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The overlooked workhorse: 35mm Summarit


hansvons

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Some examples from my flickr stream

 

 

 

 

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hansvons

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  In the last half a year or so, I considered getting a third 35mm M lens for my three cameras (M6, M4P, SL2-S), as I shoot 95% of my work with 35mm lenses, b
Alberti

A still at 80cm & really wide open:

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So yes, what is that worth? I'ld go for it if it is mint. [My lens was €500 fifteen years ago; I had it CLA'd for €
hansvons

Flare torture test:

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  Sharpness at full aperture:

Posted Images

Allow me to jump in and share my experiences with this tiny, budget-friendly masterpiece.

For me, the 35mm focal length is a problem. Although there is a variety of options to choose from, the one lens that does it all for me seems out of reach.
I need to get close, so 0.7m is too limiting. I like clean images with modern, smooth bokeh, so some Leica and Voigtländer options are less than ideal.
So far, my only viable option was to have two separate 35mm lenses. A Nokton 35mm f/1.2 for close-up and available light shooting, and the Summarit 35mm as everyday walk around lens for street and architecture. You read about my experiences with the Nokton here.

The Summarit 35mm f/2.4 (in my case) can be summarised as small, light-weight and no-fuss Workhorse. It does as it is told. It will not add anything, nor will it hide anything. In my view, it is transparent but limited in its capabilities because of the 0.8m minimum focus distance and the maximum aperture of f/2.4.
Both limiting factors are within the grey area where it will still do the job for portraits with nice blurry backgrounds, but it could be better.

Build quality and handling

This is a Leica-made lens, for sure. But is also a budget Leica-made lens and that is evident. It looks and behaves very much as you might be used to from Leica but it is peculiarly light-weight. Everything is tight and smooth, so nothing to complain here. However, the aperture clicks are very high pitched (click click, as opposed to a more saturated clack clack) and can be changed by accident. The focus throw is very short, which makes the lens ideal for fast action in the field. The mechanism is smooth with very little resistance, reinforcing the feeling of light-weightedness. Again, the hard stops for close and infinity sound high pitched (aluminium click click vs brass clack clack).

So buyer beware, you will get a Leica quality lens with very little to complain about, but it just doesn't feel as nice in the field as some other offerings. I have had Voigtländers feel more solid and precious.

Optical Quality

This lens performs very well wide open. It is meant to be used at any aperture you desire with the focus on being available at your disposal at whichever setting the lens is required to be. In that sense, it feels like the Batman of lenses ("whatever Gotham needs me to be"). I could not detect any detriment to shooting wide open. There is barely any noticeable vignette, contrast and sharpness are wonderful and the out of focus areas are smooth and not jittery. Of course, at f/2.5 and min. 0.8m you will not get extreme amounts of bokeh but where it happens it looks fantastic. Clean, smooth, without character. Transparent.

There is a bit of barrel distortion in the DNG files, which can be accounted for nicely when using the Summarit profile in Capture One. I rarely feel the need to, though.

I am known to pixel-peep, because with a M10 Monochrome you can. I love finding details at 200 or even 300% that make me go "Damn!". However, I understand that is a pet peeve of mine and does not add value to an image (at least only to a degree). That being said, I have not encountered any instance where the lens lacked detail. I closely compared it to the Voigtländer 35mm Nokton f/1.2 and let's be honest, both are great. I feel both have the capacity to outperform the sensor of the M10 Monochrome, especially when stopped down a bit. The Summarit 35mm is not a "vintage design dreamy lens". It is geared towards performance.

This lens will get the job done but it does not provide any magic, except for the absence of magic, which I believe is the more difficult technical achievement. I attribute this quality to the very minimalistic optical design with only 6 elements.

Unexpected findings and Quirks

As I said, I shoot with the M10 Monochrome and as such, I love to use orange and red filters for dramatic contrast and dark skies. This is one of the main use-cases for shooting a B&W sensor, to me. It is known that color filters, especially in the red spectrum, can cause focus shift. I have not encountered this phenomenon in my modern lenses, so I was under the impression this is more an issue for vintage lens designs. As it turns out, the Summarit 35mm exhibits EXTREME Focus shift with red and orange filters

At first I thought I must have made a mistake but I was able to replicate this phenomenon numerous times in controlled conditions. I focus on an object, take an image, add the orange filter without touching the lens and repeat, do the same with a red filter. You can clearly see the focal plane creep away from the sensor. Less so with orange, quite significantly with red. This makes shooting the Summarit 35mm with an orange filter permanently attached (as I like to do) AND using the rangefinder to focus almost impossible. Keep this in mind if you shoot B&W sensors or even worse film! I will need to stick with the LCD for these instances, which is a real bummer.

The Voigtländer 35mm does not exhibit this behaviour in a noticeable extend, so I assume this has to do with the Summarit not being properly corrected for red-shifted light (again, only 6 elements).

 

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1 hour ago, Lesslemming said:

Unexpected findings and Quirks

..... the Summarit 35mm exhibits EXTREME Focus shift with red and orange filters

At first I thought I must have made a mistake but I was able to replicate this phenomenon numerous times in controlled conditions. I focus on an object, take an image, add the orange filter without touching the lens and repeat, do the same with a red filter. You can clearly see the focal plane creep away from the sensor. Less so with orange, quite significantly with red. This makes shooting the Summarit 35mm with an orange filter permanently attached (as I like to do) AND using the rangefinder to focus almost impossible. Keep this in mind if you shoot B&W sensors or even worse film! I will need to stick with the LCD for these instances, which is a real bummer.

