Leica 50mm woes

Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
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.
I found his actual troubles with both Leica lenses pretty gruesome - both seemed to need attention and/or repair in order to be at their (potential) best, and neither was at the time of testing. Granted, this can happen to lenses that are well used and pretty old - but it also goes to show that a legend can age, and not do so all too gracefully (there's a lovely representation of this in Terry Pratchett's first couple of Discworld novels: Cohen the Barbarian - he's your "Summilux" of heroes, unfortunately he's by then 86 years old ...). That said, yes, I'm fully prepared to believe that the Summilux *is* an amazing lens when correctly adjusted, and I know for a fact that the Summicron is quite a good one - for a defined value of "good".

However, I have to say that his observations about the Summicron-M do ring a bell: The lens is quite impressive and appealing at close quarters (portraits, documentary, quite possibly street shooting), but less convincing as a general purpose lens, i.e. at medium and long distances. Considering the price you pay (and also the amount of money proper maintenance entails), that's at best an adequate showing - but not exactly what I'd call reliable and decent *at this kind of price*. I'm absolutely sure the new Voigtländer APO-Lanthar outshoots it by a considerable margin - for 40% of the price new, and 60% of what you pay for a used Summicron-M, which is in itself quite annoying in a way (but good for me - the Summicron-M will pay for the APO-Lanthar handily, with money to spare). Come to think of it: The Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S *clearly* tops the Summicron-M's IQ *and* is more versatile - but at least you can say that the Nikon is twice as big and heavy (though only a fifth of the price). The APO-Lanthar, on the other hand, is itself quite a compact lens - if not exactly a *small* one which, of course, the Summicron *is*.

M.
 
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rayvonn

Hall of Famer
need attention and/or repair in order to be at their (potential) best
Yep
a legend can age, and not do so all too gracefully
Yep
when correctly adjusted
Yep
for a defined value of "good"
Yep

Digital fangefinders eh? Thank God I was aware of all this before diving in, I can only imagine the frustrations of anyone who isn't.

The Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S *clearly* tops the Summicron-M's IQ *and* is more versatile
Yep, this is why I would always err on the side of caution before getting a 'modern' RF lens for big money, I mean I find it hard to believe that any of them would be more technically perfect than say a Sigma Art for a fraction of the price if image quality is your goal and in my (biased) view, there can be no way the F mount Zeiss/ Voigt lenses can be topped by any RF lens and I can run off any number of native Canikon glass where this also applies. That's easy for me to say as I don't use a rangefinder seeking technical perfection in a lens and that's probably just as well.

I have to say though - the images coming from the Summilux 50mm ASPH look wonderful when used with a *film* camera, certainly different to images rendered on digital, the colour rendering and the (for want of a better phrase) 'pop'. If I had an M7/ Epson or earlier I would seriously be after that lens.
 
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Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
Yep

Yep

Yep

Yep

Digital fangefinders eh? Thank God I was aware of all this before diving in, I can only imagine the frustrations of anyone who isn't.


Yep, this is why I would always err on the side of caution before getting a 'modern' RF lens for big money, I mean I find it hard to believe that any of them would be more technically perfect than say a Sigma Art for a fraction of the price if image quality is your goal and in my (biased) view, there can be no way the F mount Zeiss/ Voigt lenses can be topped by any RF lens and I can run off any number of native Canikon glass where this also applies. That's easy for me to say as I don't use a rangefinder seeking technical perfection in a lens and that's probably just as well.

I have to say though - the images coming from the Summilux 50mm ASPH look wonderful when used with a *film* camera, certainly different to images rendered on digital, the colour rendering and the (for want of a better phrase) 'pop'. If I had an M7/ Epson or earlier I would seriously be after that lens.
For the record, I for one didn't seek the Summicron-M, I bought it along with a wonderful film camera, the Zeiss Ikon rangefinder - which was what I wanted, and the price was very low for the pair. Someone acted as a benefactor, you might say. But I expected to be amazed - which obviously left me underwhelmed.

That said, it is a pleasant lens to use, and on its own, it's more than acceptable. The rendering *is* pleasing, period. But ... well, you said it. I wish people would stop raving and start assessing what it can actually do. It's a good lens - however, it's not a do-all, end-all, and it can't be. There's a reason why the Otus line is so big - they're probably very close to the optical ideal, and yes, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art is *technically* as hugely impressive as it is huge; yet when I owned that lens, I constantly chose the humble (and far from perfect) Nikon 50mm f/1.8G over it because of, you know, portability - and it produced nice enough images most of the time. The Sigma rendered distinctly flat, too - it behaved like a compass, not a brush. The Summicron itself sits at a very comfortable spot: It's a competent lens that's small, light, well made and nice to use. No need to call it "superb" or "perfect".

