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Review: Canon S 50mm f/1.5 Serenar

Another Canon (or Serenar) 50mm F1.5 LTM/LSM/m39 lens review.

One of the best feeling in hands lenses by my opinion – are Canon Serenars series. And this 50/1.5 isn’t an exclusion.

After getting a new lens, I always take a few technical shots to understand its strengths and weaknesses – usually, it helps me a lot to start using an unknown lens with much less doubt. One day I decided that my data might be interesting for someone else and this site has been made.


Canon Camera Museum link

Canon 50mm F:1.5  (Serenar) parameters:

Marketed Nov-52
Original Price 36,500 yen
Lens Construction (group) 3
Lens Construction (element) 7
No. of Diaphragm Blades 13
Minimum Aperture 16 ?
Closest Focusing Distance (m) 1
Maximum Magnification (x)
Filter Diameter (mm) 40
Maximum Diameter x Length (mm)
Weight (g) 295

Floating elements NO (full support by autofocused adapters)

Additional information:

  • ‘This lens is developed based on Zonner 50mm f/1.5 manufactured by Carl Zeiss’ – quote from official materials.
  • Min focus distance = 3.5 feet
  • This lens arrived directly from Japan
  • The serial number of the reviewed lens is 23918
  • Weight of reviewed lens is 271g
  • The optical and mechanical condition of this copy is very nice. There is nothing which can affect the images

As you can see, my scale displays weight equal 271g, but the official site contains 296g. I’m sure on my scale so it can be production deviations or incorrect data on Canon Museum.

Lens exterior:

(Please, forgive me the dust on the lens, I never have the patience to clean objects for close-up photo sessions)

Resolution – close distance:

Test description: target is a 10×15 cm picture (printed, glossy photo paper), fixed on the wall by scotch. Distance – about 50% longer than minimal focus distance marked on the lens. Camera Sony A7II (24mpx, full frame) was fixed on the tripod and managed remotely with a computer display as a viewfinder. All groups of shots were repeated 9 times for every target position on all apertures from fully opened up to F16, ISO-100, WB – same for all shots. SteadyShot – OFF. Focus was manually corrected for each shot. After all needed shots have been taken for one target position – I moved  the target to the next place.


Main idea – to exclude the field curvature affect on so close distance.

Of course, I can’t be absolutely accurate, but so many repeats of shots – 4 for corners, 2 for long side, 2 for short side are giving me insurance that test results are correct.

Finally, pictures were converted from ARW-files in Capture One with default settings, cropped for 300×200 px elements, combined into diagrams and exported into JPEG-files.

Scene preview:


Original target image (printed in horizontal orientation on 10cm X 15cm glossy photo paper)

nakagawa natsuki1print

Test results (selected version, easy to compare – 4 positions):


Test results (full version – all 9 positions):


Resolution – long distance:

Test description: Camera Sony A7II (24mpx, full frame) was fixed on the tripod and managed remotely with computer display as a viewfinder. Targets (buildings) were fixed by gravity power on the distances in more than 200 meters. All shots have been taken with apertures from fully opened up to F16. ISO-100. Shutter Speed – depends on light (camera A-mode), WB – fixed and the same for all shots. SteadyShot – OFF. Focus was manually corrected for each shot to exclude focus-shift affect.

Finally, pictures were converted from ARW-files in Capture One with default settings (Some single files have a slight light correction, for better visual convenience in comparison), then were cropped for 300×200 px elements, combined into diagrams and exported into JPEG-files.

Scene preview:

Test results:


(frames scaled – 300×200)


Geometric distortion:

(frame scaled 1200×800)


Coma aberrations:

(100% crops – 300×200)


Chromatic aberrations:

(100% crops – 300×200)

Close distance bokeh:

Test conditions: lens was focused on to minimal distance 1m, plants were fixed in 3m distance from camera in front of the window with bright light from outside.

(frame scaled 1200×800, bokeh covers the frame partially)


Long distance bokeh:

Test conditions: lens was focused on half distance on the scale (2m), houses were fixed in infinity distance on the ground.

(frame scaled 1200×800)


Light dots bokeh:

Test conditions: lens was focused on minimal distance 1m, diodes were fixed in 3m distance at the dark background.

Note: a lot of similar tests with another 50mm lenses for same or close conditions are presented on the site, so you can compare easily. Please, read other articles.

(frame scaled 1200×800)


Light dots long distance bokeh:

Test conditions: lens was focused on minimal distance 1m, lights were fixed in more than 200m.

Such scenes can’t be meet often, so this is a demonstration of extreme conditions. In most cases of real life photography, the blur level will be less.

(frame scaled 1200×800)


Other resources with tests and reviews:

My overall conclusion about the Canon Serenar 50mm F1.5:


The outstanding lens that has a poor technical result with excellent artistic abilities. All photographers heard descriptions like ‘true vintage lens, great bokeh, beautiful softness, unbelievable rendition, bla-bla-bla’. This lens is ready for all such words at one time. Yes, Canon (or Serenar) 50mm F1.5 is one of the really legendary and famous lens in the world. Sometimes I think that it’s cheapest among the others legacies, so it can be written as number one in the long list of legends. On the other hand, it’s so bad technically that begins to draw ‘rendition’ everywhere in the frame except center, yes, right in the DOF. And the circle of sharpness is too small sometimes to use gold-selection with portraits. The lens isn’t good in fighting against any little front-light and gives a lot of softness even if closed for 2 stops. There is never enough sharpness in the corners for landscapes, even on F16. It looks like this lens has collected all known aberrations, and maybe a couple of some new unknown. That’s the price for the famous picture rendition. But I agree with the idea that every photographer should try such a lens because some photographers have never change it later.

Finally: lens with bad IQ but with unbelievable art possibilities. I believe that you will like it. Anyway, it can’t be the only lens in your toolbox, because it’s good for scenes where details can be sacrificed in favor of the bokeh, and for most usual scenes the more typical lens will be needed.


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