Canon 50mm f/0.95 Dream Lens Review Plus Samples

Howdy good people, how are you all? Hope everyone is good!

As for me, between trying to create content for the blog and for its YouTube channel, I think I may have dug myself into a hole that’s gonna be hard to get out of 😀

That’s because now there’s double duty for me on this front, and I could barely keep up with the blog alone!

Sorry for not being able to get back to you guys. Hopefully, I can catch up to you all this weekend. I do appreciate you all!

I’ve been working on this post as well as the video, spending all my free time on both. Just one look at the length of this article will tell you why I’m burnt out 😛

Since I’m a person who does not like pressure, I found myself shutting out the world by binge watching “Forensic Files” 😀

Do not watch this program, not even one episode because if you do, you’ll be watching for hours and get nothing done!

Anyway, enough rambling on nonsense let’s talk about the topic at hand…

The Canon 50mm f/0.95 “Dream Lens.” While this may just be the latest among many reviews of this famous and legendary lens, I’ve actually had my copy for nearly ten years, using it on both film and digital bodies, and it has become one of my most cherished lenses, perhaps my favorite. And now I’m writing to share my experiences with you.


The Canon 50mm f/0.95 was introduced by Canon in 1961. According to the Canon online camera museum, “It had the largest aperture in the world for photographic lenses available in the market at the time.” It is affectionately known as the Canon “Dream Lens.” Today, the Dream Lens has become one of the most well known and coveted lenses of its era.


“Dreamtime” 2010. Canon 7 Rangefinder, Canon 50mm f/0.95 Dream Lens @ wide open, I believe. Film was Tri-X 400. Baby Z getting excited to read about the Dream Lens maybe? More likely, she’s excited for Elmo 🙂

The lens has aperture stops from f/0.95 to f/16. The lens has 10 aperture blades and is a Gauss type design.

When seeking this lens, you will find it usually comes in two flavors. The standard version is rangefinder coupled and was made specifically for the Canon 7/7s film rangefinders. These cameras have a special mount to take the 50mm f/0.95 and to my knowledge you cannot use the lens on other film rangefinders, Canon or otherwise.

There is also a “Canon TV Lens” version. It says “TV Lens” on the front inner ring of the lens. Pretty much the same lens, but made for C-Mount and is uncoupled. It usually comes with a C-Mount ring attached to it.


As mentioned in my last post, I am including YouTube videos in conjunction with my postings, whenever possible to give our readers a more dynamic experience.

For those who want to cut to the chase, here’s the video from around 4:45 but if you watch the whole video, you might want to grab a cup of coffee and/or a snack because it’s nearly ten minutes!

The video is more of a summary, but this article contains much more information on the Canon Dream Lens.

Oh yes, there IS a reason for those shades and it has nothing with trying to be cool or uncool or whatever! I will divulge in a future posting I promise you!!


Before we go on any further, please let me say this is not meant to be a full throttle or technical review of the lens. I’m no optical expert. I have no optical bench to test optics.

I have to rely on what I see with my eyes, based upon my experiences. Between telescopes and camera lenses, I have spent over thirty years developing an eye for optics. But again, I restate that I am no optics expert. I see what I see and I leave it up to the readers to make the judgement to my opinions.

With that out of the way, let me tell you the story of how I came upon the Dream Lens.

In the early to mid 2000s, perhaps 2004 or 2005, I answered an ad on Craigslist and went to someone’s home to check out a camera collection for sale. I suspect some of our readers have been to a few of these 😊

Anyway, hidden in the pile of junk cameras was a dusty camera with a huge lens on it. That camera was the Canon 7 rangefinder and the 50mm f/0.95 Canon Dream Lens.

The fella wanted $600 for it, and me thinking it was too expensive for this dusty, dirty outfit, I passed on it.


“Nightmare” 2010. Canon 7 Rangefinder, Canon 50mm f/0.95 Dream Lens on Arista EDU Premium 400 developed in T-Max developer. I was focusing on the gorilla when he stuck his tongue out! The baby and mother added to this shot, I do not know them. Considering that the rangefinder on my Canon 7 was out of alignment, I got real lucky with this shot!

As you may or may not know, that price is a bargain compared to what this lens alone goes for today!

That was the seed that set me on a wild goose chase for this lens! It wasn’t until 2009 that I was able to find and afford a copy of my own.

Although the lens is not often seen in the real world, the Canon Dream Lens is not what I’d call rare, and it wasn’t that the lens was particularly hard to find that took me so long to get one.

I guess you could say it was a bad string of finances and timing. When I had the money, I couldn’t find one. When I did find one, I didn’t have the money. But it all came together in 2009.


This lens is meant to be used wide open at f/0.95, but here is my breakdown…

“Twilight” 2014. Sony A7R, Canon 50mm f/0.95 Dream Lens @ wide open!

At F/0.95: There is apparent softness upon first impressions. At wide open the bokeh is most dramatic, as expected and makes up for any impression of softness. Upon closer inspection on a properly focused image, it is actually sharp.

The DOF is razor thin at f/0.95 and focussing errors may account for at least some of the softness people complain about.