Actually, what you said about the Summilux is similar to what makes me love the somewhat flawed Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.5 so much - the images coming from it can look amazing; you just don't feel the need to look into every technical aspect in such a case. And the lens can truely *sing* wide open. Would I love to try the Summilux-M ASPH., though? Of course I would. But I doubt I'd be smitten with it - I'd *expect* it to be superior and would really hate every little flaw. In fact, some of my gripes with the Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.2 sprang from the fact that it is a *seriously* good lens - but of course, far from perfect.

Furthermore, I really expected the Summicron-M to still be superior to the Nokton f/1.2 - and was somewhat shocked that overall, it clearly isn't. The f/1.2 version can comfortably do double-duty as super-fast 50mm and a solid everyday lens. If it wasn't so bulky, it'd be a closed case.

Now, the APO-Lanthar and the Nokton f/1.5 II are both intriguing lenses because they render very, very nicely, and one's actually smaller than the Summicron (the latter's main asset), the other is clearly optically superior. Which means that between them, the Summicron could be replaced with a much more versatile set, though I'd probably use the Nokton f/1.5 II more. I also wonder if that lens would supersede its predecessor I love so much.

However, all this assessing of the lenses I own has left me very hesitant to go on exploring - because at heart, I'm not a technical shooter, I just love to take images. And that I can do just fine with what I have. But then again, the Summicron has by now fallen out of favour - so, is it really worth keeping? It's a bit of a conundrum, but certainly not something to take all too seriously.

Thanks for bearing with me. I think I should be able to shut up about it now ;)

M.
 

rayvonn

Hall of Famer
For the record, I for one didn't seek the Summicron-M, I bought it along with a wonderful film camera, the Zeiss Ikon rangefinder - which was what I wanted, and the price was very low for the pair. Someone acted as a benefactor, you might say. But I expected to be amazed - which obviously left me underwhelmed.

That said, it is a pleasant lens to use, and on its own, it's more than acceptable. The rendering *is* pleasing, period. But ... well, you said it. I wish people would stop raving and start assessing what it can actually do. It's a good lens - however, it's not a do-all, end-all, and it can't be. There's a reason why the Otus line is so big - they're probably very close to the optical ideal, and yes, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art is *technically* as hugely impressive as it is huge; yet when I owned that lens, I constantly chose the humble (and far from perfect) Nikon 50mm f/1.8G over it because of, you know, portability - and it produced nice enough images most of the time. The Sigma rendered distinctly flat, too - it behaved like a compass, not a brush. The Summicron itself sits at a very comfortable spot: It's a competent lens that's small, light, well made and nice to use. No need to call it "superb" or "perfect".

Actually, what you said about the Summilux is similar to what makes me love the somewhat flawed Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.5 so much - the images coming from it can look amazing; you just don't feel the need to look into every technical aspect in such a case. And the lens can truely *sing* wide open. Would I love to try the Summilux-M ASPH., though? Of course I would. But I doubt I'd be smitten with it - I'd *expect* it to be superior and would really hate every little flaw. In fact, some of my gripes with the Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.2 sprang from the fact that it is a *seriously* good lens - but of course, far from perfect.

Furthermore, I really expected the Summicron-M to still be superior to the Nokton f/1.2 - and was somewhat shocked that overall, it clearly isn't. The f/1.2 version can comfortably do double-duty as super-fast 50mm and a solid everyday lens. If it wasn't so bulky, it'd be a closed case.

Now, the APO-Lanthar and the Nokton f/1.5 II are both intriguing lenses because they render very, very nicely, and one's actually smaller than the Summicron (the latter's main asset), the other is clearly optically superior. Which means that between them, the Summicron could be replaced with a much more versatile set, though I'd probably use the Nokton f/1.5 II more. I also wonder if that lens would supersede its predecessor I love so much.

However, all this assessing of the lenses I own has left me very hesitant to go on exploring - because at heart, I'm not a technical shooter, I just love to take images. And that I can do just fine with what I have. But then again, the Summicron has by now fallen out of favour - so, is it really worth keeping? It's a bit of a conundrum, but certainly not something to take all too seriously.

Thanks for bearing with me. I think I should be able to shut up about it now ;)

M.
Not a case of bearing with you, believe me, I fully understand. My view is that unless your going to spend car money on an APO Summicron, Leica lenses are not going to be the “best”. And btw, I absolutely love the fact that we can actually say that here without recrimination😂. Notice I didn’t include Noctilux, for practical purposes I even honestly in this day and age don’t see that as being considerably better for most people than the TTArtisans for that specialised type of shooting:hide:.

It is pleasing shooting with a RF though and I would keep at least one Leica lens. Quite a lot of Leica lenses are without strong contrast or particular sharpness like their Zeiss/Voigt counterparts, but living with and managing that is all part of the fun experience and for me, managing to get the best out of them is the most satisfying thing. My Zeiss RF lenses were/ are magnificent out of the box yet it took me the best part of a year to fully understand my cron iv but I’ve come more attached to it as a result. I honestly think this has resulted in me working for and achieving better images. So fwiw, I say keep your cron or instead get an alternative native lens:thumbsup:
 

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