Another recent lens enthusiasm—the Sony SAL50M28. I have a long if intermittent history using 50mm lenses, and I've always liked using macro lenses as normals as well as for "product" photography (although, perhaps oddly, not for macro photography, which I basically don't do). They're often (though not unfailingly) excellent optically. My all-time favorite 50mm was the 1980s-vintage Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm ƒ/2 Macro. It was as good or better in every way I care about than the Leica Summicron of the era.
It's a Sony lens that's quite close to the Minolta DNA but actually improves on it—a classic old-fashioned-looking Macro with the usual plusses and minuses. Good resolution, better contrast; good to excellent bokeh; a bit of center preference in sharpness across the field but good field consistency nonetheless; a bit of manageable vignetting. None of those character points are severe. I like lenses like this more than I like more "technically perfect" lenses that look more clinical and sterile.
"Old-fashioned" spherical-element MTF (20 and 30 respectively, brown is saggital in top pair, dotted line tangential in that pair) at ƒ/2.8 shows exactly what I see visually—I would stop down one stop or more if I wanted good bokeh; sharp but smooth; slightly elevated center sharpness at lower image height (probably visible only on FF). What one wants
in a satisfying classic macro.
Anyone out there own and use this relatively offbeat lens?
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Featured Comments from:
Michael Perini: "I am a kindred spirit regarding 50mm macros (for less than macro work). In the film days I shot Nikon and still have a 'Micro-NIKKOR Auto 1:3.5 ƒ=55mm' that I loved. I believe the 'Auto' referred to a feature of opening up the iris as you focused closer so your meter reading held at close distances, although like you I mostly didn't use it that close.
"I switched to Canon in the digital age (1Ds Mark III and 7D) and have a lot of lenses. I come back often to 'The Plastic Fantastic' 50mm ƒ/2.5 macro. I am always happy with the pictures it makes. I have no idea how it would test, but I just keep coming back to it. I have several more expensive lenses in the same area, but for me it's become one of those lenses I just trust based on results. I use it mostly between ƒ/2.8 and ƒ/5.6 and it just always seems to deliver."
Mike replies: I'm surprised that Canon ƒ/2.5 is still in the catalog—longevity in its case being the mark of a winner. I fell under its spell in the early '90s and it is indeed truly wonderful, although after several tries (Rebel, A2) I couldn't find a Canon body I liked at the time (couldn't afford the EOS 1). But that lens does indeed have a lot of "magic" to it as you say. At least, it is capable of hypnotizing sharpness geeks! :-) Really, I used to just stare at the pictures. Almost too sharp. A real sleeper for getting superb results for relatively little money.
I never did use it as a macro, though.
John Loengard of LIFE magazine fame was one photographer who always used macros for his normal-distance work. I believe he preferred the 55mm ƒ/2.8 Nikkor AIS if memory doesn't fail me. You can easily see that lovely crispness in his published work, for instance in Pictures Under Discussion. (He's an important photographer for me.)