Leica M 50mm Lenses Compared

Leica M Mount 50mm Lenses Compared
MatthewOsbornePhotography – Leica Photographer

Leica M 50mm Lenses Compared

As a Leica photographer I have now collected quite a few 50mm Leica M mount lenses. I am always interested how one lens performs against another and until I can decide my favourites I am not selling any. I thought it might be useful to do a quick comparison of 8 50mm lenses, 7 of which I own and 1 I was able to use for a day to try (Leica Noctilux 50mm f0.95). I explain my thoughts, pros and cons of each lens based on my own experience and taste and using the lens copies I own. My findings may differ from your own or from comprehensive technical reviews that have been performed for each. I have included a sample photo from each lens to give you a real example but if you want to see more please visit my Flickr stream where I have an album set up for each lens I use –

https://www.flickr.com/photos/32681588@N03/sets

50mm Lemses – Pros and Cons of Each:

Zeiss ZM Planar 50f2:
Pros – Very sharp and contrasty. Focuses at 0.9m
Cons – Too sharp for some subjects! No built in hood.
Thoughts – Apparent clinical sharpness/ high contrast and unflattered for anything other than baby like skin
• Example Photo using a Leica M9

https://www.flickr.com/photos/32681588@N03/10059533264

Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50f1.5:
Pros – Sharp in the centre and contrasty at f1.4. Nice rendering of OOF areas/ bokeh
Cons – Closest focus 1m. No built in hood.
Thoughts – Good apparent sharpness (high contrast) shot wide open with nice rendering. Fine for most portraits.
• Example Photo, Leica M9

https://www.flickr.com/photos/32681588@N03/11349081363

Leica Summilux ASPH 50f1.4 (Lux 50):
Pros – Edge to edge clinical sharpness at f1.4. Focus at 0.7m. Built in hood.
Cons – Bigger than the Cron and ZM lenses. Modern look.
Thoughts – Sharpest 50 but lower contrast vs Zeiss. Best 50mm up close.
• Example Photo, Leica M9

https://www.flickr.com/photos/32681588@N03/13013499804

Leica Summicron 50f2 v5 (Cron 50):
Pros – 39mm filter thread and built in hood. Focus at 0.7m. It does nothing badly
Cons – It has no one character to lift it above other 50s.
Thoughts – Great all rounder. It does nothing particularly well (vs. other 50s that each have a strong point) yet does nothing badly either. My least used 50 (excluding Jupiter 3 – has some focus shift to account for so not used much)
• Example Photo, Leica M9

Leica Summicron 50

Leica Summarit 50f1.5 (1950s):
Pros – Vintage look from the camera giving photos with that Leica glow. Cheap
Cons – Closest focus 1m. Soft, low contrast and prone to flare
Thoughts – Creates beautiful glowing portraits if used to its ‘strengths’ (Cons).
• Example Photo, Leica M9

Street Portrait

Leica Noctilux 50f0.95:
Pros – Edge to edge clinical sharpness at f0.95. Good subject background separation
Cons – Closest focus 1m. Very expensive. Heavy. 60mm filter thread. Modern look
Thoughts – very similar to Lux ASPH 50 in all respects but cannot focus at 0.7m.
• Example Photo, Leica M9

https://www.flickr.com/photos/32681588@N03/14060405474

Leica Noctilux 50f1 v2 (1981):
Pros – Unique look images created – can resemble medium format/ large format film
Cons – Closest focus 1m. Expensive. Heavy. 60mm filter thread, Soft, Low contrast
Thoughts – Softer and lower contrast than all lenses list except Summarit 50f1.5. Nicest bokeh and rendering IMO.
• Example Photo, Leica M9

Leica vs Mamiya RZ!

Russian Jupiter 3 50f1.5 (Zeiss Sonnar Clone):
Pros – Cheapest and great value for money. Contrasty giving apparent sharpness
Cons – Closest focus 1m, soft focus and prone to some flare
Thoughts – Similar to Leica Summarit in all respects but more contrasty
• Example Photo, Leica M9

M9 + Jupiter 3

Conclusion

What is my favourite Leica 50?

It depends on the task -

Lux ASPH 50 if I want tight crop headshots or edge to edge sharpness.
Noctilux 50 f1 if I want to create ‘better’ than reality photos and bokeh
Summarit f1.5 if I want a more vintage look from camera with lots of flare
ZM Sonnar for sharp environmental portraits
ZM Zeiss for the sharpest possible image

But if I could only own one 50mm lens?

• Noctilux 50 f1 – It can produce images like no other.

I hope you found it useful even if you do not agree with some of my findings. (I know the Leica Cron 50 is a very popular lens).

Matt – MrLeica.com

 

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About matthewosbornephotography

Coventry, UK studio based Model and Wedding Photographer offering both Medium Format Film and Digital Images. 1-2-1 Photography and Lighting Tuition also available.
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4 Responses to Leica M 50mm Lenses Compared

  1. Robert Whitehead (Flickr RobW1098) says:

    Matthew, I posted a response to this in your Flickr photostream so apologies if you have already considered the question, but which 50mm would you say looks best when used with your M8? I currently have a modern 35mm Summarit and an old 90mm Tele-elmarit but want something in between (and not too expensive if possible) for good environmental portraits of my kids, with 3d pop.

  2. Matthew

    I have already posed this question through your Flickr feed, so apologies if you have considered it already, but I am curious to know which 50mm lens gives the “best” results on your M8. I currently use a 35mm Summarit f2.5 and 90mm Tele-elmarit f2.8 but want something in between (and hopefully not too costly) for environmental portraits of my kids with shallow DOF (the 35mm just does not cut it in this regard and the 90mm means I have to stand a long way off!).

    Thanks

    Robert

    • HI Robert, I think I replied to you on Flickr but you may have missed it. It of course depends on your budget but I will assume you will not want to pay for a Noctilux so I would recommend the Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5 as you want the classic Zeiss 3D pop look and it is 2.5x cheaper than the Leica Summiilux ASPH 50mm f1.4. The only advance of the Lux is it will focus at 0.7m as stated. Hope that helps.

      As always it comes down to personal choice but the Sonnar is a nice lens with character.

      Matt

      • Matt

        Thanks for replying to my various messages (had a few WordPress login issues today!). I was leaning towards the Sonnar already so am pleased with that recommendation, thanks. That should keep me going until I can justify an M9/240 and Lux!

        Regards
        Robert

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