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50 Summarit 2.5 vs. 50 Elmar M and Other Thoughts


johnloumiles
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I'm selling my 50mm Summicron v.3 in order to purchase either a new 50 Summarit or used 50 Elmar M. Which would you choose?

 

I really liked the Summicron and I took some of my favorite pictures with it but in the end I'm starting to figure out that I prefer the more modern lenses vs. the older ones. Everyone has their descriptions, i.e "clinical", but really for me it comes down to color rendition and for that I prefer the contemporaries.

 

I've heard some, well actually one person on here who claims all newer Leica lenses are the same in term of their signature, they are only separated by how wide the aperture opens. Therefore there is no "Elmarit look" or "Summicron look" and if you put them all at 5.6 they would be indistinguishable. I disagree but I know there are some who concur.

 

If that were the case most people would say the 50 Summarit and 50 Elmar M should practically be the same lens optically. For those who don't think that I'd like to hear what you think of this matchup and which one has A) Smoother OOF B) Better color saturation.

 

I know they are both sharp as a tack and I'm also aware of each lenses hiccups (flare, collapsable lens etc.)

 

Also if you want to pontificate on if every lens in the lineup has their own "look", I'd love to hear about that as well.

 

If you are interested in buying my Summicron its in the LCF buy/sell. Heres the link.

Edited by johnloumiles
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First things first. I would choose the Summarit, mostly because collapsible lenses are a p.i.t.a. An advantage of nearly half an f-stop in speed is not to be discounted, either.

 

There is a grain of truth in the claim that all modern Leica lenses have become much similar in their 'signatures' or 'fingerprints'. Older lenses did have more 'character' in that their state of correction was lower. And as the room for quirks was larger, each lens could have its own quirk. Today, not only do the designers all aim at the same high level of what I would call 'subject fidelity' – they always did that – but they have the means to approach this ideal very closely. So instead of each lens having its own fingerprint, there is increasingly a common 'Leica fingerprint'. And we should be gratified that it is so, because lenses are for taking pictures, not to serve as subjects of endless discussions.

 

There are of course exceptions, such as the 21mm and 24mm Summiluxes, and the Noctilux 1:0.95. But these are extreme outliers, where the Gnomes of Solms have been operating at the very frontier of the doable. Sensible lenses are becoming uniformly good. So the talk of the Twaddling Classes is tending more and more in a mystical direction. I expect a discussion of optical ley lines any day now; though Chrystal Therapy would perhaps like closer at hand?

 

The horrible truth is of course that as all Leica lenses are becoming so similar, we cannot hope any more to become Great Photographers simply by taking up a lens that will put all the Art into our pictures (oops, images). The onus is on ourselves to make better pictures. To cultivate our seeing and to hone our skill. Unfortunately, a Leica M is the right tool to do that. No excuses left!

 

The old man from the Age of Collapse (or maybe the Age of the First Collapse)

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Thank you for your reply Lars. As a admirer of typography I certainly appreciate your work in the field. I won't say anything more of fonts for fear of finding my foot in mouth rather quickly.

 

I agree on many points you make, its obvious now more then ever that current modern lenses have the same thumbprint in the normal range of lenses, but where does "modern" start? Lens design must come into play in differentiating one lens from the other image wise. My 28 Elmarit v.3 and my 50 Summicron v.3 are only a few years apart in production but their design and image rendition have not much in common other then they are both excellent.

 

This is why I ask specifics (if you refer to my original post) and not the bait laden "which is better?". I view lenses as tools just like a woodworker sees his lathe and not as magic wands.

 

These two I brought up are in the same era of production yet their design is radically different so I have to think their output is not exactly the same.

 

It's romantic to think every lens at every length has its own personality hence the endless debating. I for one don't mind reading about it because I like to hear the aspirations these pieces of glass and metal produce. I live in the romance of photography while others prefer the cold halogen tinged science of it. In the end the two streams always end up colliding here to fill the Leica reservoir .

Edited by johnloumiles
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I would choose the last Elmar which is the perfect modern 'slow' 50 to me.

