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35mm: King of Bokeh vs. True King of Bokeh vs. Summilux V2 (with image download)


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So, it's time for a 35mm and I already know that I prefer a somewhat vintage look on my M10. So the three contenders are in the title. Even though 35 is a really classic focal length, options are relatively expensive. So I want to be sure the one I get will be a keeper. I really liked what I've see from the Steel Rim reissue (SRR), so despite the price and all it's apparent problems, it's a strong contender. As a “cheap” alternative, I also want to test the Summilux 35 V2. And of course, the King of Bokeh (Summicron 35 V4 made in Germany, KOB) is also on the list.

Sadly, I will have to return two of my candidates anyway, the KOB has a scratch right in the middle of the rear lens and the SRRs focus ring is all over the place changing between soft and stiff movement. Almost impossible to focus.

I did a couple of test shots with all three today, these are my first impressions. I don't really do this in a scientific way, but more in an everyday kind of situation. Camera on fixed WB, auto shutter speed and then I shoot various situations with F1.4/F2/F2.8/F4. No lens hood, no tripod, so there is always room for error, but this is how I will use it anyway.

I don't want to upload all the images to the forum, so I'll just add one sequence. But if you want to have a look for yourselfs, here is a link to all the photos.
Metadata should be included, but the aperture is mostly wrong. If you download the folders and sort by name, it is always a sequence of F(1.4), 2, 2.8, 4 for each motive from each lens. Happy to hear your thoughts!

https://cloud.roland-kersting.de/index.php/s/kRcp8keo4XJCfyT

Here are my first impressions:

The KOB is everything I hoped it would be. Wide open, it renders in a vintage kind of way with minimal glow in the corners and beautiful colours that tend a bit towards the greener end. The look is somewhat pastel-y and creamy wide open. Really like that. Contrast is really good as well. The bokeh is indeed special. Would not say perfect, because it can be rather busy, but it has it's own character and is very recognisable. Closed down a bit, it gets less busy but retains the beautiful colours, but with a bit more contrast. But it doesn't really change it's character between F2-4.

The SRR is something else wide open. Luckily, the glow is not as overwhelming as I expected. I wouldn't want it all the time, but for certain situations, it surely can be an interesting option. The colours are more modern looking. A bit cooler than the KOB, more magenta. While the KOB achieves it's vintage look with the way it renders the colours, the SRR is doing an interesting mix with the vintage glow and the modern(ish) colours. At F2, I find it hard to distinguish the two! Yes, the colours are still different, but they are very close in character. I find the bokeh extremely similar from F2 onwards. If anything, the SRR seems to produce slightly larger bokeh balls than the other two at corresponding apertures, but the overall look is very similar. So basically, the SRR is what I hoped for, two lenses in one. But also at almost double the price.

The V2 is somewhere in the middle of everything. It shares the colours and vintage pastel-y look with the KOB with even less magenta. Also less contrast at corresponding apertures. Wide open, it shares the glow aspect with the SRR, but again with less contrast. A full on vintage experience. Also, it has by far the strongest vignetting of the three. Bokeh is similar to the other two, but less intense. Maybe because of the overall less contrast, the bokeh isn't as image defining as with the other two. Probably good if you don't want it to be distracting, but since the KOB has such a distinctive bokeh, which the SRR emulates pretty good, this is a bit boring. The V2 also needs to be stopped down more before catching up to the other two regarding overall sharpness and contrast.

What is kinda annoying is the minimum focus distance of the SRR and V2. For portraits, I don't really mind it, because everything closer than 1m feels a bit invasive to the subject. I can get a shot of head and shoulders at 1m, that seems close enough. But when I tried to get some shots of details like single flowers, the 0.7 of the KOB makes all the difference!

So let's see if I can manage a pro/con list already.

King of Bokeh:

Pros:
best contrast at F/2
great colours
full of character
MFD 0.7m
cheapest option (but not by much)

Cons:
no F/1.4 (and similar rendering at all tested apertures)

Steel Rim Reissue:

Pros:
very interesting look wide open
similar to KOB from F/2
good contrast

Cons:
very expensive
colours no exactly to my taste (in direct comparison)
MFD 1m

Summilux V2:

Pros:
great colours at all apertures
also two lenses in one with distinctive looks wide open and from F/2
price somewhere in the middle (is this even a pro? It's still expensive)

Cons:
strong vignetting
must be stopped down furthest for best sharpness/contrast
least character
MFD 1m
 

So far, there is no real winner for me. From the list, the KOB has no cons besides the missing F/1.4. Problem is, I really like the look of the other two wide open. But is it worth the extra money and other cons? Will have to sleep on it. I like them all and think I could be happy keeping each, but that doesn't make it easier to choose. If only Leica had given the SRR an MFD of 0.7. Then I'd just break the bank and go for it.

