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Brancbūth

If You Were Me: The 50mm Dilemma.

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Hello all,

As mentioned in my recent thread ("Possible Fungus in V5 Summicron", in which the issue turned out to be arguably worse that I feared), I have some spare time to decide on a lens choice while awaiting a refund for the aforementioned "not as described" 50mm v5 Summicron. 

A bit of background: I shoot an M3, and have been using a 28mm f/5.6 Summaron exclusively for about a year (simply because it is the only lens that I own). I have used a combination of shoe-mounted viewfinder and a crude rule-of-thirds trick with the 90mm frame lines. Although I love the 28mm focal length, it creates a bit of a issue in that:

(a.) I'm extremely non-confrontational. I shoot primarily candid shots in the street - almost no landscape whatsoever - and occasionally my wife and dogs. Obviously, 28mm requires you to move in close, and simply put: I'm not comfortable enough to get the shots I want. Pair this with the prohibitive dangers of COVID-time street shooting, and I'm left with a lens that is far from conducive to comfort. I will keep it but, as my only lens, it hasn't been ideal.

(b.) I want to use those 50mm frame lines. I chose the M3 specifically for its magnification, and I'm not getting that benefit using an external finder.

 

I shoot black and white almost exclusively (Tri-X, Ferrania P30, and 5222). I do not necessarily want a lens that is going to exaggerate the higher contrast of the latter two films; additionally, I am not after a lens that exhibits clinical sharpness. I had decided on the v5 Summicron, because I wanted an optically "dated" lens with the reliability afforded by modern coatings and optical cements, i.e. I want something with reliability and character. I was initially between the v4 and v5 Summicron, but decided on the latter, and the prices have become comparable, and I had heard about some issues with plastic parts inside the v4. The final concern is compactness. Simply, I want as compact a 50mm as I can find, with a maximum aperture of at least f/2.

 

Wrapping this up, I am now second-guessing my decision in the v5 'Cron and wondering if there isn't a better option that fits my criteria. I am open to Voigtlander and Zeiss, but I have found them to be less compact than I'd prefer. I know this is a lengthy post, so apologies for that. Any advice is appreciated.

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I think the best 50mm for you is going to depend on your particular preferences, though you mention: reliability, compactness, older optical look and speed (f/2 or better). I have worked my way through 9 different 50mm lenses (I am sure others here many more), including new and old, from f/3.5 to f/1.16 (I have not sold any of these). My preferences also have shifted over time... Anyway, if you buy from a reputable source, and get a good one, you may wish to consider the collapsible V1 Summicron, which I find most satisfactory for Tri-X, FP4+ and Acros and then printed in the darkroom.

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7 minutes ago, 105012 said:

I think the best 50mm for you is going to depend on your particular preferences, though you mention: reliability, compactness, older optical look and speed (f/2 or better). I have worked my way through 9 different 50mm lenses (I am sure others here many more), including new and old, from f/3.5 to f/1.16 (I have not sold any of these). My preferences also have shifted over time... Anyway, if you buy from a reputable source, and get a good one, you may wish to consider the collapsible V1 Summicron, which I find most satisfactory for Tri-X, FP4+ and Acros and then printed in the darkroom.

Thank you for the suggestion. I have certainly considered the v1 collapsible and v2 rigid, but I am very much concerned (possibly to the point of being irrational) about the soft glass and possible element separation down the line. It is a shame that Leica has not entertained the idea of "reissuing" the v1 or v2 Summicron formulae as they did the 28mm f/5.6 Summaron.

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@Brancbūth I haven’t heard of lens separation being an issue with the rigid / collapsible so I wouldn’t worry too much about it. That being said, soft glass is in fact an issue (more so with the collapsible and rigid v1, not so much with the rigid v2), but as long as you find a nice copy with little / no cleaning marks, then all you have to do is put a filter to protect the glass from future damage and you’re good to go. I keep my rigid attached to my M3, they’re made for each other. The 50mm Summilux chrome V1 or V2 also look right at home with the M3 but they have longer focus throw; depending on what you shoot that might be a plus or a minus. 

To my eyes, the rigid is the best 50mm lens Leica has produced, that and the Summilux ASPH (but very different rendering). The only downside is 1m focus, but that doesn’t bother me too much, the M3 was made to focus down correctly up to 1m anyway :) 

Among all the summicron versions I’d just recommend avoiding V3 (feels cheap and has such a long focus throw), other than that they’re all great. But in terms of rendering, the v5 is actually my least favorite...especially for B&W I don’t enjoy it that much. I know you mentioned a minimum of f2, but the Summarit 50mm also has great reviews and is tiny, so you might want to consider that too...in the end it’s only half a stop difference, which means nothing in B&W photography (ie you can always shoot film with +1 exposure, and when shooting expose the summarit as if it were f2 and it won’t impact your end result due to the flexibility of B&W film). 

