USER REPORT: The Canon 50mm f/0.95 for Leica M by Konstantin Mihailov

Canon 50 mm TV lens f0.95 for Leica M by Konstantin Mihailov

The “Dream Lens” – that’s what they often call it. Of course, the famous Noctilux is also a dream lens but I get the feeling it is not only a dream lens because of how it renders but also because every Leica user at one point or another dreamt of having a Noctilux. Canon 50 mm f0.95 TV lens is perhaps less of a dream to own but it surely lives up to an other definition of a “dream lens”. Before continuing with the review, I should perhaps make a disclaimer that I have never owned any Noctilux version and that perhaps at one point in the future I will dream of it. For now, even this is a bit too much for me to handle.

In an attempt to get to know the lens better, I had it mounted on my M9 for almost the entire duration of my ownership of it (about a month). The lens ergonomics leave much to be desired – it is big, and I mean big – I am sure the Noctilux is also big, but the fatness of this lens combined with its shortness and the close proximity at which it sits next to the body, makes it very difficult to even hold on to the camera. The Noctilux has a tapered end which allows the fingers of the camera holder to use the space between the lens and the body for better grip. The smoothness of the focusing ring is also incomparable to the usual Leica buttery but this is not really an issue and perhaps is an added bonus with a lens which requires so much attention when focusing.

When the lens is actually put to use, one quickly discovers that it focuses to the usual fast-lens minimum distance of 1 meter which I always found limited and disliked (Leica Noctiluxes as well as older version Simmuluxes were also limited to that distance). It interferes with the viewfinder but this has never disturbed me personally.

The photographic qualities of the lens are even more subjective – at f0.95 it is quite soft and the photos exhibit a considerable glow, with a somewhat harsher bokeh than one would expect; at f1.4 it is already with improved contrast, sharpness and definition and this has been the aperture at which I’ve used this lens most often, and if focused correctly, it is quite satisfactorily sharp; my limited use of the lens at other apertures makes it difficult to judge it further on this.

To my mind, this lens would be ideal for portraits, some journalistic situations but few nature/landscape situations. On the other hand, the Leica Summilux 50 can serve in all of these situations quite satisfactorily so my personal choice would now lean in this direction, while even entertaining the use of the Simmicron C40.

See the pictures below for a more empirical overview.

You can see more of my work at my blog HERE.

Below is a picture taken recently from the top of the Rathhaus in Hannover. This was shot at f8 and it is composed of two pictures stitched together. The sharpness I discovered to be suboptimal (compared to, for example, my Summicron C40) which for this kind of pictures may be undesirable 

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  1. I have two of these, RF coupled for the Canon 7 and TV-mount with the C adapter. Someday i might convert one to m-Mount, not too expensive. When the lenses went for $200, it was a “steal”. these days, I find the 50/1.1 Nokton to be the better choice. The Nokton runs ~$1000. Converting the Canon runs ~$350 to have done by a specialty repair.

    For a 1961 optic- it is amazing. New high-index of refraction glass with low-dispersion was a major break through for lens design being done 50 years ago. The Nikkor 50/1.1 required 9 elements, this lens only required 7. This lens has much less vignetting than the 50/1.0 Noctilux. Part of this is obvious when you put a 72mm front lens cap on it.

  2. I love the last image and think this does some justice to the normally vacuous use of very shallow DOF for anything other than low light use. But it is surely a dead end, hasn’t the novelty value of shallow DOF worn off yet and people can get on with something more appealing and challenging?

  3. Great – many thanks for the review! I have just received the Canon 50mm f1.2 for my M9 and recognise some of the ‘rendering’ style of the it’s big brother. Following from previous comments, I also prefer the last image – if I may add my two cents, I find that there is a difference between “close up” bokeh and “far away” bokeh (if I may use the technical terms…) and I find that I usually prefer the “close up” bokeh of the f1.2 version.

