Leica Summicron 50mm f2 DR Lens
I have always had the old Leica Summicron 50f2 DR (“Dual Range”) lens on my ‘to try’ list despite owning a modern Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 lens.
When considering new glass my first reference point is Flickr. I ask myself ‘do the images with this lens have something special about them, regardless of the subject matter or talent of the photographer?’ My modern Leica Summicron 50f2 v5 lens is my least used 50mm as I tend to favour the Leica Noctilux 50f1 or Leica Summilux ASPH 50f1.4. The vintage Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5 creates beautiful images but flares easily so not for all occasions. I sold the Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2 and Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5 but I don’t think I fully appreciated the strengths of the Sonnar until after it was sold. With the 50f1 Noctilux normally living on digital Leica M9 body I wanted another 50mm lens to live on the Leica M3 film camera. I shortlisted either another Zeiss Sonnar 50f1.5 or a vintage Leica Summicron 50f2 DR. I did a quick reality check for the usefulness of the two 50mm lenses.
Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50f1.5 vs Leica Summicron 50f2 DR
Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50f1.5
- Fully functional on all my Leica M camera bodies
- Modern lens coating so less prone to flare
- Zeiss ‘3D’ pop look wide open
- Sharp wide open
- 50f1.5 is almost 1 stop brighter than 50f2 DR so more useful in low light
- Close focus only 1m (the reason I sold my first ZM Sonnar lens)
- Some copies of the lens are said to have focus shift issues
Leica Summicron 50f2 DR
- Can close focus at 0.5m (0.478) when using goggles attachment
- Sharp images wide open
- Images have a signature ‘DR’ look that I dont see with the modern v5 Summicron lens
- Lens only functions at a range of 1-4m on my Leica M9 and M8 (no close up or infinity focus ability)(*note lens is fully functional on my Leica M3 and M2)(and non-TTL M6)
- Have to attach-detach goggles every time you want to go from close focus (0.478-0.88m) to 1m to infinity
I was keeping my mind open then on a recent trip to Munich Germany I visited the Leica Munich store to say hello and to see if they had a Leica Summicron 50f2 DR lens in stock to try. Sadly they didn’t have in but instead kindly recommended a shop that may have one. I found the shop and my luck was in! They had two 50mm DR lenses. One copy of the lens was cheaper so I tried that one first. It was not calibrated with my Leica M9 so I tried the second copy and asked the store if I could take it out the shop to try in the street. I left the Noctilux lens with them as a small deposit and they smiled and agreed. What struck me most was the sharpness wide open at f2 and the beautiful way it rendered out of focus areas. It took maybe five test photos and that was all I needed to see. Sold to the man that has enough lenses already but felt a need for one more!
I will sell my near mint modern Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 lens with box if anyone is looking buy one? I know many Leica shooters swear by them but I dont use it enough to keep.
Eager to try the Leica Summicron 50mm DR to its full potential I fitted it to my Leica M3 and shot half a roll of black and white Kodak T-Max 100 film which was already loaded in the camera. It was sunny and I felt I was missing out by not shooting colour during the golden hour. I had no 35mm colour film with me in Germany, only 120 Portra for the Mamiya 645 Super. Luckily I discovered a small camera shop when out exploring and when I asked for colour film they opened a box of the old Kodak Portra 400 VC that they must have had in stock for years. I’ve only ever used the new Kodak Portra so was interested to try the older 400 VC Portra. The model had cancelled for the afternoon shoot so I took the opportunity to set myself a challenge. Shoot a 36 exposure roll of film in one afternoon of anything and everything using the strengths of the Summicron 50 DR lens. To me this meant mostly shooting wide open at f2 with plenty of close ups and considering the out of focus areas for colour and bokeh. Results to follow!
Leica Summicron 50f2 DR vs Mamiya 645 / Mamiya RZ usage
My most used non Leica camera is currently the Mamiya 645 Super. What I enjoy most about the Mamiya 645 and even more so the Mamiya RZ 67 (and Rolleiflex SL66E) which use bellows, is the ability to focus close to my subject. To me that is one of the biggest weaknesses of the Leica M system, the 0.7m rangefinder closest focus distance. Now my Leica M3 will focus to 0.5m at f2 I am excited to try the Summicron 50 DR for my portrait work. Again, results to follow!
I feel the Leica Summicron 50f2 DR is the perfect lens for my Leica M3. The combination look beautiful together and function is on a par with form. If the combination looked pretty but wasnt capable of taking good images it would be worthless to me. I buy vintage cameras to use not to polish.
I hope to try the Leica Summicron 50f2 DR on both my Leica M9 and also Leica M3 this weekend so sample images coming soon.
Here is a test shot SOOC from outside the camera store. Leica M9 JPEG
Ken Rockwell is a big fan of this lens. More tech detail here – http://www.kenrockwell.com/leica/50mm-f2-dr.htm