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Zeiss C-Sonnar 50/1.5 & M9


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I've been using my Zeiss Sonnar on the M8 & now on the M9 no focus shift issues at all. This lens displays different characteristics at different apertures, wide open it's renders softer classic style images and sharpens up from f2 onwards. It's an interesting lens, not everyone's cup of tea, I enjoy using it precisely for the different style images that it renders.

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A few hard facts are at http://www.zeiss.de/photo which you of course may have visited. Look at the MTF curves in the corners ... there may be no focus shift (this does not show up in the curves, because focus is adjusted for every aperture) but curvature of field there certainly is. There is really no discernible image in the corners even stopped down! This curvature was one of the problems of the original Zeiss Contax Sonnar lenses of the 1930's, and the C-Sonnar is one of the few Zeiss ZM lenses where you can actually see the supposed design heritage that the name suggests -- look at that strange rear group with its three cemented elements. Very 1930's Jena --- there seems to be a large element of nostalgia in the design.


I do not go for nostalgia. Your mileage may vary, but the 1930's were a horrible decade in a horrible century. I was there.


The old man from the Age of Adolf Hitler

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Thanks for your replies,


I was looking for to use this lens as a portrait lens on the M9.


Lars, regarding MTF's. I know it is not a good thing to compare lenses of different FL's, but nevertheless, the Summilux 75/1.4, which is renowned as a portrait lens has MTF data that are not very impressive, and it a big, heavy thing. The MTF data for the Sonnar look better to my eye.


I would really appreciate some samples of the C-Sonnar on the M9.



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HI Horea


I've used this lens on the M9 (it was one of my very favorites on the M8). I can't upload any samples right now as my son has nabbed it to go on his E-P1.


However - for me, the soft edges and corners, which were not to much of a problem on the M8, were a problem on the M9. BUT - if you are going to use it for portraits that shouldn't matter, on the other hand it's no longer really long enough.


Focus shift isn't too much of an issue (no more than it was on the M8), but it is there.


I bought a 50 'lux in the end, but you may feel differently

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I have been looking for a thread like this one. From what I understand the Zeiss lenses function without problem on the M9? Does one need to punch in a program or select a code for the Zeiss lenses? Another question: If lenses are not coded will the correct framelines appear and function as on a film camera? According to K. Rockwell he states that coded lenses just adds lens data to the recorded image. Thank you.

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Jono, your input is very appreciated. Maybe you can manage to post some images once you get the lens in your hands.


I think that for 50 mm lenses coding isn't necessary for the in-camera vignetting correction. but that, obviously, the lens will not be identified correctly from the exif. Maybe the closest Leica lens for coding the C-Sonnar would be the pre-asph Summilux.


I am intrigued by the C-Sonnar by having seen its Flickr group, where I've seen gorgeous B&W portraits shot with it. Tom Abrammson and Roger Hicks are very fond of this little lens, Tom stating that it's his favourite 50 mm ever.

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I do not have an M9. I use this lens on my M6 with results that I am more than pleased with to date. I have never noticed the shift. I do not even know which shift this particular lens has. Supposedly there were two lens produced with different shifts, f1.5 & f2.8. The shift occurs at its miniumum focus distance. I have used this lens from f1.5 and f2.8 but not at the minimum focal distance with very good results. At 10 feet which I did most of my shooting you can not determine any shift. The images are softer overall. It does give the feeling of the 1950's.

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I have been looking for a thread like this one. From what I understand the Zeiss lenses function without problem on the M9? Does one need to punch in a program or select a code for the Zeiss lenses? Another question: If lenses are not coded will the correct framelines appear and function as on a film camera? According to K. Rockwell he states that coded lenses just adds lens data to the recorded image. Thank you.

Some basics: A 50mm Zeiss ZM lens will key in the correct framelines. With lenses shorter than 28mm this will usually not be the case, but the lenses can be supplied on order with bayonets that key properly with a Leica M.

Mr Rockwell is wrong (as usual). The six bit coding plus the frameline keying identify the lens to the camera. The camera software has an algorithm to correct for the vignetting of this particular lens and also for the colour shifts due to the combination of the lens and the over-sensor IR filter. You do need the coding.


