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Film differences: Summilux 50mm pre-Asph v. Asph


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#1 philipus

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 20:32

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Hi everybody

I shoot film - Portra, Velvia and T-Max - and currently use the Summilux 50 pre-Asph (in screw mount actually). I like this lens a lot but I have considered replacing it with the aspherical version.

I read with interest the 50mm lens comparison in LFI 6/2011 and noted the comment that some consider the Asph to have a "sterile" image character or "clinical" look and that it lacks the famous Leica "glow".

The photos used in the article are interesting. The bokeh of the Asph (p. 36) seemed very smooth, even "relaxing" or "non-distracting". Though it does not have nice "glowing" highlights of the Summilux I and II, it is pleasant to look at. That said, in the images on page 38 the bokeh varied much less between the Summilux II and the Asph.

It also seemed to me that the Asph showed "clearer" colour, if that makes sense.

Look at the images on page 37. The Summilux II image of the cherries looks slightly "dull" or yellowish (though not as much as the Summilux I), whereas the Asph image is clearer and lacks the slight "veil" that seems present in the other images (I guess this could be a result of images being printed on paper but at least the relative difference between the images is clear, the medium notwithstanding).

Another interesting comment was in the article's conclusion: that the Asph delivers

"excellent contrast-richness starting from f/1.4, not to speak of a three-dimensional image appearance".


When I googled for information about how the Asph would be on film, I came across the well-made review at Lavidaleica. There it says that the Asph

has rather high contrast - something not always welcome when shooting film such as with black and white or slide.


This is precisely what I am interested in - how would the Asph be on film in ordinary, every-day, non-testing usage?

Perhaps I should add that I don't use f1.4 all the time so bokeh, though interesting, is not the reason I use a Summilux. Rather, I use it to have greater flexibility with my camera in low-light situations.

Realising that it is difficult to put words to how a lens draws (which the above likely shows), could you help me understand how these two Summiluxes differ when used on film, benefits and drawbacks of either etc?

Thanks very much in advance
Philip

#2 Double Negative

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 21:27

As the author of the review on La Vida Leica I'll take a moment to explain the contrast part.

High contrast is generally "a good thing" in a lens. Some equate it (incorrectly) with sharpness (i.e. micro-contrast). But it presents problems in some scenarios, such as when shooting high contrast media - be it film (positive or negative) or digital. It can lead to crushed blacks and blown highlights. Some black and white shooters prefer a gentler contrast to provide extended tonality (and thus use older lenses to that effect).

The ASPH is unlike previous versions as it does not have that "Leica glow" (a term we affectionately use to describe veiling flare and slight softness) which tended to reduce contrast of the image.

The latest ASPH version is just fine with film - it comes down to your preferences, possibly the medium you shoot. If you prefer absolute sharpness and a contrasty, saturated image - this is your lens. If you prefer softer, more "classic" images then stick with the older versions...

#3 tgray

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 21:44

Don't know about the pre-ASPH, but I shoot the ASPH on film. Never shot it on digital in fact. Before I purchased it, I was looking for a pre-ASPH, but couldn't find one for a decent price. Then I found a used ASPH for a couple hundred over what I was originally planning to spend and just went with it. I like it.

I use mine pretty much the same way you use yours - as a flexible lens at whatever stop seems appropriate. It's very dependable, wide open/stopped down, or focused close or near. Very resistant to flare and glare.

For what it's worth, I've had zero problems with it being too contrasty, on any film material. I've shot it on slow, medium, and fast B&W film, slow, medium, and fast Portra, and some slide, including Kodachrome. It *is* higher contrast than my 75 Summilux, but not in a bad way.

Pictures on flickr here:
Flickr: ezwal's stuff tagged with leicasummilux50mmf14asph

I apologize for the many shots of the color checker a couple pages in. Just flip past a couple pages to see other shots.

#4 thomasw_

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 23:10

I shoot with both the ASPH and pre-asph summilux 50s. I agree with what has been said above.

