Cheap Leica Lenses (Leica M Alternatives + Vintage Leica Lenses)

Cheap Leica Lenses?  Leica ASPH & APO lenses – Do we really need them?

Matthew Osborne Photography
Cheap Leica Lenses – Model shoot using vintage Leica pre-ASPH/ pre-APO and third party lenses

For the September 2014 London Photography Workshop model shoot I decided to take the opportunity to pack some vintage Leica M lenses which could be also regarded as cheap Leica lenses when compared to modern Leica ASHP / APO lenses.  I would be teaching flash photography and portraiture so I can do this with lenses from any era.  It’s great to shoot with one lens on the camera all day but sometimes I just want to go longer or wider so I decided on –

Cheap Leica Lenses

Camera Bag
  • Leica M9 camera body
  • 35mm –   1953 Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5
  • 52mm – 1950s Russian Industar 26M 52mm f2.8 *
  • 90mm – 1973 Leica Summicron 90mm f2 pre-ASPH **

*I have a 1951 Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5 lens but I prefer it in lower light
** My 1960s Leica Elmar 135mm f4 is also a fantastic telephoto lens

Plus less vintage extras..

  • 1x Speedlight
  • 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f4.5
  • Fuji GF670 Medium Format Film Camera
The workshop

Tom booked me for a day of 1-2-1 photography tuition and I invited Latvian model Lauma to join us as our model.  I have shot with Lauma once before but last time it was with available light only.  This time I was teaching off camera flash photography and portrait lighting so I was in my element. All photos were taken using a single bare speedlight without any light modifiers and using these so termed cheap Leica lenses.

Portrait Photography Workshop

All a myth!

The workshop day proved two common photography theories wrong.

  • We don’t need the latest Leica lenses to get great pictures on a Leica M camera body
  • We don’t need fancy light modifiers and the latest ETTL speedlights
Am I guilty of believing all the ‘hype’? Yes of course I am!

I own the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 (“Lux”) and the Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO (“Cron”).  I bought the 50mm Lux as my first Leica 50mm lenses because of the glowing reviews but find I rarely use it as prefer other 50s.  I bought the 75mm Cron because of the magnification it could produce focusing at 0.7m rather than anything else. The 75f2 focal length has become one of my favourite portrait lenses and my go to detail lens for Leica weddings.

I write ‘hype’ as yes both ASPH and APO lenses are technically brilliant but you dont ‘need’ them as such to get a nice image.  I own both new and old Leica lenses but if I was someone trying to get into the Leica market I think potential buyers should not rule out the older cheaper Leica lenses that can be found at great prices on eBay.

Photos with vintage Leica M mount lenses

Here are some recent examples images using vintage lenses on a Leica M9 camera from flash photography portrait workshops both in London and at my Coventry studio.  Models are Gina, Roisin and Lauma.

1953 Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5

Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5

1951 Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5

Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5 Portrait

Leica Summarit 50mm

1950s Russian Industar 26M 52mm f2.8

Leica M9 + Industar 26M 52mm f2.8

Industar 26M 52mm f2.8

1973 Leica Summicron 90mm f2 pre-ASPH

Cigarette Break

Beauty and a Geek!

Leica M9 + Summicron 90

Leica M9 + Vintage Leica Summicron 90mm f2

Leica M9 Strobist

1960s Leica Elmar 135mm f4

Modern Classic

Black and White Fashion

Leica Elmar 135mm f4 Portrait

Related Posts – Cheap Leica Lenses /  Vintage Lenses
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Leica Lenses Are Coming!

Leica Lenses

Leica Lenses Are Coming!

