front. The version in the review is marked “TV Lens”, and originally came with an adapter to use on a C-Mount camera. It does not have an RF cam, so DAG will make one for it.

    The days of these going for $200 are over.

  17. wow what a rendering… i m really digging the output of this lens! especially that last shot… really seems to be sucking you into it! :)
    great review! but i guess it all also depends on wether you get a good copy!

  18. As Steve states, if and only if you get a good copy. I’ve had two. One was very nice even though I had to send it to DAG to get the mount and focus sorted out. The other focused correctly when I got it but just wasn’t sharp even in the center..

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