“Sweet Zay Jan” 2018. Leica M8, Canon 50mm f/0.95 @ 0.95. Note, the baby started moving, as seen by her hands, but thankfully her face did not, allowing me to capture her sweet smile:-)

The “softness” possibly comes from lowered contrast and/or other optical imperfections. Images at wide open sometimes seem like they are enveloped in a thin veil of haze, but this is not noticeable in all images and most of the time, I don’t find it objectionable. This adds to that dreamy look, a glow that some have mentioned. Some of this may come from, again lower contrast wide open and/or poor flare resistance at this aperture. A lens hood helps if you’re wanting to minimize flare or trying to avoid lowering contrast further.


“Day Dream” 2010. Canon 7 Rangefinder, 50mm f/0.95 Dream Lens.

There is vignetting, noticeable on both film and digital. When I shot this lens wide open on the Canon 7, the vignetting was not objectionable. On the Sony A7R (original 36mp camera), it was more pronounced. I did not find it objectionable, but some might.

At F/1.4: The contrast increases, the slight haze dissapates, and the image appears quite a bit sharper than wide open. It could be comparable to other 50mm f/1.4 lenses of its era.

“Bundle Up” 2014. Sony A7R, Canon 50mm f/0.95 @ f/1.4. Sharpness is improved from wide open and the bokeh looks a lot less “funky” for lack of a better word 🙂

At f/2.8: Should be good enough for most purposes you would use any other 50mm lens for!


“The Dream Team” 2010. Rad and Frank, two great friends and photographers affectionately known as the “Dream Team.” Canon 7 Rangefinder, Canon 50mm f/0.95 Dream Lens @ around f/2.5-2.8 on Arista EDU Premium. Note the bokeh is more subdued but still funky. Can the “Dream Team” ride again? 🙂

Stopped Down Further: Honestly, I see no point in evaluating this! Why? Because this lens was meant to be used wide open or stopped down slightly to get the famous bokeh effect it’s known for. It gets sharper as do most lenses stopped down. I never objectively tested it at say f/8, f/11, and f/16. It will never achieve Otus like sharpness, but then again, that is unrealistic. It’s probably as sharp stopped down as any other 50mm from the 50’s and 60’s.

“New Dream” 2014. Sony A7R, Canon 50mm f/0.95 @ wide open! Even with ISO 100, the camera was giving me the max shutter speed of 1/4000th!


This lens is all about bokeh, or the background blur in the out of focus areas. Or to be even more geeky…the quality of the background blur. Honestly, there’s no real reason to get this lens for any else but bokeh!


“Radamon’s Dream” 2010. Canon 7 Rangefinder, Canon 50mm f/0.95 @ wide open! Film was Arista EDU Premium 400. I think this is a good example of the Dream Lens’ bokeh at its funkiest!

Count on me to tell it like it is, while people goo and gah over the bokeh from the Dream Lens, it doesn’t always neccessarily qualify as beautiful, to me. But everything I love doesn’t have to be beautiful, and so I love it! 🙂

“Shoot The City” 2018. Leica M8, Canon 50mm f/0.95 @ wide open! Who says the Leica M8 can’t shoot low light? With a fast lens like the Canon Dream Lens, it sure can!

Light sources, such as night lights for example, look like “coma shaped orbs” as I’ve mentioned before from similar vintage lenses. Almost like gibbous or half moon shapes.

“City Lights” 2018. Leica M8, Canon 50mm f/0.95 @ f/0.95. This shot was taken across the Hudson River in New Jersey. The yellow lights in the back are lights from cars driving on NYC’s West Side Highway at night. This is an example of the “moon shaped orbs” I mentioned. This was shot at night, another reason to use a lens this fast!

It may not always be so pretty, but this is what draws people in to the images produced by this lens. In many ways, this is the closest on 35mm that you can get to that Aero Ektar f/2.5 look on a Large Format 4×5 Speed Graphic.

A lot also depends on the background. If there’s a lot of clutter, things tend to look worse. If the background is relatively clear, things will look better. I have been pleasantly surprised with some images where the bokeh looked neutral, even wide open.


“Dream Ride” 2010. Canon 7 Rangefinder, 50mm f/0.95 Dream Lens @ wide open. Tri-X 400 developed in T-Max Developer. Note the neutral background at wide open. As with most lenses, the background determines a lot as to what the bokeh will do.

I’ve heard people call the bokeh from the Canon 50mm f/0.95 as beautiful, delicious, “bokelicious,” sweet, tasty, even nasty, horrible or ugly. I call it “Super Funk” because it is all this and more. It is whatever you interpret it to be!

“Zen” 2018. Leica M8, Canon 50mm f/0.95 @ wide open. 

Although it’s one of my favorite lenses of all time, I use it sparingly. I mean, I could use this lens every day but I would never post pictures from it every day. You will just kill the effect if you do. This lens should be considered an artistic tool in your arsenal rather than an everyday lens.


The Canon 50mm f/0.95 has increased in value over the years and prices are now trending from a low of $1200 to a high of $2000 give or take. Some unscrupulous dealers are trying to sell this lens for $3000 or more. This, to me, is way too high since that is approaching Noctilux used prices. The Noctilux goes for $5500-10000 on the used market, depending on which version.

