If you thought there weren’t enough super fast portrait lenses in the M-mount world available 2021 may prove to be an interesting year for you: in addition to TTArtisan’s 90mm f/1.25 there is also a (slightly more reasonable?) 90mm f/1.5 lens by Zhong Yi being released. Let us have a look what this lens has in store for us!
Lens is being tested on 42mp Sony A7rII and 24mp Leica M10
Update November 2022: the price has been reduced to $399
You can find most of the sample images in full resolution here.
- Sample Images
- Specifications / Version History
- Handling / Build Quality
- Flare resistance
- Chromatic aberrations
- Focus shift
- Sample Images
- Further Reading
Specifications / Version History
In terms of outer dimensions the Zhong Yi 90mm 1.5 closely resembles the original Leica 90mm 1.5 Summilux-M, albeit being roughly 250g lighter. The full specifications are:
- Diameter: 74 mm
- Field of view: 27° (diagonally)
- Length: 94 mm
- Weight: 772g (without hood and caps)
- Filter Diameter: 67 mm
- Number of Aperture Blades: 9 (slightly rounded)
- Elements/Groups: 9/6
- Close Focusing Distance: 1.1 m
- Maximum Magnification: 1:10
- Mount: Leica-M
I am reviewing a pre production sample here, there may be small changes to the specifications for the final production model.
The lens be ordered from the manufacturer’s homepage | B&H | ebay.com | amazon.com for $399 (affiliate links)
Handling / Build Quality
From the outer apperance the Zhong Yi 90mm 1.5 looks very much like a Leica M lens including the famous red dot. Markings are yellow/white (engraved and filled with paint), focus ring has a nice, even resistance and turns about 260° from the minimum focus distance of 1.1 m to infinity.
The aperture ring has equidistant steps (which is nice) but no click stops, which you may like or not. The aperture ring has a slightly low resistance on this sample though, so I often accidentally changed the aperture value.
The lens features a rangefinder coupling which can be adjusted yourself using a small screwdriver. Being an owner of an M-mount camera now I cannot stress enough what a wonderful design decision this is: the lens can easily be adjusted to be perfectly calibrated to your rangefinder camera and give best possible results without sending it in. I wish every M-mount lens would offer this. Nevertheless, with a 90mm f/1.5 lens I do not recommend to rely solely on the rangefinder but rather use liveview if possible.
I am having a look at a pre production sample here and in the past there have been notable changes between pre production and final production model when it comes to Zhong Yi lenses.
This sample also did not come with a hood, but as was the case with the Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 this may change for the final production model.
At wide apertures these values are about average for a lens with such parameters, stopped down they are suprisingly low though.
It is recommended to have a look at this article first to get an idea how this brightness graph works.
Very fast 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.
The optical vignetting towards the corners is clearly noticeable, but this is the case for almost all lenses with comparable parameters. The Sony FE 85mm 1.4 GM is one of the few lenses that is showing an above average performance here.
The TTArtisan 90mm 1.25 shows slightly less optical vignetting in the corners, but stopped down the shape of the aperture blades is quite distracting, whereas the Zhong Yi’s aperture blades keep the highlights mostly round. Both lenses do not feature aspherical elements, therefore there are no onion ring structures visible.
I did shoot both lenses side by side, focus distance was 1.1 m.
infinity (42mp Sony A7rII)
At maximum aperture the lens is slightly soft at infinity on 42mp, but the lens is surprisingly flat field with very little fall off towards the corners.
By f/4.0 the lens shows a really great performance across the whole frame but if the corners are not that important even f/2.0 will yield sufficient results. The Zhong Yi 90mm 1.5 actually shows a noticeably better performance than the TTArtisan 90mm 1.25 or the Leica 90mm 2.0 pre-Asph here.
Let us see what changes when using this lens on the Leica M10 with its thinner filter stack.
infinity (24mp Leica M10)
The center looks a bit better here which is probably due to the lower 24mp resolution. Surprisingly the corners look worse on the Leica M10 with its thinner sensor stack though, which is rare for M-mount lenses as they are usually designed for the thinner filter stack.
So here I would prefer using f/5.6 or even f/8.0 for best across frame performance.
Here at wider apertures the Leica 90mm 2.0 pre-Asph looks slightly better whereas the TTArtisan 90mm 1.25 still looks worse.
portrait distance (2.3 m)
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 (and also focus shift) out of the equation.
