Leica So how good can a cheap lens be on a Leica?

We're getting some new Leica users on the forum. I thought it would be nice to post pictures with some less expensive lenses.
Cheap is a relative term, for Leica let's call it under $200.

So how about posting pictures taken with lenses that can be bought "these days" for $200 and under.

These are with a Russian Jupiter-8, shimmed for use on the Leica. This lens was in the $60 range.

Wide-Open at F2 on the M9:

100% crop:

100% crop:

at F4:

100% crop:

The trick with a Jupiter lens on a Leica- adjusting the lens to focus best when used close-up and wide-open. Jupiter lenses were made to a slightly different standard, ie the Zeiss standard. On top of that: Russian lenses were typically adjusted individually to a camera by a technician.
The Jupiter-8 is based on the Zeiss Sonnar, but is not an exact copy.

This is an early lens, those made in the mid 1960s "tweeked" the formula and have slightly higher diameter optics.

Sonnars are known for high field-curvature.

At F2:

Best to stop down for reproducing flat objects. For portraits- Sonnars work out nicely.

Few air/glass interfaces on a Sonnar, a single-coated lens tends to have more contrast and pass more light than the planar formula lenses.

At F2:

Adjusting the Jupiter for wide-open/close-up work on a Leica means that actual focus might fall short of infinity. Stopping down to F2.8 or F4: focus shift is toward infinity, works in your favor.

Most Jupiter-8's that I have used have been quite good. KMZ manufactured them, and quality control was better than some of the other manufacturers. With Jupiter-3's, the earlier lenses are better than those made after 1964 or so. With the J-8, I've used 1970s Black J-8's that matched my Nikkor 5cm F2.


Sunny Frimley
Real Name
Bill Palmer
I treat my lenses as a set of "brushes". My mainstays in order of ownership and usage are Leica, Zeiss and CV. I have in the past used Russian lenses as well as Canon. I start with the end result - what do I want to achieve in terms of contrast, bokeh, etc. Some lenses are better at some results than other and I use them accordingly. I don't subscribe to the view that says lens X or lens Y is the "best" - best for what? The general view today is that the "best" 50mm lens is the Summilux-M. It is SO neutral, SO sharp in its rendition, SO well corrected that in the right hands it delivers "perfect" images - which to my eye at least lack soul; they are clinical in their perfection.

When I bought a new MP a couple of years ago I had the choice of teaming it with a Summilux or with something else. I went for a Zeiss Sonnar 1.5. This has a reputation of being two lenses in one, with sharp rendering stepped down and a more "vintage" bokeh when used wide open. Mine has been back to Oberkochen to be optimised to f1.5 and gives me exactly what I want. Equally I use a 50mm Elmar-M for its balance of performance and compactness - no point in having the best lens in the world if it's too bulky and heavy to carry...

On my screwmount II I use a mixture of lenses from 3.5 and 5cm Elmars to CV 15 and 35mm (2.5). I use it to take different shots than I use my MP or M7 for. I would not use it, or the lenses mounted upon it for a motif to which it is not suited.

Where am I going with this? There is no such thing as a "universal" lens. "Best" is a subjective concept, depending upon intended use and desired result. Lenses should be treated like brushes and used in such a way as to turn their respective characteristics into benefits for the photographer. "Cheap" is relative and some of the prices for Leica glass, now that it can be adapted to some fine digital platforms, are getting daft. By all means look at and use cheaper alternatives from Canon, the FSU, older Leica, etc but relish their characteristics, don't expect them to deliver something that they cannot.

And now, the gallery:

Squirly bokeh with a Canon 50mm 1.5 on an M7...
View attachment 53325

The rig...

The same lens in "normal" use...
View attachment 53326

Same angel, 5cm Elmar...
View attachment 53327

...and again with a 90mm Collapsible f4...
View attachment 53328

and finally, CV 75mm on a Leica IIIc:
View attachment 53329


I see the Sonnar in those pictures. The Zeiss C Sonnar is my favorite m-mount lens, and it's the only 50mm I have right now. I love its dual personality, but it was not cheap. I just got my Ikon back from repair and the C Sonnar is glued to it at f/1.5 right now.

As far as cheap lenses go, I liked what my Holga did, but a Holga ain't a Leica :)

I'm sort of the opposite. I'll buy good glass and don't mind putting a cheap camera on it. It's partly why I have too many cameras - there are several different types of lenses that I love and can't let go (though I finally am a few of them).
Okay- this lens was under $200, but "Some Assembly required"...

1934 Carl Zeiss Sonnar 5cm F1.5 remounted to Leica Thread Mount using Focus Mount left over from 3 different J-3 parts lenses. The lens was $90 on Ebay, needed a lot of cleaning up and looked like wax paper when I got it.

Wide open at F1.5, ISO 1250 in a fairly dimly lit part of the cafe.

Okay. It's my new favorite $90 lens...

Just wait until owners of the new monochrome Leica M9 figure out how good uncoated lenses will look on it. Veiling Flare is a good thing for shadow detail.
Top Bottom