Review: 50mm f1.4 C-Mount Lens

More than a month ago I have posted some of my images taken with the 50mm f/1.4 C-Mount and my initial thoughts regarding the no-name lens. In the meantime I have taken some additional photos with the “Plastilux” (which is what I like to call it) and my Nikon V1, but not nearly as many as I would have liked to. Nevertheless I feel confident that I have learned all there is to know about the 50/1.4 C-Mount since I’ve bought it in August 2013.

(UPDATE 02.06.2016: I’ve been using the 50/1.4 CCTV C-mount lens on my Olympus OM-D E-M10 and have written a micro 4/3 centric review. If you are a M4/3 shooter and would like to see how this lens performs on the larger sensor, you can read the review here.)

Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4

So why call it “Plastilux”? Well, at $47/£32/€38 this lens is cheap but capable of some great results, if you put in the time. Read on to find out what I think about the build quality, image quality, depth of field control, usability and price vs. performance of this lens.

Build Quality

Even though this lens is very cheap, it is almost entirely made of metal. The cheapness comes from lack of any kind of modern feature (metering, AF, stabilizer, etc.) and poor construction/assembly/design, rather than cheap, low quality materials. What I mean by that is that the lens feels solid and has a nice heft to it, but that at the same time both focusing ring and aperture ring are very stiff and not very pleasant to use. This is a problem, considering that we are talking about a very small, full manual lens.

Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4

Since it is so small, you can only use your index finger and your thumb to turn the rings, making you, by lack of muscular force, incapable of operating the lens in a swift manner. Five fingers are way stronger than two, after all.

Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4

In addition, the lens has a 6-bladed aperture, with very oddly rounded blades. Because I have used the lens wide open most of the time (it is my “bokeh lens”), I haven’t found this to be a problem. But, there is a reason modern lens designs employ 7-9 rounded aperture blades, instead of 6 oddly-shaped ones.

The last important thing is that this lens has a stepless aperture. There are no aperture “clicks”, you can use any aperture value you want. Should the lack of fixed aperture values and “clicks” be a problem for you, you should consider another lens. This is a CCTV lens after all, which was not designed with photography in mind. People like myself, who adapt C-Mount lenses on Nikon 1 or other cameras are “misusing” these lenses and have to learn to live with some of the quirks. 😉

Here is the 50mm f/1.4 C-Mount next to the Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8.

Nikon V1 & Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4

You will need a C-Mount to Nikon 1 adapter (the part with the red dot in the photo above) to make the lens work on a Nikon 1 camera.

(UPDATE 23.05.2016: Don’t buy the “Kiwi” adapter. I had my modified in a machine shop. Read this post.)

Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4

Image Quality

If you are expecting excellent image quality, comparable to that of Nikkors 18.5mm f/1.8 and 32mm f/1.2, you won’t be happy with the “Plastilux”. It has almost every sort of optical flaw imaginable. It is very soft compared to the Nikkors, has moderate CAs and relatively strong vignetting. It also lacks contrast, which is why you have to add quite a bit of it in post processing.

At this point you are probably asking yourself, why even consider such a lens? Well, 1) the price is so low that it’s practically a bargain, 2) bokeh is wonderful! In fact, even though I don’t have a 32mm f/1.2, after viewing many samples, I like the bokeh of the “Plastilux” much more than that of the super-fast telephoto Nikkor. Of course, the 32/1.2, being sharp and practically free of optical flaws and having AF and metering, is a general purpose lens, compared to the “Plasitlux”, but it also costs 20 times more.

