Carl Zeiss Sonnar vs Summicron

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by puketronic, Jan 28, 2013.

  1. puketronic

    puketronic Member

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    I have both but I am unsure if I should keep both. I don't like to have too many similar lenses because I'm trying to fight the semi-collector within me. I recently got rid of three 50's and it felt good.

    The Sonnar is faster but the extra stop isn't that much more useful because the DOF is more narrow and the focus shift. I feel that if I were to have multiple 50's then a Summilux and/or a collapsible Summicron/Elmar would be more justifiable because the former is faster (without the shift) and the later is more portable..

    I mean, I've shot maybe a dozen rolls from both lenses so not really enough to make a definite comparison and the lighting/scenes/films were not always the same. They both take good pictures. Anyone with both of these lenses feel that the drawing of one is different enough to keep both? Ofcourse your answer doesn't really dictate mine but I'm just trying to come up with the courage to get rid of one (the sonnar) or to be convinced by others that I really do need both. Maybe I'll appreciate the difference later down the road when I shoot more rolls. I just don't want to regret selling the Sonnar or keeping it when I think I can benefit from something else more photographically useful.

    I'd opt for the Summicron over the Sonnar because I prefer sticking with 39mm filter threads, it matches my M3, and I like the ergonomics better (clickly aperture).
     
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  2. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Subscriber

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    I had both, and kept the Summicron, sold the Sonnar.

    The Summicron is overall a better lens. The Sonnar has interesting bokeh and is very sharp in the center, but at the edges it is not nearly as sharpas the Summicron. The Summicron is a more useful lens for everyday work in my opinion.
     
  3. tessar

    tessar Subscriber

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    Ditto.
     
  4. BMbikerider

    BMbikerider Member

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    I saw a test many years ago of the bog standard 50mm F2 Summicron where the sharpness was shown as a graph. It was so impressive that I have never forgotten about it. I cannot remember the scale it used but the graph started off quite high on the scale. For purposes of argument say this was at 7. (At F2)Iit then rose to say 9.5 and stayed flat all the way across the scale covering all apertures until F16 when it dipped to 8. That to me is very very impressive. Keep the Summicron and sell the Zeiss.
     
  5. puketronic

    puketronic Member

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    And if it matters this is a DR Summicron and a Contax RF Sonnar (not the new ZM one).
     
  6. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Subscriber

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    I'm interested in purchasing a Zeiss Ikon and am torn between the Sonnar or Planar 50mm. The Sonnar sounds intriguing but I'm a stickler for sharpness and this thread is helping me realize the Planar may be a better all around lens, I also hear Planar is just as sharp as the Summicron.
     
  7. puketronic

    puketronic Member

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    Although my comparison is different I feel that it is very similar. Part of my problem is that I have two different lenses and I have trouble parting with the less desireable one.

    If I were in your position, I would choose the planar. I would rather have a better all-rounder sharper lens than a special use one.
    If I had neither of my lenses and had to pick one, then I would go with the Summicron. I'm leaning on selling my Sonnar.
     
  8. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    Personally, I'm madly in love with the 50/1.5 Sonnar, but its big strengths are in intangibles like "character", bokeh, color rendition, and so on, rather than incredible sharpness. I've never had a Summicron, but based on reputation, testing, and the results of others, it seems to be clearly the sharper lens of the two. Nevertheless I can't imagine that any lens, whatever magic it might have of its own, would *replace* the Sonnar for me.

    The only Planar I've shot is in medium format, which I believe is the same optical formula as the 35mm versions. Sharp enough to cut yourself on, to be sure, but it's hard to compare lenses of different formats in apples-to-apples terms (apart from quantitative bench tests).

    In any case, I think it's safe to say that "Sonnar or Summicron?" and "Sonnar or Planar?" are both good problems to have!

    -NT
     
  9. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    I love 50mm lenses for 35mm. It's my favorite perspective and the choice is so wide plus the price usually fairly good. The 50/2 Summicron DR is hands down my favorite. I just LOVE it's character for my B&W work over all others in over 30 years of shooting. Mostly it's the razor sharpness with a nice moderate contrast the sways me----terrific character particularly for casual portraits and such. That said an old-style 50/1.5 Sonnar I recently acquired with a Contax IIIA is proving a close second. And perhaps overall (for color and B&W) it's my 45/2 Planar for the Contax G2 that is one I'll never part with but mainly BECAUSE it's so different than the other two (I know, 45mm is neither a 50mm nor a Summicron or Sonnar, but it's close enough!). And lastly two surprisingly wonderful lenses I also own and use on my Leicas is a black 50/2 Jupiter-8 and a very nice Russian 50/3.5 Elmar-clone. Both are outstanding.

