Pentax-M smc 50mm F1.4

I considered buying an AF Sony 50mm, but seeing as the Sony FE 50 1.8 is not considered very good (source), and the Zeiss 55mm 1.8 is a bit pricey, I opted for a used manual focus variant which cost me just €60 ($70)!

Features

There’s not much to say really about this lens. It is what you can expect from it, after all! Soft at F1.4, as most lenses are, but it gets better when you decrease the aperture. Focussing is easy as there’s a lot of travel on the focussing ring, and do most manual focus lenses from the MF era.

For video, this is quite a useful lens. Because of the large focus travel range, you can precisely adjust focus, which comes in handy when filming. Focusing by hand is quite easy on this lens, and if you want to step your game up, you can easily adapt this to work on a follow focus system.

One thing that is interesting is that most people that use MF lenses on a Sony E-mount body opt for the Canon FD 50mm 1.4 variant. However, even after using one for only one day, I can safely say that this Pentax is superior to the Canon, especially in sharpness and CA. At 1.4, the Canon was barely usable, as it was way too soft and CA was all over the place. While the Pentax is only a little sharper, CAs are a lot better controller by this lens.

If you have the choice between the Pentax 50mm 1.4 and the Canon FD 50mm 1.4, you should definitely choose the Pentax!

There’s a couple of interesting reviews of this lens out there, I’ll link back to them here. Here’s a comparison between the 50 1.4 and other Pentax lenses from that era with similar focal lengths (link). The author goes into great detail comparing the lenses, offering a lot of interesting insight!

Conclusion

Pro

  • Small, light and cheap
  • Very good for low-light
  • Large focus travel range makes for easy MF focussing

Con

  • A bit soft at F1.4
  • Manual focus
  • Set IBIS manually

Canon FD 200mm F4

On my journey to find usable manual focus lenses for my A7, I came across this small and light tele prime from the FD era. Lets see how it performs!

Canon FD 200mm F4 with K&F Concept FD-NEX mount adapter

Features

In order to use this lens on your Sony E-mount camera, you’ll need a mount adapter. Luckily, these can be bought for about €20 or $30 (see my review). As this is a (n)FD lens, you’ll need to ‘unlock’ or ‘open’ the aperture, allowing manual aperture control.

There’s a number of different versions of this 200mm F4 lens. First off, there’s the older FD 200mm F4 SSC, which sports the older FD mount. Next, there’s more valuable ‘macro’ version of this lens (http://www.canonclassics.com/canon-nfd-200mm-f4-macro/10-86/). Finally, there’s this version, which comes equipped with the nFD mount, but without macro capabilities.

UPDATE: I’ve recently had the opportunity to test the heavier, but more capable and better performing zoom-brother of this lens, the Canon FD 70-210mm F4. Take a look here my short review!

This lens is relatively small and lightweight, especially for such a long reach. If you would compare this to AF variants, they’re usually longer and heavier. Although such a comparison would not be fair, because more modern lenses usually offer a zoom range or a higher maximum aperture.

Being a manual focus lens, you need to consider a few things. First, you obviously need to focus manually. Luckily, the focus ring has a lot of travel, allowing for precise adjustments when achieving focus. Next, if you have a camera with an IBIS sensor, you need to manually tell your camera the focal length of your lens. Fortunately, in this regard, this is a prime lens, so the focal length will never change, so you’ll only have to set IBIS once. Finally, you’ll need to set the aperture manually. However, I rarely set mine to anything other than F4, so this is somewhat of a non-issue.

This lens comes with a built-in metal lens hood, that you’ll have to manually extend and retract.

At F4, this lens is sharp enough, but can be prone to some chromatic aberration (CA). For photos, this can be easily corrected in Lightroom. For video, you probably will not notice it, so this is not a big deal.

I want to take a moment to reiterate how portable this lens is. Last year, I took this lens with my on a trip to Indonesia, and because it was so light and small, I was able to take it with me on all my trips. I took some great shots that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to make. Not with my general purpose FE 28-70 lens, or with any other (larger and heaver) tele lens.

There are some other reviews of this lens out there (https://couvcamera.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/canon-fd-200mm-4-0-if/, http://www.canonclassics.com/canon-nfd-200mm-f4/10-85/). Most people seem to agree that this is an excellent lens, especially for the price point that you can find this one on the second hand market.

Conclusion

Pro

  • Light
  • Small
  • Affordable

Con

  • Not very fast at F4
  • Manual focus
  • Set IBIS manually

All-in-all, I’m very pleased with this lens. I don’t use it as often as my other lenses, as it’s quite a specialty lens. Once it’s on your camera, you greatly limit yourself on what pictures you can take. However, it’s great to have in your camera bag, ready for those moments that you need a tele prime.