- Good central image sharpness at wide apertures and very sharp in the center stopped down
- Outstanding bokeh when focused closer up
- Simply beautiful and unique look when shooting closer up at wide apertures
- Ultra-fast f/0.85 aperture for very shallow depth of field shooting
- Extremely large and very heavy
- No tripod collar
- Image edges are soft, even stopped down
- Very high spherical aberration at wide apertures (leads to that great rendering above, but it can’t be turned off)
- Notable chromatic aberration
- Very high purple fringing at wide apertures
- Extreme vignetting at f/0.85
- Bokeh is busy in the foreground and when focused at further distances
- Un-damped focus ring
- Long minimum focus distance
- Extremely expensive
The Ibelux 40mm f/0.85 is an extremely unique lens: It has the fastest aperture of any current interchangeable lens on the market. When used for portraits or closer subjects, the 40mm can produce images with a truly magical feel to them. If you enjoy this low contrast look, it delivers in spades. Shooting wide open, the lens produces good central image sharpness and excellent background bokeh, and you get this lens to shoot wide open.
However, this great look can only take you so far, and the truth is, the lens does one thing really well, and beyond that the Ibelux 40mm f/0.85 just really isn’t a very good lens. It has tons of lens aberrations, mediocre borders at small apertures, very high purple fringing, and low contrast. Then there’s the fact that the lens is absurdly large and heavy, and exceedingly expensive for what amounts to mediocre performance in most situations.
Frankly, it’s a lens that is essentially impossible to recommend. If you are a Sony shooter and want an ultra-fast native lens, the Mitakon 50mm f/0.95 will actually produce more background blur, and it costs less than half what the Ibelux costs and weighs significantly less. If you are shooting Micro 4/3, sacrifice the 1/3 stop of aperture and get the Voigtländer 42.5mm f/0.95 – it’s a much better lens overall and a fraction of the size.
If you shoot Fuji or simply must have something in the 40mm range with this speed, adapting an old fast manual focus lens and adding a SpeedBooster is the more sensible way to go as well. My Canon FL 55mm f/1.2 with Speed Booster (39mm f/0.9) costs a total of $625 ($225 for the lens and $400 for the Speed Booster), weighs half what the Ibelux weighs, and generally outperforms it. It has much higher contrast and similar sharpness wide open, while massively outperforming it at smaller apertures and further focus distances (though the Ibelux produces notably smoother bokeh close up).
The enormous size makes it uncomfortable to use, a pain to carry and something you are far more likely to leave at home when you pack your bag. And simply put, given the overall performance of the lens, the asking price of $2,070 US is absurd. To put the weight and cost of the lens in perspective, for the price of this lens, you could buy a brand new Sony A7 full frame body, an adapter and a Minolta Rokkor 58mm f/1.2 (which will give you a very similar look in focal length and background blur). The resulting Camera AND Lens together would weigh 2/3 of a pound less than the Ibelux 40mm by itself, while saving you a few dollars and producing better images.
While I love the look this lens produces up close, there are simply too many flaws outside of the main usage scenario and too many better options for a fraction of the cost and weight. I applaud IB/E Optics for daring to produce such a design, but unfortunately, in the real world, it’s simply a lens that doesn’t make sense.
You will notice that the majority of the shots here are at f/0.85. There’s a reason for that. If you aren’t buying this lens to shoot at f/0.85, then you shouldn’t buy the lens. Get a Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4 for $400 and get something that weighs next to nothing and is significantly better at the same apertures.
(Click on an Image to Enlarge)