Leica M 50mm Lenses Compared (x11) +Leica Lens Guide!

Leica M 50mm Lenses Compared (x11) + Leica Lens Guide! (Best 50mm Leica Lens)

Leica Camera Blog: Are you looking to buy the best 50mm Leica M mount lens but not sure what to get? Considering Zeiss vs Leica M lenses? Do you find names like Summilux and Summicron confusing? I was in the same position when I bought my Leica M9! In this 2 part article I try to help from my own purchasing process.  See Parts 1&2 below.

(1) Here I compare 11 different 50mm lenses I use on my Leica M cameras; facts, pros & cons, sample images to help you decide what is right for you.  Test includes:

  1. Zeiss 50mm Planar 50mm f/2 ZM
  2. Zeiss 50mm C Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 ZM + (vs Leica)
  3. Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 (Lux 50)
  4. Leica 50mm Summicron-M f/2 v5 (Cron 50)
  5. Leica 50mm Summarit f/1.5 (1950s)
  6. Leica 50mm Summarit-M f/2.5
  7. Leica 50mm f/2.8 Elmar (Collapsible)
  8. Leica Summicron 50mm f/2 DR (Dual Range)
  9. Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH
  10. Leica Noctilux f/1.0 50mm v2 (1981)
  11. Russian Jupiter 3 50f1.5 (Zeiss Sonnar Clone)

(2) In part 2 I provide a Leica Lens Guide to help you understand the Leica Lens Terminology.  I then compare similar Leica lenses to again help with the decision when you are stuck between 2 lenses to buy.  I provide example comparisons and a Best Leica Lens for you section.

Leica M 50mm Lenses Compared

PART 1: LEICA M 50MM LENSES COMPARED (x11)

Leica M 50mm Lenses Compared

As a Leica photographer I have now collected quite a few 50mm Leica M mount lenses. I am always interested how one lens performs against another and until I can decide my favourites I am not selling any. I thought it might be useful to do a quick comparison of 8 50mm lenses, 7 of which I own and 1 I was able to use for a day to try (Leica Noctilux 50mm f0.95). I explain my thoughts, pros and cons of each lens based on my own experience and taste and using the lens copies I own. My findings may differ from your own or from comprehensive technical reviews that have been performed for each. I have included a sample photo from each lens to give you a real example. There are specific reviews for each lens too under the Leica tab at the top of the site homepage.

Camera Porn!

50mm Lenses – Pros and Cons of Each:

1. Zeiss 50mm Planar 50mm f/2 ZM:

Pros – Very sharp and contrasty. Focuses at 0.9m
Cons – Too sharp for some subjects! No built in hood.
Thoughts – Apparent clinical sharpness/ high contrast and unflattered for anything other than baby like skin
• Example Photo using a Digital Leica M9

Leica M9 - B&W Film Look

2. Zeiss 50mm C Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 ZM:

Pros – Sharp in the centre and contrasty at f1.4. Nice rendering of OOF areas/ bokeh
Cons – Closest focus 1m. No built in hood.
Thoughts – Good apparent sharpness (high contrast) shot wide open with nice rendering. Fine for most portraits.
• Example Photo, Digital Leica M9

Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50/1.5 Portrait

3. Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 (Lux 50):

Pros – Edge to edge clinical sharpness at f1.4. Focus at 0.7m. Built in hood.
Cons – Bigger than the Cron and ZM lenses. Modern look.
Thoughts – Sharpest 50 but lower contrast vs Zeiss. Best 50mm up close.
• Example Photo, Digital Leica M9

Leica Engagement Photography

  • Example Photo 2, Leica M3 film camera

Leica M3 Film Portrait

4. Leica 50mm Summicron-M f/2 v5 (Cron 50):

Pros – 39mm filter thread and built in hood. Focus at 0.7m. It does nothing badly
Cons – It has no one character to lift it above other 50s.
Thoughts – Great all rounder. It does nothing particularly well (vs. other 50s that each have a strong point) yet does nothing badly either. My least used 50 (excluding Jupiter 3 – has some focus shift to account for so not used much)
• Example Photo, Digital Leica M9

Leica Summicron 50

5. Leica 50mm Summarit f/1.5 (1950s):

Pros – Vintage look from the camera giving photos with that Leica glow. Cheap
Cons – Closest focus 1m. Soft, low contrast and prone to flare
Thoughts – Creates beautiful glowing portraits if used to its ‘strengths’ (Cons).
• Example Photo, Digital Leica M9

Street Portrait

6. Leica 50mm Summarit-M f/2.5:

Pros – Smaller than Cron & Zeiss lenses, Sharp modern look, 0.8 focus
Cons – No built in hood, slower than Cron, Lux and Zeiss lenses
Thoughts – Small and sharp. Great lens to use on Leica film cameras
• Example Photo, Digital Leica M240

