Leica 50mm woes

Peter Klein

Regular
Location
Seattle
Real Name
Peter Klein
Matt, could you post a couple of photos that illustrate the pictorial differences you mention between the Voigtlander (older) 50/1.5 and the new 50/1.2? I too have them both. I bought the 1.2 when I saw that Voigtlander had solved the 1.5’s problem of very harsh, wiry background bokeh in close-in wide-open pictures. I did a little “shoot my bookcase” comparison and decided that the 1.2 was very close to the 1.5 at f/1.4, and quite sharp enough at other apertures. Since then, i’ve been too happy shooting the 1.2 to bother making more comparisons with the 1.5.

I’ve owned the LTM 50/1.5 for years. But I rarely shot it in good light, preferring my DR or tabbed 50 Summicrons for that. The 1.2, I feel like I can shoot in any conditions and be happy. The 50/1.2 has aspheric sharpness without as much of the aspheric harshness we often get in the bargain. It's like Walter Mandler and Peter Karbe each compromised a bit and worked together on designing a lens just for me.

—Peter
  • 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.
 
Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
Matt, could you post a couple of photos that illustrate the pictorial differences you mention between the Voigtlander (older) 50/1.5 and the new 50/1.2? I too have them both. I bought the 1.2 when I saw that Voigtlander had solved the 1.5’s problem of very harsh, wiry background bokeh in close-in wide-open pictures. I did a little “shoot my bookcase” comparison and decided that the 1.2 was very close to the 1.5 at f/1.4, and quite sharp enough at other apertures. Since then, i’ve been too happy shooting the 1.2 to bother making more comparisons with the 1.5.

I’ve owned the LTM 50/1.5 for years. But I rarely shot it in good light, preferring my DR or tabbed 50 Summicrons for that. The 1.2, I feel like I can shoot in any conditions and be happy. The 50/1.2 has aspheric sharpness without as much of the aspheric harshness we often get in the bargain. It's like Walter Mandler and Peter Karbe each compromised a bit and worked together on designing a lens just for me.

—Peter
I'll try - but you'll have to wait a bit; with two challenges already running, I simply can't carry additional gear (i.e. another lens and/or combo), and if I do something like this (I'm usually not good at this kind of thing - I lack the patience for formal testing).

The short version of my impressions: The Nokton f/1.5 is less contrasty, but plenty sharp wide open and great stopped down with very natural representation and an overall smoothness I really love; I've never felt that its bokeh was overly nervous or "wiry", regardless of focusing distance. The Nokton f/1.2 is contrastier with punchier colours; of course, it's trickier to nail focus wide open, but it can be very sharp; stopped down, it's crisp and very reliable; bokeh's fine - just not what I'd call charming. So, yes, the Nokton f/1.2 is the better lens - just not the one I like better. That it's more universally useful is certainly true.

M.
 

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
1.5’s problem of very harsh, wiry background bokeh in close-in wide-open pictures
I am not sure what that is but "wiry" sounds like one of the very reasons I chose to get this lens as my first fast fifty. :)

The lens' aspherical bokeh balls are the absolute worst. Luckily this is about the worsest case I have encountered.

2020-12-16 (Wed) 17-07-04.jpeg
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Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
Okay, this is a very old debt I have to "pay". These were taken under the exact same lighting conditions at the same spot, set at minimum distance, then brought into focus on the brand name's first letter by using rangefinder. The M10's unit has been freshly calibrated and works very well overall.

Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.2 wide open:

LM102979.jpg
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Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (version I) wide open:

LM102981.jpg
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Now, I don't know about you, but the most striking thing is that the two images are remarkably similar; yes, the Nokton f/1.2 is pretty darn sharp wide open and renders a smoother background, but the Nokton f/1.5 comes surprisingly close. While it is, of course, two-thirds of a stop slower, it has almost identical sharpness roll-off with only a smidgen more LoCA (both lenses do very well for what they are in this respect). The clearest difference is that the Nokton f/1.5 brings out edges and straight lines in the background more clearly - but not in an overly rough way in my eyes; and some of it is sure to be due to the difference in maximum aperture. I can't detect any unpleasant nervousness in its rendering, either - and never have to any major degree, as of yet; what I can see is that colours are a little bit bolder on the Nokton f/1.5.

