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Zeiss 50mm Sonnar or Planar?


d2mini
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If you like a modern lens that you can "just shoot", go for the Planar.

 

If you like an older lens with "character" or need the extra stop, get the Sonnar.

 

The Sonnar does require a little extra care in shooting up to about f/2.8 (assuming that's what it is optimized for) due to a focus shift. It's a minor thing, but you'll be rewarded with a very unique image/bokeh which makes it well worthwhile. If you intend to shoot it wide open all the time, you can optionally have it optimized for f/1.5.

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I have the 50 Sonnar and 50 planar and also the 50 Lux asph. They are all very different. Without question the 50 lux is by far my favourite lens - ever. If you can go for that you will never be disappointed.

 

The Planar is a very sharp contrasty lens - I cannot imagine anyone disliking it other than the fact it is not Leica.

 

The Sonnar is a very different beast. It is certainly a handsome lens (mine is silver) and I particulary like the out of focus areas. It is, however a difficult lens to focus wide open. At f1.5 there is considerable front focus but the resulting image is very pleasant when the focus is spot on. My copy is optimised for f2.8 so you tend to get used to adjusting for ff when shooting wide open - sometimes you nail it, sometimes you don't.

When used wide open, even when focus is achieved the rendering is somewhat soft but not unpleasant - Portraits made with this lens do have a nice softish look to them.

After around f4 the lens sharpens up considerably but never gets as sharp as the Planar. Having said all that I do like this lens and when I get an M6 to go with my M9 it will be on that all the time.

 

But I go back to my opening remark - if you can make yourself shell out for the 50 lux you will be astonished how many mind blowingly fabulous images you will make - period!

 

Tony

Edited by fotolebrocq
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50mm is one of those focal lengths which I cannot have too many of!

 

The planar vs the summicrom. I would consider it almost a tie. Flare resistance I would give to the planar. close focus about 0.7 meters.

 

The sonnar. For portraits ( film/digital ), the sonnar is unbeatable. Optimised for f/2.8, my sonnar exhibits what I like from f/1.5 <= f/2.8. From f/2.8 onwards, a modern lens. close

focus about a meter.

 

The lux 50mm pre-asph ver iv. I love its rendering at all apertures. Flares.Lower contrast.

 

The lux 50mm asph. Excellent for anything. Contrasty. Equally sharp at f/1.4 as at f 5.6.

Arguably the best 50mm made for 35mm. Arguably. Without doubt the most expensive

general purpose 50mm available right now. Weight!. It is an apo lens too!

 

I always carry two 50mm. One slightly lower contrast, the sonnar or the lux pre and a

modern look 50mm.

 

My humble opinions. You cannot go wrong with anyone of these. ( or the Norton 50/1.5 ),

which I have but is sadly collecting dust..I don't like the size.

 

btw, I have never used any of these beyond f/5.6. Never needed to!

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Thanks for the replies.

 

I would imagine I would leave the lens as wide open as possible, except for bright scenes where I have no other choice but to stop down.

 

And ya... no way I can get the lux. I'm looking to stay below $2k usd and the closer to $1k the better.

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The Sonnar wide open creates a more "creamy" look IMO - a little brighter midtones, maybe a little less contrasty. The bokeh of the Sonnar wide open is interesting but can get somewhat busy sometimes.

I also know about the focus shift but for some reason mine seems to focus pretty reliable even wide open (so maybe its just optimized for f1.5).

The inetersting thing about the Sonnar IMO is to have this more creamy dreamy look wide open and still have very sharp images when stopped down a little.

I dont have the Planar but would expect it to be more like the Summilux asph- just sharp, contrasty and very good IQ.

If I had to go for just one of those (Planar and Sonnar) I would probably prefer the Sonnar because I find it more interesting - however make sure that the focus works for you 8try it out before if possible).

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I have had 2 copies of the 50 Sonnar, all optimized for f/2.8. If you can get one at f/1.5, it is an excellent lens. I could not be bothered hit and miss focusing, so I sent my two copies back to the supplier. After this frustration, I ended going for the 50 Summilux Asph. This lens is second to none in rendering and sharpness. I also have the 50 Plannar which is an excellent lens. The combination of these two 50's are amazing.

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The serious Zeiss ZM 50mm lens is the Planar, and it seems to be a very good lens. The ZM Sonnar is really a "nostalgia lens" -- an attempt to resurrect the famous early 1930's Sonnar triplets for the Contax RF camera.

