Leica 50mm woes

mike3996

Top Veteran
Apr 2, 2018
104
I think I'm ready for a 50 mm lens for my M. The problem is of course how many options there are to choose from!

Money being no obstacle, I'd probably go for Leica Summilux 50, the newest. I like focusing tabs and speed!

Money being an obstacle, I'm very much drawn to the exotic Voigtländer 50 Heliar. They say it's got that biting pop and sharpness while retaining "non-clinical" rendering. But at f/3.5 the widest it's not an all-year-round lens option, not at least with my M240-P. But it surely looks creamy smooth stuff. The other downside is that I'd have to buy it new because the owners apparently love it so much they never sell them.

Another super interesting option is "the perfect budget 50", surely the Zeiss 50 Planar. Now, this is everything I love about a lens, and probably more. But there's the discussion about clinicality and character look -- I get it a little bit with my 35 Summicron ASPH and the thing about clinically rendering lenses is that you get those for every platform with autofocus and all.

I could also be going for 75mm but I don't know just yet.


Ah, screw it. Let's skip the usual grazing over the lens options for a week, my usual MO, and let me announce I just placed on order the 50 Heliar and the new 21/3.4 Color-Skopar.
 

BrianS

Super Moderator
Apr 3, 2013
124
I could post some shots with the Canon 50 F2, F1.9, F1.8, F1.5, F1.4, and F0.95. I sold the F1.2. There is also the 50/3.5, 50/2.8, and 50/2.2- but I do not have those.

I just received a collapsible Industar-50 today, took it apart to clean, lube, and shim for the Leica. I'll be testing against a post-war Elmar.
 

MoonMind

Hall of Famer
Dec 29, 2013
124
Switzerland
Matt
I chose a different Voigtländer - the new Nokton 50mm f/1.2 is an astonishing lens, to say the least ... that said, I love tiny lenses, and, what with me being a Tessar buff, the Elmar-M 50mm f/2.8 is still one of my favourite lenses on M mount (it lives on the M6, but pairs well with the M 262 specifically).

Enjoy your Heliar ...

M.

P.S. *Don't* try the Summarit 75mm f/2.4 - or you'll end up buying one :wink:
 

donlaw

Hall of Famer
Sep 14, 2012
124
Texas
Don
Certainly there are a lot of options for 50mm with the M mount. I have a very nice summicron. Not the fastest but very satisfying. I think you made a great choice!
 

mike3996

Top Veteran
Apr 2, 2018
104
Yes, I was just about to suggest a Canon LTM
I could post some shots with the Canon 50 F2, F1.9, F1.8, F1.5, F1.4, and F0.95. I sold the F1.2. There is also the 50/3.5, 50/2.8, and 50/2.2- but I do not have those.
I've read so many good things about the Japan Summilux but ultimately it might have too long of a focus throw to be enjoyable for me. But what great pictures it produces! If this fifty kicks off I might start collecting.
 

BrianS

Super Moderator
Apr 3, 2013
124
Long focus throw- think of it as having a long rangefinder baselength. The movement from 3ft to infinity is just a few millimeters from the image plane. A long focus throw is more precise when focusing a fast lens. I wish the 50/1.1 Nokton and 50/1.1 7Artisans had 180degree throws.
 

BrianS

Super Moderator
Apr 3, 2013
124
I made an Astigmar 50/2. I used the front section of a 5cm f2 Sonnar with the back section of a 5cm f2 Retina-Xenon mounted into an I-61 focus mount, RF coupled. It was wild. I gave it away to a friend.
 

Peter Klein

Regular
Dec 31, 2014
18
Seattle
Peter Klein
The first thing to ask yourself is: "What kind of pictures do I want to take?" Then also, "How much size and weight am I willing to put up with?" And, "Is there some kind of rendering that I really like?" Go for a lens that "sees" like you do, and handles the way you want. Try out different lenses if you can. At least, go to flickr and search for groups devoted to the lenses you are considering. See what other folks are doing with those lenses.

