Kipon has rolled out a new update to the Ibelux 40mm f0.85. A very interesting lens for the various APS-C systems and one of the fastest lenses on the market today.
For those that don’t know anything about this lens, you can see my general Kipon 40mm f0.85 II review here. However, this new update is significant enough to warrant a totally new review and you should definitely try to find version III if you are in the market for a lens like this.
Where to Buy – Kipon Shop
Disclaimer: Kipon has sent me a copy of this lens for free to keep. They’ve also sent me some of the new updates to the older lenses of theirs which I did originally buy. I will continue to do my best to share the strengths and weaknesses of lenses that are sent to me so that you all can know what you’re getting yourself into.
I generally have liked Kipon lenses and their adapters long before I had any affiliation with them.
Even their M lenses are kind of just right in my opinion and I still recommend the 35mm f2.4 and especially the 75mm f2.4.
|Focal Length: 40mm equivalent to 60mm on APS-C cameras
Aperture Blade: 10 blade circular diaphragm
Aperture: f0.85 – f22 full stop clicks
Elements: 10 Elements in 8 Groups
Aperture Blades: 10
Minimum Focus Distance: – 0.75m / 2.5′
Weight: 1166g | 2.57 pounds
Focus: Manual | 250° Degree Throw
CPU Contacts: No
Construction: All Metal – aluminum, brass, stainless
Filter Threads: 67mm
Kipon 40mm f0.85 III – The New Improvements
Here is what’s changed with version III – besides just the font on the exterior.
While I loved version II for its unique look and character, that lens was very particular about shooting conditions. It really didn’t like shooting in bright environments with a lot of point-source lighting. Since I shoot a lot of street photography at night, this was something I would have to consider when using the lens and be cautious of the lights that were around me.
Version III has totally new coatings both inside and out. What this now means is the lens is much more versatile than it once was. You can take it pretty much anywhere and shoot pretty much anything without any serious flaring or loss of detail that comes from that.
I’m told they have new glass. Not a new optical formula but a new type of glass that is better. As you may already know, there are hundreds of different types of materials a lens designer can choose from and this technology continues to improve as time goes on. Kipon is now sourcing some new glass that is higher quality than what was available to them a few years ago when this lens was originally designed.
How does this change the image? It’s hard to tell exactly because there are new coatings that are also doing so much to help the contrast, micro-contrast, and sharpness. But overall, this lens renders better wide open. From what I can tell, it looks like there is more contrast and color wide open, some of that is also going to be from the coatings.
As far as sharpness, I see no significant difference between this new version and version II, and you still have to watch out for the color fringing.
Kipon 40mm f0.85 III Review | Overall Impressions
I generally like this lens, it’s a lot of fun. It has strengths and weaknesses so you need to learn them. Overall I really like the calm rendering but it performs best at medium to close distances. When the subject is further back the bokeh begins to swirl and occasionally that can get distracting.
How does this lens compare to other fast lenses out there?
I get this question a lot so I will answer it here.
It kind of doesn’t, it’s such a unique lens it’s in its own category. It’s a particular tool for a particular job. What I mean, is this lens is more of a character beauty lens, you use it because you like the way it renders – that’s it.
Besides the Kipon 40mm f0.85, are still only a handful of ultra-fast APS-C lenses out there – a few have really stood out to me for the Fujifilm system. Probably the closest lenses to this lens are the 7Artisans 35mm f0.95 and the Mitakon 35mm f0.95 II. I personally prefer the 7Artisans to the Mitakon and I actually really like the new 7Artisans lens as a general day-to-day shooting lens. TTArtisan is also doing ultra-fast lenses and their builds are typically better than 7Artisans or Mitakon.
While these smaller less expensive lenses are lighter, and easier to handle, and I like some of them a lot, they don’t really replace this lens.
Here is why –
The Kipon is a very different beast, it’s a lot bigger, and it’s more expensive but you do get something for all that. For one the build quality is really nice and you get a clickable aperture and very smooth precision focus.
