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I had a chance to evaluate a few lenses (with the help of my wonderful wife who indulged me on my birthday to sit as a subject) in that never-ending project to identify the prime suspects for carry in a small travel bag with my Leica SL or Sigma fp. The choices are a somewhat idiosyncratic array of old and new 50 something lenses, made possible by the many adapters available for L-mount. My fast choices are old - a Summilux-R 50 (ver.1) and a Noct-Nikkor 58 1.2. My Summicron-M 50 (type 4) and new Apo-Lanthar 50 f2 Asph round out the choices. The inclusion of a fast lens in my kit is a priority that comes and goes. It has never hit me hard enough in four decades with Leica to buy a Summilux-M though I've been feeling a new wave of temptation. Reading the reports of sloppy aperture rings and the crazy lens hood situation on the black chrome version continue to help delay that purchase. Both these alternative fast lenses are quite a bit larger, longer and more cumbersome with their lengthy and heavy adapters. The new retro Noctilux seems like a lovely fix... if I could find one for sale.

The color rendering of each lens is different of course and the SL and fp render somewhat different files (each are represented here) - to simplify the comparison I've converted all to B&W in Photoshop. In my hurry to keep my patient wife agreeable I underexposed the highlights quite a bit so they have been restored as best as possible in Camera Raw. It's a pleasure to spend some time with my old Summicron-M 50... a really marvelous lens that yields nothing in terms of center sharpness to the new VM save the tiniest bit of color fringing in high contrast edges near the focal plane. The VM is a skimpy fifty... it shows its wider 50mm personality here. The Noct-Nikkor and the old design Summilux-R show dreamy softness from spherochromatism wide open. The Noct is uniquely creamy and dreamy.  In use it has an odd retro feeling of mixed parts from another world of cameras, pushed way out from the camera with the Novoflex adapter. 

Thanks for looking and of course, your thoughts are most welcome. The files uploaded are reasonably large if clicked.

Noct-Nikkor 58 1,2 on Leica SL/ novoflex Nikkor-L adapter

Summilux-R 50 1,4 (ver.1) on Leica SL/ Leica R-L adapter

Summicron-M 50 f2 on Sigma fp/ Leica M-L adapter

VM Apo-Lanthar Asph 50 f2 on Sigma fp/ Leica M-L adapter

Edited by Alan Friedman
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Hi Alan, 

It's somewhat unclear for me what you are after. Still, it's an interesting post picturing your charming wife with four different 50ies. I have these thoughts:

  • Both typical vintage lenses, the Nikkor blurs highlights similar to the Summilux R but even more so. There isn't any information left on the white back-lit spot of your wife's hair. I happen to own a 50mm Summicron R, which blurs highlights too. These highlights are non-recoverable. 
  • The Nikkor renders proportions different to the Leica lenses. Your wife's face is a little more round-shaped with the Nikkor but has more character with the two Leica lenses. This can be blamed on the somewhat longer focal length, but I'm sure there's more to it. 
  • When you compare the Summcicron and the Voigtländer, you can again see the same effect. The Leica lenses render your wife's face a tad slimmer. I've seen this many times before with Canon glass vs Leica lenses or Cooke vs Zeiss etc... 
  • Other than that, the Summciron and the Voigtländer are very similar. Why do you keep both?

Thanks for the lovely pictures!

Hans

 

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Interesting series. Thanks for doing this. I think I prefer #2. 
Although you don’t need another 50, Have you considered a Leica 50mm SL - either the Summilux, or the Summicron ? 
Thanks for posting these?

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, hansvons said:

Hi Alan, 

It's somewhat unclear for me what you are after. Still, it's an interesting post picturing your charming wife with four different 50ies. I have these thoughts:

  • Both typical vintage lenses, the Nikkor blurs highlights similar to the Summilux R but even more so. There isn't any information left on the white back-lit spot of your wife's hair. I happen to own a 50mm Summicron R, which blurs highlights too. These highlights are non-recoverable. 
  • The Nikkor renders proportions different to the Leica lenses. Your wife's face is a little more round-shaped with the Nikkor but has more character with the two Leica lenses. This can be blamed on the somewhat longer focal length, but I'm sure there's more to it. 
  • When you compare the Summcicron and the Voigtländer, you can again see the same effect. The Leica lenses render your wife's face a tad slimmer. I've seen this many times before with Canon glass vs Leica lenses or Cooke vs Zeiss etc... 
  • Other than that, the Summciron and the Voigtländer are very similar. Why do you keep both?

