Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 for Leica (LTM)(Nikon-S) Review + Female Portraits + YouTube
Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 review (LTM + Nikon-S), comparing the Japanese Sonnar lens to other vintage fast 50mm lenses. How to adapt the lens to Leica cameras (Leica M and Leica iii), Leica M3 portraits and sample photos with other cameras. (*aka. Nikkor S.C 5cm f1.4)
Japanese Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 Alternative – Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4
For those of you looking to buy a Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 lens, the Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 is a cheaper alternative. The Japanese Summilux! When I say Leica Summilux there is the older pre-ASPH version and the current ASPH lens. The Nikkor S.C 5cm f1.4 should out perform the vintage Summilux in terms of centre sharpness and contrast. At f2 it gets close to the modern Summilux in the centre. (I tested it against my Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH lens).
Leitz Summarit 5cm f1.5 vs Nikkor S.C 5cm f1.4
It is said that “David Douglas-Duncan relates that when he photographed the Korean War on a pair of Leica 111B’s he used this Nikkor 50mm F1.4 lens because it was sharper than the Leitz 50mm F1.5. He also says that the majority of photojournalists covering the war also used Nikkor lenses in favour of Leitz lenses for this reason” (thanks Francis Cranfield).
I own both lenses and agree the centre sharpness and contrast is better with the Nikon lens. Below you can see the Leitz Summarit 50mm f1.5 on my Leica M4-P at f2.
Canon 50mm f1.4 LTM vs Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4
Another Japanese Summilux lens is the Canon 50mm f1.4 LTM lens. I own both lenses but have yet to do side by side testing. I have some smart people that follow me on YouTube so let me share what Patreon James said (thanks James!) –
“The Nikkor is a Sonnar-type design (fewer individual elements, more groups of elements cemented together) while the Canon 50/1.4 is a Gauss-type (or Planar-type, or Opic-type, depending on whose books you read) design with more separated elements. The Gauss type gives the designer more flexibility, so is used on most modern lenses, but the Sonnar design was popular through the ’40s because it had fewer air-to-glass surfaces, which meant better contrast and less flare in the days before lens coating became widespread. Generally speaking, this design difference meant the Nikkors have higher central sharpness and contrast at wide apertures, while the Canons have more even performance across the field.
Another thing you used to read “back in the day” was that the Nikkors had better consistency in assembly than either Leica or Zeiss lenses, so you were less likely to get a sample that was a “dog”, while Leica and Zeiss had more sample-to-sample variation”.
Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 LTM / Leica screw mount
If you want to buy the Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 for Leica cameras (Leica M mount or Leica screw mount rangefinder cameras) then try to buy the LTM version. The Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 LTM fits all L39 screw mount cameras without an adapter. I use the lens with my Leica iif camera (see example further down in the post). To use LTM lenses on a Leica M camera just buy a cheap Leica M-L39 adapter ring. The lens is rangefinder coupled from 1m and uncoupled from 0.5m – 1m. You can focus at 0.5m using LiveView on most digital Leica M cameras and easily with all Leica mirrorless cameras. I use the Leica SL and Leica CL. The LTM version is more desirable so the prices are higher.
Nikon-S mount Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4
The version of the lens I have is the Nikon-S mount Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 which came with my Nikon S2 rangefinder camera. (I’ll include some examples below). As the name suggests, this version is designed for the Nikon S rangefinder cameras. The focus helicoid is built into the camera body so to focus this lens on other cameras you need a special helicoid adapter. Minimum focus distance on the Nikon S cameras is 0.9m. Nikon S mount version is cheaper than LTM version.
Amedeo adapter – Nikon S to Leica M
To use the Nikon S mount version of the Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 lens on Leica M cameras I use the Amedeo adapter – Nikon S to Leica M (with build in focus helicoid). Minimum focus distance using the adapter is 0.7m (great!). Really great adapter but not easy to find and expensive.
Amedeo adapter – Nikon S to L39 / LTM / Leica screw mount
For my Leica iif Barnack camera I use the Nikon S mount version of the Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 lens via a Amedeo adapter – Nikon S to L39 / LTM (with build in focus helicoid). If you can find the LTM Amedeo adapter you can use it with M cameras too via the mentioned M-LTM adapter.
Centre sharpness test – Leica M3 mirror selfies!
Before I organise models for a photoshoot I like to test that a camera-lens combo is correctly calibrated and capturing sharp (enough) images for my needs. My favourite way to test this is by doing mirror selfies. I can see the equipment I am using and if the lens was stopped down. (You can see the aperture blades inside the lens). Here are the Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 test results, first shot wide open at f1.4, then at f2. The sharpness was better than expected on film at f1.4 but I shoot most portraits at f2.
Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 + Leica M3 portraits
Here are a selection of Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 portraits shot with my Leica M3. I use the Leica M3 as it has the most magnified viewfinder (0.91x) making it easier to critically focus and it lets me focus as close as 0.7m which is fantastic. *My M3 has been modified to focus at 0.7m rather than the standard 1m MFD.
More Nikkor S.C 50mm 1.4 portraits with the Leica M3
These photos were all shot on my latest trip to Poland and captured on bulk rolled Kodak Double-X 5222 film with the Leica M3. All photos shot at f2 on the Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 lens.
Note the hole in the Leica M3 shutter is back so I need to fix it again with liquid rubber. (The highlight spot in the models hair is a light leak from the small hole in the shutter curtain)
Nikon S2 + Nikkor S.C 5cm 1.4 portraits
When I first bought the Nikon S2 I took these photos. The rangefinder patch is much easier to view in the Leica M3 but I did manage to capture sharp images with the Nikon S2.
Monthly Updates: Videos+Reviews
Kiev 4a + Nikon-S 5cm 1.4
You can even enjoy the Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 lens on a Contax RF mount camera such as the Kiev 4a. (The focus should be less accurate because of the slightly different flange distance but it seemed to work here). No adapter is needed to use the lens with Contax RF mount cameras.
Voigtlander Bessa R2C + Nikkor SC 50 f1.4
Another Contax RF mount camera I use is the Voigtlander Bessa R2C. Again, I got sharp results with this lens and the colours are nice on film.
Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 + Leica iif
I prefer to use the lens on Leica M film cameras as the viewfinder is parallax corrected. With the Leica iif I sometimes forget to correct for parallax.
What about on digital?
You can use the Nikkor SC 5cm f1.4 lens on any mirrorless camera if you find the correct adapter for that camera mount. For digital so far i’ve used it mostly on the Leica M240.
Leica M240 portraits
For the Leica M240 I often focus via the additional EVF attachment for more accurate focusing. Photos are Leica M240 RAW files + MrLeica B&W presets applied.
Need Leica Presets?
Leica SL portrait
Would you love to try model photography?
Get my FREE 19 page model photography guide!
On YouTube – Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4 review
Vintage fast 50mm lenses for Leica
You might want to consider the following videos –
2 thoughts on “Leica M3 Portraits with Vintage Nikkor S.C 50mm f1.4”
Its a great lens and whats better, ltm version can be made rf coupled to 0.7m, so its more useful on m-mount rangefinder cameras. Its an easy fix and instructions can be found online easy.
Thanks George, yes agreed, LTM is the easiest option and only requires the simple LTM-M adapter.