Film M mount lens learning

Luke

Super Moderator
Nov 11, 2011
214
Milwaukee, WI USA
Luke
I know there's a bunch of film shooters here (as well as digital peeps who are adapting old glass). I just purchased Antonio's under-utilized Bessa and now I need a lens so it doesn't just sit under-utilized at my house. I'm not sure I'm going to be caught be the film bug so I don't want to to break the bank, but I also want to experience a little bit of what makes manual shooting so fun and don't want to create bunk images by just buying whatever $50 will get me from the pawn shop.

Can you point me to a good place to do some research on what's all out there? Do you have a couple favorites that won't cause me to rob a bank first? What's your favorite el cheapo 35mm? Share some images to if you have any handy.

Thanks in advance!
 

Duane Pandorf

Top Veteran
Apr 25, 2011
103
Western NC
Oh Luke, I think you're going to be surprised!

Here's a quick copy and paste of a list of used 35mm lenses just to wet your appetite!

Summicron-M 35/2 #2712778, black, 3rd vers, Canada, Ex+/Ex++ $1675.
Summicron-M 35/2 ASPH#3821851, black, hood, UV filter, caps, Ex+/Ex++ $2650.
Summicron-M 35/2 ASPH#3846894, black, hood, caps, Mint- $2750.
Summicron-M 35/2 ASPH#3903209, 6 bit,black, caps, hood, case, box, Mint- $2845.
Summicron-M 35/2 ASPH#3963318, chrome, caps, hood, UV filter, case, box, Mint/Mint- $2845.
Summicron-M 35/2 ASPH#4091298, 6 bit,black, caps, hood, case, box, Mint/Mint- $2945.
Summaron-RF 35/2.8 #1755927, chrome, RF eyes, UV filter, caps, Mint- $725.
Summaron-M 35/2.8 #2102526, chrome, front cap, case, box, Mint- $950.
Summaron-M 3.5cm/3.5 #1148438, chrome, ITDOO hood, caps, Ex $395.
Summaron-M 3.5cm/3.5 #1150315, chrome, IROOA hood, caps, Ex+ $475.

 

Armanius

Bring Jack back!
Jan 11, 2011
123
Houston, Texas
Jack
Congrats Luke! Nice to see you gave in and joined Darth Vader!

If you are not set on having a red dot mounted on your new Bessa, here are the alternatives, all of which are still in production:

Voigtlander Skopar 35/2.5 - about $400 new; super small, and good performer wide open; known to have sample to sample issues; so could be hit or miss

Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.4 - about $620 new; easily the smallest 35mm f1.4 lens in the market; sharp enough wide open; some have reported focus shift at around f2.8 when used with digital rangefinders; I did not experience any focus shift with my M9; IMO, easily the most bang for the buck 35mm lens on M mount; more of a "classic" lens as opposed to digital sharpness

Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2 - $1300 new; not cheap; but the fastest 35mm lens that I know of; sharp wide open, and nice bokeh comparable to the Leica 35mm Summilux Asph; big ol' lens though (relative to other 35mm M lenses)

Zeiss ZM 35/2 Biogon - $1020 new; sharp wide open; no distortion at all; probably the best all around 35mm lens short of a Leica 35 Summilux Asph FLE (the newest 35mm Leica)

Zeiss ZM 35/2.8 Biogon C - $820 new; small little lens; super sharp wide open; very little distortion; nice creamy out of focus rendering

And for a "cheap" in production Leica, there's the Leica 35 Summarit: $1895 new; f2.5; sharp wide open; reported by many to be have the most pleasant bokeh out of ALL M mount lenses; you can probably find used ones upwards from $1350+

I recently saw this used 35 Summarit from a respectable Leica dealer (Kurland) for $1445: Leica 35mm 2.5 Summarit M Lens - 6 Bit 35 f2.5 | eBay

Kurland also has this used Leica 50mm Summarit for $1295: Leica 50mm f2.5 Summarit M Lens - 6 Bit 50 f2.5 | eBay

50mm lenses will tend to be a little cheaper. So that's something else to consider. You can get a Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.5 for about $500-600 new, which is regarded by some to be sharper than a $4000 Leica Summilux Asph. Or the excellent Zeiss 50/2 Planar for under $800 new.

Out of all the lenses noted above, I have personally owned and used the Nokton 35/1.4 (still own and use it), the Zeiss 35/2 and the Zeiss 35/2.8. The rest of the info comes from looking at photos, reading reviews, and reading forum comments.

