Kipon is rolling 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.
Kipon will be rolling out this lens in a few other mounts so check out their website to get the latest updates on where you can buy this lens and when it will be available and for what system. For this review, I shot on the Fujifilm X-Pro 2.
Where to Buy – Kipon Shop
Disclaimer: Kipon has sent me a copy of this lens for free to keep – lucky me. They’ve also sent me some of the new updates to the older lenses of theirs which I did originally buy. I will write about those soon. 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, that’s my only goal. 🙂
|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
Here is what’s changed – besides just the font on the exterior.
Kipon 40mm f0.85 III – The New Improvements
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, and 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 CA.
Kipon 40mm f0.85 III Review | Overall Impressions
How does this lens compare to other lenses out there? Well, it doesn’t, it’s such a unique lens it’s in its own category. It’s a particular tool for a particular job.
There are still only a handful of APS-C lenses that have really stood out to me for the Fujifilm system. The XF 90mm f2 is still one of my all-time favorite lenses, Maybe the best lens Fujifilm has ever made. The XF 56mm f1.2 has a rendering that still is unlike anything else out there, and of course that 35mm f1.4 is a little gem when it comes to character, even with its many little flaws.
Besides Fujifilm brand lenses, there are a few third-party lenses that have rolled out in the last few years that have also captured my attention.
I’ve really liked the Kamlan 50mm f1.1 II, It’s big and heavy and has some issues, but I love the way it renders, the warm flaring and overall it’s a fantastic lens I can go to when I want a little more of an artistic look where I can lean into that warm glow and shallow depth.
Then there is this Kipon 40mm f0.85 which also very much falls into that artistic / beauty lens category, not just for the shallow depth, but because it actually has a really nice and unique look to it.
Yes, Mitakon and SLR Magic and a few others make some of those ultra fast f0.95 lenses, and while they are great for shallow depth and the utility of shooting in low light, none of them really produced a feel that was special like the above-mentioned lenses, nor are they on the same level of build quality as the Kamlan, Fujifilm or Kipon lens.
This lens, especially now with version III is definitely in that top list of magical lenses for Fujifilm (in my opinion of course), and it has always stood out to me as a very artistic lens that produces some unique character, unlike any other lens.
Before you just run out and buy a lens like this there are a few things you should know, like how to use it, why to use it and when not to use it.
As you may already expect, this is not some 18 element Nikon lens designed solely for functionality in all conditions at the cost of the lens pop or dare I say, ‘micro-contrast.’ It seems to me like there is a conscious attempt to keep this lens classic, with some modern tuneups. Kipon lenses remind me a lot of some of the Voigtlander in that sense.
At f0.85, as you can imagine it’s going to have some things it just won’t do well, let’s quickly go over that so we can just get it out of the way.
When Not To Use This Lens
First and most important it will produce a lot of CA in very bright conditions if you shoot wide open. While some people think bokeh and sharpness is the most important thing a lens can do and some ultra-fast lenses can render great wide open in any condition, this lens is not really optimized for that, after all this lens only has 10 elements, it’s tuned for a certain look and really you should be thinking of that look when you pick this lens up.
If you are in an environment where you have the potential for a lot of Chromatic aberrations, this lens can actually still look great, you just have to stop down to f1.4 where most of the imperfections are cleared out.
Here is a sample of the worst-case scenario.
Another common shortcoming of a lot of these ultra-fast lenses even yes even including the new Fujifilm 50mm f1, is that they just don’t do well rendering wide open when shooting far away subjects. Part of this is just one of the physics of the smaller APS-C sensor. If you need shallow depth at far distances Medium Format is where it’s at.
I find this lens really like to be shot at under around 20 to 30 feet. Beyond that, it doesn’t render great bokeh, and it doesn’t really capture precision detail.
Here is a sample of this – you can see, the swirl gets a little strange and there seems to be some aberration around the details of the bird’s eye. Not a terrible performance, but this lens doesn’t really seem to be optimized for these farther distances – although these results are totally acceptable, and of course, some people actually seek out that swirl.
Not bad with the 100% crop. Still plenty of detail.
It likes closer distances – like this where the background just becomes a vibrant cloud of colors.
When To Use This Lens
I would consider this lens very much a beauty lens. When you want calmer softer rendering where you don’t have harsh lighting. It would be great for portraits but I personally have fun with it shooting street photography where the soft rendering produces a calmer film-like vibe, but I know that look is not for everyone.
I would use this lens for extreme low-light shooting. It could even work well in a wedding photographer’s kit where they might want to get some artistic low light portraits or candids.
What To Expect – Can You Get Sharp Images?
You can get sharp images but it’s really hard. This lens is sharp in the center wide open, but your depth of field is just a sliver. Most of the time you won’t nail that eyelash shooting quickly with focus peaking. However, this lens does have nice transitional zones (the area just outside of focus) so what you do get is a nice calm smooth image, even when your exact point of focus is off. You have to be ok with this softer look if you want a lens like this. I see this complaint a lot even with the autofocus Fujifilm 50mm f1.
These ultra-fast lenses are not detail machines, they are beauty lenses. If you demand absolute detail all the time, you might want to try a slower lens starting at around f1.2 which is a little more manageable for these APS-C cameras. I think this might just be an issue with physics, as f1.8 full-frame lenses always seem to render nicer than the f1.2 APS-C lenses, and the equivalent medium format lenses always render better than the full frame lenses. So what a lens like this gives you, is access to a similar look without having to totally change out your system.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
Art & Character
While new full-frame lenses like the Sony 50mm f1.2 will run circles around this lens in the technical department, where this APS-C Kipon 40mm f0.85 stands out is with its unique character.
That 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 good 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.
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. You probably don’t want it if you’re a pixel peeping sharpness freak. Which I am – sometimes.
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 shoot 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.
Kipon 40mm f0.85 III Sample Photos
These are all shot on the Fujifilm X-Pro 2. I was only able to shoot with this lens for a few days before I had to leave the country and unfortunately wasn’t able to bring my Fujifilm system, but I’ll update this spring when I am back.
For coloring I use my own presets which you can check out here.
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.
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