After the TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 we got another unexpected 50mm 0.95 M-mount contender in 2020, this time from Zhong Yi, who already have some experience with making 50mm 0.95 lenses for other systems.
Let us try to found out who offers the better affordable f/0.95 for M-mount!
This lens will be reviewed on the 42mp Sony A7rII and the 24mp Leica M10.
Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.
- Sample Images
- Specifications / Version History
- Handling / Build Quality
- Flare resistance
- Chromatic aberration
- Focus shift
- Sample Images
- Further Reading
Specifications / Version History
Zhong Yi has been quite busy making 50mm 0.95 full frame lenses, we already had three for E-mount: a short lived 58mm filter thread MK I, the rather famous MK II and the MK III, which has also been ported to a few other mounts. In addition to that they also designed a 50mm 0.95 for EF mount and now this 50mm 0.95 for M-mount which has the following specifications:
- Diameter: 74 mm
- Field of view: 47° (diagonally)
- Length: 78 mm (+adapter)
- Weight: 685g (+adapter, without hood and caps)
- Filter Diameter: 67 mm
- Number of Aperture Blades: 9 (slightly rounded)
- Elements/Groups: 11/8
- Close Focusing Distance: 0.75 m*
- Maximum Magnification: 1:11.9 (measured)*
- Mount: Leica-M
*the lens I reviewed had a minimum focus distance of 0.75 m whereas it seems the final production model only allows for 1.0 m
The Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 M was kindly provided free of charge by Zhong Yi for reviewing purpose for a duration of 4 weeks.
This was a pre-production sample, so minor changes are still possible.
The very fast maximum aperture is what sets this lens apart from most of the other 50mm lenses. I don’t want to anticipate the conclusion right at the beginning, but if you don’t want to use this lens at f/0.95 there are definitely smarter options available. I will therefore heavily concentrate on how this lens performs wide open, especially as a portrait lens.
Handling / Build Quality
The lens feels tightly assembled and everything seems to be made from metal, but I can’t tell you how durable the lens will be in the long term. All I can do is give you my superficial impression which is positive in this case. Nevertheless I had some mechanical issues with previous Zhong Yi lenses and can only hope they are not preset here as well.
Markings are yellow/white (engraved and filled with paint) and the focus ring has a nice, even resistance and turns about 160° from the minimum focus distance of 0.75 m to infinity.
The aperture ring has equidistant markings but unfortunately no click stops.
The lens features a rangefinder coupling, but I would not recommend to rely on the rangefinder when using this lens at wider apertures, the depth of field is too shallow to consistently get decent results.
Leica knows this, so this is what the M10 manual says about accuracy with fast lenses.
There is no hood included in the package, which did surprise me a bit, as the other Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 for different mounts shipped with one.
Wide open there is strong light falloff of roughly 2.8 EV in the extreme corners, stopped down to f/1.4 this improves to 1.9 EV, stopped down to f/2.8 it is 1.5 EV and further improves to 1.2 EV at f/8.0.
These values are comparable to the Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 E-mount lenses and much better than the TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 M.
The TTArtisan lens also showed almost black corners stopped down, this is much less of an issue here, still, the very extreme corners remain rather dark stopped down.
As this is the case for both 50mm 0.95 M-mount lenses I have tried yet (albeit it is significantly less of an issue here) this may be due to the difficulty of making an f/0.95 lens for the small M-mount bayonet.
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.
For comparison’s sake I included the Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95 II E as well as the TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 M here. All these three lenses show a similar amount of optical vignetting.
What is noticeable: this new Zhong Yi M-mount lens shows none of that strange light spill like on the E-mount version and no onion ring patterns that we have seen with the TTArtisan lens.
This comparison was done at ~0.7 m focus distance, you may get slightly different results at other distances.
infinity (42mp Sony A7rII)
In the center the resolution at infinity is quite okay at f/0.95, midframe looks clearly worse and corners slightly better than the midframe.
On stopping down things improve fast and noticeably; by f/2.8 you have a really good across frame performance, no other 50mm 0.95 lens I have tried was able to archive this so far!
Between f/2.8 and f/8.0 you will get crispy and high resolution files at infinity.
The TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 M showed a significantly worse performance here with more pronounced midzone dip and corners that never sharpened up. I shot the same scene with both lenses so you can easily compare. Interestingly also the Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 III designed for E-mount shows worse corner performance.
infinity (24mp Leica M10)
On the M10’s sensor with the thinner filter stack the performance is even better, as I would have expected.
