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M-mount 50mm Summicron version numbering


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TRIGGER WARNING: This thread mentions Ken Rockwell whose name I am aware acts like a red rag to a bull for many people (and not just Leica Forum members). My purpose is not to provoke a KR Hate Fest but rather to clarify an issue in which he happens to be a participant.

Over the past nine months I’ve acquired a number of M-mount 50mm Summicron lenses. I started with a Rigid to use on my digital Leica M bodies and liked that lens so much that I added a Dual Range to use with my M4. Next came a Collapsible (again for the M4) , then a used copy of the current version (11819). And tomorrow I’m expecting delivery of a second(?) or third(?) version 11817. Why so many? 50mm is far and away my favourite focal length and the first three purchases were easy to justify: the Rigid for digital bodies, the DR and Collapsible for film. I bought the current version because it’s almost the iconic Leica M 50/2 and the 11817 because it’s a Mandler design.

Over the course of assembling this “collection” it has become clear that there is a considerable degree of confusion—particularly amongst eBay sellers—as to how these various M-mount Summicron 50s are described.

Firstly, there is the Leica Camera Forum Wiki:

  • Summicron (I) => Collapsible, Rigid, Dual Range
  • Summicron (II) => Mandler Design
  • Summicron-M (1979-current) => without built-in hood but with concave or convex (tiger paw) tab, with built-in hood but no tab (current)

Then there is what KR calls the “street name”:

  • Type 1: Collapsible
  • Type 2: Rigid and Dual Range
  • Type 3: Mandler
  • Type 4: Tab but no built-hood
  • Type 5: Built-in hood but no tab

Despite KR’s poor reputation, his Type 1-5 numbering system does appear to be widely used even on this forum (though not by lots of eBay sellers) and it does have the virtue of clearly differentiating between the various versions. Therefore I have some questions:

  • Did KR create “his” system or did he copy it from an earlier source?
  • Which system do individual forum members prefer?
  • (Bonus question) Is there a version of the Type 3 Summicron 50 with a focusing ring instead of a tab?

Thanks in advance for your attention and (hopefully) responses.

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I have never heard anyone refer to the collapsible, rigid and DR as version 1. Usually the v1 is the collapsible, V2 the DR and Rigid because both share the same design, V3 is called the “high leg”, and V4 the tabbed version and v5 the current one with built in hood. V4 and V5 have the same design. KR is correct.

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28 minutes ago, rtai said:

I have never heard anyone refer to the collapsible, rigid and DR as version 1. Usually the v1 is the collapsible, V2 the DR and Rigid because both share the same design, V3 is called the “high leg”, and V4 the tabbed version and v5 the current one with built in hood. V4 and V5 have the same design. KR is correct.

https://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-wiki.en/index.php/Summicron_(I)_f%3D_5_cm_1:2

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7 minutes ago, rtai said:

I get it. I just never heard anyone refer to v1 as such not on forums or dealer websites, eBay etc.

Point taken. Collapsible, Rigid, and Dual Range are rarely confused. I agree that KR’s system is easier to understand and therefore more useful. The main confusion on eBay is with the v3 being referred to as the “second” or “version II” and the v4 as the “third” or “version III”. I believe this comes from people extrapolating from the Leica Camera Forum Wiki terminology.

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Posted (edited)

Problem is that Leitz/Leica never used a versioning code... they used only product codes (a lot of... 😉) so any "Vx" identification is arbitrary... KR is good... Wiki Forum is good... but I doubt that ebay sellers make frequent use of Forum's terminology... For me, given that the most importnat characterization of a lens is due to its basic lens' schema, there ought to be 4 versions... 2 x 7 elements design (collapsible and rigid+DR) and 2 x 6 elements designs ( 6/5 and the current 6/4) ... but ergonomy is also important... and so enter the focus knob, or tab, or nothing... the built in hood... and the DR of course is a uniquely characterized version (and our Wiki makes a bit of confusion about)

Regarding your questions

Did KR create “his” system or did he copy it from an earlier source?   I think it's possible.... I haven't made in depth researches, but, for instance, a reknown authority (Erwin Puts) identifies 4 versions...and maybe KR elaborated further on that basis

Which system do individual forum members prefer?  Personally I dislike "V x" 🙄 ... I prefer codes...

(Bonus question) Is there a version of the Type 3 Summicron 50 with a focusing ring instead of a tab? If we call V3 the first 6 element - Mandler... it's 11817 - no focus tab.

Edited by luigi bertolotti
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I think it‘s confusing if one speaks of a lenses new „version“ when it has the same optical design as a previous „version“. Some changements of outward features happen very often, e.g. the earlier „rigid“ Summicrons had different knurlings on the focussing mount, there are bright chrome examples and black paint ones but this doesn‘t make different „versions“. Even the close focus design, which differs quite significantly from the „normal“ Summicron doesn’t qualify as a different „version“. It would make more sense if one called them what they are: variants of a lenses version with the same optical design.