Edited by shirubadanieru

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The rigid Summicron is a superb lens, but for compactness amongst f/2 lenses, pipped by the collapsible. After using many many 50’s over his illustrious career, HCB settled in the end on the collapsible. Whilst his reasons are his own, and don’t necessarily apply to another photographer, it certainly reminds one that the collapsible is a very strong candidate for a long term 50mm.

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In fact you have everything closed down to a Leica, to a Summicron and to V5. So what can we say. I don’t dare to point towards the Elmar-M 50/2.8, because you persist on 2.0. But this is a heck of lens. 
I owned the Summicron V4 but have never discovered any plastic in it, perhaps you’re mistaken with 35 Summicron V4, which certainly has that. And actually the 50 v4 with the separate hood was less prone to flare than the V5, which comes up in all these 50’s easier than in other focal lenghts. So a separate hood has my preference. 

Edited by otto.f

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5 hours ago, Brancbūth said:

Simply, I want as compact a 50mm as I can find, with a maximum aperture of at least f/2.

Have you considered the 50mm Summilux pre-ASPH? It is shorter than the new ASPH version, much ligher and very fast to focus because of a short focus throw (at least the last E46 version, which also focuses down to 0.7m). It renders beautifully when stopped down, but it's also fully usable wide open. 

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My choice would be the either the DR Summicron, which is just like the Rigid but has the close-up goggles that allow focus down to 0.48 m (19 inches), or the Summilux-50 pre-ASPH. (That latter focuses down to 0.7 m, but there is a simple adjustment that you can make on all but the earliest M3s, by slightly straightening a lever in the throat of the camera, which allows focusing down to 0.7 m.) The DR Summicron is one of the best-built lenses around.

Actually, I have both and would have a tough time choosing between them — and that goes for shooting film with my  M3/M6 or digital with my M10. 

Although I rarely use the close-up goggles on the DR Sumicron I've always liked the results when I do, as with this shot using Neopan 1600.


________________________
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I would wholehearted endorse the recommendations for the Rigid or the DR. I have both, using the Rigid on digital M bodies and the DR on an M4. If you’re patient, you can find pristine late serial number copies of both lenses. Out of the many fifties I own and have used, these two remain my favourites. Having said that, I have hgh hopes for the Voigtlander APO-Lanthar 50/2, which will be released towards the end of this month. Alternatively, for the price of a single Summicron you could get both ZM fifties, the Planar 50/2 and the C Sonnar 50/1.5, providing two very different but complementary renderings.

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Why not try

...

Summarit-M 2.4/50mm or as my present time favorite 2.5/50mm which accept E39 filter (for B&W colored filters).

a. If you can live with f/2.5 (I think so as f/5.6 lens user 😉)

b. on my M3, one of rare 50mm that leave 100% 50mm framelines

c. only in second hand market, not so expensive for modern Leica lens waiting price to go up ( maybe ? )

d. in years of using I have no complain

e.  light blobs/spots better ( smoother/rounder f/2.5 to f/5.6 😇) than my Summicron/Noctilux at same aperture, just to be picky here

f. have a look in this thread for more...

Edited by a.noctilux

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Hi,

I used the 50/2 v5 for many year on an M9 and loved it. I currently have both a red scale 50/2 rigid and 50 Lux ASPH BC. I smithed from the standard 50 Lux ASPH after 6 years of use to the Black Chrome version for purely aesthetic reasons. 

I strongly suggest getting a standard 50 Lux ASPH. Even if it means selling the 28 summaron. 

Here are two images that I hope describe how versatile its rendering is.

 

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As Paul said, Elmar-M 2.8/50mm can be a good candidate.

I was fan of this very nice guy but "traded" for non-use after having Summarit-M.

I had first silver model which I've found a bit heavy side, so replaced with black anodized Elmar-M.

The hexagon aperture was not attracting for me, but in many users view that is not relevant, so why not.

We are lucky to have hundreds (thousands ?) of choices (50mm or whatever) for our M

 

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Considering your criteria I'd suggest the v1 Summicron if you can find one with a good front element.

You can't really go wrong with any of the Summicrons. My own preference, FWIW, is the v4.

In case you have not seen this page it provides a pretty good over-view of the different versions;

https://www.kenrockwell.com/leica/50mm-summicron-comparison-table.htm

Repeating what a few members have already said the original f2.8 collapsible Elmar would be an excellent choice if you could live with one stop less.

https://www.kenrockwell.com/leica/50mm-f28.htm

Philip.

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8 hours ago, Brancbūth said:

I had decided on the v5 Summicron, because I wanted an optically "dated" lens with the reliability afforded by modern coatings and optical cements, i.e. I want something with reliability and character. I was initially between the v4 and v5 Summicron, but decided on the latter, and the prices have become comparable, and I had heard about some issues with plastic parts inside the v4. The final concern is compactness. Simply, I want as compact a 50mm as I can find, with a maximum aperture of at least f/2.

