As you may have read, I’ve recently acquired a very nice example of this lens. There’s not a lot of information out there about it or samples from it, the later Canon LTM normal lenses – the 50/1.5, 50/1.8, 50/1.4, and 50/1.2 – garnering far more attention. Though I’ve only shot a few rolls with it thus far, I’m quite pleased with what I’ve seen, so I thought it would be a good idea to offer up an in-depth discussion with examples. We’ll start with color film, in this case Fuji Superia 200.
The 50/1.9 is an old design (see my intro piece for more discussion of the particulars) and shows it. Color rendering is low-contrast and a bit pastel (especially with the Fuji film, which seems to produce low saturation images when shot through anything but modern glass), while resolution is fairly high in the center once stopped down a little (f/4 or so), and gets pretty sharp across the frame around f/8.
Even the stunningly bright colors in the scene above were muted by this lens. This is not a bad thing – saturation can always be added if desired, and in this day and age of far too many people failing miserably to practice responsible saturation slider use, maybe some muted colors aren’t a bad thing every now and again.
Center sharpness is really quite good, and even the corners here aren’t bad at all, given the reputation this lens seems to have acquired for making them a muddy mess. I was particularly impressed with the way it rendered the subtle variations in the tones of the wood and the fine detail in the grain structure.
This last one is mostly just for fun, but it reinforces what’s been written above. A different film – say Ektar or Gold 200 – would likely produce a little more vivid color, especially in the reds, but the Serenar 50/1.9 is not going to produce anything like the saturation of a modern lens no matter what film you choose.
The next installment will look at some black-and-white photos shot at a variety of apertures. Stay tuned.