Speaking of the Noctilux, some have labeled the Canon Dream Lens as the “Poor Man’s Noctilux.” Since the Canon came first, I’d say they should change that to the Noctilux is the “Rich Man’s Canon Dream Lens” 🙂

Comparisons? Well, I never owned a Noctilux, though I have two friends that have them. Based upon what I’ve seen from the Noctilux and the Canon Dream Lens, I’d say you can’t compare the two. It’s apples to oranges.

The Leica may be the technically better lens, while the Canon may be the more artistic lens in regards to the images it renders. Just like the film vs digital debate, my answer to the Noctilux vs Dream lens question is…None are better than the other. They are different.


As a “community service” to my fellow photo gear lovers, I need to say this to help you avoid a potentially painful and expensive episode of G.A.S with the Dream Lens 🙂

Ok, so today in my opinion, you really don’t need it. You may want it, but you don’t need it!

Let me explain…

When the Canon 50mm f/0.95 came out in 1961, it had few if any competition. People were still shooting film exclusively and back then you can forget all about “low light, high iso” shots.

Today, we have companies like Mitakon, SLR Magic, Mieke, 7Artisans, Kamlan and a whole bunch of other companies making lenses at f/0.95, f/1, f/1.1, f/1.2 and when you combine these lenses with the amazingly low light capable digital cameras we have today, you could literally shoot in the dark.

Just as I saw over ten years ago in the telescope world, let’s thank our friends (mostly in China) for bringing us these super fast and affordable glass! I remember telescopes such as apochromatic refractors and large diameter Maksutovs from American manufacturers such as Astro-Physics and Meade being optically superb, but also expensive. The wait list for Astro-Physics APO refractors was in years, not months.

Then came the Asian optics around the early to mid 2000’s that started challenging the established manufacturers. Sure, they may not have been a real match for a finely crafted Astro-Physics refractor, but you didn’t have to wait years and the the price/quality ratio was good enough for a lot of people. Love it or hate it, these overseas optical makers are giving people what they apparently want! 🙂


To me, the Canon Dream Lens was a lens of compromised optical quality when it came out in 1961. Compromised by the technology of its time, and probably optically compromised as well to create a showpiece lens for which Canon could claim as the fastest photographic lens in the world at that time.

In the same way, you could say today’s cheaper (under $1000) fast lenses are also of compromised quality. They are here to deliver the speed people want, knowing full well people love “ugly” these days. People love “Super Funk” ie, swirly bokeh, orbs, distortions, etc.

There are lenses such as the $2999 Nocturnus which may have higher quality and that might be a good option for some, but again for me, when you get that close to $5000, I’d just rather just save a little more and look around for a used Noctiux, but that’s just me!

Finally, you might say, that’s good and all, but these lenses are NOT the Canon Dream Lens…and that is true! They will not deliver the images the Dream Lens does.


“Angel” (With Horns!) 2010. Canon 7 Rangefinder, Canon 50mm f/0.95 on Tri-X 400 developed in T-Max Developer.

As a counterpoint, I would say the Dream Lens will not produce the kind of images these new and cheaper lenses do either! When it comes to beauty or even “ugly” it’s all subjective really.

But if you have the money and you want the Dream Lens, I’d say…go for it! It’s the Canon Dream Lens baby! Gotta have it! 🙂


I had mine converted to M mount in 2013 by the great Ken Ruth of Bald Mountain. I’ve heard that Ken has recently retired from camera repair and modification work. Hope he enjoys his retirement, he deserves it. Personally, I’m sad to see him stop doing his thing. Sad to see someone of his skills leave the business. He was a true camera technician, a camera wizard, a Camera Legend! He did an awesome job on the M conversion on my lens.

There are others who will do this conversion today. One I know off hand is Don Goldberg aka DAG. I initially contacted him, but his wait list was so long and I found Ken. I’ve had interactions with Don in the past and based on his reputation, I’d have no hesitation having any work done through him.

Why should you convert it to M mount? Unlike many other things in life, having the Dream Lens modified for M mount actually increases its value!

The main reason I had it converted to M mount is because it opens up so many other possibilities such as using the lens on Leica M bodies, film and digital. Using it on any digital system that will take M lenses through adapters.

“Palm Beach” 2014. Leica M5, Canon 50mm f/0.95 Dream Lens on Fuji Superia 400 color film.

In its native Canon 7/7s mount, you can still use it on digital bodies with the proper adapter/adapters. I used mine on a Sony NEX C3 (Aps-C sensor) for a few years before the conversion. I actually had second thoughts about doing the M conversion since I enjoyed using it on the Canon 7 for film, but when I looked at the possiblities available after the M conversion, I swallowed hard and went for it.