Thanks for the lovely pictures!

Hans

 

Hi Hans,

Thank you for taking the time to share these thoughts. It is indeed a very limited comparison with some lenses that most wouldn't have or use - your observations are sharp and much appreciated. I've always been a better lens buyer than a seller and I will likely always keep my small collection of pre-aspherical Summicrons and Elmarits for M mount. The Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar series (I purchased both the 50 and the 35) have impressed me for landscape and documentary use where detail to the edge of the frame is to be studied. They are also beautifully constructed - a pleasure to handle. They satisfy my desire for this type of contemporary design which makes me very happy given the price of the Leica Apo-Summicron-M series.  For portraiture like this the sharpness is a bit much - I prefer the Summicron's rendering but I would probably carry the VM most often as the more versatile lens at this focal length and speed. The Nikkor and the Summilux-R both touch on something different and encouraged me to make a new decision. Last night I purchased my first Leica lens from the Aspherical era. I selected the Summilux-M 50 in the retro black chrome design which, though heavy, will be lighter than either the Nikkor or the Summi-R. I really enjoy the experience of focus and composition with M mount lenses on the L mount cameras. Excited to receive the Summilux and to use it.

all the best,

Alan

Edited by Alan Friedman
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6 hours ago, RoySmith said:

Interesting series. Thanks for doing this. I think I prefer #2. 
Although you don’t need another 50, Have you considered a Leica 50mm SL - either the Summilux, or the Summicron ? 
Thanks for posting these?

I have indeed considered adding one of the APO-Summicron-SL lenses. I will spend some time with one the next chance I have to be in B&H. I have a few of the new Sigma lenses which are quite good and serve well for subject matter where auto-focus is a real help. When I can, manual focus is my preferred method to work so I have been hesitant to invest in the SL lenses... they have been described as not the best to use manually (the Sigma lenses are quite nice used manually). I think I need to try it on for myself. I wonder if the hybrid focusing system of the new fp-L will be good with the Leica L mount lenses? 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Alan Friedman said:

Last night I purchased my first Leica lens from the Aspherical era. I selected the Summilux-M 50 in the retro black chrome design which, though heavy, will be lighter than either the Nikkor or the Summi-R. I really enjoy the experience of focus and composition with M mount lenses on the L mount cameras. Excited to receive the Summilux and to use it.

Hi Alan,

Let us know what your findings are, especially in comparison to the Summilux R. 
---
I owned a set of Zeiss Super Speeds (PL lenses for cinematography) and shot uncountable projects on them. They are a set of five T 1.3 lenses from the early eighties in 18mm to 85mm (S-35mm format). Open rose they are dreamy, highly prone to flare with a busy but not swirly bokeh. Stopped down to T 2.8, they are tack sharp but keep some of their character. I sold them because I figured that their flatness (as the opposite to dimensionality) and cool rendering with a slight hint of magenta wide open didn't cut it anymore for me. I find Leica glass mostly the opposite: a warm colour rendering, especially in the skin tones, not particular flary, and not flat at all, on the contrary.

Recently, I purchased for my new SL2-S the 24-90 zoom, which is, in a way, a clinical, sharp and perfect glass. Still, it has some character, despite its lack of flaring. It shows some dimensionality in the range of 35-75 mm, and somewhat vignettes when lens correction is turned off. I shoot primarily environmental portraits and are not after wishy-washy blurry backgrounds. That's why I'm okay with the Elmarit badge.
 

Hans

Edited by hansvons
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If you like to see how some of the leica 50's render on SL2 and M10-R at different F-stops.

The Summicron-SL is by far the more detailed..

https://photos.alexkroke.com/Review/50mm-Lenses-on-M10-R-and-LS2/n-WR5V2r/

in my test
Summicron-SL 50
Noctilux 50 0.95
Summilux-M 50

Sigma 45

there are taken at full stops 0.95, 1.4, 2. 2.8, 4, 5.6

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59 minutes ago, Photoworks said:

If you like to see how some of the leica 50's render on SL2 and M10-R at different F-stops.

