Shop News

MS Optical Sonnetar 50/1.1

Bookmark and Share

MS Optical Sonnetar 50/1.1 @ f1.4, Leica M9 JPG, photo by Ming

We are pleased to announce the release of the MS Optical Sonnetar 50/1.1 lens in Leica M mount.

The lens is available for order now in our web shop. Orders will be served in the order received. Please note that as usual there might be a waiting period between receiving your order and fulfilment, due to the nature of the lens and its production. Shipping is scheduled to commence on or around 10 Oct 2012.


Japan Exposures has over seven years of experience of selling MS Optical products, including several hundred of Super Triplets 35mm and 28mm. This includes efficient and cost-effective shipping, handling of after-sale warranty and repairs and even intra-EU shipping to save on import duty. Thank you for your continued support.


The Sonnar type is a photographic lens originally designed by Dr. Ludwig Bertele in 1924 and patented by Zeiss Ikon. It was notable for its relatively light weight, simple design and fast aperture.

The name “Sonnar” is derived from the German word “Sonne”, meaning sun. It was given this name because its large aperture was much greater than many other lenses available at the time.

Compared to Planar designs the Sonnars had more aberrations, but with fewer glass-to-air surfaces it had better contrast and less flare. Though compared to the earlier Tessar design, its faster aperture and lower chromatic aberration was a significant improvement.

Source: Wikipedia

Here are its key features:

  • 5 elements in 4 groups Sonnar formula lens
  • Compact design, weight 190g, 220g with hood (36mm long, 55mm diameter filter thread)
  • Premium quality Tantalum glass, superior to Trium and Lanthanum glass with best refractive qualities
  • 14 blade aperture for smooth and pleasing bokeh (Made in Germany by Otto Niemann Feinmechanik GmbH, Berlin)
  • Minimum focus distance 0.8m
  • ALL six glass surfaces multicoated, 97% light transmission
  • Initial lot of 300 lenses, designed, manufactured and hand-assembled in Japan by Mr Sadayasu Miyazaki
  • Native Leica M mount

The MS Optical Sonnetar 50/1.1 is available now in our web shop.

Mr Miyazaki of MS Optical, a small independent manufacturer of lenses and camera accessories, has also added a world first: positioned with the rear element of the lens is a “coma adjustment ring”. Coma (aka comatic aberration) in an optical system refers to aberration inherent to certain optical designs or due to imperfection in the lens or other components which results in off-axis point sources such as stars appearing distorted, appearing to have a tail (coma) like a comet (Wikipedia). The coma control has the distance settings infinity, 4m, 2m and 1m (up to 1m setting should only be used with mirror less cameras or cameras with live view). As it is well known, early Sonnar lenses encountered issues with aberration when used wide open. The coma adjustment control allows to select the subject distance and slightly repositions the rear element to compensate for the selected focus distance by reducing spherical aberration. This also changes the focal length very slightly (only by fractions of a millimetre). Alternatively one can set it into the opposite of optimum direction for a soft focus look that makes Sonnar portraits so attractive.

Spherical aberration is also often dubbed as a “friend of bokeh” as the very soft rendering will pronounce out of focus areas even more. The famous Voigtländer Universal-Heliar, introduced in 1926, incorporated the ability of the central lens element to be adjusted by the photographer, thereby introducing varying amount of spherical aberrations. Its images are legendary.

This is what Carl Zeiss say themselves about their C-Sonnar T* 1,5/50 ZM, similar can be expected for the Sonnetar 50/1.1:

This lens design helps to achieve pictures with a special artistic touch. This lens ‘draws’ your subject in a fine, flattering manner and is therefore ideally suited for portraiture. It renders a sharpness that is slightly rounded, being less aggressive than in contemporary lens designs, but at the same time not soft in its rendition.

Many famous portraits of glamorous and prominent people during the 1930s used this technique to great effect. These images are characterized by portraying the person in a shining, nearly celestial way. This effect is very well balanced and not exaggerated; therefore many viewers see it in a subconscious way. The trained observer, however, understands the underlining technique and enjoys the results.

This lens design exhibits some additional effects, which should be understood to achieve the maximum benefit from the C-Sonnar T* 1.5/50 ZM:

Because of the above mentioned classical characteristic of the lens the best focus position in the object space can not be kept exactly constant for all f-stop settings. The passionate photographer might notice a slightly closer best focus in his pictures than expected. When stopping down the lens to f/2.8 or smaller this effect is minimized, so the focus position will be as expected. In order to balance the performance at full speed and other f-stop settings the lens is adjusted with above described characteristic.

Just like MS Optical’s lens conversions, please be aware that this lens is slightly different in operation from “normal” mass-manufactured lenses. For example, the aperture scale rotates with the whole lens barrel when the lens is focussed and there are no aperture click stops. This is not a lens for photographers who want all their lenses to function in the same way and cannot adjust to a different way of working. This is a design for the connoisseur with an appreciation for optics and their history.

There is no other independent maker of Leica M mount lenses that offers the same level of quality and creativity as MS Optical in the world today. This is not just a lens, it is a celebration of the spirit of photography.

Archives