Steve Cushing Impresionist Fine Art Photography

Embracing imperfection, recording emotions, one impression at a time…

Canon Dream 50 f0,95

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The Lens details of a series of images taken by Steve Cushing on mirrorless camera.

History


Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead on Netflix has a look some may find more blurry than most blockbuster films, but there's technical and artistic reasons for that. Zack Snyder has always been known for his unique aesthetics, establishing a unique look that stands alone from 300 to Watchmen and of course his DCEU films.

On a purely technical level, the reason the movie is so blurry is because the entire movie is shot wide open with a vintage f/0.95 Canon Dream lens, giving it an incredibly shallow depth of field, soft bokeh, unique light artifacts, and potentially other aberrations depending on the condition of the glass. In fact, while most lenses have an adjustable aperture to change the depth of field and control for different light sensitivities, the custom rehousing Snyder did for his dream lenses didn't even have aperture blades built-in, meaning the entire movie is shot fully "wide open." So how did Japanese lenses become so special after the war when before the war German lenses ruled the roost?

After the war, with many plants bombed and the Russians taking over East Germany, production cost for making lenses were a lot cheaper in Japan. Even before the war German optics companies started to partner with Japanese companies to manufacture optic lenses used in industry and in cameras. Japan as one if not the only industrialised Asian nation in the world at that time, had the capability and the cheap labor to entice German manufacturers to move some of their production there. Similar to what is happening right now with China.

Together with this due to new post-war Japanese law and export control, Japanese optics companies were effectively out of the business from military purpose optics for long time. So, company that was making gun sight for fighter plane or war ships optics for battleship had to start competing on civilian market to survive.

European manufacture did not suffer this problem as much as Japanese did, and they still had lucrative military optics market as soon as cold war kicked in. Even decade after Japanese started to return to scientific or partial return to military optics market, they still had to make majority of money in consumer, industrial, or medical optics market.

The Japanese soon became so adept at making lenses originally for the Germans and now for their own domestic use, that companies like Nikon, Olympus, Minolta started. Canon was an off-shoot of Nikon. And so, the Japanese came to dominate the camera as well as the lens market. The Germans still have Leica of course which is considered the most expensive camera system in the world.

Autofocus technology for example were really designed for the military so this was quickly adapted for civilian purpose in Japan but remained secret in the rest of the world as it was used for military purposes.

Japanese lenses can be divided intro entry level third party lenses, made by Soligor, Revuenon, Vivitar, Coslinar and others, mid range lenses made by smaller manufacturers, such as Makinon and Chinon and premium lenses, such as those made by Asahi Pentax and Fujifilm.

Other premium manufacturers like Canon produced lenses in their own native mounts others include Olympus, Minolta and Mamiya. Japanese lenses are considered the most reliable of these vintage lenses, with Asahi Pentax Takumar series coming on top of them all.

The company which is now recognised world-wide as Canon began its life as Seiki-Kōgaku Kenkyusho - Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory - or 精機光学研究所. According to the Canon Camera Museum history, the first laboratory of the company "...was founded in 1933 in a third-floor apartment of the Takekawaya Building in Roppongi, Azabu Ward, Tokyo."

The name Canon meant “Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory”. Initially Canon had a very close relationship with Nippon Kōgaku (Nikon), who supplied lenses for the cameras which Canon manufactured. The Nikkor 5cm f/3.5 lens was commonly seen on the Hansa Kwanon (Canon), which also had its rangefinder manufactured by Nikon.

The Hansa Canon was launched in 1936. It was not until the late 1940s that Canon started to manufacture their own lenses, after World War 2. Initially the lenses were labeled Serenar. This caused some confusion to customers as they were looking for a Precision Optical camera and a Serenar lens. So in the early 1950s the company and branding was changed to Canon.

The Canon 50mm f/0.95 was introduced by Canon in 1961. According to the Canon online camera museum, “It had the largest aperture in the world for photographic lenses available in the market at the time.” It is affectionately known as the Canon “Dream Lens.” Today, the Dream Lens has become one of the most well known lenses of its era.T he “Dream Lens” is famous for its out-of-focus rendering that offers smooth bokeh and extremely shallow depth of field, which combines to produce the “Dreamy” effects.