Let me know if you have any more questions. I love to help people spend their money!
 

Luke

Super Moderator
Nov 11, 2011
214
Milwaukee, WI USA
Luke
Thanks all for your quick responses. As usual, my reach exceeds my grasp. Alas, I have champagne taste and a beer budget.

Duane, when I win the lottery, I'll order one of each of those and report back which one renders best and toss the rest in the trash.
Bob, I think you advice is sage and had already begun to research what they were still making and which older ones might be plentiful and cheap on the used market.
Armando, I spent less than 5 minutes researching lenses and saw some of your posts over on the rangefinder forums. Man, when do you find any time to work with all the forums you hit? ;) The Skopar you mention is kind of near the top of what I'm looking to spend since I'm not even sure I'm going to become a convert.

So let's imagine for a moment that a good copy of one of the Voigtlanders can give a simpleton like myself 90% of the experience of using a 4 digit lens for 50% of the price. Are there lenses out there that get get me 80% of the performance for 25% of the price? Should I just stay away from the Russian lenses? Are there other options that you would consider?
 

Duane Pandorf

Top Veteran
Apr 25, 2011
103
Western NC
The problem Luke, is that these lenses have been bid up due to the NEX5 and 7 along with the other 4/3 cameras that you can put these lenses on with adapters.

Now that the X Pro1 has come along that will only add to those that want to try the manual focus RF lenses.

I don't think you'd go wrong with the Voigt 35mm f2.5 pancake lens.
 

defektive

Veteran
May 4, 2011
43
Tasmania, Australia
Sam
Hi Luke,
I am also on somewhat of a limited lens budget at present after having just forked out for the M9. I suggest you look at the old Canon RF lenses, some of them have a really good rap and can be had for around $300-$600 for a fast 50mm. There are plenty of images and discussion of them on RFF if you do a search. I am personally keen on the 50/1.4 and 50/1.2 versions. They are all LTM (Leica thread mount) so you will need an adapter for about $50 on ebay. Also I have found this site to give a good starting point for estimating lens value: Antique and Classic Camera Home Page.

Have fun,
 

ajramirez

Hall of Famer
Jul 9, 2010
124
Caguas, Puerto Rico
Antonio
My recommendation would be to do what I did, which was to start with a Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm 2.5. Terrific, and I paid $409 for it brand new at B&H. I have since purchased a 50mm 2.8 M Elmar and a 90mm 4.0 M Rokkor, both of which are terrific, but a bit more expensive.

I have a close friend who has a Jupiter 12 35mm 2.8 and M adapter for sale for $80. If you are interested, I can let him know.

Cheers,

Antonio
 

stillshunter

Super Moderator Emeritus
Nov 5, 2010
123
Down Under
Mark
Well done Luke, very well done!! :2thumbs:

After a helluva lot of research over the years - and RFF is your friend here - I'll be starting with Voigtlander (aka CV = Cosina Voigtlander) glass. Due to cost I know it will be an interim solution for me, as it will be for you, but oddly enough there are folks that rate many of the lenses higher than some Leica glass. They are the 'cheaper' of the bunch - even cheaper than some adapted M39 (aka LTM or 39mm Leica Thread Mount) lenses. Actually, I would be mighty tempted by some Zeiss (CZ) glass too. Cost - for most pieces - is between Leica and CV. There are some CZ pieces that far out-strip Leica for sharpness. Although you hear it often with digital it is actually true with film....that sharpness is a bourgeois concept :wink:

Now we need Brian's input :hail:
 

retow

All-Pro
Jul 24, 2010
123
My advise, don't listen to fora chatter of wannabe experts. Subscribe to Sean Reid's web page it's about USD 30 per year and worth the investment. You will find thorough, methodical and unbiased reviews of many many m-lenses, including ZM, CV and Leica makes. It's worth the money and the only review site I based m-lens decisions on. Read Tom Abrahamson's posts over at the Rangefinderforum, and you will learn a lot about many m-lenses. To start, I'd recommend the excellent CV 35 color skopar, tiny, relatively inexpensive. If it has to be Leica, go for the underrated ones, including the discontinued Elmar 50 mm f2.8 (newest generation), a true gem and reasonably priced. The CV 75 f2.5 Heliar is another excellent and affordable lens. Your biggest challenge, after all, will be to find a dog of an m-lens, as there aren't too many.
 

pdh

Legend
Jan 2, 2011
123
It's lovely camera Luke and I'm sure you'll enjoy using it.

