Fast lens

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This article is a gallery of very fast lenses beyond average "fast" definition.
See also lens speed (=max. aperture of lens)

For APS-C format these are lenses with max. aperture of at least f1.4!
For 35mm film frame format these are lenses faster than max. aperture f1.7 since
the average 50mm SLR system standard lens already has a speed of f1.7 or f1.8!
For medium format these are lenses with max. aperture of at least f2.0!
For large format these are lenses with max. aperture of at least f2.5!

"fast" classification

format benchmark quite fast lens common fast lens notes about the "very fast" definition given above and about the benchmark
large f2.5 f3.5 f6.3 f2.5 equals the benchmark set by the Kodak Aero in 1940
medium f1.8 f2.8 f3.5 f2.0 lenses established the available light photography with the Ernostar in 1924.
The 2nd version of the Ernostar also set the benchmark already in 1925.
(or f/0.33?)
f1.4 f1.8 f1.6, because faster than f1.8.
f/1.8 is a lens speed which is almost average for the SLR normal lenses, since the 1960s. Such normal lenses were also the kit lenses. Fast lenses for leaf shutter SLRs reach only f1.9 max. lens speed. The 'benchmark' value here is taken from the Farrand Super-Farron 76 mm f/0.87, made for Leica/Visoflex fitting; rare, but made for sale.[1] A non-functional 40mm f/0.33 joke lens was made by Carl Zeiss in 1965, purely as a publicity stunt.[2]

This category was started by the Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 in 1932.

and APS-C
f0.95 f1.8 f2.8 f1.4 because smaller format than 35mm requires faster lenses for achieving almost similar depth of field
µ4/3 f0.95 f1.8 f2.8 µ4/3 camera makers Olympus and Panasonic deliver some fast lenses, 3rd-party lens makers the same lenses as for APS-C. The result is a similar available lens speed palette for both sensor sizes, APS-C and µ4/3.
cine lens (many with C-mount) f0.95 f1.4 f1.7 The benchmark is slower than the fastest ever cine lens which was for 35mm half-frame format, the legendary bokeh giant Zeiss Planar 1:0.7 f=50mm. The lens was used by Stanley Kubrick for his film Barry Lyndon which received 4 Oscars, one for the camera, and by the NASA for moon flight shots! Many C-mount cine lenses were constructed for 16mm cine film or sensors up to 1" size. Some are sufficient for and adaptable to µ4/3 cameras, a few even sufficient for APS-C sensors. But surprisingly the palette of available lens speeds is more alike that of lenses for 35mm frame format 24x36mm.

large format

medium format



half-frame format, APS-C and µ4/3 formats

average "fast lens" samples


  1. Farrand New York, Super-Farron 76 mm f/0.87 with a Leica bellows and Visoflex unit, offered for sale (but unsold) at the 27th Westlicht Photographica Auction (now Leitz Photographica Auction), in June 2015; and another 76/0.87 Super-Farron in Compound shutter, and adapted for an Exakta body, sold at the 25th Westlicht Auction, in March 2014. The 2015 auction listing cites US Patent 2846923, High speed objective lens with anastigmatically flattened field filed 25 February 1957 and granted 12 August 1958 to Albrecht W. Tronnier as assignee to Farrand Optical Co., Inc. - patent archived at Espacenet, the patent search facility of the European Patent Office.
  2. Carl Zeiss Super-Q-Gigantar 40mm f/0.33 serial no.124037 for Contarex Bullseye, sold at the nineteenth Westlicht Auction, in May 2011.