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Choosing a new 50mm taking lens


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Until recently I've been shooting on a Contax Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.7 (MMJ version) coupled to my Kowa B&H. I've recently finished a short that was shot on this combo, and I absolutely love the image.

The only problem I have is with the build quality of my Zeiss - there is a bit of play/wobble in the front filter ring, and with the anamorphic front it's enough to skew the image slightly. In practice this causes a lot of faffing around, to make sure everything is aligned each time, so I'm looking to upgrade to something a bit more sturdy. The only requirements apart from the build quality are manual iris/focus, EF-adaptability and a small front element size for the anamorphic (no 77mm monsters). I'm considering the following options:

- Another Contax zeiss 50/1.7. Like I said I love the image, perhaps I was unlucky with the build quality.

- Zeiss ZF2 50/1.4. I have a friend who shoots on this combo (with Kowa B&H) and loves it. I've heard it's a bit soft wide open though...

- Leica Summicron 50/2.

- Voigtlander Nokton 58/1.4. I had the Voigt 28/2.8 and loved it. Would ideally prefer a 50mm not 58 though.

Any opinions? or recommendations? Not considering the helios or jena primes as I have a few of them but want something a bit higher level as this is my main lens.

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Out of those lenses you mentioned; Leica Summicron R 2/50, all day long. I have the black 2 cam version from 1968. It's small, heavy, beautifully constructed and solid! It's sharp wide open and background melts away. Something very filmic about how it renders. I use a replacement Leitax ef mount (easily the best I've used) and it has a series VI filter thread which translates to the unusually small 43.5mm so you'll need a 43.5 > 52 step up ring for your clamp. Something very emotionally magnetic about the lens, it's precious although certainly not delicate. It's a Leica, remember. It will vignette though on s35 unless you crop or you're on m4/3. I'll be testing it with a Moller Ananmorphot 32/2 at the end of the month when Rectilux arrives.

Another absolute favourite of mine is the legendary Rokkor 58mm f1.2. It flares beautifully on its own: https://instagram.com/p/3mibRQypi_/?taken-by=liamlumiere 

I have tested it with my Kowa B&H and compliments the orange and green flares of the scope. If you want that classic cinema look, minolta Rokkors are they way to go. They all match up well so no headaches in post when you change focal lengths. Again I have the solid Leitax replacement mount. Beautiful classic look with unforgettable bokeh.

If you want something more edgy and contrasty check out the Olympus OM 50's. The are sharp and should marry well with the Moller's blue flares for that sifi look.  


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Thanks! I've been temped by the Summicron and you may have convinced me :) Is there a significant difference between the versions? (2 cam, 3 cam, leica r only, etc) I've heard that the later ones (with 55mm fronts) don't vignette on S35... I'm using it on a BMCC with speedbooster, which turns out to be approx. S35.

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Different cam versions afaik only relate to compatibility with other Leica cameras, it's a difference in the mount so has no affect optically. Leica R are slr lenses whereas Ms are rangefinders so you may have trouble mounting the Ms also subtle differences in optical design but negligible really. 

I must point out I have not tested the Leica yet with a scope, only the Rokkor and a Helios. I am also waiting for a 43.5 > 52 step ring so will gladly let you know. Usually though anything smaller than a 58 will vignette on s35 so unless you shoot with a view to crop, it may not be suitable. 

Did your Zeiss Plannar 50 1.7 vignette on the BMCC with speed booster?  

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personally i feel the f1.4 zeisses are too fringy wide open.  even at f2 they're a little more fringe prone than the f1.7 version.  


I'd be inclined to disagree with your dismissal of the helios.  maybe not a 44, or a 44-2 but a 44-3 or later will actually perform as good as the 50mm/1.7 zeiss IMO.  and will less fringing.  check out the 44-3.  it's one of the less commonly encountered units, with superb build (very sturdy), and more refined optics than the earlier units.  Also look at the 'macro' helios 44 lenses (the later units), these are much higher performance than the zeiss 1.7 in resolution and fringing terms.


I have recently procured a 1cam summicron 50mm/2 from '64.  its a beautiful lens, if a little overpriced.  but needs a 43.5 step ring which is a hard find.



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