This is what I did here, I refocused for every shot and aperture to get the best possible result at different locations in the frame (center, inner midframe and outer midframe).
Focus distance was roughly 2.3 m and the circle of the dollar bill is more or less the size of a human eye.
Sony A7III <—> Leica M10
100% crops, Sony A7III, Leica M10
Generally the performance is pretty good no matter where in the frame your subject is. The Zhong Yi is also showing a better performance here than the Leica 90mm 2.0 pre-Asph at shared apertures.
When comparing Sony and Leica results the performance off-center is a bit better on the Leica’s thinner stack, which is something I have seen several times in the past with M-mount lenses, e.g. with the Voigtlander VM 75mm 1.5 Nokton.
close (1.1 m, 1:10)
Sony A7rII | Zhong Yi 90mm 1.5 | 100% crops from center
Due to the absence of a floating elements design former Zhong Yi lenses were not so great performers near the minimum focus distance. Surprisingly this is not the case here: the performance is really good even at the maximum aperture.
I wish that one day I will review a Zhong Yi lens and tell you the flare resistance has been greatly improved compared to their previous lenses, but it is not that day yet.
Especially at wider apertures and with backlighting you will encounter all kinds of ghosts, ring flares, rainbow artefacts and so on. With the sun not in the frame but close to it veiling flare also becomes quite the issue, no matter whether you are shooting at maximum aperture or stopped down:
The Zhong Yi 90mm 1.5 is doing slightly better than the TTArtisan 90mm 1.25 with point light sources at night, but it is not a performance to write home about either:
This pre production sample came without a hood, maybe the performance would be a little bit better with one, but when I tried shading the lens with my hand it didn’t make a huge difference to be honest.
Sony A7rII | Zhong Yi 90mm 1.5 | 100% crops from extreme corner
We see some coma/astigmatism at f/1.5 and f/2.0 but from f/2.8 the coma correction is really good and at f/4.0 even excellent. Again the lens is showing a better performance than either the TTArtisan 90mm 1.25 or Leica 90mm 2.0 pre-Asph.
The latest designs with aspherical elements like the Sony FE 85mm 1.4 GM and probably also the Sigma 85mm 1.4 DG DN Art show a slightly better performance here, but only if you want to do astrophotography this will be relevant in the field, for normal portrait applications this should not be an issue at all.
Distortion is very low and therefore should not be field relevant.
The bokeh rendering is probably one of the most important aspects of a fast portrait lens – at least for me it is – so we are having a closer look here. In terms of quantity of bokeh we get a lot, which is easily obvious from the sample images.
At closer distances the bokeh is very smooth and backgrounds just melt away – which is true for many lenses – where it gets interesting are longer focus distances, as this is where many fast lenses M-mount lenses begin to struggle.
Luckily also at longer distances the Zhong Yi 90mm 1.5 gives little reason to complain as even in the corners the bokeh is still smooth and undistracting.
As we have already seen in the optical vignetting section cat’s eyes are quite pronounced at wider apertures, so with certain backgrounds (e.g. foliage) you might also see a little bit of swirl like in the picture above.
Generally I have been very happy with the rendering of this lens as good contrast, correction of optical aberrations and smooth bokeh yield a nice subject separation.
If we take into account lenses for other mounts I see the Sony FE 85mm 1.4 GM ahead due to even smoother bokeh and less optical vignetting, but in the M-mount world it is difficult to even find something similar, at least when you cannot or do not want to afford the Leica 90mm 1.5 Summilux-M.
The Zhong Yi 90mm 1.5 has 9 rounded aperture blades and as can be seen from the pictures the alignment is not that great as the sunstars are rather frayed.
For a portrait lens I greatly prefer nicer highlights stopped down over nicer sunstars though.
If you want to learn more about this topic have a look at this article.
The ED elements are doing a really good job, there are no lateral CA visible at all.
Longitudinal CA can be visible in high contrast scenes but they are not overly pronounced. I think they are on a similar level as on the Sony FE 85mm 1.4 GM, so noticeably better than e.g. the Sony FE 55mm 1.8 ZA, FE 35mm 1.8 but worse than some of the lenses with true Apo correction like the Voigtlander 110mm 2.5 E.
