|The Canon 50/1.4 was among the
screw mount lenses. The first version
had a smaller distance scale either marked
in meter or feet, but same optical design
With just 6 elements in 4 groups it is a Planar (Biotar) type. Most standard lenses of f/1.4 speed needed 7 elements for excellent performance during the 1950's and 1960's. The Canon was stunningly straight designed, based on the 50/1.8 (1951) and obviously made use of newly developed high-refractive optical glass to give such great performance (at least level with the contemporary Leitz Summilux 50/1.4). Some even dislike this lens for the modern, "clinical" look of the results, similar to some new aspherical designs...
For my experience it is just very sharp und contrasty, the bokeh is usually excellent, and from different coating color shows a bit "colder" results than the 50/1.5. And of course, it's entirely different because it's no Sonnar... but it's a really great everyday lens, and in particular there is no better choice on a CANON P -- except, maybe, for some, the 35/2.0 or 35/1.5....
One stop slower than the 50/0.95, half it's weight and a better all-around performer - but less impressive surely....
Not a particular small lens (48mm filter, compared to 42mm of the 50/1.5 shown on the right) but somewhat smaller than a SLR lens, on the left the classic FD 50/1.4 SLR lens (with the Zeiss Planar the best 50mm lens of the 1970's).
With the big knurled focussing ring it has a lot "SLR feeling". But it looks great even on a BARNACK LEICA...
Notice: Also smaller than the presently made C/V Nokton 50/1.5 for LTM lens!
Some sources claim that the 50/1.4 was released in 1957, but the V/L camera series started in that year are rarely seen with it, much more often with the 50/1.2 released in 1956. Also a sales brochure of 1958 is missing that lens entirely.
The 50/1.4 occurs most often with the Canon 7 (started 1961), sometimes with the P (started 1959), as shown here.
So the release date is most likely not before 1959, as most other sources claim.
Canon 50/1.5 lens diagram -- copied to the "Sonnar" Wikipedia article from my website...
Until it was replaced by the 50/1.2 (fastest 35mm film lens in the world then!) this lens was the most expensive 50mm lens in the CANON lineup. Typically it was sold with the CANON IV, but the whole series was mostly equipped with the chrome 50/1.8 which looks nearly identical from first sight.
I have no CANON IV, so I show it with the oldest CANON I own, the CANON L (1957), a camera on which the lens was never sold, to my knowledge. No chrome lenses were sold with the "revolutionry" CANONs started in 1957.
Here together with the other famous Japanese Sonnar (Nikkor 50/1.4 - a later, probably 1957/58, black version, on a Nikon S2 (1954). So keep in mind this picture isn't fully correct in historical sense...
All 7 element Sonnars were expensive to make due to the two cemented triplets. The ZEISS Sonnar was a month's salary in the 1950's.
This lens, originally sold with the "LEICA copy" CANON II, III and IV, was patented in 1951 by CANON engineer Hiroshi Ito
It was patented even in Germany and probably forced LEICA to the more complicated (say expensive to manufacture!) SUMMICRON design, which overall wasn't better in performance.
Probably it was the most important lens in CANON's history: It chased LEICA and showed the potence of the "JAPANESE DANGER"... and, sadly, LEICA failed to react properly.
For the photographer, it was just a fine, quite fast lens fully comparable with the best quality of the world, LEICA and ZEISS, with a smaller price tag plus a tad faster.
(the picture shows the lens with a camera build some years later!)