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Lens Review: Yashica ML 50/2

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FireBirder says:

Name: Yashica 50mm f/2
Mount: Zeiss C/Y
Tested On: Canon EOS 350D
Zoom/Prime: Prime
Focal Length: 50mm
Maximum Aperture: f/2
Minimum Aperture: f/16
Diaphragm Blades: 6
Price Paid: US $10
Serial Number (or Approx.): 90440914

Product Ratings (1=miserable, 5=excellent):
Construction Quality: 4
Image Quality: 4

Overall Value For Price: 5
Recommended: Yes


The Yashica ML 50/2 was the first Yashica lens I tried on my digital camera. I picked this little gem up off eBay for $10; it was brand new in its original box. It seems that most people are after the f/1.4, 1.7, and 1.9 versions of this lens, so the slow f/2 seems to pass under most people’s radar. That’s okay though, as it means that this lens is very modestly priced (as is the necessary C/Y to EOS adapter ring).

The build quality of the 50/2 is reasonably good. It is mostly metal, but unfortunately also has some plastic too (most notably the aperture control ring). It’s not bad plastic (in fact, it’s very nice plastic as far as plastic goes) but still, it’s not all metal like a Takumar. The build is certainly adequate though, and I have no doubts about its ability to survive many years of abuse at my hands. I docked the Yashica a point in build quality, although in reality it is probably just as durable as a fully metal lens. There is one advantage to the plastic though; this little lens is light! The lens is so lightweight and compact that you hardly notice it on the camera; it’s practically a pancake lens.

Since it has 52mm filter threads, it is compatible with all the filters and hoods that you bought to go with your plastic fantastic Canon EF 50/1.8 II that you bought because everyone said it was awesome but sold because it was built like a McDonald’s happy meal toy and sounded like an under-powered garbage disposal.

Optically, I’ve been very impressed with this lens. I am a pixel peeper, and I’ve ditched many a lens because of poor sharpness. This lens is not one of them; it is very usable wide open, sharp at f/2.8, and very sharp from f/4. The single quality that impresses me most about this lens is its remarkable color rendition. Contrast and flare control are also good, and I’ve never ever had CA in any of my images. In my experience, the only downside to this lens is that it is only f/2; I sometimes wish that it was a little faster. I’ve rated it a 4 out of 5 because of the bokeh and slow aperture; although, I like the bokeh, and the slow aperture is hardly a lens flaw. Besides, we need to save the “5” rating for Zeiss lenses.

At this point, we need to address the touchy subject of bokeh. Generally, very creamy, smooth bokeh is ideal. For certain shots, however, I happen to prefer a light, somewhat swirly bokeh; it’s useful for adding an element of motion and life to an image. This is the type of bokeh that the Yashica delivers, and I love it. As some people don’t care for this type of effect, it is something to bear in mind when considering this lens. Check the sample images to see if you like the bokeh.

How much do I like the Yashica? Let me answer that by telling you a quick story. Once upon a time, I went on a long trip and only took my Canon Rebel XT and one lens; that lens was the Yashica ML 50/2. The trip went well, and everyone lived happily every after. Seriously, I sold my Super Takumar 50/1.4, Zuiko 50/1.8, and Canon EF 50/1.8 mk 1 but kept the Yashica. If I randomly go out on a walk to take some photos, most likely this lens is attached to the camera. If it’s not on the camera, it’s with me in my camera bag. Or on my pillow.

Here’s a few samples I’ve gotten from it. I’ve never done any fancy brick wall tests; I just go out and shoot, import the shots and tweak them till I like them. So, it’s a very amateurish and unprofessional test. But then, given who is writing this review, what did you expect?

The Yashica’s strong point is capturing color.

Yellow Leaf by FireBirder

This shot illustrates the bokeh on this lens; notice it’s almost swirly effect. Cool, eh?

Behind Bars by FireBirder

This is the lens for leaves; don’t leave it at home when you leave to shoot leaves!

