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Which lenses were better than Leitz?

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There's a thread in the Customer forum asking if Leica ever made a bad lens, and the general feeling seems to be that they didn't (unless you count individual examples that escaped quality control).

 

But what about the Leitz/Leica lenses that have been inferior to their contemporary competition from other makers (e.g. Summar/Sonnar?). Any suggestions?

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Interesting to compare lenses. I have never used one, but from what I read and hear the pre-war Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f 1.5 surpassed the Leica lenses from that time. Apparently contrast was already much higher.

Lex

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In the 50s the Nikon rangefinder 50 f1.4 (which was based on the Zeiss Sonnar design) was said to be the reason Leitz redesigned the Summilux, as photographers liked the higher contrast of the Nikon.

I haven't used one myself, but have the Nikon 50 f2.0 in LTM mount. While a nice little lens, I prefer my 48 Leica Summitar.

Edited by TomB_tx

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Hello Everybody,

 

Don't forget the Kinoptik 100mm F2 for the Alpa which was considered superior to the 90mm Summicron in the 1970's. This lens also came in a macro version. Kinoptik also provided a 75mm F2 and a 150mm F2.8 for Alpa.

 

Alpa had a variety of interesting lenses, etc for the innovative, sometimes unconventinal, Leica/Leicaflex quality bodies & acessories they manufactured.

 

The current owners of the Alpa name produce a high quality, medium format camera.

 

Best Regards,

 

Michael

Edited by Michael Geschlecht

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In the 1930ies there was a ding-dong battle between Leitz and Zeiss about lens quality with Zeiss ending up the winner imo, especially with long lenses for the Berlin Olympics. After the war Leica was not able to design everything in house, despite leading the way with glass research and for instance aspherics, and perfecting the Zeiss-invented coatings. Many lenses were rebadged other-makes - the Summarit 1.5/50, many R lenses especially zooms, shift lenses, fisheyes and retrofocus designs where Leica really lagged behind other manufacturers. Of course the Mandler designs were superb, and many other lenses too. But it is only since the 1990ies and especially in the present era that Leica displays its current superiority.

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The Angenieux zooms for the Rs. The first R-mount zoom offered and sold directly by Leitz/Leica was the 45-90mm Angenieux. Leitz did not have any zooms at the time, so the Angenieux was better!. Then Leitz started the collaboration with Minolta and marketed Minolta zooms under the Leica name; they were rather poor. Meanwhile, Angenieux was selling directly the much better 30-70mm and the 70-210mm zooms, as well as telephoto lenses, that easily had it over the Minolta/Leica glass.

 

Guy

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I never used a Contax, but is often reported that in the '30s, Sonnars 50 f2 and f 1,5 were a step over Summar and Xenon; indeed it can be said that the lens that really started the excellence for Leitz was the Summicron 50, and the contemporary establishing of Leitz internal glass lab surely signed a ramp-up in design skills.

Of course, the Elmar 5cm f 3,5 is/was also a legend... but when it was designed there was no.competition in the 35mm field.

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In a dutch magazine in 1996 a comparison was published of the performances of the Noctilux 1.0/50 and several other lenses. For fun also the older Canon 0.95/50 and the Nikkor-N 1.1/50 of earlier days were used. The Noctilux performed best in various circumstances, but the Nikkor-N 1.1 was close in situations with lights in the dark. The old Canon 0.95 lost it there completely.

Lex

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The Planar on the Contarex-for sure. The camera is something of a pig, or perhaps a dog, so the Leicaflex gets a far more frequent nod.

While it is not better than a Leitz product, hats off to Canon for my 50mm f1.4 screw mount, which is superb, and maybe an equal...

Overall, though, while Leica glass is fabulous, it is the package that makes the difference, and the Leica package is unbeatable.

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The Planar on the Contarex-for sure. The camera is something of a pig

Totally agree. The only reason I don't use my Cyclops more frequently, is that it is so annoyingly slow to handle. With enough time and patience though, the results of the Planar are unsurpassed. (I'd better add - but I haven't used the latest equivalent Leitz lenses to compare

).

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I never used a Contax, but is often reported that in the '30s, Sonnars 50 f2 and f 1,5 were a step over Summar and Xenon; indeed it can be said that the lens that really started the excellence for Leitz was the Summicron 50, and the contemporary establishing of Leitz internal glass lab surely signed a ramp-up in design skills.

 

The Zeiss f:2 and f:1.5 Sonnar lenses were better than both the native Leitz Summar, which was quite soft, and the Taylor, Taylor & Hobson/Schneider-derived Xenon and its Summarit offspring. Not least because the Zess lenses were actually triplets, although very much cemented: The f:2 lens had one cemented 3-element group in front of the aperture and one 2-element group behind it, while the 1.5 lens had triple groups in both places. This was important in the days before coating, when each additional air-glass surface doubled the amount of internal reflections and flare. Both had six such surfaces, just like any Tessar! The Summar had six surfaces, the Xenon ten.

 

But this had a price: Each pair of cemented surfaces reduced the number of variables or 'degrees of freedom' available to the designer by two. Something had to give; this something was planeity of field, and both lenses have pretty strong curvature of field, i.e. they were soft in the corners. So these designs were realy dead ends, as demonstrated by the current Zeiss ZM 50mm Sonnar, which is actually a Sonnar design. The double-Gauss derived Summar and Xenon lenses, though inferior at that time, were the wave of the future.