Of course, I don't do bokeh balls a lot, so I'm certainly missing something here, but I think both lenses do a fine job, and in my eyes, that makes the Nokton f/1.5 the more desirable option: Almost as good as its bigger brother, smaller, lighter, cheaper - hence a better partner for what is, after all, an amazingly compact full-frame camera.

That said, the Nokton f/1.2 is also a pleasure to shoot and, of course, it is a real powerhouse with clearly better peak performance. I never truely doubted that - there's more than one reason I've decided to keep it. But overall, I admit to preferring the Nokton f/1.5 over both the Nokton f/1.2 and *also* the Summicron-M 50mm f/2; while certainly not better than the latter, both Noktons are clearly more charming than the "well-behaved" Summicron-M ...

So, while this was very informative and yes, the Nokton 50mm f/1.2 *is* the better performer, the Nokton f/1.5 is amazing value for money and does everything I usually need.

Thanks for pushing me to finally do this - it was well worth finding out that my hunch was not baseless ...

M.

P.S. Just saw that lens recognition was set incorrectly - but since that's true for both lenses, I won't redo the shots. The f-stops in EXIF are way off because of that, however.
 

Peter Klein

Regular
Location
Seattle
Real Name
Peter Klein
Okay, this is a very old debt I have to "pay". These were taken under the exact same lighting conditions at the same spot, set at minimum distance, then brought into focus on the brand name's first letter by using rangefinder. The M10's unit has been freshly calibrated and works very well overall.

Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.2 wide open:

View attachment 248059

Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (version I) wide open:

View attachment 248060

Now, I don't know about you, but the most striking thing is that the two images are remarkably similar; yes, the Nokton f/1.2 is pretty darn sharp wide open and renders a smoother background, but the Nokton f/1.5 comes surprisingly close. While it is, of course, two-thirds of a stop slower, it has almost identical sharpness roll-off with only a smidgen more LoCA (both lenses do very well for what they are in this respect). The clearest difference is that the Nokton f/1.5 brings out edges and straight lines in the background more clearly - but not in an overly rough way in my eyes; and some of it is sure to be due to the difference in maximum aperture. I can't detect any unpleasant nervousness in its rendering, either - and never have to any major degree, as of yet; what I can see is that colours are a little bit bolder on the Nokton f/1.5.

Of course, I don't do bokeh balls a lot, so I'm certainly missing something here, but I think both lenses do a fine job, and in my eyes, that makes the Nokton f/1.5 the more desirable option: Almost as good as its bigger brother, smaller, lighter, cheaper - hence a better partner for what is, after all, an amazingly compact full-frame camera.

That said, the Nokton f/1.2 is also a pleasure to shoot and, of course, it is a real powerhouse with clearly better peak performance. I never truely doubted that - there's more than one reason I've decided to keep it. But overall, I admit to preferring the Nokton f/1.5 over both the Nokton f/1.2 and *also* the Summicron-M 50mm f/2; while certainly not better than the latter, both Noktons are clearly more charming than the "well-behaved" Summicron-M ...

So, while this was very informative and yes, the Nokton 50mm f/1.2 *is* the better performer, the Nokton f/1.5 is amazing value for money and does everything I usually need.

Thanks for pushing me to finally do this - it was well worth finding out that my hunch was not baseless ...

M.

