Leica 50mm woes

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Location
SW Virginia
Real Name
Steve
I hate the term "clinical" because I often like images described that way. It's like referring to all film images as "soft".
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!
That second shot is marvelous. My hand automatically moved toward the screen to pinch her cheek.
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Location
SW Virginia
Real Name
Steve
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.
I'm not sure I could ever be 2.4K supportive. 🤑 There's something really good in that rendering of the Sportster.
 
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mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
Ok the Nokton's back and I'm so happy about it. It's a tad lighter, its features are better for fast shooting (longer throw, good ring) and it's just a well made piece of gear just as the Summilux is.

Now I'm able to see how Nokton features some glow wide open but it's very sharp and usable at close distances.

I'm not too huge on making A/B comparisons on the go (you know me, I don't really like changing lenses) but I would like to get to the bottom of the reasons why Nokton resonated with me so much, and why I perceive the Summilux being clinical. I might begin on a new thread about that later on.

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mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
There's no Summilux equivalent for this but this quickly focused and shot casual Nokton shot well reflects my past experience. No matter how and what I shoot, the bokeh will be sexy and characterful. And with Summilux I'm guessing (no proof!) this would have been so smooth and tidy, nobody would complain. But I would!

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If you keep saying that Mandler-era Summilux lenses do this on the regular, hell yeah I'm interested. Then again, I have this here Nokton right in my hand, do I really need a Red dot brand lens that's ~ thrice the money and supposedly has some mild focus shift? :)
 

christilou

Legend
Location
Sunny Frimley
I can't find a thread for this so it may be slightly off topic ..... however, I keep trying to put into words how I feel about the M + 50mm Summilux. Here I used the M10 and 50mm Summilux ASPH and then switched to the Sony A7RIII 35mm 1.4 ZA and took two almost exact same photos. I cropped the 35mm but even so, when I look at the output from the two cameras (same processing) I still get something richer looking from the M + 50mm Summilux combo.

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mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
Rendering, it goes a long way :)

For example, I don't think any of my fifties can match the Heliar 50/3.5 at f/3.5 in rendering, which the Heliar does which such ease and softness, yet everything focal plane is tack sharp of course.
 

William Lewis

Veteran
Location
Hayward WI
Real Name
William Lewis
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.

If you decide you want a Leica lens let me suggest the single finest one I ever used - The Summitar 50/2. Summicron like stopped down, capable of almost crazy and soft wide open. I regret selling that lens more than any other.
 

akuiper

Regular
I like the Canon a lot, in low light.
Out in the field it has the Gaussian characters: small and thin focal plane wide open, with a lot of attention to the smallest artifacts of the skin, somewhat like the last generations of Leica lenses.
Follow the finger


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She helped me a bit :)
The lens was adjusted (full CLA) at Will's Kamera Service in Zoetermeer NL, you can appreciate yourself if he did an outstanding job
 
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mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
In my five years of renewed photography hobby, I didn't tolerate a fifty for the first 3½ years. And now look where I am. I only own one 35mm which is supposed to be my "main" angle and then there are three (four) lenses for 50mm. I have the rangefinder's frameline previews to thank, using these I could get accustomed to the idea of framing the world into 50.

Fifty is where most of my fantasies usually lie. This is not probably a comprehensive list but these following fifties I'd like to at least shoot if not own.

  • Zeiss Sonnar 50 f/1.5 (the pop)
  • Leica Noctilux 50 f/1 (Mandler)
  • Leica Noctilux 50 f/0.95 (Karbe)
  • Leica Summicron 50 f/2 (the classic)
  • Leica Summilux 50 pre-ASPH f/1.4 (another classic)
  • Leica Elmar 50 f/2.8 (collapsible retro classic)
  • CV 50 APO-Lanthar f/2 (the new kid on the block)
I obviously didn't jot down every desire because I am sure the list should contain closer to a dozen lenses, not just these seven.
 

rayvonn

Hall of Famer
I'm struggling to think of a 'bad' 50mm on any system, currently or historically, from the plastic fantastics right up to the Noctilux (and then there's the 55mm/58mm lenses, which probably render even better, but that's another matter). I bet even the new unbelievably low priced Yonguno, 7Artisans etc 50mm lenses aren't bad.
 

Bart J D

Top Veteran
In my five years of renewed photography hobby, I didn't tolerate a fifty for the first 3½ years. And now look where I am. I only own one 35mm which is supposed to be my "main" angle and then there are three (four) lenses for 50mm. I have the rangefinder's frameline previews to thank, using these I could get accustomed to the idea of framing the world into 50.

Fifty is where most of my fantasies usually lie. This is not probably a comprehensive list but these following fifties I'd like to at least shoot if not own.

  • Zeiss Sonnar 50 f/1.5 (the pop)
  • Leica Noctilux 50 f/1 (Mandler)
  • Leica Noctilux 50 f/0.95 (Karbe)
  • Leica Summicron 50 f/2 (the classic)
  • Leica Summilux 50 pre-ASPH f/1.4 (another classic)
  • Leica Elmar 50 f/2.8 (collapsible retro classic)
  • CV 50 APO-Lanthar f/2 (the new kid on the block)
I obviously didn't jot down every desire because I am sure the list should contain closer to a dozen lenses, not just these seven.
I think there are some missing
Not even as expensive as some on that list 😊
like the summar, the rigid, the pentax L43, ...
I'm sure Brian would have "some" suggestions.

