Recently saw a post on social media asking a photography group what ‘team’ or camera brand they represented. As much as I enjoy reading and viewing gear reviews what brand someone chooses does not matter to me. Many spend time debating one sensor size over another. Some debate digital and film. I still see a lot of posts debating mirrorless and DLSR cameras. Some even profess the death of the DSLR. Some seem to claim that only the latest and greatest will do.
Whatever floats your boat.
Even though I talk about gear a lot that is all it is. Talk. I can get on with nearly any type of camera. Case in point the shot of a FED 5C below was taken with a Jupiter 9 and Zenit E without a single bit of automation in sight.
Is Zenit too fancy? Here is a photo taken with a FED 2.
On the digital side, I have gotten on fine with the smallest interchangeable lens sensors on the market, MFT.
Bottom line. As stated previously I can get on with anything. So back to the topic at hand. Please note that I said “and” and not “vs” in the subject. I have long been done with declaring winners. Personal preference? Sure. Winner? No.
I will admit I used to think that I had to choose because it “makes sense”, but none of this makes sense. So what are my objectives here? Simple:
- Play with some gear.
- Write some stuff down as a distraction.
- Share with whoever finds themselves on this page.
Broadly I will frame this as an old lens/new lens affair or DSLR/Mirrorless summary.
- Affordable fast lens.
- Sharp enough.
- Vintage film lens look and feel… because it IS a film lens.
- Perfect imperfection optically.
- Small and light.
- Which is good because the sole Pentax full frame conveyance attached is a brick of a thing.
- DSLR required.
- This is a plus for me. Despite the world turning to mirrorless I really like the chunky feel of a DSLR in hand.
- Any ding on this lens has more to do with DSLR tech than the lens itself.
- Not for video.
- While not noisy gear driven AF is not silent.
I hesitated in getting this lens because I was getting on fine with the even less expensive and nearly as fast Pentax 50mm f/1.7. But when an inexpensive, clean used f/1.4 copy showed up at KEH I purchased it and I am glad I did. My favorite thing about this lens is also the most surprising thing about this lens. Its small size, and weight. DSLR lenses are usually small, but a 50mm f/1.4 that is not far off from pancake status is impressive. There is a newer, modern Pentax 50mm f/1.4 variant, but with its larger size, weight, and price it is not what I am looking for from a DSLR lens. Interestingly both are still on the market so good on Pentax for not discontinuing the older, lower-priced option.
- Good at everything. Stills or video this is your lens.
- Completely silent and blazing fast and accurate AF.
- Perfect image quality.
- Perfect is great when you ar looking for perfection but can be a little lacking in character as compared to other lenses.
- Mirrorless bodies do not have that same brickbat feel of DSLRs that I like.
- If you are not looking for perfection this lens can be considered large, heavy, and expensive.
I hesitated in getting this lens because I was getting on fine with a number of less expensive and fast enough 50mm-ish lenses (Exhibits 1, 2, and 3). But when a copy showed up at my local camera shop I tested it and was immediately impressed. I purchased it (a trade-a-palooza actually) and I am glad I did. It is one of the best lenses ever made, and the best one I have personally used. What it can do for video is amazing. Not always suitable to have that much bokeh, but accurate Eye AF at f/1.2 is stunning if that is what you are looking for. Almost makes me want to shoot video more often. Almost. But I do not always need or want perfection.
This comparison is not isolated to these two lenses. It applies across all brands. Could have as easily written about Sony A Mount lenses and this f/1.2 mirrorless or the Nikon Z f/1.2 and DSLR lenses or Canon RF f/1.2 and DSLR lenses.
Why this f/1.2 and f/1.4 in this case? Easy. That is what I had to compare.
For me none of these solution are “better” than the other in totality. The main difference for me comes down more to experience and aesthetics than functionality. Specifically:
- Am I looking for Eye AF on the fly or will close enough do?
- Am I looking for utter sharpness or a vintage glow?
- Am I looking for latest and greatest or will old school suffice?
- Am I looking to shoot video of folks moving with AF or will it be a static shot?
- Am I looking for a large lens with a camera lens cap or a brick of a thing with a tiny lens out front?
- Is this a shot I need to get or is it a shot I want to have fun getting?
Do not get me wrong. The Sony 50mm f/1.2 is the most capable lens I have come across and can produce phenomenal images. For example:
But if I am honest, when not looking for “perfection” or ease of operation, I prefer the shooting experience with and the images produced by the DSLR and legacy glass old guard. For example:
Comparison Wrap up.
I like both.
Slightly longer version:
There is no reason to choose. So much virtual ink is spilled pitting one thing against another, but both are viable options. Both are satisfying image capturing solutions.
A good many articles and videos seem determined to force folks to choose. Determined to deem one thing (brand, format, etc.) better than another. I see no need to make such determinations personally. All have their merits. All have their downsides. All are valid. Choose one. Read the articles for kicks. Then enjoy what you have.
I do not know? Run what you brung? Whatever floats your boat? Whatever is clever? Hakuna Matata?
Ok. I’ll try this. Don’t fret over what you have or what you do not have and have fun.