58mm f/1.2 MC Rokkor versus
   
 
50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X
   
 
 
 
The legendary 58mm f/1.2 takes on the rare 50mm f/1.2. Which will emerge victorious?.
   
 

One of the discussions that regularly rears its head on manual Minolta discussion groups is which lens is best - the 58mm f/1.2 or the 50mm f/1.2?

The 58mm is a 'cult classic' lens, with legendary sharpness, amazing "buttery smooth" bokeh, and a build quality that is second to none. One only has to look at the size of that huge front element to be impressed by the lens. On the other hand the 50mm f/1.2 is a much rarer lens, and normally commands a premium price due to this rarity. It too has outstanding build quality, and is highly sought after by Minolta afficionados. So which is the better lens?

Well, you are not likely to get a definative answer on that subject here today. One of the things that many photographers do not realise is that there is often a large degree of difference between lenses from the same production run. This is called sample variation. Additionally, these lenses are all many years old now, and at least in the case of my lenses, they have been owned by someone else before me. As a result, the results I achieve with my lenses may be totally different from the performance you achieve with yours. The only way to make sure is to do what I do, and check for yourself.

That said, the results I achieve can at least give you an idea of what to expect, and may make interesting reading . They will also provide a benchmark for when you do your own testing. If you do, and your results are significantly different from mine, please advise me. You can find my details in the 'Contact Me' section of the site.

 
 
   
 
Original Images
 
 
Here's the original images used in the testing, note the differing focal lengths has resulted in different crop areas.
 
 
 
   
50mm f/1.2 Rokkor-X @ f/8
   
 
The 58mm naturally has a tighter crop. The 58mm focal length is preferred by some photographers due to the slight telephoto effect provided by the longer focal length.
 
 
 
   
58mm f/1.2 Rokkor-X @ f/8
   
 
In the 100% crops shown below, the top image is from the centre of the frame, the centre image is from the left hand edge of the frame, and the bottom crop is from the absolute top-left corner.
 
 
Performance at f/1.2
 
 

58mm

 
50mm
 
 
 

 
 
Looking at the 100% crops above it is hard to pick between the lenses at f/1.2. The performance of both is good, but personally I feel that from these crops the 50mm has better centre sharpness and the 58mm wins in terms of the corners. However, that said it would be inappropriate to say either was superior, as any minor variation could simply be due to a slight difference in focusing accuracy.
 
 
Performance at f/2
 
 

58mm

 
50mm
 
 
 

 
 
At f/2 we see that both lenses have demonstrably improved in performance. Centre sharpness is still very close but I lean marginally to the 50mm. Corner sharpness is also close, with a slight edge to the 58mm. Both lenses have recorded an improvement in vignetting, but there is still some evident.
 
 
Performance at f/2.8
 
 

58mm

 
50mm
 
 
 

 
 
At f/2.8 the 50mm shows no evidence of vignetting, while the 58mm still records some (albeit at a very low level). Centre sharpness is excellent for both lenses, and the corner performance of the 50mm has improved to a point where I can't split the two lenses. The side sharpness of the 50mm is excellent, and may be better than the 58mm, however it is difficult to draw conclusions given the differing nature of the cropped images.
 
 
Performance at f/4
 
 

58mm

 
50mm
 
 
 

 
 
At f/4 the 50mm is starting to pull away from the earlier design. Corner sharpness has improved dramatically, and the 58mm still shows some slight evidence of vignetting. It is obvious, however, that both are very good lenses.
 
 
Performance at f/8
 
 

58mm

 
50mm
 
 
 

 
 

At f/8 both lenses are performing excellently, with no evidence of vignetting from either lens, and great sharpness right to the corners from both designs. Really, I am not sure how one could choose between these two lenses on the basis of these results. I feel that my preferred lens is the 50mm, probably because it is smaller and a little more balanced on the later model Minolta bodies that I normally use. It also has a very slight warming effect that I like. On my XE, the 58mm looks and feels great, and is the lens I would select if using that body. The 58mm is also great for portraits, due to the slightly longer focal length.

I came into this test expecting the 58mm to actually perform not as well as the 50mm. Additionally, I expected them both to perform worse than the various 50mm f/1.4 lenses that I compared them to. Well that's another story for another time, but suffice it to say that the f/1.2 lenses were a lot better than I expected, and based upon the results above I see little to separate them.

I have yet to perform an extensive test of the two lenses at distances greater than the 90cm (approximately 3 feet) used for this test. Accordingly, I make no claim that these results would be repeated at longer focusing distances. I would also like to test each lense for bokeh, which was not done here. I will however incorporate these details at a later time.

 
 
 
 
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