Keep in mind, once you do the conversion you can never use it on the Canon 7/7s again, unless you had it reconverted back which is impractical…or get another Dream Lens that is unconverted so that you can use it on the 7/7s…even more impractical, but I’ve thought about it! 🙂

The conversion cost me $300, but it could be lower or higher, depending on who you find to do the job. Get the best person you can because this is a precious lens and you don’t want some hobbyist screwing up your dream lens! 🙂



“Dreams” 2010. Canon 7 Rangefinder, Canon 50mm f/0.95 Dream Lens @ wide open. Film was Tri-X 400 developed in T-Max Developer. Ahh, is there anything sweeter than a little baby sleeping? Shhh…:-)

I hope these samples give you some idea of the kind of images this lens produces. As I’ve said before, it may not be a look everyone likes but it certainly has character! The Canon 50mm f/0.95 is a legendary lens that remains a highlight of lens design that helped cement Canon’s role as a Camera Legend.

It was, in hindsight, one of the first of many fast, speedy, and exotic glass that Canon would go on to produce over the years.

Please have a look at the video for additional information including why you’d want this lens and why you really don’t need it.

Sure it may sound like a shameless plug and ploy for you to watch the video but it’s not. At least it’s not meant to be!

When starting this article, I had just intended to post samples in order to save myself some work and time.

I figure if you’re really interested in this lens, you’d check the video too and if you’re not that interested, at least you’d hopefully look at the images on this post.

Instead, I ended up writing a lot more than I expected to. Kinda defeats the purpose of making the video and the article too. More work than I wanted, but I love you all so gotta do it!! 😊😘

Hey gotta go, thanks for listening and I appreciate you!

“Dream Baby” 2015. Sony A7R, Canon 50mm f/0.95 Dream Lens. With Baby Zay in the house, life is indeed a dream 🙂


If seeking the Canon 50mm f/0.95 “Dream Lens” prices are trending from a low of $1200 to a high of $2000 give or take. I did not include the $3000 plus lenses because I do not see them as legitimate prices. I do not want to help inflate the prices of these beautiful lenses because I was once in the position of someone who could only dream of such a lens so I know this feeling.

Though the lens is exotic, it is not considered rare. I see them almost every week for sale on eBay and elsewhere.

A fair price I believe will be between $1500 and $2000. To give you an idea of how these lenses have increased in value, I can only say I paid a lot less than this!

If the lens has been converted to M mount, it may fetch a little more. For the cheapest prices, seek out the unconverted version and just get a C-Mount to NEX or Micro 4/3 adapter and enjoy!

If you’re looking for this lens and can’t afford it right now, keep dreaming and be rest assured that one day, with a little luck (and save up some money, of course!) you can attain this dream of a lens! If I, a mere mortal, can do it, so too can you 🙂


Photo Of The Day: “Palm Beach”

Ok yes I know it’s been a long time since I had a decent camera review for you and I’m sorry it’s going to be a little longer cause just as I did my edits for my next review the computer crashes! Don’t you just hate that?!

Anyway, it’s almost 6am EST so there’s no way I’m going back to it now.

So just to let you know I’m still around, here’s a shot using a Leica M5 and vintage Canon 50mm f/0.95 “Dream Lens.” The film I believe was Fuji Superia 400. If you wish to see a larger version, you may now do so by clicking on the photo. I hope to include larger photos on future postings, now that I’ve found a decent work around to WordPress limitations on this.

My workflow is usually this…I start out testing the cameras and lenses on my kids, if they’re cooperative. Once I get decent shots of them, I move on to other subjects like the streets, buildings or anything else that strikes my fancy because once the gear passes the “kid test” I already know it’s going to do ok with anything else! 😊

The Canon 50mm f/0.95 is one of my favorite lenses of all time and I’ve been using it for many years. It’s a specialized tool, no doubt, so I use it sparingly. To paraphrase that now retired handsome old man in the commercial…”I don’t use the lens often, but when I do, it’s the most interesting lens in the world.”

The lens has that unique soft/sharp thing going on. It’s not the sharpest lens in the world, it’s softer than it is sharp, but it certainly has its own character.

I hope to post a collection of Canon Dream Lens images from a variety of different bodies in the near future.

Have a great week and see you soon!

Digital Manipulation Part I: Should You Use Digital Filters?

A few postings back I showed a color image from the Leica M8 and said that with some post processing and treatment, I could maybe, possibly turn the photo into something more dramatic. Well, I had some time to play with it and here’s the before and after:



Now I know it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s certainly more “dramatic” than the first photo!

Ok the color shot on top was a straight out of camera jpeg from the M8 with a 50mm f/2 Summicron attached. The bottom b&w image is the same image processed through Google’s Analog Efex using a wet plate filter. It’s basically a digital filter attempting to emulate the look of a wet plate film print.

Seeing the image from a photographer’s perspective, I would certainly choose the “Plain Jane” straight out of camera color shot, but I do have to say that I did like the b&w conversion too. But that’s probably me being partial to the subjects 🙂

Anyway, it got me thinking this…if this image was a true wet plate photo, I’d wager that most photographers, even analog only photographers would accept it, maybe even think it was cool with all its grit and drama.

But since it’s a digital manipulation, they’d probably dismiss it. I can understand this. First of all, a true wet plate print requires a lot of work and people can respect the process. And most will give your props for that. Digital manipulation, digital filters, etc, are much easier in comparison.

Digital photography “purists” may not accept it either as using filters seem “fake” and especially now when people are on the “no filter” wave. Technology has made life easy, but people still seem to prefer hard.

