Shooting with The Mitakon 50mm f/0.95 and the Sony A7 by Doug Frost

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

1_DF_MITAKON_SHP

2_DF_MITAKON_SHP

3_DF_MITAKON_SHP

4_DF_MITAKON_SHP

6_DF_MITAKON_SHP

7_DF_MITAKON_SHP

8_DF_MITAKON_SHP

9_DF_MITAKON_SHP

10_DF_MITAKON_SHP

11_DF_MITAKON_SHP

12_DF_MITAKON_SHP

13_DF_MITAKON_BW_SHP

 

 

 

 

Related Post

24 Comments

  1. Fabulous Doug!

    hey I am coming to your neck of the woods on Friday and would love to connect.
    best is thru email for the moment- then I can send you me phone

    Sarah

  2. Doug, fabulous photos!

    would like to know your ver.1 lens coating is purple/bluish, or yellow/greenish ?

    • Definitely on the purple/bluish side. The hue doesn’t look yellowish, like in the product photos of the 1st gen Speedmaster that I’ve seen. The lens I have must be one of the very last of that generation so it’s possible mine has the updated lens coatings. In any case, I’m very pleased with its performance at f/0.95. It doesn’t seem soft at all to my eyes.

  3. I really enjoy your b/w images on your web site. Are you using any kind of b/w processing software i.e. “Tonality” or “Silver Efex”? Or B/W controls in LR or Photoshop?

  4. Doug, Very fine B&W work on your site. I too am drawn to B&W renderings of my photos. Sometimes (many times?) the color gets in the way of the image. For instance, I find it jarring when switching from the B&Ws on your site to the color images on this posting. The color ones just don’t speak to me as strongly. Again, I really like your work. Cheers, Richard

    • I occasionally use an Orange 040 filter with the Leica Monochrom in shots with a lot of blue sky, because you can’t apply filtration digitally after the fact as you can with an RGB sensor. Most of my skyline shots, however, were taken with either a Sony A7 or a Nikon D800E, and photo filters were applied digitally in post.

  5. Some nice photos! I especially like the one staring at the buffalo.

    I was wondering if you have ever shot a Canon 50/1.2L and how it would compare to the Mitakon. Any thoughts?

  6. Hi Doug,

    street or landscape, Mitakon or any other lense you use, very, very high level!! Simply impressing to watch and this is what it is about when you offer others to look at your work. Seems like the gear you use fit to the results you like to have. (Leica or a7….) To watch your pics on tumblr is a must. This is really inspiring, not only ´cause of the similar gear I use and the Mitakon I´m waiting in vain for…
    Respect….

    Oliver

    • Manual focusing wasn’t generally a problem, but I found that if I was focusing on something closer than about 4 feet away turning the focus peaking level to high helped. Otherwise I kept it on medium to keep it from flooding the viewfinder with yellow pixie dust.

  7. Some fab looking photos here I love your landscapes on your site
    Great to see someone got the lens I had bought the zeiss sony 55 it lacked character so I also
    Ordered one one these ? Whatever it’s called can’t wait it looks pretty good

  8. Doug, as a fellow Bay Area resident, I truly appreciate the images on your website! Bravo. I really appreciate being able to see the north bay with your eye. Grew up in Santa Rosa, and you capture the feel of the area very well. Thank-you.

    • Thank you, Rudiger. The North Bay is a very special place and I try to get up there as often as I can to explore it.

  9. Doug, your work is truly top-notch- Every photo on your website is insanely good. The photo Pirate Alley, New Orleans is eerily reminiscent of Cartier-Bresson. Thank you for sharing some really great photography.

  10. There is so much talk on the net about the A7R and shutter vibration. On my own pictures, I do not see it. I only do handheld, and I only have the 35mm. I have not really found any pictures online that both are handheld and has shutter vibration – but I guess they must be there if this really is a problem in real life shooting. I’ve seen all the scientific evidence (tripod + graphic charts), but could somebody point me to handheld samples from real life situations?

    • I get it all the time even at 1/1250 and 1/2500. There’s no way there should be motion blur in my pictures but there are (I shoot weddings with it w/ Voit 50mm f/1.5 ASPH and 35mm Nokton v2).

Comments are closed.