 

By astounding feats of cementing, the two Sonnar lenses (f:2 and 1.5) managed to reduce the number of air-glass surfaces to six, the same number as in a Tessar or Elmar lens. This was what was really tolerable before the coming of coating. This 'triplet' nature -- just three blocks of glass -- meant that, because of a lower level of internal reflections, flare etc -- the Sonnar lenses were at that time optically superior to modified Gauss lenses such as the Leitz Summar (six air-glass surfaces) and the Schneider-Leitz Xenon (ten surfaces).

 

But they were dead ends. All that cementing reduced the number of "degrees of freedom" (variables that a lens designer could use) to the extent that already then, something had to give. That was mainly curvature of field. The Sonnar lenses had very weak performance off axis, and you can see from published MTF graphs that this characterizes the current ZM offering too.

 

Carl Zeiss themselves helped to obsolete the Sonnar designs by inventing, in 1935, a viable method to coat lenses. After that, Gauss designs, no longer restrained by a high level of reflections, ruled the field for more than half a century, and this also became the golden age of Zeiss' own Planar. And there is lots of Gauss heritage in lenses such as the 50mm Summilux ASPH and the 0.95 Noctilux too!

 

Optically obsolete and low-performing lenses do obviously have their public. My preferences are different. And I do actually find it slightly perverse to actually design such a lens anew, when there still are mechanically decent Summar and 1.5 Summarit lenses around for the nostalgia seeker. However that may be, de gustibus etc ...

 

The old man from the Sonnar Age

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The serious Zeiss ZM 50mm lens is the Planar, and it seems to be a very good lens. The ZM Sonnar is really a "nostalgia lens" -- an attempt to resurrect the famous early 1930's Sonnar triplets for the Contax RF camera.

 

By astounding feats of cementing, the two Sonnar lenses (f:2 and 1.5) managed to reduce the number of air-glass surfaces to six, the same number as in a Tessar or Elmar lens. This was what was really tolerable before the coming of coating. This 'triplet' nature -- just three blocks of glass -- meant that, because of a lower level of internal reflections, flare etc -- the Sonnar lenses were at that time optically superior to modified Gauss lenses such as the Leitz Summar (six air-glass surfaces) and the Schneider-Leitz Xenon (ten surfaces).

 

But they were dead ends. All that cementing reduced the number of "degrees of freedom" (variables that a lens designer could use) to the extent that already then, something had to give. That was mainly curvature of field. The Sonnar lenses had very weak performance off axis, and you can see from published MTF graphs that this characterizes the current ZM offering too.

 

Carl Zeiss themselves helped to obsolete the Sonnar designs by inventing, in 1935, a viable method to coat lenses. After that, Gauss designs, no longer restrained by a high level of reflections, ruled the field for more than half a century, and this also became the golden age of Zeiss' own Planar. And there is lots of Gauss heritage in lenses such as the 50mm Summilux ASPH and the 0.95 Noctilux too!

 

Optically obsolete and low-performing lenses do obviously have their public. My preferences are different. And I do actually find it slightly perverse to actually design such a lens anew, when there still are mechanically decent Summar and 1.5 Summarit lenses around for the nostalgia seeker. However that may be, de gustibus etc ...

 

The old man from the Sonnar Age

 

Shooting the 50 Sonnar and the 50Lux asph side by side some might be surprized ino the performance of the 50 Sonnar. It is a nostalgy lens in one way but its still pretty sharp (as far what I experience) even wide open. I find the main difference more in the out of focus areas, where wide open the Sonnar "Bokeh" has more contrast in it and is a little bit more nervous (personal taste if prefered or not) than some other lenses.

Also the Sonar has a somewhat cooler color (in comparison to the 50lux asph at least).

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It's really simple: the 1.5 ZM Sonnar is a clear cut nostalgia design, with remarkable finish and manufacturing quality and makes more or less only sense in the f =1.5 ... 2.8 domaine. The pictures simply look nicely different. thats the reason i bought one, e.g. for a little bit forgiving portrait shots or old-style impressions... The pictures look different, the bokeh is on the nervous side !!! Be certain that you like tons of aberations before you spent the money !

 

If you want a no-thrill design with sharpness to the max, its the 2 ZM Planar. Check the usual suspects for the differences between the planar and the 2.0 summicron (i would prefer the 'cron...).

