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50mm f2.8 ELMAR VS 50mm f2 SUMMICRON LTM


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Strictly speaking the Summicron is a double Gauss type.  The obvious answer to your question is that the Summicron lets in twice as much light as the f2.8 Elmar.  The collapsible Summicron, when collapsed, is nearly the same size for carriage as the Elmar.  But what I think you are asking is the difference in optical performance.  The original 50mm Summicron used new glass types developed in the 1950's and was regarded as the highest performing lens for 35mm photography in its time.  The rigid and collapsible versions are slightly different designs.  The rigid is considered a better performer.  I have used the collapsible lens for years and find it an excellent lens.  I have never used an Elmar.

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Comparing performance, the Summicron is sharper at large apertures (2.8 - and of course 2.0!) - but results stopped down a bit (say 5.6) are fine with both lenses. The 2.8 Elmar was the first Leica lens I tried around 1967, and it convinced me to switch to Leica. But when I bought my own Leica 50 I went with a Summicron - and it was my main lens for almost 50 years.

The Elmar construction rotates the entire lens as you focus, so the f-stop index also moves around. The Summicron mount keeps the front of the lens from turning as you focus, so adjusting the aperture is easier.

The glass used in the collapsible Summicron was quite soft, so many now have scuffing on the front element. It took me a while to find a clear example. The 2.8 Elmar may develop internal fogging that reduces contrast and can't be fully cleaned. You can still find good lenses of either type, but check before you buy.

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I have both lenses. One advantage of the Elmar is that the lens cap covers the index mark for setting the aperture so I never forget to remove the lens cap because I always check the shutter speed and aperture before I take the picture. 😀

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If you want to use the lenses on a Leica LTM camera you should be aware that the larger diameter of the Summicron covers a large part of the camera‘s viewfinder. When you add the round hood the viewfinder is almost completely hidden. The square foldable „barndoor“ hood is much preferable, though it looks odd. But a hood is necessary for the first version Summicron. You can avoid the blockage of the viewfinder by adding an external viewfinder for 50mm. They are very clear and give a better view than the inbuilt one of the camera, but parallax is problematic as the finder’s view is a lot higher than the lenses view which makes the photo.

All these problems don‘t arise with the original 1:3.5/5cm Elmar. It‘s the preferable lens for a screwmount Leica body - at least up to the IIIf. Perhaps the IIIg is less problematic in this respect, but I don‘t know it. 

Edited by UliWer
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I have a 50mm f2 SUMMITAR and don't know how this compares with the two mentioned. The SUMMITAR is not coated however I believe that with the barn door lens hood which I have it would be good for black and white. I have not found an in depth review of the SUMMITAR on the internet which may indicate it is an inferior lens. What do members have to say about it?

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23 minutes ago, anthonym3 said:

I have a 50mm f2 SUMMITAR and don't know how this compares with the two mentioned. The SUMMITAR is not coated however I believe that with the barn door lens hood which I have it would be good for black and white. I have not found an in depth review of the SUMMITAR on the internet which may indicate it is an inferior lens. What do members have to say about it?

It's a very nice lens. Mine happens to be coated, but I don't know how much difference that makes.  Wide open it has a bit of character, with signature 'swirly' bokeh. Stopped down the rendering seems quite modern, though this is a 1930s design. Erwin Puts reviewed it in comparison with the collapsible Summicron, and found that they were in general rather similar, though the Summicron had more even sharpness across the frame, whereas the Summitar was sharp in the centre but softer in the corners. I don't have the barn door hood, but can use a modern E39 hood (and filters) via a third party replica of the SNHOO adapter, which converts the unique Summitar conical filter thread to standard 39mm.

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3 hours ago, anthonym3 said:

I have a 50mm f2 SUMMITAR and don't know how this compares with the two mentioned. The SUMMITAR is not coated however I believe that with the barn door lens hood which I have it would be good for black and white. I have not found an in depth review of the SUMMITAR on the internet which may indicate it is an inferior lens. What do members have to say about it?

I have both a 1939 uncoated Summitar and a 1948 coated one. The 1948 performance is quite close to the early Summicron in my experience. (Mine has a circular diaphragm opening where some have fewer blades to almost a hex-shaped iris.) The 1939 has less contrast, but after a good CLA also has surprising performance. The Summitar mount construction is very nice.

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7 hours ago, UliWer said:

If you want to use the lenses on a Leica LTM camera you should be aware that the larger diameter of the Summicron covers a large part of the camera‘s viewfinder. When you add the round hood the viewfinder is almost completely hidden. The square foldable „barndoor“ hood is much preferable, though it looks odd. But a hood is necessary for the first version Summicron. You can avoid the blockage of the viewfinder by adding an external viewfinder for 50mm.

I have a rigid LTM 50mm cron & use it on my IIIa, IIIf & IIIg - not sure how the profile/diameter of this lens differs from the collapsible version but there is very little (IIIf) & virtually no (IIIg) blockage without a hood but once a hood is applied (ITDOO) the problem becomes much more of an issue but still usable. Still I prefer to use a 50mm external viewfinder (SBOOI).

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