Zeiss ZM Sonnar C 50mm f/1.5 vs Leica Lenses (7 Reasons to Buy!)
Leica Summilux 50mm f/1.4 ASPH/ Leica Summilux Pre-ASPH 50mm f1.4 vs Zeiss C Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 vs Leica Summicron APO 50/2 vs Zeiss Planar 50/2 vs Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm f1.4
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 f0.95 but I cannot spend that kind of money at this stage. That lead me to the Leica Summicron 50mm f2 (“Cron”) and Leica Summilux (“Lux”) (Pre-ASPH & ASPH) 50mm f1.4s.
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.
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.
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.
The Lenses Pros & Cons: Sonnar vs Lux 50 ASPH
7 Reasons to buy a Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5
1) 3x Cheaper thah 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.
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
Verdict – ZM Sonnar 50mm vs Summilux 50 ASPH
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.
**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.
Example Sonnar ZM photos on Leica M9 coming soon! (now linked above)
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