The Summicron-SL is by far the more detailed..

https://photos.alexkroke.com/Review/50mm-Lenses-on-M10-R-and-LS2/n-WR5V2r/

in my test
Summicron-SL 50
Noctilux 50 0.95
Summilux-M 50

Sigma 45

there are taken at full stops 0.95, 1.4, 2. 2.8, 4, 5.6

Thanks for sharing that... great fun. I guess that is why there is no aperture ring on the Summicron-SL. How do find the lens to handle on the SL2? I am using the Type 601 still. 

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it is a very simple to use lens, AF  works well. you change aperture with the wheel.

AF can be set to linear with new firmware, and response is similar to manual lens, but not as smooth turn, I can feel little resistance in the beginning.

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A quick follow-up after receiving the Summilux-M 50 Asph... my first ever Leica lens purchased new, I think. It is an all-rounder in many ways and beautifully made and well balanced on the Leica SL and even on the much lighter Sigma fp. I'm very happy with operation and feel of the black chrome design. I find it noticeably sharper and less prone to color fringing than the Summilux-R, with softer out of focus rendering. The ergonomics work better for me as well - though only 40 grams lighter (adapted) it is better balanced and easier to handle with the focus ring closer to the camera body. The optics are not as color-free as the Apo-Lanthar at f2.0 - they become more equal at f2.8 and beyond. The Summilux is special at 1.4 with restrained vignetting - a refreshing change from the tunnel vision created by uneven illumination in the Voigtlander designs. I have to say after handling them side by side, the Apo-Lanthar must be appreciated for what it delivers - both in performance and haptics. The feel of its focuser and aperture ring are about as perfect as I've encountered. I've added a few shots below from today, including the Nokton 40 f1.2. Thank goodness I don't have that in 50mm too!

Summilux-M Asph 50

summilux-R 50

VM Nokton 40 1.2

VM Apo-Lanthar 50

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for sharing!

To me the Noct-Nikkor and Apo-Lanthar seems to complement each other nicely. One with relatively smooth bokeh and shallow DoF for portraits etc. while the other will be perfect for travel and landscape, where small size and technical performance is important.

I certainly prefer the look of the Noct-Nikkor over the Summilux-R v1. The Noct-Nikkor appears to be both sharper and has smoother bokeh (as well as shallower DoF).

Also, I am impressed how well the 50mm Summicron holds up to the competition regarding its age.

Edited by LarsHP
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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, LarsHP said:

Thanks for sharing!

To me the Noct-Nikkor and Apo-Lanthar seems to complement each other nicely. One with relatively smooth bokeh and shallow DoF for portraits etc. while the other will be perfect for travel and landscape, where small size and technical performance is important.

I certainly prefer the look of the Noct-Nikkor over the Summilux-R v1. The Noct-Nikkor appears to be both sharper and has smoother bokeh (as well as shallower DoF).

Also, I am impressed how well the 50mm Summicron holds up to the competition regarding its age.

Thank you for your thoughts, which parallel my own. The Summilux-R and the Summicron-M pre-asph remain very usable today though they fade some in comparison with their modern counterparts and would likely see little to no use if one has the newer versions. The Noct-Nikkor remains a very interesting lens for mirrorless, sitting somewhere between the 1.0 and 0.95 noctilux in various respects - sharpness/contrast/softness/weight. As it can focus down to .5 meter and has a slightly longer focal length it can achieve the blur and separation of the faster Leica lenses while displaying impressive center detail. It is a lens to shoot at f1.2. The Apo-Lanthar is exceedingly sharp, lovely to handle and not too precious, making it a great carry around lens for a mix of subjects. I am just getting my feet wet with the Summilux-asph but my sense is it will fill any gap between the two. For a trip where space is at a premium, I will likely pack two of the three and be very happy. When space allows, I think I will bring all three. 

