The M-System seems to be extremely popular in China, as we still see an increasing amount of manufacturers offering new M-mount lenses from this country. The latest is Syoptic with this 50mm f/1.1, sometimes referred to as “Mr. Ding 50mm lens”. Some of the few samples I found online showed very appealing bokeh rendering, so I ordered one as soon as it was possible in Europe. It took longer than expected, but I finally have it in my hands, so let’s have a closer look.
This lens will be reviewed on the 42mp Sony A7rII and the 24mp Leica M10.
Update March 2022: tests of E-mount version added
Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.
- Sample Images
- Handling / Build Quality
- Flare resistance
- Chromatic aberration
- Focus shift
- Sample Images
- Further Reading
The lens seems to be available for most mirrorless mounts. The M-mount version has a casing similar to a Leica M-mount lens, the Z/RF/E lenses look more like the E-mount Voigtländer lenses. I bought the M-mount version and later received a review sample of the E-mount version, the specifications are:
- Diameter: 62 mm (M/E)
- Field of view: 47° (diagonally)
- Length: 61 mm (M/E)
- Weight: 405g (M) / 389g (E)
- Filter Diameter: 52 mm
- Number of Aperture Blades: 11 (rounded)
- Elements/Groups: 8/6
- Close Focusing Distance: 0.7 m (M) / 0.35 m (E)
- Maximum Magnification: 1:11.7 (M) / 1:6.0 (E)
- Mount: Leica-M / Sony-E
Handling / Build Quality
As usual when dealing with a lens from a new manufacturer we will have a closer look here – no copy paste this time.
There are a few interesting things to point out. The lens I bought features a “Syoptic” branding, but I was told a few samples have also been sold as OEM lenses, so you might find some under different names as well.
The design resembles that of the Leica M-mount lenses, it reminds me of the Leica 50mm 1.4 Summilux-M Asph, but there is no retractable lens hood here, even though it looks like there was. Also the engravings are white/red instead of the more commonly used white/orange.
The mechanical quality feels very good, albeit not as good as that of the Leica or some of the better TTArtisan lenses: the aperture ring (90° rotation from f/1.1 to f/16, but no f/11) is of the linear type with non-equidistant stops (which I am not a fan of) but luckily we get click stops (which I am a big fan of), so it is possible to change the aperture to a desired value without looking at the lens. On this sample the aperture ring can also be moved a bit further than f/1.1, a feature it shares with some Leica lenses I have used and find rather undesirable. It should also be noted that the aperture ring turns in the opposite direction compared to the Leica and Voigtländer M-mount lenses.
The focus ring offers a nice, even resistance and rotates 90° from the minimum focus distance of 0.7 m to infinity. The focus ring is a bit softer than that of most of my other M-mount lenses.
When using the lens on a rangefinder camera like the Leica M10 there is noticeable viewfinder blockage which gets worse on focusing closer, as this lens features a unit focus design.
Luckily – as has been kind of the norm for M-mount lenses from China – it is again possible to adjust the rangefinder coupling yourself. Oh how I wish all my rangefinder lenses from Japan would allow for this.
There is no hood distributed with the lens, but the front element is almost one centimeter recessed. The issue here is, that also the 52mm filter thread is recessed and in its current state it is very fiddly to attach a filter and even more fiddly to remove it.
I am not as impressed with the build quality here as I was with e.g. the 7Artisans 28mm 1.4 or the TTArtisan 50mm 1.4, but this lens comes close and the only thing that really bothers me at the end of the day is the recessed filter thread.
I shared my findings with the manufacturer and he is looking to improve the design regarding the filter thread as well as the hard stop of the aperture ring for further production runs.
With its hill-and-valley focus ring the E-mount version resembles the look of the Voigtländer E-mount lenses.
The aperture ring (90° rotation from f/1.1 to f/16, but no f/11) is very similar to that of the M-mount version, but here the aperture ring can be moved a bit further at the f/16 end, which I greatly prefer over it being the f/1.1 end.
