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I have a very old collapsible Summicron 50mm, and a somewhat newer version.  I don't have any of the latest lenses.

For shooting on film, is the older Summicron at a disadvantage?  I was told the glass is "softer" and easier to damage, but if taken care of properly, for shooting on B&W film, how much is the old lens going to "lose" compared to my newer (not newest) 50?

It seems to me that the limit of how sharp my images can be is limited more by film grain than the lens.  100 ASA is better than 400, and maybe color is better than both because of no grain.

As a follow-up question, if I spent the money to upgrade to the latest model of this lens, how much of a difference would it make in image quality, for film, or for digital on a standard M10 ?

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Mike, do yourself a favour and don’t buy into the pixel peeping, APO justifying BS that only really emerged with digital. All M mount Leica lenses will produce acceptably sharp images on film (for non-scientific purposes, more or less).   Most importantly, if you like the look you are getting from a particular lens (the way it ‘draws’ or it’s ‘rendering’ in the language of those who are interested in the image, not how sharp it is), you have lost absolutely nothing. If you want a differen

I'm still using a 1950's Summicron collapsible, and find it excellent against my many 50mm lenses, for digi and film. I have no need or desire for a modern 50mm Summicron. They are all good. ...

yes its an amazing lens GFX + elcan 90 summicron Hello guest! Please register or sign in to view the hidden content. Hallo Gast! Du willst die Bilder sehen? Einfach registrieren oder anmelden! Hello guest! Please register or sign in to view the hidden content. Hallo Gast! Du willst die Bilder sehen? Einfach registrieren oder anmelden! Hello guest! Please register or sign in to view the hidden content. Hallo Gast! Du willst die Bilder sehen? Einfach registrieren oder anmelden

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Both your Type 1 (collapsible) and Type 3 Summicron's are terrific lenses, and will be great on film (or digital). I have Type 1 and Type 4 and in the end I prefer the haptics of the Type 1 so use that. In particular, the longer focus throw of the Type 1 makes it easier for me to focus by feel (not using the rangefinder patch). Your preferences for haptics may be quite different, and, if so, that is how it should be.

There is a difference in look between Type 1 and Type 4, the Type 4 is very perfect, really from f/2. The Type 1 is still very good at f/2, but noticeably more 'characterful', but from f/4 would be pretty hard to tell the difference. I don't care about the differences in look, but others might!

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Mike, do yourself a favour and don’t buy into the pixel peeping, APO justifying BS that only really emerged with digital. All M mount Leica lenses will produce acceptably sharp images on film (for non-scientific purposes, more or less).
 

Most importantly, if you like the look you are getting from a particular lens (the way it ‘draws’ or it’s ‘rendering’ in the language of those who are interested in the image, not how sharp it is), you have lost absolutely nothing. If you want a different look, use a different lens, or try a different film/exposure/developer/processing time/lab/time of day/framing, etc. 
 

Your Summicrons are both capable of producing stunning black and white images. You may prefer one over the other, all things being equal, but the limiting factor is probably behind the lens, not inside it … ;)

Enjoy :)


 

 

 

Edited by Mute-on
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I owned the modern Summicron and was amazed, but not captivated, by its excellent contrast AND resolution. To me it was too "perfect". Perhaps beneficial on high megapixel count digital cameras, but not necessary on film. It handled nicely, had a relatively short focus throw, and honestly was a beautiful looking lens. In the 1970-80s Leica portrayed its lenses as a fine blend of contrast and resolution...resulting in a visually appealing "sharpness". Vignetting almost disappeared into a long lost concept. In the end, though, I much preferred the overall rendering of the earlier collapsible Summicron...and I could easily tackle "sharpness" and contrast in digital post processing of the negatives (or files if used on a digital body). So much has been written, discussed, and debated about the changes in rendering of the Summicron over time. In the end I think it is a matter of individual taste which is more desirable...the classic or the modern. If your wallet has the capacity...get both and enjoy the best of both worlds.

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4 hours ago, MikeMyers said:

As a follow-up question, if I spent the money to upgrade to the latest model of this lens, how much of a difference would it make in image quality, for film, or for digital on a standard M10 ?

That depends. You may not notice any difference at all if you take pictures in ordinary conditions, i.e. the subject is front-lit, close to the center, shot at small to medium aperture, etc. Particularly if you don't enlarge the photo too much. But as soon as you do something a bit more adventurous, things will start to change. Try to shoot against the sun, or to focus on an off-center subject at one meter from the camera with the lens wide open, and the difference will most probably be not only noticeable, but downright huge. Especially if you look at those JPEGs made with the M10 on a 23" monitor.