Fallen Hero by FireBirder

I can absolutely recommend this lens. It’s very good value lens, and a respectable performer. It is also the most portable and compact lens I’ve run across yet. Admittedly, I am considering upgrading to the f/1.4 version of the lens because I really cold use a little more speed--but really, that is more of a testimony to the excellence of the Yashica 50/2. Even if I do upgrade, I will keep the f/2 lens. The bottom line is this: get it, shoot with it, and have fun with it!
9:20PM, 30 July 2011 PDT (permalink)

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SteveFE is a group administrator SteveFE says:

Thanks! Great detailed review, I've added it in the C/Y section so it's the first actual Yashica lens as opposed to Zeiss C/Y ones in there :)
99 months ago (permalink)

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anscochrome says:

I just picked this one up yesterday at the Omaha Camera Swap for a ten spot as well (it was in an assorted "unknown mount" junk pile"), a helios 44m with a/m switch on a zenit TTL for 30, and a 58mm F 2.0 Biotar on a Pentacon body for um, a bit more. Good times, good times:)
99 months ago (permalink)

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delzky says:

Although, this is an old thread, I would like to commend Tanner_Martin for a good and entertaining write-up. I like the way that you subtly highlight a little-known, not-very-much-sought-after lens, and which ended up as your favorite lens or your favorite 50. You don't try to offend others by declaring that it's the best out there, but nevertheless effectively communicate the bond you have with this lens, showing to us that it has class and character.

When you said "besides, we need to save the "5" rating for zeiss lenses", I wasn't sure if there was sarcasm there, or you really meant it.

For us poor souls, who cannot afford a zeiss, I wish you haven't said that. It's not a good feeling owning just 2nd rate, 3rd rate vintage lenses. Btw, are the zeiss lenses really that good?

That said, I really like the bokeh of this Yash ML 2/50 lens. It's the main reason I bought a Helios 44m-4. The review said it's not any good for anything except the bokeh, but I bought it anyway.

To complement this nice review of yours, here's a link to another good review with photo samples, including a nice bokeh:

Originally posted 93 months ago. (permalink)
delzky edited this topic 93 months ago.

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FireBirder says:

Thanks for the kind words, delzky, as well as for posting the link. Mattias Wirf's review was actually what convinced me to try out this lens, and his site is a wonderful resource.

My Zeiss statement is intended as a little bit of tongue-in-check humor at the flamboyant, “my expensive Zeiss is better than your cheap Yashica” attitude that sometimes appears in the online community--but I didn’t intend it to belittle any lens. I don't own a Zeiss, and I probably never will because of the price; but I do believe them to be very fine lenses, and I respect them as an industry standard. While I personally consider my Yashica to be very good, I don’t have any experience with great lenses like Zeiss; so, I don’t feel qualified to give the Yashica a perfect 5/5 score. The Yashica may be as good as the Zeiss, or not; I don’t know. Either way, I'm not prepared to make the claim that my $10 Yashica is on par with a prestigious Zeiss. All I know is that I am happy with my Yashica.

So, I do apologize if my statement put down any lens; I didn’t intend to say that. To me, a lens is just a tool; bragging over the label on the front is childish. I do respect brands that have built up a good reputation over the decades; however, if a lens delivers results that please me, I don’t care who made it.

And yes, the Yashica's bokeh is awesome. I've been playing around with an ML 50/1.7, but it loses the swirly effect of the ML 50/2. The 50/2 is still my favorite all round 50mm I've tried so far.
Originally posted 93 months ago. (permalink)
FireBirder edited this topic 93 months ago.

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headlights2 says:



No permission to view this photo :-(
88 months ago (permalink)

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robincaddy says:

Ok, forgive me for asking a probably stupid question. But the only stupid question is the one that doesn't get asked (I do not believe that for a second by the way!)

Mounting via a Big-is adaptor to an EOS 5d (classic/mk1) I am unable to stop down the aperture from f2.