P.S. Just saw that lens recognition was set incorrectly - but since that's true for both lenses, I won't redo the shots. The f-stops in EXIF are way off because of that, however.
Thanks for doing this, Matt. I think one could do fine with either 50 Nokton. As I’ve mentioned, the one major flaw I’ve found in my LTM ”1.5” is that high contrast out of focus edges can look jarringly jittery in close-focused wide-open shots. Another more subtle drawback is a bit of muddiness in the midtones stopped down. (This might be sample variation). Which is why for years I used a 50 tabbed Summicron outdoors and the 1.5 Nokton indoors. The 1.2 Nokton has minimized both problems. So I think of it as both an almost-Summicron and an almost-Noctilux, at the price of a bit more weight than the ‘Cron or the 1.5 Nokton. Not a bad combination.
-Peter
 
Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
Thanks for doing this, Matt. I think one could do fine with either 50 Nokton. As I’ve mentioned, the one major flaw I’ve found in my LTM ”1.5” is that high contrast out of focus edges can look jarringly jittery in close-focused wide-open shots. Another more subtle drawback is a bit of muddiness in the midtones stopped down. (This might be sample variation). Which is why for years I used a 50 tabbed Summicron outdoors and the 1.5 Nokton indoors. The 1.2 Nokton has minimized both problems. So I think of it as both an almost-Summicron and an almost-Noctilux, at the price of a bit more weight than the ‘Cron or the 1.5 Nokton. Not a bad combination.
-Peter
Very true - and a very suitable description of the Nokton f/1.2, too. I just did a little comparison with the Summicron-M and found the Nokton f/1.2 to be comparable in most respects (I concentrated on the performance between f/2 and f/4) - and more versatile thanks to its faster maximum aperture, of course; I actually came away with the impression that the Nokton f/1.2 was the more desirable lens!

We only differ in that I still prefer the smaller form factor (if IQ is there), and I'm really happy with what the Nokton f/1.5 delivers *for my needs*. But that's just a matter of taste (and subject matter). For me, the Nokton f/1.5 represents a set of compromises I'm can live with most of the time.

M.
 

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
In the good hopes that the buyer comes through my life will simplify a bit. The Summilux-50 will be sold and I am back to the nice life of two complementary fifties: CV 50/1.5 Nokton for night time (and daytime no problem) and CV 50/3.5 Heliar for super quality daytime goodness. The simplicity comes from the fact that for any given situation I have a good idea about which fifty to grab.

Yet, perhaps I consider the money I paid for the Summilux "already spent money" so I could be reinvesting the influx into new fifties. Talk about compound interest! These two are on my immediate radar:
  • TTartisan 50/0.95. This lens receives such glowing reviews from everyone, but its size and weight propose the question whether I will actually use this much at all. Then again, with a usable speed of f/0.95 this would be a real complementary option against f/1.5 fifties that I own or consider.
  • Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50/1.5. With this lens I could really go places.

In all seriousness I should take the time to recalibrate my needs for fifties, and appreciate the two stupendously gorgeous Cosina lenses I have. The spring is advancing and light levels rise before our eyes. The dark of the winter is behind us and real need for a 0.95 will only become relevant next fall.

Perhaps the ultimate issue is that by buying more fifties I'd again complicate my life. Maybe I should use the money to fill in the gaps? CV 75/1.5 Nokton, TTartisan 21/1.5, Leica 90mm Elmarit, hell, maybe a 28 Summicron? But these don't belong to a 50mm Woes thread. ;)
 

rayvonn

Hall of Famer
Location
London
In the good hopes that the buyer comes through my life will simplify a bit. The Summilux-50 will be sold and I am back to the nice life of two complementary fifties: CV 50/1.5 Nokton for night time (and daytime no problem) and CV 50/3.5 Heliar for super quality daytime goodness. The simplicity comes from the fact that for any given situation I have a good idea about which fifty to grab.

Yet, perhaps I consider the money I paid for the Summilux "already spent money" so I could be reinvesting the influx into new fifties. Talk about compound interest! These two are on my immediate radar:
  • TTartisan 50/0.95. This lens receives such glowing reviews from everyone, but its size and weight propose the question whether I will actually use this much at all. Then again, with a usable speed of f/0.95 this would be a real complementary option against f/1.5 fifties that I own or consider.
  • Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50/1.5. With this lens I could really go places.