Leica Shoot Out

• Example Photo 2, Leica M3 film camera

Leica M3 Film Camera

7. Leica 50mm f/2.8 Elmar (Collapsible)

Pros – My smallest M lens  (when mounted) + can use SOMKY-M
Pros 2 – *Works with SOOKY-M (SOMKY) close focus goggles
Cons – Flares easily, softer wide open, no hood, 1m close-focus*
Thoughts – Small and sharp stopped down, good for digital Leica
• Example Photo, Digital Leica M8

Leica Elmar 50mm

• Example Photo 2, Digital Leica M240

Leica SOOKY-M adapter

8. Leica Summicron 50mm f/2 DR (Dual Range)

Pros – Sharp lens wide open, can use with SOOKY-M
Pros 2 – *Works with SOOKY-M close focus goggles
Cons – Heavy, can flare, no hood, 1m close-focus*
Thoughts – If nail focus it gives great results up close at f2
• Example Photo, Leica M3 film camera

Summer Love

• Example Photo 2, Leica M3 film camera

Leica M3 Selfie

Example Photo 3, Leica M6 film camera

Leica Summicron 50mm DR

9. Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH:

Pros – Edge to edge clinical sharpness at f0.95. Good subject background separation
Cons – Closest focus 1m. Very expensive. Heavy. 60mm filter thread. Modern look
Thoughts – very similar to Lux ASPH 50 in all respects but cannot focus at 0.7m.
• Example Photo, Digital Leica M9

Leica Noctilux f0.95

10. Leica Noctilux f/1.0 50mm v2 (1981):

Pros – Unique look images created – can resemble medium format/ large format film
Cons – Closest focus 1m. Expensive. Heavy. 60mm filter thread, Soft, Low contrast
Thoughts – Softer and lower contrast than all lenses list except Summarit 50f1.5. Nicest bokeh and rendering IMO.
• Example Photo, Digital Leica M9

Leica vs Mamiya RZ!

• Example Photo, Digital Leica M240

Leica Noctilux 50mm f1 Portrait

• Example Photo 3, Leica M4P film camera

Kodak Vision3 200T

11. Russian Jupiter 3 50f1.5 (Zeiss Sonnar Clone):

Pros – Cheapest and great value for money. Contrasty giving apparent sharpness
Cons – Closest focus 1m, soft focus and prone to some flare
Thoughts – Similar to Leica Summarit in all respects but more contrasty
• Example Photo, Digital Leica M9

M9 + Jupiter 3

Conclusion

What is the best Leica 50mm lens?

It depends on personal taste and the task but for me –

Summilux ASPH: close up portraits wide open (most used any lens/50mm)
Noctilux 50 f1.0: to create ‘better’ than reality photos & less digital look
Summarit f1.5: for a more vintage look – use flare for effect
Summarit f2.5: for a small sharp lens (especially on film Leica cameras)
Summicron DR: for super closeup headshots (with close up adapter)
ZM Sonnar: for sharp environmental portraits (*sold it and regret it)
ZM Planar: for the sharpest possible image (*I later sold this lens)

One camera one lens – which 50mm would I use?

• Noctilux 50 f1 – It unique look wide open yet sharp when stopped down

52mm Lens

I didn’t include the 52mm Industar 26m f2.8 lens here as it is not strictly 50mm! (link below)

Findings

I hope you found it useful even if you do not agree with some of my findings. (I know the Leica Cron 50 is a very popular lens).

PART 2 – A GUIDE TO LEICA LENSES!

A: LEICA LENSES TERMINOLOGY

All Leica lenses are commonly broken down into different named groups depending on the widest/ fastest aperture of the lens.  This is true whether a Leica 50mm lens, 35mm lens or other focal length.  Here are some of the more common Leica lenses, new and old.

*Please note this is not a complete list and is just a guide

  • Noctilux = f0.95-f1.25 lenses (“Nocti”) – 50mm / 75mm
  • Summilux = f1.4 lenses (“Lux”) – 50mm / 35mm / 21mm
  • Summicron = f2 lenses (“Cron”) – 28mm /35mm /40mm /50mm /90mm
  • Summarit = f2.4-f2.5 lenses (Ignoring the vintage 50mm f1.5 Summarit!)
  • Elmarit = f2.8 lenses (28mm / 50mm / 90mm)
  • Elmar = f4 lenses (Commonly 90mm / 135mm Ignoring the 50mm f2.8!)
  • Summaron = f5.6 lenses (Ignoring the vintage 35mm f3.5 Summaron!)