Here the midzone dip is less pronounced and already by f/2.0 you get nice across frame performance.
Again, significantly better performance than the TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 M here.
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.
2.1m distance (24mp Sony A7III vs 24mp Leica M10)
Sony A7III <—> Leica M10
In the center and midframe there are hardly any differences between Sony A7III and Leica M10 whereas in the outer midframe the Sony looks slightly better.
This also matches my findings in the field, where I got more consistent results at f/0.95 on the Sony cameras, which may also be due to this lens being harder to focus on a Leica body (even in liveview due to worse maximum magnification).
Below is an example what this will look like in the field:
Sony A7rII | Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 | f/0.95
1.4m distance (24mp Sony A7III vs 24mp Leica M10)
Sony A7III <—> Leica M10
Performance on both the cameras is very similar here. Interestingly the lens performs worse in the outer midframe here compared to longer distances.
The Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 M seems to be optimized for slightly longer distances in general.
If you compare the results at 1.4 and 2.1 m to those of the TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 M the TTArtisan lens looks a bit contrastier at these distances.
close (0.75 m, 1:11.9)
100% crops from center, A7rII, because of focus shift (see corresponding section) I refocused for every shot.
Similar to many other (especially fast) lenses without a floating elements design the performance wide open at the minimum focus distance ain’t that great at wider apertures.
At f/0.95 the image is very soft with lots of spherical aberration.
Stopping down yields steady improvements and by f/2.0 the performance is good with f/2.8 being very good.
At maximum aperture with a strong light source in the center of the frame a ring flare (internal reflections) can be very easily provoked. Just moving the aperture ring a tiny bit (to something like f/1.0) almost completely removes that ring flare.
You can still easily catch ghosts at all apertures though.
Leica M10 | Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 M
With the sun close to the corner of the frame you can make almost every lens look bad, this is also the case here, but even with the sun at the border and slightly out of the frame you can get massive flare:
Leica M10 | Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 M
There is very obvious coma at f/0.95 and f/1.4 which has been true for every f/0.95 lens I reviewed so far. Surprisingly though it clears up quite fast from there on and stopping down to f/2.0 improves the performance significantly, which is also reflected in the sharpness infinity charts.
100% crops from extreme corner, focused on corner, A7rII
Sony A7rII | Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 | f/8.0
The Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 M shows barrel distortion with a slightly wavy sub frequency. You can mostly correct the distortion by dialing in +5 in Lightroom or Photoshop but for a perfect correction a lens specific profile would be necessary.
When looking for an f/0.95 lens the bokeh rendering will most likely be the most important aspect to you, it most certainly is for me.
It is obvious that there are slower lenses that offer higher resolution, contrast and generally better correction of optical aberrations.
Still, for some a very nice bokeh rendering can easily make up for that in the hunt for the best bokeh. Let us have a closer look how the Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 M compares here.
Close to the minimum focus distance we have butterly smooth bokeh, but as we have already seen in the sharpness close section the lens is not exactly bitingly sharp at these distances and obviously the depth of field is thin as paper, which is something than can also be used to great effect.
From head- to head-and-shoulder-portrait distance (roughly 1.2 to 1.5 m focus distance) the lens shows very smooth in-focus to out-of-focus transitions and also butterly smooth backgrounds which was already true for the Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 E-mount lenses.
At half-body-portrait distance the bokeh in center and midframe is very nice but you begin to see some deteoriations towards the corners which can even lead to a slighty swirl effect.
This gets more pronounced the further your subject is away from you. At full-body-portrait distance (rougly 3.0 m) some optical aberrations (especially coma and astigmatism) are more easily visible and can make the corners look a bit distracting.
At even long focus distances the highlights can take on rather weird triangle shapes towards the borders:
This is mostly due to coma, some other lenses that can show comparable bokeh in such situations are the Sigma 30mm 1.4 EX (APS-C) and the Sigma 50mm 1.4 EX.
In most situations I found the bokeh of this lens very pleasing and more so than that of the TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 M, keep in mind though: I did not directly compare the two lenses side by side in this regard.
The Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 for E-mount show less triangular bokeh at longer distances (rather trapezoidal) but they have some “light spill” issues at f/0.95 (see my review) so all in all I see a draw here.