Depth of Field Control

One of the major weaknesses of the Nikon 1 system and it’s relatively small 1” sensor seems to be DOF control. When you read pro/contra discussions regarding the system, you will inevitable realize, that DOF control and High-ISO performance are the two arguments critics of the system most often fall back on to discredit it. Well, with the 50mm f/1.4 C-Mount you will hardly feel that you lack the tools to create some beautiful bokeh. In fact, when I was about to coin a name for this lens, I was having a hard time deciding whether to call it “Bokehlux” or “Plastilux”. 😉

Since this lens is a 135mm f/3.78 full frame equivalent, you will have no problem blurring backgrounds and creating creamy bokeh. But, you will have some other problems…

Usability

Costing as little as it does, this lens is bound to have some disadvantages, flaws and quirks, besides the relatively poor image quality. As mentioned before, there is no metering, no auto ISO, no AF, nothing. And since Nikon 1 cameras have no focusing aids, there is neither focus peaking nor something like Fuji’s split screen feature, not even MF magnification. You are on your own! It is as if my V1 were brain dead, which is a pity, because it, just like all other N1 cameras, has very good metering and extremely fast AF. By mounting this lens on your N1 camera, you are sacrificing all those awesome features that make it so much fun to use and put a smile on your face.

And if that were not enough, this lens doesn’t focus beyond 2 meters. At least my doesn’t with the C-Mount to Nikon 1 adapter that I have.

Price vs. Performance

As I’ve mentioned above, with a price of $47/£32/€38 this lens is very cheap. However, it also has some major problems and flaws. So, should you consider buying this lens? It depends.

If you have a large budget, you should consider the FT-1 adapter and a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4. This combination offers better image quality, metering, centre point AF and much more. It also costs about 10 times more than the “Plastilux” 50mm f/1.4 C-Mount lens with the C-Mount to Nikon 1 adapter and is much larger and heavier.

If you are a starving student who wants nice bokeh, you should consider purchasing the “Plastilux”. It may have many flaws, but the one thing it can do extremely well is bokeh. Your other alternatives would be other C-Mount lenses, should you deem size an important factor, those however will either be in the same price range as the “Plastilux” or more expensive. Should you be willing to sacrifice some of the size advantage, you could take an old film era Nikkor and a “dumb” Nikon F to Nikon 1 adapter into consideration. These will make for a larger package, but in terms of sharpness/CAs/vignetting they will most likely perform better than the “Plastilux”. Whether they will produce better bokeh is anyone’s guess.

Here are some of the photos I’ve taken with the “Plastilux” 50mm f/1.4 C-Mount lens since August. You can find more in my flickr set.

Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50/1.4 Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4Nikon V1 & C-Mount 50mm f/1.4

How you can support me in bringing you more Nikon 1 love?

If you’re intent on buying the C-Mount 50mm f/1.4 lens, consider making your purchase through amazon, by using the following links: AmazonUS, AmazonUK, AmazonDE

You won’t pay a dime more than when making a direct purchase on amazon, but I will receive a small commission. Thanks for the support! 🙂

If you are not a regular amazon customer but would still like to support my work, you can do so by making a modest donation through PayPal. It would be most appreciated.




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34 Comments

  1. S.W. Anderson
    25/12/2013
    Reply

    You have learned this lens and its quirks, and used its strengths excellently in the above photos. Thanks for an interesting and informative review.

    • Ivan
      25/12/2013
      Reply

      Thanks! And you are welcome. 🙂

  2. a abbott
    13/01/2014
    Reply

    Nice work; how do you convert the focal length of a C-mount lens into its equivalent for the Nikon 1? I.e., what focal length would the 50mm C-mount lens be on the Nikon 1? I know that my 18.5 is a “normal” lens for the Nikon 1, equivalent to a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera.
    Or, if I want the same field of view as my 18.5 millimeter lens would I just get the same focal length with a C-mount?

    • Ivan
      13/01/2014
      Reply

      The C-Mount lens is a 50mm on CX, which is around 135mm on FF. It doesn’t matter for what format the lenses are designed, even a 18-35mm UWW for FF would be a 18-35mm on CX, but “behave” like a 50-95mm on FF. All you need to know is what says on the lens and multiply by 2.7 to know what its equivalent on FF would be.

  3. Jan
    18/01/2014
    Reply

    Awesome write-up and amazing pictures. Keep it coming.

    • Ivan
      18/01/2014
      Reply

      Thanks! Next on the list is the 25mm f/1.4 C-Mount.

  4. […] write a review, but many things I have written about its “big brother”, the C-Mount 50mm f/1.4 (link to my Review), also apply to the 25mm f/1.4. Click on the photos to view them in Full HD resolution on Flickr. […]

  5. Anton
    06/03/2014
    Reply

    Great site, review and photos!
    Do you post-process your images in some way? Really loving the colors and contrast!!

