Over the four years that I have been doing photography, I have always craved a fast 50mm equivalent prime. Unfortunately, I did never really take the plunge as I was quite content with my Panasonic 20mm F1.7, a spectacular micro 4/3 lens. When I was given the opportunity to own a Sony A6000 for a ridiculously cheap price, I thought this was my chance to experiment with not only APS-C mirrorless cameras but also, a 50mm equivalent lens. Suffice to say, it has not disappointed.
I had three options to choose from. The Sony 35mm f1.8 OSS, the newly released Sigma 30mm DC DN f1.4 and of course, the Mitakon Speedmaster 35mm f0.95 Mark II. My addiction to fast glass veered me towards the later two options and when I found I could get the Mitakon for 635 AUD (way below that of the US599 on Mitakon’s website), I could not resist!
Whilst by no means an experienced blogger, I wanted to write a review of the lens because during my buying research, there were very limited sample images and reviews on the mark II version of this lens. Hopefully this will satisfy those that are looking for opinions on the Mitakon.
Note: All sample images are shot with the Sony A6000.
Lens quality, build and handling
The lens comes in a very impressive leather box. The content however is quite sparse. You get the lens, lens cap, a very short information pamphlet and…some foam. Unfortunately no lens hood which wouldn’t have been unreasonable for a 599USD lens.
The first thing I noticed whilst handling was that the lens was heavy! Of course this is no surprise coming from a micro 4/3 user but weighing in at 460g, it does have some substantial heft. Fortunately I found this didn’t compromise handling. Though a bit front heavy on the A6000, never was it uncomfortable especially given the comfy grip of the A6000 and left hand support from manual focusing.
Mitakon 35mm f0.95 mk. II mounted on Sony A6000
In terms of size, the new mk. II Mitakon is substantially smaller then the mk. I. Though not as compact as the Sony, the Mitakon definitely holds it on. I didn’t particularly find the design to be anything to shout out at but the lens is built well with an all-metal body and mount. The cool metal touch is definitely something that makes the shooting experience more enjoyable.
Mitakon 35mm f0.95 mk. II vs. Sony 35mm f1.8 on A6000
Whilst only ever handling manual focus lenses a couple of times in my lifetime, I found the Mitakon Mk. II to be a pleasure to use. Focus is buttery smooth and there’s a good degree of focus throw to ensure precise focusing. The aperture ring is clickless unfortunately and as previous users have mentioned, this can get mistaken as the focus ring. This hasn’t really been an issue for me and whilst, it can get bumped every now and then, it is a great feature for videographers.
Mitakon 35mm f0.95 mk. II vs. Sony 35mm f1.8
One major gripe I do have is that my copy of the lens focuses past infinity. Hopefully others won’t have this issue but it means that I do have to pay close attention to focusing whilst shooting landscapes.
Now to the good stuff.
The lens performs well wide open in the centre. Not the stuff of legends (looking at you Panasonic 20mm) but good enough that you can get a nice-looking portrait if you nail focus. If you are real stickler, f1.4 gets you tack sharp centers and this continues upwards until f/8. Anything after and images start to get soft.
f0.95, 1/800s, ISO 200
Corner sharpness is poor at f/0.95 and doesn’t really start to sharpen up until f/4. This doesn’t pose much of an issue for me as most of my shots generally have subjects relatively within the center of the frame meaning the shallow depth of field predominantly blurs the edges. F/8 is the sweet spot and the image tends to be sharp across the whole frame.
f8, 1/20s, ISO 200
Fortunately given the focal length and the type of photography that most will do with this lens (potraits, street, etc.), sharpness wide open is definitely not an issue so long as the subject isn’t falling off the side of the frame.
f0.95, 1/165s, ISO 100
So the one thing I definitely was not prepared for was the crazy thin depth of field at f/0.95. Focusing at this particular aperture is difficult to say the least but nailing focus tends to give images a pleasant 3D pop. One thing I tend to find is that stopping down to f1.4 still produces nice images with pop and increases my hit rate (unfortunately I accidentally formatted the card which had all my f1.4 shots but will post some examples in due time).
In terms of bokeh, focusing at minimum distance (0.35m) as well as for potraits renders a buttery smooth background with a slight swirl. It gives a nice dream-like appearance but obviously this is for yourself to judge. At medium distance, bokeh is still pleasant but can at times be a bit messy and obviously won’t be as buttery smooth compared to when focusing up close.
At minimum focusing distance – f0.95, 1/125s, ISO 100
Bokeh balls are cat-eyed shaped at f/0.95 so whilst not characteristically as pleasant as perfectly round balls, it’s not personally a deal breaker.
f0.95, 1/200s, ISO 800
Vignetting, distortion, CA and flare
So far, the lens has behaved quite well in relation to the above technical aspects. Vignetting is pleasant and I would say not as severe as what I would get shooting wide open on my Panasonic 20mm f1.7. Barrel distortion isn’t an issue on the Mitakon and certainly not as much as from sample images of the Sigma 30mm f 1.4 DC DN.
In direct sunlight, the lens can flare however I wouldn’t say it’s excessively distracting and can create quite a nice effect in some circumstances. If sun is at the edges, then some magenta streaks do develop. In these type of circumstances I would recommend using a lens hood. Nonetheless, contrast still holds up well when shooting directly into the sun.
f0.95, 1/4000s, ISO 100
Chromatic aberration is present in high contrast scenes however this is easily dealt with in post-processing and never really posed an issue to me.
f0.95, 1/160s, ISO400
Some purple fringing at high contrast areas – crop from above
Close focusing distance
The close focusing capabilities isn’t spectacular and looses out to the Sony 35mm f1.8 and Sigma 30mm f1.4 DC DN however not by a large margin. I would recommend definitely stopping down if attempting to shoot at the minimum distance. At f/0.95, the depth of field is so thin that the images end up being practically a blur!
f0.95, 1/200s, ISO100
As mentioned before, focusing is difficult with this lens wide open. This becomes increasingly more difficult with the less light that is available. Moving objects particularly at night are very difficult to focus on (either from the screen or view finder) and coupled with the lack of image stabilization, makes for a frustrating shooting experience. Even when shooting in a moderately lit indoor environment, I found my shots to be less accurate and that I would need to be aware of my shutter speed to prevent blurring. As such, I would say that there are better options out there if you intend to do street photography.
My time so far with the Mitakon 35mm f/0.95 mk. II has been not only enjoyable experience, but a rewarding one as well. There’s something about taking a step back and letting your hands do at least some of the work. I found it to add another dimension to my shooting and whilst I wasn’t always accurate, there was always a thrill of being actually able to nail focus once in a while.
So the Mitakon.
It isn’t going to win any awards for how well it performs technically.
The asking price is reasonable but certainly not a bargain.
And there may be slight issues with getting use to it’s handling.
But I can say with full confidence that the images it produce, particularly with the right light, makes for a brilliant shooting experience. Mitakon…you are a welcome addition to the team.
f0.95, 1/125s, ISO 100f0.95, 1/640s, ISO 100f0.95, 1/2000s, ISO 640f2.8, 1/125s, ISO 400f0.95, 1/1250s, ISO 100f0.95, 1/4000s, ISO 400f0.95, 1/4000s, ISO 100f0.95, 1/200s, ISO 100f0.95, 1/125s, ISO 800f8, 8s, ISO 100,
f0.95, 1/640s, ISO 200 f0.95, 1/1000s, ISO 100f0.95, 1/500s, ISO 100f0.95, 1/2000s, ISO 100
f4, 1/800s, ISO 100
f0.95, 1/400s, ISO 100
f4, 15s, ISO 100