Leica Summicron DR Review (Summicron 50mm f2 DR – Dual Range)
Leica Summicron DR review and sample photos. Awesome lens with a dual personality! Warning – The Summicron 50mm DR lens does not fit every Leica M. (See below). This is a 2 piece lens design: (1) Leica Summicron 50mm f2 DR lens (2) Leica close focus goggles designed for DR.
Leica Summicron Dual Range (“DR”) 50mm f2 lens
I always had the old Leica Summicron DR 50mm f2 (“Dual Range”) lens on my ‘to try’ list despite owning a modern Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 lens.
Why to buy? (Why I bought this 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?’ If yes then I am interested!
Vintage Summicron DR vs Modern Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 lens
Why would you want the vintage Summicron DR lens if you already own a modern Summicron 50mm f2 lens?
For me both lenses offer different attributes:
Vintage Summcron DR 50mm lens facts x5:
- Dual Range (DR) but also dual purpose – this lens will focus closer than almost all Leica lenses (*Only with Leica close focus goggles).
- This lens will not fit all Leica M cameras (see more below).
- Heavier build that a modern 50mm Summicron – solid but more to carry.
- More prone to flare than a modern 50mm Summicron due to the older lens coating.
- More difficult to find a good copy where the front lens element is not scratched (vs. a modern lens where can just buy without scratches). Scratches on the front lens element (glass) will again increase flare if pointed at a bright light source.
Modern Summicron 50mm f2 lens facts x5:
- Smaller and lighter than the Summicron 50 DR version
- Built in pull out lens hood (on the v5 model)
- Less prone to lens flare but not as good as the Leica Summarit-M 50mm f2.5 lens or Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 lens in this regard
- Will fit all Leica M cameras unlike the DR version
- Single piece design with no close focus option – limited to 0.7m
Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50 f1.5 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 better 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 (0.478m) when using Leica close focus goggles
- Sharp images wide open
- Images have a signature ‘DR’ look that I don’t 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, M2, M4-P and M6 Classic)
- Have to attach-detach close focus goggles every time you want to go from close focus (0.478-0.88m) to greater than 1m to infinity
Does the Summicron DR 50 fit a digital Leica M?
I can answer this only from the cameras I have owned and use:
- Leica film camera (M2, M3, M4P, M6 Classic) – YES (Fully functional)
- Leica M8 (I no longer have but my notes say) – Partially (1m-4m range only). The close focus goggles will not fit the camera body due to the body shape.
- Leica M9 (I no longer have but my notes say) – Partially (1m-4m range only). The close focus goggles will not fit the camera body due to the body shape.
- Leica M240 – I can 100% confirm that – Partially (0.478m-1.1m). Close focus goggles will fit on the M240 camera body design but the lens will not focus past around 1.1m (without the goggles). To attach and remove the DR lens from a Leica M240 camera ensure the lens is set to less than 1m otherwise it will not fit.
- Leica CL – For completeness – YES (Fully functional)
- Lumix GH5 – For completeness – YES (Fully functional)
Keeping an Open Mind..
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.
Leica Noctilux lens deposit
I left the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1 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 me maybe 5 test photos.. and SOLD!
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 don’t use it enough to keep.
Leica M3 + Leica Summicron DR
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!
Kodak Portra 400 VC Challenge! Samples
Leica Summicron DR 50mm 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.
Leica Summicron 50 DR sample photos (M9)
Here is a test shot SOOC from outside the camera store. Leica M9 JPEG
50 Summicron Dual Range Photos – Leica M3
Summicron 50mm f2 Dual Range Portraits
Leica Summicron 50 DR Specs
Ken Rockwell is a big fan of this lens. More tech detail here – http://www.kenrockwell.com/leica/50mm-f2-dr.htm
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