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SainSonic Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 Lens Review

SainSonic Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 Lens Review - John Riley reviews the Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 lens for APS-C mirrorless cameras, available in Sony E mount and others.

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SainSonic Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification
Kamlan 50mm F1,1 Front Oblique View

There are certainly some fascinating lenses coming from Chinese manufacturers. The latest is this 50mm f/1.1 from KamLan, supplied for review in Sony E mount for APS-C sensors. This is reviewed here using the Sony Alpha A7R II, switched into APS-C mode and therefore delivering 18MP. It will be very interesting to see how such a 50mm lens (75mm 35mm-format equivalent) performs, especially given its low price and relatively simple optical design.

SainSonic Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 Handling and Features

Kamlan 50mm F1,1 On Sony A7rii Without Hood

This is a tiny lens by current standards, but it makes a lovely compact package with the Sony Alpha A7R II body. As mentioned, switched to APS-C mode the camera delivers 18MP, but the mirrorless design comes into its own here as the image is displayed full size on the screen, whereas an optical viewfinder would be cropped in some way. The lens is manual focus only, down to 0.5m, around 1.5 feet, which would be a normal expectation for a 50mm focal length. Being designed for APS-C format, the lens has a “35mm-format equivalent” of 75mm, making it an ideal short telephoto for portraits and other close/medium range applications.

Despite the compact nature of the lens, the very fast, bright aperture means the front element fills the available width of the lens barrel and the filter thread is 52mm. Peering into the lens we see clearly the 11 bladed diaphragm, which forms an almost perfect circle. The lens elements are multi-coated. A round bayonet fit lens hood is provided for further protection against flare and physical damage.

Lens formulation is a fairly straightforward 5 elements in 5 groups, in other words, 5 separate pieces of glass.  

Kamlan 50mm F1,1 On Sony A7rii

The focusing ring is smooth enough, with clear engravings in feet and metres. There is also a traditionally styled depth of field scale, which can be used for rough guidance. The aperture ring is marked from f/1.1 to f/16 in the usual steps, but misses out f/11, going straight from f/8 to f/16. The aperture ring is very stiff, not as stiff as a classic film camera such as the Halina 35X, which is an object lesson in solidly stiff controls, but it could be usefully a little smoother.

Everything on the lens is manual, with no electronic contact with the camera. As a consequence, some techniques need to be practised to make use of the lens easier. For example, with manual focusing, this can be easily done with the lens set on f/1.1. Images snap in and out of focus on the screen or in the viewfinder, the only caveat being that depth of field at f/1.1 is so minuscule that nailing the point of focus at that aperture can be a bit tricky. Taking lots of shots is one answer to this. Once focused, as we turn the aperture ring to whatever working aperture we desire, the increasing depth of field can be clearly seen on the monitor screen. It is a very useful feature and works in this way because the aperture is always at the value set, there is no stopping down, unlike an SLR lens.

The lens is fun to use and there are no serious pitfalls, but the manual-everything route does mean some fiddling about for the photographer. This slows things down, although I can see that some might think that is a good way to go as it promotes thoughtfulness when shooting images.

The lens is available in Sony E, EOS-M and soon Fuji X mount, and Micro Four Thirds.

Kamlan 50mm F1,1 Rear Oblique View

SainSonic Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 Performance

So how sharp can a simple, inexpensive lens be, especially when the maximum aperture is so fast?

Looking first at central sharpness, at f/1.1 the standard is only fair and the image is really quite soft. By f/2 the image sharpness is very good, and from f/2.8 right through to f/16 it is excellent.

At f/1.1 to f/2.8 edge sharpness is poor and the images are very soft. This starts to perk up by f/4, although the standard here is still only fairly sharp. At f/5.6 and f/8 things click in and sharpness is again excellent, tailing off slightly at f/16 but still being very good.

It needs to be borne in mind though that a test target is flat, and a simple f/1.1 lens is likely to have quite a bit of field curvature, so real-world images might be somewhat sharper all over.