In terms of image quality, the 7Artisans and Mitakon lenses do handle themselves a little better in various situations. Keep in mind, that they are slightly slower lenses also wider, and have been optimized a little better for some more technical shooting, slower lenses usually perform better with raw image quality.
When it comes to the magic of the rendering, the Kipon in my opinion still outdoes them in terms of focus falloff (aka transition zones) and overall aesthetic, that blend with what’s in focus to what’s out of focus. It feels very organic and just nice.
There is a general trend I see lens designers doing today where they are not catering to lens reviewers who best quantify and compare lenses based on the image quality, sharpness, vignetting, distortion, etc. Lens designers don’t need to make lenses that make pretty images anymore, because nobody calls them out for it, they just now hit the consumer priority touchpoints.
Luckily for us, there are still a few designers out there who prioritize beauty.
I’ve actually been shooting with Kipon since the very first version of their Iberit lenses and it’s been interesting to watch them improve the build of their lenses over the years.
The first batch of lenses years ago definitely had issues, but they are actually still with me today and I still use that original 35mm f2.4.
Today the build quality of the new Kipon Elegant lenses is getting up there with some of the best brands like Voigtlander and this Ibelux really is no exception. It’s really well built.
However, I’m not sure what sort of quality control measure they take, so as with any brand always check out your lens when you first get it to make sure there are no serious issues or bad elements as even with Voigtlander, I still occasionally get a lemon.
The Kipon 40mm f0.85 III like the previous II, does feature a 10 element design and 10 bladed aperture.
Yes, it’s heavy but everything about the lens feels great. Focus is buttery smooth, aperture feels good, not too stiff or too loose with clickable stops – thank you!
There is also a really nice built-in lens hood that slides in and out with some very nice precision.
The focus throw is very generous and shooting at f0.85 is not a problem at all.
There is one little thing that I love and hate about a few of their lenses. Kipon is using these screw-on metal lens caps. They’re great because you screw it on and you know it’s not going to accidentally pop up in a bag or while you’re walking around. It’s not great because it takes forever to unscrew, so if you’re the type of person that likes to take and off your lens cap, you may want to find some third-party option. This lens uses 67mm filter threads, so you likely have something already lying around that will work for it.
One other complaint. I never got a retail copy of this lens, but the box both this lens and the previous lens shipped in was held together by some pretty cheap glue. Not the biggest deal, as Voigtlander basically ships their lenses out in a Mcdonald’s bag, but just don’t expect some fancy box with this lens, although it does come with a nice carrying pouch. Again, what I get and what you get might be different since I’m just sent a sample.
Overall wonderful build quality and the lens is a pleasure to shoot. This is also one of those lenses you’ll have on your camera on your desk, and you’ll keep picking it up and playing with it – you know what I’m talking about.
I haven’t really noticed any significant change in the sharpness charts so I’ll leave up the Kipon 40mm version II chart for now. My new version does have some differences, likely a copy-to-copy variation, but also the new elements could be affecting some things.
But it’s mostly the same in terms of overall sharpness.
Here in the corner charts, you can see there is still some nice detail. You can also see that the vignetting isn’t very bad and is mostly gone by f2.
Real-World Sharpness Samples
Sharpness charts and real-world sharpness are really two different worlds because I can sit there for ten minutes getting everything perfectly in focus on a chart. In the real world that’s not possible.
In the real world, I would say this lens is a little on the softer side simply because it’s so hard to get perfect focus. Wide-open sharpness is lost a little more as the subject moves further back.
Not bad with the 100% crop. Still plenty of detail, but something like a Nikon 40mm f2 lens definitely outperforms it here. As to be expected. You can also see in the image above a bit of the swirl to the bokeh I was talking about – some people like this, so I won’t comment on that any further.
It likes closer distances – like this where the background just becomes a vibrant cloud of colors.