With BW film, I will add that the pre-asph v2/3 tends to render people in a very forgiving, pleasing manner; whereas the ASPH is a better all-round lens, especially for very low light in the street. I love both lenses, though I do think if I had to have just one I would keep the ASPH because I have grown to trust and depend on its fabulous low light performance.
M2-R M3 M4 M4-P
Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH - Summicron-M 35/2 V.1 - Summilux-M 35/1,4 Ti. V.2 - Canon 35/1,5 LTM - ZM 50/1,5 C Sonnar - Summilux-M 50/1,4 ASPH - Summilux-M 75/1,4

f l i c k r

#5 NB23

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 23:59

Hmmmm! The asph 50 is a magical lens. With no downsides, it definitely has a leica look.
"clinical"? No way. This, I believe, was coined by a chinese dude on rff that couldn't shoot a good picture to save his life but always shot closeups of colorful things. Pretty much the flickr standard... and all the non-owners (poorer folks) decided that they'd bad-mouth the "bad, bad" asph in favor of the pre-asph without even trying it. That's how the internet goes.
Just like all the noctilux haters who kicked it in favor of other, "better" "lenses when it was available for only 1500$. You never heard from them anymore when the noctlux wemt sky-high. LOL!

Same goes for people recommending a " best lens" on internet forums. The voigtlander owners will always recommend a Voigtlander over a summilux as the better lens. That's a pathetic internet standard, unfortunately.

I'd gladly show many examples of the 50 lux asph i've printed many and shot on Kodachrome quite a lot, all of which shows how brilliant it is with a unique leica look, one that you could never call "clinical" but I won't as I understood that I was on your blocked list. And you are totally free of believing this "clinical" BS. More power to you.

#6 jaapv

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 01:49

I can can only agree with Nenad here. The Summilux 50 asph is the one lens that will always give me a better (less bad to you, NB :P) shot than I expected. It is arguably the best standard lens ever built.
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#7 smkoush

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 04:15

I used quite a bit the 50mm pre-ASPH Summilux (my only 50mm for 3 years). Excellent lens, with very characteristic signature.

About 6 months ago I replaced it with the ASPH one, and never looked back. The technical characteristics of the ASPH are the subject of many expert reviews, but the way it draws is what I found I like the most. It is not clinical at all. I find it both sharper and smoother at the same time -- a fantastic combination.

These comments are based on using the lenses on an MP, mostly with Tri-X.

S.

#8 budrichard

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 13:58

Find the technical data curves for both lenses and compare. The ASPH should have better curves for contrast and resolution. All the rest of the terms you have indicated are purely subjective. Each lens will take very good pictures and I seriously doubt in anyone's photography that it makes any difference about which lens you use.
I have shot comparison's between the 35mm and 90mm Leica ASPH's with K64 and under 5X Leica magnification, I don't perceive any differences. I don't use 50mm usually, so I don't have a 50mm Lux ASPH. I do know that early 35mm Lux lenses were very soft wide open. what vintage is your 50mm Lux? Was it made for the non-mount M cameras originally or one of the later ones made with screw mount?-Dick

#9 luigi bertolotti

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 16:10

Not a good thread for the pockets of a guy who's thinking from some months at a new 50.... :o (alas ! My youngest 50 is from 1963...)

Edited by luigi bertolotti, 21 January 2012 - 16:12.

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#10 philipus

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 14:21

As the author of the review on La Vida Leica I'll take a moment to explain the contrast part.


Thanks for your comment. I was hoping you would write. I now understand better what you meant in the review.

what vintage is your 50mm Lux? Was it made for the non-mount M cameras originally or one of the later ones made with screw mount?-Dick


My lens is from 1999, one of the screw mount Summiluxes apparently made for the Japanese market. I am quite happy with the images but as I often increase contrast a tiny bit in post-processing I have been wondering if I shouldn't look for the asph. Now I must decide whether to replace my lens or get an asph as well (should I come across one).

#11 tgray

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 15:56

My lens is from 1999, one of the screw mount Summiluxes apparently made for the Japanese market. I am quite happy with the images but as I often increase contrast a tiny bit in post-processing I have been wondering if I shouldn't look for the asph. Now I must decide whether to replace my lens or get an asph as well (should I come across one).


For $4000 (or thereabouts), I think I'd continue to increase the contrast a tiny bit in post-processing :) I'd think about upgrading if you are feeling your wide open shots aren't sharp enough or even enough across the frame. Or if you prefer the smoother (and less featureful) bokeh.

Where are you located? Maybe you could meet up with a member here and use the lens for a little bit. Or you could rent one for a week from lensrentals.com or some other place.

#12 01af

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 16:48

High contrast is generally "a good thing" in a lens.

Exactly. But if you agree with this statement then how can you say low contrast was a good thing, too?