Sony A7III | Zhong Yi 90mm 1.5 | f/1.5
So it won’t ruin many of your pictures, but it is still something to watch out for when shooting a backlit scene at maximum aperture.
50% crops, A7rII
The Zhong Yi 90mm 1.5 shows only very minor focus shift that will hardly be field relevant. Good news for rangefinder users!
Leica 90mm 1.5 Summilux-M:
The only other M-mount lens with the same focal length and maximum aperture. I expect better contrast and flare resistance. Whether that is worth 20 times the price is up for you to decide.
buy from ebay.com | ebay.de | B&H new for $13.695 (affiliate links)
TTArtisan 90mm 1.25:
The TTArtisan is a bit faster but also noticeably heavier. As I got to use both lenses side by side I draw the comparisons in the different chapters already.
buy from amazon.com | ebay.com | ebay.de | B&H new for $769 (affiliate links)
Voigtlander VM 75mm 1.5 Nokton:
The difference in focal length is of course noticeable, but so is the weight difference. If you are looking for a really compact M-mount portrait lens, have a look at this one.
buy from amazon.com | amazon.de | B&H | ebay.com | ebay.de for $999 (affiliate links)
Leica 90mm 2.0 Summicron-M pre-Asph:
Used the Leica 90mm 2.0 Summicron-M pre-Asph is similarly priced. It is almost a stop slower but also way more compact and in terms of size and weight a better fit to the M-system.
buy from ebay.com/ebay.de (affiliate links) for ~$700
There are plenty of native options available, covered in our guide to 85-135mm portrait lenses which will give you a good overview.
We have seen lots of lenses from the newer Chinese manufacturers that offer staggering specifications at a low price point, but more than once they were a bit too ambitious in my opinion.
But then there were also some pleasant surprises like the 7Artisans 28mm 1.4 and the TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 that both combine good sharpness with nice bokeh and the lens reviewed here falls in the same category in my opinion. The Zhong Yi 90mm 1.5 is a really good lens with the only outstanding flaw once more being flare resistance, but it is still really capable not only as a portrait lens but also as a general purpose lens.
I also wish the aperture ring had a bit higher resistance as well as click stops, but these are minor things.
There is not a lot of competition when it comes to 90mm lenses in the M-mount segment. Despite its very fair price and good optical performance I am not sure though, who this Zhong Yi 90mm 1.5 will appeal to. I guess many will prefer the TTArtisan 90mm 1.25 for its more impressive maximum aperture, the average Leica user may value compact size more and choose one of the 90mm 2.0 lenses instead. There are many users of other systems that like to adapt manual focus lenses, but here all the legacy 85mm 1.4 lenses become competitors.
But these thoughts should not spoil this conclusion: the Zhong Yi 90mm 1.5 is a really capable lens and I wouldn’t mind using it for any task where I need a 90mm lens, unless there is a lot of backlighting involved.
Update November 2022: with the new price of $399 the Zhong Yi became a really attractive big aperture M-mount lens
The lens be ordered from the manufacturer’s homepage | B&H | ebay.com | amazon.com for $399 (affiliate links)
You can find most of the sample images in full resolution here.
- Sony FE lenses: Our comprehensive and independent guide
- Guide to the best 85-135mm Portrait Lenses for Sony a7 series
- Review: Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 M
- Review: Zhong Yi 135mm 1.4
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21 thoughts on “Review: Zhong Yi 90mm 1.5 M”
Bastian, I don’t have any comments to this recent review, except for my compliments. However, the fact of two new reviews within the short period of two day brought me to point, where I have to say: your review rate and quality are awesome. Please accept my honest gratitude about your tireless and valuable work, which helps me, and potentially a lot of others, to find a path through the market and come into touch with various opinions for their passion.
Thank you, but there is still some background information that might be helpful here about releasing both reviews in such short period:
I actually finished the review of this 90mm 1.5 in late August, but I only used a prototype back then
and ZY took the time to fix a few issues that arose (which is generally a good thing).
I think it is preferable to release the review only when people can actually buy (or at least preoder) the lens and more importantly:
when I know what changes there were between Prototype and final production model.
