Canon 50mm 0.95 on Leica M9

Christmas and New Year 2012/2013 was spent in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with a motley crew of other photographer friends from around Asia.  Whilst there my ex-army buddy and fellow Leica shooter Trevor had brought along his old Canon 50mm 0.95 lens to test on the Olympus OMD. Me with the M9P and Canon 50mm 0.95 fitted to the camera

The lens has previously been converted to Leica M Mount so of course I couldn't resist to have a play with it on the M9P despite already having a 50mm summilux with me for this trip.

I have tested a few other fast 50mm lenses in the past on Leica, including the Voigtlander 1.1 and SLR Magic hyperprime 50mm 0.95.

A great portrait lens, dreamy backgrounds and smooth skin tones

This Canon lens is a different beast, as heavy as the Leica Noctilux or SLR Magic lens, but much shorter, almost stubby, which is cool.

Nothing plucks a subject out of the background like a 0.95 lens

The first day I used this lens i wasn't sure about it…the look of the images was so different to the 50 summilux, i almost dismissed it, but I gave it another few days and shot for several hours each day with only this lens and after less than a week have completely fallen in love with it. 

For sure it has a unique look to it...some will love it, others may not care for it....but for sure you won't find it with other lenses

The reasons are shown in a few of the images below.  Like any extremely fast lens, if you misfocus even slightly, you are screwed, it looks terrible, BUT if you get it right, the look is completely unique and like nothing i've shot before.  I'm not saying its better than a Leica Noctilux, but two things for sure….its a damn site cheaper (i.e. you could buy this and a round the world trip for the same price as a Noctilux), and the build quality is amazing.  I have no idea how old this particular lens I'm using is, but its built like a tank, solid, perfect glass, super smooth movement, zero focus shift at any distance as far as I can tell and technically as good as any Leica or Canon L lens build quality I've used.  Shot in very low light, even the summilux would struggle in this light, a breeze for 0.95

The Bokeh is a bit of a 'love/hate' scenario I imagine for many people.  I wasn't sure at first as i said, as its very swirly, almost painterly with some backgrounds, and of course this won't be to everyone tastes.  That said, to try and reproduce these kind of looks with anything other than a 0.95 lens is impossible, so for that alone I think its a very interesting lens for any Leica user that seeks that 'dreamy' look.

I took a few shots with the lens wide open and stopped down to F4 and beyond and found it to be extremely sharp (images below shows this with 100% crops), however for me its pointless to use this kind of lens at anything other than wide open at 0.95.  Its so much heavier and bigger than a 1.4 or F2 lens, it wouldn't make sense to use this instead for those apertures….this lens screams to be shot wide open for those dreamy looks, in fact if the aperture ring happened to jam locked on 0.95 I wouldn't be worried, as thats the only aperture I'm interested in shooting it at.

wide open at 0.95

100% crop at 0.95

stopped down to F4

100% crop at f4, as sharp as any other 50mm I have used at F4

I am looking forward to shoot more with this lens in the dark streets of Hong Kong (we generally have a few stops less light than most cities in asia thanks to the China factories spewing a cloud of pollution over the city that acts like a 30 miles wide ND filter!), it will enable me to get shots in light that is impossible with any other combo that I own.

Here are a few more shots of Trevor that are direct from camera JPEGS set to black and white mode with various contrast settings in camera only on the M9P.

This image below shows perhaps the most random thing I ever expected to see in Cambodia at Christmas....a reindeer!!!!!! lol, shot wide open at 0.95.

Final shot that showcases the bokeh again of this lens

Final thoughts and recommendations:

Do I recommend this lens? YES, 100% if you are looking for a 'dreamy' rendering super fast lens and don't have or want to spend the budget on a Noctilux, then look no further.

Is it sharp enough?  YES, I have posted a few images above then a 100%crop from those images.  I hope anyone viewing them will agree that for a 0.95 shot, its more than sharp enough when you hit the focus right.

Is it affordable?  Its not cheap, but when you are looking at 10,000 USD for a Noctilux, it's comparatively extremely good value as another option to Leica.  Of course other options are the Voigtlander 1.1 lens which is about half the price again….but I couldn't fall in love with that lens personally when I tried it a few years ago, it was nice, sure, but for me it lacked character any …..something the Canon 0.95 just oozes.

If you wish to see other images and blog posts from this trip and other Cambodia trips you can see a selection by clicking here.

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