This time I’m reviewing a modern lens, but as mentioned in the video above, it shares a lot of things I like about vintage lenses, which is the main reason why I wanted to review it.
As a fan of Zhongyi Lens Turbo II focal reducer, I was excited about an opportunity to test out one of their new lenses, the 42.5mm F1.2 prime for M4/3 cameras.
I’ve done a quick video review above, so here I want to cover the additional info not mentioned in the video review.
I mentioned that this lens has a smooth, click-less aperture adjustment, which is great for video users, but I also wanted to touch on how aperture settings are spread out on the aperture ring. About half of full rotation takes you from F1.2 to F2 and the other half takes you from F2 to F16, with F5.6, F8 and F16 squashed together at the end of the scale. I actually like that, because I would mostly use this lens at its fast F-stops, so I like having that very fine adjustment from F1.2 to F2, which will certainly help with tiny exposure adjustments. It’s also important to mention that few weeks after using this lens, aperture ring got stiffer. I don’t know if this is a problem with this certain copy or poor quality grease, but I was assured by Zhongyi that there must be a problem with this particular demo copy, which went through the hands of multiple reviewers. I’m not sure why aperture ring got stiffer, but it’s a shame, because otherwise this lens feels very good. It fits snugly onto my BMPCC; feels very solid with its fully metal construction; focusing ring has a very pleasant, smooth focusing action with about 100° of ration which can be both good and bad depending on how you use this lens; great for fast focusing by hand, but a longer throw would be better for a follow focus use.
Closest focusing distance of 0.45m (1.5ft) is close enough for some real close ups on BMPCC. If fact I enjoyed using it at its closest focusing distance the most as that is where I was able to appreciate its smooth bokeh and shallow depth of field you’d generally expect from a lens like this (video below hopefully reflects that). When shooting subjects furthest than 2m away I just couldn’t get the feel I expected from a fast telephoto prime like this, but I don’t think that the lens is the one to blame here. I just think that it’s designed to shine on a larger sensor than the Super16 one found on bmpcc. I wish I had a GH4 to do my tests, as I’m quite sure I would experience much more magic with such combination.
Talking about magic, this lens will not blow you away with character like a Helios 44-2 would, but it has enough character for a modern lens. I wouldn’t really expect any more from a lens like this and too much character could also be undesirable in many situations, so I wouldn’t necessarily want to spend $400 on a lens that flares too much. It’s fine to spend $40 on a Helios, because you are investing into a specialty lens for special projects. When you spend $400, you want your lens to do a bit of everything and Zhongyi Mitakon 42.5mm F1.2 does exactly that: nice, but not very dramatic flares; smooth, but not very swirly bokeh; fast, but very super sharp wide open. Just to make it clear, I’m not saying that it’s average at everything. I think it has a very good mix of character & performance
My love for vintage lenses obviously got me wondering if a vintage prime would provide me with all of these characteristics at a cheaper price? If you watched the review, you will have noticed that I compared Mitakon against the slightly cheaper Canon FD 50mm F1.2 and Mitakon did perform a bit better in terms of sharpens, contrast, chromatic aberration and colours. If you are looking for that cleaner, more accurate image, Mitakon is certainly worth its price. It offers a much better value for money than the 10 times more expensive Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm F1.3 which was just a little bit better in terms of sharpness, but certainly not 10 times better.
During my testing I’ve also used the Mitakon a “taking” lens for one of my anamorphic lenses (see video below) and I found it to perform really well in such capacity. A taking lens has to be pretty sharp to make a good taking lens. This is where confident performance at F2/2.8 really pays off.
Like I said in my video review, I think this lens is a great example of modern optics in combination with usability of vintage lenses. $400 dollars is a lot of money, but you won’t really find any other modern lens with such specs for under $1000; The Panasonic Leica equivalent costs $1000 more.
Zhongyi Mitakon 42.5mm F1.2 is a nice lens, but I already have a few F1.2 lenses, so I don’t see much point to spend $400 on a lens with similar performance, but if you are looking to buy your first fast prime for M4/3, this lens is certainly worth looking at. You can find a few slightly cheaper vintage lenses with similar specs, but don’t expect them to provide the same performance for less money. I think that $400 is a very fair price for a lens like this.
Lastly, let’s take a look at pros and cons:
- Fast prime lens designed with modern M4/3 cameras in mind
- Produces clean, quality images
- More affordable than modern equivalents
- Performs better than vintage equivalents in the same price range
- Very smooth focusing ring
- Step-less aperture adjustment
- Not pin sharp wide open
- Images sometimes lack character
- Not as affordable as some vintage equivalents
- M4/3 mount is not as adaptable as most vintage mounts
- Overall built quality is questionable
So what do you think about this lens? Is it worth the money? I would love to hear from you, share you opinions in the comments section below.
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