The focus ring offers a nice but not perfectly even resistance and rotates a little more than 180° from the minimum focus distance of 0.35 m to infinity. The focus ring is less soft compared to the M-mount version.
The E-mount version also features a 52mm filter thread but here it is easy to reach.
Unlike its M-mount sibling the E-mount version does ship with a bayonet type lens hood. It is made from aluminium sits tight and can be mounted reversed to take up less space. It is also painted with matte black paint on the inside, as it should be.
|f/1.1||3.4 EV||2.3 EV|
|f/1.4||3.1 EV||2.2 EV|
|f/2.0||2.1 EV||1.3 EV|
|f/2.8||1.4 EV||1.0 EV|
|f/4.0||0.9 EV||0.6 EV|
|f/5.6||0.6 EV||0.6 EV|
|f/8.0||0.4 EV||0.6 EV|
|f/16||0.4 EV||0.6 EV|
The M-mount version shows vignetting at wider apertures which is in line with what I have seen with other 50mm lenses. The MS-Optics 50mm lenses, the 7Artisans 50mm 1.1, the TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 and the Voigtländer VM 50mm 1.5 II show even higher vignetting figures at their widest aperture. The Voigtländer VM 50mm 1.2 and the Laowa 45mm 0.95 show very similar values. The Samyang 50mm 1.2 XP and the Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 M show half a stop less vignetting in the corners.
The E-mount version on the other hand is doing noticeably better at wider apertures, showing significantly less pronounced vignetting figures here. Stopped down both lenses perform the same within the margin of error and differences in sensor technology.
It is recommended to have a look at this article first to get an idea how this brightness graph works.
What is also surprising is the very low vignetting stopped down, by f/5.6 it is hardly noticeable anymore. The only other 50mm lenses I have used that show this little vignetting stopped down are the Samyang 50mm 1.2 XP and the Sigma 50mm 1.4 EX.
Very fast yet compact lenses usually show a significant amount of optical vignetting. Without going too much into technical details optical vignetting leads to the truncation of light circles towards the borders of the frame.
In the center of the frame almost every lens will render a perfect circle, but only lenses with very low optical vignetting will keep this shape in the corners.
So in the following comparison we move from the center (left) to the extreme corner (right) and see how the shape of the light circle changes.
I have reviewed a lot of fast 50mm lenses and I thought this time it might be interesting to add a few more lenses to put things into perspective. As you can see all of these lenses show strong optical vignetting and I am not sure how field relevant these differences would actually be. I like the Voigtländer VM 50mm 1.5 II the least here, due to very strong onion rings and a very sharp shape in the corners and the MS-Optics 50mm 1.0 ISM has the strongest optical vignetting, already visible not that far from the center. The other ones are rather similar.
The E-mount version of the Syoptic shows a little less optical vignetting in the extreme corners than the M-mount version, but this is not a big difference and will only be visible in a rare number of cases.
The lines running through the circles are due to the glass I used as a mirror to take these pictures and are not a feature of the lens.
I did not shoot the lenses side by side, if I did the light circles would be of same size at shared apertures. The lenses were set to 0.7 m focus distance, results may vary at other distances.
When looking closely we also see the change in diameter between f/1.1 and f/1.4 is not as big as it should be and the change between f/1.4 and f/2.0 is bigger than it should be. In comparison to other lenses it looks to me like the f/1.4 click stop isn’t where it is supposed to be, it is closer to f/1.2 than f/1.4. I shared my findings with the manufacturer and he is looking to improve this for further production runs.
The optical design is inspired by the older Leica Noctilux f/1.0 or the Voigtländer 50mm 1.1 Nokton, which means: double gauss based design, no aspherical elements, comparably low element count.
This all spherical optical design leads to an absence of any onion ring structures, but I also expect some issues with off center sharpness – at least at wider apertures, so let’s find out in the following sections if I am right.
infinity (42mp Sony A7rII)
For an f/1.1 lens the performance in the center is surprisingly good at infinity as there is only a little bit of softness due to spherical aberration visible.
