Lenses

Canon 50mm f/2.2 Leica thread mount lens review

Canon 50mm f/2.2

I’ve had this little Canon 50mm f/2.2 for a while now – I bought it attached to a Canon P. Both camera and lens were items I’d eyed up on eBay a few times, so when I saw the combo for sale on one of the Facebook groups, I snapped it up. I’ve mentioned this lens a few times on my social media – as a rarity, it always seems to garner interest from people, so I thought I’d cobble together a mini review.

I say mini-review, as I’ve not got a huge amount to say about it really – it’s traits are so strong and so obvious, there’s little need to go into loads of detail. I’m also basing these comments on just a couple of outings with the lens. So far, all of the images are digital, though I will come back to this post and add some film images once I’ve shot some.

A bit of history

The Canon 50mm f/2.2 ltm is a fairly uncommon lens. According to Peter Kitchingman’s Canon lenses book it was made for around 6 months at the beginning of 1961. It was made as an entry level lens for the Canon P for the domestic Japanese market. If the very minimal amount of speculation I’ve read about it online is to be believed, it was so readily bettered by the 50mm f/1.8 that it wasn’t very popular in its day. So unpopular, one might assume, that Canon axed it. I’ve no idea if this is true, but judging the 50mm f/2.2 on purely objective merits, I can see that this is a possibility.

Construction and handling

It’s certainly a basic lens. The infinity lock isn’t even an infinity lock, it just looks like one. For my tastes I prefer this, as I find infinity locks fairly irritating in use.

Its a small lens too. It looks a little daft on the larger Canon P, and in terms of its size is actually better suited to a Leica Barnack camera. Despite its size, it handles well. The aforementioned fake infinity lock acts as a focus tab, and the aperture dial seems to come to hand readily for such a small lens.

My particular copy is a little tatty. There’s a bit of give in the focus wheel (similar to that which I found in the 50mm f/1.4), but additionally the front part of the lens body has a little bit of rotational give in it too. It doesn’t feel a solid as the f/1.4, not by a long shot really.

Something I found out the other day – Canon ltm lenses clock slightly rotated to increase the chance of the chosen aperture being viewable through the VF

Canon 50mm f/2.2 Optics

Optically, my copy is very clean. I think it was cleaned by the previous owner, or at least he had it cleaned. One way or another, there’s little issue with the glass. There are certainly no specific nasties beyond a little bit of dust.

Resolution

It’s fair to say that this lens isn’t particularly high resolving. In use, it seems a little sharper stopped down, but barely really. It also seems to be slightly sharper at closer distances. One thing is for certain, results seem to lack finer details. As such, to my mind, it’s better suited to photography that involves closer subjects – especially portraiture – compared to landscape work, for eg. That’s not to say it can’t be used for landscapes, just don’t expect to capture every ounce of detail.

Canon 50mm 2.2 test shots

Canon 50mm 2.2 test shots

The gentle rendering is very well suited for portrait work.

Canon 50mm 2.2 test shots

3d rendering

Despite its lack of resolution, there’s enough contrast here for it to to render in a fairly satisfyingly 3d way. 3d pop and lens contrast are two traits that seem to be inexorably linked – that said, whilst I wouldn’t say that this lens is particularly contrasty, it still manages to render in a really nicely 3 dimensional way. If pushed, I’d probably attribute this to the really simple optical formula. It often seems to me that lenses with less chunks of glass in them render more in this way.

Canon 50mm 2.2 test shots

Canon 50mm 2.2 test shots

Flare

Point the Canon 50mm f/2.2 in the general direction of light, and it quite readily causes flare. In this image you can see a rainbow across the centre of the frame, as well as a good deal of veiling flare that’s causing the black railings in the background to turn quite muddy. The sun was quite far out of the frame here too.

Canon 50mm 2.2 test shots

Bokeh and transition to out of focus

I’ve saved the best for last. If you’ve not noticed so far, this lens has fantastic bokeh. There’s very little in the way of distracting nasties, even when faced with foliage or other complicated backgrounds. Specular highlights are also well formed with only the slightest edge to them.

Canon 50mm 2.2 test shots

Canon 50mm 2.2 test shots

Beyond this though, it has a wonderful transition you out of focus. I didn’t find trait this so much in the 50mm f/1.4 Canon ltm, but here focus melts away in a very attractive way – at least to my eye.

Canon 50mm 2.2 test shots

More photos

More to follow…

Canon 50mm 2.2 test shots

Canon 50mm 2.2 test shots

Skip to the end

As I say, I will come back to this post with some film samples at some point. I suspect with 400 speed film and faster, the lack of sharpness might not be as much of an objective issue as I can see with my Leica 262. That being said, the lack of sharpness is not something I am particularly disappointed in, as for my tastes this sort of rendering does suit an area of photography I take part in quite regularly – that being, taking photos of my kiddly-winks.

What makes it additionally suitable for this sort of photography is its nice bokeh and wonderful transition to out-of-focus. Combine this with a slight propensity to to veil flare, it’s quite satisfying 3d rendering and you have a lens character that’s really quite appealing!

For my tastes, I’m not sure if quite betters my modified Jupiter-8m overall in terms of my ideal “vintage” lens. There are many shared traits between the two lenses, but the Jupiter-8m just beats it for my personal tastes I think. That being said, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s as rare as hens teeth, I think the Canon 50mm f/2.2 is a keeper!

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    Ashley Carr
    August 5, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    The loose front and focus ring can be rectified very easily. At the back of the lens you’ll see a ring with two indentations (for a lens wrench). This ring can become loose and tightening it up (you won’t need a lens wrench) will sort out the slack in the lens.

    Also, if you loosen this ring you can pop the front off if you ever wanted to clean behind the front element. It’s all very easy especially for someone with zero technical skills like me!

    I suffered this exact problem for ages with my 50/1.8. Kicked myself when I realised how easy it was to rectify!!

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      August 9, 2018 at 2:13 pm

      Ace, cheers buddy, I will give that a go!

  • Reply
    jeremy north
    August 5, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    It certainly gives some nice results. I think it is one of those lenses which is fine but you can’t help thinking that it is only an f2.2 when you probably rarely shoot at wider than that.

  • Reply
    Alvaro
    August 6, 2018 at 7:05 am

    Interesting you mention the relation of lenses with few elements to the “3D look”, this year I’ve been mostly shooting my four-element XA2 (which I may or may not write something about) and lately I’ve noticed a few photos that seem to have that effect—preposterous to suggest for a puny XA2?

  • Reply
    Alvaro
    September 10, 2018 at 2:01 am

    Something I forgot to mention in my earlier comment, if low-element count is part of the reason for that great look, it’s interesting how that goal got ditched in favor of chucking more elements to the mix and obtain the flattest, most detailed and flawless image. I’d wager if you did a blind test with the general public, more people would find the simpler lens design to provide a more pleasing image (I say the general public because many photographers would probably squint at the print from a few cm away to cast their judgement!). Then again, the fact that the mirror box in SLRs necessitates optical design workarounds (specially with faster and/or wider lenses), and that SLR lenses became the norm, more elements seem to be a must—but who the hell needs 15+ elements on a prime lens!?

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      September 10, 2018 at 9:16 pm

      That would make an interesting test!

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