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Yashica ML 50mm f/1.4 Classic Lens Review

John Riley reviews this classic Yashica 50mm f/1.4 manual focus lens on the 50mp Canon EOS 5DS R.


|  Yashica ML 50mm f/1.4 in Vintage Lenses
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Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

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.


Yashica ML 50mm f/1.4 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

Yashica ML 50mm f/1.4 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

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.

 

In 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

 

Yashica ML 50mm f/1.4 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.

Yashica ML 50mm f/1.4 Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Impressive sharpness
  • Very low central CA
  • Modest distortion

Yashica ML 50mm f/1.4 Cons

  • Manual focus won't suit some
  • Obvious edge CA

Features3/5
Handling4/5
Performance4/5
Value5/5
Overall Verdict

With thanks to CliftonCameras who provided the Canon EOS 5DS R used for testing. 

Yashica ML 50mm f/1.4 Specifications

General
Lens Mounts
  • Pentax M42
Lens
Focal Length50mm
Angle of View47į
Max Aperturef/1.4
Min Aperturef/16
Filter Size52mm
StabilisedNo
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Focusing
Min Focus50cm
Construction
Blades8
Elements7
Groups6
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight320g
HeightNo Data

View Full Product Details

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Comments


chris_c1 10 10 United Kingdom
28 Jul 2017 5:26PM
i used to have one of these when i had the Yashica FR1 was a good lens to use

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28 Jul 2017 8:48PM
I have always been an advocate of using old lenses on modern DSLR's, even ones that have large Mega pixels and have so called demands on performance.
Sure, there are a number of old lenses that lack the ability to resolve on 24+MP bodies, but then again there are a number of lenses that date back to the 1960's that were over designed and engineered in the first place that more than meet the requirements of your 5DS/D810/K-1.
I have a number of old Pentax primes both M42 Takumars and K-mount, that are more than good on the K-1, and produce wonderful images.
Even the poorer lenses still give a certain look that you may or may not like, but as they were pittance in the first place it really does not matter.
If you enjoy photography, just have a play, go get that old 50mm F1.7 or 55mm F1.8, put it on the modern body and have fun. You may be surprised how good the lens is in the first place.
Its_Fozzy 4 19 United Kingdom
29 Jul 2017 9:47PM
I'm reasonably convinced that this lens is optically identical to the Zeiss 50/1.4 Planar, with different coatings and two extra aperture blades. The Zeiss has a better minimum focus distance and handles a little better. It's certainly one of the best affordable 50/1.4 manual lenses out there.

Just as a note, the author may wish to update the "Lens Mount" information which sates that this is an M42 lens, whereas it is of course and Contax Yashica mount lens (C/Y).
randomrubble 14 3.0k 12 United Kingdom
16 Dec 2017 7:59PM
Iíve been through a lot of C/Y Lenses over the last few years and, while this is good value for a 50/1.4 I have sold mine and kept the 50mm f/2 ML. That lens really is a little gem and it just makes better pictures.
31 Aug 2018 3:45AM
bump... the Yashica ML 50mm is 61.5 x 42mm and 295 gr with a min focus of .5/1.75
the Contax T* 50mm is 62.5 x 41mm and 275 gr with a min focus of .45/1.5

Further, they are not similar in appearance and build design and most importantly and definitively speaking, Yashica states; "The Yashica FRs also accept the wide range of Zeiss interchangeable lenses designed especially for the Contax RTS camera. This series features T* (T-Star) multi-layer, anti-reflection coating and offers ----unsurpassed---- image quality, color rendition, and speed that -----only----- Zeiss knowhow can produce

That is directly quoted from an FR brochure by Yashica introducing the FR, FRI, and FRII camera models and ML lens line up with the Contax lens lineup and clearly establishing Zeiss as the premiere choice of the 2 labels without question.....Yashica FR Series brochure, actually was printed in West Germany....

This is what we knew and accepted then, it was reality. Over the years imaginations have taken over and corrupted that reality for a variety of reasons, none valid. The effect continues to linger and someone needs to put these fairytales to bed?

The Zeiss Contax T* 50mm 1.4 was the highest measured lens the old photodo ever had at F8 but the 1.7 was dead even with it at F8 later, the 1.7 performed better wide-open at 1.7 than did the 1.4 at 1.4 big surprise, that translated into making the 1.7 the better choice in some heads? The ML versions do not come from the same factory or assembly line, the difference is obviously not in just the coatings either..... Honestly, since the inception of these lenses, the ML Yashica lenses are not in the same league as their Contax counterparts, history has created a fallacy that is not a reality .... believe what you want until you honestly look at your results?

Last, if everyone bought into ML lenses being even close? Wouldn't that change the market somehow and totally diminish the credibility and status of Zeiss?

It's 2018 and we see which name brand certainly endured and which did not?

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