B: WHAT IS THE BEST LEICA LENS? (FOR YOU)

When looking to buy a new Leica lens (brand new or used) there are a few factors that you might consider –

Leica Lens Wish List
  1. Chose your lens focal lens? – ie. 50mm
  2. Do you need a small lens? (perhaps for travel)
  3. Do you need a fast lens? (ie. wide aperture of f1.4-f2)(low light or portraits)
  4. What is your budget? (used lenses are cheaper than new!)
Examples Scenarios When Buying a Leica Lens

Once you have answers question 1-4 on the Leica lens wish list above you may have one of the following decisions to make.  You may be stuck in deciding between 2 Leica lenses but you are not sure which lens to buy.  Assuming you are comparing the same focal length lenses, ie. 2x 50mm lenses, here are 3 simple examples that might help you decide.  (There are many possible combinations so I selected just 3 examples that might be realistic).

B1. Summilux vs Summicron (f1.4 vs f2)

1.1 – 4 Reasons to Buy a Summilux rather than a Summicron
  1. Aperture f1.4 vs f2 gives 1 stop more light for low light photography
  2. An f stop of f1.4 gives better bokeh than f2
  3. A Summilux lens will give better background separation than a Summicron
  4. For portraits the Summilux lens will give more pleasing photos (soft focus skin and nice transition from sharp in focus to soft out of focus areas)
1.2 – 3 Reasons to Buy a Summilux rather than a Summicron
  1. Summicron f2 lenses are smaller than a Summilux f1.4 lens as they contain less glass elements
  2. Summicron lenses are therefore also lighter than a Summilux lens
  3. Perhaps the deal breaker for many photographers – the Summicron costs less than a Summilux (Great if you don’t need the extra 1 stop of light)(f1.4 vs f2)

B2. Summicron vs Summarit (f2 vs f2.4-2.5)

2.1 – 4 Reasons to Buy a Summicron rather than a Summarit
    1. Aperture f2 vs f2.4-2.5 gives slightly more light for low light photography (marginal gains)
    2. An f stop of f2 gives slightly better bokeh than f2.4-f2.5 (slight)
    3. A Summicron lens  will give better background separation than a Summarit (there is not a huge difference)(I use both lenses)
    4. For portraits the Summicron will give more pleasing photos than a Summarit (but there is not a huge difference)(I use both lenses)
2.2 – 3 Reasons to Buy a Summait rather than a Summicron
  1. Summarit f2.4-f2.5 lenses are smaller than a Summicron f2
  2. Summarit lenses are therefore also lighter than a Summicron lens
  3. Perhaps the deal breaker for many photographers – the Summarit costs less than a Summicron and is often seen as the budget Leica lens lineup.

B3. Summicron vs Elmarit (f2 vs f2.8)

3.1 – 4 Reasons to Buy a Summicron rather than a Elmarit
    1. Aperture f2 vs f2.8 gives 1 stop more light for low light photography
    2. An f stop of f2 gives better bokeh than f2.8
    3. A Summicron will give better background separation than an Elmarit
    4. For portraits the Summicron lens will give more pleasing pictures. (Most 50mm portrait lenses are f1.4-f2).  For longer lenses such as a 90mm or 135mm an f2.8 or f4 lens can still produce nice portraits as the longer focal length accentuates the background separation, compression and bokeh.
3.2 – 3 Reasons to Buy a Elmarit rather than a Summicron
  1. Elmarit f2.8 lenses are smaller than a Summicron f2 lens
  2. Elmarit lenses are therefore also lighter than a Summicron lens
  3. Perhaps the deal breaker for many photographers – the Elmarit costs less than a Summicron

Summary

There is no fixed rule that says you can’t use a f2.8-f4 lens for portraits (I use any lens for portraits).  It is just a over simplified guide.  Ideally for portraits I would use my 50mm f1.4 Summilux lens not my 50mm f2.8 lens but I will use my 90mm f4 lens and 135mm f4 lens for portraits.

If you are new to Leica I hope this was of some use to you.  If you are a Leica nut please excuse this simple guide.  I tried to find a happy medium to provide some value to the majority of readers.

Happy Shooting.. with whatever lens you chose! Matt

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Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f1.5 Review (vs Leica Lenses)(7 Reasons to Buy!)

Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f1.5 Review (vs Leica Lenses)(7 Reasons to Buy!)

Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f1.5 Review and Sample Photos

Selfie

Leica Summilux 50mm f/1.4 ASPH/ Leica Summilux Pre-ASPH 50mm f1.4 vs Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 vs Leica Summicron APO 50/2 vs Zeiss Planar 50/2 vs Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 lens

Zeiss 50mm vs Leica 50mm

I currently use a Leica M9 camera with various Voigtlander lenses and a Zeiss Planar 50/2 lenses. I don’t own any Leica lenses and I always wonder if I am missing out. So the research began once again.. I like the idea of using the legendary Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 lens but I cannot spend that kind of money at this stage. That lead me to the Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 lens(“Cron”) and Leica Summilux (“Lux”) (Pre-ASPH & ASPH) 50mm f1.4.

