As you can tell from my previous post I was certainly impressed with the unknown & forgotten Auto Chonon Multi-Coated 55mm F1.7, but to put things into better perspective I decided to do a simple comparison test against the my everyday 50mm lens of choice, the Olympus Zuiko F1.4. The Olympus is a bit wider and also faster, but really only by half a stop, so not such a big deal when it comes to low light performance.
The test was simply. Take some stills at different f-stop and see which one is the sharpest has overall more pleasant image.
Below are some 100% crops starting with wide open, which was F1.7 for Chinon and F1.4 for Olympus. I wanted to see how these lenses perform wide open, because I felt that wide open was the weak point of Chinon, but is it really any different from my beloved Olympus? In one of my previous tests when testing Olympus against Canon EF 50mm F1.4 & Nikon 50mm F1.4 I found that Olympus was actually best performer wide open, but looking at 100% crops in this test, I actually prefer Chinon, because it has less ghosting around highlights. So if Olympus was better than Nikon & Canon previously then Chinon must be better than all 3 wide open, which is certainly impressive, especially for the lens of its price.
Next up we have F2 crops, so the lenses are really head to head on this one. Here Chinon didn’t really improve my much being closed by half a stop, when Olympus now stepped down by a stop has gained loads of sharpness and got rid of that ghosting seen above. Here Olympus is a clear winner, at least that’s what I think.
At F2.8 things are continue to improve for both lenses in terms of sharpness with Olympus still leading the way, but on a downside it also exhibits more chromatic aberration than Chinon.
At F4 both lenses are neck and neck in all aspects. Chinon might even have a slight edge here, but remember these are 100% crops and at normal viewing you couldn’t see any difference whatsoever, so it’s safe to say that at F4 they perform the same.
Last comparison is at F5.6. Here Chinon quite obviously keeps getting even sharper exhibiting even more detail in the wooden pattern where Olympus pretty much stayed the same.
So overall, what I must suppose to make of all this info? Like everyone else I usually strive to have the fastest lenses I can afford. On low light shoots I rely on Olympus to save the day. While it’s one of the most affordable F1.4 fifties, it’s still quite a bit more expensive than something like Chinon which at F1.7 doesn’t sound as cool as F1,4 lens, but is only half a stop slower and as you’ve seen in the tests above wide open it actually beats Olympus (my personal opinion).
I’ve shot these tests a few months ago and have sold my Chinon before I had a chance to analyze these stills thinking it couldn’t beat the Olympus anyway. Do I regret selling it for next to nothing? Yes! Chinon is not only a great value for money lens, but also has much more character than Olympus with more interesting bokeh and flares, which makes it a better choice for more creative projects.
So the lesson here should be, don’t always assume that faster lens means better lens. I’m not trying to be clever here and I’m sure some of you know that already, but to those who, like myself make such assumption, hopefully this will open your eyes.
It’s hard to recommend one of these lenses over another. Both definitely deserve a place in anyone’s kit bag.
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