SainSonic Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 MTF Charts

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 Sony Alpha A7R II (in APS-C mode) using Imatest.


CA (Chromatic Aberration) is very well corrected in the centre of the image. The edges do show some fringing and we would need to look at software solutions if further correction of this is needed. The amount of CA is not overly excessive and in fact far better controlled than some even quite expensive zoom lenses.

SainSonic Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 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 Sony Alpha A7R II (in APS-C mode) using Imatest.

 

Fast 50mm lenses usually show some barrel distortion and this is no exception. Barrelling measures -0.44%, which is unlikely to be noticed in general photography.

Flare resistance is also excellent, with little or no drop in contrast against the light. There are also no artefacts created. This is probably helped considerably by the simple lens construction.

The 11 bladed diaphragm and fairly low wide open resolution both combine to ensure flare is not a problem. This leads us onto the bokeh of the lens, the quality of the out of focus areas in an image. At wider settings the bokeh becomes gorgeous. This is especially useful given that the crop factor of 1.5x means that this tiny optic may well become a photographer's ideal portrait lens.


SainSonic Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 Sample Photos

 

SainSonic Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 Aperture range

 

Value For Money

The KamLan 50mm f/1.1 can be found for £126, a pretty amazing price for what is actually a well-made lens. Defining value for money is very clear, how can we go wrong for that sort of price?

Just to put it in a more objective perspective, let's have a look at the prices for some other ultra-bright 50mm lenses. The 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 for Leica costs £349. The Leica M 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux is priced at £7499. Meike make a 25mm f/0.95 for MFT cameras, making it a 50mm-equivalent in 35mm-format terms and this costs £455. The Zhongyi Mitakon Speedmaster 25mm f/0.95 is around £260.

The KamLan looks superb VFM against this backdrop.

For more options have a look at the Top 23 Best 50mm Standard Prime lenses.

 

SainSonic Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 Verdict

KamLan has a simple, ambitiously specified lens for a very low price. It is well made, performs well and, within the limitations of manual focus and lagging edge quality, it is still a lens that delivers something very useful. The bright f/1.1 aperture is one thing and the gorgeous bokeh is another. The lens is not technically perfect, but it does have excellent photographic, creative qualities that could be used to advantage. At £126, there is little to lose.

SainSonic Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 Pros

  • Excellent central sharpness from f/2.8
  • Virtually no central CA
  • Good flare resistance
  • Low distortion
  • Very low price
  • Nicely made
  • Light and compact

SainSonic Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 Cons

  • Some edge CA
  • Poor edge sharpness at wider apertures
  • Very stiff aperture ring
  • No weather resistance

Features3.5/5
Handling4/5
Performance3.5/5
Value5/5
Overall Verdict

SainSonic Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 Specifications

ManufacturerSainSonic
General
Lens Mounts
  • Sony E Mount
  • Canon EOS M
Lens
Focal Length50mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/1.1
Min Aperturef/16
Filter Size52mm
StabilisedNo
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Focusing
Min Focus50cm
Construction
Blades11
Elements5
Groups5
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
WeightNo Data
HeightNo Data

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Comments


Cagey75 6 42 Ireland
18 Sep 2017 4:37PM
You're far too generous, I've seen reviews for this as far back as June, and it seems rubbish wide open [the samples in this review look crap also tbh], even stopped down a bit it's soft. You're far better off getting an old classic reliable MF 50 1.4 and an adapter, for even less money.

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18 Oct 2017 7:01PM
I bought this lens in May 2017 and I love it so much. I use it on my Sony A7. It is one of the most underestimated lenses for Sony E-mount cameras. The image quality that the Kamlan 50mm f1.1 produces is very subjective and this particular lens is creative and quite usable.

There seems to be a lot of 'photographers' who own similar (and older) lenses costing many many times more, and they seem to be very annoyed with these cheaper Chinese lenses that are being released lately. I hope they get over it.

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