Most photographers have one time or another lusted for exotic lenses like the Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95. But for most people, it stops there. With a price tag of 10.000$, it’s out of most people’s reach.
But you can get the Mitakon 35mm f/0.95 MK II for a fraction of the price, if you own a Fuji X, Sony E or EOS M mount camera. Shenyang Zhongyi Optical and Electronic Company (ZY Optics) makes this wonderful lens, with the seldom feature of an f0.95 aperture. The design and look is not so different from the Noctilux either.
The first version of the Mitakon 35mm f/0.95 did not get so high praise in reviews and feedbacks online. But with the MKII version, they have both reduced the size and weight (680g to 460g), and gotten the sharpness wide open up a notch or two. Zhongyi claims on they website that they have improved the image resolution by 30% compared to the previous version, so don’t go looking for the older MK I version if you are on the look for purchasing this lens.
There is also no denying that this is a wonderfully designed lens. I really like the matte black Finish and vintage and robust design. It really matches great with the look of my Fujifilm X-T2.
So what is all this f0.95 all about? First of, it’s the ability to soak up a lot of light, because the aperture is so large. Aperture f0.95 gathers a hole one stop of light more than a f1,4 lens. This again helps you maintaining a higher shutter speed, especially in low light situations. But for me personally, the best benefit is all about the way, and the quality of the out of focus parts of the image. The bokeh from the Mitakon is, in my eyes, really beautiful and smooth. I know this is a personal thing, so for others it might not be, so you be the judge yourself.
Theoretically the The f-number is calculated by dividing the focal length with the diameter of the entrance pupil (effective aperture). Be aware if you shoot video that this is not the same as a T-stop, even though I have heard Zhongyi claiming the lens also has a T0.95 rating. A T-stop is an f-number adjusted to account for light transmission efficiency. The exposure should then be just the same if you change from one focal length lens to another with the same T-stop. The same would not apply for an f-stop rated lenses, when changing focal lengths.
Here is an example of the soft and gradual transition between in focus and out of focus areas (Bokeh)
There is a focus scale helping with the focus distance, and depth of field calculation. But for street photography at 0.95, this could be difficult. You really need to be looking at the screen or in the viewfinder when focusing this lens. I also recommend using focus peaking or magnification if your camera has this feature. But for a 0.95 lens, it’s much more easy to nail the focus than you would expect. The perceived depth of field is more or less the same as a f1,4 lens on a full frame camera. And that’s doable manually focusing. (Please, no depth-of-field & perspective discussions on crop vs full-frame:)
The focus ring is amazingly smooth, and with just the right amount of dampening. I just love this when shooting video. The Fujinon lenses (that have “by wire” focusing) does not have this feel and dampening. The Mitakon is a dream to manually focus. And you have no other options either, as this is a fully manual lens. There is no autofocus, or other electrical connections. From my Fujifilm X-T2, it reads f1.0 in the exif data no matter what aperture you have selected.
Speaking about the aperture ring, it’s de-clicked and has a continues operation of the aperture blades. This is great when shooting video. These 2 features means that there is no audible clicks when operating it (picked up by the mic), and there is a continues smooth change in the depth of field and exposure. Great when shooting video. My only complaint about the aperture ring, is that it sometimes is to easily moved, especially when focusing, out of it’s position. I sometimes find my self adjusting it back to f0.95, and an aperture lock feature would be great if they ever make a Mark III version. This lens stays at f0.95 in 99% of all my shooting. Because why would you shoot at any other aperture on a lens this fantastic wide open? 🙂
I have put together a small package of video samples with the Mitakon 35mm below. All shots are at f0.95, using the Fujifilm X-T2 and a B+W variable ND filter (You definitely need an ND filter if shooting outside at f0.95). The clips have been color corrected in FCPX, and a LUT applied for my personal touch. (Skip to 1:15 if you don’t want to see the footage of the lens it self with overview info) Remember to select 4K in the video menu! (Link if you prefer to watch directly in YouTube: https://youtu.be/bqEyLHb1kaM)
Optically speaking, I have done no shooting of charts, brick walls or alike to check for its optical performance. Sure, it has some vignetting and some chromatic aberrations shooting wide open. But i have seen non that bothers me so far in my real world usage of this lens. In fact, i like vignetting, as i often use it in my editing anyway. The sharpness I must say I was surprised how sharp it actually is. I was expecting a lot less sharpens and local contrast. My only finding is that the sharpness seems to drop just a tad when shooting extremely close to the minimum focus distance (35cm). The lens is, as most lenses, sharper in the center, and the sharpness falls of towards the edges when shooting wide open.
Shot thru a glass window @ f0.95 (Fujifilm X-T2, post processed)
Prices are approximately $530 as we speak. You can check out the product at Amazon here: http://amzn.to/2GfmkAe
Christmas bokeh @ f0.95 (Fujifilm X-T2, post processed)
Ok, so what if you don’t have a Fuji X, Sony E or EOS M mount camera? Don’t feel left out! If you shoot a Sony E-mount full-frame mirrorless camera there is the Mitakon Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95 availible from ZY Optics. If you shoot a Micro Four Thirds system, there is also the 50mm equivalent Mitakon Speedmaster 25mm f/0.95
@ f0.95 (Fujifilm X-T2, post processed)
Closest focus distance @ f0.95 (Fujifilm X-T2, post processed)
Mannequins thru a glass window @ f0.95 (Fujifilm X-T2, post processed)
Double flip @f0.95 (Fujifilm X-T2, post processed)
The happy pig – Oslo @f0.95 (Fujifilm X-T2, post processed)
King Olav V @f0.95 (Fujifilm X-T2, post processed)
Bus shelter @f0.95 (Fujifilm X-T2, post processed)
Overall I’m very happy with the Mitakon, and I would easy recommend it if your shooting style does not require auto focus. I’m going to end this small review with a list of my personal pros and cons!
- Excellent picture quality for a f/0.95 lens
- Bokeh is stunning
- Feels solid, full metal body and mount
- de-clicked and continues operation of the aperture (con if only shooting stills )
- Good sharpness and local contrast for a f/0.95 lens
- Smooth and well damped focus ring.
- de-clicked and continues operation of the aperture (pro if only shooting video )
- Aperture ring sometimes accidentally moves out of the selected value
- Vignettes quite much wide open (Easily fixed in post processing)
- Some chromatic aberrations shooting wide open
- Flares when shooting directly at a light source
Buy the MITAKON SPEEDMASTER 35MM f/0.95 MK II at Norwegian JAPANPHOTO.NO here: http://bit.ly/2DxsfPi
Buy the MITAKON SPEEDMASTER 35MM f/0.95 MK II at Amazon US here: http://amzn.to/2GfmkAe
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