[schmal]But it presents problems in some scenarios, such as when shooting high contrast media—be it film (positive or negative) or digital. It can lead to crushed blacks and blown highlights. Some black and white shooters prefer a gentler contrast to provide extended tonality (and thus use older lenses to that effect).[/schmal]

That's a common misconception.

High-contrast lenses don't crush shadows or blow out highlights. Instead, high-contrast subjects do. Low-contrast lenses don't compress the full dynamic range. Instead, they take away from it. So what's left of the dynamic range behind the lens sure will be easier to handle ... but that comes at the expense of reduced, not extended, tonality. When trying to print a high-contrast picture taken with a high-contrast lens then you must decide how to deal with the contrast. When using a low-contrast lens then the lens will deal with the contrast for you by simply cutting it down, so you won't even notice that there was a problem in the first place. Hence the false notion that low-contrast lenses were better for high-contrast subjects while actually they are just lower contrast. It's like making a car easier to drive (i. e. "better") by cutting down the engine's horsepower.


[schmal]The ASPH is unlike previous versions as it does not have that "Leica glow" (a term we affectionately use to describe veiling flare and slight softness) which tended to reduce contrast of the image.[/schmal]

That's another common misconception.

The so-called "Leica glow" is not veiling glare and limited sharpness—that's just a poor lens. Instead, "Leica glow" refers to a certain combination of micro contrast and macro contrast in the high and in the low spatial frequencies that makes pictures appear "real" or "three-dimensional" in a way other lenses mostly don't. This special quality is hard to reproduce on low-resolution computer screens so people who only look at photographs on the Internet will hardly ever understand what the Leica glow actually is. To see it, you'd have to look at well-crafted prints.

Edited by 01af, 22 January 2012 - 17:01.
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#13 jbl

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 17:32

My lens is from 1999, one of the screw mount Summiluxes apparently made for the Japanese market. I am quite happy with the images but as I often increase contrast a tiny bit in post-processing I have been wondering if I shouldn't look for the asph. Now I must decide whether to replace my lens or get an asph as well (should I come across one).


If it helps at all, that lens would be very easy to sell in the secondary market :-).

-jbl

#14 Double Negative

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 20:24

Exactly. But if you agree with this statement then how can you say low contrast was a good thing, too?

Because it depends really on the look the photographer is after. For "modern" folks, the high-contrast, "ASPH look" is king. For more "classic" shooters, the softer contrast is desired.

That's a common misconception.

High-contrast lenses don't crush shadows or blow out highlights. Instead, high-contrast subjects do. Low-contrast lenses don't compress the full dynamic range. Instead, they take away from it. So what's left of the dynamic range behind the lens sure will be easier to handle ... but that comes at the expense of reduced, not extended, tonality. When trying to print a high-contrast picture taken with a high-contrast lens then you must decide how to deal with the contrast. When using a low-contrast lens then the lens will deal with the contrast for you by simply cutting it down, so you won't even notice that there was a problem in the first place. Hence the false notion that low-contrast lenses were better for high-contrast subjects while actually they are just lower contrast. It's like making a car easier to drive (i. e. "better") by cutting down the engine's horsepower.

I think that's just a difference in semantics. Of course the contrast/dynamic range of the scene doesn't change - just how the lens represents it to the medium. A less contrasty lens gives the appearance of lower contrast in the scene. There's no compression or expansion of tonality, true. But high contrast lenses make already contrasty scenes even more troublesome for narrow dynamic range mediums.

That's another common misconception.

The so-called "Leica glow" is not veiling glare and limited sharpness—that's just a poor lens. Instead, "Leica glow" refers to a certain combination of micro contrast and macro contrast in the high and in the low spatial frequencies that makes pictures appear "real" or "three-dimensional" in a way other lenses mostly don't. This special quality is hard to reproduce on low-resolution computer screens so people who only look at photographs on the Internet will hardly ever understand what the Leica glow actually is. To see it, you'd have to look at well-crafted prints.

There's more to the "Leica Glow" obviously - and everyone has a different opinion on it. I know of the phenomenon you're talking about - and I don't disagree with it either. Though older lenses DO have other factors that contribute to the overall effect that are distinctly lacking in modern (ASPH) lenses (namely veiling flare, softness and spherical aberrations). If it was only Leica pixie dust causing glow then even modern lenses would show it (as a result of design/tuning philosophy) just as much. While it's still there to varying degrees in the modern lenses - it looks nothing like the old school glow.




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