Zenith is mostly famous for still producing decade old designs like the Helios 2/58 and some Kickstarter lenses like the Petzval. But this Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E is a completely new design with staggering specs. But how does it stack up to the Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95?
This was supposed to be a full scale review, but unfortunately this lens is so inherently flawed that I decided writing one would be a waste of time, read on to find out why.
This lens was kindly provided by a reader who bought it directly from Zenith in Russia.
- Diameter: 85mm
- Field of view: 47.5° (diagonally)
- Length: 119mm
- Weight: 1110g
- Filter Diameter: 72mm
- Number of Aperture Blades: 14 (rounded untif f/1.2, then inwardly curved)
- Elements/Groups: 9/8
- Close Focusing Distance: 0.7m
- Maximum Magnification: 1:10.8 (measured)
- Mount: Sony E
At the time of writing this report the only way to get this lens is to order directly from Zenith in Russia for ~880€ or hoping one shows up on ebay.com/ebay.de (affiliate links)
Build quality / Handling
The focus ring has medium resistance and has a scratchy feel towards infinity. It rotates ~120° from the minimum focus distance (0.7 m) to infinity.
The clickless aperture ring has a slight scratchy feel at f/0.95 and is really stiff near f/16.
The Zenitar weighs a hefty 1.11 kg, so I was expecting it to be an all metal construction, but interestingly the aperture and focus ring seem to be made from plastic. Markings are also not engraved but simply painted, I am pretty sure over time they will wear off.
Compared to the Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 MK II this Zenitar 50mm 0.95 looks really huge, but while the outer diameter is quite big, the front element has only a diameter of 54mm.
The Zenitar 50mm 0.95 offers a built in retractable hood. I am a huge fan of these in general, but this one is a bit wobbly and the inside is not even matte but rather reflective.
Wide open there is massive vignetting of roughly 3.7 EV in the corners, stopped down to f/1.4 this improves to 2.8 EV, stopped down to f/2.0 it is still 2.5 EV and then – interestingly – gets much worse as you stop down and amounts to a whopping 5 EV at f/8.0. There is no Lightroom profile available for this lens.
As you can see on stopping down you get pitch black corners which looks very distracting in actual pictures:
There are two different causes I can think of: either the image circle of the lens is too small or the aperture diaphragm is in the wrong position in the optical path. Neither is good news.
It is recommended to have a look at this article first to get an idea how this brightness graph works.
As most people will be using this lens at portrait distance this is what I will have a closer look at. Furthermore you buy this lens to use it at f/0.95, if you are okay with a slightly slower lens save yourself some trouble and get the Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 E Nokton.
So I will compare it to the Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95 E MK II.
Zentiar 50mm 0.95 E <—> Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 E MK II
100% crops, A7rII
In the center the performance is similar, but the Zhong Yi is slightly contrastier. Differences are much bigger in the midframe area (where I usually put my subject): the Zenitar’s contrast is really low here.
You should keep in mind that you are looking at 100% crops from 42mp files. You will rarely see fine details like these, but the contrast does matter.
The Zhong Yi allows to take decent portraits where the subject is in the midframe at f/0.95, with the Zenitar that is almost impossible, especially as focussing is much harder (even more so on higher resolution cameras).
At f/1.4 the image quality of the Zenitar improves noticeably, but why buy a 1.1 kg 50mm 0.95 to use it at f/1.4?
I am also not so sure the lens has actually been optimized for the Sony E-mount filterstack. The field curvature is really massive (similar to the 7Artisans 50mm 1.1 designed for the Leica filterstack).
The focus is actually on that pillar in the center. But notice how the top left corner is also in focus, despite being ~30 m behind that pillar?
The Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95 shows a weak flare resistance, so this is one category where I was hoping to see an improvement. This is not the case, the Zenitar shows even worse flare resistance.
When shooting against the sun wide open you will get frame filling artifacts. The performance slightly improves on stopping down, but there will still be ghosts all over the frame (and you will find having pitch black corners again).
The Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95 II (and III) offer very smooth bokeh with even lightspread and very little outlining. The Zenitar is very different with often busy bokeh, looks more comparable to the 7Artisans 50mm 1.1 at times.
Even when focusing on something close to the camera you can see lots of outlining close to the borders.
Focusing on something farther away you will start to notice the high field curvature. At half body distance it is noticeable:
But at full body distance it starts to become really distracting:
The Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95 offers much smoother bokeh rendering which is what I like and the reason I kept it for so long.