    So I'm not helping, I say keep them both. But if it's one over the other than shoot as many photos as you can with both lenses on your favorite film for the next 60 days and see which one floats your boat more often.
     
  10. giannisg2004

    giannisg2004 Member

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    What makes things interesting is, at f/5.6 and down, the Sonnar gets as sharp as the Planar.

    As I see it, when I need extreme sharpness, it's usually for landscapes and architecture (still subjects generally). In these occasions I would stop down around f/8 anyway, so there's no discernible difference between the Sonnar and Planar.

    When I shoot close to wide open, it's because a) either I shoot in available light (Sonnar wins here), b) or I want subject isolation, which means bokeh character is (probably) more important than sharpness (not to mention that in most cases, it's for portraits that I need subject isolation, so a less sharp/contrasty lens is preferable anyway).

    For me, the Sonnar is a very interesting lens, that behaves as 2 different lenses: razor sharp stopped down, and pleasingly smooth with nice bokeh wide open.
    And for my shooting style, that's just the kind of behaviour that I want/suits my subjects, when shooting at these apertures.

    So what's the point of the Planar you might ask. Well, it's smaller, cheaper and sharper wide open.
    But if i had to choose only one lens, that would probably be the Sonnar.
     
  11. puketronic

    puketronic Member

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    Thanks! Well I'm also not looking for people to back up my decision in selling the one that I want to sell. I just want to hear a broader perspective because what I would hate most is regret. Well, the Sonnar isn't that rare/expensive, but still, I wouldn't want to go through the hassle in getting one back.

    I haven't shot enough rolls through either to mark a clear preference so I think I wiill need to shoot some more to get a feel. If I still don't see the difference after a few months to a year, then clearly it is a lens I shouldn't keep.
     
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  12. giannisg2004

    giannisg2004 Member

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    Well, if you can't see a difference in your negs under normal conditions, just keep the one that feels nicer to use. Or sell the one that can fetch you more money.
    Pictures are all that matter, and if if you cannot find any differences in your own negs, why base your decision in lab produced tests or other people's opinions?

    I'd even say that you don't need to look hard, using extreme enlargements etc., to try and find the "best" of your lenses. If you cannot tell which neg is by which lens on first glance, it's not worth it sweating over it too much.
     
  13. Mark Crabtree

    Mark Crabtree Member

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    I have the DR Summicron and have been thinking about adding a modern 1.5 Sonnar, but there is no way I'd consider the Sonnar a Summicron replacement unless I had very specific needs. The Summicron is a fabulous all around lens and very well behaved; I'd just like the extra speed once in a while.

    Keep both if you can afford to; they should complement each other well.
     
  14. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    I have a Rollei 35S with Sonnar 40 and Nikon with a Sonnar clone. They are good not even a 70 years old Leica. Keep Summicron if you are not a I bought a Leica , I did not like it and I had needed money person !

    I did not understand why you invested such a money to these lenses without research and I did not understand why you wanted to sell after only few rolls. I think as I said it was GAS and now you need money as usual as Leica bashers experienced.
     
  15. puketronic

    puketronic Member

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    Well it was gas, I have to admit.

    I started with a canon bottom loader with canon 50mm f1.8 LTM but then i wanted a better camera (M3), and then I wanted faster lenses (some f1.4's), and then I wanted better bokeh (Sonnars), and then I did some sales and someone offered a summicron as a trade (I thought, why not?), so now I have these two lenses and a Nikkor 50mm f1.4 LTM. Nikkor is going for sure because it has no "advantages" to either of these lenses. It is a sonnar clone so might as well keep the original, I'd say.

    I did research into the lenses but I'm beginning to think that there is a lot of hype to some lenses (ofcourse this is completely debatable and controversial) so now I'm thinking that I just need one instead of a palatte and just let the lens draw the way it wants to draw. Not necessarily because I need the money (but I am by no means wealthy), but just to liberate myself from having too many of what is similar. I absolutely love Leica and can see why people would spend the money for the cameras/lenses so I am by no means bashing.
     