I'm with MoonMind on the new Voigtlander 50/1.2. I am very, very happy with mine. Though it's primarily a high-speed lens, it also it quite nice stopped down for all but the most critical edge-to-edge landscapes. The designers mitigated the one thing I didn't like about its predecessor, the 50/1.5 Nokton, which could give jarringly edgy bokeh wide-open when focused close-in. The 50/1.2 has a very nice balance between modern aspheric sharpness and the "rounder," smoother classic rendering.

I tried the current 50 Summilux ASPH for a day. I loved the pictures, but not the price. I also was surprised to find that I didn't like using the focus tab, and I like focus tabs. But the focusing mechanism didn't move smoothly and comfortably with just one finger. Anyway, if you love speed, the 50/1.2 Nokton is probably the next best thing to the Summilux.

For all-around use if you don't need faster than f/2, pretty much any 1960s or later 50 Summicron will give you Leica-quality joy. I have the 1980s tabbed version, and when I'm not going to shoot in available darkness, it's my go-to lens. Beyond that, there are so many good 50s. They are all a little different, but almost all Leica-compatible lenses of the last 40 years are more than good enough. The Zeiss Planar is a fabulous lens. It's rendering is different from Leica's, which some people like. Then there's the Sonnar, which is... well, if you read this forum, you already know.

Good luck on you journey. Take your time. You can't have everything, but if you choose wisely, you can have most of it.

--Peter
 
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mike3996

Top Veteran
Apr 2, 2018
104
Good luck on you journey. Take your time.
Thanks Peter.

It's true, you may have read, that I like to see the world in 35 mm. Fifty hasn't been my favorite, ever. I find my compositions in fifty are much too clinical. Now that I got myself a fifty on the way, I don't expect to become a religious fifty fan from my little foray. But who knows, if I find myself suddenly preferring 50 over 35, that means good things. Absurdly wonderful selection of lenses, for all crop factors, for instance.

I expect to use my fifty first and foremost to detail shots, textures. Knowing more about composition and having more will to experiment, fifty could become a good friend to my street shooting as well.

Landscapes as well, who knows. With landscapes I've been satisfied with 28+70 angles of view and 50 is a fall-in-betweener but perhaps 21+50 is the new 28+70.

If I knew deep down I loved fifty, I'd probably gone for a Summilux, no doubt. It's not perfect but it's everything a fantastic fifty can be. It's the epitome of Leica look, to me. The good bits, at least.
 

mike3996

Top Veteran
Apr 2, 2018
104
Round 2

Rewind 2 months forward and now I think I get the focal length of 50 mm. The compositions are easier to make and I don't find them particularly clinical. Perhaps the well performing Mf-like rendering of 50 Heliar also helps in this regard.

Well now I'm certainly interested in making perhaps another 50 buy. This time, something fast to tide me over the upcoming winter.

In late June I already anticipated that I should probably dive down to Leica Summilux lineup as they are the lenses that perform the best (apart from Zeiss) and also hold their value nicely. (I was planning on either upgrading my 35 Summicron to Summilux FLE, getting the 50 'lux ASPH for its magic should I get into the FL, or really going bonkers and getting the Summilux 21.)

And then later on I was kind of devastated at myself, looking at how much the kit costs now and how many thousands more am I going to pour in. But I probably figured it out myself: the lens doesn't have to be Leica in order to perform superbly. Case in point: the 50 Heliar.

So maybe it's a fast 50 by Voigtländer. The new f/1.2 has been recommended. The Japanese Summilux, the Canon 50 f/1.4 LTM is also a superb candidate. Going for a budget fifty makes sense anyway as I'm not one to take every single shot wide open. f/8 is a nice place to be, whether you shoot a Jupiter-8 or the Noctilux f/0.95.