The performance in the corners reminds me a lot of the Voigtländer VM 40mm 1.2, which also showed a noticeable drop in resolution close to the extreme cornes. This is actually better visible in the coma section.
A solid performance for a compact and affordable f/1.1 lens if you can live with the reduced sharpness in the extreme corners.
I tested both, the M-mount and E-mount version on the Sony A7rII and there were no relevant differences visible here, except for less vignetting in the corners when using the E-mount version.
infinity (24mp Leica M10)
Now this is something I haven’t seen in a fast Leica M lens yet: the performance on the M10 with its thinner filter stack and the A7rII is very similar! So have a look what I wrote above, it applies here as well.
portrait distance 1.4 m distance (24mp Sony A7III vs 24mp Leica M10)
For portraiture it isn’t so important how flat the field is, it is more interesting to see what the sharpness is like when focused at different parts of the frame to take field curvature out of the equation.
We will be looking at 100% crops from the 24mp Sony A7III and the Leica M10. Both cameras do not have an anti aliasing filter in front of the sensor.
Sony A7III <—> Leica M10
This Syoptic 50mm 1.1 is one of those lenses where the focal plane with highest resolution is not necessarily the one with highest contrast, which makes it a bit hard to focus, especially when using the M10’s mediocre liveview.
Also at this distance we see some spherical aberration and some astigmatism when moving towards the corners.
Putting this into perspective with other lenses I checked at this distance: better than Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 M and MS-Optics 50mm 1.1 Sonnetar, similar to TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 and MS-Optics 50mm 1.0 ISM, worse than TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 and Voigtländer VM 50mm 1.5 Nokton II.
close M (0.70 m, 1:11.7, 42mp A7rII)
100% crops from center, A7rII, because of focus shift (see corresponding section) I refocused for every shot.
The performance near the minimum focus distance is typical for a very fast lens without a floating elements design. At wider apertures we see a high amount of spherical aberration (glow) and it takes stopping down to f/2.8 to get really crisp results at these distances. Performance here is pretty much exactly the same as that of e.g. the Voigtländer VM 50mm 1.2 Nokton and many other compact fast lenses.
close E (0.35 m, 1:6.0, 42mp A7rII)
100% crops from center, A7rII, because of focus shift (see corresponding section) I refocused for every shot.
Unlike the M-mount version the E-mount version focuses down to 0.35 m resulting in a maximum magnification of 1:6. It doesn’t come as a surprise that also here stopping down to get crisp results is recommended.
As always evaluating flare is a complex matter since you can get any lens to look bad if you push it hard enough and a slight change of scenario can affect results a lot.
Sun outside frame
The Syoptic 50mm 1.1 does not ship with a hood and even though the front element is recessed I think it would have been useful, as the lens has quite some issues with stray light. If a strong light source is outside the frame it is easy to encounter significant veiling flare running across most of the frame. The flares are more severe stopped down, but still easy to encounter at maximum aperture.
Also at night with street lamps this is something easy to encounter, here shading the lens with my hand helped though:
Unlike the M-mount version the E-mount one does ship with a lens hood. Using it improves the performance with point light sources outside the frame:
Sun inside frame
With the sun inside the frame the situation is a bit better, but it is still easy to catch frame filling artefacts and encounter a loss of contrast.
From f/1.1 to f/2.0 there is noticeable coma visible. Stopping down to f/2.8 and f/4.0 improves the coma performance significantly, but now we can see that there is also some astigmatism in the corners present, which you can mostly get rid of by stopping down to f/5.6.
100% crops from extreme corner, focused on center, M10
The Syoptic 50mm 1.1 shows an absolutely minimal amount of distortion which should hardly be field relevant, even for architecture applications.
What got me interested in ordering this lens were a few samples I found online that showed very appealing bokeh rendering – at least to my eyes. So let’s find out if my first impression was correct.
As usual with very fast lenses at close focus distances we can encounter very smooth and undistracting bokeh. With point light sources in the background you will be able to spot the optical vignetting, but the shapes still look comparably natural to me.