So you get no respect from analog photographers and no respect from digital photography “purists.” So who would be the audience for this kind of digital manipulation? Why I’d bet my money on social media! Your friends on Facebook, Instagram, etc. I think images using these filters would be perfect for social media.

Why? You might think I’d say that the audience there don’t know any better, but I’m not saying that. Being on social media for many years, I can honestly say that while there are a lot of non photographers posting photos, there are also many, many hardcore photographers posting there as well. And many of these folks are very knowledgeable and would know that the photo has received some kind of “artificial” treatment.

The wonderful thing about social media though vs the photo forums is a general sense of acceptance for almost anything. The folks tend to view images on a broader scope, accepting the image as it is first. The process too sometimes helps to get the votes, the likes, etc, but if you didn’t mention it, they probably wouldn’t care and they’d probably accept it as is. But we photo geeks care about the process, don’t we? 🙂

On the negative side, there’s also a drive for votes and likes, so your followers will likely “like” your image anyway, whether they really like it or not.

Please understand, I am just using this image as an example, not because I think it’s a great photo or not. I love the photo because of the subjects, but I’d honestly say that to the general public it’s probably not a very interesting shot, even processed.

If it were me looking at this from an outsider’s eye, I would say there’s no way this is a real wet plate photo. Real wet plate photos are rarely ever this clean nor this sharp, though I have seen some sharp ones. They do tend to be dark, and the Analog Efex did a good job there.

In the end though, it has always been my belief that digital b&w started out of a desire to emulate film. As things evolved, it was no longer just about film but about achieving a look that is unique and different from everyone else. The incredibly high saturation of photographers in today’s world drives this desire even more.

All I can say is…

If you shoot film, continue to shoot it. You will always be a little different in today’s world and part of a wonderfully amazing and passionate brotherhood. But film can only take you so far in and of itself. Content is most important.

Content to me is subject, composition, and the overall “interesting-ness” of the photo. Technical quality is usually second. You can have a technically perfect photo that’s boring as hell and not many people will like it.

If you shoot digital, that’s awesome too but try to make your mark by content first. Again content is key. Interesting photos will always win over filters. And if you want to use filters, I have nothing against that. Just know that filters get old pretty fast so use them sparingly.

There is room for everybody and every style in the wonderful world of photography so let’s not lose any sleep over this. As long as you’re having fun, I’d say that’s good enough for me and it should be good enough for you 🙂

Flashback Friday March 24, 2017 Edition: M8 Pic & The End Of Pop Photo Magazine


“Shout For Spring” 2016. Leica M8, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M.

Spring just arrived this week. I’m not sure about you, but I just don’t get to take many pictures in the winter. Not for a lack of things to take pictures of, but I just don’t find myself going to places that would make me want to take photos. Spring is more my thing! Hopefully, we’ll get to try some stuff we’re wanting to review and come back with some decent pics.

The above photo was taken last spring with a Leica M8 and 50mm f/2 Summicron-M. This is just straight from the camera. With a little post-processing, one could possibly turn this into something more dramatic and if I were still posting to photo sites, I might have done that but I find it too time consuming these days.

The M8 raw files or even jpegs have a crisp, chrome like quality when shot in color and can be very filmic in black and white.

Knock on wood, the M8, she looks fragile at first but has proven to be one heck of a durable and reliable camera. Knock on wood again!

I’m sure many of you wouldn’t mind another M8 review, just as I wouldn’t, and I’m going to try to give it to you someday. But let me just say when I first got it in 2010, I truly did not think I’d have it this long or that it would even last this long! Don’t wait for me, if you find a good deal at a good price with a good warranty go for it. M8 rocks!


Well, it was announced about two weeks ago that Popular Photography, aka Pop Photo magazine would cease production after 80 years. They started in 1937 and was a mainstay at newstands here in the USA, and I’ve seen it in Asia too. Their sister publication American Photo has also been cancelled. I’m only talking about Pop Photo in this article.


Popular Photography Magazine has come to an end. This 1997/1998 Buyer’s Guide was one of the last issues I actually bought. RIP Pop Photo!

I guess we should have known this was coming when they started changing to a bi-monthly publication recently, that’s never a good sign.

As a nostalgic fool, it saddens me a little to see them go. The magazine was very much responsible for keeping my interest in photography in the 80s and 90s. I loved those Nikon F3 and Minolta X-700 ads!

Then in the early 1990s, I remember spending hours in the college library reading nearly every copy of Pop Photo they had and it renewed my interest in photography, after a brief loss of interest. I know I should’ve been reading my school books instead, maybe this was the reason for my below-average grades 🙂

The magazine also served to fuel my G.A.S. even then as a poor college student. All those nice equipment photos, all those glowing reviews!

Yet it was those glowing reviews that made them lose some credibility to some people. I learned that the hard way. Back in the 90s Nikon came out with a headline grabbing super-zoom, the 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-D.

I got one based on one of their reviews. It was an impressive looking lens with its large 72mm filter size. After using it for a while though, I remember being very disappointed with this lens. Even with my then still learning eyes, I could tell this lens was sub-par on my N90s. I sold it and got the 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 AF Nikkor which was a much better lens.

