Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2009/10/12

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Subject: [Leica] Zeiss Normal 50mm f/2 Planar T* ZM
From: sethrosner at (Seth Rosner)
Date: Mon, 12 Oct 2009 15:21:20 -0400

Not sure I'm doing this right, but these questions to Wendy:

1. for what kind of photography are you acquring a 50mm;  and
2. are you shooting film or digital?

Point is, do you really need the speed of a 50/1,4 Summilux?

That said, whether as your permanent 50mm or as an interim stop-gap until a 
Summilux, I would suggest you borrow to try out or even buy a DR or Rigid 50 
Summicron and use it. Don't worry about which, they are the identical 
optical formula. Make sure you get one that is optically and mechanically 
flawless - forget about cosmetics so long as glass, focus and diaphragm are 
to spec. You will find them on eBay in $500.-800. range and always get from 
seller a written commitment that you can return for full refund if 
inspection finds flaws in glass, focus mount or diaphragm. You might even 
consider sending it to John Van Stelten at Focal Point for a CLA, usually 
around $125-150. I predict that you will be mind-blown by the images this 
almost 54 year-old lens produces and by the vault-like tactile sense it 
gives in your hands. And you will use it for another three or four decades!

Good luck,


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Seth Rosner" <sethrosner at>
To: <9112351C6E99409BA92FF8F50899F41D at jimnichols>; <jhnichols at>
Cc: <lug at>
Sent: Monday, October 12, 2009 3:03 PM
Subject: Zeiss Normal 50mm f/2 Planar T* ZM