  4. I think its quite nice, very soft wide open and well very low contrast, but contrast is easy to manage in post processing. Comparing this to its same league such as the Nokton 1.1, I think I would prefer the Nokton instead.

  5. Interesting to see it on the M9… I like the 7th, dreamy…

    Maybe here the bokeh is harsh sometimes because of (over) exposure and post-processing of pictures above…
    It’s a typical bokeh of old spherical lenses, a matter of tastes.. 😉
    For the sharpness, it depends a lot on the good focus, often the lens needs to be calibrated with a rangefinder body above all with digitals and FF sensors, like the M9 (it’s a converted lens to m-mount)… The field of view is so shallow at 0.95 !
    For sure it’s not a perfect lens for everyday use (weight….) but It’s not an “unsharp” lens…
    You can only compare it with another RF lens at 0.95, so the pricey Leica Noctilux… Or try to take a picture at f/0.95 with a summicron or a summilux ! :-)))
    Have a look on Flickr (there is two Canon 50mm 0.95 groups) and you’ll see many examples on film and digital, and discussions also…

    It’s one of my favorite lenses (on M bodies and Nex), because I just can’t get the same rendering with another lens at 0.95 !..


    • I haven’t – but if you do, I’m sure Steve and his readers will be thrilled to read about it! I find some of the older lenses to deliver interesting results even if they are far from the modern quality alternatives.

  6. i have the canon 50mm 1.4 from the same period….god that it is a good lens….tack sharp, renders beautiful oof areas and dare i say it is a match for later leica models… stretched it too far with this one me thinks.

    can’t imagine how anyone used it for TV for which it was initially designed. great to see someone trying it out on the m9 though….thanks for the test. really liked the first and last photos.

    cheers bob

  7. Interesting. f0.95 is very, very difficult to focus correctly/as intended. Pretty succesful attempts here, although the images appear to be no more than showcases for the lens.

    The only sub 1.4 lens I have is the 1.2/50 Nikkor Ai-S. Lovely lens, sharp but not contrasty at wide openings. I find myself choosing f2.0 quite often (as with the 1.4 AF-S’s I have), and then wonder whta I’ve got the 1.2 for… 🙂

    The Canon is a lovely lens though, albeit the bokeh is a bit distressing. Good match for the Noctilust I’d say, though a bit more affordable.

  8. I have one of these Canon lenses with the standard Canon camera mount, which is an external bayonet particular to this lens.

    Does anyone know how I can mount this lens on the Sony NEX7 emount?

  9. I would love a lens this fast, I quite like the softness and glow too, but the bokeh isn’t my cup of tea at all. That said, I really enjoyed the pictures.

  10. I find the colours a bit too over saturated and seems a bit over exposed as well. That said, the bokeh is pretty amazing.

  11. Well, I guess one does not really need a lens that is so unsharp… Or maybe as a special effect lens, but the effect is so special that it looks pretty bad.
    A quite inexpensive Nokton 1.1 is a far better choice !

  12. I have the 50 1.2 and 50 1.4 I like them better than this I looks to soft and muddy to me this is from the 50 1.2 with a Leica M9

  13. Nice to see how this lens renders, I think it would be fun to own.
    Really liked your work on your blog and a lot of your thoughts resonate with me.
    Well done.

  14. I own the 50mm f/1.2 version of this Canon LTM lens, and started testing it on my M8 this weekend. It’s a lot of lens for your money indeed. I consider it my poor man’s nooctilux… ha. Interesting review, always good to see people using other lenses than just the usual Leica suspects. Now I’ll go and see how it compares to my summicron-c 40 too. Thnx for the interesting write-up.

  15. It is my dream lens too, I loved the pictures taken with it. Especially seventh photo is like a van gogh, it is amazingly energic.
    I hope I can get this combination in the future or something close to it.


  16. I don’t really like this lens, by the looks of it. Too extreme. The last picture is very pretty, though, with that surreal bokeh on the left foreground 🙂

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