Older un-coded Leica M lenses can be manually identified with the aid of the 'uncoded lens menu'. They, and 'alien' lenses, can also be coded by a modification of the bayonet (milling six recesses that you colour-code yourself). Several craftsmen can do this unofficial skuldugggery. Also, Leica can retro-code many of their older lenses, and of course all current lenses made before the introduction of coding, such as my 2004 50mm Summilux ASPH. In my opinion, the manual menu is an expedient that is good for experiments, and for seldom used lenses, but not for daily routine use.


The old man from the Age of Enigma Decoding

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Horosu: There is a very inexpensive way to see if you like the "Sonnar" look. Pick up a Jupiter-8 LTM lens and a 50mm LTM to M bayonet adapter. The Jupiter-8 is a Soviet copy of the old Zeiss 50/2 Sonnar. Here is a shot with the Jupiter-8 on the M8 at f/2.5. The Ziess 50/1.5 will have a similar character, but be contrastier because of the modern coatings.



Digital cameras show lens focus shift more than film. So you may have to compensate slightly at different apertures. Tom A doesn't notice focus shift much if at all, but he shoots film. The Zeiss 50/1.5 can be adjusted at the factory to either focus properly at f/1.5 and have a small back focus at narrower apertures, or to be correct at f/2.8 and narrower, and front focus slightly at wider apertures.


smb: Many people use Zeiss lenses on the M8 and are very satisfied. Yes, Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses can be coded. For screw-mount lenses, you can get one of the new-style Voigtlander adapters, which have a recessed ring on the mount so you can make make marks with a "Sharpie," model paint, nail polish or whatever, and it won't rub off. The newest model Voigtlanders have this recessed ring on their M-mount. Even better are John Milich's adapters, which have recessed "pits" in the correct places that you can paint.


DAG camera repair or John Milich can mill the proper pits on many lens' mounts so that you can paint them easily in the proper places. Then there's the Match Technical Services coding kit, which has a plastic template and a special marker pen. I've used it successfully on a couple of my lenses, where the marks last a long time On others, they rub off quickly.


On the M8, coding compensated for both corner vignetting and the cyan shift in the corners caused by external IR cut filters. It was necessary with lenses 28mm and wider, nice with 35mm (but you could usually get away without it), and not necessary for 50mm and longer. Only time will tell how necessary using lens codes are.


The M9 has a lens selection menu. So if you get an M9, you can use the menu to try out a borrowed or rented lens, see how you like it, and they purchase accordingly. For non-Leica lenses, you just pick one of the closest Leica equivalents, and shoot away. It's usually fine.


For what it's worth, I coded my 35 and 28mm lenses for the M8, and didn't bother with 50mm and above (except that I sometimes use the Match Technical coder on my 50 Summicron, which will hold the hand-coded marks for a while).


All of this is a long-winded way of saying, "Don't sweat the small stuff." If you truly prefer a Zeiss or Voigtlander lens, the odds are you'll find a way to code it if you need to.

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My follow up question: Can Zeiss lenses and for that matter Voigtlander lenses be coded? And, what are the negative effects of using those lenses on the M9 as compared to the M6, M7? Is there enough data available to ascertain this?

Both recent ZM and C/V lenses come with bayonets that (a) are relieved to permit marker-pen coding to stay on longer, and (B) have no screws in the coding area, which is more important. See to it specifically that you get these new versions, because dealers may have older lenses on their shelves.


That said, I bought some time ago (before the above changes) a ZM Distagon, whereupon I first got a bayonet for it that coded for the 28/90 frames (instead of 50/75, which is Zeiss standard for their own Zeiss Ikon cameras) and then I had John Milich do the recesses. With the new bayonet in place I simply painted over the offending screwhead, and the M8 had no objections. So it does work, but the current bayonet style is of course neater.


The correct codes of Leica lenses, and suitable codes for many 'aliens', are found at


I recommend that you have a competent camera mechanic (not a reformed key-cutter) remove and replace the bayonet.


The old man with the screwdriver.

Edited by lars_bergquist
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I would like to point out that the M9, where rays will hit sensor edges and corners at more acute angles than with the M8, should be more sensitive to vignetting and 'internal color shifts', and reports confirm this. While you could get away with many an uncoded 35mm lens on a M8, you are now recommended that at least lenses up to 50mm must be coded. (Leica, of course, say everything plus the kitchen sink.)


There is the question what will happen if you have the camera set to auto lens recognition, and mount an uncoded 75 or 90mm lens. We shall see. That will be one of the first tests I will be doing when my hoped-for M9 arrives. Or maybe someone here has already done that?


The old man from the Age of Slot Screwheads

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