Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2008/12/12

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Subject: [Leica] Re: The Summaron story
From: sethrosner at (Seth Rosner)
Date: Fri Dec 12 12:13:46 2008
References: <> <>

Interesting story, Larry. What lengths we go to for an image! Of course it 
is a half-stop difference twixt 2,8 and 3,5. But I'll take your bet on the 
older 2,8s being really 3,5s. That's not the way E.Leitz worked then or 
Leica Camera works now. The 2,8 was introduced in 1958 simultaneously with 
the first 8-glass 35/2 Summicron and the 90/2 Summicron and Leitz was 
justifiably proud of these three ground-breaking lenses. There would have 
been no sense in introducing a warmed-over, inferior performing 
stretched-diaphragm lens with a brand-new 35mm 2,8 lens in the offing.  Take 
a look at the lenses physically and you'll see the differences. And while 
both are six-glass Gauss formulas, their cross-sections are visibly 

Still, an interesting tale.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Lawrence Zeitlin" <>
To: <>
Cc: "Lawrence Zeitlin" <>
Sent: Friday, December 12, 2008 12:08 PM
Subject: [Leica] Re: The Summaron story

>I wrote, in an answer to Len's question:
> You might try looking for an f3.5 Summaron. As I understand it, the
> F2.8 Summaron is identical to the F3.5 model with the diaphragm
> adjusted to open half a stop wider.
> Seth answered:
> Larry, I'm afraid this is just wrong. The only similarities between
> the 2,8
> and 3,5 Summarons is that both have six glasses (elements) and both were
> produced by Leitz.  :-)   The contrast difference is very
> significant. Put
> their images side-by-side and there is no comparison. The degree of
> improvement lessens slightly as the lenses are stopped down.
> -----
> I based my original statement on a dimly remembered story that a well
> known photographer in the 50s asked if Leitz had any 35 mm lens with
> a faster speed than f3.5. The people at Leitz - New York responded by
> adjusting his Summaron so that the diaphragm could open wider,
> gaining half a stop. I know my brain cells are failing but they
> haven't disappeared entirely.
> At last I found an authoritative reference. Emil Keller, a long time
> Leitz employee and a manager of Leitz - New York, wrote the
> following, re the Summaron, in his authoritative book "Today's 35 mm
> Photography: The Leica Years 1945 to 1980". (ISBN 09622612-1-1)
> "Alfred Eisenstaedt had a problem trying to photograph a world class
> chess tournament for Life Magazine under available light with the
> wide angle Summaron f3.5 lens. Picture a cloth shade cover over a low
> profile desk lamp illuminating the chess board, the player's faces
> lighted by the illumination off the table - that was all the
> illumination allowed. What to do to get more light on the film? After
> a telephone conversation with the factory, we were given permission
> to open the diaphragm of the lens by one stop. We now had a Summaron
> f2.8 and, because Leitz's lens settings were all on the conservative
> side, the suggestion to open the diaphragm resulted in negligible
> fall off at the corners and Eisenstaedt finished his assignment
> without difficulties."
> And so the Summaron f2.8 was born. That's not to say that the design
> wasn't eventually altered as newer glasses became available, but I'll
> bet some of the older f2.8s are simply the f3.5s with factory altered
> wider diaphragms.
> Larry Z
> _______________________________________________
> Leica Users Group.
> See for more information


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Replies: Reply from marcsmall at (Marc James Small) ([Leica] A Sad Tale of Woe: E Leitz 1945 - 1960 was, something else)
In reply to: Message from lrzeitlin at (Lawrence Zeitlin) ([Leica] Re: The Summaron story)