© 2006 KenRockwell.com
Today's fixed 50mm lens designs are over 110 years old. That's why they perform so similarly.
They are variations of Dr. Paul Rudolph's original Planar design of 1896. Dr. Rudolph based the Planar on an expansion of a design of German mathematical genius Carl Friedric Gauss from 1817. Gauss is the same mathematician after whom the Gaussian Blur is named, based on his surveys of statistical distributions. Laypeople call these distributions "bell curves."
The f/1.8 and f/2.8 Micro lenses have six-element designs, and all the f/1.4 lenses split one of the elements for very similar seven-element designs.
Nikon's standard filter size since 1959 has been 52 mm. That's a main reason I switched to Nikon from Minolta over 20 years ago. Minolta changed their filter size almost every model year. Pros use filters as part of the creative process, and need them to fit all their lenses. Pros buy lenses all the time, not just as part of an outfit. Tomorrows lenses need to take the same filters as older lenses. Nikon's smaller lenses today take the same filters they did in 1959. Everything should be this easy.
The Zeiss screws up royally with an incompatible 58 mm thread. It's probably a leftover from older days when the lens was made for another brand. You probably could get away, certainly on a digital camera, with a 58 mm -> 52 mm step down ring.
The 72 mm thread of the VR is also a goof, but not as bad. I use a 72 mm -> 77 mm step-up ring to make it 77 mm. 77 mm is today's standard for larger professional zoom lenses.
The Zeiss wins with a remarkable 9 blade diaphragm. It will give you round out-of-focus highlights, and at night you can get magnificent 18-pointed stars on points of bright light.
The 7 bladed diaphragms can give wonderful 14-point stars on brilliant highlights. Out of focus highlights can take on a septagonal shape. The rounded blades of the VR make it almost circular, and eliminate the highlights on points of light.
I spent almost two months shooting and writing this comparison of 50mm lenses. No one pays me for this. If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me write more with a donation.
Thanks for reading!
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