Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2000/08/06

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Summicron quality
From: "Hans Pahlen" <>
Date: Sun, 6 Aug 2000 20:13:45 +0200
References: <000001bfffd0$b52d7980$943140c3@pbncomputer>

This is very interesting. Have you compared the early rigid version or DR with late production samples too?

I spent a day at the Hasselblad factory in Gothenburg a year ago, together with the people who design new lenses. They told me that they had tested a lot of 50 mm lenses for 35 mm cameras in the mid 1990:s, and that the current Summicron 50 was the best 50 mm lens on the market in terms of resolution and contrast, in fact they said it was _in a league of it's own_. (This extensive test was made for a photo mag)

Now, we all know that there are a lot of people who like the Summicron DR a lot. They believe what they actually see with their own eyes, and swear by it. I can understand them, as I have a lot of superb images made by this lens (from Kodachrome 25 slides to Tri-X rated at 1600 ASA blown up to huge enlargements for exhibitions). During the years when I was a working photographer, many other photographers asked me what lens I used for these prints. I have not kept any record of serial number for this specific lens, maybe it was a late production. I bought it used in 1974, but traded it for the current when I got my first M6 in 1987.
Why are so many impressed by the old Summicron, and not you, Erwin? Maybe the answer is that the lens was upgraded more than once? It would be very interesting to follow up the article in Viewfinder concerning the unofficial mid 1960:s upgrade. Maybe the later production rigid and DR:s are close to the 11817 Summicron in performance? 

(I am only speculating...)

Best regards,

> "In 1954 Leitz introduced the Summicron 7-element lens, with visibly
> improved imagery compared to the predecessor. It still is a low contrast
> lens at the wider apertures, which introduces flare and reduces the
> rendition of fine detail. At the medium apertures the improved colour
> correction brings very fine and subtly graded images which exploited the
> colour material of its days.Several companies were working in the same
> direction, notably Nikon, Voigtlander and Zeiss, which gave the Leitz lens
> stiff competition.
> After 1964 the new Summicron for the R-body introduced a new level of
> optical performance, that the M-version could not match. From now on the
> Summicron-R defined the level of performance for a 2/50 standard lens. The
> 7-element lens was indeed replaced by a new M-version in 1969 that closely
> follows the R-design. In absolute terms the older Summicron is not as good
> as the newer version, but still delivers good imagery for many situations.
> For best results the newer version should be recommended. The older version
> may appeal to people who admire mechanical craftmanship, but in its optical
> properties it is surpassed by newer designs."
> We should never descbe a lens in terms of sharpness and/or resolution as
> these concepts are subjective to the extreme (sharpness) and in most cases
> irrelevant for image assessment (resolution).
> Erwin

In reply to: Message from "Erwin Puts" <> ([Leica] Summicron quality)