I guess it is time to give a first look review of the Leica Summicron 2/50. I am planning a second review / compare down the road where I will pit it head to head with the Carl Zeiss C Sonnar 1.5/50 - my favorite lens which is also in dire need of a proper film review. For now, I am going to give my initial impressions of the lens and the first 3 rolls I have shot through it.
As an aside, I had a Summicron 2/50 from the 1950's that I absolutely adored last year and for some reason sold off. I figured to replace it, why not try a version 5 of the lens. I picked it up from Jack's Camera Shop in Muncie, IN - a great friendly shop that I'd highly recommend.
- Length: 50mm
- Aperture: f/2-f/16
- Minimum Focus: 0.7 m
- Angular Field: 45°
- Length: 43.5 mm
- Weight: 335 g (chrome)
- Cost: ~$2100 US
As you can see, this is a nice, compact little lens.
The Build of the Leica Summicron
You just can't complain about the build of any Leica glass. The brass version of the Leica Summicron (335g) is especially robust when compared to the much lighter black (242g). Whichever you choose, very smooth barrel rotation and solid meaty clicks of the aperture ring. It feels so solid on the camera and doesn't get in the way of your viewfinder.
One odd thing to note that I haven't figured out yet. When rotated to infinity, the rangefinders seem out of line. I back it off a hair to align the images. This does not happen with either of the Zeiss lenses - and it happened on both the M-A and M2 bodies. I talked with Jason on Twitter (who also just picked one up) as well as Steve and they said they've noticed the same thing. In the image above, I focused on the "400 NC" text, and below I focused on the coffee mug. Below that, I focused on Chief Brody's right eye. So near focus does seem OK.
This winter, New England was blanketed with feet upon feet of snow, so one sub-zero Sunday morning, I put on a few layers of clothing and headed out with the Leica M-A and my new chrome Leica Summicron 2/50 for a thorough testing. Much of the trail was waist-deep in snow, but so worth the results. There are a range of apertures used below (from f/2-5.6), but the majority is wide open as that's how I really like to shoot. Drop off is very smooth, very pleasing.
Here are a few shots before my walk-about in the snowy woods. Kids weren't around, so the animals were my models this time. I am very pleased with how this lens performed.
The Leica Summicron is very sharp, even wide-open - though I am guessing not quite as sharp as the Sonnar, believe it or not. I'll know for sure when I do a head to head though. Distortion is almost non-existent. Also, chromatic aberration (CA) as at most, subtle - but mostly non-existent.
As of this writing, I plan to keep this lens as it shoots a little different than the C Sonnar. The Leica seems much more contrasty while the Zeiss has a better feel (in my opinion) for portrait use, etc. Like I said, I haven't pitted them head to head yet, so I will know much better then. But if this lens is on your radar, I highly suggest it - even if you already have a drawer full of 50's.
All images on this page shot with Leica M-A + Leica Summicron 2/50 + Kodak Portra 400 - developed by Richard Photo Lab.