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
Location
London
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
Location
London
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:
 

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
A 50mm status update for the summer 2021...


  • The Summilux-M 50 ASPH is sold, gone, and remains so. I mildly regret selling it and occasionally miss it, but at the same time I am not going to buy it back any time soon! In relationship terms the Summilux is a very hot partner but the day-to-day living was lukewarm at best.
  • Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 sold. I don't long for the Panasonic Leica 25mm anymore. I don't need a fifty for micro four thirds: I have the Panasonic 20 for low light times and the 12-32 zoom for light-flooded times.
  • Despite not wanting to overlap my Nikon and Leica lens choices, I now have two 50 mm Nikkors for my Df (which is still in the shop). And I am seriously considering getting a third one. And the 58mm is also something I might consider if things get really serious.
  • Back to Leicaland,

    Cosina Voigtländer 50 f/3.5 Heliar is a wonderful lens and I sing its praises constantly. But my sick desire for character has mildly reduced the enjoyability of this lens. This fifty is one of the very rare ones that I bought brand-new. I am not looking to sell it ever. I will be taking this lens alone* to a quick overnight trip to Tampere tomorrow.
  • Getting more desires towards the Summicron 50. I currently only have one genuine Leica lens in my stable and I think it's a shame. What better accompanies a Summicron 35 than a Summicron 50? :) But who knows when I act on this desire. I've been feeling cheap about my Leica system the past few months/year(s!) actually.
  • ...and yes, the one fifty that I want to get at some point, the Zeiss 50 Sonnar. The rendition and pop is unbelievable.
Okay, that is it for the time being.
 

William Lewis

Veteran
Location
Hayward WI
Real Name
William Lewis
Now that I am back in the Leica camp, I have 3 fifties and want, at least, one more.

  • Cosina Voigtlander 50/1.5 Nokton LTM - amazing and wonderful lens, quite sharp and everything a modern lens can be. 90% of the time it's my primary lens. I had been looking at both the Zeiss Sonnar and Planar but this blows both away in my book.
  • Jupiter 8 50/2 - Sonnar clone from Russia. It's a decent one and it shows all the usual Sonnar characteristics. Not sure why but it doesn't thrill me all that much on the M 240
  • Industar 22 50/3.5 - Collapsible Tessar in an elmar disguise. This is my preferred second lens as it's a wonderful near perfect Tessar type. Knife sharp in the center smoothing quickly to a buttery consistency in the edges, there is a reason why the Tessar/Sonnar line is the only real competition the double guass types have ever had.
Plus I still need to get a 50/2 Summitar from late enough for better coatings but early enough to not be a Summicron prototype. The one I had was amazing: the bokeh wide open is wild as all get out, there is center sharp edge smoothness remanicent of the Tessar but when stopped down to about 5.6 ~ 8 it suddenly becomes well behaved like the Summicron would be across it's whole range. But that's why I want a 'tar not a 'cron: I want that ability to be both wild or tame.
 
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SimonPi

New Member
Although Cosina-made Voigtlander and Zeiss optics are wonderful they do not suit Leica's digital sensors from the M8 to the M10. Statistics show that 85% of all new users who bought an M bought a Japanese lens to go with it only to find out, in the long run, that at full speed it suffers significantly at the edges, it has little control of flare and coma, has an imprecise focus coupling with the M mechanism, and other issues of less importance. You don't buy a used Ferrari to stick a Fiat engine in it. I wouldn't.
 

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
Cosina is coming up with a yet another fast fifty.


Am I to suspect this lens will be sharp but even more characterful than the 50/1.5 Noktons? I didn't know Heliars can bend itself to be this fast.

God damn I love what Cosina is releasing to M mount.
 

MiguelATF

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Location
Talent, Oregon (far from the madding crowd)
Real Name
Miguel Tejada-Flores
I love reading this thread - even though I haven't owned or used a Leica for years. (A relatively well-worn IIIf that had belonged to my father.) And back when I did, my first (and for a long time my only) lens was a 50mm: an ancient f/2.8 collapsible Elmar. Not the fastest lens in the universe. But it rendered quite beautifully and as a jack-of-all-trades lens for a novice photographer, it always worked nicely for whatever I threw at it.

1936LeicaIII.jpg


The camera and lens are long gone. Replaced for a time by a series of excellent Takumars and Pentaxes 50mm analog-era glass, but in the ensuing years and decades of my digital photographic forays, I don't think I honestly ever encountered a 50mm (or 50mm FOV equivalent) which was so eminently satisfying as that ancient Elmar---

At least, not until a few months back, when I acquired a used X-Pro3 with an XF 35mm f/1.4 lens. It's a tad larger than my old Elmar - but in terms of having its own special character, it more than satisfies my long-buried-but-never-quite-dead former fondness for having a great 50mm that somehow seems to always be on the camera.