If you prefer rather busy bokeh with lots of field curvature it might make sense to have a closer look at the 7Artisans 50mm 1.1, which will do the same thing for much less money and bulk.
There is unusually high pincushion distortion for a 50mm lens. Dialing in -7 in Photoshop/Lightroom somewhat corrects this but a wavy sub frequency remains.
So much is wrong with this lens, I don’t even know where to start.
The lens is super heavy, yet the build quality isn’t exactly great. Both rings are a bit scratchy with uneven resistance, markings are not engraved, the lens hood is wobbly and reflective on the inside.
Sharpness and contrast at f/0.95 are far from good, especially off center. By f/1.4 the lens starts to show acceptable resolution and contrast, but there are many more reasonable 50mm f/1.4 lenses available that offer the same and more for much less money and bulk.
Distortion is unusually high for a 50mm lens. Astigmatism and coma are both very badly corrected. You get completely black corners when stopping the lens down and flare resistance at wider apertures is the worst I have ever seen.
Now all those things may still be acceptable for some, if the only alternative was the Leica Noctilux 50mm 0.95 costing 10 grand. But that is not the case. We have the Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95 MKII and MKIII. Both lenses are optically superior, seem to have actually been designed for E-mount cameras and at the same time they are much smaller and lighter and not even more expensive.
In my opinion there is absolutely no reason to get this lens. You have been warned.
Rather have a look at one of the following lenses:
Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95 MK II, MK III or Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 Nokton E if you want smooth bokeh rendering or 7artisans 50mm 1.1 if you want that busy bokeh wide open with very high field curvature.
At the time of writing this report the only way to get this lens is to order directly from Zenith in Russia for ~880€ or hoping one shows up on ebay.com/ebay.de (affiliate links)
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44 thoughts on “Quick Review: Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E”
Thanks a lot for the review. Too bad the lens isn’t performing.
But as you can see here, it’s possible to shoot really beautiful and/or interesting photos with a bad lens!
(Admittedly you don’t need an EXPENSIVE bad lens for that, an old vintage one for a handful of bucks suffices totally :-))
Vielen Dank fürs Review.
Was haben die sich bloß dabei gedacht? Was für ein Mist…
Oh, thank you very much for this review! It’s great that you were able to test it. Finally.
Actually I was hoping that this lens would be better than Mitakon (otherwise, why on Earth buying an 1.2 kg lens???). Such a pity it’s not like that. I wondering, were there any managers at Zenit, who could have stopped the release after looking at Mitakon, and asked the developers to fix the optics instead? Or cancel the release to avoid shaming themselves.
Interestingly, as I told before, the retail price of Zenitar E has grown by around 10% since its release…
If they lowered the price by 50% I would still not be able to recommend it to anynone.
Глубокий вздох… и вправду несколько стыдно за наших. Зачем вообще было выпускать.
Do you think you could have a bad sample? Or do you think these are design flaws? Do other lenses produced by this manufacturer also have such severe issues?
The design is inherently flawed.
Their 35mm 1.0 looked similarly bad when I tried it.
You took such a strong opinion from the start, I wonder if maybe you just don’t like Russia or Russians? Or maybe you were paid by a competing brand? I compared my own copy of this lens to the Leica Noctilux using a M to E adatper and found them very similar. The lens Zenitar is sharp, and perhaps you got a bad copy, or tried very hard to make it look bad.
I will ignore all the insults and stupidity in your comment for now.
You are invited to send me your copy and I will have a look at it.
I’ve noticed the field curvature also on my copy of Mitakon 35/0.95 on my Fuji. Took me a while to figure out what was going on with the image as the focus plane felt randomly positioned around the image. Now I see that other lenses have it as well.
This lens is so systematically wrong for what it is for…
And still some good images can be made with it!
Thanks for your review!
Black corners. This is not the fault of the lens, this is the fault of the Sony bayonet on the second-generation cameras. I have the same problem with the Apo-Sumicron 90mm. On the cameras of the third generation of black corners is not observed.
Field curvature. The lens is designed for Leica matrices. In your review of Nocton (for Leica) 50 / 1.2, the problem is the same.
Obviously it is not the bayonet’s fault as then the corners would be black at all apertures if it was.
Furthermore a lens that only comes in E-mount, not in M-mount, should be designed for E-mount, don’t you think so?
Look at the image of the camera. It is seen that the bayonet overlaps the matrix.
By now I have used many lenses on the A7rII.
My colleagues here have also used many lenses on their Gen 2 Sony cameras.
Combined those are easily more than 200 lenses.
The only other lens I have seen a similar issue with is the 1.9/183 Visionar projector lens.