What really caught my eye at mid distances is the smooth transition from in-focus to out-of-focus and the smooth rendering even when dealing with complex backgrounds.
What always separates the wheat from the chaff when it comes to the bokeh qualities is the performance at longer focus distances. When optical vignetting and field curvature overlap in an undesirable way the corners may look like they are in focus at longer distances, even when the center is very much out of focus. Just recently we saw such behaviour with the Laowa 45mm 0.95.
With the Syoptic 50mm 1.1 the situation looks better and even at longer focus distances the bokeh looks very appealing to me: no double edged structures, no obvious field curvature.
Now with pretty much all the fast 50mm (and even more so 35mm) rangefinder lenses I have used so far I saw worse corner bokeh due to the thicker filter stack in front of the sensor when using it on Sony cameras – similar to the worse corner sharpness we usually see when using lenses designed for M-mount cameras on E-mount cameras.
To my surprise there were no differences in terms of sharpness, but will this be the case for the bokeh, too?
In the scene I picked here we would easily see bokeh issues caused by field curvature in the writing in the corner of the frame, as was the case with e.g. the Voigtländer VM 35mm 1.2 III.
What caught me by great surprise: there is hardly a difference visible between using this 50mm lens on M10 or A7III.
I have already used 27 different 50mm lenses and reviewed almost 20 of those here. At the end of the day, this Syoptic 50mm 1.1 for 300 bucks is one of my favorites when it comes to bokeh rendering.
The Syoptic 50mm 1.1 features 11 rounded aperture blades, good news for bokeh when the lens is slightly stopped down, not particularly good news for sunstars.
Hard to get both right in one lens (Cosina tried with the Voigtländer 35mm and 50mm 2.0 Apo-Lanthars though) and I think for a fast lens likely to be used for portraiture a high number of round blades are a sensible choice.
If you want to know more about sunstar rendering of different lenses have a look at this article.
100% crops from corner, A7rII
There are only minor lateral CA visible near the corners that are easily corrected in a raw developer like Lightroom by one click.
The high amount of spherical aberration at close distances masks the longitudinal CA a bit, so it will be more revealing to see what the performance is like at longer focus distances.
Leica M10 | Syoptic 50mm 1.1 | f/1.1
Here we can clearly see a bit magenta in front of and cyan behind the focal plane. For an f/1.1 lens the performance is not bad and comparable to lenses like the TTArtisan 50mm 1.4, Sony 55mm 1.8 or the Sony 35mm 1.8, all slower lenses, where the problem should be less pronounced.
In high contrast scenes the longitudinal CA can also be visible in lower resolution images. You can try to correct this (like I did here), but this will not always work perfectly.
Sony A7III | Syoptic 50mm 1.1 M | f/1.1
50% crops, A7rII
With some lenses when stopping down the plane of optimal focus shifts to the back or the front. The Syoptic 50mm 1.1 is one of those lenses and the focus shift is noticeable when making the jump from f/1.4 to f/2.0 and even more noticeable from f/2.0 to f/2.8. For rangefinder users this is rather bad news and definitely something to watch out for.
When taking pictures at or near infinity the focus shift is hardly relevant, for the sharpness charts I did not adjust the focus setting on stopping down.
I will only cover the really obvious alternatives in detail here, but if you ended up here by accident and you are looking for an AF lens may have a look at our Guide to 50mm lenses for Sony E-mount.
Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 Nokton E:
The most obvious competitor. You gain electronic communications with your camera, better flare resistance and the minimum focus distance is 0.45 m, which is better than the M-mount but worse than the E-mount version of the Syoptic lens.
