Canon S 50mm 1:1.5 Serenar – review

Published by Tony on

Canon 50mm 1:1.5 Serenar – Japan LTM/LSM/m39 – vintage manual lens test and review

This is one of the best feelings in hand lenses from the Canon “Serenar” series. And yes, it is a true “Sonnar”.

Canon 50mm 1:1.5 Serenar + Sony A

Canon Camera Museum link

Canon 50mm f/1.5 Serenar specifications

MarketedNov-52
Original Price36,500 yen
Lens Construction (group)3
Lens Construction (element)7
No. of Diaphragm Blades13
Minimum Aperture16
Closest Focusing Distance (m)1
Maximum Magnification (x)
Filter Diameter (mm)40
Maximum Diameter x Length (mm)
Weight (g)295

More data

Floating elementsNO
Serial23918
Confidence in the test results of reviewed copiesHigh

Additional information:

  • ‘This lens is developed based on Zonner 50mm f/1.5 manufactured by Carl Zeiss’ – quote from official materials.
  • This lens is “later Serenar”, so original “Serenar” label already gone and front ring contains simple “Canon lens”
  • Min focus distance = 3.5 feet
  • This reviewed lens arrived directly from Japan
  • Weight of reviewed lens is 271g
  • The optical and mechanical condition of this copy is very nice. There is nothing which can affect the images

As you can see, the test scale displays weight equal 271g, but the official site contains 296g. So it may be production deviations or incorrect data on Canon Museum.

Canon 50mm 1:1.5 Serenar exterior

Canon 50mm f/1.5 Serenar sharpness

Сlose-distance resolution test, minimal distance

Testing methods description

  • Target: 10-15 cm picture, printed on glossy photo paper
  • Distance:10% longer than minimal focus distance marked on the lens
  • Camera: Sony A7II (24mpx, full-frame, tripod, remote control). M-mode, ISO fixed, WB fixed, SteadyShot – OFF.
  • The test was repeated for every F-stop on every focus position with manual focus adjustment for each shot. That is to avoid the effect of field curvature.
  • RAW processing: Capture One, default settings. All quality settings – 100%. Crops – 300×200 px

Scene preview

Original target image (printed in horizontal orientation on 10cm X 15cm glossy photo paper)

Test results (selected version, easy to compare – 4 positions)

Test results (full version – all 9 positions)

Long-distance resolution test

Testing methods description

  • Target: cityscape
  • Distance: > 200 meters to center focus point
  • Camera: Sony A7II (24mpx, full-frame, tripod, remote control). M-mode, ISO fixed, WB fixed, SteadyShot – OFF. The focus point is on the center only.
  • RAW processing: Capture One, default settings. All quality settings – 100%. Crops – 300×200 px

Scene preview

Test results

Canon 50mm 1:1.5 Serenar aberrations

Vignetting

Geometric distortion

Coma aberrations

Chromatic aberrations

Short-distance bokeh

Test conditions: lens was focused on minimal distance 1m, plants are in 3m distance from the camera

Long-distance bokeh

Test conditions: the lens was focused on half distance on the scale (2m), buildings are on “infinity”-distance. This is a rare case for real photography but demonstrates the maximum possible level of blur

Light bubbles bokeh – short-distance

Test conditions: lens was focused on minimal distance 1m of scale, diodes were fixed in 3m distance

Light bubbles bokeh – long distance

The lens is on the minimal focusing distance 1m, lights are on infinity (cityscape)

This is a rare case for real photography but demonstrates the maximum possible level of blur

Canon 50mm 1:1.5 Serenar – other resources with tests and reviews:

japancamerahunter.comklassik-cameras.deantiquecameras.net

Canon 50mm 1:1.5 Serenar – overall conclusion

This outstanding lens shows poor technical results with excellent artistic abilities. All photographers heard descriptions like “true vintage lens, great bokeh, beautiful softness, unbelievable rendition, bla-bla-bla”. This lens is ready for all such words at one time. Yes, Canon-Serenar 50mm F1.5 is one of the really legendary and famous lenses in the world. Sometimes I think that it’s cheapest among the other legacies, so it can be written as number one in the long list of legends.

On the other hand, it’s so bad technically that begins to draw ‘rendition’ everywhere in the frame except center, yes, right in the DOF. And the square of sharpness is too small to use gold-selection with portraits. There is never enough sharpness in the corners for landscapes, even on F16.

The lens isn’t good in fighting against any little front-light and gives a lot of softness even if closed for 2 stops.  It looks like this “true Sonnar” has collected all known aberrations, and maybe a couple of some new unknown. That’s the price for the famous picture rendition. But I agree with the idea that every photographer should try such a lens because some photographers have never change it later.

Finally: this is the lens with a bad IQ but with unbelievable art possibilities. If photographers don’t care about sharpness – this Serenar would be a good choice. Anyway, it can’t be the only one lens in your toolbox because it works only for scenes where details can be sacrificed in favor of the bokeh, but for most usual scenes the more typical lenses will be needed.


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