Leica Elmar 50mm f2.8 – Collapsible

1959 Leica Elmar 50mm f2.8 – Collapsible

Matthew Osborne Photography – “Mr Leica”

elmar 50v2

Continuing my quest for the smallest lightest most compact Leica M camera setup I decided to buy myself a smaller 50mm for when I need to pack light, a 15 blade 1959 chrome Leica Elmar 50mm f2.8 lens with bayonet mount and E39 filter thread.   The newer version 4 Leica Elmar-M 50mm f2.8 lens is lighter, sharper and with only 6 blades but I wanted a lens with quirks and more character and also with a smaller price tag!  The older version 3 Elmar lens I bought can be picked up for about half the price of a used Leica Elmar-M 50mm.  The original 1920s Leica Elmar 50mm lens was f3.5 and even smaller.  I want to be able to use my 50mm Elmar lens when there is less than ideal light so I opted for the 1950s f2.8 version.  Version 2 of this lens is said to be the most popular Leica lens ever made until it was superseded by the first Leica Summicron 50mm f2 lens in 1953.

So why did I pick this particular lens?  The Leica Elmar 50mm f2.8 lens is a collapsible design so the lens becomes more compact when not in use.  I could have bought a 50mm f2 collapsible lens instead such as a Leica Summar 5cm f2, Summitar 5cm f2 or an early Summicron 5cm f2 all of which share the same basic design where the lens is collapsible into the camera body.  In an ideal world I would chose f2 over f2.8 but the early 50mm f2 lenses are said to have very soft lens coatings so finding one in good condition is not as easy.  The slower Elmar lenses are also less in demand so old versions can be picked up on eBay at a good price and in nice condition.  Shot wide open the 50mm Elmar lens will have the old Leica lens soft glow look similar to my Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5 but stopped down to f5.6-f8 it should be almost as sharp as my Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4.  I have seen sample images with the exact lens I bought and it is sharp at f5.6.  With clever use of light I will try to get it looking sharp wide open too.  (See the results from my new Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 lens shot wide open.  They look sharp to me and that is supposed to be a soft lens wide open).

When will I use the Leica Elmar 50mm f2.8 lens?  I think lens is too soft shot wide open for wedding photography but I will use it for at least three types of photography.  Personal work which is normally model photography and portraiture.  To be more specific I will use this lens when I want to pack light such as for a day trip to London or a location shoot in Poland.  I will use it for engagement photography if the Elmar has a signature look that I really like.  Engagement sessions let me get creative so I use more unusual equipment than I might at a wedding.  Lastly, travel photography.  When I was in Mallorca last year there was so much light I was doing landscape and street photography at f8-f11.  The little Leica Elmar is the ideal lens for this occasion as stopped down I could use any of my 50mm lenses and get similar results (I think!).

What camera will I use the Leica Elmar 50mm f2.8 lens with?  I will test the lens on my Leica M9 digital camera so I understand what it can and cannot do in different light conditions.  After that I will use it with my 1950s Leica M3 film camera for a full 1950s camera-lens combo!  I think if I load the Leica M3 with 35mm Kodak Tri-X 400 film and develop it in Rodinal as normal I can get sharp looking images at f2.8.  That is the plan anyway!  I don’t plan to use this lens with colour film shot wide open as I think it will be too soft.

Sample images coming soon!


Zeiss ZM Biogon 25mm f2.8

Zeiss ZM Biogon 25mm f2.8 T* – Leica M mount
Matthew Osborne Photography


My latest purchase is a Zeiss ZM Biogon 25mm f2.8 lens. At my last wedding I spent much of the day swapping between a Voigtlander Ultron 28mm f2 and Zeiss ZM Biogon 21mm f2.8 on my Leica M9 for wide angle photos. I enjoy documentary wedding photography where people are captured interacting and shown within their environment. In contrast, for my model photography and portraiture when there is only one subject I often like to isolate by subjects with tight crops and/ or a shallow depth of field.  For indoor wedding photography such as for some of my last wedding in the Peak District I often found the 21mm ZM Biogon a little too wide and the 28mm Ultron too close to 35mm, being too narrow. The ZM Biogon 21mm and 25mm are sharper than the f2 Ultron and more similar to the sharpness of the 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar. I used to enjoy the 24mm focal length on my Nikon D800 using a Nikkor 24mm f2.8 prime. I have most focal lengths in Leica M mount but nothing between 21mm and 28mm.

