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Sonnar 50/1.5 to replace Planar 50/2, is it such a crazy idea?

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Hi everyone,

I currently use the Zeiss Planar on my M240 and I am very happy with it. However, as I came from a world of Canon with a 50mm f1.2L, I really miss the speed. The Summilux is great, but can't afford it at the moment. As such, I am becoming very interested in the Zeiss Sonnar. The more I read about it the more I feel I need to experience this lens and it's infamous Sonnar glow. I have become haunted by the look of it, and it's not a matter of 1-stop of light anymore. I played with it in a camera shop and if felt wonderful.

 

Now, everyone says the Planar is a more all rounder than the Sonnar mainly due to the focus shift perhaps, but do you think it's a bad idea to replace the Planar with the Sonnar. Mind you, this will be my main lens for quite a while now. I have the 90 Elmarit-M as well, but not sure I will keep it. 

 

I have read the thread about the Sonnar vs Planar, so hopefully I am not repeating that. I am more concerned with "will the Sonnar be sufficient in 1 lens set up on the M240?"

 

Many thanks!

Edited by hgkafa

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Hi everyone,

I currently use the Zeiss Planar on my M240 and I am very happy with it. However, as I came from a world of Canon with a 50mm f1.2L, I really miss the speed. The Summilux is great, but can't afford it at the moment. As such, I am becoming very interested in the Zeiss Sonnar. The more I read about it the more I feel I need to experience this lens and it's infamous Sonnar glow. I have become haunted by the look of it, and it's not a matter of 1-stop of light anymore. I played with it in a camera shop and if felt wonderful.

 

Now, everyone says the Planar is a more all rounder than the Sonnar mainly due to the focus shift perhaps, but do you think it's a bad idea to replace the Planar with the Sonnar. Mind you, this will be my main lens for quite a while now. I have the 90 Elmarit-M as well, but not sure I will keep it. 

 

I have read the thread about the Sonnar vs Planar, so hopefully I am not repeating that. I am more concerned with "will the Sonnar be sufficient in 1 lens set up on the M240?"

 

Many thanks!

The Planar is boring, get the Sonnar.  There is magic in its flaws.

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Well, if you like "Canon" and "glow" and "f/1.2" - there is also always the original Canon 50 f/1.2 in Leica screw mount, easily adaptable to M mount. Not the same as the EOS L version - but then, neither is the Zeiss. Canon also made f/0.95 and f/1.4 50s in that mount.

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The Planar is boring, get the Sonnar. There is magic in its flaws.

Only if you are a boring photographer who chooses boring light on boring subjects. I had the Sonnar C for a few months and while I loved the speed to size ratio, the focus shift drove me up the wall.

 

So I after owning the planar, a collapsable summicron, the Sonnar, a version-II Summilux and three versions of the lux asph, I went back to the Planar and just love it! For what I want in my system, the planar is the perfect 50 while the 35 FLE is the speed king.

 

A good friend of mine is a fabulous portrait photographer, she bought the new M246 Monochrom and wanted to get the 50 F2 APO. So at my insistence, she rented the Apo and borrowed my Planar and without hesitation, got the Planar, took the spare money and went to Madrid for three months and just *crushed* it.

Edited by Ai_Print

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Only if you are a boring photographer who chooses boring light on boring subjects. I had the Sonnar C for a few months and while I loved the speed to size ratio, the focus shift drove me up the wall.

 

So I after owning the planar, a collapsable summicron, the Sonnar, a version-II Summilux and three versions of the lux asph, I went back to the Planar and just love it! For what I want in my system, the planar is the perfect 50 while the 35 FLE is the speed king.

 

A good friend of mine is a fabulous portrait photographer, she bought the new M246 Monochrom and wanted to get the 50 F2 APO. So at my insistence, she rented the Apo and borrowed my Planar and without hesitation, got the Planar, took the spare money and went to Madrid for three months and just *crushed* it.

 

 

 

I am intrigued that you went back to the Planar after three versions of the Lux asph. While I do think the Planar is a great lens, I haven’t seen anyone going back to it from the lux. Was it image quality or cost saving that brought you back to it?

 

I saw the comparison on Stevehuff website between the 50 apo and the Planar, so I know what you mean. But I am not so crazy about the boringly perfect 50 apo anyway. I don’t need that kind of perfection, which is why I am interested in the Sonnar.

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If you get the Sonnar and this is the lens you will use most of the time, you will learn to adjust for the focus shift very quickly (focus, lean forward - depending on the aperture) - it will become second nature.

As much as I like the Planar, or the Summicron or the Summiluxes for that matter, the sonnar look is truly special if that's what you are after. Alternatively, you may also consider older Canon/Nikon rangefinder glass, some of which were sonnar designs and should be somewhat cheaper than the 'modern' Zeiss.