In terms of sharpness they are rather similar at portrait distances and both offer very appealing bokeh rendering. But then there is the price difference…
buy from CameraQuest | B&H | Robert White | amazon.com | amazon.de | ebay.com | ebay.de for $999 (affiliate links)
Voigtlander 50mm 2.0 APO-Lanthar:
If you are looking for the best possible correction of optical aberrations instead of lots of bokeh this is the lens you are looking for.
buy from CameraQuest | B&H | Robert White | amazon.com | amazon.de | ebay.com | ebay.de for $1049 (affiliate links)
Voigtlander VM 50mm 1.2 Nokton:
See E-mount version above, except for the minimum focus distance, this one has 0.7 m.
buy from CameraQuest | B&H | amazon.com | ebay.com | ebay.de for $1.059 (affiliate links)
7Artisans 50mm 1.1:
This is a very different lens as it is not optimized to give smooth bokeh at maximum aperture but rather nervous bokeh with lots of field curvature. Does not fit my taste, but maybe you like this kind of look.
buy from amazon.com | amazon.de | B&H | ebay.com | ebay.de for $349 (affiliate links)
TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 M:
Probably the currently most sold f/0.95 M-mount lens. Significantly bigger and heavier, 3 times at expensive.
Corners at infinity also never look great, more but to my eyes worse bokeh, similarly bad flare resistance.
buy from amazon.com/amazon.de, B&H or ebay.com/ebay.de for about $755/860€ (affiliate links)
Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 M:
In terms of look of the pictures I prefer it over the aforementioned TTArtisan lens, but it also comes with quite a few compromieses, especially flare resistance and off center sharpness at wider apertures. It is also significantly bigger, heavier and 3 times as expensive. And the 1.0 m minimum focus distance is a real burden.
buy from amazon.com or B&H for $799 (affiliate links)
Leica Noctilux-M 50mm 0.95:
I have never used this lens personally, mainly due to it being roughly 12 grand. I expect higher sharpness, better build quality and better flare resistance. But in terms of bokeh I am definitely not a fan of this one.
buy from amazon.com | amazon.de | B&H | ebay.com | ebay.de for $12.500 (affiliate links)
We have a really wide variety of (M-mount) lenses to choose from these days, so whenever there is a new one it barrens the question: did we need it? Are there any tangible improvements over already existing lenses? To put it simple: is there actually any reason to get this lens?
The craftmanship of this Syoptic 50mm 1.1 feels very solid and what was even more surprising: the rangefinder coupling as well as the hard infinity stop were perfectly calibrated out of the box – something I rarely encounter even with way more expensive lenses from reknown brands.
This is not to say there weren’t any flaws. If you don’t intend to use this lens at the maximum aperture most of the time – and you are using mainly the rangefinder to focus – the focus shift will be an issue. The flare resistance isn’t good and certainly something to watch out for.
And then there is the almost unreachable filter ring, actually my main concern and something that will hopefully be fixed in further production runs.
But what I care most about in a fast 50mm lens is what the bokeh looks like and here this lens is a real winner to my eyes. The sharpness is also more than good enough for the portrait applications I have in mind for a lens like this.
I like the Voigtländer VM 50mm 1.2 Nokton, but I never bought it because I thought it was a bit too expensive (keep in mind I am more of a 35mm guy, so I don’t want to spend as much on a 50mm). I also like the TTArtisan 50mm 1.4, but I never bought it because I thought it was a bit heavy for a manual focus f/1.4 lens. I bought the Samyang 50mm 1.2 XP out of curiosity, but sold it because the optical qualities/weight+size ratio wasn’t good enough for me at the end of the day.
Now this Syoptic 50mm 1.1 looks like it is the perfect 50mm lens for my needs.
The E-mount version of the Syoptic lens features a few advantages over the M-mount version: it is a little bit lighter, focuses closer, comes with a lens hood and shows (very slightly) less optical vignetting and (noticeably) less light fall off and on top of that it is even quite a bit cheaper.
Nevertheless, apart from these differences the M-mount version does perform very similar on the Sony cameras, not only in terms of sharpness, but also in terms of bokeh rendering. There is hardly a difference between using the M-mount lens on a Sony camera versus a Leica camera, which is very rare. So if you are looking for an M-mount 50mm lens because you are using both systems or you are looking to use it on a Techart AF adapter you should have a serious look at this one as well.
Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.
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