Edited by Alan Friedman
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12 minutes ago, Alan Friedman said:

Thank you for your thoughts, which parallel my own. The Summilux-R and the Summicron-M pre-asph remain very usable today though they fade some in comparison with their modern counterparts and would likely see little to no use if one has the newer versions. The Noct-Nikkor remains a very interesting lens for mirrorless, sitting somewhere between the 1.0 and 0.95 noctilux in various respects - sharpness/contrast/softness/weight. As it can focus down to .5 meter and has a slightly longer focal length it can achieve the blur and separation of the faster Leica lenses while displaying impressive center detail. It is a lens to shoot at f1.2. The Apo-Lanthar is exceedingly sharp, lovely to handle and not too precious, making it a great carry around lens for a mix of subjects. I am just getting my feet wet with the Summilux-asph but my sense is it will fill any gap between the two. For a trip where space is at a premium, I will likely pack two of the three and be very happy. When space allows, I think I will bring all three. 

Good to know my impressions mirror yours. I have spent quite some time finding out which 50mm lens to get. I ended up with the Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.2 Asph VM, since my preferences are a superfast lens with smooth bokeh, that also will do well for landscape etc. In other words, I prefer a "do it all" solution if possible; one lens per focal length, since one of the prime reasons to use M lenses is compact size and moderate weight. I understand that you are no "one lens per focal length"-man, and frankly, it's fun to be able to choose between lenses with different character for various subjects. (I do have several lenses in the 50-60mm range though, but they are macro and UV/IR lenses.)

Since you are shooting M mount lenses with non-M cameras, I'd like to point you to Kolari Vision who converts the sensor glass in full frame mirrorless cameras to "Ultra Thin" for best performance with wide angle M (and generally analog era) lenses. They did it on my Nikon Z6, and I am very happy with the result.

https://kolarivision.com/product/sony-a7-series-thin-filter-legacy-lens-upgrade/

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, LarsHP said:

Good to know my impressions mirror yours. I have spent quite some time finding out which 50mm lens to get. I ended up with the Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.2 Asph VM, since my preferences are a superfast lens with smooth bokeh, that also will do well for landscape etc. In other words, I prefer a "do it all" solution if possible; one lens per focal length, since one of the prime reasons to use M lenses is compact size and moderate weight. I understand that you are no "one lens per focal length"-man, and frankly, it's fun to be able to choose between lenses with different character for various subjects. (I do have several lenses in the 50-60mm range though, but they are macro and UV/IR lenses.)

Since you are shooting M mount lenses with non-M cameras, I'd like to point you to Kolari Vision who converts the sensor glass in full frame mirrorless cameras to "Ultra Thin" for best performance with wide angle M (and generally analog era) lenses. They did it on my Nikon Z6, and I am very happy with the result.

https://kolarivision.com/product/sony-a7-series-thin-filter-legacy-lens-upgrade/

Thanks for the suggestion. 3rd party removal of sensor glass was a thing in the astronomy community when some gave mirrorless cameras a first try. It was an inexpensive entry to deep sky photography compared to dedicated cooled  CCD cameras. IR sensitivity of digital sensors is a huge plus for astronomy imaging as many targets radiate energy in near IR wavelengths and the sensors are quite sensitive down there, just handicapped by the filters meant to make them perform as we expect in the daylight. I never did these modifications but I have experimented with astronomy cameras for terrestrial subjects in near IR... it is something I enjoy.

So far I have not noticed a problem with the corners of my images using M lenses on the Leica SL or the Sigma fp. I do not own Sony system cameras. Perhaps the new fp-L with its high resolution sensor will be a different story. I hope to receive one soon. I still do some photography with my Leica M8 though I prefer visualizing through an EVF these days. Perhaps the next iteration of the M series will entice me back. 

Edited by Alan Friedman
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Posted (edited)

It depends on the lens too, but my experience so far suggests that all my M lenses benefit from the conversion. This is partly, but not exclusively, because the stock Z6 has an anti aliasing filter which is removed in the conversion. 

I have noted that, unlike the previous Voigtländer lenses that are available in both E and M mount, the 50 and 35mm Apo-Lanthar as well as the 21mm Nokton, are slightly different in optical design in order to perform the best on the intended sensors. Sony may have the thickest sensor glass stack, but the other mirrorless cameras are not far from that, including Panasonic, Canon, Nikon and probably also Leica SL series and Sigma (since they mostly make a living by selling lenses to other camera manufacturers). That said, if you don’t see anything "wrong" when checking your landscape and cityscape images, then no reason to worry. 😄

Edited by LarsHP
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