In 2012, ZY Optics released their Mitakon Speedmaster 35mm f/0.95 lens, one of their first ultra fast lens. They have just released a new version of this lens, the Mitakon Speedmaster 35mm f/0.95 Mark II and I have been out shooting with a production sample for about two weeks now and here comes my full review.
Disclaimer: While ZY Optics has supplied me the sample lens pre-official announcement, and I helped them prepare some sample images for their press release, they did not ask me to write a glowing review of this lens.
BODY AND DESIGN
The Mitakon Speedmaster 35mm f/0.95 II is designed for APS-C cameras and comes in either Fuji X, Sony E and Canon EOS-M mount. There is no micro four thirds mount this time I guess it’s because ZY Optics have recently released the more compact 25mm f/0.95 specifically for micro four thirds cameras. The lens gives you approximately 52mm f/1.4 full frame equivalent view angle and depth of field. This allows you to create photos with pretty shallow depth of field.
The exterior design of the new Mitakon Speedmaster 35mm f/0.95 Mark II is not too different from the original version. It’s very solid, metal, the typical Mitakon design. There is a de-clicked aperture ring at top and then a manual focus ring underneath it. It looks and feels a bit more polished and refined than the previous Mitakon lenses. While I still wouldn’t say it’s a Zeiss quality lens but the gap between it and the premium brand lenses like Zeiss is definitely getting closer every time a new Mitakon lens is released.
Compare to the original version, the Mk II version is noticeably smaller and also lighter (the new version is only 460g). 460g may still sounds a bit heavy, but remember the lens is pretty much all made of metal and the original version was almost 700g so this is a significant reduction in weight! With the smaller size and weight, the Mitakon 35mm f/0.95 II feels quite nice and balanced when mounted on a Sony A6000.
The manual focus ring is pretty smooth and well dampened. The travel is increased to about 140 degree which I find is quite a good balance between allowing you to focus precisely and quickly. The resistance of the focus ring is just about right, not too loose nor too tight. The focus at maximum distance setting is exactly at infinity, unlike some previous Mitakon lenses that could actually go pass infinity at maximum distance setting. While I still prefer the super buttery smooth focus ring on Vogitlander or Zeiss lenses, manual focusing with the Mitakon Speedmaster 35mm f/0.95 II gives me a pretty satisfying feeling too.
Just like the Mitakon 25mm f/0.95, I still don’t like how the de-clicked aperture ring is placed very close to the focus ring and they also have very similar physical design. I found myself quite often grabbed the aperture ring instead of the focus ring when I was trying to focus. The problem is that you may not notice that as stopping down the aperture will (most of the time) also end up give you sharp image. And with no information sent to the camera, you can’t use the EVF/LCD to check the aperture size either. I really hope ZY Optics can make the aperture ring in a slightly different shape, maybe like the Voigtlander lenses which is a bit like a bolt? Or make the aperture ring a switchable click/de-clicked design to provides better tactile feedback to photographers who don’t really need the smooth de-clicked aperture ring?
But apart from that, I’m quite happy with the body design and build quality of the Speedmaster 35mm f/0.95 Mark II, it’s solid and feels more refined than their previous lenses.
The lens doesn’t come with any lens hood or pouch, I wish it comes with a lens hood but at least it does comes in a pretty nice leather box.Inside the lens is the brand new optics design. The optics consist of 11 elements in 8 groups, with 1 extra-low dispersion element, 2 extra-high refractive index elements and 3 high refractive index elements. But then it doesn’t matter what elements or design it is, the most important thing is the final output image, which I’ll talk about next .
Sharp image at maximum aperture is quite a big challenge for any ultra fast lenses and this was one of the biggest issue with the original Mitakon Speedmaster 35mm f/0.95. As I don’t have the original version to do a side by side comparison, I can’t really verify the claimed 30% increase in sharpness. But I can tell you at f/0.95, the sharpness (especially centre sharpness) is without a doubt much better than the original version.