However, I still picked up the magazine or (actually if I may admit) looked at it every month at Barnes & Nobles, Borders, or whatever bookstore carried it. You got to remember this was pre internet days and this was one of the few ways to read about cameras, lenses, and photography back then.

I loved the articles from the late, great Herbert “Burt” Keppler. He was the main man at Pop Photo and a Camera Legend. He would write in this straight-up style that only a New Yorker could relate to. I remember I was over the moon when he sent me back a hand written response to a question I sent in. Sadly, he passed away in 2008.

As the years progressed, I would still look at the magazine, but it was usually for a quick glance and nothing more. I began to lose interest in the magazine as I could read better things online.

People used to trash them as a “rag” and only there to make money because of all those ads. In their defense, I would say come on now, they are Pop Photo after all and anything “Pop” is all about the masses. Just like pop music, yes they have to make some money.

They did attempt to give you reviews with some backup. They had this “SQF” (Subjective Quality Factor) thing on their lens reviews which were based on MTF charts I think. But it clearly stated “Subjective” so you had to be careful.

The thing with Pop Photo is that you had to read between the lines to figure out for yourself what they’re trying to say. They probably didn’t want to burn any bridges with their advertisers. For example, you might read in the article that a camera’s high iso was generally good, but look at their chart and it says “Unacceptable.” If you see that, then you know “unacceptable” is the real answer. It wasn’t that hard.

I found Pop Photo to be a much more enjoyable read than many other competing magazines. For example, if you compare Petersen’s Photographic to Pop Photo, there’s no comparison. Petersen’s reads like a rehash of the manufacturers brochure. Shutterbug was generally ok,  a little bit better than Pop Photo, but not much. My favorite photography magazines by far were those fancy British magazines and of course the awesome Japanese magazines. I can’t read a lick of Japanese, but I loved the photos!

Anyway, in today’s virtual world it should really come as no surprise to see Pop Photo go. Just like books, music, porn, etc, the internet killed everything real or “real” as we knew it. It’s still unclear whether they will continue as a website.

I hope they will, but speaking for myself, I never found their website engaging enough to keep my interest as the magazine did. Just like many old school companies, transitioning from the real to virtual world did not seem easy for Pop Photo. I think if they hired some real pros to refurnish their site, they could turn it around. They had a huge audience for their magazine, especially back in the day. It would be a shame if someone at the top could not capitalize on that and keep it running.

As it is right now, RIP Pop Photo. You were a great source of inspiration back in the day. Thank you.



Monday Mystery Camera: The Nicca 5L aka Nicca Type 5/ Tower 46


The Nicca 5L/Tower 46 with the 5cm f/1.4 Nikkor in ltm mount. A rare combination!

The Nicca 5L is a rangefinder camera made by the Nicca Camera Company of Japan around circa 1957.

Nicca was one of several Japanese companies that brought Leica screwmount clones to the market. The most well known of these clone companies is Canon, but there were also many more companies from Japan and the USSR. Nicca is said to be the predecessor to the Canon company.

The camera pictured above is the Tower 46. It is the same camera as the Nicca 5L/Type 5, but was sold in the USA by Sears Roebuck under their “Tower” brand.


The Nicca 5L like most Leica screwmount cameras has two separate windows, one for framing and one for the rangefinder. The shutter speed range is 1/25 to 1/1000, plus B.

The Nicca’s main claim to fame is the winding lever and the Leica M type back, easier film loading than Leica’s screwmount bodies.

Stephen Gandy has a much more extensive write-up on his Camera Quest website, the online authority on rangefinder cameras. In his article, he says it “outshines Leica’s own renouned IIIg.”

I don’t have any experience with the IIIg, but compared to the IIIf I have, it is indeed better. The film loading, the winding lever, the beautiful, large and clear rangefinder all add up to a more pleasant user camera.


The Nicca 5L is rare, but not ultra rare. Well, the Nicca version itself is quite rare. As I read on Camera Quest it’s “never been seen.” The Tower 46 (the one seen here) is the one you will usually encounter. If you ever see the Nicca version, let me know!

The Nicca is one of those cameras I bought but sold before I could use it. As I already had the IIIf, I preferred to keep the Leica, despite the Nicca being a much better user camera, as I stated above. Sold it when I needed to pay the bills. Of course, I regret it! 🙂

I got the Nicca/Tower 46 for about $130 body only, which was a bargain. I don’t see them often, but when I do, I usually see this camera on auction sites, usually paired with the 5cm f/2 Nikkor sell for around $350-500. The 5cm f/1.4 Nikkor in ltm mount is more uncommon and sells for around $300-400 by itself.

Sometimes, people will try to pull for a lot more on that auction site, but as the Leica IIIg (the apex of screwmount rangefinders) go for around $400-700 at legitimate dealers like KEH, I can only say that the Nicca should not sell for more than that.

The Nicca 5L/Tower 46 is an awesome camera to add to your collection and I’m sure, to use. Someday, I will find another and this time, I’ll keep it!

