Best 50mm Lens for Leica M Camera x20 (Leica M3 Female Portraits)
A new Leica M3 photographer contacted me from Singapore to request a Zoom call to discuss the best 50mm lenses for Leica M cameras. I thought it might make an interesting YouTube (and blog) topic. Here are my 10 most used 50mm lenses on my Leica M3 camera(s) with sample photos plus 10 more 50s. Comment below your favourite 50mm lens!
Best 50mm lenses for Leica M cameras (Some of my favourites)
In no particular order here are some of the 50mm lenses I’ve used the most on my Leica M3 camera. By far my most used lens is the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH. Photos are shot with leica M3 cmeras. Click any photo to see the film used and film developing details.
The Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH lens is not cheap but it is one of few lenses that is excellent even when shot wide open at f1.4. When shooting film in low light this is so valuable to have.
2. Canon 50mm f1.4 LTM
Some call it the Japanese Summilux, the Canon 50mm f1.4 LTM lens is much cheaper than a Leica and offers good sharpness from f2. This is a screw mount rangefinder lens so you need a Leica M-LTM adapter to use on your M camera.
The Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 that I owned was a nice size and with a built in pull out lens hood. Smaller and lighter than the Summilux lens but for low light portraits the Lux was better so I eventually sold the 50mm Cron.
4. Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 LTM (Or Nikon-S via Adapter)
The Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 lens was not on my radar until years after buying my Leica 50mm lenses. I didn’t even know Nikon made rangefinder cameras like my Nikon S2. You can find the Nikkor S.C 50 1.4 lens in LTM mount but mine is the Nikon-S mount. Screw mount versions often cost more but you have the advantage of being able to use them on all L39 screw mount film cameras. Amedeo adapters offer Nikon-S to Leica M so that is what I use. Great lens and sharp at f2.
5. Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.2 VM
A popular current production lens is the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.2 VM. Shot at f2 this lens is plenty sharp enough.
6. Canon 50mm f1.8 LTM
Another great vintage 50mm lens is the Canon 50mm f1.8 LTM. Smaller, lighter and cheaper than the Canon 50mm f1.4 version, it is the cheapest 50mm lens of the 10 listed. Impressive sharpness even wide open. I shoot it at f1.8 or f2.
The Leica Summicron DR lens or Dual Range is a special lens. It’s the only 50mm lens listed here that focuses closer than 0.7m (via the Leica close focus goggles). A sharp lens at f2 but with lower contrast compared to modern lenses.
Leica Summicron DR 50mm f2 + Close focus goggles
This lens probably needs no introduction, the famous Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 lens! A valuable lens to own if you work in extremely low light. A little too soft at f1 for me when shooting film. I tend to stop the lens down to at least f1.2 if I use on film. Your Leica M camera rangefinder calibration must be spot on if you want to accurately hit focus with this lens.
9. Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f3.5 VM
Perhaps an unlikely candidate for a 50mm portraits lens. The Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f3.5 is a current production lens and focuses to 0.7m. The lens is very sharp even at f3.5 so helps to capture sharper images when shot on film. (Some of the examples photos below were when I had a hole in my Leica M3 shutter curtain so please excuse the marks).
10. Voigtlander 50mm f2 APO-Lanthar VM
My latest addition, I got the current production Voigtlander 50mm APO lens specifically to shoot on film. Very sharp even wide open at f2, this lens will capture better 35mm negative detail when compared to many 50mm lenses. (I love the look of film but it frustrates me if there is insufficient detail captured. This lens resolves that problem).
Want to find models to photograph with your favourite lens?
Wait there more! 10 additional 50mm lenses for Leica M mount
Again in no particular order –
If you love a compact camera lens combo then you will appreciate the Leica Elmar 50mm f2.8 lens. Made in LTM and M mount is collapses to give a pocket size camera. If used with Leica close focus goggles you can focus the Elmar at less than 0.5m (the same as the Leica Summicron Dual Range but different goggles).
12. Leica Summitar 50mm f2 LTM
One of my favourite lenses for photographing models with digital cameras, the Leica Summitar 50mm f2 LTM lens gives a vintage Leica glow look shot wide open. By f3.2 it becomes much sharper. A screw mount lens that I prefer using for digital photos, than film.
This lens probably should have been in my top 10. The discontinued Leica Summarit 50mm f2.5 lens is small yet sharp lens, excellent shot wide open or stopped down. It balances really nicely on Leica M cameras.
14. Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.0 VM
The fastest Leica M mount lens from Cosina Voigtlander is the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.0 VM. From my testing the rendering is very similar to the Nokton 50mm f1.2 so I would use that instead. The f1.2 lens is smaller, lighter and cheaper than the f1.0 so suits the small form factor of Leica M cameras.
The Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5 is a cheap alternative to the early Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 Pre-ASPH. Soft and glowy wide open with great bokeh. Gets sharper as you stop down. 1m MFD limit.
The new Heliar Classic 50mm f1.5 from Voigtlander. It produced great images on digital with as the name suggests a classic style rendering. I’ve not tried it on film yet.
17. Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f1.5 (Modern M mount or vintage LTM/CRF mount)
In the past I owned a current production Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f1.5 ZM (M mount). Very nice lens but with 0.9m MFD. I sold and have struggled to buy a good copy since (as many are not calibrated to be sharp at f1.5). The vintage Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f1.5 LTM mount (or Contax RF mount as I have) is impressively sharp at f2.
18. Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.5 VM
There are a several versions of the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.5 lens. The current production lens, “version 2” is beautiful and compact but a little soft wide open at f1.5. The older Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.5 ASPH lens is excellent and from my testing gives a look similar to the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH. Very fine detail rendering compared to other 50mm lenses I use.
19. Leica Elmar 5cm f3.5 LTM (50mm)
The smallest Leica lens for your camera. A vintage screw mount lens but will fit on Leica M cameras via a simple L39-M adapter (Cheap on eBay). I use it mostly on Leica iii cameras but it would be fine on my Leica M3 too.
20. TTArttisan 50mm f0.95 (Need to calibrate, hence not in my top 10)
Brilliant lens on mirrorless cameras such as my Leica SL but it doesn’t come calibrated out of the box so it’s not in my top ten. Also it is a very big lens for M mount so it causes viewfinder blockage and makes a Leica M camera very front heavy.
Leica repairs and servicing
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Can’t afford a Leica camera?
No problem. I also use a cheap Kiev 4a camera and it can achieve very similar results.