Your initial choice was good IMHO. As owner of both versions among a dozen 50mm lenses, i would hesitate between Summicron v4 and v5 in your shoes. The only plastic part of v4 is its focus tab AFAIK but both versions have the same IQ if you choose a late v4 copy at least. Earlier ones seem to have a bit more flare as far as my copies are concerned.  What i prefer in my German-made v4 is its focus tab and compact size essentially. Otherwise the v5's built-in hood is handy albeit vestigial and providing little mechanical protection. Also late v5's are 6-bit coded, which can be useful if you expect yo use your lens on a digital M soon or late. Now any v4 copy can be coded by Leica if needed. Matter of personal preference anyway.

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I use the 50 DR but I'd get the 50 Rigid because I also use digital and the DR is somewhat limited with digital.  I've not used collapsables but hope to get one someday because of all the good things I hear about them.  

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4 hours ago, otto.f said:

I don’t dare to point towards the Elmar-M 50/2.8, because you persist on 2.0. But this is a heck of lens.

1 hour ago, pgk said:

Well, why not consider a late Elmar: https://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-wiki.en/index.php/50mm_f/2.8_Elmar-M which is compact, lightweight, optically dated but a real classic, and is available with late coatings?

The Elmar is definitely an option. My hang ups are: 2.8 maximum aperture. I have, as @a.noctilux points out, been stuck at f/5.6 for a while, but I have found myself having significant difficulty in lower-light situations. I’ve heard the Elmar described as a lens designed for daytime shooting. Should I be too bogged down with this fact? I know it will be much better than f/5.6, but I’d prefer to strip myself of as many limitations as I can. Additionally, I’d prefer to go with the later Elmar-M, but I’ve read that it was changed from a 15-blade design to a 6-blade design, causing a prominent hexagonal bokeh which @a.noctilux also describes. Has anyone found this to be completely off-putting?

2 hours ago, a.noctilux said:

Why not try

...

Summarit-M 2.4/50mm or as my present time favorite 2.5/50mm which accept E39 filter (for B&W colored filters).

a. If you can live with f/2.5 (I think so as f/5.6 lens user 😉)

b. on my M3, one of rare 50mm that leave 100% 50mm framelines

c. only in second hand market, not so expensive for modern Leica lens waiting price to go up ( maybe ? )

d. in years of using I have no complain

e.  light blobs/spots better ( smoother/rounder f/2.5 to f/5.6 😇) than my Summicron/Noctilux at same aperture, just to be picky here

f. have a look in this thread for more...

The Summarit was actually the lens I was initially set on, due to its size. I will look into it further. Thank you.

3 hours ago, genji said:

Having said that, I have hgh hopes for the Voigtlander APO-Lanthar 50/2, which will be released towards the end of this month.

I have also been watch this very closely. The only thing I cannot seem to get past is the comparative size, but it may not even be something that I notice in real-world use.

4 hours ago, analog-digital said:

40mm f/2 Summicron-C

 

 

This was main contender early on. My concerns are: (a.) I’ve heard it suggested that you can simply use the entire viewing window as 40mm frame lines. How accurate is this on an M3? (b.) I’ve ready a lot of conflicting information about the C-mount lenses not focusing correctly on M-mount cameras (including from Leica themselves). What has your experience been with this?

 

4 hours ago, Nowhereman said:

...or the Summilux-50 pre-ASPH. (That latter focuses down to 0.7 m, but there is a simple adjustment that you can make on all but the earliest M3s, by slightly straightening a lever in the throat of the camera, which allows focusing down to 0.7 m.)
________________________
Frog Leaping photobook

I would previously have purchased the pre-ASPH ‘Lux in a heartbeat, but after reading through countless threads, I noticed numerous people describing “unbearable” barrel distortion. Normally these characteristics would not put me off, but a few users described the lens as “unusable.” What has your experience been?

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I have version 1, 2 (both DR & normal), 3, & 5. I bought the v3 in 1969 and it is an excellent match to film Ms. The collapsible and normal v2 only focus down to 1 meter, while the later versions go to 0.7 meters - which is enough closer that Leitz dropped the Dual Range when it came out. Most M3 rangefinders have a near limit of 1 meter, so unless yours has been reworked to go to .7 the later versions won’t have that advantage. If so you may want a Dual Range, but then you have to carry the goggles to use the close range.

I much prefer the ver. 3 and later for color images, esp at f2-2.8. There is added snap. Vers. 4 & 5 (same optics) are another increment better wide open - which I appreciate most in digital.

As noted, they are all excellent lenses. On my M10 I actually use a 2.5 Smmarit the most for its size, and match to the 35 Summarit.

The first Leica lens I used was an f2.8 Elmar (old version), and it sold me on Leica, so you won’t go wrong with any of them.

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22 minutes ago, Brancbūth said:

6blade design, causing a prominent hexagonal bokeh which @a.noctilux also describes. Has anyone found this to be completely off-putting?

The older version is much less sparkling, I had it but I traded it in. I never saw thus far any ugly aperture reflections and its bo-keh is very nice anyway. Btw the price is so attractive that can always buy another used 50 with it. In my view it would combine very nice with the Summilux pre-asph, then you’ll have two different drawings which the Summilux 50 asph will not deliver for the same price. 

Edited by otto.f

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