Note: Sorry for the placement of the “” logo. I now put it closer to the photos because I had found some of the content of my pages used without authorization. I usually hate copyright logos, but it only takes one bad apple to ruin it for everyone and it only takes seeing your work copied to make you think twice about it.

Photo Of The Day: “That Smile”


My little “Country Bumpkin” in 2008.

This could be considered a “Flashback Friday” post. This is my elder daughter in 2008, just a little more than a year old.

Shot with an Epson R-D1 and a seventy plus year old 50mm f/2 Leica Summar lens. I had just gotten this lens in rough condition on eBay for under $100. I was so enamored that it was giving me these (to me) beautiful soft/sharp images, just what I’d been looking for!

The Epson R-D1 was a 6.1mp camera, the world’s first digital rangefinder, and one of my favorite old school digital cameras ever. I’ve been meaning to do a flashback review of this camera, but this is one of those cameras that I love so much, I would need a lot to time to do it justice. Time I simply don’t have tonight. But I’ll get to it, eventually 🙂

Have a good Friday and a good weekend everybody!

Best, Sam

Tuesday Titans: The Leica R8 (R9)


I might as well call this “Tuesday Night Titans” as a tribute to the old WWF (now WWE) rasslin’ show 🙂

The Leica R8 is a 35mm film SLR introduced by Leica in 1996. The R9 was introduced in 2002 and was the last film SLR made by Leica for their R series which was discontinued in 2009.

Although the R9 was marketed at the time as a new model, it is pretty much an upgraded R8. The bulk of this review is based on my extended use of the R8. R9 differences will be pointed out later on in this article.

While the R8 appears much like an autofocus camera, it is not. It’s an electronic camera that relies on batteries for everything, and it is pure manual focus.


The Leica R8 (and R9) look radically different from any Leica single lens reflex before it. It is huge, it is massive, it is a TITAN!!

I remember reading about the R8 in one of those cool British photography magazines in the late 90s. I remember thinking it was huge and cool and even a little crazy. I never thought about getting one until I started picking up R lenses to use on my 5D in the mid 2000s.

After seeing how great these lenses were, I found a great deal on an R8 in 2008 and although I’ve sold off a whole load of stuff since then, I still hang on to the R8.


“Lots Of Love” 2008. Leica R8, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Ilford XP2.

The camera feels great in the hand. Heavy, robust, and well put together. The controls are definitely in the Leica bloodline, spartan and uncluttered.

The Mode dial is on the top left. It has all your usual modes, manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, and a very unusual “F” flash metering mode. I could write about this, but it would take a whole half page and I’ve never used it. In a nutshell, the mode is used in conjunction with the camera’s pc socket and your flash which can be a dedicated flash unit or a number of studio strobes. You trigger the flash (or strobes) in “F” mode and it will help you determine flash exposure values which you can see on the back LCD without actually taking a shot, saving you from wasting film. At least that’s how I understand it.

On the top right of the camera is the shutter speed dial which runs from 16s to 1/8000th of a second. A good rule to remember when buying cameras is that any camera with 1/8000 means serious business even if 99 percent of the time we never use that shutter speed!

The 93 percent coverage viewfinder is bright and clear, but appears smaller and not as easy to focus as that on the older Leicaflex SL series. You probably would’ve expected 100 percent viewfinder coverage on a camera like this, and so did I.


“Man In Black” 2015. Leica R8, 80mm f/1.4 Summilux-R, Tri-X 400 developed in Ilford ID-11 developer. My man Mr. Louis Mendes, NYC fixture, icon, and friend. I don’t know how many times I’ve photographed Lou over the years, but I never tire of it. Awesome guy, awesome photographer!

Funny thing, when I first got the R8 I felt as if I could never be sure if I had things in critical focus or not, having been spoiled by the SL viewfinder. I was a little obsessed about it to the point that I had even contacted several highly regarded Leica “people” including repair expert Don Goldberg (DAG) and famed Leica nature shooter Doug Herr. Both gentlemen were extremely helpful. However, in the end, I never did anything to the viewfinder.

My fears dissipated when roll after roll, 80-90 percent of the images were always in sharp focus, which is actually better than a lot of other manual focus bodies I have used.

“Baby Love” 2008. Leica R8, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Ilford XP2. Despite my fears, I was able to manually focus well enough on the R8 to get roll after roll of mostly sharp shots. The color cast is the result of a drug store scan, which I have not bothered to correct.

Don’t let me scare you though. What happened to me was that the images looked “in focus” in the R8 viewfinder, but it didn’t have a reassuring “snap” to it the way the SL did and that concerned me. I don’t know if the screen in my R8 is original stock, but it doesn’t have a split-image focusing screen in it, which always helps if you’re unsure.

But again, my fears were unwarranted so I no longer have issues focusing on the R8. Most of the time, if it looks in focus, it probably is.


“Lonely Still” 2008. Leica R8, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Ilford XP2.

The shutter is well damped and smooth in its sound. Always a sign of a high quality camera.


In the first few years that the R8 was out on the market, there were numerous reports on reliability issues. Leica reportedly, at that time, fixed these issues free of charge.

All I can say is in the eight years I’ve had the camera, knock on wood, I never had a problem with it.

