Today we are pitting the brand new HandeVision Ibelux 40mm f/0.85 against an ancient lens with a modern adapter. The Canon FL 55mm f/1.2 mounted to the Metabones Speed Booster gives us a combination resulting in a 39mm f/0.9 lens. Given the similar maximum aperture and similar focal length of these two optics, I thought it fitting to pit them against each other. The Ibelux is a monster sized lens with the fastest aperture of any lens on the planet, and the Canon FL 55mm f/1.2 is a 50 year old lens designed for film. Fair fight? Let’s find out.
Tale of the Tape
For ease of nomenclature, I’m going to refer to the FL 55mm f/1.2 with the Speed Booster simply as a ‘lens’ as when combined, they simply function as a 39mm f/0.9 optic. So that’s how I’m going to treat it.
As you can see from the picture above, the two lenses vary drastically in size. The FL 55mm f/1.2 isn’t that big at all, and the Speed Booster adds only about 1cm of extra length. The Ibelux is nearly twice as long and just as wide. As you can see in the image to the right, the FL 55mm with Speed Booster also weighs nearly half what the giant Ibelux weighs. The Canon combo here is slightly slower…about 1/6 of a stop by the numbers, and very slightly shorter. The big important numbers to my eye:
Aperture: Canon+SB: f/0.9; Ibelux: f/0.85
Weight: Canon+SB: 618g; Ibelux: 1,143g
Cost: Canon+SB: ~$625; Ibelux: $2,079
So, in this comparison, the Ibelux is twice as large, twice as heavy and over three times more expensive. Will that translate to better performance? Let’s find out.
I’ve been shooting with the Ibelux 40mm for the past week, and this test pits the two lenses against each other in the range that is the Ibelux’s wheelhouse. While not shown here, I can confidently say that on distant subjects, the Canon plus Speed Booster handily outperforms the Ibelux, but on closer subjects, the Ibelux rendering is quite beautiful, so I’m testing there, where the Ibelux should have the best shot at competing.
Alas, I wasn’t able to get a copy of the Ibelux in Fuji X-mount, and my Speed Booster is only in Fuji X mount, so there is a camera component to this comparison as well. The Canon FL 55mm combo was shot on the Fujifilm X-T1, while the Ibelux was shot on the NEX-6. Both are 16 Megapixel APS-C sensors, and should compare favorably. Images were processed in Adobe Lightroom 5.6. This may lend a slight edge to the Ibelux, as Lightroom does better with Bayer sensors, but with this subject matter, I’ve found the results to be quite comparable.
The lenses were set up on a tripod with the book shown below approximately 1 meter away. There is a crystal decanter in the background and a crystal glass in the foreground to test foreground and background bokeh. One note, I had to set a second tripod up to support the end of the Ibelux, since I feared the weight could damage the NEX-6 lens mount.
I tested center and corner sharpness, shooting the lenses at f/0.85 (f/0.9 on the FL 55mm), f/1.0, and then full stop increments to f/5.6. All images were taken on a tripod with 2 second self timer to eliminate shutter press shake.
I took 100% crops from the center of the frame as well as near the upper left corner. White balance was set using the white letters on the book on the f/1.4 image. Click on an image, then make sure to click the green arrow at the bottom of the screen to enlarge to 100%.
Looking at the crops above, a one thing is quite apparent to me.The Canon 55mm f/1.2 Plus Speedbooster, despite the much lower cost, size and weight, is the sharper lens. In the center, the 55mm combo shows similar resolution and much better contrast wide open, and upon stopping down displays a small but clear lead in detail throughout the aperture range. The Ibelux catches up by f/1.4 in contrast, but still can’t match the resolution.
In the corners, the same trend continues. Neither lens gets tack sharp into the corners, but the Canon FL 55mm f/1.2 shows better contrast and detail over more of the frame in this area. An impressive performance for a 50 year old lens, and a bit disappointing for the Ibelux.