Alpa Kern Macro Switar 50mm F1.8/F1.9 Lens

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Introduction

The Alpa Kern Macro Switar 50mm was exclusively made for Alpa cameras by Kern Aurau in Switzerland. Alpa is a precision Swiss watchmaker combined forces with Kern who was famous for making optical glass at the time to produce this legendary lens. The Kern Switar 50mm F1.8 was firstly introduced in 1951 and replaced by Macro Switar in 1958 with close focusing capability of 28cm for macro photography. The Kern Macro Switar 50mm F1.9 was introduced in 1968 with revised lens design and newer coatings for improved optical performance.

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Build Quality

Alpa is known as the precision watchmaker thus no surprise that the Alpa Kern Switar 50mm lenses were extremely well engineered. The build quality is excellent and on par with well-known cinematic lens makers such as Angenieux or Schneider at the time. The Kern Switar 50mm lenses were hand assembled and finished in either chrome, black paint or combination of both. 

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Image Quality

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Image quality from the Alpa Kern Switar 50mm lenses are exceptional and the lens excels at macro photography. Images produced are extremely sharp with high contrast and vivid colour saturations. Alpa claimed that this is an apochromatically corrected lens of unequalled quality, which is found to be true in most situations.

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The Kern Macro Switar 50mm Lenses have close focusing capability when used with liveview for macro photography. The details retained by this lens is incredible with extreme sharpness and pleasant rendering, which is an amazing achievement on modern rangefinders.

 

Practical Use

Unlike Modern lens design, when the aperture ring is turned that the yellow dots appeared indicating the visifocus depth-of-field scale for the selected aperture stops. The focus ring has an extremely long throw and takes several turns to reach the minimum focusing distance of 28cm equivalents to 1.8x magnification, which is extremely useful for close-up work.

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Modern photography technological aids such as live-view or high resolution electronic viewfinder, which allows to maximise the ability of the Kern Macro Switar 50mm Lenses to reach its full potential for macro photography.  

 

Alpa Kern Macro Switar 50mm F1.8

VS

Alpa Kern Macro Switar 50mm F1.9

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The Kern Switar 50mm F1.9 Lens was introduced later with revised lens design and newer optical coatings compared to the Kern Switar 50mm F1.8 Lens for improved performance. The Kern Switar 50mm F1.8 has golden yellow colour coating whereas the Kern Switar 50mm F1.9 has golden yellow with purple coloured coatings.

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The Kern Switar 50mm F1.9 has updated lens design with an additional element with 8 elements in 5 groups compared to 7 elements in 5 groups of the Kern Switar 50mm F1.8 Lens. The Diaphragm blades also have been moved forward in position. The improved lens design resulted better optical performance for the newer Kern Switar 50mm F1.9 Lens.


Lens Versions

   Nekogahora Camera Collection  (Clockwise)

 Nekogahora Camera Collection (Clockwise)

  1. Macro Switar 50/1.9 (Surgical 81)
  2. Macro Switar 50/1.9
  3. Macro Switar 50/1.9 (Gold Plated)
  4. Kern Aarau Switar (Automatic Diaphragm)
  5. Macro Switar 50/1.8 (Black Paint)
  6. Macro Switar 50/1.8

 

Adapters

There are three popular Alpa to Leica M adapter options on the current market and the price is reflected in it’s materials & build quality. The finish of the adapters are mostly in either Chrome or Black and most adapters are Rangefinder Coupled. However, during actual use might require manual calibration to work perfectly on Rangefinders.

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I will rank the adapter brands from most to the least expensive:

  1. Shogun
  2. Metabones
  3. Kipon
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Specifications

Lens Mount: Alpa


Production Year:  1951 (F1.8) | 1968 (F1.9)


Construction:

7 Elements / 5 Groups (F1.8) 

8 Elements / 5 Groups (F1.9)


Diaphragm:  9 Blades


Maximum Aperture:  F1.8 | F1.9


Minimum Aperture:  F22


Closet Focusing Distance:  0.28m


Filter Size:  48mm


Weight:  280g

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Gallery 

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