As for lenses, I'll just say the more I've read about them, the more I believe that up to a point, the glass doesn't matter that much ... unless you have a super-critical eye or just shoot test charts ... heretical I know (and if I said as much at RFF the heavens would descend about my ears) ... don't get hooked into reading "lens reviews" ...

As for the Jupiter-12, I understand it can't be used on the Bessa as the rear element fouls the shutter (can't be used on m43 for similar reason) but there may be other Soviet 35s which are usable.

cameraquest.com is a good place for voigtlander info by the way, if you haven't found it already
 

Armanius

Bring Jack back!
Jan 11, 2011
123
Houston, Texas
Jack
Armando, I spent less than 5 minutes researching lenses and saw some of your posts over on the rangefinder forums. Man, when do you find any time to work with all the forums you hit? ;) The Skopar you mention is kind of near the top of what I'm looking to spend since I'm not even sure I'm going to become a convert.

So let's imagine for a moment that a good copy of one of the Voigtlanders can give a simpleton like myself 90% of the experience of using a 4 digit lens for 50% of the price. Are there lenses out there that get get me 80% of the performance for 25% of the price? Should I just stay away from the Russian lenses? Are there other options that you would consider?
IMO, most if not all of the Voigtlanders give close to Leica performance at just a fraction of the cost. Like a good Leica-phile buddy of mine named Ashwin told me, the price increases exponentially for the last 5-10% of extra performance that one "may" get from a red dot lens over other brands.

The Cosina Voigtlander lenses I own and use extensively are:

Nokton 50/1.5
Nokton 35/1.4
Skopar 50/2.5 (least used lens of the five, because of the duplication)
Skopar 21/4
Heliar 75/2.5

I can wholeheartedly recommend any of them as they are all good performers. The two Skopar and the Heliar were purchased used. If I recall correctly, they were all less than $400. All, but the Nokton 35/1.4, are also screwmount lenses. So a screwmount to M adapter is necessary. Stephen Gandy at Camera Quest sells them. For Leica cameras, there are different types of adapters that are necessary to trigger the appropriate frame lines in the viewfinder. But for the Bessa, you have to choose the frame lines manually. But I'd still buy the matching adapters just in case you get a Leica in the future.

I also own a Leica 90 Summicron pre-aspherical that I bought used for a good price, but I have barely used it just because it's big and heavy (relative to other M lenses). It wasn't until about a month or two ago that I finally splurged big time (relative to other M lenses again), and got a 50 Summilux aspherical, which was more or less my single life parting gift to myself! Being completely honest though, the Nokton 50/1.5's performance is right up there with the 50 Summilux. At worst, to my eyes anyway, the Nokton gives 90% performance of the Summilux' performance at about 15-20% of the price.

In between the Voigtlander and the Leica's, from the standpoint of price point, there are the Zeiss. Some would argue that the Zeiss are every bit the equal of the Leica, if not better. The detractors argue that the Zeiss are made by Cosina Voigtlander in Japan, and therefore, they surely can't be as good as a German made Leica. I personally chuckle when I hear comments like that. For the Zeiss, I've owned and used the following:

Biogon 21/2.8
Biogon 28/2.8
Biogon 35/2
C-Biogon 35/2.8
Planar 50/2

Again, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of them as well. But they are more expensive than the Voigtlanders. And I no longer own any of them, because after using them, I really felt that the Voigtlander lenses are definitely more than good enough for someone like me. The only exception would have been the Biogon 21/2.8, which I thought was clearly superior to the Skopar 21/4. But it was also 3.5X the price of the Skopar.

Here are some samples using various lenses. They are going to be mostly photos of the fiancé, as she's the most willing photo subject that I have! Most photos have probably been somewhere in this forum before. All have been tweaked in LR.