There's a wonderful world of M42 lenses available as well with a lot of 50mm to choose from. And those are normally really cheap.
 

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
I think there are some missing
Not even as expensive as some on that list 😊
like the summar, the rigid, the pentax L43, ...
I'm sure Brian would have "some" suggestions.

There's a wonderful world of M42 lenses available as well with a lot of 50mm to choose from. And those are normally really cheap.
Oh yes. I limited myself to M mount lenses on purpose... 👀
 

rayvonn

Hall of Famer
I think there are some missing
Not even as expensive as some on that list 😊
like the summar, the rigid, the pentax L43, ...
I'm sure Brian would have "some" suggestions.

There's a wonderful world of M42 lenses available as well with a lot of 50mm to choose from. And those are normally really cheap.
This is why I'm a bit reluctant to fork out on 'the' Summilux ASPH. Aside from the fact that whatever your own financial circumstances, that's still a lot of cash one could be spending on family in these times, @mike3996 , I think, is the owner or a Summilux and he's still chasing the 50s!
 

Bart J D

Top Veteran
Well, after I got a sony a7II, when the prise went down because of the a7III and with a cash back, I collected a number of those M42 50mm lenses on the cheap.
Then I went "cold turkey" and haven't bought anything since.
As long as nothing breaks down, that's how it's going to stay.
I have more than I have time to use anyway.
 
Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
I own loads of 50mm lenses for the Leica (i.e. native M mount or adapted screw mount); however, none is more pleasing and convincing than one of the cheapest that's still available new: the Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (the M mount version of a former screw mount version; not the second edition that came out recently and sports a completely different optical design). Its character is superbly charming wide open, and stopped down, it's amazingly sharp and reliable. Superb.

Other lenses I own, with short commentary:
  • FED Industar-61 53mm f/2.8 L/D: A Zeiss Tessar clone, screw mount, decently sharp, but clunky and cheaply made (mine's also got horrible cleaning marks on the rear element); okay for what I paid - but not recommended, in spite its solid reputation. Main reason? The Elmar-M ... (see below)
  • KMZ Jupiter-8 5cm f/2 "P" (off a Zorki body, I was told): A Zeiss Sonnar clone; not very sharp, but interesting rendering (crazy bokeh!) - all in all, "artistic" value at best ... But it gave me the Sonnar bug, and I do like its output on film, much more so than the technically better shots from the Industar-61.
  • Leica Summicron-M 50mm f/2 "V": small, sharp, well made, neutral in its rendering - to the point of being somewhat boring. This is a journalist's dream lens ... but I'm not a journalist ... Perhaps the best lens I'm not really happy with (a fate it shares with a modern lens, the Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8).
  • Leica Elmar-M 50mm f/2.8 "II": small (collapsible!) Tessar clone, draws very nicely, quite sharp - a lens every Leica shooter should own (very well behaved on Sony bodies, too). One of my favourite 50mm lenses of all time: unique, but also very, very good; honestly, the only Leica 50mm I'd really need and will never sell.
  • Nikon Nikkor-H*C 5cm f/2: bought from Brian on this forum, it's a wonderful Sonnar type lens with very pleasing rendering; it's also surprisingly well behaved and very, very small. A vintage jewel.
  • Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.2: rather big and heavy for a rangefinder lens, though small for such a fast lens, decent wide open, very good stopped down; actually much better behaved than I dared hope; alas, nowhere near as charming as his f/1.5 stable mate: Its rendering is modern and contrasty, more bold than elegant.
Apart from the Elmar-M and the Nikkor, I'd only hang on to the Nokton f/1.5 if push came to shove ... The Nokton 50mm f/1.5 is the lens I'd recommend to all M mount shooters - it's a must-have. The lens I wouldn't buy again is the Summicron-M - I'd probably get a Zeiss Planar 50mm f/2 instead - or ... well, see the next paragraph.

All in all, Voigtländer lenses are my favourites (though Zeiss' offers are usually even better optically): For what you pay, you get amazing value for money. That's why I'm (cautiously) contemplating trying another two of their lenses: the new Nokton 50mm f/1.5 II (Brian's shots look very interesting) and the M mount version of the mighty APO Lanthar 50mm f/2 that'll be released shortly. However, it's perfectly possible the Nokton 50mm f/1.2 actually covers enough bases - if only I could bring myself to accept that it's a bit too gentlemanly (instead of characterful); I'm most probably trying to stroke it the wrong way ...

On that note, I have decided to have the M10 CLA'd; I'll check out the Summicron-M and the Nokton f/1.2 again once its rangefinder has been adjusted. Maybe I'm just not getting optimal results (my testing suggests otherwise, but we'll see). Thankfully, the Nokton f/1.5 literally lives on the M 262 anyway ...

M.
 
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