So it would be reasonable to follow the nomenclature used in Leica literature long before the times of Mr.Rockwell or this forum:

The Leica Pocket Book and Laney’s „Collector’sGuide“ list 4 different versions:

  • the collapsible
  • the „rigid“ with several variants
  • 11817 (Mandler design)
  • the current version with different variants (since 1994 with built-in extensible hood). 
     
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I think that the best way to call those Summicron, as Luigi stated above is by their Leitz/Leica manufacturer number, name or code like :

- SOSTA/11018/11518...

- SOSIC/11618/11818/11117/11918

- 11817 or 1969-1979 (III ?)

- 11819, 11825, 11826, 11816, 11624, 11619,  ...10483  = version IV or V ? not simple but precise

 

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Posted (edited)

KR's classifications are sensible, are widely used and understood. One might quibble over the current version being the same optical design as the previous and therefore not deserving of its own version but other than that, I think KR's names most useful and therefore the best. Using the Leica numbers is, of course, most accurate but almost entirely without meaning to most people  - a look-up table would be necessary.

 

edit to add: After reading post, #7 above by ULi, I think the classification he mentions is the best but...unfortunately, not as widely used as that posited by KR. 

Edited by BradS
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Since our beloved producer of lenses has never been consistent in naming or numbering his lenses, I fear there is no system to discriminate versions and variants which generally fits.

The 50 Summilux is generally acknowledged to have two different optical designs - which are called "Versions I and II". But Leica never revealed this fact by renumbering it. They introduced the numbering instead of the five letter words in 1961 already for the first optical design: SOOME became 11114, it was in chrome. But they changed it just for a "variant": in black paint it was still 11114, and the chrome version became 11113. This went on until 1994 when they introduced a new mount design and numbered it 11868 - which still had the same optical design (just a variant according to my proposal...)  

The 90mm Summicron kept it's number 11123 up to 1980 for many different variants (chrome and black, added f/22 stop etc.) It is still unclear whether there has been a new optical design during the time when it had the same serial number. 

The 135mm Tele-Elmar kept its number 11851 for the whole time of its production. The optics also were not changed. But the differences between the "variants" are so obvious that it seems arbitary not to call them "versions".  

The only rule which might be generally accepted for Leica lenses is that there is none.  

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I'm another who thinks that KR's "Layman's Naming" shorthand system of Leica lenses is - by far - the easiest to understand. I appreciate that using Leica's code names / numbers is accurate but I, for one, would then have to cross-reference the number in order to see what is being discussed. I any case AFAICR Mr. Rockwell also includes these in his reviews.

I have to say I do, in the main, enjoy Mr. Rockwell's reviews. There have been a few where I'd take issue with some of his statements / observations and a very few where I think he's either completely missing the point or just plain wrong but on balance his work is accurate. A lot of what he writes, of course, has to be taken in the same spirit of the humour in which it has been written and overall I find his writing to be very informative and far more entertaining than annoying into the bargain.

Philip.

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16 hours ago, pippy said:

A lot of what he writes, of course, has to be taken in the same spirit of the humour in which it has been written and overall I find his writing to be very informative and far more entertaining than annoying into the bargain.

Philip.

Agreed, I really enjoy reading KR's outlandish statements/comments, especially the way he "takes the piss" out of "The Leica Man"

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10 hours ago, lct said:

Not sure i've ever heard of a numbering system about Leica lenses but there are commercial and optical numbers that most people seem to agree with AFAIK. 

 

I was under the impression (according to Laney) that the first optical version was only available in the collapsible form, screw & M mount (SOOIC & SOOIC-M). There was no rigid version of this first design (or was there)?

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Thanks to everyone for your excellent and informative contributions. I agree with the general consensus that KR’s v1-v5 system is the easiest to understand although Leica’s own code name/number system is clearly more rigorous and accurate. That said, the Pocket Book / Collector’s Guide classification into four groups based upon the optical design is both simple and logical. It’s interesting to me that this implies that the Collapsible has a different design to the Rigid/DR (KR agrees with this) but that the Leica Camera Forum Wiki contradicts this by placing the Collapsible with the Rigid and DR, implying that all three share the same design.

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9 hours ago, romualdo said:

I was under the impression (according to Laney) that the first optical version was only available in the collapsible form, screw & M mount (SOOIC & SOOIC-M). There was no rigid version of this first design (or was there)?

I was thinking of the SOOIC-MS which was sold together with the collapsible SOOIC-M but i may be wrong.

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14 minutes ago, genji said:

…but that the Leica Camera Forum Wiki contradicts this by placing the Collapsible with the Rigid and DR, implying that all three share the same design.

Yes, the Wiki is very misleading as it mixes up the collapsible and rigid versions. You don‘t have to analyse the optics to see that they are very different: just look at the results. The differences for the mount are obvious as well. 

The collapsible also never had a code number in digits, as it was only produced in the 50s. During this time the code words were still used as the only way to name an item by Leitz correctly. The numbering system was introduced in 1961 when the collapsible version was already out of production. The collapsible‘s code was SOOIC or SOOIC-M.

So there is another rule for Leica items: never trust any source.

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