XPro3_Aug23_21_XPro3+XF35(mono).jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


But re-reading this thread, I can only breathe a sigh of relief that I'm not still shooting Leica's. If I were, between Voigtlanders, Summicrons and let's not forget Ming's beloved Planar, I would be walking down that same thorny-but-wonderful garden path with most of you.
 

rayvonn

Hall of Famer
Location
London
I love reading this thread - even though I haven't owned or used a Leica for years. (A relatively well-worn IIIf that had belonged to my father.) And back when I did, my first (and for a long time my only) lens was a 50mm: an ancient f/2.8 collapsible Elmar. Not the fastest lens in the universe. But it rendered quite beautifully and as a jack-of-all-trades lens for a novice photographer, it always worked nicely for whatever I threw at it.

View attachment 268683

The camera and lens are long gone. Replaced for a time by a series of excellent Takumars and Pentaxes 50mm analog-era glass, but in the ensuing years and decades of my digital photographic forays, I don't think I honestly ever encountered a 50mm (or 50mm FOV equivalent) which was so eminently satisfying as that ancient Elmar---

At least, not until a few months back, when I acquired a used X-Pro3 with an XF 35mm f/1.4 lens. It's a tad larger than my old Elmar - but in terms of having its own special character, it more than satisfies my long-buried-but-never-quite-dead former fondness for having a great 50mm that somehow seems to always be on the camera.

View attachment 268684

But re-reading this thread, I can only breathe a sigh of relief that I'm not still shooting Leica's. If I were, between Voigtlanders, Summicrons and let's not forget Ming's beloved Planar, I would be walking down that same thorny-but-wonderful garden path with most of you.
I wish I hadn't sold my M to Fuji mount adapter with the rest of my Fuji gear. I could have sent it to you free - on condition that you posted pictures. I'd love to see your efforts with that Elmar and XP3. Not least because I'm considering one myself for my rangefinder, as well as an original Summarit/ Summitar/ first version Summicron, etc but that's another story. As @William Lewis says, it's all about the character, which you just can't replicate that with the latest and greatest (but with that new Nokton, who knows?).
 
Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
Well, I'm finally picking up on this "thread" (i.e. train of thought) again - if everything goes as planned tomorrow (absolutely nothing to do with photography, but potentially the end of a process that has been a burden for the last two-and-something years), I'll treat myself to the APO-Lanthar. It's in stock locally, and after losing an auction on a used one, I'll go for new. As for the Heliar vs. the Nokton II, I'll wait for a couple more example images from the former - truth be told, I think the original Nokton brings up a quite desirable middle ground in this case ... yes, the new lens is better behaved, but I like the way the original renders; call me a fool, whatever, but I feel the right kind of happy with it.

On a different note, I recently took the Nokton 50mm f/1.2 for a spin and found it much less cumbersome than I had remembered it to be; it's a really good lens overall, very versatile. Still, a tad bulky for my way of carrying a camera (I don't use straps of any kind, just a Thumbs Up; if it begins to feel heavy, I just pull up my forearm and let the camera rest on my wrist). However, with the f/1.2, you need to pick your aperture and framing very consciously - the lens is only going to do well if you play to its strengths; it certainly can disappoint (and has for me, in the past) if you're not careful. It's high contrast and noticeable spherical aberrations wide open can make the image look strange or weak, unbalanced. If you get it right, it'll provide depth and pop; if you stop it down, it sharpens up very convincingly. But it needs f/5.6 to get anywhere near as balanced as the APO-Lanthar is wide open ...

Anyway, whatever will happen still depends ... no treat before the milestone's reached.

M.
 

William Lewis

Veteran
Location
Hayward WI
Real Name
William Lewis
Been thinking about 50's again myself.
For the Leica I have:
Voigtlander 50/1.5 Nokton ltm
Chiyoko 50/2
Jupiter 8 50/2
Industar 61 50/2.8
Industar 22 50/3.5

Not that many really. I carry the Chiyoko & I-22 in my EDC bag. The Nokton really is good but if anything it's just _too_ well behaved. Character is important to me. So I keep thinking about adding a Leica 50/2 Summar or a Canon 50/1.5 Sonnar (or the 1.8 Serenar) or a Nikkor HC 50/2... Too many toys not enough coin.
 

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
Am I to suspect this lens will be sharp but even more characterful than the 50/1.5 Noktons? I didn't know Heliars can bend itself to be this fast.

Wide-open, the Heliar will be softer than the Nokton, but not a bad thing. Will be interesting to see it in use. I'm happy with my thirty 50/1.5 lenses...

New sample photographs showcase the quality of bokeh at close distances.

Official samples from Cosina but all in one page here at FM:

 
Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
What? No love here for the superb — and cheap! — Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm ƒ/1.8?

That lens gets a lot of high marks from reviewers, and can be had for US$20 or so.

Another candidate: the Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm ƒ/3.5 Macro. By at least one test, this is regarded as the 4th sharpest OM Zuiko ever produced — and it can be had for under US$50!
This is the Leica section ;) No worries, just saying ...

M.
 
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