MS Optical Sonnetar 50mm f/1.1 Test pictures


by Bellamy /

4 min read

MS Optical Sonnetar 50mm f1.1 MC Test pictures
So, the lens arrived yesterday and I managed to blag an M9 to test it with. I am going to use the lens on film too, as I think that the results will be quite different, but I wanted to get some test shots done for you all without taking too long. Here are a few shots and my thoughts so far.

The new Miyazaki Sonnetar has arrived (well, my one has, yours will take a bit longer). The sonnar design and the high speed are going to make this one seriously popular lens, as can be seen by the pre-orders. I have already sold all of my pre-order slots! Still, I think it is important to have a look at how it performs and how it feels.
If any of you have owned a Miyazaki lens you will know that they are well put together. The lenses are well engineered and made from high quality materials. The lenses are hand assembled by one man, so each one is subtly different. As they are hand assembled you will find that they don’t feel like the factory made lenses of Zeiss etc, they are simpler affairs, like miniature optical jewels. The main barrel of the lens is lightweight metal, not brass, which is why it weighs a lot less than you would expect. In fact this lens is lighter than pretty much every other fast 50mm. One of the other reasons is the configuration, having less glass inside than lenses like the noctilux. Glass weighs a lot and Miyazaki san has managed to shave off the pounds on this one.
There are some quirky things about this lens that may take a bit of time to get used to.

If you look you can see that the aperture ring is at the top of the lens, which is not all that unusual in itself…but it is backwards! The aperture selection is the opposite way around from the Leica lenses, and this is sure to throw a few people at first. It took me a short while to get used to.
The other thing though is that the focus is actually above the aperture ring, which means that you can find yourself changing the aperture when you were trying to focus. This can take a bit of time to get used to. I have found that the best way to focus with this lens to to hold on to the hood to focus. This lens would really benefit from a focus tab, I think that would make a huge difference. I am sure some people will hack their lenses to make one. I am going to talk to Miyazaki san about the possibility of having one for the next version.

As you can see the lens is not all that big and does not dwarf the camera, it is actually quite similar in size to my Summicron 35mm, though the Summicron weighs considerably more. I am quite happy with this size as it does not protrude too much. Although with the hood on the lens it is actually visible in the viewfinder, so I think a few people are going to want to put a vented hood on the lens.
The lens is fast, very fast and this makes for some nice features. It is not going to win sharpness awards when wide open, it is quite a soft lens, but it seems to be good for portraits.

1/2000 f/1.1 iso 400
As you can see the bokeh is quite pleasing, but it is a very shallow depth of field, hard to find the right focal point. The colour saturation of the lens is very good.

1/1500 f/1.4 iso 400
As you can see the lens becomes more balanced at 1.4, the depth of field is a little bit more friendly.

1/1000 f/1.6 iso 400
I think this is the optimum speed for this lens, it seems to be balanced and it is a lot easier to handle at this speed. I find the bokeh to be less ‘fuzzy’ too.

1/1000 f/2 iso 400
The lens runs really well at this speed and is very comfortable to shoot.

1/750 f/2.4 iso 400
As you can see the lens is really stable at this speed and is showing good all round sharpness.

1/350 f/2.8 iso 400

1/180 f4 iso 400

1/90 f5.6 iso 400

1/45 f/8 iso 400

1/8 f/16 iso 400

I only had a short amount of time to shoot with the M9, as I had to return it, but I think these images will give you a good idea of what the lens is capable of. I hope you like the shots, as I got bitten to pieces by mosquitoes whilst shooting these for you. These images are completely un-doctored, I have only changed the size of the images so they fit on the site and don’t crash my server.
I think Miyazaki san has done it again. He has come up with a quirky and interesting lens that, whilst not for everyone, is going to make certain shooters very happy. The colour rendering is very good and the aberration is much less than I would have expected. I had a feeling that the M mount lens would be a Sonnetar after he produced the Pentax Q Sonnetar earlier this year (25mm f1.1 Q mount). I am so far very impressed with the performance of the lens and am looking forward to doing some low light testing and film shots with the lens.

23 comments on “MS Optical Sonnetar 50mm f/1.1 Test pictures”

    gonzalo September 12, 2012 at 10:20 pm / Reply

    At F1.1 the bokeh is very nervous! it’s not nice

    Jukka vatanen September 13, 2012 at 2:11 am / Reply

    It would be interesting to compate the MS Optical Sonnetar to my very old canon 50mm 1,2
    It is also a bit sft at 1,2 but with today`s Photoshop Sharpening tool, quite useful and amazing. I think the Voigtländer 50mm 1.1 will be the “king” of reasonably priced 50mm 1,1 crop.

    Marco Venturini-Autieri September 13, 2012 at 7:12 am / Reply

    The last two photos look very differently coloured. Is the aperture the only difference really?

      Bellamy September 13, 2012 at 7:14 am /

      It is, the sensor on the M9 got a little bit confused by the light balance, as it has a habit of doing.

