Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2004/05/03

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Subject: [Leica] best all round 50 mm??
From: feli at (Feli di Giorgio)
Date: Mon May 3 12:26:23 2004
References: <> <001101c42f31$725088c0$3201a8c0@AUG01> <>

Depends on what you are looking for. Here are some of my experiences:

2/50 Summicron-M and R (current) -
This is an amazingly sharp piece of glass. At all apertures it is razor
sharp from corner to corner and has very high contrast, making it one of
the sharpest lenses in the Leica stable. I have yet to come across
another 50 that performs this well, but dare I say that sometimes it is
too sharp? When people say that they can pick out Leica negs on a light
table, then this may be the lens they are talking about. The Bokeh is
smooth as butter, colors are accurate and whites are squeaky clean.

2/50 Summicron DR / Rigid -
Very, very sharp. Supposedly this lens resolves more than 100 lines, but
it is of the old style high resolution, lower contrast type. A little
softer wide open than the current version, but hardly a slouch.I have
made 16x20 prints from DR negs and technically they are terrific. Watch
out for flare when shooting directly in to lights, always use a hood.
This may be my favorite lens. Build quality is unlike anything made
today, even in the Leica line up. Gorgeous bokeh. Terrific lens for B/W.

Overall I don't think you can go wrong with any of the Cron, but IMHO I
would pass on the collapsible Summicron. I have never been sold on the
stability of the retracting tube and the coatings are on the soft side.
Collectors are also starting to drive up prices for clean examples to
the range of a more current Cron or Lux.

1.4/50 Summilux -
A very nice lens that I am starting to regret selling. This is the
oldest lens in the Leica lineup and for that reason it periodically it
gets slammed on the internet, although in test after test it is either
ahead, dead even or a close second to every modern 1.4/50 it is tested
against. The Lux doesn't have the bitting high contrast of the current
Cron, but what it does have is some of the smoothest bokeh and lush
tonal range around. Supposedly the Lux performs as a Gen v03 Cron,
opened up one stop. If that is true then it is a very strong performer. 

Rumor has it that Leica will introduce a new Lux sometime down the road.
If this is true and it is anything like the new Summilux-R it will be a
stellar performer, but will lose its old style signature (low con/high

1/50 Noctilux - Die Koenigin der Nacht (The Queen of the Night)

A unique beast. A cult lens if there ever was one. The most flare
resistant piece of glass I have ever seen. Shadow penetrating ability is
amazing. According to Puts it is so well corrected for flare that only
image forming light hits the film. I tend to believe him. Pictures taken
with the Noct look different. The Bokeh can sometimes be a little
strange and has a bit of the same signature you see in Sonnar type
lenses. There is a myth that the Noct is a poor performer when stopped
down. This is nonsense, stopped down the Noct is very sharp.It doesn't
have the very high contrast of the current Cron, but what does and do
you really want that? My biggest complaint about the Noct is it's size
and weight.

Current Cron - Sharpest and cheapest of the lot. If you can live with
f2, this is the ticket.

Older rigid Crons - You really can't go wrong with any of these.

Summilux - A good compromise if you only have one lens. Sharp and fast.
A little overpriced when new, but a great deal used.

Noct - Big, heavy, expensive, unique and amazing. Even the glass used to
make the elements looks weird (high refractive index). Owning one is a
little like joining a cult- people either love or hate this lens. 

Rent one or take a close look at it in person before you buy it. This is
a lens that people get all starry eyed about, buy it, use it and sell
six months later, relapse and buy it again unless they are cured the
first time around.


I would not recommend the next three lenses for everyday shooting unless
you want all of you images to look like they were shot pre 1950.

3.5/50 Elmar - 
The lens that made Leica's reputation. Not the sharpest, but lots of
personality and it's really small. Shoot this lens with Efke film and
it's 1935 again.

2/50 Summitar - 
Better than the Elmar, but below f4, not as good as any of the Crons.
Still a very nice lens with a beautiful old time fingerprint.

2/50 Summar - 
This lens gets no respect, yet it is one of my favorites. The Summar has
a unique signature. Ultra, ultra smooth bokeh and there is something 3
dimensional about the negs it produces. A terrific lens for shooting
woman. It's very low contrast, but actually resolves very high. I was
shocked at the amount of detail I saw in 4000dpi scans I made on my
Nikon SC5000 scanner. Flare is a real problem with this lens, always
shoot with a hood. From what I have seen the Summarit has a similar
fingerprint, but better overall performance.


VC Nocton 1.5/50

Cheap, very sharp, but a lot of people don't like the bokeh. I've seen a lot of
still made with this lens on the net and tend to agree...
It also not as compact as a Lux or Cron.


Hope this helps


In reply to: Message from leica_korenman at (eric) ([Leica] PAW 6 - macro sad)
Message from ruben at (Ruben) ([Leica] best all round 50 mm??)