 

Of course, the Elmar 5cm f 3,5 is/was also a legend... but when it was designed there was no.competition in the 35mm field.

 

Competition did arrive. The Zeiss Tessar of similar design was produced for the Contax in 3.5 and 2.8 versions. But the Elmar was superior even to the 3.5 Tessar, and far superior to the 2.8 lens; Max Berek knew the limits of the Tessar-Elmar design and did not overstep them. The Leica 5cm Elmar was exceptionally brilliant for its time.

 

LB

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ALPA KERN 50/1.9 SWITAR

 

super- super- sharp. Very well made- not sure how it would go in a scientific test against the Summircon of that era but I suspect it would hold it's head hid high at least in the sharpness department. Holding an Alpa SLR camera one feels the same sense of quality as holding an m3- and the lenses impart the same aura of precision and beauty.

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ALPA KERN 50/1.9 SWITAR

 

super- super- sharp. Very well made- not sure how it would go in a scientific test against the Summircon of that era but I suspect it would hold it's head hid high at least in the sharpness department. Holding an Alpa SLR camera one feels the same sense of quality as holding an m3- and the lenses impart the same aura of precision and beauty.

 

I used to have an Alpa VIb and the earlier, 50/1.8 Kern Macro-Switar. This was, I think, better wide open across the field than the M-mount collapsible Summicron I had at the same time, and at least as good as the first-version non-collapsible Summicron 50 (and with the right adapter, which I didn't have, would even couple with the M rangefinder). It wasn't, however, quite in the same class as the first-version 50mm Summicron-R.

 

At the same time, I had the first-version Summicron 90, the Elmarit 90, Nikkor-H 85/1.8 in F-mount and Angenieux 90/2.5 in Alpa mount. All the last three were better than the Summicron.

 

And yes to the build quality too. The fit of the back on an Alpa reflex makes even Leicaflexes and Contarexes feel sloppy.

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Canon/Serenar 85/1.5 LTM was better than Summarex but they were almost 10 years newer (I have the Canon);

Canon/Serenar 50/1.5 LTM was probably equal to the Summarit albeit with a slightly different rendition in color and bokeh (I have the Canon);

Canon/Serenar 35/2.8 LTM is better than Summaron 35/3.5 in the corners but worse on axis. Summaron 35/2.8 wipes the floor with both of them (I have all three of them).

Voigtländer Heliar 50/3.5 LTM 101st Anniversary probably squeezed out all the juice from the 4 elements/3 groups design. At 3.5 is already as good - if not better - as the Elmar 50/3.5 at 5.6 and more contrasted. I have both of them. If I go for performance then the Heliar is a no brainer. But if I want that vintage touch...

 

Just my 2 €c.

 

Cheers,

Bruno

Edited by !Nomad64

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The Planar on the Contarex-for sure. The camera is something of a pig, or perhaps a dog, so the Leicaflex gets a far more frequent nod.

While it is not better than a Leitz product, hats off to Canon for my 50mm f1.4 screw mount, which is superb, and maybe an equal...

Overall, though, while Leica glass is fabulous, it is the package that makes the difference, and the Leica package is unbeatable.

 

Contarex lenses are of a class of themselves... but personally I find that the Summicron 50 (aged) has no much to envy to the Planar f2... curiosly, I find that of my Zeiss Contarex glasses, my preferred are the ones for which I have not an exactly equivalent Leitz :

- Distagon 18 (stands up fine , imho, even compared with the Elmarit asph 21)

- Distagon 25 (well - no better than the Elmarit asph 24...

... but considering age...)

- Sonnar 85 (at f 2 , no contest with the Summicron 90... but I haven't the Cron apo asph...

)

- Olympia Sonnar 250 : I confess that if the "new M" will have some way of focusing not tied to the classic RF... the possible capability to mount this fantastic tele could be one of the main reasons to convince me to buy...

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Guest Ornello
There's a thread in the Customer forum asking if Leica ever made a bad lens, and the general feeling seems to be that they didn't (unless you count individual examples that escaped quality control).

 

But what about the Leitz/Leica lenses that have been inferior to their contemporary competition from other makers (e.g. Summar/Sonnar?). Any suggestions?

 

It depends on the era, but generally since the mid to late 1960s Leitz has pulled ahead of the pack. There were numerous lenses available for the Alpa in the 1960s, from various manufacturers, that were excellent. All lenses have improved dramatically since the mid-1960s.

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Hello Everybody,

 

There is also the long forgotten Minolta 250mm F5.6 - T8.

 

Tack sharp.

 

A lens basically the same dimensions as the current 75mm Summicron while only 2/3d's the weight. Covering 10 degrees instead of 32.

 

A 250 is a lens of limited use but when you need it it can be very handy. Especially if it is the dimensions of a 75/2 & is only 2/3d's the weight. The effective aperture can be quite useful especially if you keep in mind Andy Barton's observation that often in taking a photo 2 of the most important components are to "use F8 & be there". Such a small light lens facilitates both.

 

Best Regards,

 

Michael

Edited by Michael Geschlecht

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Guest Ornello
Hello Ornello,

 

A 135mm Tele-Elmar is a 1965 design which by the standards of today is not such a slouch. Not too bad as a macro lens either. By today's standards.

 

Best Regards,

 

Michael

 

 

Of course, the most significant improvements have been in the more extreme focal lengths and higher speeds.

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