Big Performance on a Small Budget
The Autochinon 50mm f/1.9 lens has been one of my favorite impulse buys ever. Early in my photography career, I went to a local pawn shop on a whim just to see if they had any vintage camera gear. Lo and behold, they happened to have a small case hidden away in a corner with a handful of old film lenses inside. I looked through them a bit, not knowing what lens mount they were, what the brand names meant, or if they were any good. At this point in time I had a basic mechanical knowledge of how lenses worked, and the Autochinon 50mm in the case seemed to fully function. $8.00 later, I had myself a new lens to play with!
Upon getting the lens home, I did a bit of research to find that the mount was the venerable Pentax K-mount. At the time I was shooting a Sony A7, so I ordered up a Pentax K to Sony E-mount adapter and was off to the races for under $20! I was initially impressed with the colors and sharpness of this lens. It provided vivid colors and contrast for a vintage lens. Sharpness was good, even wide open at f/1.9. The build quality seemed great. I felt like I had found the bargain of the century.
Autochinon 50mm f/1.9 Build Quality
There are two versions of the Autochinon 50mm f/1.9 lens. One version is a plastic body build and the other is metallic in construction. My copy is the metal variant. The build quality of the lens is quite nice, similar in quality to the Pentax K-mount lenses of the era. The lens is a hefty weight and entirely made of metal, save for the rubber focus ring grip.
Speaking of the focus ring, this lens is buttery smooth to focus. The throw on the focus ring is well damped, making for an incredibly smooth focusing action. The ring turns with little effort and feels brilliant to use. This makes for a lens that's a pleasure to shoot through the big, bright viewfinder on the Pentax K1 or in live-view. Using the lens on mirrorless bodies with focus punch-in and focus peaking is also a breeze. Focus pulling for video action is equally great. If you're looking for a vintage lens for video work, this is a solid option.
The aperture ring on this lens is a clicked ring. The Autochinon ranges from f/1.9 wide open to f/16 when fully stopped down. The lens features a 6 bladed diaphragm in the aperture. On my copy, the blades are fast to respond and click into place with every adjustment of the aperture ring.
The Autochinon 50mm f/1.9 lens performs admirably in the image quality department. When shot wide open at f/1.9, the lens exhibits impressive sharpness for a lens of its era. The bokeh when wide open is also quite nice, in my opinion. The bokeh of this lens definitely has unique character and I would recommend checking out the sample photos in this blog post before deciding if you like it or not. I find the character of this lens to be endearing, and I rather like the look of the images it produces.
When stopped down, this lens performs even better. Sharpness already improves by f/2.8. By f/8, this lens is quite sharp indeed. The colors and contrast of this lens almost rival that of the legendary SMC Pentax lenses of the same era. Having said that, this lens is not multi-coated and makes no claims to be. It can be a bit susceptible to flare. I have found that sometimes the lens flare that does occur tends to add more character to an image, and doesn't wash it out terribly.
When used for video, these characteristics remain intact. With 1080p video being much less demanding than the 36 megapixel stills of my Pentax K1, sharpness isn't even close to being a factor with this lens. If you'd like to see how this lens looks when filming 1080p24 footage, check out my lens review of the Pentax 80-320mm video here. This entire review video was filmed using the Autochinon 50mm f/1.9 on my Pentax K1. In my Portra 400 video, all of the footage shot in Red Rock Canyon was also shot on the Autochinon with my Pentax K1.
Check out the gallery below for image samples of the Autochinon 50mm f/1.9. In the captions for each image I will notate the camera used, settings if applicable, and any other noteworthy information.
Overall Impressions of the Autochinon 50mm f/1.9
In the end, I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend 8 dollars. This lens has been with me for a few years now, and feels as solid as it did the day I purchased it. The image quality has great character to it, while also providing excellent sharpness for what equates to a vintage kit lens.
I have heard of these lenses selling on eBay for anywhere between $10-$30 and I think it's an underrated deal in that price range. If you have the opportunity to score one of these beauties of a lens for under $30, I can highly recommend it if you enjoy shooting vintage glass!