And again: if this was the issue it would be visible at any aperture, not just stopped down.
This is simply an inherent design flaw of this Zenitar lens.
I also did not find any “do not use this on gen2 cameras, as otherwise you will get black corners” sticker on the box.
And as far as I know development of this lens began way before there even were gen3 cameras.
And again: this is a lens designed to be used with E-mount cameras, not some adapted Leica lens.
I am not sure if I tested this lens stopped down on my A7III, will have a look later if I did.
I owned Mitakon 50/0.95ii two years and have sold it: bad colors is really depressed me. Zenitar 50/0.95 has certainly better colors, and, for me – it has better bokeh: smooth and silky (I tried Zenitar at Fotoforum Expo). I have tried both lens on Sony a7rii and I likes Zenitar much more than Mitakon.
I agree with Bastian: instead Zenitar better buy Voigtlander 50/1.2 FE – if you want speed 50mm lens for portraits. Voigtlander 50/1,2 (besides lovely image character) has electronic contacts to communicate exifs and focus distance with camera, and it helpful feature. As for me, my favorite 50mm lens is Leica Summilux 50/1.4 ASPH.
And, Bastian, I always like your reviews, because you make beautiful photos. You know for what and know how to use gear that you reviewed.
I really like your pictures on Instagram 🙂
That is pretty much 7 artisans 55mm 1.1f but 3x more expensive, nearly 4x heavier/bulkier and it seems 7artisans also has better build quality..
I would be really interested in that 35mm 1,2f that was released with that Leica camera copy, although that lens is bloody expensive and it seems that the optical quality is pretty much the same, at least the unique busy rendering is…
As for the black corners, this is indeed poor compatibility between lens and a camera. On one hand Sony suffers because of it APSC designed bayonet and a very short flange distance, this is truth to the wide angle lenses there is barely any UWA that has sharp corners on any Sony cameras…
On the other hand is this Zenitar lens which was probably designed to be placed just a little further from the sensor – placing lens further – creates bigger image circle, stopping it down, covers sides of the image so that is why there are black corners.. Wide open the amount of light is so huge that this effect becomes softer and more spread out across the frame, stopping it down makes it sharper and more localized.
Could it be that maybe the native mount of this lens is too short by a fraction of mm?
Sorry, but here I stumble: “there is barely any UWA that has sharp corners on any Sony cameras…”
What about Loxia 21mm/2.8, Batis 18, Sony FE 16-35mm/2.8 GM, Sony FE 12-24mm/4.0 etc.?
And regarding the Zenitar reviewed here, it is no UWA lens, but a nifty fifty …
It’s an E mount lens so corners dark isn’t surprising on a full frame. The Zenit lenses are capable of some amazing creative looks that you don’t get from other lenses and as such are suitable for creative and artistic uses. I’ve shot with the 095 and quite like it, but you have to learn how to use it.
Well any other Of the 40 or so E-mount lenses we have reviewed so far don‘t have black corners.
If you want lots of aberrations and unsharp images then it is certainly a great lens.
how is the coma correction of this lens at full aperture?
Can you eventually add some pics?
Thank you and best regards,
Corner resolution is so bad at wider apertures (closed down they are simply black, so I don’t know here either), I could not be bothered to check coma correction in detail.
These lens is Бесполезное говно (“Useless gavno”), like russkies cars. Do not waste your money and time.
Sometimes a really bad lens produces great results in the hands of someone who gets it along with its quirks. This shot from Alexandra Bochkareva is an example.
I think the bokeh is super distracting in this shot, but if this is what you like: go ahead and spend one grand on this lens or – my recommendation – get the 7artisans 50mm 1.1 for a fraction.
Flawed review with a bunch of less then truthful info.
Here’s my copy,
I love this lens and currently is my favorite 50.
let’s forget the insult for a second: Where exactly do you disagree with this review and what evidence do you have to support your point? I see a few images which show the same nervous bokeh demonstrated here and some very low resolution images which tell me nothing about the sharpness.
If he paid 560 bucks for that, that’d explain the severe case of cognitive dissonance. IMHO, even the low res pics are unsatisfactory in sharpness… But then, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or he’s got some shares in that company.
Well, for one, the fit and finish is as good as it gets, very and I mean very smooth focus. The feel of the lens is top notch, very high quality and I’d say better then any Chinese lenses I’ve own or owned.