Nokton 50/1.5

View attachment 52867

Nokton 35/1.4

View attachment 52868

Nokton 35/1.4 with Portra 160vc



Heliar 75/2.5

View attachment 52870

Summilux-Asph 50

View attachment 52871

Planar 50/2

View attachment 52872

Skopar 50/2.5



Nokton 35/1.4

Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


Skopar 21/4 (I cropped the edges on this one to get rid of the cyan edges that occur when used on the M9)

Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


Hope this helps to give you a rough idea. There are more photos on my Flickr as well. Good luck in getting your first M lens! And totally look forward to seeing your film photos from the Bessa!
 

stillshunter

Super Moderator Emeritus
Nov 5, 2010
123
Down Under
Mark
My advise, don't listen to fora chatter of wannabe experts.
Serious Compacts members excepted of course :wink:

Like a good Leica-phile buddy of mine named Ashwin told me, the price increases exponentially for the last 5-10% of extra performance that one "may" get from a red dot lens over other brands.
You can attribute these to whomever you like Armando, but these are wise words indeed. Well said my friend :thumbup:
Excellent write-up and comparison, seems any lens is good in your mitts mate.
 

retow

All-Pro
Jul 24, 2010
123
Serious Compacts members excepted of course :wink:
No, including serious compact members such as myself! There is hardly a disappointing m-lens to be found. All it boils down to is personal preferences, tastes, likes, dislikes and budget. And nothing beats own experience, wherefore buying and trying is the best advise. The good thing about Leica lenses is that one does not loose money with them, provided they were bought used and at reasonable prices. I started with a mix of Leica and CV lenses and then added more Leica glass and had 2 ZM lenses over the years. One of the truly outstanding lenses is the ZM 25. I believe the only non Leica lens which even Leicaholics consider to be at least as good as the Elmarit 24mm, which by many is regarded as one of Leica's best.
 

Brian

Top Veteran
Jul 7, 2010
103
I tend to know more about 50mm lenses from first hand experience. I have ~30 of them in Leica mount. I'm down to two lenses in 35mm FL for Leica: Voigtlander 35/1.2 Nokton and an early J-12 that I custom shimmed for the M9.

For 35mm focal length: The Canon 35/2.8 can be found at reasonable prices, but used to be cheap at ~$150. They've gone up. Same with the Voigtlander 35/1.7 Ultron- doubled in price in two years. The Jupiter-12 is the only "Cheap" Leica mount lens, ie under $100.

SO: The Jupiter-12. Quality control is all over the place, and it is made to the Russian standard which is slightly different from the Leica standard. Best results are gained by changing the shim to agree with the rangefinder for close-up and wide-open. The best ones are made by KMZ.

Note the Logo on the serial number ring, logo of KMZ.





I can verify that the J-12 fits both the M8 and M9.

Close-Up and wide-open on my M9.



100% crop:



Another wide-open:



This one is quite good. Better than 4 other non-KMZ J-12's that I have used. By F5.6, most are sharp.

This lens was $80, inclusive of shipping from Russia. So cheap and good lenses can be found, but some conservation of inconvenience is at work.



Adjusting the Shim.

 

pdh

Legend
Jan 2, 2011
123
Brian - do you know of any other Soviet 35s? (the J-12's rear element fouls the Bessa's shutter)
 

Brian

Top Veteran
Jul 7, 2010
103
The J-12 is the only Soviet lens in the 35mm focal length that can be used on a Leica. There are others (37mm FL ?) on 39mm mount, but they are for the SLR's and have the wrong back-focus.

The Canon 35/2.8 will not have a problem- and is probably the "second lowest priced" lens in a 35mm focal length.

The next J-12 in LTM that I pick up cheap is going to be made into a 35mm F2 Wollensak. The 1960 J-12 in Contax/Kiev mount was soft, could only be used on the Contax II, not the IIa and IIIa. It could not be used on the EP2.





Not many 35/2's for Contax mount. Maybe only 1?

Time for work- will check back later...
 

Luke

Super Moderator
Nov 11, 2011
214
Milwaukee, WI USA
Luke
wow, you are all a cumulative fount of knowledge. I really opened up the floodgates. Thanks all for sharing your knowledge. pdh...thanks for letting me know that the Jupiter won't work on the Bessa...you just saved me $80 (and possibly fouling my shutter!). Armando and Brian, those photos are great and quite informative.... thanks a bunch!
 

ajramirez

Hall of Famer
Jul 9, 2010
124
Caguas, Puerto Rico
Antonio
As for the Jupiter-12, I understand it can't be used on the Bessa as the rear element fouls the shutter (can't be used on m43 for similar reason) but there may be other Soviet 35s which are usable.
Paul,

I did some research after reading your post and you are correct. Luke, strike the Jupiter 12 off your list.

Regards,

Antonio
 

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