Which one is the best 50 mm AI (or AIS)?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by Analog Amateur, Jan 12, 2017.

  1. "Is there really any point in spending a huge amount of money on a lens to use on 35mm film?"

    Yes, there definitely is. There's a significant difference in sharpness and rendition of contrast between any of my Leica lenses and my f/2 Nikkor AIS lens I use with an F2 on black and white film.

    Superior optics were favored by knowledgeable photographers before digital cameras existed.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
  2. Two years later, and a Leica fanboy joins the fray!
    Knowledgeable, or just easily swayed by a high price and a reputation?
  3. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    Back in the 1970's, I was shooting with Leica R lenses. Let me say it here - the lenses I had were fantastic. The Leica R3 was pretty good too, for its time.
    Fiddlefye likes this.
  4. I'll put one of my 50mm f/2 Nikkors-whether the old chrome nose H.C. or a newish AI one-up against the 50mm Leitz on my Leica any day. I'd even put the Series E/AF/AF-D, which I really dislike in general, up against it. The Leitz is a whole lot smaller, but that's pretty much all I cna say about it.

    Of course, this particular lens is probably worth about what a 50mm f/1.4 AI-s Nikkor is...
  5. Gotta chime in in homage to the 50 f2. I got one as a Christmas present from my father, along with a Photomic Tn, in 1968. It has a beautiful, almost painterly look. It is the H series and I will never part with it. Years ago I was having it cleaned at KEH and they converted it to Ai for a few dollars. I will never part with it because of the images it produces and because of its focal length. Still using a lens over 50 years old. The f2 doesn't stop me using it on my d810. That's why God created higher ISOs.
    Fiddlefye likes this.
  6. "easily swayed"
    "I'll put one of my… Nikkors… against…Leica any day."

    I've had my F2 for 4 years and shot a total of 5 rolls with it. During that time I've shot 57 rolls with a Leica M with Leica lenses. I've been shooting for 40 years, continually refining the craft, but I guess I used Leica at a ratio of 57-5 because I'm easily swayed! LMAO.

    Can the 35 f/2 Nikkor produce great looking images? Yes, if specific circumstances re light and subject are just right for it, but otherwise, it lacks the local contrast and sharpness the Leica produces.

    I got the F2 because I wanted a classic Nikon that looks cool and from what I've read is more bullet proof than any Leica M body and maybe any other camera.

    Now I suppose you're going to tell me Mamiya 330 optics are as good as Zeiss lenses on a Rolleiflex or Hasselblad. 90% there and good enough for a beginner and much much better than no camera at all? Sure, I got no problem with that.

    All in good fun, nothing personal guys...
  7. I've never used a C330, but it wouldn't surprise me if it's splitting hairs to compare something like the 55mm Mamiya to a 50mm Distagon, or even an 80mm Mamiya to a Hasselblad Planar.

    The reason for that is that the Hassy Planar has a very mild retrofocus design to clear the mirror, while the Distagon is very much a retrofocus design. Since a TLR lens can get a lot closer to the mirror, you can get away with a lot fewer optical "tricks." The Hassy Planar is sometimes considered inferior to 80mm f/2.8 Planar/Xenotar on the Rolleiflex for that reason.

    It's a bit of a different story and not directly comparably, but the Mamiya 65mm K/L is-to my eye-a sharper lens than my 50mm "C" Distagon.

    BTW, on a per-roll basis, I've shot more through my Hasselblad in the past year than I have any of my Nikons, although my film Nikons win on a per-shot basis. I've shot two rolls through my Leica in the past year.
    This is all splitting hairs, and the rendition of the Zeiss lenses is certainly different from the Mamiya lenses I've used. It takes a REALLY close look to see this, though.

    And there again, I'll still hold out that any 50mm Nikkor I have is better than the Leitz Elmar I have for my IIIc.
  8. Elmar new or old isn't exactly the MVP of the Leica lineup. And admittedly, I have not tried all of the Nikkor offerings.

    My main beef was with the idea that optics aren't worth paying for if you're shooting film. In some respects I think digital technology in the camera corrects and makes up for the shortcomings of mediocre optics.
  9. Both in-camera processing and the ease of digital post-processing certainly help some lenses out - even relatively decent glass (like the 14-24) gets visibly improved by DxO, for example. But there's also more detail or at least local contrast, than you'd get under normal circumstances from film.

    So on film it's harder to do anything about the output of a terrible lens (depending on the aberrations and your process) and you may see some oddities not exposed by a digital sensor and filter stack - but a "good" lens on film may still show visible problems when you pixel peep on digital, where it's much easier to do so.

    Most (not all - e.g. vignetting, distortion, LoCA - two being easy to fix on digital and the third not) problems may be hidden at the same magnification as pixel peeping by film microcontrast and grain. The question is, just because technology has moved the bar so you CAN print a fairly sharp wall-sized print without a 10x8 camera, do you care enough to pay for the ability to do so?
  10. I know the Elmar isn't an outstanding lens, but I mentioned it because it's the only 50mm Leitz I personally own, and you were comparing the Leica lenses you own to the Nikkors you own.

    If we compare like for like, is the best 50mm Summicron better than the best 50mm f/2 Nikkor? Maybe, but both are outstanding lenses and I doubt most would be able to tell a difference in the amount of detail recorded on 100 speed slide film(pick your preferred one currently on the market-AFAIK all are about equal in terms of grain and resolving power) if each lens is used at its "sweet spot." I don't doubt that they would render differently and someone well versed in both lenses could see a difference, but which is "better" is definitely a matter of preference.

    Going back to the Elmar-if we wanted to do a roughly like-for-like comparison, the best thing to look at is probably one of the 45mm Nikkors-either the old 45mm f/2.8 Nikkor-Q GN or the 45mm f/2.8 AI-P. These are both 4-element Tessar type lenses(IIRC, the Elmar is not strictly a Tessar-type design, but is still uses a 4/3 lens. The Nikkors and the Elmar are lousy in the corners wide open, and look pretty decent around f/8. Testing them under similar conditions, my Nikkors are in pretty much every conceivable way better. The AI-P is probably the highest contrast lens I've ever used. Of course, these lenses do have their shortcomings, and none of them are every day lenses for me.
  11. That probably tells us all we need to know.
    A terrible lens that only gets away with being passable on film. Put it on a digital camera and the coma becomes glaringly obvious.
    Its current f/1.8 replacement is superior in every way.

    One advantage of the Nikon system, which has kept the same mount, is that film v digital comparisons are easily made, and using the same lenses.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2019

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