What does $950 get you?

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@Jonathan F/2 started a thread showing a great deal on a 50mm f/1.8 APS-C 'C' mount lens available on Ebay for $50, and then went on to show some great shots he'd taken with that lens. In the course of some discussion he mentioned he'd like to see a comparison to the much bigger, and much more expensive Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 - so with nothing better to do (or maybe nothing I'd rather do) this afternoon here's the first installment of some comparison shots. These are not intended to be an in-depth or scientific review of the capabilities of each lens, simply some common shooting situations presented to see what, if any, differences there are, just for fun. I'm not out to prove that the Voigt is better though I have to admit I'd be rather disappointed if it didn't at least do something better - let's see how it goes.

First, the hardware:

P1200647_-L.jpg
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P1200646_-L.jpg
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To state the obvious, the Voigt is bigger :p it's got a lot more glass in it and feels like a $1000 lens. The 'C' lens aperture ring is clickless which I guess is desirable for video shooting, but the Voigt can do that as well. The focus mechanism of the Voigt is a much longer throw which in my experience makes critical manual focusing much easier. The feel of the focus ring of the Voigt is smoother than the 'C' lens, not that the 'C' is sticky, just not as smooth - but it's perfectly usable. The 'C' lens focus mechanism friction (trying to describe the effort required to move the focus ring) changes somewhat from stop to stop, the Voigt is perfectly smooth and even from stop to stop.

Now on to the first actual shooting comparison. I found my wife doing some reading, preparing for her class she teaches. Sitting in bed with the window behind her is this first comparison... back-lit shots. To highlight the results of the lens I shot in RAW and processed in LR 5.7, and then exported as jpeg, 3000 pixel on the long edge. The same adjustments were made to each file: +.3 Exposure, -20 Highlights, -10 Whites, +10 Clarity, Flat Tone Curve, Sharpening is set to 60 Amount, 1.5 Radius, 20 Detail, 60 Masking, 15 Luminance and 70 Detail Noise Reduction. These are just some default values I apply on import.

The first photo is with the 'C' mount lens, wide open at f/1.8 - the second shot is with the Voigtlander, also at f/1.8 - the last shot is again with the Voigtlander but this time wide open at f/0.95 - the obvious difference is the contrast. The Voigt has much better contrast when shooting into a back-lit situation. Obviously you could make adjustments to the 'C' shot and improve the quality of the results. These were hand held shots so critically comparing sharpness wasn't really the goal here. But the added contrast makes the perceived sharpness much better with the Voigt shots.

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I'll have some more shots for sharpness comparisons which might be somewhat of a surprise - it's looking like it will be for me.
 
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Joined
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Round II - Inanimate Sharpness.

Close Focus:

The ability to focus at close distances is something of interest for many types of photography. Whether it's head shots for portrait work, or still life photography, both lenses can focus close enough to be useful. I didn't measure the working distances for this test so I'll just post the results. While the 'C' mount 50mm can get plenty close enough for head shots, the Voigt wins hands down here. Both of these shots were taken at the minimum distance I could achieve focus. The subject is a foot tall statue. Both shots are at f/1.8 - I didn't shoot the Voigt wide open for this test, it's hard enough to get focus at f/1.8 with these distances.


First, the 'C' Mount 50mm @f/1.8
P2158915_C-Mount-L.jpg
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Now the Voigtlander 42.5mm @f/1/8
P2158910_Voigtlander-L.jpg
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Thanks for the comparison Mike! Looking forward to seeing how sharpness and bokeh look between the two.
This is a fun comparison and the 50 is holding it's own - much better than the cost of it would imply. I'm hoping I can impose on my daughter tomorrow for some basic studio type shots. Like a lot of gear, there is definitely a diminishing return on the quality vs. cost here. You pay a lot for that little something.
 
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The Eye Test:

I persuaded my daughter to stop by and let me use her as a model for this test. A close head shot with focus on the eyes. The setup is a single shoot-through umbrella within a foot of her face. These shots are at f/2.8 for the Voigtlander and the C-Mount. The results, if taken by themselves, makes the Voigt not seem like such a good deal, under these conditions. I shot several of each lens and picked what looked like the best from each series. Critical focus at this distance and aperture is pretty hard with a manual focus lens (for me), and my model has trouble sitting absolutely still, every little sway makes quite a big difference. I applied the same adjustments to each shot, including a small amount of contrast and sharpening to the eyes. I don't see much difference here. Click on the pics to see a larger version.

First up, the C-Mount at f/2.8
P2168943_C-Mount%20f2.8-L.jpg
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Next, the Voigt at f/2.8
P2168939_Voigtlander%20f2.8-L.jpg
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Mike, at these magnifications both lenses do very well. Minor adjustments to sharpness are necessary after the typical JPEG compression but nothing that bothers me.
Looking at the images I am going to say that the C lens for $50 looks like a bargain.
Enlargements could be another story though.

William Rodriguez
Miami, Florida.
 

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