It is likely, but not certain, that if you buy one today and it’s in working condition, it’s probably fine.

If you’re worried about this, that’s one good reason to buy an R9 which apparently fixed everything. However, the R9 on the used market is a good $500 more than a used R8.

Here’s a good page on R8 ISSUES including suspected serial number ranges.


If Leica had not discontinued their R system bodies, lenses, and accessories, it is my opinion that the Leica R could stand out as the ultimate Leica film body, even when compared to their beloved rangefinders.

Whether you love it or hate it, it’s a standout body. There’s nothing in their film range of cameras that looks like it. I’ve compared a lot of these monstrous cameras to the Canon EOS-1, but I can’t even compare the R8 to that behemoth in its looks. It stands alone.


“Past Imperfect” 2010. Leica R8, 80mm f/1.4 Summilux, Tri-X.

I know people who think this camera is butt ugly, and I can’t remember if I was one of them, but what I can tell you is that most people who love the R8 end up loving it after they have held and used one.

To me now, it feels and looks awesome and it produces great results, roll after roll.


The Leica R8 and R9 have the distinction of being the only 35mm film camera that could be converted to a digital body by replacing the film back with a digital back that Leica made called the “Digital Module R” otherwise known as the “DMR.”

The DMR used a 10mp Kodak CCD sensor and was highly praised by those lucky enough to use it. I was not one of them. They were and are always pricey and scarce on the used market.

At the dawn of the digital era, around 1996 or so, there were dreams of turning film cameras into digital. You may have remembered reading about this. If you forgot the main company pushing this idea at the time, they were called “Silicon Film.” Do a Google search if you’re interested.

Anyway, although it held great promise, the “digital film” concept never materialized in production.

To this date, only the only 35mm cameras that could be turned into digital are the R8 and R9 bodies, again, assuming you can find, or really want to buy a 10mp digital back for over $2000 used.


To further complicate things, the Leica R8/R9 are recommended to be used only with Leica 3-Cam or ROM lenses. The 1-CAM or 2-CAM lenses can damage the ROM contacts on the R8/R9 bodies. You can get these lenses converted to 3-CAM or ROM by a specialist. As a disclaimer, me being foolhardy and cheap, I’ve used 2-CAM lenses on the R8 with no issues, but I don’t recommend it and don’t blame me if you try this and it ruins your camera 🙂


The R9 is 100g lighter than the R8. The R9 has a special edition “Anthracite” model, in addition to the black model. The R9 has an LCD frame counter on the top plate, the R8 has the frame counter on the back LCD.

There were also some changes in the electronics, mainly to better support Metz’s flash units. Reliability is supposedly better with the R9. Do a little research on this if this interests or concerns you.

Overall though, they are pretty much the same camera.


The Leica R8/R9 were the climatic highlight of the Leica R System, a system which was never as popular as Leica’s own M System and a system which is now dead.

The R lenses were, in most cases, every bit as good as their M counterparts, but the R bodies were not. The R8 and R9 were said to be the only electronic R bodies which had nothing to do with Leica’s partnership with Minolta. But sadly, it’s too little, too late for the R system.

Ironically, digital photography and the popularity of adapted lenses have resurrected the R system lenses from the dead, at least on the used market and prices are dramatically higher than they were only a few years ago. I’m so glad I got my R lenses when the tide was low.

The R8 and R9 are eye-catchers in terms of looks, but more importantly, they are superb shooters which can produce fantastic results. Although they now belong to a technically dead system, the Leica R8 and R9 represented the pinnacle of Leica’s foray into the 35mm single lens reflex arena and they are true Camera Legends which serves to remind us of Leica’s past and gave us a glimpse into Leica’s future.


While I love the R8 and the R System lenses, I would not recommend you start with an R8 or R9 if its your first foray into this system. I certainly would not recommend the DMR unless you have money to burn.

The reasons are many…

It’s a dead system. I’m not sure if Leica will still repair the R8/R9. I’m pretty sure they don’t repair the DMR any longer.

The ability to adapt the R lenses to many, many systems including many full-frame systems negate the purpose of the DMR, which remains pricey on the used market.

If wanting to get your feet wet in the Leica R System, spending as little as you can, the all manual Leicaflex SL is a much better choice. No batteries necessary, better viewfinder, and cheaper. Body should be $100 or less. A good lens to start with is the 50mm f/2 Summicron-R and for the SL, you could probably find a 1-CAM version for around $300 or under. That’s the cheapest way to get into the Leica R System.


If you really have your heart set on an R8 or R9, I can’t blame you after all the stuff I just wrote about it 🙂

Prices are trending at $350-500 for the R8 and $650-1000 or more for the R9. And for delicate electronic cameras you really should buy from a place with a good return warranty.

For a safe purchase try HERE and HERE in the USED section.

Happy hunting and if you do get one, please be sure to drop me a note, would sure love to hear about it!


For those of you into more modern stuff, there are some great savings on Panasonic Gear.

Also if you’re an Olympus user, take advantage of the current Olympus Lens Rebates. There’s no better time to buy lenses for your OM-D or Pen series cameras.