> Hello friends!
> I unsubscribed from the LUG months and months ago as I was traveling and 
> couldn't bear to return from a trip to 1500+ LUG emails. I resubscribed to 
> the digest and hadn't figured out how to respond to a thread and inject my 
> 2c. Happily, I just returned from the LHSA annual meeting in Seattle that 
> embraced a wonderful LUG dinner last Friday at one of the best fish and 
> seafood restaurants I've ever experienced; with Mark and Henning and Greg 
> and Tom + Tuulikki and Peter and I'm certain to leave some good friends 
> out so need to leave out several. They told me how to respond to a thread 
> and I hope I have remembered the key to lugging-in.
> And as some of you know, I cannot leave my mitts off a Summicron debate, 
> especially when it involves Erwin Puts. I'm so out of it that until I read 
> this thread, I had not realized that he has left being a Leica Camera tout 
> and become a Zeiss/Cosina tout. Fascinating. P.S. I learned in Seattle 
> that marc small has left the LUG so I am more or less safe since it was 
> marc who several years ago threatened me with a defamation action for 
> having written critically of Erwin's evaluations.
> So I took the time to look at Erwin's report on this Zeiss lens. Here is 
> what he writes about this lens in Phase 2:
> "Planar-T 2/50 ZM
> "For several generations the Planar design has tried to challenge the 
> Summicron 50mm and never became as good. Now at last we have a lens that 
> equals the Summicron-M 50mm and is even a trace better in the curvature of 
> field area. The optical performance of the Planar is simply as good as 
> that what can be expected form the Leica Summicron. The Double-Gauss 
> design has been studied exhaustingly and it is now possible to equal but 
> not surpass the Summicron design as long as you stay within the D-G 
> limits. It is worth some study to note that the curved elements of the 
> Planar bring no significant improvements in comparison to the many planar 
> surfaces of the current Summicron.
> "This conclusion makes the claim of some Leica collectors, that the 
> current Summicron is a lesser design than the all-curved predecessor, 
> somewhat hollow."
> Many of you know that I am enamored of and have studied the 50/2 DR/Rigid 
> Summicron exhaustively. In fact following the optical bench tests of the 
> 35/2 Summicron 8-glass, the pre-ASPH 35/2 Summicron and the 35/2,8 
> Summaron that were the basis for my article in LHSA Viewfinder, I have had 
> the same optical bench tests done by optical genius   ;-)  Roy Youman at 
> Optikos Corporation on my 50/2 DR Summicron, the vaunted ALPA Kern 50/1,9 
> Macro-Switar and the hugely under-appreciated Leitz/Leica 60/2,8 
> Macro-Elmarit. For a forth-coming Viewfinder article.
> First some basics. The DR/Rigid Summicron does indeed induce some flare at 
> f/2 and 2,8, created by the so-called "air-lenses" between the first two 
> and second two lens pairs. That flare disappears somewhere between 
> apertures f/2,8 and f/4. The 50 Summicron introduced in 1969, 11817, was 
> specifically designed for best possible performance at the widest stops, 
> ergo, to reduce flare and at those stops, in flare-inducing photographics 
> situations, it is an improvement over the DR/Rigid. At f/4 and further 
> stopped down, the DR/Rigid's contrast = suppression of flare, is as good 
> or better than 11817 whose MTF charts are significantly worse than the 
> DR/Rigid. The next - and current - 50 Summicron improved very 
> significantly on 11817 in both contrast and resolution but the resolution 
> of neither matches that of the DR/Rigid. Read carefully here, I do not 
> mean to suggest that the DR/Rigid will never flare at the smaller stops, 
> say f/8 and smaller. Only the later Leitz/Leica - and other - lenses, the 
> Noctiluxes being phenomenal examples, have so remarkably suppressed flare 
> and coma so that you can photograph bright light sources within the frame 
> and reproduce only the light itself and no surrounding glow. All of the 
> Summicrons - and the Planars - will produce flare with light sources in 
> the frame and in contre jour, backlighted situations.
> Now, let's go back to Puts. As usual, Erwin mixes and matches to lead to 
> an incorrect inference, thinking that it will not be noticed. He writes 
> that the Planar "equals the Summicron-M and is even a trace better in 
> field curvature". He is comparing the Planar to the current Summicron, NOT 
> to the DR/Rigid. He could not possibly make that statement about the 
> DR/Rigid because that lens has a remarkably flat field and absence of 
> field curvature. Why? Because it was designed not only for general 
> photography but for close-up work as well, where absence of field 
> curvature is essential, ergo, the famous viewfinder "goggles" or 
> "bug-eyes". To Erwin's credit, he acknowledges that "it is now possible to 
> equal but not surpass the [current] Summicron design as long as you stay 
> within the D-G limits". But he is not comparing it with the DR?Rigid. He 
> nowhere in this report claims that his now-beloved Zeiss 50/2 Planar 
> equals, let alone exceeds the DR/Rigid Summicron. You really have to read 
> this guy carefully; he's been bobbing and weaving like this in his writing 
> for years.
> But he then immediately seeks to confuse the issues again by writing: 
> "This conclusion makes the claim of some Leica collectors, that the 
> current Summicron is a lesser design than the all-curved predecessor (the 
> DR/Rigid), somewhat hollow." This sentence IS A PERFECT NON-SEQUITUR.
> I have somewhere in my collection of Puts-isms a writing by him that the 
> current 50 Summicron introduced 5 plane surfaces in order to reduce 
> manufacturing costs (that would be both glass and assembly) and in a 
> different writing that when this is done, image quality is not maintained. 
> Understand, friends, that every lens, by any manufacturer, is a 
> compromise. The current 50 Summicron has better overall optical 
> performance than the DR/Rigid at the first two stops IN HIGH FLARE 
> SITUATIONS. Otherwise the DR/Rigid  still delivers the best overall 
> optical perfomance available among these lenses.
> And of course even Erwin has often acknowledged that the build quality of 
> all of the Leitz lenses from the 1950's, '60's and very early '70's has 
> never since been equaled.
> At the same time, I have to say that the optical performance of the new 
> 50/1,4 Summilux-ASPH is absolutely astonishing, straight across the board. 
> The ONLY comments about it that I have heard or read that were not 
> entirely complimentary related to a certain edginess or harshness that 
> probably derives from its design purpose of maintaining extraordinary high 
> contrast at all stops and acrossd the entire film/sensor plane.
> Now to Erwin's in installment 3:
> "Planar-T 2/50 ZM
> "Wide open the lens shows excellent neutrality of colours with amazingly 
> good retention of fine colour hues. Very fine detail is recorded with good 
> clarity, but with less crispness than the Leica counterpart. It shares 
> with that lens the weak suppression of secondary reflections, due to the 
> reflections at the edges of the rear mount. The background blur is on the 
> harsh side.
> The transition from the sharpness plane to the unsharpness regions however 
> is quite long, giving a fine impression of depth and extension. The lens 
> is especially good at recording detail in extended shadow zones, when you 
> take pictures at dusk or at night.
> The background blur shows the major outlines of the subject shapes, more 
> sketching than drawing so to speak. Close up performance is excellent from 
> centre to edge without any vignetting and distortion.
> The Planar wide open is a potent performer and at smaller apertures 
> becomes a master at reproducing with a life-like three dimensionality, 
> that was the hallmark of the G-version of the Planar too."
> So let's analyze:
> "Very fine detail is recorded with good clarity, but with less crispness 
> than the Leica counterpart."
> In Erwin-speak, this means that the current Summicron-M has better edge 
> contrast than the Planar. It will be clearly inferior to the DR/Rigid 
> except in the photo situations noted above.
> "It shares with that lens the weak suppression of secondary reflections, 
> due to the reflections at the edges of the rear mount. The background blur 
> is on the harsh side."
> First sentence is a comparison with the current not the DR Summicron. The 
> second sentence is an acknowledgement of bad bokeh.
> As a famous Irishman said in his allocution whilst standing upon an 
> English gallows:     I am done.
> Seth