The Voigtländer 35mm does not exhibit this behaviour in a noticeable extend, so I assume this has to do with the Summarit not being properly corrected for red-shifted light (again, only 6 elements).

This cannot be. You are not seeing focus shift due to colour focus variation because if this was the case then colour photographs would exhibit significant flaws too because red objects would appear fuzzy from your description (and this is not so!). I'd say this is much more likely due to a filter issue - the thickness of the filter you are using - and not the lens.

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46 minutes ago, pgk said:

This cannot be. You are not seeing focus shift due to colour focus variation because if this was the case then colour photographs would exhibit significant flaws too because red objects would appear fuzzy from your description (and this is not so!). I'd say this is much more likely due to a filter issue - the thickness of the filter you are using - and not the lens.

Behold what cannot be.

 

I did not move the camera or change the focus. 
The filters used are B+W light red and Heliopan Slim Orange (doesn't get thinner than those).

Summarit 35mm f/2.4 wide open

 

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Vs. Nokton 35mm 1.2 wide open

 

Disclaimer: I honestly do not know the cause for this.

Edited by Lesslemming
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1 hour ago, Lesslemming said:

Behold what cannot be.

I’m not disagreeing with the shift, just the reason. At a guess I’d suggest that the Summarit is sensitive to filters with varying thickness of filter glass perhaps? What it will not be is the colour as this would show up on B&W and colour sensors. One way to check this would be to focus then position the filters some way in front of the lens and see what effect this has. My Summarit has a Leica UV filter which shows no discernible focus shift that I’ve noticed so I would think that your filters are the cause, but not the colour of them.

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4 hours ago, pgk said:

One way to check this would be to focus then position the filters some way in front of the lens and see what effect this has.

I actually did that and did not find a difference.
Also, there is really no thinner filters than the ones I am using, so for all intents and purposes this effect is inevitable for the Summarit 35mm.

Posts like this and this one lead me to believe the correction for red might be at fault. The common denominator with my experiences is the shift towards infrared light becoming dominant when going from none to orange to red in increasing order of magnitude. Infrared is simply negligible when shooting normal or in colour, hence the problem is not apparent.

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It could be an IR component but testing to find out could be messy. But I very much doubt that its visible light because it would show up as softness around red subject matter if it was.

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On 2/24/2024 at 10:37 AM, Lesslemming said:

Unexpected findings and Quirks

My filters don't shift focus on my copy. I would think that perhaps the lens’ retro-focus design (I assume that, don't know it) may be sensible to filter thickness and distance to the front lens. I would think that attributing this to the coatings being less/more sensible to red light is unlikely as this would be visible in regular, non-filtered images. However, I read that IR filtering can cause focus shifts. Perhaps you are up to something. 

Anyway, I can relate to your assessment on the lens’ character. Good findings!! 

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Am 24.2.2024 um 12:34 schrieb Lesslemming:

Behold what cannot be.

 

I did not move the camera or change the focus. 
The filters used are B+W light red and Heliopan Slim Orange (doesn't get thinner than those).

Summarit 35mm f/2.4 wide open

 

 

 

Vs. Nokton 35mm 1.2 wide open

 

Disclaimer: I honestly do not know the cause for this.

quite interesting.

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  • 1 month later...
Posted (edited)

Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia Pa

Leica M10M, 35 Summarit 2.4, B+W yellow filter

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Edited by JTH 36
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Posted (edited)

I’m curious about this lens. A couple of years ago I owned a 35 FLE, then sold it to head in a more “classic” direction. Right now my only 35 is the Steel Rim Reissue. But I sometimes miss having a “simple” 35mm. I have a 50mm f/2.5 Summarit and really like using it; I enjoy the rendering and the haptics. And the 35 is so affordable!

Edited by JoshuaRothman
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3 hours ago, JoshuaRothman said:

I’m curious about this lens. A couple of years ago I owned a 35 FLE, then sold it to head in a more “classic” direction. Right now my only 35 is the Steel Rim Reissue. But I sometimes miss having a “simple” 35mm. I have a 50mm f/2.5 Summarit and really like using it; I enjoy the rendering and the haptics. And the 35 is so affordable!

I recommend it. It is such a neat lens and surprises me time and again with being so no-fuss and lightweight.

 

I would also like to amend my earlier comment about orange filters. Indeed, the focus shift with the red filter is too significant for me to rely on the viewfinder. However, with the orange filter I can get away with it almost all of the time, even close up and wide open. The focus shift with orange is just not that significant 

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8 hours ago, JoshuaRothman said:

I’m curious about this lens. A couple of years ago I owned a 35 FLE, then sold it to head in a more “classic” direction. Right now my only 35 is the Steel Rim Reissue. But I sometimes miss having a “simple” 35mm. I have a 50mm f/2.5 Summarit and really like using it; I enjoy the rendering and the haptics. And the 35 is so affordable!

I have both 35 & 50 (2.5) Summarits, and love both for the size and handling (which are identical for both - easy to switch back and forth). They are now my main lenses on my M10, while my Summicrons, Summilux, and other faster lenses either stay on film cameras or in storage. Get the 35!

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On 12/27/2023 at 6:06 AM, logan2z said:

The 35/2.4 Summarit was my first M lens and I shot with it exclusively for a few years.  I own a bunch of other Leica M lenses now and, despite it being the least expensive, the Summarit more than holds it's own.  I have the 75/2.4 as well and it's also a very nice lens, although it's not a focal length I shoot much.  

The 35/ 2.5 Summarit is my first Leica lens and I have no regrets and I echo everything you all are saying because it ticks so many boxes for me. I recently did a video reflecting on the use of a 35mm for a full year. 

One Lens, a full year.

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