Background is what it is, almost any lens can make background good or not so good, you just have to know or purposelessly compose the shot, that was not my intent, was to test it open. Did you see the second part? Yes, the lens is VERY sharp wide open, I haven’t edited anything (besides resizing) The other thing, it’s an easy lens to shoot accurately wide open, focus peaking is like cheating for manual glass, almost no effort.
The character on this lens is one of a kind and it’s hard to compare to most fast lenses out there, it’s different. It’s not just a fast but has a specific character.
For what it’s worth, I did not buy the lens from manufacture, it was a used lens that I bid on Ebay, I got lucky as for the price I paid, I’d never sell it. I wish the lens was this price new but good inexpensive things don’t flood the market, for obvious reasons.
Not a pro (obviously) but some of these were edited with film “simulator” or filter, no sharpening.
Interestingly it seems the bokeh on this lens is similar to the Canon Dream Lens (50mm f/.95), which given how awful this lens is, I would not have expected.
I am using this lens now.
I bought zenitar 50mm f0.95 even read this article after.
This article make me buying this lens.
And also I buy and use speedmaster 50mm f0.95. But I don’t like that lens even I don’t know why. Speedmaster lens feel like a hard, and feel bad even smaller, lighter and easy to focus, fit for a7m3.
I already have 24-70GM, and 100mm STF GM, helios 44-2. But I like using this lens more then other lens.
(my camera is a7m3)
Many other lens provide good quality without lens characteristic. But this lens have character.
But zenit’s quality control is pretty mess. I take a repair unofficial lens store(that store import and sell zenit lens. unofficial seller) for focus ring. Store engineer sad “some part was release, so I make that tite”. If your zenitar 50mm f0.95 lens focus ring’s initial movements is too hard or tite than I think you should go to repair shop.
I was hoping you were using your imagination a bit better when testing this lens. You are treating and judging by the standard procedure: distortion, sharpness, contrast, vignetting, flare… None of these are relevant if you treat it as an artistic lens.
I’m looking for a lens which a special background blur.
An example: Street portrait at f:0,95 with unsharp christmas lights in the background which gives this special soap bubble effect with the right lens.
My question is: Is there any other lenses (lighter and with better build quality) which gives the same very special effect? The Mitakon 50mm f:0,95 doesn’t deliver i my opinion. Nearly as good as the Zenith. I know the classic Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f:1,4 is a great lens for this purpose, but can’t be used on Sony FE. What about the Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f:1,2 Aspherical?
Maybe you go through the review again (mine, not the one on Sonyalphablog 😉 ).
You may notice, that the lens does not only suck (badly) from a technical point of view, but also (badly) from an artistic point of view.
Unless you really dig that extraordinary amount of field curvature, and if that is the case, I guess the review was still helpful to you 🙂
But really, find me one person who says “Oh, this amount and type of field curvature, this is exactly what I want!”
The Mitakon is a very different lens and I guess most people would gladly prefer it to this one.
I also don’t think the Voigtländer 40mm 1.4 is a “good” lens by any (of my) standards, so maybe our idea of a “good” lens is just vastly different.
This is the review that made me realize that I have artistic preferences that are completely opposite to those of the reviewers on this site. They managed to create a bunch of wonderful visually interesting images and then are upset about the lens, ha ha. These are probably the best review sample pictures here! Anyway, I’ll go back to shooting old Soviet lenses now and leave you to it.
We live in a time where there are many people (and often a very loud minority) that think everything which is different automatically means it is good.
I don’t think so. Sometimes different means simply worse.
That is true, Bastian, and wise. If it includes the right strange facts making minority that now rules Germany, the EU and also the US.
What is certainly true that this optics can not compete with the classic characteristics or modern high end lenses. I am (also) a lover of super speed, and it is almost always very important, except surely for super-modern optics such as the Nikon 58/0.95: namely that these ultra fast optics do not like daylight, and certainly not bright sunlight. They simply feel more comfortable in twilight or semi-darkness, as some people do.
Well: please don’t argue. When it comes to Russia, this country has undoubtedly given birth to some very good optics, we know that. There, for example, I own (and use) the classic 85 1.5 in a 1987 version, which is really very good – if you know how to use it.
Working and knowing the weaknesses and the strengths nevertheless – be sure there will still go something more than just flaws.
FIX FOR VIGNETTE:
there is a very easy fix for the vignetting that this lens has, which is to remove a piece of metal from the back that is held in by two screws.
(see attached video for more detail. I am not promoting myself, this is the only video I have ever posted, I am just trying to be helpful.)
based off of reading a few other comments it seems that some people feel very strongly if this lens is “good” or “bad,” please don’t involve me in these discussions I am just sharing information.