After buying my Leica M9 roughly 3 months ago I have so far used all non-Leica lenses for my portraiture, model / fashion photography and Leica wedding photography. I have also learnt a great deal from reading about the various lenses available for the Leica M mount. I started by buying Voigtlander lenses and then some Zeiss lenses also. My current line up is:

Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide Heliar
Voigtlander 21mm f4 Color Skopar
Voigtlander 35mm f1.2 Nokton ASPH ii
Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 Nokton Classic
Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2
Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5

I avoided Leica glass initially as it is well known that lens prices start at over £1k. But, when reviewing the cost of my non-Leica lenses I noticed I am getting close to or exceeding that bench mark already. So, I then started to review Leica lenses. Many Leica lenses have had the same basic design for years and different versions have been released with updates over time. As a generalisation, the older lenses still have the amazing Leica glass and build quality but without the latest modern lens coatings. The end result of which is the older lenses give a lower contrast apparent less sharp look verses the latest lens releases. The more I read the more I wanted to join in with the Leica shooters using Leica glass. What surprised me the most is how cheap some of the older Leica lenses can be bought for second hand. Better still, Leica lenses are known to hold their value so any purchases I did make would be as much an investment as something to get enjoyment from.

As a result of all that reading I got myself on eBay this week to see if there were any potential bargains to be found. My first purchase was a very cheap 1960s Leica Elmar 135mm f4 lens. Ken Rockwell for any readers that know him, absolutely raves about this lens so after seeing some example photos using the Elmar 135/4 I purchased one.

elmar

I then spent many many hours looking at 50mm lenses. As you may have read in one of my recent posts I just bought the Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5. (I will post an update with more Sonnar example photos soon). Although it is a great lens with lots of character it is not practical to use the Sonnar on my M9 for Leica weddings. My copy of the Sonnar is optimised at f1.5 so it is sharp shot wide open but if I stop down to say f2-5.6 (perhaps to shoot in very bright light) it will not focus accurately due to the well known Sonnar focus shift. Using the ZM Sonnar for weddings when using a single Leica body (plus Nikon D800 as backup) would be crazy so I looked at Leica 50mm lenses. The latest Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 is said to be one of the sharpest 50mm lenses but when I reviewed many many sample photos I was not really ‘feeling’ it.

(What makes me laugh/ confused is Leica cameras and lenses are known to be some of the best in the world yet if you ever spent 10 minutes reviewing some Leica camera photos, say on Flickr, I would say at least half are out of focus or very soft. It’s crazy! I know a photo does not need to be sharp to be good but it still amazes me at the masses of ‘low’ quality photos posted by Leica camera owners)(IMO)(By this I am only talking about photos that are not it focus. Nothing to do with composition, subject, colour or any other photo characteristic).

So, the well regarded ‘Lux’ currently doesn’t seem to impress me so I continued my research. That brought me to the Leica ‘Cron’ or Summicron. A small, compact 50mm f2 lens with sharpness at f2 said to be the same as the ‘Lux’ at f2. Ken Rockwell has done a great review comparing the 5 pre-APO Summicron variants. Thanks Ken! I liked the results of the Summicron version 3 looking at examples but then spotted a low price auction for the latest pre-APO Summicron with the built in hood. I placed a last minute bid and I am now the proud owner of my first modern Leica lens – Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 (made in 2003). There are lots of opinions on the internet but many people regard the Cron as their favourite 50mm lens due to the sharpness, small size and smooth focusing ring.

cron

You may note that I already own a Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2 and in comparison reviews the results of the Planar vs. Summicron are almost impossible to tell apart. My ZM Planar is crazy sharp wide open (almost too harsh for some female portraits) and I am expecting the Cron to be slightly less sharp and less contrasty. I can then decide my favourite lens and whether or not to keep both or sell one.

Here is one of my favouite ZM Planar photos. Shot in Ukraine with model Yuliya

Leica M9 6x6

So, after 3 months of non-Leica lens photos the Leica lenses are coming! Examples using the Leica Elmar 135mm f4 and Leica Summicron 50mm f2 to follow.

If you think Leica lenses are too expenses have a look on eBay.. you might get a nice surprise 😉

www.MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.ukLeica Wedding Photographer

Related Post

Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5