Monday, June 13, 2016

United colors of Mitakon (Speedmaster 25/0.95)

Informal lens review

Intro and stuff

Having entered the m43 system, specifically Olympus, I couldn't stay for long without a fast standard prime lens. My favorite focal length (in terms of 35mm format) is 50 mm. Generally, if at all possible, I prefer my fast standard prime to be as fast as possible.

Given these requirements (software engineer speak here), I went out to the web to find one such lens. Soon enough I found this little gem: Zhongyi Mitakon Speedmaster 25 f/0.95. I admit, there was a bit of uncertainty here. The manufacturer is obviously less known than Cosina Voigtlander. And Voigtlander Nokton 25 f/0.95 is quite a contender.

However, the main reason I went m43 was small size and light weight. So, Mitakon won hands down.

I contacted the factory directly and let me tell you - they are very fast to respond.

So the lens arrived a week ago.


Ergonomics and materials are excellent. The only plastic I could find were rear cap and pinch-type front cap. The lens markings are printed. More about the markings later.

Both aperture ring (stepless) and focus ring are very smooth. This lens is very pleasant to work with.

Image quality

In my eyes, this lens punches well above its very modest price point. You could look up prices on the net, but let me show you some pictures. They were processed to taste in Adobe Lightroom and Nik Color Efex Pro.

Wide open at day light:

Tree trunk and some leaves:

Some out of focus rendering:

At infinity at bright day light:
Almost against the light:

I am yet to try this lens at low light, but judging from the kind of portraits of my daughters I was able to make under the room lighting, I have no doubts in ability of this little fellow to produce excellent images.

Some quirks

Infinity focus

No lens is perfect, really. This one is not an exception.

According to the web, early samples had some issues with infinity focus. Mine has the following point that I should keep in mind. The hard limit of the focusing ring seems like just a fraction of a hair in front of infinity. Initially, I thought that I would have problems with that. However, as it turns out - this is virtually a non-issue. When I tried not to set it to infinity blindly but rather, do the work and focus properly - the infinity focus is accurate and the lens is very sharp in the center of the frame.

At this time, I tend to explain this by the fact that the printed markings on the focusing ring may be just a tiny bit inaccurate. Absolutely not a problem for me and my Olympus EM-1 - the magnification, focus peaking, and excellent viewfinder make it extremely easy to get properly focused images.

Misc image quality issues

There are just a few of them;
  1. The image borders at infinity even stopped down to f/6.3 or so are a bit soft. Nothing dramatic, but ever so slightly soft.
  2. Under some very high contrast I got a bit of a purple fringing. Fixed with a flick of finger in Lightroom.
  3. This lens does not like light sources to be in the frame - it flares. Given that it has 11 elements in 9 groups of optical formula, I can readily excuse that minor misbehavior. Even mighty Olympus 12-40/2.8 pro zoom catches flare every now and then.

Final words

In one sentence - I cannot possibly recommend this lens strong enough. Small, very fast, smooth to operate, surprisingly sharp in the center of the frame wide open. What's not to like about it?

The quirks are minor and none of them poses a serious limitation. At least for the kind of photography I am doing. 

So, for now the lens will stay mounted on my camera and I will be looking forward to giving it a low light workout.