Shooting with The Mitakon 50mm f/0.95 and the Sony A7
By Doug Frost
I’ve been a happy owner of the Sony A7 since last December. For me, it won out over the A7r because of its slightly quieter and lower vibration shutter. It seemed better suited for handheld shooting than its 36mp sibling. And frankly, 24mp is plenty for me in most situations. I had been using the A7 with a variety of lenses with adapters. I have a few Zeiss Alphas which I love and I occasionally use it with my 50mm Zeiss Planar M-mount and a variety of vintage Nikon AI lenses. All great glass. I’ve always preferred shooting manual focus, and the A7 with its EVF and focus peaking makes it super easy to do.
But the one thing I lacked in my camera bag was a native FE mount lens. I had been considering buying the Sony Zeiss 50mm f/1.8 FE. The reviews of that lens have been very positive, and I was on the verge on buying one when Steve posted his first look preview of the Mitakon Speedmaster last April. I was immediately intrigued by the Mitakon. It wasn’t the sharpest 50mm lens by any means. It suffered from some light falloff at f/0.95, the bokeh could be a little quirky in some situations and it didn’t come with a lens hood. But there was a quality in the look of the sample shots I was seeing on Steve’s site and elsewhere that I really liked, especially when used wide open.
So, to make a long story a bit longer, I decided to get in on the pre-order discount price, and waited. And waited. And waited. The June delivery date came and went. The revised date in mid-July passed, and still no lens. The distributor, MXCamera, was apologetic. Their factory was having trouble getting the lens coatings right and they were shipping at a fraction of the anticipated rate. Finally, on August 6th, three months after I placed my order, I emailed them saying I was tired of waiting. To my surprise they replied the next day and said they just got a few units in from the factory and they’d ship one to me ASAP and gave me a tracking number. I was delighted.
The following day, MXCamera dropped a bit of a bombshell. The Mitakon Speedmaster had been discontinued! It was being replaced by a redesigned “pro” version of the lens that they dubbed “The Dark Knight”. Not only that, but everyone who had still not received the original version they ordered would now be getting a Dark Knight in its place!
Wow, I was taken aback. At first I was annoyed. Maybe if I hadn’t emailed them they would have sent me a Dark Knight instead. It was an odd situation, because a lens I had waited three months for, and was now finally enroute to me, had been discontinued before it even arrived!
But now that I have my Mitakon and shot with it, all is forgiven. I’ve decided that henceforth it will be known as the “Mitakon Speedmaster Classic”, a rare and highly coveted beast. Will The Dark Knight prove to be a better lens than the Classic? (It has yet to be reviewed as I write this.) Maybe. I have no idea, but more importantly, I don’t care. I love what my Mitakon does for me and that’s all that counts in the end.
I’m fortunate to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s one of the most beautiful regions on the planet and San Francisco is one of the biggest tourist destinations of all. For this user report I wanted to show what the Mitakon could do when used wide open in low light. I decided on ISO 1600 for all of the shots, because the A7 does very well at that speed and at f/0.95 I figured it would be fast enough.
I decided to shoot in the evening in a San Francisco neighborhood where there would be lots of tourists milling about on the street, so someone wandering around with an A7 would hardly be noticed, and that meant Fisherman’s Wharf. Me and my buddy Chris arrived at dusk on a Saturday to explore it with our cameras. As anticipated, the Wharf was swarming with tourists. Perfect for people watching. I always shoot in aperture priority mode, and I’m happy to report that the A7’s shutter speed never dipped below 1/400 the whole time, even when I was shooting inside the Museé Mécanique arcade, where the light is low.
I hope you enjoy these photographs. I had an absolute blast taking them. If you’d like to see more of my work, I invite you to check out my gallery: http://dougfrost.tumblr.com