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which 50mm + 35mm lenses for film: summicron vs voigtländer nokton vs. summilux pre asph

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hi there,

recently i'm about to assemble a small kit for a leica m4. i'm restricting myself to film at the moment. use: everyday, family/kids, portraiture, indoors and outdoors.

50mm and 35mm are among my favorites, on an (d)slr i do sometimes use longer primes but that isn't for me on a rangefinder system.

first thought while doing reading was: get two summicrons and be done with it. i liked the f2 versions on the fuji x system but speed wasn't that important, the ISO range could help to compensate if needed.

second thought: the voigtländers look interesting, especially for the price, especially the 50 1.5.

third thought: some of the older summiluxes (pre ash) can be had for competitive prices (compared to the 'crons), too.

confusion is complete now. 

what made me consider leica in the first place, was the image quality with regard to the often cited '3D pop' of subjects, something that i've been able to achieve with medium format but never in such a small and portable system. also i like rangefinders for everyday shooting much more than slrs.

looking at reviews on the internet hasn't brought that much more clarification. you can probably spend a lifetime trying to find the perfect lens for you.

some sort of further input would be welcome.

questions that keep coming up to me:

1) are the voigtländers really suitable for achieving that 3dimensionality? a lot of reviews feature digital images, so colors might have been edited as well to pop more. not everyone indicates that with their sample images.

2) often the voigtländers are compared to the pre asph versions of the 'crons and 'luxes and considered about being on par. would you agree?

3) i do like the smaller size of the 'crons but i'm still worried f2 might not be fast enough indoors. 

currently, i'm leaning towards the voigtländer 50 1.5 and the summilux 35 1.4 or summicron 35. 

i know, in the end it's up to me and my needs but i'm sure there are people who might have faced a similar dilemma.

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Been down that road and had lots of switches back and forth. The lux 35 should do you fine. If size isn't an issue, the CV 50/1.5 (the LTM version with an LTM->M adapter) is a really nice lens at only a fraction of the price of Leica's equivalent (I've been using mine for about a year) and it really delivers great IQ. If price isn't an issue go with the Leica -it will sell better if you decide to switch. Whatever you decide, I assure you no lens is perfect...you just have to decide what delivers the characteristics you are seeking within your budget. I've been thru most of the Luxes, including the Noctilux, and Crons from the first thru iv. FWIW in 35 I actually prefer the Summaron 35/2.8 which I had for many years, but am getting used to a CV Color-Skopar 35/2.5 which produces an overall sharper image, but not as clinical as the current Cron or Lux. I already mentioned the CV 50, but the current version of the Cron is compact and clinically sharp across the frame. I prefer a more classic rendering and have been using the old collapsible Elmar 50/3.5, and a Nikon 50/2.0 instead of the Cron. Good luck in your choice.

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Not only for film, but I am extremely enjoying the 35/2 Summicron V4 and the 50/2 Summicron V3 lately on digital, too.

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To me, 3d pop in 35mm system can commonly be achieved by using lenses that are designed based on newer philosophy in which image transition from in to out of focus is more rapid. As a result, you should look for newer lenses.

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I have seven M mount lenses from all three of the major manufacturers:  Leica, Zeiss and Voightlander.  Each lens works just fine for different reasons so I am not loyal to just one maker nor do I believe you should only put Leica glass on Leica cameras.

You don't list them but the Zeiss lenses are outstanding at a fraction of the price of Leitz glass.  Reid Reviews lists the 35f2.8 C Biogon as the sharpest 35mm lens they have ever tested.  I also have the 35f1.2 Nokton and if low light is your thing, go for it.  The only downsize is its size (BIG).  

I had the 50f1.5 Nokton for a couple weeks and it is outstanding.  I made a mistake and sold it for a 50f1.1 Nokton which is ok but again large and I don't do a lot of available darkness photography.

I am traveling around the world later this year.  I am pretty sure I will be taking a digital Leica and the 35f2.8 C Biogon, 50 Summicron, and 90f2.8 Tele Elmarit M as they are the smallest lenses I can find (not 50 Summicron but it is still small).  And as a backup a new Ricoh GR3 with a 28mm FOV.

Edited by ktmrider2

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thank you for your suggestions and sharing your thoughts.

of course, you're right ktmrider2, i forgot about the zeiss lenses. i ruled them out since i heard about the focus shift issue with the sonnar 50 1.5. however, it seems you can compensate for it. but i don't know if it's for me to lean in to the image as Jonathan Nolte suggests in his video review - i think that might be difficult with children. after all film is more forgiving than digital but it might be visible. but then its minimum focus distance is 0.9 meters so that should help. it keeps me thinking. i like the images i've seen. also i like the size. 

so is it really 2 lenses in 1? i mean, let's assume i buy a copy whose focus is calibrated at f2, i should have no problems taking family portraits at said aperture. but how about apertures from f4, f5.6, f8 for example for street. does it shine there as well? it does seem to perform average according to a few reviews.

the planar 50 is a lens i considered for canon a while back, its reputation is good, but some people shy away from it and disregard its images as too 'clinical'.

Max at analog insights claims that his voigtländer nokton 50 1.5 is a mix of modern and classic looks. most of his images shown are b&w.

so @ktmrider2, what do you miss from your nokton 1.5? what did you like about it? is it an easier to handle brother of the sonnar (i know, it's a different design, but it's the best that comes to my mind)? does it have focus shift issues? i think the older version did.

well, i've ruled out the zeiss biogon f2.8 as it is too slow. the f2 biogon seems better but its big and viewfinder blockage would be an issue.