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KOB @ F2

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SRR @ F1.4

 

SRR @ F2

 

 

 

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V2 @ F1.4

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V2 @ F2

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I did something very similar just the other day with my three 35mm lenses: the Steel Rim Reissue, Summicron v3, and Summarit f/2.5. Sure enough, I discovered that they’re all awesome and that they all have little pros and cons. The 1 meter MFD is the biggest downside of the SRR for me. But overall I prefer its particular mix of vintage glow and modern color. I’m planning to sell my other two 35mm lenses (especially since, nowadays, I tend to shoot 28mm more).

It’s the curse of the M system. Too many good lenses, all excellent in slightly different ways!

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Yeah, if I could, I would keep them all. But I can really just have one. I somehow tend towards the SRR as well, it just looks so amazing on the silver M10. But I dread finding a good copy.

And I just found out the the V2 I've got here was made in the year I was born. Which somehow gave it a boost in popularity 🤣 

The longer I look at the images, the more I come to the conclusion that the KOB would be the sensible choice. It's great at F/2, has the best MFD and is the cheapest option. And probably has the best resale value, should I ever want to get rid of it.  But I think I would really miss the possibility to glow things up sometimes.

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vor 5 Minuten schrieb JoshuaRothman:

... and Summarit f/2.5.

The Summarit-M 35 mm 1:2.5 was my strongest lens ever (not only among M lenses but generally) with regard to back-light reflections, flares, and veiling glare. The best lens for scot-free shooting into the light ... until the Apo-Summicron-M 35 mm Asph came along.

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Thank you for this interesting comparison! 

If someone has both lenses, I have also always wanted to see a similar comparison between the 50mm Summilux pre-ASPH v3 and 50mm Summicron v5.

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Posted (edited)

Thank you for this comparison.
Let me point out that there seems to be an other contender for the KOB, namely the LLL remake.

Also, do not rule out Summicron 35 v1-v3.  See this thread about all vintage Summicron 35 s and the Summilux 35 as well as the LLL reissue of the 8-element.


 

Edited by dpitt
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1 hour ago, 01af said:

The Summarit-M 35 mm 1:2.5 was my strongest lens ever (not only among M lenses but generally) with regard to back-light reflections, flares, and veiling glare. The best lens for scot-free shooting into the light ... until the Apo-Summicron-M 35 mm Asph came along.

For me it’s the Zeiss 35 mm C-Biogon f/2.8 ZM. I have never seen mine flare (or lose much contrast) under any lighting condition. Pretty amazing. Is the Summarit also like this?

The 35 mm Apo-Summicron is too heavy for an f/2 lens for my taste. At 300 grams I prefer the 35 mm Summilux Asph (pre-FLE), which is not-at-all flare resistant but has other strong traits… 

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vor 55 Minuten schrieb evikne:

Thank you for this interesting comparison! 

If someone has both lenses, I have also always wanted to see a similar comparison between the 50mm Summilux pre-ASPH v3 and 50mm Summicron v5.

I did the Summilux V2 vs. Summicron V5 a while back. It's not as extensive as what I did here but an actual portrait shoot. If you're interested, I'll dig through my archive and see what I can find.

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Posted (edited)
vor 43 Minuten schrieb roelandinho:
vor 2 Stunden schrieb 01af:

The Summarit-M 35 mm 1:2.5 was my strongest lens ever ... with regard to back-light reflections, flares, and veiling glare.

For me it’s the Zeiss C-Biogon 35 mm 1:2.8 ZM.

Okay—I compared my Summarit-M 35 mm to many lenses but not to the C-Biogon 35 mm ZM. So a shoot-out between these two would be interesting ...

Edited by 01af
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Between these 3 lenses, the KOB takes the cake. At F2 it is truly stunning and has a great rendition in the out of focus area but where the magic truly begins is at f/4. Great contrast and color rendition. 

The only flaw of the KOB is ... against the light, I am not crazy about how it flares when shooting into the sun, for this I much prefer the Steel Rim Re-Issue yet, that minimum focusing distance of 1m is a bummer. 
 

