Canon 50mm f/1.8 LTM "Type I" on Canon VL2

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, Sep 15, 2013.

  1. Canon 50mm f/1.8 "Type I" LTM lens
    Kadlubeks Objektiv-Katalog CAS 0200 (more or less)
    on Canon VL2 Rangefinder

    Yesterday, I impatiently posted on my 'new' Canon VL2 rangefinder, but with an Industar-61 52mm f/2.8 lens ( Saturday's mail, naturally, came with my Canon-made lens.
  2. Early Canon lenses and bodies are a little difficult to disentangle. In the aftermath of WWII, much of Canon's success seems to have been tied to production for American occupation personnel, sold through post exchanges and often marked with the EP in a lozenge mark. Several efforts were made to find American importers, but with generally little success. Peter Dechert's 1985 Canon Rangefinder Cameras 1933-68 provides one effort to describe this complex issue.

    Suffice it here to say that the early Canons were typically outfitted with Nikkor lenses. By 1948 or so, Canon began to make their own lenses under the Serenar name. By the early 1950s, the lack of brand name congruence between the Canon cameras and their Serenar lenses was resolved by renaming the lenses as 'Canon' lenses.

    During this whole period, and continuing up into the late 1950s, Canon was a little like some of the East German manufacturers who hated to waste a part that was already in stock, so there are Serenar lenses supplied even on occasional later Canon bodies.

    One of the standard, and highly considered Serenar lenses was the 50mm f/1.8 lens in all silver-color construction. Without any other modification that I can identify, at some point in the early to middle 1950s these were marked as Canon 50mm f/1.8 lenses, later known to some collectors as "Type I" Canon 50/1.8 lenses. This refers to the all silver appearance of the lens. On their history site, Canon only show the Serenar-branded variant ( )

    By 1956-57, these lenses were made with both black and chrome components, the collectors' "Type II" or "Black" lenses. Later a truly all-black version was made.

    The camera that I am using my middle 50s 'chrome' / Type I 50mm lens on is the 1958 VL2 version, for which the "sold-with" lens was typically the black and chrome model. So far every eBay example of this "proper" type that I have found is noted by the seller as with fungus, or scratched, or with other undesirable condition issues. That is why I got the Type I version. Someday I will find a more appropriate lens, but this one, here, is what I got and so here are the results.

  3. Since I had impatiently shot with the Industar-61 LTM 52mm f/2.8 lens, I was necessarily directed in my shooting the next day to repeating at least some shots for comparison purpose.

    Here is the red flower again, this time with the Canon 50mm f/1.8

  4. Here is a 100% (full size, no reduction) crop from the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens:
  5. and here is a 100% crop from the Industar-61 52mm f/2.8 lens (both images are 1/250 sec at f16, both scanned on a Canoscan FS-4000 at 4000 ppi, same settings)