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I had the Sonnar and sold it for the Summilux. You can cope with the focusshift, but You have to draw attention to it all the time from f 1,5 to 2,8; how much depends on what f-stop Your lens is calibrated. I found this annoying.

 

At f 1,5 portraits are very dreamy. This can be beautiful, but in my opinion only sometimes not ever. But this is a matter of taste and depends on ones photographic style.

 

I did not like the background bokeh of the Sonnar very much. It is difficult for me to find the right word, perhaps uneasy or turbulent. I like the Summilux better.

 

Elmar

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I am intrigued that you went back to the Planar after three versions of the Lux asph. While I do think the Planar is a great lens, I haven’t seen anyone going back to it from the lux. Was it image quality or cost saving that brought you back to it?

 

I saw the comparison on Stevehuff website between the 50 apo and the Planar, so I know what you mean. But I am not so crazy about the boringly perfect 50 apo anyway. I don’t need that kind of perfection, which is why I am interested in the Sonnar.

 

 

I had three versions of the lux asph due to a variety of reasons, the first was that I was exclusively shooting slow slide film at the time, started with a black one, then went to the LHSA version that came with an MP3 kit and finally a silver one for my M3 which weighs so much that the whole front end came loose twice while I owned it. 

 

The main reason I prefer the 50/2 is that I only want one 1.4 lens for Leica and the 35mm gets me two more stops of hand holdable speed over the 50, I mostly shoot Tmax 400 at 800, some digital on my 240 now and then. Unless totally obnoxious, wide open out of focus rendering is of very little to no importance to me, the speed getting me into lower light is the only thing I care about with a fast lens. 

I had the Sonnar and sold it for the Summilux. You can cope with the focusshift, but You have to draw attention to it all the time from f 1,5 to 2,8; how much depends on what f-stop Your lens is calibrated. I found this annoying.

 

 

I shoot very, very subconsciously and really need the gear to get the heck out of the way of me making the shot. The 50 Sonnar I had was optimized for 2.8 which made it virtually useless for me since the main reason I got the lens was to be able to reliably use it in low light. I think it was the single most frustrating lens I ever used in Leica M.

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My C-Sonnar was bought specifically for and is rarely separated from my M7.  Nowadays my M240 50mm-wise  is wedded to a Summilux ASPH and my Planar is sitting forlornly at the back of the shelf. Horses for courses etc...

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My C-Sonnar was bought specifically for and is rarely separated from my M7.  Nowadays my M240 50mm-wise  is wedded to a Summilux ASPH and my Planar is sitting forlornly at the back of the shelf. Horses for courses etc...

 

 

I guess I am still an infant in Leica land. I noticed that most people here own at least two M bodies and several lenses per focal length. I still find it difficult to justify owning two 50mm lenses when I don't have a 35mm! (well three 50mm if I count the canon one). But I cannot resist the way the Sonnar renders. I guess I answered my own question. 

 

Many thanks!

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The quick answer is yes it is a crazy idea to replace a Planar with a Sonnar. Is it a crazy idea to have a Sonnar as well as a Planar - no. They are not really comparable lenses but they are complimentary.

 

I don't actually need to buy a ZM Sonnar as I have a 1954 Opton Sonnar 5cm/f1.5, which has slightly similar characteristics to the ZM Sonnar. Wide open it is just about adequately sharp but quite low contrast but gets much sharper and higher contrast as you stop down. It has lovely bokeh. If I really want soft, I have a 1953 Summitar 5cm/f2. Wide open this is really quite soft but sadly being the hex diaphragm model (an attempt by Leica to reduce aperture shift with a bowed diaphragm), does not have great bokeh.

 

I would be very tempted to get an LTM Russian Jupiter 3 50mm/f1.5 (a Russian copy of the pre-war Zeiss Sonnar but coated), which you can pick up for pennies and keep your ZM Planar. If the first Jupiter is no good, just spend another $20 and get another one. I reckon the odds on a good Jupiter 3 are about 50/50, as long as it is fungus free, then just add an LTM to M ring for a few $ more. 

 

Wilson

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I love my Sonnar, it is used about 70% of the time on my M. This might sound crazy, but the out of focus areas often look so good that I don't mind if the focus isn't perfect!

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I love my Sonnar, it is used about 70% of the time on my M. This might sound crazy, but the out of focus areas often look so good that I don't mind if the focus isn't perfect!

 

 

That sounds encouraging Andrew

so I won't be the only crazy person then. I would love to look at some of your pictures if you have them online somewhere. Thanks.

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The quick answer is yes it is a crazy idea to replace a Planar with a Sonnar. Is it a crazy idea to have a Sonnar as well as a Planar - no. They are not really comparable lenses but they are complimentary.