The diaphragm of this Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 M has 9 rounded blades and their alignment isn’t exactly perfect, therefore the sunstars are rather undefined.
If you want to know more about sunstar rendering of different lenses have a look at this article.
50% crops from center, A7rII
100% crops from border, A7rII
Lateral CA are quite pronounced, they can mostly be corrected in camera (for Jpegs) or in a raw developer like Lightroom by one click.
In close up scenarios there is green behind and magenta in front of the focal plane visible, but this aberration is masked by spherical aberration a bit when shooting at wider apertures here. On stopping down to f/2.0 they are mostly gone and on stopping down to f/2.8 you almost completely get rid of this aberration (see focus shift section).
In extreme scenes like the one below you can easily spot longidutinal CA. Without having done a direct comparison it seems to me loCA are slightly better corrected than on the Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 E III and comparable to the TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 M.
50% crops, A7rII
With some lenses when stopping down the plane of optimal focus shifts to the back or the front. Here there is a slight focus shift visible. When using the rangefinder this can be something to watch out for at close distances, on a camera equipped with live view best use working aperture.
I will only cover the really obvious alternatives in detail here, but if you ended up here by accident and you are looking for a slower 50mm lens or even an AF lens may have a look at our Guide to 50mm lenses for Sony E-mount.
Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 E II and III:
Interestingly the M-mount lens reviewed her shows significantly better infinity performance, from my memories the E-mount lenses were a bit stronger at portrait distance though and offered slightly smoother bokeh towards the corners.
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Zenitar 50mm 0.95 E:
Still holds the crown of being the worst lens reviewed by us. Stay away from this one.
Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 Nokton E:
If you are not after that f/0.95 maximum aperture this Voigtlander is a better lens in many ways (especially flare resistance) and way more portable.
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TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 M:
From the outer appearance the TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 M and this Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 M look very similar: size, weight, filter diameter and also price are very comparable.
But if you look beyond the spec sheet the differences are plenty and I already tried to talk about them in each category, but will summarize the important ones here.
The TTArtisan looks better when it comes to build quality, as well as sunstars and slightly better when it comes to off center sharpness at mid distances and flare resistance whereas the Zhong Yi looks better in terms of vignetting, sharpness at infinity, coma correction and slightly better when it comes to bokeh rendering and distortion.
Choose the lens that better fits your applications!
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Leica Noctilux-M 50mm 0.95:
I have never used this lens personally, mainly due to it being roughly 12 grand. I would expect the Leica lens to do better in certain scenarios (e.g. flare resistance) but I cannot compare these lenses personally due to reasons mentioned above.
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SLRmagic 50mm 0.95 Hyperprime:
It seems this has only been manufacturerd for a short time and I don’t know much about it. There is a test at opticallimits that might give you an idea.
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 the cheapest option to get a new very fast 50mm lens.
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As a Sony user:
This is now the 6th 50mm 0.95 lens that I have tried/reviewed and if you look at the table above it may not seem like such a great lens at first sight with many entries in the “average” column, yet a 50mm 0.95 lens with (almost) no entries in the disadvantages column could be considered a great archivement, keeping in mind how difficult it is to design such a lens while staying in reasonable limits of price and size (see Nikon 58mm 0.95 or Leica 50mm 0.95).
What surprised me here was the good performance at infinity in terms of sharpness and coma correction when you stop the lens down a bit, the Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 M clearly surpasses its E-mount brothers as well as the TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 M here.
Therefore this M-mount version is a slightly more versatile lens, as I would not mind using it for some infinity landscape shooting, too.
If this is something that kept you form buying one of the E-mount versions you may actually be more happy adapting this M-mount version to your Sony camera.
Like with the previous Zhong Yi lenses the achilles heel is still the flare resistance. That the lens does not ship with a hood is not making things better, even though it is questionable if it would have really helped.
When the conditions were right (no point light sources in or close to the frame) the lens was enjoyable to use and gave – to my eyes – pleasing results.
As a Leica user:
I will assume that you can not afford the Leica Noctilux 50mm 0.95, so in this case the TTArtisan 50mm 0.95 is the only real alternative left, therefore I talked about the differences in great detail in every section and summarized them in the alternatives section.
Let me add: none of these two lenses is perfect, both come with compromises that you either must be willing to take or work around, but if you are looking for an affordable 50mm 0.95 lens I would rather recommend this Zhong Yi lens, as in the end I was more pleased by the results I got from it.
Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.
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