Edited by Vlad Soare
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You could rent a lens and try to spot a difference. This one is an SL and stationed in Nuremberg, so not for your camera. I think, that an M-lens would be in the range of 55$ for a weekend too.

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8 hours ago, MikeMyers said:

For shooting on film, is the older Summicron at a disadvantage?

I think this is the wrong question. It all depends on the rendering you like. If you already have the lenses, give them a spin and see for yourself 😊.  
 

I had the summicron 50v4 and the summilux 50 asph. I sold them both in favour of older lenses (rigid, elmar f3.5 and summilux pre-asph). I want to try old ltm lenses now.  Some other photographers prefer the modern lenses. Nothing wrong, just different renderings and experience. 

Have fun exploring!

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There are so many variations possible in the film process that you won't notice any meaningful difference in sharpness between old or new Summicrons. Choice of film affects the end sharpness, exposure affects the end sharpness, choice of developer affects the end sharpness, the full list is longer. In among the infinite number of variables are your overriding personal preferences for film type etc. and the circumstances you find you are shooting under. A Leica Apo would certainly be overkill, and the times when everything comes together where it would noticeably demonstrate it's outright perfection rare on an M10 for any photographer.

If however it's simply GAS there's no harm in looking around for maybe something that is still as sharp but maybe offers a different character, for that at the moment I wouldn't hesitate to investigate the Voigtlander Apo Lanthar lenses.

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When I was bored long ago, I would sometimes make a comparison test between my M10 with the "Type 3" Summicron and my Nikon digital with various lenses, and when looking at the end results on my Asus 27" display, the Leica always showed more detail.   I'm not rich, and I've mostly used my older lens on my M10, and have continued to buy older lenses such as my TeleElmar 135.

Then I dug out my M3 and gradually started shooting film again.  I love the results, as long as I don't go into "comparisons".  Anyway, I rarely shoot at f/2 unless doing so on purpose for blurring the background.  Most of my photos are around f/5.6 or f/8.  With the M10 if it's bright and sunny, I usually have the ISO at 100 or 200.  I rarely go much over ISO 800.

8 hours ago, Mute-on said:

Mike, do yourself a favour and don’t buy into the pixel peeping, APO justifying BS that only really emerged with digital. All M mount Leica lenses will produce acceptably sharp images on film (for non-scientific purposes, more or less).

I hardly ever did that, until/unless I wanted specifically to create a large image where I wanted all the detail I could get.  My M8.2 was still excellent, unless I zoomed in way too much.  When I did comparisons, it was better than the Nikons I was using at that time.  Now the M10 with 24 megapixels has more than enough of those pixels that I don't feel any urge to upgrade to a newer model Leica with more.   Again, if I'm trying to see a huge image, I prefer my Summicron to my Nikon lenses (all older models too).  Having written all that, I don't really worry too much about it.  The results I am creating with my M10 and my older lenses are more than enough for anything I want to do.  As for detail, when I take a photo of the Miami skyline with me standing on my balcony on Miami Beach, unless I view at 100% I don't begin to see any lack of detail - and I figure if I want more detail, I should get a large format camera.   .....but, when I try this with my film cameras, I feel my resolution is limited by the film I'm using, which lately has been 400 ASA Ilford.  I expect I will go back to 100 ASA Ilford (or whatever) unless I need the higher speed.  But the bottom line, if I compare images taken with my M10 with the best film images I can capture with my M3, or M2, that ultra-clarity is no longer there.....      which most of the time doesn't matter, as to me, the images from film often look more pleasing than the images from digital.  My M3 is now off for a dunk in DAG's "fountain of youth", which it desperately needed.

 

5 hours ago, Vlad Soare said:

Try to shoot against the sun, or to focus on an off-center subject at one meter from the camera with the lens wide open, and the difference will most probably be not only noticeable, but downright huge. Especially if you look at those JPEGs made with the M10 on a 23" monitor.

If it's anything I care about, I only shoot in RAW, use PhotoMechanic to get my images onto my computer, use DxO PhotoLab4 for processing, and view my images on a 27" calibrated ASUS monitor.  For negatives, I scan them at 3600 DPI on a Plustek OpticFilm 8200i Ai scanner, then continue as with digital.

 

1 hour ago, 250swb said:

There are so many variations possible in the film process that you won't notice any meaningful difference in sharpness between old or new Summicrons. Choice of film affects the end sharpness, exposure affects the end sharpness, choice of developer affects the end sharpness, the full list is longer. In among the infinite number of variables are your overriding personal preferences for film type etc. and the circumstances you find you are shooting under. A Leica Apo would certainly be overkill, and the times when everything comes together where it would noticeably demonstrate it's outright perfection rare on an M10 for any photographer.