In all seriousness I should take the time to recalibrate my needs for fifties, and appreciate the two stupendously gorgeous Cosina lenses I have. The spring is advancing and light levels rise before our eyes. The dark of the winter is behind us and real need for a 0.95 will only become relevant next fall.

Perhaps the ultimate issue is that by buying more fifties I'd again complicate my life. Maybe I should use the money to fill in the gaps? CV 75/1.5 Nokton, TTartisan 21/1.5, Leica 90mm Elmarit, hell, maybe a 28 Summicron? But these don't belong to a 50mm Woes thread. ;)
That TTartisans does look surprisingly good doesn’t it (who cares about the corners when shooting f0.95) but alas, that 1m focusing distance spoils it for me, just as it would with a Noctilux. You could always give one of the pre asph Summiluxes a try, safe in the knowledge 1) it’ll render differently to your asph and 2) apparently one of them (I can’t remember which one) renders similar to a Noctilux anyway.
 

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
You could always give one of the pre asph Summiluxes a try, safe in the knowledge 1) it’ll render differently to your asph and 2) apparently one of them (I can’t remember which one) renders similar to a Noctilux anyway.
Absolutely, a Summilux 50 pre-Asph has been on my radar once or twice before. In a sense they are CV Noktons on steroids. And if there's a Summilux that renders like a Noctilux, I'm more than interested.

But perhaps now it's a good moment for me to take a breather and try to search my conviction about photography and Leica before plunging into the depths again. Not that these Summiluxes are particularly expensive...
 

serhan

Hall of Famer
Location
NYC
These two are on my immediate radar:
  • TTartisan 50/0.95. This lens receives such glowing reviews from everyone, but its size and weight propose the question whether I will actually use this much at all. Then again, with a usable speed of f/0.95 this would be a real complementary option against f/1.5 fifties that I own or consider.
  • Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50/1.5. With this lens I could really go places.
This is an old test just to show the bokeh differences though actual photo bokeh differ depending on light and background distances:

Mitakon 50mm .95 original Sony version
newer M mount review: Review: Zhong Yi 50mm 0.95 M - phillipreeve.net
w50095.jpg
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CV 50mm 1.1
w5011.jpg
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Zeiss 50mm 1.5
w5015.jpg
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Contax g 45mm f2
w4520.jpg
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50mm 0.95 is heavy... It is well reported that Zeiss 50mm has focus shift with digital RF cameras... Other small/light options for their given apertures:
Ms Optics 50mm f1
MS-Optics 50mm f/1.1 Sonnetar Review - Exploring Sonnars Pt.13
7artisans 50mm 1.1
CV 50mm 1.2
CV 50mm 1.5 v II
& the dream lens: Shooting Portraits with a Rare Canon 50mm f/0.95 'Dream Lens'
 
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serhan

Hall of Famer
Location
NYC
Mitakon 50mm .95
wDSC023902.jpg
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ZM 50mm 1.5 has round bokeh balls
w_DSC16052.jpg
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w_DSC1609i.jpg
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MS Optical 50mm 1.1 Sonnetar
wDSC004622.jpg
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wDSC039632.jpg
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serhan

Hall of Famer
Location
NYC
Interesting 50mm M lens testing including Nokton 1.1, Nokton 1.2, Nokton 1.5, Nokton 1.5 II, Summilux ASPH, Summicron v5, Zeiss Planar, Zeiss C Sonnar, 7Artisans 1.1, TTArtisans 1.4:
Leica M 50mm lens comparison: 10 fast options - Part 1. Introductions — Focus shift: a street photography blog, the introduction and first tests,
Leica M 50mm lens comparison: 10 fast options - Part 2. Technical analysis — Focus shift: a street photography blog, the technical analysis,
Leica M 50mm lens comparison: 10 fast options - Part 3. Rendering — Focus shift: a street photography blog, the bokeh and portrait rendering,
Leica M 50mm lens comparison: 10 fast options - Part 4 — Focus shift: a street photography blog, the conclusion.
 
