Ever since I started using a Canon 5D MKII for video I’ve always had a need for a fast low light prime. The cheapest fast primes tend to be 50mm lenses. They also have the most natural field of view on full frame cameras like 5D.
Almost 2 years ago, I’ve done a comparison test with my 5d comparing 3 affordable 50mm F1.4 prime lenses which included Canon EF, Nikkor Ai & Olympus Zuiko.
Here is the blog post with my thoughts on how these lenses compare. If you also take a look at the youtube comments for the video you will see that there are as many opinions as there are comments. Personally I decided that I preferred the value for money Olympus offered the most.
So for last 2 years I’ve been quite happily using the Olympus as my main 50mm F1.4 lens. I really like this lens, but lately I’ve been noticing that when shooting into the light, be it natural or artificial, this lens looses quite a bit of contrast which is to be expected from a vintage lens, but my problem is that I often use it in conjunction with the 18-200mm kit lens on my Sony FS100, which has much more contrast than Olympus.
I started wondering if any of my other 50mm F1.4 lenses would do a better job when used in conjunction with modern glass. The Canon FD 50mm F1.4 is another lens I’ve been using occasionally and I’ve been getting so impressed with it that I decided to put it up against Olympus for a title of my 50mm F1.4 lens of choice.
Before I say anything else about these 2 lenses, I just wanted to say that if you are using a Canon EF mount camera, then Olympus is an instant winner in this test. Ironically you can’t use Canon FD lenses on Canon EF camera without an adaptor containing the (poor quality) optical element, which deteriorates the optical quality of the actual lens so much that it makes no sense using such setup.
For E-mount & M4/3 users though this might be a more difficult decision, as both Canon FD and Olympus Zuiko are some of the most affordable 50mm F1.4 primes. Canon in particular can be snapped up for as little $50 which is pretty incredible price for a 50mm F1.4 lens and Olympus will usually go for around $100 which is still very cheap compared to modern lenses.
So let’s get into what I make of the little test you can see above. It’s only a quick, unscientific test but it does reveal some difference between these 2 lenses.
As I excepted Olympus produces lower contrast and slightly softer images, especially wide open. The bokeh on Canon is also more pleasant wide open.
When shooting into the light there is the same difference in contrast and sharpness, but on a flip side Olympus shows literally no chromatic aberration even wide open while Canon exhibits a bit of purple fringing around highlights, which is quite clearly visible at 200% crop, but barely noticeable at 100%.
Overall, I think Canon definitely is a better choice for use in conjunction with modern lenses that usually have more contrast than vintage ones, but on other hand the lower contrast of Olympus is not necessarily a bad thing as long as it matches with your other lenses. The way Olympus lifts the shadows resembles a LOG camera profile which can also be a good thing. The softens is also more pleasant on the skin, making Olympus a better choice for certain projects.
I can very safely recommend both lenses. Both represent great value for money.
When I need to use 18-200mm Sony lens, I’ll use it with Canon, but I’m also keeping the Olympus for other projects.
What about you? Which one did you prefer and what is your current 50mm lens of choice?
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I’d love to test them against my Contax Zeiss.
That would be really interesting!
What adapter did you use for the fd to ef? I have an fd lens and it’s horribly soft at 1.8 all the way to 4 I can’t imagine opening so wide and getting a usable shot
Hi Jacob. I do not use FD lenses on EF mount. Like I said in the blog post, the adapter you have to use makes lenses very soft and worthless. Maybe this is the same issue you are dealing with?
If you didn’t use an adapter how did you use the 50 1.4 fd on a dslr?
I’ve tested these 2 lenses on Sony FS100 which only needs a simply adapter without any optical elements that could deteriorate image quality. If you read 2 sections just below the green Canon FD 50mm link to get a better idea.
Interesting comparison. I haven’t been able to use FD on my cameras, DSLRs and R1. But I use OMs all the time after testing several other options. I feel that the OM coatings look really good on people, which I’m usually shooting.
Thank you for your input Jimmy!
im torn between these two primes and the super takumar 50mm 1.4 m42. have you dried it?
I have one, but I haven’t tried it. Should be similar to the other 2.
[…] with match modern lenses much better than some other vintage 50mm F1.4 lenses like Olympus OM (see this test) which is the reason why I eventually picked FD 50mm F1.4 as a low light partner to my Sony […]
I think a Minolta MC Rokkor-X PG would be a great alternative!
I enjoy your reviews, but please check your copy.. did you mean ‘excepted’ or ‘expected’???
I meant expected but excepted would also apply 🙂
[…] fellow lens enthusiast Allen Besedin doesin his videos, I’ve always wanted to compare two 50mm lenses that I love: the Super […]
I have a large collection of 50mm f1.4 lenses and find the olympus the sharpest wide open and, as you say a little lower in contrast but with less colour fringing in the out of focus areas than the canons