A little bit of barrel distortion. Not perfectly even with a minor mustache shape towards the edges. This sometimes makes it a little more difficult to correct with Lightrooms distortion correction tools. But it is mild and not really an issue with general portrait or casual photography.
The Kipon 40mm f0.85 III does get hit with a lot of color fringing wide open and even at f1.
By f1.4 it almost entirely clears up.
If I’m shooting portraits during the day I often just close down to f1.4. This lens still has a really nice organic look to it, different from other lenses even at f1.4.
Art & Character
While I’m sure something like a new full-frame lens like the Sony 50mm f1.2 will run circles around this lens in the technical department (it’s full-frame), where this APS-C Kipon 40mm f0.85 stands out is with its unique character.
Rich pillowy bokeh. beautiful tonal details and it even does a great job with focus falloff and rendering those transition zones. Plus it actually has pretty good micro-contrast for a 10-element f0.85 lens, which would be close-ish to a 60mm f1.2 full-frame lens. Not a lot of modern f1.2 full-frame lenses are putting out even remotely good micro-contrast these days, but this lens does a pretty decent job for what it is.
Bokeh overall is very vibrant and has great saturation and contrast. In the right situations, it can look really nice, but as you move back away from your subject it will start to swirl.
What else is nice is I haven’t really seen any serious issues with CA in those out-of-focus highlights, just some minor green occasionally in a really high contrast background.
Foreground bokeh also looks great with this lens.
Generally, this lens produces fantastic results from about 20 feet and closer.
Sample of how the bokeh changes at various apertures. This is taken at the minimum focus distance.
Bokeh never really gets busy or weird. Results are always pleasing and calming.
Here is another sample at about 10 meters. A bit windy so the Koi fags were moving around a little.
Transitional Zones / Focus Falloff
As mentioned earlier this lens does have nice transitional zones – those areas just out of focus. I think this is one of the characteristics that really makes this lens special.
The reason this is important is the actual depth of field is just a sliver, so you’ll still get a nice looking image with little ghosting or smudging effect in those just-out-of-focus areas, which is the majority of the subject.
Contrast – Micro Contrast
I think micro-contrast is pretty good with this lens for how fast it is. This lens might be a little better than the Mk II in this regard. Possibly fewer impurities in the new optics?
Overall it’s a very calm and smooth look with the way it renders at f0.85 and I like how the depth falls off, but images never feel milky or waxy like we’re seeing a lot of the new f1.2 full-frame lenses coming to the market.
Skin tones always look rich and vibrant with some great tonal transitioning – going from dark tones to light tones.
Kipon 40mm f0.85 III – Bottom Line – Should You Buy This Lens?
This lens is very good at doing the things it’s good at, but not so great when taken out of its optimized zones. This is not going to be a lens for everyone, and I would make sure you have a use for a lens like this before running out and grabbing it, although it is a lot of fun.
You will like this lens if you are a portrait or candid low-light photographer that wants a softer beauty rendering, but if you need to shoot in a lot of harsh lighting conditions, you will have to stop down to f1.4 to completely eliminate the CA, or you’ll need to set your camera to B&W.
While it’s hard to nail sharpness at f0.85, it still can be sharp, but even when you slightly miss focus, the rendering is still very nice. This is the magic of this lens and where so many other lenses fail.
I like this lens, and I actually use it quite a bit even when I’m not working on my reviews. It’s fun to take out at night or to bars and just mess around in the darkness.
Kipon 40mm f0.85 III Sample Photos
These are all shots on the Fujifilm X-Pro 2.
For coloring, I use my own CORE presets which you can check out here. Version 2.0 is available now, so if you have the older versions you can upgrade by logging and downloading the latest.
You can also check out the version II review of this lens to see even more samples of how the bokeh renders in various conditions. Mostly what’s changed between the old and new is the mk III has better contrast and color and better flare control.