I haven't yet noticed any difference between my two Summicron 50's when it comes to image quality.  Yes, I now realize how choice of film is a major factor in image quality.  I have a professional photo processing lab do my developing.  I can't afford a Leica App, and I see no benefit from upgrading from my M10 (and I still enjoy my M8.2 when I use it).  I only started wondering about these things once I dug out my film cameras, one after another.

My M3 worked fine in the 1960's using Plus-X.  It's off at DAG Cameras.  My M2 needs a visit to DAG even more than my M3, but I'll do one at a time.  My Nikon F4 (after a long, long leaning curve) is now working fine, and the metering system is closest to what my M10 can do.  

 

I think you guys have answered my question.  I'll keep going with the lenses I already have, and stop looking around for something else.

 

1 hour ago, 250swb said:

If however it's simply GAS there's no harm in looking around for maybe something that is still as sharp but maybe offers a different character, for that at the moment I wouldn't hesitate to investigate the Voigtlander Apo Lanthar lenses.

I never heard of this lens.  In what way is it "different" from the Leica Summicron 50?

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41 minutes ago, MikeMyers said:

If it's anything I care about, I only shoot in RAW, use PhotoMechanic to get my images onto my computer, use DxO PhotoLab4 for processing, and view my images on a 27" calibrated ASUS monitor.  For negatives, I scan them at 3600 DPI on a Plustek OpticFilm 8200i Ai scanner, then continue as with digital.

Nice. That's a good workflow.
But this kind of workflow will definitely show big differences between old and new lenses in less than common situations. For instance, focus on an object 70cm away from the camera with a modern, APO-corrected, aspherical Summicron, wide open, then do the same with its grandpa from the fifties. Better still, place the subject off-center. And then compare both photos on that 27" monitor. You'll see what I mean.
Or try to take a picture with the sun in the frame, or better still, with the sun only barely outside the frame. Then compare the amount of flare you get with a contemporary lens (i.e. none, or next to none) to what you get with the old one (i.e. lots).

Old lenses are charming, they're good performers in their own right, they have lots of character, but modern ones are really different (I won't say "better", because that's subjective), and the difference is obvious if you know where to look. Anyone who says all lenses perform the same is probably only taking snapshots of front-lit subjects at three meters, at f/5.6 or higher. 

Edited by Vlad Soare
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This thread resonates with me, 100%.  I am a film-only M-shooter.  This is where the traditional Leica lenses really stand out, IMHO.  One of my favorites is my 1953 Summitar 50/2 collapsible (predecessor to the Summicron).  Love the look 🙂.  As you note, the key is to find examples with clean/clear optics.  Here are my 'traditional' Leica lenses...

1953 Summitar 50/2

1966 Tele-Elmar 135/4

1970 Summilux (v2) 50/1.4

1972 Summicron (v3) 50/2.0

1977 Tele-Elmarit (thin) 90/2.8

1981 Summicron-M (v4) 35/2 (perhaps a bit too modern for this list) 😉

I enjoy them all :D

Edited by Danner
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5 minutes ago, frame-it said:

ill try this with the 90 summicron

If you happen to have both the current 90mm Summicron and an older one, then please do, I will be very interested in a direct comparison. And I'm sure Mike would be, too.
I don't have a 90mm, but I do have the current version of the 75mm Summicron, and I'm really stunned by its performance up close, even wide open and off-center. Actually, I use it almost exclusively wide open; I've bought a couple of ND filters precisely for this purpose. :)

Edited by Vlad Soare
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I had all version of classic Cron 50. On film and digital. 

It depends on which film and what you like.

I don't like sterile rendering on BW film, nor I like so called retro rendering on color film or digital.

Based on this:

Collapsible is the king on bw darkroom prints.

Rigid, DR are great on color film, with slightly less saturated colors. I find them sterile on bw film.

50 typ 3 is OK on BW film, good on color film and digital.

50 typ 4 is totally sterile, lifeless on bw film and very good colors on film and digital.

I don't have any of them anymore. If I would invest into 50mm again, most likely it would be one of CV modern lenses. Their first version of 50-M 1.5  was very good on BW film and OK on digital with some purple fringing. 

I also liked 28 2.8 III, but sold it due to its size. And I'm keeping 35 2.5 because it is one of the best lenses for bw dr prints and awesome on digital.

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I've no idea what version my lenses are nor do I care to find out. I like the way they perform on my M9's (just posted a few shots from recently in the M9 photos thread). The only new lens I have for my Leicas is the 75mm Summarit f2.5 (there's a shot from that in the thread), on my film bodies I have really old lenses but you know what I get photos I like from all of them. One of my favourite photos came from my M9 and 50mm Summicron, a chance encounter at the Leica shop in London with another Leica shooter better known for his acting. I think my 50mm is the same type as the one in your opening post.

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