  • CV 50/1.2
  • CV 50/1.5
  • Zeiss Planar
  • Zeiss Sonnar
  • Canon 50/1.4 LTM
Right now I see at my favorite dealer (or least favorite, if it's my wallet talking) a Zeiss Planar and a CV 50/1.5 Nokton for sale. Now that Nokton sure looks like a babe. Apparently it's sharp wide open and renders very attractively. Really interesting, at a 1/7 of the cost of a similarly used Summilux 50 ASPH. The rendering seems like a winner -- I hope there aren't many focus shift issues with this lens.

The Japanese Summilux also performs absurdly well but these you don't come by every day. Also after the Jupiter purchase I kind of wary all LTM lenses that weren't actually made/designed for Leica M(39) platform. Yeah Sorry Brian, I just don't have it in me to fix these back/front focus issues. :)

In theory I could wait until Black Friday deals before I make my next move but in practice after lusting after Leica glass so long these 300-400 € lenses are practically free and I could very well buy one now and still get something by BF. :eek:
 

BrianS

Super Moderator
Apr 3, 2013
124
I have the LTM Black paint version of the CV 50/1.5 and the Canon 50/1.4 LTM.
Go for the CV 50/1.5, either the LTM version used, or the new one. The LTM version has 0.9m minimum focus distance. Sharp, I've never noticed any focus shift.

The Canon 50/1.4 is a superb lens, if you can find a clean one. The surface behind the aperture is prone to etching due to oils used in the lens and the type of glass used. The CV 50/1.2 also looks like a good choice, I have the 50/1.1 Nokton: highly under-rated., but it does have noticeable focus shift.

The Zeiss Sonnar 50/1.5 has noticeable focus shift- but has the Sonnar magic.


The CV 50/1.5 is "probably" the safest bet for a well-behaved lens, great performance, and great price. I prefer the LTM version, uses 52mm filters and accessories.
 

christilou

Legend
Jul 13, 2010
164
Sunny Frimley
I don't have experience of anything but the 50mm Summilux ASPH and the Zeiss 50mm 1.5 Sonnar. I have a liking for the Sonnar, sometimes above the Summilux. It just has character :)
 

TraamisVOS

Hall of Famer
Nov 29, 2010
124
Melbourne, Australia
I vote very strongly for the Voigtlander 50mm f/1.2 because of the quality + price. Also a vote for any of the Zeiss lenses, and of course any of the Leica lenses.

I also have the Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM, it's almost a perfect lens for the price and quality BUT it does produce some strong crazy intrusive ugly flares if there are light sources (including the sun) within the frame or just outside of the frame. If it didn't produce these flares, it would be the No.1 lens for quality + price.
 

MoonMind

Hall of Famer
Dec 29, 2013
124
Switzerland
Matt
I don't want to repeat myself too much, but I really have to renew my recommendation for the new Voigtländer 50mm f/1.2 Nokton - fabulous lens, not the smallest, but a real performer, and very rewarding to shoot with; fully usable wide open with no major flaws (there are a couple of abberations), sharp at focus point, flat enough field for focus and recompose in most cases, and on the other hand, goes down to f/22 - superbly versatile. If I could only own one 50mm lens, this would most probably be it (and I maintain this across all systems!).

That said, I still love(!) my Elmar-M 50mm f/2.8 (last generation). Always sharp enough with a generous, bold brush when it comes to colours, though never presumptous ... I think it's a shame that Leica gave up on that formula. I'd even take a rigid version of it over the (itself very nice) current Summarit. I don't feel fully safe using it on the M 262 and M10, though - at least not collapsed.

The only 50mm I own for M mount that leaves me slightly cold is the Summicron-M 50mm (non-APO, of course). Very good performer, just a little "dry" in terms of renderig (this can be a real asset when working in b&w!). Of course, objectively, it's still one of the best medium-speed 50mm lenses I own.