  6. Another duplicated scene of a communication antenna (form here on all Canon)

  7. A different sculpture,
  8. The major difference between the two rolls of film -- both Fuji 200 - shot on the same camera with the two different lenses and at the same exposures -- was the very much greater "graininess" of the second roll. The first was done by my favorite camera shop who take great care to get it right. The second was too late on Saturday for the same processor and was done by the local on-site Walgreens. The worst of it is that Walgreens charges more too.
    That's it, folks
  9. Well your 50mm looks really excellent, and very saturated and sharp...just what you would expect from a good Japanese lens. I had another look at mine and it is a Serenar, maybe a bad sample but not as sharp and contrasty as some others.
    The Canon lens certainly looks much better on your VL2, great looking outfit. The multitude of versions of Canon's standard lenses is really mind boggling and I recently bought a really good book from Peter Kitchingman from Western Australia which lists all the lenses and accessories.
  10. I had seen Kitchingman's book listed, but haven't acquired it yet. Kind of afraid to do so.
    The Canon Museum site linked to above says about this lens:
    A famous standard lens in the modern optics history, which succeeded in eliminating flare caused by coma, a drawback of Gauss type lenses.​
    It's still fairly Gaussean, of course
  11. My first Canon lens was a f1.8/50mm that I used on a Leica IIIc. I bought the lens, and the camera, at different times in 1963 and have had, and been using, at least one of each, although not the self-same ones, ever since.
    I shoot 35mm mainly with Leica M's with Leitz and Konica M-mount glass now. I would be hard pressed to argue that the optical performance of the modern glass is noticeably superior to that of my Serenars. I suspect that in the really demanding situations of hand-held shooting in low light with the lens wide open and the shutter at a slow speed, camera shake and the shallow depth of field inherent in a wide open lens opening inevitably outweigh the increased optical sophistication of the latest generation lenses. In bright light at f11 and 1/400th sec, most lenses perform impeccably well (1930's era uncoated Elmars included).
    The 50mm Serenars, and the renamed 50mm LTM Canons are fine lenses. If you have one to use consider yourself fortunate and go out and shoot some film.
  12. Handsome camera. Handsome photos.
  13. Like you, I've had better luck with the glass on earlier Serenar 50/1.8 lenses than the later Black ones. Canon introduced a new low-dispersion/high-index of refraction glass with the Black lenses. Unfortunately, it seemed to react badly with the lubricants used in the lens. I've seen several with damaged coatings and etched glass from oil, which normally will clean off of the earlier lenses.

    The 50/1.8- equal of the Summicron of the day. It is much improved over the 50/1.9 Collapsible Serenar.
  14. I found some tests of Canon normal lenses from 1968. These are of course the later RF lenses but the tests also include the Canon FL normals.
    These tests are from Camera 35 magazine April/May 1968.
    Here is page 1.
    Fiddlefye likes this.
  15. Here is page 2.
  16. Here is page 3.
  17. JDM, thanks for posting this. I'm trying to decide which 50mm lens to get for my Leica IIIf, and I was wondering if the Canon lens would block the finder in any way?
  18. Love those tests...what would we do without Marc!
  19. I had seen Kitchingman's book listed, but haven't acquired it yet. Kind of afraid to do so.​
    Peter's book is the bible when it comes to Canon rangefinder lenses. A must-have for any Canon collector or anyone interested in classic 35mm rangefinder cameras/lenses. Plus he mentions me in the credits, so it has to be good.
  20. Nice! A worthy optic for such a fine camera. Good luck with it!
  21. I was pleased with the Canon lens. Its focus knob does make it easier to use in the vertical.
    I am also pleased with its sharpness, although I am shocked by how good the lowly Industar is too.
    Thanks for the kind words, and especially for Marc's contribution of the tests. :)
    I can't imagine that the lens would interfere with the viewfinder on the Leica IIIf, but it's been something like 60 years since I had one of those to use. Ditto for the Industar lenses, and could could always black in the letters on the latter if you were ashamed to have it seen on the Leica.
  22. Wow what a handsome looking pair ... I too am amazed at how well those soviet optics hold up. Seems to me you got the better optic by taking the earlier version .. Great post and those tests are very informative!
  23. JDM,
    It has been hard to keep up with all your fine posts. You have really been on a roll of late.
    Knowing your fondness for lens diagrams, I have some bonus information. I found these in a book called Canon Photography by Jacob Deschin. It was published in 1957 as a super user's guide to Canon cameras.
    Here is the first page.
  24. Here is the second page.
  25. Thanks, Marc.
    Actually, I do like lens diagrams. ;)
  26. I decided to see what a Canon 35mm LTM lens would sell for and was interested to see that the later black and chrome 35mm focal length models are also typically described by their sellers as having "slightly foggy" elements or similar problems.
    I'm starting to look for some of the 35mm Serenar/pre-"Type II" lenses there as well. Brian's comment above about some kind of problem with the the later models seems true not only of the 50mm versions.
  27. Post on Canon 35mm f/2.8 (type 2) lens at

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