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mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
And he's using the same camera as I, excellent. ;)

I'm just reading the first page and he laments about the stiction problem of 50 Summilux Asph. So many say the same, thankfully my copy had none of that crap. Of course now it's sold to an M240 shooter who says it's not rf-synced in the slightest. The world of rangefinders, so bickerous.
 

serhan

Hall of Famer
Location
NYC
Yes, I guess he solved some of your woes:) I skimmed through his review and it took a while... I don't comprehend how much time he spent doing all the tests plus putting it together... He missed the new CV apo lens so he should do it one more time:)

And he's using the same camera as I, excellent. ;)
 
Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
Yes, I guess he solved some of your woes:) I skimmed through his review and it took a while... I don't comprehend how much time he spent doing all the tests plus putting it together... He missed the new CV apo lens so he should do it one more time:)
Many thanks for linking to this - this guy did an amazing job at assessing those lenses; the way he did this tells me that I can actually more or less go by his findings.

Fact is, I enjoy all of my current 50mm lenses (except the Summicron-M that I find a bit lacking *compared to the hype it attracts*), and even if I actually mostly agree about their flaws, I see *less* reasons now to "move on": Both my current Voigtländer Noktons, the 50mm f/1.2 and the "old" 50mm f/1.5, are fine for what they are: The f/1.2 *is* a powerhouse, and in spite of the shortcomings of the f/1.5, I simply love the results, and in contrast to this guy, I don't find the ergonomics too bad.

However, my interest in actually testing out some new lenses, specifically, the Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.5 II and the Voigtländer APO-Lanthar 50mm f/2, has actually increased again ... I think I might (and probably should) just trade the Summicron-M for the pair ... I'll look into it once we can go back to the shops.

In the meantime, I'll definitely reach for my "lo-fi", but very enjoyable Leica Elmar-M 50mm f/2.8 (the second and last generation) a bit more often - that's certainly not a best-of-breed lens, but very satisfying in terms of its results.

M.
 
UNCODED.jpg


The Reeves test of fast lenses convinced me that I did not want a Sony full-frame camera for using with fast lenses. The amount of vignetting shown was much higher than was expected based on using these lenses on my Leica M9 and M Monochrom. SO- I made a light box, took some images, and wrote some code to plot the actual vignetting captured in the .DNG files. Overall, the Leica M9 did better by 1 F-Stop than the measurements given for the Sony. Sony uses a thick sensor stack, and is not optimized for lenses with steep optical paths.

Compare the inexpensive 7Art 50/1.1 with the APO-Lanthar at F2:
LAN-DIAG.jpg
 

rayvonn

Hall of Famer
Location
London
Thanks for the link, very useful, all done in the author’s free time and I also really liked his review of the E43 Summilux buried within his site. The author originally posted the article on the Leica Camera Forum, where he was good enough to advise that he approached his review with a view not to lens character (for me a big deal) but to neutrality which he said was reflected in his conclusion and that he viewed Leica not as a camera brand but a luxury brand. I found it interesting that he seemed to prefer the modern Voigts over their Leica counterparts but that the pre 1990 Leica lenses were the ones giving him least trouble. Fair to say that owning a rangefinder/ lens combo and manipulating them to get an image to your own subjective taste is never a simple process, thus I see the author’s review as a starting point.
 
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Location
S. Oregon Coast
Real Name
Andrew L
In Finnish we have a word "vikuripäinen" which Google translates to "vicious" but I don't think it's accurate. Constantly bickering, that's bickerous. There, made it. :)
I'd like to learn some Finnish. Reading Tolkien writing about it I think I caught some of his enthusiasm for it, it seems very punny in a way, and ancient at the same time. I get pretty nerdy about languages... But lack the wherewithal to actually attain competency in any of them. Let alone English.
 
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