Below are some 100% crops taken with a 24MP Sony a6000. Even with the pretty demanding 24MP Sony sensor, the centre crop at f/0.95 is reasonably sharp with only moderate amount of softness. Stop down to f/1.4 it’s really quite sharp already and by f/2 I doubt anyone could complaint. The edges are a bit softer, you need to stop down to f/2 to get reasonably sharp images and at f/2.8 then it becomes quite good. But overall, if you are taking portraits or most everyday photos, pictures taken at f/0.95 should be sharp enough. If I want to stop down, it would be most likely because I need more DOF rather than I want sharper photos.
Chromatic Aberration is unavoidable for an ultra fast lens, having said that, the Mitakon Speedmaster 35mm f/0.95 II’s CA control is reasonably good. There is a bit of colour fringing but at acceptable level, I haven’t see any really nasty colour fringing .
Flare is also reasonably well controlled. While I do still can get some lens flare when shooting directly into the sun or a bright light source, at least contrast remains quite good and I don’t see any serious colour cast or hot spot. This is definitely an improvement over the (pre-production) Mitakon Speedmaster 25mm f/0.95 I reviewed recently.
One of the main reason why people would want to buy this lens is get that shallow depth of field look when shooting at wide open. It means the bokeh quality of this lens is pretty important. As you can see from my sample photos, the bokeh is really not bad. Bokeh isn’t nervous at all and the transition from foreground to background is nice and smooth. There is a bit of cat’s eye effect and you get those rugby ball shape bokeh near the edges in some of my sample photos.
As part of the downsizing, the filter thread size has been decrease from 58mm to 55mm which could have an adverse effect on vignetting. As I don’t have the original version to compare I can’t really say it’s any better or worse than the original version. Vignetting is noticeable from f/0.95 and become only marginal at f/2. For an ultra fast lens, I think the amount of vignetting is quite reasonable.
So far I haven’t really mention anything that is really bad, but there are two issues I noticed with this lens, comatic aberration and blobs shape flare. Both happen when you have a sharp bright light source in a dark scene.
Comatic aberration (or coma) is pretty obvious when you take any night landscape photos. You will see street lights turn into various cone shape because of coma. Stop down to f/2.8 then most of the coma would disappear.
And also there is a bit of circle-ish shape flare around any point light source in a dark scene. I noticed the same issue with the Mitakon Speedmaster 25mm f/0.95 lens as well. Again, stop down to around f/2.8 could remove most of these small circle-ish flare.
As the lens is designed for APS-C sensor cameras, the image circle is not big enough to cover the full frame sensor. But just to how it perform, I mounted it onto my a7 and used it for a few days. And this is what the photo would look like when the lens is paired with a full frame camera:
As you can see, there is a big black circle surrounding the center area, which is pretty much expected. So you really wouldn’t buy this lens if you only have a full frame camera. But if you want to have a bit of fun and that toy camera/lomography feel, this actually works quite well. In fact I quite like some of the photos I took with my a7 + Mitakon 35mm.
The original Mitakon Speedmaster 35mm f/0.95’s overall image performance was a bit disappointing in quite a few areas.
And now we have the new mark II version, a significant upgrade over the original version. While coma and the flare around point light source at wide open could both be improved, and I still don’t like how close the placement of the aperture and focus rings is, it’s a lot sharper, has pretty nice bokeh, better flare control and the lens just feel more polished. And with all these improvements, somehow ZY Optics still managed to reduce the size and weight of the lens quite significantly over the original version. This is very refreshing as most companies are creating bigger and bigger lenses these days.
Whilst not perfect, the Mitakon Speedmaster 35mm f/0.95 II is a lot more refined and well balanced design than their previous products. Looking at how fast the Mitakon lenses are improving over the last few years, it won’t take long before they can completely match or maybe even exceed the quality of premium lenses from Germany and Japan.
If you are looking for an affordable ultra fast prime lens for your APS-C mirrorless camera, this is a lens you shouldn’t miss.
All photos were shot in RAW converted to JPG using Adobe Lightroom, adjusted to taste with zero vignetting, CA and distortion correction.
Sony a6000 + Mitakon Speedmaster 35mm f/0.95 II – ISO100 f/2 1/4000s
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Reviewer: Richard Wong
Richard is a multi-award winning wedding/portrait photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/PhotoByRichard
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