The F0.95 is the fastest aperture for full frame 50mm that you can find in the market today. Unlike the Leica 50mm f0.95 ASPH, The canon 0.95 is an old lens, old technology back in 1960’s , high in demand collectable item today, also very hard to find one in good condition.

It is a very expensive lens and prices go up all the time. The Canon is no longer make it and I seriously doubt that people will ever lose interest for the lens. My lens is the standard Canon 50mm F0.95 Lens and approximately 20000 units were produced. However, a significantly less number of units remained today.

Prices are now trending from a low of $2200 to a high of $8000 give or take. Some unscrupulous dealers are trying to sell this lens for $10000 or more. This, to me, is way too high since that is approaching Noctilux used prices.

The Noctilux goes for $5500-10000 on the used market, depending on which version. Some folks have labeled the Canon Dream Lens as the “Poor Man’s Noctilux.” But the Canon came first, so they say that the Noctilux is the “Rich Man’s Canon Dream Lens

Comparisons? Based upon my use of the Noctilux and the Canon Dream Lens, I’d say you can’t compare the two. It’s apples to oranges. The Leica may be the technically better lens, while the Canon I find to be a more artistic lens in regards to the images it renders. Just like the film vs digital debate, my answer to the Noctilux vs Dream lens question is…None are better than the other. They are different and as someone who likes to be creative I prefer the Canon.

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This Lens

The Lens offers great sharpness that is not clinical. It produces “magical” soft glow with smooth out-of-focus areas and extremely shallow depth of field at its maximum aperture of f0.95.

The lens has classic rendering with natural colours and great contrasts. It is excellent for portraits with its glowing effect and becomes very sharp when stepping down the aperture like every other Leica lenses.

The Canon 50mm F0.95 lens was made back in 1960s and 1970s for the Canon 7/7s Rangefinder and it was then that it held the crown for the fastest production lens in the world

According to the seller the lens I have is actually a prototype from her deceased husbands collection and he purchased it new in the 60's. It does have a red band which became common later on Canon lenses and this band does appear to be original at point of manufacture and not added later. Unfortunately we can't now ask him and I don't care much as I have no intention of selling it.





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The main issue with this lens is the unusual mount. It has a mount designed specifically for the Canon Rangefinder 7 and I have no other lenses with this strange mount. You can buy an adapter for a Canon and Sony from the US but they are very expensive and the one I ordered got lost in the post. You could also make a mount from an old Canon 7 Rangefinder camera but these are not a cheap purchase and it is a shame to destroy a collectable camera. My answer was to buy a rear cap from the US on eBay and cut the back off it so I could mount it on an m42 screw mount with screws and glue. This both fits in a non-spaced M42 to Canon R for infinity focus and also fits into a very small helicoid to give me macro capabilities. The total cost of this hand made mount was around 40 dollars.


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Made by cutting the back of a cheap Canon 50mm f/0.95 f0.95 (TV and RF lens) all metal anodised Rear Cap

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LENS SPECIFICATIONS

Construction: 7 Elements / 5 Groups
Diaphragm: 10 Blades
Maximum / Minimum Aperture: F0.95 - F16
Closet Focusing Distance: 1m
Filter Size: 72mm
Weight: 605g

Pros

Super solid, well built
sharp image (if you get accurate focus)
colour and contrast is good enough for wide open shot
compact and small compare to leica 50mm f0.95
high in demand for collection
flare control is good
super dreamy image, got it’s own characteristic

Cons:

slightly heavy
front element is a little pop out, some filters just touch the front element
focusing is not smooth as Leica
minimum focus of 1m
hard to get accurate focus on film camera
special lens mount, need conversion only can use on Leica m mount camera
viewfinder blockage on canon 7 and also other Leica m mount body

This lens has minimum flare and chromatic aberration but it does have some vignetting.

From what i have noticed, the 0.95 has the same “canon glow” effect as my canon 50mm f1.2, it is not flare, but just glow, and we call it canon glow, something that you can’t find it on other lenses, hate and love thing.

Summary

I love the lens very much, it is one of my everyday lens attached to my Canon R. If you wish to get a 0.95 lens with an affordable price comparing to Leica 50mm 0.95 ASPH , the canon 50mm f0.95 is the best choice out there. If you are able to find one in good condition, with no haze, fungus, scratches etc, don’t hesitate, grab it, price for the lens will only keep increasing day by day.



For images using this lens click HERE

For general information on lens design and lens elements go to the homepage HERE

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