Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2001/12/14

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Subject: RE: [Leica] what first Lens?? Very long response
From: "Zeissler, Mitch" <>
Date: Fri, 14 Dec 2001 10:36:00 -0500


I, too, have gone through the agony of lens purchasing as a Leica
beginner these past many months.

On Christmas day three years ago, my father-in-law gave me his old
non-functioning Leica kits as a gift; I had the M3 and three lenses
[Summaron 35, collapsible Summicron 50, Hektor 135] CLA'd at high
expense within 5 months, after selling off all my other hobbies to fund
the repairs.  While the M3 was in the shop, I was lucky enough to
purchase an early Noctilux f/1.0 at a somewhat reasonable price, through
the LHSA.  The IIIf was fixed at affordable expense within 11 months and
the screwmount Xenon 50 within a few months after that, again at high
expense.  In retrospect, it would have been cheaper to buy new or
newer-used gear, but these were family heirlooms, so they were given
tender loving care.

As more funds slowly became available, I picked up some of the
inexpensive Voigtländer offerings [21, 25, 28, 35, 50].  More recently I
purchased used Leica 90 and 135 lenses [about the same price as new
Voigtländer gear], and a new Leica screwmount Summicron 50 [about the
same price as a new M mount].

I mention all of this because I have now had 1930's, 50s, 70's, 80's,
and 90's era Leica glass, as well as current Voigtländer lenses to
compare together.

When I first started using the 50's era Leica glass after it was CLA'd,
I was amazed that it appeared to produce images as good as much of the
current glass on the market.  Then I started making critical comparisons
of the old glass with stopped-down long exposure images from the
Noctilux [all shots were taken at f/16 for 10 to 30 seconds apiece, shot
from the same brick of Kodak Royal Gold 100 print film stock, processed
and printed by the same lab at the same time; I got the same results
when scanning].

Big differences.  The old glass had *much* warmer tones that did not
exist in reality; the Noct produced shots that were much truer in color.
Additionally, the old glass had veiled flare that the Noct was lacking.
I attribute this to newer multi-coating on the Noct that was unavailable
on the old glass.  That said, however, I began to see the flare and warm
tones in every shot that I took with the old glass, so I began to avoid

Then the 1936 uncoated screwmount Xenon f/1.5 50mm came back from
servicing.  Tightly controlled B&W indoor shots had nice, dreamy
renditions.  However, any *normal* color shooting had artifacting that
is unacceptable by normal modern standards; bad flare, bad bokeh, etc.
This was one of the worse lenses I have ever used and really should be
considered a collector item more than anything else.  An example can be
seen at the following URL:

Frustrated by the fact I was becoming a Leica snob (and the lack of
corresponding Leica snob funds ;-), I began to pickup Voigtländer glass
to start making a decision on what my next Leica purchase would be.  In
the meantime, I sold all of the old Leica glass to save up for some new
big-ticket Leica lenses.

- - I purchased the Cosina 25mm first; slow lens with decent results, but
would avoid it now, as it does *not* couple with the rangefinder and the
viewfinder does *not* accurately reflect the lens coverage.  

- - The Voigtländer 35mm f/1.7 was second; *very* nice lens with good
speed, sharp images and bokeh similar to some of the older Leica 35mm
designs.  Excellent glass for the price; highly recommended.

- - I picked up the Voigtländer 50mm f/1.5 while my Noctilux was being
serviced in Solms; very good speed, delivers plenty sharp images, but
somewhat harsh bokeh.  This is a very decent 50 for a first lens, though
it may be too big for some.

- - The Voigtländer 28mm f/1.9 was next; good speed and *nice* results.
This lens, in my opinion, is the closest Voigtländer has come in build
quality to Leica lens construction.  Again, excellent glass for the
price; highly recommended.

- - Picked up the Voigtländer 21mm last here in the past few months; not a
fast lens and it is frustrating to work with when the light begins to
fade, but it does deliver good results.  Not to be used for creating
panoramas, as there is too much distortion at the edges.

Finally, I purchased a new screwmount Leica Summicron 50mm as a splurge
more recently and have been getting the first films processed and
scanned from it.  WOW!!!  I am stunned by the results!  *This* is what
everyone is referring to when they speak of the Leica look; it is simply

If I had to do it all over again, I would sit on my hands and *not* buy
anything else but a Leica Summicron 28, 35 or 50 as my first lens [new
or recent used], no matter how long it took.  Voigtländer will get you
shooting in a jiffy, but you will kick yourself for going that direction
if you should ever get a recent Summicron and compare.

Just my two cents worth.

/Mitch Zeissler

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> [] On Behalf Of JP M
> Sent: Wednesday, December 12, 2001 8:28 AM
> To:
> Subject: [Leica] New M6 owner, what first Lens??
> I just yesterday purchased a Classic M6 body from Richard Tillis at
Woodmere Camera.  It should arrive
> toward the end of this week or early next.  I'm on a tight budget and
am now searching for a first
> lens.  I need a good value, but not state-of-the-art-optics.  Thread
mount is OK, non-Leica is OK.
> My favorite cameras to date are my Canonet g3 ql17 with a 40mm and my
Rollie 35SE also with
> a 40mm.  I'd be very happy with a 35mm or even a 28mm.  But a 50mm
would be OK if it were 
> the "best value."  My requirements are that the lens sync up with the
body, meaning the framelines
> come up correctly and the rangefinder is fully and accurately coupled
and the optics 
> and mechanical aspects are perfect.  Cosmetics secondary. Any
thoughts? Thanks, Jeff
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