Zeiss Planar 50mm Review (Zeiss 50mm f2 ZM – Leica M mount)

The Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 ZM lens was one of my first lens purchases when I bought the Leica M9 camera. It was said to be sharp and cheaper than a Leica Summicron 50mm lens. Here is a short Zeiss Planar 50mm review with sample photos (from when I had the M9).

>> More reviews on YouTube! 
Leica M9 Fashion

Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 ZM lens for Leica M

If you want a compact reasonably priced (*in Leica camera terms!) 50mm lens for your Leica M camera then look no further! The Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 ZM lens is a compact sharp lens with good contrast. At the time of buying my digital Leica M9 I decided I wanted a “sharp” lens. My main lens was a Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 which is an awesome little lens but not killer sharp wide open. Once I got the Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm I then decided it was too sharp for my female portraiture. I can’t imagine ever saying that now about any lens as us photographers normally love sharp lenses (and nice bokeh)! This article is a bit of a retrospective post to fill the gap in my blog lens list and to settle my OCD issues!

Leica M9 Colours (2)

Leica 50mm Summicron vs Zeiss 50mm Planar

When looking to buy a 50mm f2 lens for a Leica M mount camera the first obvious question is Zeiss Planar vs Summicron 50mm? For me it was an easy choice as money was limited. A Leica Summicron 50mm f2 (non APO version) lens cost more than 3x the price of a Zeiss Planar 50mm ZM lens. I knew Zeiss glass was good from using Zeiss lenses on my other cameras so I happily purchased the ZM Planar 50mm f2 without concern. (*I did buy a Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 and a Leica Summicron 50mm f2 DR at later dates – used condition and at seemingly bargain prices).

Summer Love!

50mm f1.5 Zeiss Sonnar vs Planar 50mm f2

If you didn’t consider a Leica Summicron 50mm lens when being tempted by the Zeiss 50mm Planar lens then the other lens that probably caught your attention was the Sonnar ZM 50mm f1.5. When deciding between a Zeiss Planar vs Sonnar ZM 50mm lens I chose the ZM Planar lens as the cost was 2/3 the price of a Zeiss Sonnar. I already had the mentioned Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 lens if I needed something faster (with a wider aperture). (*I was later too tempted by the Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f1.5 lens so bought one but later sold it when I got my Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 lens).

Zeiss Planar 50 Portrait

More Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 Flickr Photos

Available Light Photography
Leica Black and White
Zeiss ZM Planar

Zeiss ZM 50 Planar – Cheap 50mm Leica lens?

To my knowledge the cheapest new 50mm lens available for a Leica M mount camera is the Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 ZM or a Vogtlander Nokton 50mm f1.5. Both lens can be a similar price depending where you shop but the Voigtlander is usually a little cheaper. As I already have various 50mm lenses (see the 50mm Lenses Compared post) plus a few Voigtlander lenses I’ve never been tempted by the Nokton 50mm. I did use a Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.5 during one of my Leica workshops in London that a student brought along. I didn’t dislike the Nokton 50mm photos but equally I was not blown away by them either. (*Bare in mind I have quite a few nice 50mm lenses).

Leica M9 + Zeiss Planar 50mm Portraits

Zeiss Planar Portrait
Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2
Leica M2 + Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2 Portrait
Leica M9 Model Photography
Zeiss ZM Planar 50 + Leica M9
Leica M9 & Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2 Portrait
Leica M8 Studio Portrait

Leica Glass

If you are only interested in Leica lenses and money is limited, and you only want a 50mm lens then you could consider the Leica Summarit-M 50mm f2.5 lens. The Summarit 50mm is smaller than a Zeiss Planar 50mm ZM lens but not as fast in terms of aperture. Being Leica glass it costs quite a bit more than the Zeiss but it is cheaper than a Summicron 50mm or Summilux 50mm. I love the balance of a small 50mm on my Leica M3 camera (especially) and the Summarit f2.5 is sharp and contrasty.

Zeiss Planar 50mm Bokeh!

Zeiss Planar Bokeh

Zeiss Planar T 50mm f2 Price

The Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 ZM lens is available here on Amazon.com if you want to see the price and lens spec details.

Leica M9 Portrait

Zeiss Planar 50mm Review – Summary

The Zeiss Planar 50mm is one of the few lenses I’ve sold during my Leica photography days. Just by coincidence the other 50mm lens I sold was the mentioned Zeiss Sonar 50mm f1.5. While I’ve never missed the Planar 50mm (despite it being a good lens) I have missed the Sonnar on many occasions. I even bought a second copy of a Sonnar 50/1.5 but it was sub-standard/ expectation shot wide open due to focus shift issues so I returned it. Putting this post together the main thing I notice is the amazing vibrant Leica M9 colours! These CCD colours are unmatched by the Leica M240 or Leica CL. (Luckily I shoot mostly black and white so this is less of an issue for me).

More 50mm lenses compared!

50mm Zeiss Planar vs Voigtander 50mm APO

The Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 ZM offers a cheaper alternative to the Voigtlander 50mm f2 APO-Lanthar. I was interested to see how the two lenses compared so I bought another copy of the ZM Planar just to make the APO video. See both lenses in this video.

Zeiss ZM 50mm f2 vs Summicron M 50mm f2

If you want to see how the Leica Summicron 50mm f2 performs you might like the Summicron review video. My Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2 was sharper than my Summicron-M v5 but I eventually sold both lenses keeping only the 50 DR.


Related Leica blog posts

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2 thoughts on “Zeiss Planar 50mm Review (Zeiss 50mm f2 ZM – Leica M mount)”

  1. Edward Steichen – one of the greatest art and applied photographers – said “No photographer is as good as the simplest camera”

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