Sunday, 21 December 2014

Can old prime lenses compete with new lens technology?


I have just bought a new Fujifilm X-E2 equipped with the Fujinon XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 zoom lens, a highly rated, all metal, image stabilised but relatively compact piece of kit. I also just bought a £15 lens adapter for Pentax K lenses on eBay to explore whether some of my old manual focus Pentax primes could get decent or even comparable results. And here is a test:

Here is a section, blown up to 100%, taken from a handheld shot at ISO 400 on a dull day, 1/320th sec at f4, with the Pentax M 50mm f1.7 prime.


Here is the equivalent, 1/400th sec at f4, with the Fujinon. Again it is handheld, but the Fujinon has the advantage of image stabalisation.



To me the Pentax is clearly sharper.

OK, I am not comparing like with like. One lens is stopped down. The other is a zoom lens at full aperture. But that second lens has the advantage of being 30 years younger, image stabilised and connected to a camera within which software corrects for some of its flaws.

I also had to interpolate the result from the Fujinon by 10% so that side by side they came out the same size. But that really does not cause other than the most minor variation.

The purpose of this comparison was not to make a detailed test, but to test whether the Pentax 50mm might be any good. And clearly it is. I already have a Pentax M 50mm f1.4 and a 35mm f2.0. Since conducting this test I have already bought a mint condition Pentax M 85mm f2.0 to give me a fast 130mm equivalent f2.0 prime. At wider angles, because of the 1.5 factor of magnification, I will be sticking with Fuji lenses, in fact I have already ordered the 14mm.

For completeness here is the original image and some corner shots blown up to 100%:

Pentax M 50mm f1.7 - top right corner at 100%
Fujinon XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 zoom - top right corner at 100%
The original (dull!) image

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