    Best regards,
    Anton from Sweden!

  6. Mat
    29/03/2014
    Reply

    “135mm f/3.78” – I think, it’s 135/1.4…

    • Ivan
      29/03/2014
      Reply

      You can’t only multiply the focal length with the crop factor, you also have to multiple the aperture as well. 50/1.4 on a 1″ sensor will have the field of view of a 135mm lens on full frame, and it will have the same depth of field as a 135/3.78 on full frame.

  7. 14/04/2014
    Reply

    Wow, I am totally amazed at the lovely photos you where able to achieve with this lens and its many limitations.

    I was able to find a used 30-110 Nikon lens for sale for only $100.00 and so far I am very happy with it. I don’t think I could get any good photos with the lens in this post — I am just not that good of a photographer.

    • Ivan
      14/04/2014
      Reply

      Wow, I am totally amazed at the lovely photos you where able to achieve with this lens and its many limitations.

      Thank you very much.

      I was able to find a used 30-110 Nikon lens for sale for only $100.00 and so far I am very happy with it. I don’t think I could get any good photos with the lens in this post — I am just not that good of a photographer.

      You are too hard on yourself. 🙂

  8. […] C-Mount lens last August with its larger sibling, the 50mm f/1.4 C-Mount, which I’ve reviewed here. This is a new record even for me in regard to long term usage of a lens, before writing a review. […]

  9. 12/09/2014
    Reply

    Hi, I noticed your comment about the lens not focusing beyond 2 metres. I just received mine and it wouldn’t focus beyond 1 metre! I had a look at the lens and mount compared to the fujian 25mm 1.4 and noticed that the problem is that the lens can’t screw down far enough because it is too large to fit inside the hole of the adapter. I machnied mine at work on the lathe and now I can get infinity focus! I can provide photos if you want.

    • Ivan
      13/09/2014
      Reply

      Hi Desmond!

      Hi, I noticed your comment about the lens not focusing beyond 2 metres. I just received mine and it wouldn’t focus beyond 1 metre!

      Depends on how thick the adapter is.

      I had a look at the lens and mount compared to the fujian 25mm 1.4 and noticed that the problem is that the lens can’t screw down far enough because it is too large to fit inside the hole of the adapter.

      Yes, the barrel is too broad, so that it prevents one from screwing the lens all the way in. It’s even worse on a C-Mount to mFT adapter I have. I can’t even begin to screw the lens in on that adapter.

      I machnied mine at work on the lathe and now I can get infinity focus!

      Nice! Would like to have the tools to do that as well. 🙁

      I can provide photos if you want.

      Yes, please! I would like to see how the lens fares at longer focusing distances.

  10. Aashish Shrestha
    18/02/2016
    Reply

    Hi Ivan,

    These posted pictures are awesome!! I wish you best of luck in making professional money for your astounding work.

    I have a question regarding the use of a c mount lens on a webcam image sensor. I found this blog where an individual has used a modified webcam with the help the c-mount lens to produce astounding results for soldering work. The link is here:
    http://operationalsmoke.blogspot.com/2014/05/diy-usb-soldering-microscope.html

    I wanted to know how can I determine the distance between the image sensor and the c-mount lens.
    I also repair GoPro action cameras at work, they have a company called rib cage making mods for these but are really expensive.

    I hope you could help me.

    Regards,
    Aashish
    iResurrect Repairs

    • Ivan
      03/03/2016
      Reply

      Hi Aashish,

      thank you very much for the compliment. Unfortunately I can’t help you from personal experience, because I have never done something like the blogger you’ve linked to. But theoretically the distance to the sensor should be 17.526 mm. Check out this article on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flange_focal_distance

      Regards,
      Ivan

  11. brnat photography
    24/07/2017
    Reply

    Greetings.
    In addition to shooting I sell equipment over the internet, including this lens 50mm f1.4 and I am using your post to disseminate information about it. Great information, it’s helping me a lot.
    Thank you.

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