Before buying a lens

My reviews normally include reading as much as I can from various sources but also viewing as many pictures as possible to get a feel for what the lenses can do.

Mr Leica Vintage Selfie!

After much reading, my thoughts are:

Leica Cron 50/2 APO

Similar to my Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 (but with the Leica touch). The Cron is a very sharp lens with a nice smooth look but costs almost 10x more than the Planar.

Leica 50mm Summilux Pre-ASPH f/1.4 

Similar to the Zeiss Sonnar ZM C 50mm f1.5 (but with the Leica touch) Lux pre-ASPH is not as sharp or contrasty as the Planar. Pre-ASPH is also similar to my Jupiter 3 Russian Sonnar clone – 50/1.5 that has that classic look. I feel this vintage look is also obtainable with the cheap, tiny but mighty Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4.

Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 (Lux 50)

Similar to the Zeiss Sonnar ZM C 50mm f1.5 (but with the Leica touch) Lux ASPH photos are not as creamy in texture vs. the Zeiss but have better microcontrast and sharpness to give a modern look. I would compare the edge to edge sharpness of the Lux ASPH with the very sharp Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 that also has that modern look.

Leica Summilux 50 vs Zeiss Sonnar

This narrowed down my search to 2 lenses – Leica Lux 50/1.4 ASPH vs Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50/1.5. The new Lux is well known to be one of the best 50mm lenses made today but it is 3x the cost of the Sonnar. So, pro’s and cons of each.

Behind the Scenes (2)

The Lenses Pros & Cons: Sonnar vs Lux 50 ASPH

Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 ZM

50mm Sonnar ZM f1.5 lens

7 Reasons to buy a Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f1.5

1) 3x Cheaper than Leica Summilux 50 ASPH

2) Softer classic look overall with centre sharper than edges – great for my female portraits.

3) Nice bokeh and Zeiss 3D look.

4) Stopped down to f5.6 can give modern looking sharp contrasty images.

5) Shorter, smaller filter thread (46mm), lighter (240g) and doesn’t block rangefinder viewfinder in bottom right corner.

6) Sonnar ZM photos have a distinct look (as photos do with the Leica Noctilux) meaning photos have a less perfect and more arty feel to them so different from all the DSLR photos of today.  (A big plus for me).

7) Zeiss colours  – I prefer this to the flatter looking Leica images.

2 Reasons to avoid a Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5

1) A big one – Sonnar has history of back focusing on digital Leica bodies. I just hope I get a good one set to be sharp at f1.5 (rather than f2.8).

2) Minimum focus distance – 0.9M (Leica lenses are 0.7M) Not good for my portrait work and love of shallow DOF.

Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 (Lux 50)

3 Reasons to buy a Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH

 

1) Perhaps the best 50/1.4 lens on the market.

2) Investment in a Leica lens that will hold it’s value well and can be relied upon.

3) I love the non-uniform bokeh from the Lux ASPH that narrows in the corners.  Similar to my Nikkor 50mm f1.2 ai-s lens

1 Reasons to avoid a Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH

1) Cost.

Leica Summilux vs Sonnar 50mm – Verdict

After almost buying a new Leica Summilux my brain took over and stopped me. Instead I ordered a new silver Zeiss ZM Sonnar C 50mm f1.5 and saved almost £2000. Serious cash! I just hope I am happy with my purchase. If not I may get my Leica after all.

Zeiss C Sonnar 50mm f1.5 review

**Please note the above conclusions are based merely on my humble observations and understanding and do not resemble scientific data or evidence of each lens compared to each other.

My Preliminary Plan

As the Zeiss Sonnar ZM C 50mm f1.5 is more of an arty lens than a sharp lens I hope to use the Sonnar for my female model fashion and beauty portrait work, location shoots and for personal work.  For Leica wedding bookings I think I will probably use the Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 lens for reliable sharp images (unless the client prefers the look of my Sonnar work).  For the last few weddings using my Leica M9 I found the Zeiss Planar and Voigtlander Ultron 28mm f2 to both give very sharp modern images.  The Voigtlander 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii gives slightly softer but still very rewarding images.  The Voigtlander Notkon 40mm f1.4 gives a softer more classic look so I have been using it for my Leica M9 portraits where the models skin would not appreciate the sharpness of the Zeiss Planar!  I am interested to see where the Sonnar ZM will fit in.

Zeiss Sonnar 50 1.5 Portraits

Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50/1.5 Portrait

Leica M3 SS + Zeiss ZM Sonnar

Sonnar Portrait

London Street Photography

Natural Light Portraiture

Car Lights

Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f1.5 Flickr – More!

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