I'll take the bad flare over a greater minimum focusing distance, a foot is a foot and it can make a huge difference when making portraits of friends and family. 

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Posted (edited)

This morning, I opened up Lightroom and typed "35 mm" into the search box. While taking breaks from work, I looked through a few years' worth of 35mm pictures, mostly of my family, taken with the Lux FLE, Cron v3, Cron ASPH, Summarit f/2.5, and Steel Rim Reissue, and also the CV Nokton f/1.4 MC and SC and Ultron, on M2, MP, M6, M10, M10-R, and M10M. (I no longer own all this stuff.)

Conclusions:

  • I've spent way too much time and money trying out 35mm lenses.
  • All the lenses produced fantastic results.
  • I actually can identify which lens I used just by looking at the pictures! (Not all the time, but some of the time for sure.) So it's not entirely crazy to have tried them all—just somewhat crazy.
  • My personal favorite renderings are the Steel Rim Reissue and Summicron v3. But, for real, they all look great; I think my preferences just reflect my taste for slightly vintage rendering.
  • When I bought the FLE, I shot everything at f/1.4 and thought it looked so cool. But most of my 35mm pictures are at f/2 or slower and it's perfectly fine. (I sold the FLE.)
  • I sometimes crop in on my Steel Rim pictures because of the 1m MFD, but it's no big deal.

The bottom line is that, assuming your requirements aren't hyper-specific, you can't really go wrong in choosing a 35mm lens. Certainly image quality is unlikely to be the decisive factor. I use the Steel Rim Reissue the most because I like the way it looks and feels as a physical object, and because I appreciate the possibility of occasional wild flare or funky rendering in what is otherwise a kind of boring focal length. Not because it's a "better" lens.

Really, the biggest surprise is how much my years-long, habitual use of 35mm has given way to a 28mm + 50mm pair in the past year or so. So why the heck do I own three 35mm lenses?!?!

Edited by JoshuaRothman
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46 minutes ago, 01af said:

Okay—I compared my Summarit-M 35 mm to many lenses but not to the C-Biogon 35 mm ZM. So a shoot-out between these two would be interesting ...

Yes it would! An extra half-stop, a proper focus tab, the Leica design language with comparable size/weight and image quality to the Zeiss 35 2.8 would be a winner for me. 

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Posted (edited)

I'm a steel rim reissue fan. And my copy with 12/23 build date in terms of mechanics and tight aperture ring is perfect.

I haven't seen any other 35mm lens that has the same look as the SRR wide open, and i'm absolutely in love with that rendering. And yet, stopped down to 2.8 and beyond it's tack sharp. I think it's an all in one lens, but only for people who crave its wide open rendering - like these:

Bottom line: the SRR is hands down my favorite lens.

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Edited by brickftl
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4 hours ago, 01af said:

The Summarit-M 35 mm 1:2.5 was my strongest lens ever (not only among M lenses but generally) with regard to back-light reflections, flares, and veiling glare. The best lens for scot-free shooting into the light ... until the Apo-Summicron-M 35 mm Asph came along.

E. Puts praised Summarit for same, attributed in part to blackening at rear of lens.  I never understood why, if it were that simple, all Leica lenses didn’t at least receive similar treatment. Thoughts?

Jeff

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A few years back, I was talking to Stefan Daniel on the phone about my "rediscovering" my v2 35 Summilux. I made the statement that it was two lenses in one, with such different characteristics wide open and stopped down. I had been using this lens since 1972, transitioning to the ASPH in 1994. Stefan surprised me when he said, "you guessed what the new retro lens will be!". Really caught me by surprise, and it took me a few seconds to understand what he was saying. My good friend Milan did a lot of pre-production testing with it. I am glad it became a reality!

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Posted (edited)

Let's all stop calling the 35 IV "king of bokeh". Even Mike Johnston who coined the incidental phrase in 1997 has repented...

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Edited by Al Brown
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1 minute ago, Al Brown said:

Let's all stop calling the 35 IV "king of bokeh". Even Mike Johnston who coined the incidental phrase in 1997 has repented...

I bet most people on this forum know this already. Nothing wrong with this nickname because

1. it has become part of the culture and

2. it is also a bit funny because it’s quite obvious the bokeh of this lens is nothing special. 
 

A lovely bit of folklore nonsense to confuse newcomers 🙂

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