However, I own two Sonnar type lenses by 7Artisans (35mm f/2 M and 35mm f/1.2 E) as well as a solidly performing Jupiter-8, and in spite of some optical shortcomings, I like the results from them - a lot (though the Jupiter shows less contrast than I'd prefer). So, for me, it makes a lot of sense to opt for a Sonnar if rendering is important.

Just remember that the Zeiss C Sonnar does only focus 0.9m. The Voigtländer f/1.5 Nokton is a simple, yet reliable lens that's not a lot bigger and might prove more versatile (and slightly less carpicious). It's a bit less distinct in its rendering than the Sonnar, though - but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Finally, I know that Ming Thein (who's extremely demanding when it comes to lenses) swears by the Planar and clearly puts it ahead of the Summicron - but I think that's more a statement about performance than about rendering. The way Ming shoots and prints, he needs and wants every last bit of precision and reliability (and tests for it, thoroughly), so I guess a recommendation from him is to be taken very seriously as far as quality is concerned. For the record, Ming's preferred normal lens is the 55mm Otus ...

Hope this helps - somehow :rolleyes:

M.
 

mike3996

Top Veteran
Apr 2, 2018
104
I'd probably be content with a f/2 lens. It's fast enough to get me going. But I already have this perfect f/3.5 lens so maybe get a faster one to distinguish between them. (And okay, in the dark with a M240 f/2 sure enough feels limited.)

I don't want to repeat myself too much, but I really have to renew my recommendation for the new Voigtländer 50mm f/1.2 Nokton
The new CV 50/1.2 should be a trivial choice. Sharp, sensible, FAST. Practically can you even tell the difference in DOF between 1.2 and 1.0 if you don't A/B some sample pictures.

I guess I'm not running toward that because I read in a review how the Summilux beats it in places that could slightly matter to me. Just my impressionable mind thinking I need the BEST when it couldn't be further from the truth. Heh, if only there were similar comparisons done for those Canon LTMs or older Voigt Noktons :)

All I'm saying, my appetite is growing as I'm browsing. Why not go for a good copy of that FLE goodness while the feeling lasts. The only real downside of that lens (apart from price) is how people say its focusing is not as smooth to operate because of its floating element design.

That said, I still love(!) my Elmar-M 50mm f/2.8 (last generation). Always sharp enough with a generous, bold brush when it comes to colours,
If the color is great, I'm interested actually. But the reason I didn't buy one in the first place was the collapsible mechanism --- could I somehow accidentally unlock it and push it into my camera. And now there's the Heliar in my stable, no real reason to buy a lens that's only half a stop faster.

The only 50mm I own for M mount that leaves me slightly cold is the Summicron-M 50mm (non-APO, of course).
--
I know that Ming Thein (who's extremely demanding when it comes to lenses) swears by the Planar and clearly puts it ahead of the Summicron
KJ Vogelius compares the Planar against the Summicron V. (He also writes really great reviews that are prosaic but super dense in information.) He also acknowledges the technical merits of the Planar but says that the Summicron would be a much nicer "character lens" relatively speaking.

Considering how people say the $900-or-so Planar is a real, strong alternative to APO-Summicron I think it's great it exists and how easy it is to buy one if you need the ultimate in resolution.


Just remember that the Zeiss C Sonnar does only focus 0.9m. The Voigtländer f/1.5 Nokton is a simple, yet reliable lens that's not a lot bigger and might prove more versatile (and slightly less carpicious). It's a bit less distinct in its rendering than the Sonnar, though - but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Sonnar sure renders beautifully but the focus shift is just too much stress for me to think about. If I could try it somewhere before purchase but that's hardly the case.

Hope this helps - somehow :rolleyes:
Thank you. It does, actually. Every bit does :D


I'll have to carefully consider the 1.2 again as I have read nothing but praise about that lens. But the 1.5 Nokton pictures impressed me the very first moment I saw some sample images, same story with the Canon LTM. The rendering is just something else!
 

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