  16. Patrick Robert James

    Patrick Robert James Subscriber

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    I have had bunch of 50's for the Leica. Two Sonnar 1.5s, one post war and one prewar, Russian stuff, and a converted Pentax-M 1.4. I used to have a mint Summicron, I think it was the first version of it (same time period as my 1000000 M3). I tested all the lenses I had a few years ago and surprisingly the prewar 1.5 uncoated Sonnar bested the Summicron in resolution, and beat the post war Sonnar too. It is probable that I have an incredible version of it because it didn't seem logical. I ended up selling the Summicron, although it is a good lens, because it made no sense to keep. Fast forward a few years and the 50 that I carry all the time now is the converted Pentax lens. Fast, sharp, wonderful tonality. Possibly the best all around 50 ever made, although on the Leica it focuses the wrong way.... I have been using the Pentax for a few months now and it is such a good lens I am thinking about selling my Sonnars.

    If you are choosing between a Contax Sonnar and a Summicron the choice is not so simple. The Summicron will flare less but isn't as fast. You probably won't be able to tell the difference between them outside in bright sunlight stopped down. If you want a lens for low light, keep the Sonnar. Summicons are worth at least 5 times as much. One thing I liked about the Summicron is the negs had an "etched" quality about them.

    If you are shooting color, I would sell them both and get a modern Planar.
     
  17. puketronic

    puketronic Member

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    No color, but thanks for your advice.
     
  18. Mark Crabtree

    Mark Crabtree Member

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    I agree there is a lot of hype about lenses, though with usually at least a grain of truth. The Summicron is not hype; it has been the reference standard 50mm since the Rigid and Dual Range versions came out (the first one was a bit softer). If you need a faster lens, then you have to start making decisions.

    Comparing the lenses will make you crazy. Put one away in a drawer, whichever you are leaning toward getting rid of. Shoot with the other for a few months, or more. If you are happy, then sell the one in the drawer. But I wouldn't rush to get rid of a good working Leica mount lens; as you mentioned earlier, it can be a challenge replacing it later.
     
  19. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I'm such a crap photographer either wouldn't make any difference to the outcome :D
     
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  20. prumpkah

    prumpkah Member

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    Just to throw a spanner in the works, it's reported on RFF that Cosina Voigtlander are about to release an updated M mount version of the well-regarded 50/1.5 Nokton ASPH. The original LTM version was compared favorably against the last pre-ASPH Summilux, which itself was not chopped liver.
     
  21. Xmas

    Xmas Member

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    It does rather the abberations and the contrast are different.

    The abberations for the contax lens would differ between the pre WWII, post WWII and late production CZ Contax lens, as the glass catalogue has new glass and withdrawn glass(, for quarantine). The later lenses would be better off axis, a little or a lot depending on the glasses selected for the recomputations.

    But if you are not using Pan F on a clamp, set into a 1m block of concrete you might not detect any difference other than at wide apertures.

    The Contax lens will be lower contrast then the ZM cause of the multi coating (if you were using colour the mid tones and shadows would be more pastelled) in mono the contrast will be lower cause the shadows will be filled in. The pastel and the fill in are dependent on the contrast of the sceane, a high contrast sceane has most compensation.

    The Summicron double Gauss style design offers more degrees of freedom for correction and was computed of a 56-57 glass catalogue, so is very well corrected, (by comparison) but it has more air to glass surfaces (compared to the CZ triplet), so is lower contrast, more pastel and more shadow fill in.

    The adaptive contrast is not a big secret Cosina offered the 40mm /1.4 M lens in single or multi coated and did a short run of the SC (as they thought) for the Ja home market (mnochrome people) , the short run was snapped up so they made lots of batches in SC and later also offered the 35mm /1.4 in SC and MC...

    I normally do a day shoot from large GBag three or four bodies with three of four lenses, cause I can only carry one set, all the lenses either SC or MC dependent on the weather forcast ikons for sunny or overcast, note MC for overcast. The SC lenses are from 60s. the MC from this decade, the abberation (correction) differences are irrelevant cause I am shooting quickly and get a lot of blurrr...

    Keep the most ergonomic oldster bye a modern one.

    Noel
     
  22. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I was trying to make a serious point here, in that what you photograph, how you photograph it, and what meaning the final image has more importance than the M.T.F function of the particular lens the picture was made with, and although I appreciate having reasonable quality workmanlike lenses is desirable, I doubt if Joe Rosenthal's shots of the U.S Marines raising Old Glory on Iwo Jima would be any the less an inspiring and iconic image if it was taken with a lesser lens.