Yashica ML 50mm f/1.4 Classic Lens Review

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Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Impressive sharpness
  • Very low central CA
  • Modest distortion
Cons
  • Manual focus won’t suit some
  • Obvious edge CA

Yashica Ml 50mm F1,4 On Canon 5d Sr

There are so many second hand lenses out there, many of them at asking prices that are really derisory considering their potential quality. From time to time we have been dipping into this reservoir of glass to do mini reviews as interesting lenses become available. This time it’s a classic 50mm f/1.4 lens from Yashica, who have made many fine lenses in the past. Complete with a Canon adapter, let’s see how it fares when coupled up to the 50mp Canon EOS 5DS R full-frame body.

Handling and Features

Yashica Ml 50mm F1,4 Front Oblique View

We are firmly in the area of manual operation with this, but in the event the Canon EOS 5DS R presents no problems with the totally electronic-free mount. The lens has to be focused manually of course and the diaphragm set using the ring on the lens. The diaphragm remains at its set value and there is no stopping down.

There is a 52mm filter thread, multi coating and an ultra smooth manual focusing ring. That’s it. The metal construction as always gives an impression of solid manufacture and the finish is excellent. One of the things we have lost with AF lenses is the sheer tactile pleasure of the smooth manual focusing that we have here. Absolutely gorgeous. Focusing is quite precise and the focusing screen on the 5D SR is fine in terms of acuity. This may not always be the case with all camera bodies.

Yashica Ml 50mm F1,4 Vertical View

Optically, we have 7 elements in 6 groups, a fairly conventional design for f/1.4 standard lenses. There are no aspheric or low dispersion glasses here, just plain correction that should be fine for use on film, but will always be interesting to evaluate on digital. Some classic lenses behave well and some less so. Digital sensors like telecentric lenses, where the exit light rays are parallel, whereas film does not need such considerations. Consequently, many wide angle film-era designs do not perform so well on DSLRs.

One thing that is very obvious at first glance is that lenses were once much smaller than they are now. Built in AF motors, ambitious zoom ranges and large apertures have all contributed to larger lenses. The traditional manual focus lens is minuscule compared to many current offerings, although for its size the weight of 320g seems quite heavy. Metal and glass are the culprits with that.

Yashica Ml 50mm F1,4 Rear Oblique View

Performance

A 50MP image can take advantage of high-resolution lenses, so it is really pleasing to see that in fact, the Yashica performs to a very high standard. Sharpness centrally is good at f/1.4, very good at f/2 and f/2.8 and excellent from f/4 through to f/8. Diffraction then starts to bite but results are still very good at f/11 and f/16.

The edges are soft at f/1.4 and f/2, but sharpen up and reach a very good level from f/2.8 to f/8. Sharpness is still good at f/11 but results are soft at f/16.

This is really a very creditable performance from a lens not really designed for digital and results look sharp and crisp.

Yashica ML 50mm f/1.4 MTF Charts

MTF (Imatest)

MTF Chart

How to read our MTF charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5DS R using Imatest.

n terms of CA, this is something that was never a problem when most people used black and white film and did not seem to be much of an issue even with colour. Digital is more demanding, but here the control of CA is very impressive centrally. There is visible fringing at the edges of the image so it may be that some work in software will be needed for some subjects.

Yashica ML 50mm f/1.4 Chromatic Aberration Charts

How to read our CA charts

Chromatic aberration (CA) is the lens’ inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5DS R using Imatest.

Distortion measures -1.19% barrel, pretty much what we would expect for a fast 50mm and relatively modest. Correction can be undertaken in software.

Bokeh is something else that was never mentioned in the days of this lens, but it is pleasant enough even without special rounded diaphragm blades.

There is also an advantage to having only 7 elements in a lens, in that there is far less glass to flare in extreme conditions. Flare is virtually absent from this lens.

Yashica enthusiasts can look upon this lens with the satisfaction of knowing that some 35 or so years on it can still make the grade.

Yashica ML 50mm f/1.4 Sample Photos

1/320 sec | 50.0 mm | ISO 400

Butterfly Bush | 1/160 sec | 50.0 mm | ISO 400

Flowers | 1/8000 sec | 50.0 mm | ISO 400

Close Portrait | 1/320 sec | 50.0 mm | ISO 400

Clock Tower And CA Test | 1/1250 sec | 50.0 mm | ISO 400

Arley Hall Frontage | 1/250 sec | 50.0 mm | ISO 400

Specifications

General
Lens Mounts
  • Pentax M42
Lens
Focal Length 50mm
Angle of View 47°
Max Aperture f/1.4
Min Aperture f/16
Filter Size 52mm
Stabilised No
35mm equivalent No Data
Internal focusing No Data
Maximum magnification No Data
Focusing
Min Focus 50cm
Construction
Blades 8
Elements 7
Groups 6
Box Contents
Box Contents No Data
Dimensions
Weight 320g
Height No Data

Verdict

A 50mm lens is quite a useful optic – usually compact, often the brightest lens we will have in our kit and able to be generally abused with close up devices and filters without compromising optical quality too much. An older lens is also something that can be used where we might not want to risk our newer and very expensive optics – perhaps in wet caves, perhaps on wet hikes across moorland. Coupled with a plentiful supply of such lenses at very low prices it is good to know that they can still be useful and still deliver excellent quality.

(ephotozine.com, https://goo.gl/PjtN3h)

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