Leica 50mm woes

mike3996

Top Veteran
Apr 2, 2018
104
So I'm going forward with the 50/1.5 Nokton for the time being. There's one for sale and I can also trade in some of the lenses I didn't fall in love with.

I already have a wonderful and sharp fifty for all applications f/3.5 and smaller. Perhaps partly why these sub-500 € lenses intrigue so much now.
 

mike3996

Top Veteran
Apr 2, 2018
104
Round three: Leica Summilux-M 50mm ASPH.

So I occasionally practice this "bidding in support" in some auction sites. I was looking for something else in eBay and while there, I found this good looking Summilux ASPH and I bid on it just for fun and to show support to the seller. No GAS really involved in that decision! But I made the grave mistake of not checking what these lenses actually go for. I assumed for a pristine 6bit-coded Summilux ASPH it'd be around 3k easy. I made a bid of €2.4k and went about my day.

As the closing time closing in I became nervous about not getting any "You've been outbid!" emails. 😰 Turns out € 2.4k is a pretty normal price for this lens on the ebays. 😵

Now you gotta realise I didn't have real GAS over another fast 50, not at least this soon! I mean, I had the Nokton for the entirety of 2 days before performing this stupid stunt. Nokton performs stupendously well for a 430-eur-used lens. Smooth to focus and very lovely rendering -- extremely perfectly sharp at all apertures on the center.

Of course, Summilux ASPH/practically-APO is in its class of its own. While I'm waiting for it to arrive from Ireland I'm starting to wonder if it's too perfect a lens? What I mean in this case:

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These (all are in this post) pics taken with Nokton are extremely lovely. Sensational quality and rendering for a 430-eur-used lens. But just "expected" and "appropriate for the money paid" for a Summilux? Taking these sorts of shots with lenses a fraction of the price feels more fulfilling, satisfying. I hope that's not going to be the case in the long run.

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Both these lenses are sharp and probably clinical to some eyes; perhaps the Nokton being 1/8 of the cost and performing a touch softer in places where it helps sounds like a real winner? Nokton does have some midfield/edge softness when shooting wide open. Then again, it's perfectly understandable ESPECIALLY when the vastly more expensive Leica gear behaves exactly the same, having midfield dips and whatnot. I'm not going to fault these lenses for copying the winning rendering recipe to a fault. :)

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I don't deny: pretty much everything that I've read about the Summilux ASPH sounds like a winner to me. "The best bokeh in a fifty", that eye-piercing 3D pop at any aperture, all the talk about it being actually sharper than the 50 Summicrons (non-APO). For a fifty shooter, this is the desert-island lens.

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And Nokton's not entirely perfect. The biggest issue: the bokeh balls have ugly nipples in them. Will definitely prefer a plain bokeh ball or a soap bubble.

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Consider this post your regular "buyer's remorse" post and also a serenade to Nokton 1.5 ASPH! During the immediate aftermath of winning the bid I returned the Nokton back to the store as I had the option to. I think the 48 hours with it will leave a permament good memory.
 

christilou

Legend
Jul 13, 2010
164
Sunny Frimley
I think part of the joy of the Summilux is finding you actually managed to focus manually at 1.4 !

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I also have the Zeiss 50mm 1.5 Sonnar and I think I prefer it's bokeh. The Summilux bokeh can be nasty at times I'm afraid. I try and find an example!
 

mike3996

Top Veteran
Apr 2, 2018
104
Zeiss 50 Sonnar sure is a lens I'd agree, is the best fifty in general street/portrait shooting. Simply because it's compact sized and lightweight for what it does so well! But second-guessing the focus shift, not my idea of a good time. :) That lens would be a perfect solution for any mirrorless FF camera. Throw in an adapter with a builtin macro extender and the long MFD woe is also gone just like that?
 

christilou

Legend
Jul 13, 2010
164
Sunny Frimley
Zeiss 50 Sonnar sure is a lens I'd agree, is the best fifty in general street/portrait shooting. Simply because it's compact sized and lightweight for what it does so well! But second-guessing the focus shift, not my idea of a good time. :) That lens would be a perfect solution for any mirrorless FF camera. Throw in an adapter with a builtin macro extender and the long MFD woe is also gone just like that?
Indeed, I had read about this but I did a workshop in London a few years ago and was able to borrow the 50 Sonnar from Matt Osborne for the whole day and his was perfect, no focus shift at 1.5 ...... so got lucky when he offered to sell it to me a little while later. In fact he then asked if I wanted to sell it back to him a couple of years later :)
 

mike3996

Top Veteran
Apr 2, 2018
104
no focus shift at 1.5
That copy is probably then adjusted to that aperture. It's great when you know that 1.5 is perfect and then 5.6 + are also perfect. Just those couple of inbetweeners that you need to be careful with :)

I don't know what kind of adjustment I'd like, calibrated to 1.5 or 2.0 or 2.8. Of course for a price of one Summilux you can get two Sonnars calibrated to different apertures 😎
 

TraamisVOS

Hall of Famer
Nov 29, 2010
124
Melbourne, Australia
It comes from the factory calibrated at f/2.8. I never understood why, because f/1.5 is where it needs to be accurate with all that shallow depth of field. The more you stop the lens down, the deeper the dof, the more latitude you have to get things in focus.
 