Very sharp and contrasty even at short distance w/o any harsh bokeh.

I hesitated to buy the Summarit which looks like a very good lens as well but i don't like its bokeh personally.

Summarit f2.5 50mm Leica Lens review

http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-forum/leica-m8-forum/38846-summarit-series-35-50-90-ugly.html

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I would choose the last Elmar which is the perfect modern 'slow' 50 to me.

Very sharp and contrasty even at short distance w/o any harsh bokeh.

I hesitated to buy the Summarit which looks like a very good lens as well but i don't like its bokeh personally.

 

Thanks lct, I actually just read that first sailor link today. I don't mind the lens there so much and the picture of the folded red sail is spot on to me but when I look at the lens in the second link I'm not that impressed. The detail in her face looks blown out in every image which is obviously exacerbated by the Lux nailing the image at every stop. I feel like the Elmar is a special lens but thats probably just the sap in me clouding my judgement.

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I would choose the last Elmar which is the perfect modern 'slow' 50 to me.

Very sharp and contrasty even at short distance w/o any harsh bokeh.

I hesitated to buy the Summarit which looks like a very good lens as well but i don't like its bokeh personally.

Summarit f2.5 50mm Leica Lens review

http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-forum/leica-m8-forum/38846-summarit-series-35-50-90-ugly.html

 

+1

 

I feel like the Elmar is a special lens but thats probably just the sap in me clouding my judgement.

 

John, listen to that sap ;) This thread has made me realise with a smile that my 50mm Elmar-M, bought new not long after they first came out is the Leica lens that I have owned for longest; others have come and gone but it has stayed, 99.9% of the time as the main lens on my M7. Unlike Lars I see the collapsibility as a primary advantage, since it means that the M7 becomes a "compact camera" that fits in a pouch on my belt. Thus, it is singlehandedly responsible for my having my M7 on me more often than not :D I love the handling, the featherlight focussing that permits fingertip adjustment and above all the quality of the image that it produces. f2.8 is not slow to someone who uses a 5cm Elmar LTM in the London Underground ;) - it's as much a state of mind as a state of aperture.

 

I love this lens so much that it is the only one I have ever considered duplicating in black and chrome, so that I can have one for my M7 and another for my M2...

 

Regards,

 

Bill

 

Regards,

 

Bill

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The simple fact about the Elmar M is that if you haven't got one you should get one:). Not only because it is a wonderful lens with character, but before the prices go up. It is often overlooked now, but remains in my opinion one of Leica's defining lenses, not necessarily for outright sharpness etc, but it just makes everything look good in a nice gentle way.

 

Steve

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Hi John. I just bought your lens. Yours will be my third 50 Summicron. All are from the same time period - 1967- 1971. While my other lenses are from the early 90s, I had to look at how I use lenses.

 

90% of the time, I use a 35 Summicron. The rest of the time, I use a 90 Elmarit M. But every so often, I want to photograph a person without either including a lot of background or cropping too much background. This is where the 50 comes into play. And because this will be a people lens, I don't need the biting sharpness or micro contrast of more modern lenses.

 

My memory of this version of the 50 Summicron was that it had very pleasing colors, decent sharpness. Hopefully reality will match my memory. If not, I will exchange it for a new one.

 

Thanks and my best to you!

 

Tom

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Hi John. I just bought your lens. Yours will be my third 50 Summicron. All are from the same time period - 1967- 1971. While my other lenses are from the early 90s, I had to look at how I use lenses.

 

90% of the time, I use a 35 Summicron. The rest of the time, I use a 90 Elmarit M. But every so often, I want to photograph a person without either including a lot of background or cropping too much background. This is where the 50 comes into play. And because this will be a people lens, I don't need the biting sharpness or micro contrast of more modern lenses.

 

My memory of this version of the 50 Summicron was that it had very pleasing colors, decent sharpness. Hopefully reality will match my memory. If not, I will exchange it for a new one.

 

Thanks and my best to you!