Leica 24mm f2.8 Elmarit-M vs. Zeiss ZM Biogon 25mm f2.8

There is actually three 24mm-25mm Leica M lens options –

  • Leica 24mm f2.8 Elmarit-M costing £2200 weighing 290g and with an E55 filter
  • Zeiss ZM Biogon 25mm f2.8 costing £900 weighing 260g and with a 46mm thread
  • Leica 24mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH costing around £4700 weighing 468g

The Leica Lux 24mm is beyond my budget and I don’t think I would be willing to spend over £2K on a wide angle lens as a portrait photographer. I therefore had two options, a used Leica Elmarit 24mm f2.8 or for less money a new Zeiss ZM Biogon 25mm f2.8. I have no loyalty to Leica lenses and do love the contrasty punchy images from Zeiss glass. If the Elmarit and the Biogon were the same price new I would choose the ZM Biogon as the ZM 46mm filter thread fits in with my existing lenses and filters (excluding the Noctilux and 90mm Cron that are larger than 52mm). I use step up filter rings for lenses from 39mm-52mm to use 52mm filters.

I am hoping the Zeiss ZM Biogon 25mm f2.8 lens will replace two lenses in my camera bag, the 21mm and 28mm. The 28mm has already replaced my 35mm for most weddings so my new wedding lens trio would then be 25mm, 50mm, 90mm for focal lengths but take the 75mm for detail photos. For a two lens setup I would use the 25mm and 75mm Cron APO for a super sharp lens combo on two Leica M bodies. For a one camera one lens setup I tend favour the 50mm focal length over 35mm, hence my Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 weddings.

Sample images coming soon! 🙂

Related Posts

Nikkor 135mm f2.8 NAI (Pre Ai)

My latest purchase!! Nikkor 135mm f2.8 Pre Ai


Here is a test shot with my latest lens for my Nikon D800, a 1970s Nikkor 135mm f2.8 pre Ai prime lens. This photo of my Arri light is shot at f2.8 with no sharpening applied, just watermarked.

Another example, this time at f5.6 using an extension tube to let me get closer to my subject thereby creating a shallow DOF. (Macro is always a great way to test lens sharpness!)

Nikkor 135mm f2.8 pre AI

I love the older Nikon NAI, AI, AI-s lenses. Proper metal and glass construction, nice and weighty and super sharp. My current favourites and probably my highest performing two lenses for my Nikon D800 DSLR are my Nikkor 50mm f1.2 Ai-S and my Nikkor 200mm f2 Ai-S. The Nikkor 135/2.8 completes the trio and replaced my Nikkor 80-200 f2.8 that I recently sold. The 80-200/2.8 was my only zoom lens and left from my Nikon D90 days. My current setup of manual Nikkor primes makes me look forward to using my D800, for both beauty/ fashion portraits and wedding photography.  The 135/2.8 gives me that extra reach yet it is a 52mm filter size with built in hood and half the size of the common 70-200/2.8s.  Half the size means I am more mobile and I can also get into the action easier at weddings without being seen quite as easily.

The eBay purchased lens arrived very dirty but to my relief underneath the skylight filter the glass was in great condition and it cleaned up nicely. Phew!

I will use the Nikkor 135/2.8 on my next portrait session and come back with the results soon.


Related Posts

Nikkor 200mm f2 Ai-s

Nikkor 50mm f1.2 Ai-s Gallery

CZ Jena Sonnar 180mm f2.8 on D800

CZJ Sonnar 180mm f2.8 Portrait

I was using the Nikon D800 for most of the studio shoot with model Alex so I dug out my Carl Zeiss Jena (“CZJ”) Sonnar 180mm f2.8 lens to have a play with.

I bought the Sonnar originally to use on my ARAX-CM medium format 6×6 film camera. Due to the larger medium format film sensor the Sonnar 180mm is the equalent of approximately 92mm f1.4 on a 35mm camera so it can give some really nice shallow DOF shots.

Here are a few film samples – http://www.flickr.com/photos/32681588@N03/sets/72157632402457388/

I know it is known to be a nice lens for film but it just cannot compete with the Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-s in terms of resolution wide open or stopped down on the D800. The result of this effect has given this D800 photo a more vintage look straight from camera which is quite nice.

I plan to do some more 120 film photography with it when I get chance.

In terms of shallow DOF medium format film camera lenses the Contax 645 CZ Planar 80mm f2 equates to 46mm f1.2 in 35mm sensor terms and the Mamiya RZ67 110mm f2.8 Sekor lens is equal to 52mm f1.3.

If anyone wants to sell me their Konica Hexanon 60mm f1.2 for my Leica M9 I would be very grateful!


FED-2 & Industar 26M 52mm f2.8

Russian FED-2 35mm Rangefinder with Industar 26M 52mm f2.8 lens

Photo of Ukranian model Julia trying out my new FED-2 rangefinder camera taken with Leica M9.