 

I don't actually need to buy a ZM Sonnar as I have a 1954 Opton Sonnar 5cm/f1.5, which has slightly similar characteristics to the ZM Sonnar. Wide open it is just about adequately sharp but quite low contrast but gets much sharper and higher contrast as you stop down. It has lovely bokeh. If I really want soft, I have a 1953 Summitar 5cm/f2. Wide open this is really quite soft but sadly being the hex diaphragm model (an attempt by Leica to reduce aperture shift with a bowed diaphragm), does not have great bokeh.

 

I would be very tempted to get an LTM Russian Jupiter 3 50mm/f1.5 (a Russian copy of the pre-war Zeiss Sonnar but coated), which you can pick up for pennies and keep your ZM Planar. If the first Jupiter is no good, just spend another $20 and get another one. I reckon the odds on a good Jupiter 3 are about 50/50, as long as it is fungus free, then just add an LTM to M ring for a few $ more. 

 

Wilson

 

Thanks Wilson. I admit that you got me all interested in a Jupiter 3, but I found the the prices for those, while cheap in Leica/Zeiss standards, they would add up if I end up buying 2 to find a good copy, and they will most probably require a CLA (the price on eBay is £136 not $20). Since my Planar is already with Zeiss to correct stiff focus problem, I am not sure I want more lenses with mechanical issues. I need to start enjoying the M

I will def consider trying some of those old lenses at some point though. 

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The quick answer is yes it is a crazy idea to replace a Planar with a Sonnar. Is it a crazy idea to have a Sonnar as well as a Planar - no. They are not really comparable lenses but they are complimentary.

I completely agree.  The f2 ZM Planar is a great all-round lens that does have very nice out-of-focus character at open aperture.  

The f1.5 Sonnar apparently can be just as sharp (google Roger Cicalas Lens Rental test), but the focus shift is an issue I couldn't put up with.

I traded my ZM Planar towards the ASPH Summilux and it was the best move I've made with my Leica gear. 

As a second lens, also consider a screw mount Summarit or even a Summitar with an adapter, much more commonly found used & less expensive.  They have very nice soft character that can be varied with stopping down.

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Thanks Wilson. I admit that you got me all interested in a Jupiter 3, but I found the the prices for those, while cheap in Leica/Zeiss standards, they would add up if I end up buying 2 to find a good copy, and they will most probably require a CLA (the price on eBay is £136 not $20). Since my Planar is already with Zeiss to correct stiff focus problem, I am not sure I want more lenses with mechanical issues. I need to start enjoying the M

I will def consider trying some of those old lenses at some point though. 

 

I think you have to look on eBay Russia and particularly Ukraine for the $20 lenses. If I did not have more than enough 50mm lenses (2 x LTM Elmar/3.5, Summitar, Opton Sonnar/1.5, Nikkor f1.4, 1 ZM Planar/2 and Noctilux/0.95) I would consider a Jupiter 3. A couple of months ago there was a guy in Ukraine selling three Jupiter LTM lenses (a 50/1.5 J3, an 85/f2 J9 and a 35/2.8 J12) all for a total of $100 or offer. 

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I cannot really comment on the Sonnar lens, but am very happy with the 50 mm Planar lens which is sufficiently sharp edge to edge and handles field curvature and distortion/flare well. I prefer it to the 50 mm Summicron lens.  However, I also own a 50 mm ASPH Summilux lens which is marvellous offering the previous qualities of the Planar lens with an extra stop and wonderful rendering and bokeh.  I tend to use my 50 mm Planar lens as part of a lightweight and compact three lens kit when hiking which also consists of a 28 mm ASPH Elmarit lens and 90 mm Summarit lens.  

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Only if you are a boring photographer who chooses boring light on boring subjects. I had the Sonnar C for a few months and while I loved the speed to size ratio, the focus shift drove me up the wall.

 

So I after owning the planar, a collapsable summicron, the Sonnar, a version-II Summilux and three versions of the lux asph, I went back to the Planar and just love it! For what I want in my system, the planar is the perfect 50 while the 35 FLE is the speed king.

 

A good friend of mine is a fabulous portrait photographer, she bought the new M246 Monochrom and wanted to get the 50 F2 APO. So at my insistence, she rented the Apo and borrowed my Planar and without hesitation, got the Planar, took the spare money and went to Madrid for three months and just *crushed* it.

 

My 50 Sonnar was made in 1937 and is uncoated.  There is some serious magic in that bubbly imperfect glass.  When I just want perfect, I use the 50 LUX ASPH, which replaced an also flawless 50 Summicron (I wanted the extra stop for film and my M-E).

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