 

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The Nokton 50f1.5 is a fine lens.  Everything I read says it duplicates the pre-ASPH 50 Summilux at a fraction of the cost.  I miss the size as I don't really use the 50f1.1 for its main purpose and it is a large lens for everyday carry, especially when mounted on my M5.  I use my 50 Summicron for most of my photography when I use the 50 FOV.  Don't know about focus shift as it has really never been something I paid attention to in 50 years of photography just as I don't pay much attention to "bokeh".  Composition, correct exposure, and subject matter are much more important.

By the way, ClassicConnection has a new 50f2 Zeiss Planar listed for $905 as I post this.

Edited by ktmrider2

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I'm not so sure what Fuji has to do with everyday photography. And why 3dimentional is important.

The only thing I care for if it is for every day is how easy and fast lens to use.

If lens has no focus tab it is not fast lens, no matter how f it is. If it chunky lens, it is isn't every day lens, either.

Get two Summarits of f2.5 version and ISO 400 film. This is every day two lenses I could only think of. :)

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I have the 50 1.5 sonnar and the nokton 50 1.5.  I'll take the sonnar every time for portrait heavy uses. On my m6 I don't worry much about focus shift tbh.  It is far easier to carry day to day than the nokton, plus it has a focus "nub" rather than the harsh knurling of the nokton.  

As for 35mm, my v3 Cron gets the job done in all but the lowest light. For low light I do keep a nokton 35 1.4, but the cron beats it for daily use.  The v3 35mm cron is very well built, TINY, and is one of the cheaper 35mm crons out there. 

 

Good luck and happy shooting!

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as for fuji: i tested the x series cameras last year, they were great to use. just wanted to bring up an example of why i could live with f2 on digital these days. 3dimensionality was so much better to achieve on medium format that i wanted to transfer it to 35mm, too. i knew that there were lenses out there on a system i had practically disregarded - leica m. it took me a while to realize that there are different versions even of leica lenses that are affordable on the used market. my first research was 'summicron/summilux used' and you can guess that almost immediately the asph versions popped up at their astounding prices. i thought if i wanted affordable IQ i had to look solely at used medium format film gear. well, as you grow older, you grow wiser...

i wish there was a store here that had all the lenses i'm looking into. sometimes it's just about the feel. i have tried camerasize online for a size comparison of the leica m mount lenses but it seems they have a rather limited stock of lens pictures for the mount.

any suggestions for side-by-side photos of the 50mm lenses on an m body? even those unboxing videos rarely show the lenses next to each other.

@ktmrider2, thank your for the hint, but i haven't got any idea where classicconnection is located and i'm pretty sure i would have to pay import taxes and duties (i'm based in germany).

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Digging my archive, here some lenses mount on M:

 

Summilux-M 35mm asph. titanium coated

 

some 50mm

Summicron Rigid

 

Summicron "50 th anniversary"

 

Elmar-M 2.8/50

 

Comparison of 50mm Elmar, two Summicron

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Sorry, I forgot 35mm lenses

 

Summicron IV, Summicron asph., Summilux pre asph. , and M-Hexanon 2/35 behind (the tallest)

 

The best for handling is Summilux pre-asph. with a wrist strap and Leicavit-M 😉

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thank you very much for those pictures. 

i checked the dimensions for the nokton, planar and sonnar, even drew a sketch to visualize the size.

are there any hyperfocal charts for the sonnar? i don‘t think the dofsimulator has any data for film...

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Depth of field should be the same for all lenses of the same focal length at the same f/stop and film vs digital should not matter except digital might be a bit more critical but laws of optics remain constant.

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2 hours ago, ktmrider2 said:

Depth of field should be the same for all lenses of the same focal length at the same f/stop and film vs digital should not matter except digital might be a bit more critical but laws of optics remain constant.

If you refers to my post, thank you, I wrote it wrong and intended to correct it. It should read that in Leica newer lenses, Peter Karbe designs them in a way that from in to out of focus the contrast drops more rapidly, so they tend to have more pop (the quality the OP seems to base his buying decision on) than the older lenses.

Thanks,

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Here is a comparison of Leica 50mm lenses  noct  .95,  1.0,  1.2,  cron v1, v2, v3, v4, APO,  lux v1, v2, aph,  summarit and elcan.

Also the 2nd link is a article compariing of some 50 lenses with film

To me all the results look good, so pick lens with the speed, size and weight that fit your budget.

https://www.streetsilhouettes.com/home/2018/8/6/leica-50mm-noctilux-summilux-summicron-all-versions-plus-summarit-f15

https://www.streetsilhouettes.com/home/2018/1/27/three-versions-of-the-leica-50mm-f2-summicron-apo-elcan-and-dual-range-on-the-leica-m10-and-fujifilm-superia-venus-800

Leica 35 mm lens comparison

https://www.streetsilhouettes.com/home/2017/3/30/leica-35mm-lenses-5-summicron-versions

Edited by lexontario
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Talking about size, these are the smallest and largest 35mm focal length lenses I have. Both screw fit but can of course be used on an M body with a bayonet adaptor and both perfectly good for film.

35mm f3.5 Elmar and 35mm f1.7 Voigtlander Ultron Asph.

 

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