I was in Hungary so took a taxi across the border to Ukraine for the weekend to do some model photography in Uzhgorod. While out on a walk I passed an antique shop so went in to see if they had any vintage Soviet cameras. I enjoy film photography and use both 35mm and medium format cameras, BUT.. on this occasion I was after M39 or Leica M lenses. They had a few old Soviet cameras, many in bad shape with lens not fit for photos. I found two that looked OK. One had a 50mm f2 lens collapsible but I could not see how it could be removed from the camera. The other was a Russian FED-2 1950’s rangefinder with an Industar 26M 52mm f2.8 lens attached. For less than £10 I could not resist the purchase! 🙂

FED-2 Industar 26M

Why buy legacy glass (vintage lenses) for the Leica M9?

I already own a very sharp Zeiss ZM Planar T 50mm f2 which produces photos with a modern digital look to them. I have a Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 Nokton Classic that produces slightly softer images shot wide open and gives photos a slightly vintage look to them. I have a Soviet Jupiter 3 50mm f1.5 Zeiss Sonnar copy that is extremely soft shot at f1.5 on the Leica M9. Each lens gives photos unique characteristics and I enjoy using a selection of modern and older lenses on the M9. One lens I would love to use is the legendary Leica 50mm f0.95 Noctilux but at the moment I am neither rich nor mad enough to spend £8k on a lens!

Off Topic – Voigtlander lenses

I currently don’t have any Leica lenses and feel Voigtlander lenses give the best value for money. I own the Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide Heliar (latest purchase and review to come!), the Voigtlander Ultron 28mm f2, as mentioned the VC Nokton 40mm f1.4 (amazing VFM)(new review with examples to come) and my most expensive lens so far, the fantastic Voigtlander 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii. The VC 35/1.2 is sharp enough at f1.2 to use for wedding photography and for paying clients. I shot an entire wedding on the Leica M9 using just the VC 35/1.2. At ISO 800 and using handheld with a shutter speed of 1/8 it lets you shoot with almost no light.

Back on Topic! – Colours from Vintage Glass

Another reason I bought the FED-2 + Industar 26M 52mm f2.8 lens is older lenses are said to give more natural colours due to the lens coating. As per my recent post (De-saturated Leica M9 colours vs. Kodak Portra film) I think good colour film still has the edge over digital for portrait photography and natural skin tones. If I can get such tones using older lenses from the Leica then the M9 can really do pretty much all my film cameras offer. I have not shot any black and white film since purchasing the M9 as the in camera black and white JPEGs are just as good in my opinion. I hope I will shoot more film in the future but at the moment it is on hold.

Older lenses and flare (halo effect)

One characteristic of some old lenses is they can be said to produce soft focus looking images when shot at their widest aperture. The apparent softness is often a combination of less contrast (due to lens coating) and flare rather than lack of sharpness. Highlights sometimes have a halo effect which is often viewed as ‘soft’. For portraits soft focus can sometimes be an advantage and I find for some models the super sharp (sharp and contrasty) Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2 can be less forgiving for anything other than perfect youthful skin so I switch to the VC 40/1.4.

Russian Roulette!

One problem of buying vintage Russian lenses such as Jupiter glass and here an Industar is that some lens models were built in multiple locations over an extended period with numerous versions so the quality can be a little hit and miss. Some lenses can be very good and the images are hard to tell apart from the lens they are based on (such as Jupiter 3 is copy of the Zeiss Sonnar design) and some can be poor quality.

I was unable to test the lens in the shop on my Leica as I did not have my M39-Leica M adapter with me so fingers crossed I got a nice one! 🙂

Results using the vintage Industar 26M 52mm f2.8 lens on the Leica M9 coming soon!

Samples – SOOC

Industar 26M 52mm f2.8 - Test Shot

MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.uk – UK Leica Wedding Photographer / Fashion Photographer

Related Links:

Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH II

Voigtlander Classic 40mm f1.4 / Voigtlander Bessa R3A + Nokton 40mm f1.4

Mamiya RZ67 Model Photography

Medium format film photography model shoot with Nella and my Mamiya RZ67 Pro II. For this shot I used the Mamiya Sekor 65mm f4 WA lens which is super sharp. No sharpening needed in PP.

Photo is a Epson V600 scan of the Kodak TMax 400 negative home developed in a brew of 3:1 Xtol and Rodinal at 20 degrees standing for 23 minutes without agitation.


The medium format Mamiya RZ67 film camera is currently my go to camera for any key shots whether wedding photography or model photography. My Nikon D800 gets the rest and light meters for the Mamiya.

Here more examples with Nella:
Film Fashion Photography
Mamiya RZ67 Fashion Photography

Some shots taken with Agnieszka:
Mamiya RZ67 Kodak Tmax Portrait
Mamiya RZ67 Fashion
Kodak T-Max 100 film
Model Photography on Film
Mamiya RZ67 Pro II
Sex Sells..Film
Evening Stroll
Film is NOT Dead! :)

I will add more to the blog as I edit the scanned negatives.