 

If you are really serious about 1.4, it's the 'lux, no doubt about it. Thats the one i would get (if you can wait long enough).

 

If you want the unique benchmark for the time being, it's the 0.95 noctilux ...

 

Summary: 1.5 ZM Sonnar or 1.4 'lux, 0.95 Nocti (if you can afford it: the M9 isn't cheap, too...)

 

Regards

Axel

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I'm afraid I can't add anything about the zeiss pair bit I do own the CV nokton 50/1.5 as well as a lux 50 ASPH. I had this lens when I only had my 8.2 and I must say it is one hell of a lens considering its price (see the Reid review on it) and in real world terms it is hard to see this difference between it and the lux 50. Unfortunately it is no longer in production but if you come across one I would snap it up and it will probably only cost you a few hundred pounds

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[ı ... ] If you are really serious about 1.4, it's the 'lux, no doubt about it. Thats the one i would get (if you can wait long enough). [ ... ]

Regards

Axel

 

I concur about the Summilux ASPH. It is really a superlens. I own it because I bought it in 2005 (I have had it retro-coded). It is really superb, and if it is shallow d.o.f. you are after, you can have it at f:1.4. That will often tax the speed of your shutter, of course, but less than a Nocti, and ND filters are less expensive in 46mm size too ... If about ND 2x would save your day, try a polarizer!

 

The old man from the Age of the 5cm Elmar

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I'm afraid I can't add anything about the zeiss pair bit I do own the CV nokton 50/1.5 as well as a lux 50 ASPH. I had this lens when I only had my 8.2 and I must say it is one hell of a lens considering its price (see the Reid review on it) and in real world terms it is hard to see this difference between it and the lux 50. Unfortunately it is no longer in production but if you come across one I would snap it up and it will probably only cost you a few hundred pounds

 

Interesting.

What about the CV Nokton 50 f/1.1? It's only $999 usd.

That's a downright steal compared to the leica.

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I like this post. I currently own a Sonnar and did own a Planar. The Planar is a great lens. Biggest advantage I found was the closer focusing. That being said, I did not think the build was up to snuff and instead chose to keep my Hexanon 50mm 2.0 as my all-round instead. Much better build and very similar quality in all my side by sides. The Sonnar is built better than the Planar and draws beautifully. I love it for portraits, BUT I wish it focused closer.

 

My decision now lies in whether to keep the Sonnar or my beautiful Summarit 1.5. I'm planning on doing a little comparo tomorrow to decide. I'm guessing this will be most interesting.

 

-Ron

 

FYI - my Sonnar is optimized for 1.5

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  • 3 years later...

Hello gentlemen and ladies(?); I arrived at this thread while searching (Google) the differences between the 50mm Sonnar & Planar, I am trying to buy the Planar. Here is the deal: I have the M9 and the c-Sonnar 50mm f1.5, the Nokton 50mm f1.5 (LTM+adapter), the Summicron-C 40mm f2. Last week I got my best and sharpest lens so far, the Zeiss 35/2. After that, I am trying to find Zeiss lenses and want to get the Plannar. My c-Sonnar is absolutely a jewel, I have not noticed any focus shift or the like. I just point shoot, and get anything sharp, from f1.5 and on. The Nokton is really a good lens and behaves much like the sonnar , but I suspect it will be more like the Planar. So, should I buy the Planar? Thanks,

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Hello gentlemen and ladies(?); I arrived at this thread while searching (Google) the differences between the 50mm Sonnar & Planar, I am trying to buy the Planar. Here is the deal: I have the M9 and the c-Sonnar 50mm f1.5, the Nokton 50mm f1.5 (LTM+adapter), the Summicron-C 40mm f2. Last week I got my best and sharpest lens so far, the Zeiss 35/2. After that, I am trying to find Zeiss lenses and want to get the Plannar. My c-Sonnar is absolutely a jewel, I have not noticed any focus shift or the like. I just point shoot, and get anything sharp, from f1.5 and on. The Nokton is really a good lens and behaves much like the sonnar , but I suspect it will be more like the Planar. So, should I buy the Planar? Thanks,

If you like the Zeiss 35 f2, you will like the Planar as well. I have both, and they are well matched. I also have the Nokton, and while sharp, it doesn't have the contrast of the Planar.

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