Oct 20, 2012
104
The Netherlands
Ad Dieleman
Zeiss 50 Sonnar sure is a lens I'd agree, is the best fifty in general street/portrait shooting. Simply because it's compact sized and lightweight for what it does so well! But second-guessing the focus shift, not my idea of a good time. :) That lens would be a perfect solution for any mirrorless FF camera. Throw in an adapter with a builtin macro extender and the long MFD woe is also gone just like that?
There's a review at phillipreeve.net of the Zeiss Sonnar 1.5/50 on the Sony A7Rm3.

A quote:
"Normally I recommend the latest version of the Hawk’s Factory helicoid adapter for M lenses. But it’s best features—adjustable infinity and the helicoid—are of limited use on this lens. The helicoid is of less use because the quality of the lens drops off very quickly when mechanically focussed at close distances (you are much better off using an achromatic diopter to get a little closer) The infinity adjust is less useful than usual because you are not likely to be using this lens for infinity purposes except in an emergency."
 

mike3996

Top Veteran
Apr 2, 2018
104
It comes from the factory calibrated at f/2.8. I never understood why, because f/1.5 is where it needs to be accurate with all that shallow depth of field. The more you stop the lens down, the deeper the dof, the more latitude you have to get things in focus.
This sounds correct in theory but in practice the focal plane can shift from 1.5 to 2 so much, and f/2 is still pretty damn shallow it won't cover the difference. Same goes up (in decreasing effect) to f/5.6 when we're talking about 50mm lenses.
 

BrianS

Super Moderator
Apr 3, 2013
124
It comes from the factory calibrated at f/2.8. I never understood why, because f/1.5 is where it needs to be accurate with all that shallow depth of field. The more you stop the lens down, the deeper the dof, the more latitude you have to get things in focus.
The early ones were optimized for F2.8, later Zeiss changed to optimize for F1.5 for film cameras. Mine is perfect at F1.5 on my M Monochrom with a deep yellow or orange filter on it- which shifts focus slightly towards infinity, best at F2 on the M9. Zeiss notes there is a slight difference between film and digital.

The 50/1.5 Nokton Asph has virtually no focus shift. The Canon 50/1.4 is a fine lens, is a PLanar like the Nokton. It is not as sharp, has less contrast. You need to find one with good glass, the surface behind the aperture is prone to damage from the lubricant used. Prices on them are way down, I picked up a nice one for ~$200. I have a lot of 50mm lenses.
 

MoonMind

Hall of Famer
Dec 29, 2013
124
Switzerland
Matt
@BrianS After reading your description of the f/1.5 Nokton's optical characteristics, I'm seriously wondering how it'd compare against the "standard" Summicron (which is, after all, another double Gauss design - the Nokton, being a planar, is close enough). Any thoughts on that you care to share?

M.
 

mike3996

Top Veteran
Apr 2, 2018
104
Are you talking about lens breathing or is this something else?
Focus shift -- the bane of non-TTL (and TTL also I guess) systems. When the spherical aberrations in the design cause a seemingly visual shift in focus when you do nothing but close or open up the aperture.

Not associated with focus breathing (focus changes as you zoom in with a zoom lens) or lens breathing (angle of view subtly changes going through the focus).


Just got my 50 Summilux. Smooth focus -- the main fear of mine would be that its focusing ring due to FLE would be rough as some people say in reviews. I think it's a matter of breaking in the lens. An another big benefit of buying preowned. :)

And the performance on minimum focusing distance is grand. Wide open.

 
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TraamisVOS

Hall of Famer
Nov 29, 2010
124
Melbourne, Australia
Focus shift -- the bane of non-TTL (and TTL also I guess) systems. When the spherical aberrations in the design cause a seemingly visual shift in focus when you do nothing but close or open up the aperture.

Not associated with focus breathing (this happens with zooms I guess?) or lens breathing.
I just looked it up - so the focus will shift if you've focused under one f/stop, and then readjusted the f/stop?
 

mike3996

Top Veteran
Apr 2, 2018
104
I just looked it up - so the focus will shift if you've focused under one f/stop, and then readjusted the f/stop?
Yes, quite literally that's the case. And you can appreciate how frustrating this is if shooting a rangefinder with no way of seeing or focusing through the lens. Because there's no focusing under any f/stop, there's no such concept when you do it the rangefinder way.
 

TraamisVOS

Hall of Famer
Nov 29, 2010
124
Melbourne, Australia
Yes, quite literally that's the case. And you can appreciate how frustrating this is if shooting a rangefinder with no way of seeing or focusing through the lens. Because there's no focusing under any f/stop, there's no such concept when you do it the rangefinder way.
I don't think I've ever had this problem. I never I usually pick an f/stop suitable for the lighting and/or requirements of the circumstances, and then I generally stick with it.

How are all of you doing your photography where this is a problem?
 

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