      Shaq Khaleeq September 13, 2012 at 2:45 pm /

      So you are you are trying to demo the lens with the camera in auto-mode?? (it’s called white balance by the way, not light balance, and the camera software does that, not the sensor…). Can we assume that it was on auto-exposure as well?

      I agree that @1.1 the bokeh is not very pleasing.

      Bellamy September 13, 2012 at 2:53 pm /

      I am fully aware that it is called white balance, I am talking about the rapidly changing light in the area that I was shooting. And No, I was not shooting the camera on auto mode. Thanks for the tips.

      Shaq Khaleeq September 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm /

      You’re welcome! According to EXIF the M9 was in Aperture-priority AE and auto WB. Not full auto, true, but close. Good to know. So changing lighting conditions cause change of the color balance of the photo. perhaps this is a feature of the lens at specific apertures?

      steven September 13, 2012 at 9:01 pm /

      way to be a dick, bro.

      steven September 13, 2012 at 9:02 pm /

      that wasnt directed towards you bellamy.

      Bellamy September 13, 2012 at 10:54 pm /

      No problem, don’t worry, I got it.

      gidion October 19, 2012 at 2:26 pm /

      Shaq indeed has an attitude problem. There is no shame in using auto or manual settings.

    Jon September 13, 2012 at 8:29 pm / Reply

    Hmmmmm that bokeh is a bit on the busy side wide open. I assume that this is the default coma adjustment ring setting of 4m. If so, I would think that the 2m setting would throw the background even further out of focus and make the bokeh softer. Will be interesting to see some further sample shots when you get a chance JCH.

    Olivier Sylvestre September 14, 2012 at 2:58 am / Reply

    Will there be other orders possible?

      Bellamy September 14, 2012 at 9:16 am /

      Hi there, there will be, but I couldn’t say when. It is going to take some time.

    Wandering Monki September 14, 2012 at 2:44 pm / Reply

    I have the baby sonnetar for the Q, I love MS-Optical rendering, I dont believe any pentax Q owner should be with out the “baby” sonnetar… I wish Ms0Optical would make an SLR lens, even M42 mount lens would be awesome, than pentax, cannon and mirrorless shooters could use it, would be a wide user base lens, please ask him… I love you…

    Anders Viklund September 15, 2012 at 3:54 am / Reply

    Yes, naturally I want one of these. Please e-mail me when they are obtainable again.

    Dave Jones September 22, 2012 at 10:32 pm / Reply

    When I first saw this lens I though WOW looks cool! What a shame about these pics, although I would still like to see some night shots etc to get a better idea..

    I own a 28mm by MS-optical and its not great either, but I guess the payoff for the small size is fuzzy image quality.

    Judging by these pics you may as well save up a bit longer and buy noctilux, as this lens ain’t that small either.

    Moritz September 30, 2012 at 11:53 pm / Reply

    Its sad to see how leica makes people think in a wrong way! Pay at least a little respect to Mr Miyazaki for making such a creation and at least a little respect to Bellamy for testing it in whatever cameramode it was!!

    meanwhile September 8, 2015 at 4:49 pm / Reply

    If you had to choose only one 50mm to have in your kit, would this would as a general-use lens as well?

    jp November 3, 2015 at 8:15 am / Reply

    Thanks for the review, Bellamy. I somehow agree with Shaq on something: testing a camera in Auto WB is very easily going to give you variations in color which are at least distracting. I don’t think there is anything wrong in using that mode, but not for a test. That said, I enjoyed the test and see it very informative. Miyazaki is an exceptional man.

    Gunston January 16, 2016 at 11:05 am / Reply

    Hi, wonder how can I get a chrome M mount of this lens?

    werner drechsler July 27, 2017 at 12:04 am / Reply

    when I use an extremely fast lens, I’ll not know this lens is working in full lite. its IMHO a lens for nite hawks! i’m using with my APS-cams old fullframe glasses especially NIKON and OLYMPUS only in wide open mode…..but I think in full frame there are different thoughts for use this fast lens……

    Franjk December 22, 2017 at 7:56 pm / Reply

    The Sonnetar which came yesterday, IS so small and light, It will awalys be in the go bag.I passed on noctuluxes at under 400. back in the day , its a BOuLDER and with a M body you have about 2.5 pounds on your neck, you will find thats not going anywhere, for very long.You will have a bag for a real 50 as well. 50’s.Performance, well,I accept whatever it will do , because thats what your shooting.Its,smaller and lighter then my summilux,and shorter then my Nikon 1.4 screwmount, and I think its lighter then the F2 Screwmount too, thats special, This lens has really shattered , finally, the BIG GLASS ceiling for fast lenses. The move from F 1.4 to F 1.2 , comes with a pound + of optical penalty., A day carrying it will bring THE Penalty phase,into perspective. THATS unheard of. !!! It suggests that there will be a revival in and new products, using Sonnars as LIGHT GIANTS.I will buy some , of whatever Mr Mz. , Makes, because you must support this kind of Origional, Optical tinkering, and,, he’s Going where nobody even the big companies, seems able, to . Ill shoot it today.And you should too. I know I have about a dozen 50;s, and will get some more.

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