So this time unfortunately the Laowa 85mm 5.6’s release date was the 29th and this Zhong Yi’s the 30th 🙂
Thanks for the excellent and timely review as usual!! I wonder if this lens would perform better on a Nikon Z body rather than on the Sony or the Leica… due to the fact that the filter stack thickness on Nikon Z falls roughly half way in between the thicknesses of both. Since the image was soft in the middle and sharper at the corner on the sony, and was sharp in the middle and soft on the edges of the Leica… I wonder if therefore one might expect it to have been optimized for something in between: the Nikon Z sensor 🙂
I cannot rule that out and in this very moment I am happy I don’t have a Z camera as it would mean doing 3 sharpness charts per M-mount lens 🙂
Excellent review! Thank you! This lens caught my eye, though I was not overly impressed with the bokeh. I can never seem to find the perfect balance of great bokeh, speed, resolution, and microcontrast in a 85-90ish mm lens. I found it very interesting that it resolved at such a high level on Sony. Especially in the corner. I’m surprised that they don’t just release an e-mount version
Wait, hold up they (Mitakon) just did 😎 I think you timed that on purpose didn’t you
Me too, also coma performance is surprisingly good…
Thanks again for yet another wonderful review, at what point are you changing the name of the website from philipreeve to bastiank 😉 I find it interesting how much praise the Bokeh of the 85 GM gets, it truly is an incredible lens, I wish more people understood there’s more to a lens than sharpness I feel so many people miss out on that amazing lens because of this fact.
Also I noticed a few things in this review, I would pm them to you if I knew how but I don’t so I apologize in advance.
Being an owner of an M-mount camera now I cannot stretch enough what a wonderful design decision this is:
I believe instead of “stretch” you want the word “stress” here
bacokgrounds I believe you want to be backgrounds
potrait I believe should be portrait
Ah no matter how often I read an article, there is always something that slips my fingers!
Should be fixed now.
What makes the 85mm 1.4 GM an outstanding lens is this:
It yields more blur in the corners than the 85mm 1.2 lenses but yeah, rarely anyone cares.
I’m surprised that you haven’t done a dedicated review/guide on lenses with the best quality Bokeh, since that is sort of your wheel house.
This is quite a subjective topic, so I am not sure how helpful that would be.
Have some ideas for a general article on bokeh now though…
Yeah that’s fair, though it wouldn’t necessarily need to be about the “best” bokeh but about the descriptions of the bokeh of different lenses at different apertures and distances. Some are “creamy” and some are “bubbly,” for example. And some have more longitudinal CA than others. Whether particular types are the most beautiful or best balance with other factors, is subjective of course.
You got me hooked on the idea, already working on the article.
Ok so, I keep coming back to this lens because it is very impressive to me still. One thing I wonder though is the quality of the bokeh stopped down. Does the bokeh look smoother at f2 than 1.5? I don’t think you covered this (to be fair, nobody buys a 1.5 lens for its bokeh at f2)
There is no significant change in bokeh quality between 1.5 and 2.0 with this lens.
Bastian. Do you still use this lens ? What are your additional feelings after several months of use ?
I only had a review sample for a few weeks.
I just bought this lens- found your review very helpful and fair. I have a production lens, but this lens is not high production. SN on mine is just over 400. The bad: included hood is not vented, and obstructs the RF patch as distance below 8ft. Easy to find a vented hood, the original is too nice to hack. The threads of the filter ring were “gritty”, probably paint dust. At first, felt like poor machining of the threads. Cleaned them with a Q-Tip: very smooth now. The company is doing this lens a disservice by not having a final cleaning of the parts. The focus is perfect from close-up to infinity on my Leica M9 and M8. This lens replaces my Canon 85mm F1.5, which is now a cult lens and was sold for many times what this lens cost. This lens is optically better, about the same size, and handles well, weighs less. The Bokeh on this lens is beautiful, the result of intentional under-correction of spherical aberration. Just like Nikon did in 1952 with the 10.5cm F2.5 Nikkor-PC.
You pointed out very well why I hardly recommend to get used expensive vintage lenses these days when there is a very modern lens with similar specifications from one of the Chinese manufactuers available.
Hi Bastian, thank you for your great review! What’s your opinion between this one and Samyang/Rokinon 85mm F1.4 MF rendering-wise as a budget portrait option for Sony? Looks like they both share above average bokeh.
Hmmm interesting question.
I didn’t like the mostly straight aperture blades of the original Samyang 85mm 1.4 MF and I also remember it being a little lower contrast at f/1.4.
So all else equal I would prefer the Mitakon here.