 

Tom

 

Its definitely a lens that can be whatever you want it to be depending on how you use it. I think you will end up getting a lot of joy out of it.

 

Heres a link to one of the last shots I captured with it. Really pleasing OOF both foreground and background. (nudity)

 

I think you just made a mistake. I can only compare to my 35 summarit, which is a fine lens, but not nearly as good as my 50 'cron wide open.

 

The cron is just really contrasty and sharp.

 

Maybe I did, maybe I didn't but in the end I can always switch back and forth between lenses to find my sweet spot. I'm not a collector so there will be no regrets. I've always wanted to try the Elmar and I love compact lenses.

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The cron is just really contrasty and sharp.

 

It depends on the camera the lens is used on, but it is very easy to add contrast in post processing, but much more difficult to take it away. A lower contrast lens isn't everything, but it sure beats a high contrast lens in a high contrast situation on a digital camera.

 

Steve

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I am not quite sure that the general contrast of a lens, and the contrast shown by MTF graphs, are the same thing.

 

Take a target like a Kodak Gray Scale, a device also known as a step tablet. It has twenty evenly graded steps, from the whitest white to the blackest black that is technically possible to put on paper. If you make a photograph of it, the result will show (with film) a range of densities from the lowest to the highest. With a digital sensor, substitute 'output signal strength' for 'density'. The total difference will show the general contrast of the lens (if the density/signal strength is proportional to the light falling on the film/sensor – more probable with the sensor than with the film!)

 

But each step is 17.5mm wide. So the resolution, or the definition, or the contrast at 40lp/mm, does not have to be large or even extant to show this density range in the output. With different lenses, different output ranges would depend mostly on the level of flare in the lens. Flare – which is not visible in MTF charts – does lower the general contrast and it also degrades the contrast between the darkest steps, say, 14 to 19.

 

So the conclusion would seem to be that in front of a very high contrast subject, a lens with low MTF values for the standard 5, 10, 20 and 40 lp/mm would not necessarily have an advantage over one with high modulation transfer functions – unless there is a strong correlation between low values and a high level of flare. A correlation there may be, but I doubt that it is a simple, linear one. So the notion that in such a situation, a v.1 35mm Summicron or a 50mm Rigid Summicron would be more advantageous than a 35mm or 50mm Summilux ASPH, may well be a myth.

 

I invite comment by people who are scientifically and technically more competent than I.

 

The old man who is sometimes less cocksure than you think

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Thank you very much for the kind words! If you ever need someone to go up to Montana and shoot for your magazine let me know, I'd love to do it!

 

Lars I wish I was educated enough to debate the subject. I go by the graphs they provide and my own eye. I felt like the 50 Summicron (version 3) was of medium contrast while the more modern Elmarit is higher. Is that just a sign of the sign of lens evolution?

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I am not quite sure that the general contrast of a lens, and the contrast shown by MTF graphs, are the same thing.

 

Take a target like a Kodak Gray Scale, a device also known as a step tablet. It has twenty evenly graded steps, from the whitest white to the blackest black that is technically possible to put on paper. If you make a photograph of it, the result will show (with film) a range of densities from the lowest to the highest. With a digital sensor, substitute 'output signal strength' for 'density'. The total difference will show the general contrast of the lens (if the density/signal strength is proportional to the light falling on the film/sensor – more probable with the sensor than with the film!)

 

The old man who is sometimes less cocksure than you think

 

Lars, I decided to do a test with the very lens in question. However, I ran the test with a Macbeth digital chart because my Q13 is a bit worn. The first shot is the overall copy board with the very 50 Summicron. The second shot is a crop of the chart. The third is with a 90 Elmarit M and the fourth is with a 35 Summicron type 4. Using the most contrasty patches in the chart, I measured 240 - 24 with this 50 Summicron and 240-20 with the 90 and 35. That is not much of a difference. It amounts to about 1/6 of a stop more shadow detail or less contrast than 2 of the best lenses from the 1990s.

I think I can live with that little loss of contrast... well until Leica comes out with the 50 Summicron ASPH.

 

Tom

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