I assume (ass-u-me) that its because there is at 8 o clock a prong/lug/thing (asuming red dot is 12 o clock and you are viewing the lens from the back not the front) which seems to regulate when the lens is stopped down to the selected aperture. I imagine on the intended camera the camera body would move this at the time of exposure so that the lens stops down (thats a guess though), and I also imagine that the solution I need to take is to file that bit down/snip it off/subject it to some kind of life altering force.

BUT dear forum users, I do NOT wish to do any of those things if I have got completely the wrong idea.
Thanks in advance :)
Originally posted 80 months ago. (permalink)
robincaddy edited this topic 80 months ago.

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anscochrome says:

Yes-the big lug on this lens prevents it from stopping down on my Canon 5dII and a standard C/Y adaptor. I would say filing or snipping of the aperture lug is in order:)
80 months ago (permalink)

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robincaddy says:

Thank you, dealt with in an amateurish fashion but successfully! Thanks for the green light :)
80 months ago (permalink)

spiky haircut [deleted] says:

More about Yashica-Lenses (in german - google is your friend): olypedia.de/Yashica_Co.%2C_Ltd.#ML
80 months ago (permalink)

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robincaddy says:

Shot a whole day in London on my 5d with this lens today. 98% at f4, very occasionally wider open. Probably easiest to say you can see them all here: www.flickr.com/photos/robincaddy/sets/72157638710555884/

although i did like this one enough to include it here
Originally posted 70 months ago. (permalink)
robincaddy edited this topic 70 months ago.

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Lee|Ratters says:

I have a 50/2 ML & I wish to use it on a 5D2.....? Seeing as it clears the mirror on a 5D being FF I guess it will on a 5D2 also...??

Also regarding the little 'modification' to the lug mentioned above, does this HAVE to be done? I only ask as I have the ML on a Yashica 35mm body & I obviously would like to use it on there also?

Also is a f/1.7 worth it or 'better' than a f/2? I've found a f/1.7 for about £30
67 months ago (permalink)

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FireBirder says:

Can't comment on the lug modification, as I only use crop cams. But I have used both the ƒ/2 and ƒ/1.7, so I can comment on that.

I love the ƒ/2, and I kept it even after selling my two copies of the ƒ/1.7. The ƒ/1.7 has better build and faster aperture, but it's not at all better than the ƒ/2 and in my opinion is much less interesting optically. Of course both are very good, and I don't hesitate to recommend either one; but while I find the 50/1.7 to be technically good, the 50/2 has more character and seems sharper overall. Of course, if you do lots of wide open bokeh shots, you might like the extra speed of the 50/1.7; but for most other applications the 50/2 will perform just as well, if not slightly better.

For me, the ML 50/2 has seen a lot less use since I got a Nikkor 50/1.2. The Nikkor is simply amazing, and I've pretty much sold off everything else I own in the 50-55mm range. However, I continue to hold onto the ML 50 because it offers very good optics in a dirt-cheap package, as well as having a character unlike anything else. I don't care that it's only ƒ/2; at the apertures where I use this lens, it's just as good as anything else I'll ever own and a whole lot less expensive.

So anyway, you might enjoy the 50/1.7, but I don't think it's better than the 50/2. It does have a different look, better build, and faster speed, but it really didn't stand out to me as being a bit better lens. Not sure if any of that helps, but that was my experience when comparing the two.
67 months ago (permalink)

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Lee|Ratters says:

Simon, many thanks for the quick & detailed reply.

The 50/2 I have I paid £6.30 for on eBay a few years ago & £3 of that was postage!! Maybe I'll just stick with that one for now then & see how it goes as I am still waiting for the C/Y-EOS adapter to arrive anyway..... I do love the 50mm focal length - the Canon 50/1.4 is my most used lens by far - so I thought I'd give this manual lens thing a go. With FF, a nice viewfinder, a matte focus screen I shouldn't have any excuses aside from myself!!

Thanks again :o)
67 months ago (permalink)

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Las fotos de Jés says:

This lens show an outstanding 3D effect on my EOS 5D classic. One of my preferred lenses:

66 months ago (permalink)

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