Leica lenses vs the best Nikons (for b/w)

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by pierods, Nov 24, 2011.

  1. pierods

    pierods Member

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    I usually shoot a Nikon FM with a 50 mm f/2 from the '60s.

    I like my results, but many people talk about the legendary Leica lenses and so forth.

    Problem is, I don't have the money to buy Leica, so to even try a Leica combo, I would have to save for a year at least.

    Since I only shoot 35mm, black and white, will I see a difference compared with the best Nikon lenses?

    thanks
     
  2. sdotkling

    sdotkling Member

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    Really---though this will undoubtedly annoy many Leicaphiles (full disclosure: I am one, too)---no, you probably won't. I think it's more important to be completely comfortable with the camera you know. The moment is more important than the lines-per-inch. A 5% improvement in some aspect of resolution or contrast does not make a difference in the quality of a photo, unless you're some kind of technical-optical dweeb. (Dweeb is said in the most positive sense, of course.)
     
  3. pierods

    pierods Member

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    Ok, I see.

    Actually I had thought of trying an Icarex with a Zeiss 50mm, wich should not cost me more than a 100 euros, or (much) less, but then again, how do Zeiss lenses compare to Leicas?

    As far as being comfortable with my camera, I can say that when they made the nikon FM, they made it just for me (even though I was not born yet...)
     
  4. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    Yes, you will see differences but not in terms of strictly technical quality. New Leica lenses can pretty out-resolve any film currently on the market so, in the technical sense, when it comes to resolution, sharpness, etc and when looking at MTF charts, etc, Leica lenses do outshine everything else. But that's for tech geeks and shooters don't or should care for the most part. The difference is in the way they render, especially wide open. Contrary to what some say, Leica lenses do have a certain signature, which doesn't mean that they are always better than Nikon or Zeiss but they are different. This is certainly noticeable for color work but also b&w. Also, there is a vast array of old lenses that can be used and give their unique look.
    The difference you are more likely to notice, besides a Leica lens way of rendering, is how your shooting approach would change from using an SLR to a rangefinder system, especially if you are a street shooter.
     
  5. sandermarijn

    sandermarijn Member

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    Why not try the Contax G system? Prices 1/10th that of Leica and outstanding for b&w. Just be quick, cause the digital snappers are beginning to see the potential of these lenses on their NEXes & MFTs.

    The Contax G1/G2 are about the only (beit electronic) rangefinders that you can use as though you were using an SLR- this might helpen soften the transition.
     
  6. rmont2

    rmont2 Member

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    I would definitely try out some other classic Nikkors and also the Voigtlander SL lenses before falling for some forum induced GAS. Having shot either a Nikon FM,FM2n, or FE2 for the last 17 years (I still own/use all 3), I don't feel like I give up anything from using these cameras and not having a Leica or whatever else. For the cost of a M-series camera, you could round out your FM series kit including an additional body. Hope this helps.
     
  7. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    Hi,

    I have Leica and Nikon system. My Summicron 50mm is great, but not better than nikkor 50mm - it gives different look, but up to 30x40cm print (max that I print) - I don't see that is sharper or better - only different. Only advantage of Summicron is when I must shoot handheld @f2 and shutter speed slower than 1/60 - it gives better results than F3 + 50/1.8 combo.

    regards,
     
  8. Mark Layne

    Mark Layne Member

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    If you are interested in a lens's bokeh you will notice a difference with vintage leica optics. Vintage nikon lenses have often bad bokeh.
    Mark
     
  9. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I'd worry more about the pictures I take with them, they are all good lenses.
     
  10. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    I have Leicas, Nikons, and Contax G and SLRs. Frankly the lenses for all are fantastic. Really depends what you're after. My favorite Leica lens is the 50/2 Summicron DR which is sharp but has the moderate contrast I like for many B&W portraits and such. At the same time my 85/1.4 Planar for my Contax SLRs is also fantastic for B&W portraits but is very different than the Summicron DR. Overall my favorite lens of all time is the 45/2 Planar for the Contax G system. In my book there simply is no better lens. The sharpness and character is so amazing (to me) that if somehow I had to give up all my cameras and lenses but one that would be the one set to keep. All this said I find the older Nikkkor lenses from the 60's (the Nikkor-P, H, S and so forth) to be awesome for B&W work so even though I sold my FM2 years ago when I went Contax RX and RTSII for my SLR system when I recently found a great bargain on an F3 I grabbed it. I then bought all those older Nikkor lenses for similar bargains and am having a huge resurgence in my B&W fun even though I do not think I would want to ever part with my Leica, my Contax G or my RTSII. Yes, sounds like I have loads of "unnecessary" cameras and lenses but I've been collecting since I was 16 which is now 32 years ago so much of this was all collected patiently as bargains arose through the years and darn it I have a great time with it all.

    Bottom line is you're not missing out on any pure mystical magic in your photography by not having Leica lenses. On the other hand patiently wait while using your current Nikons for decent bargains and expand into new systems and equipment as time and budget allows. Nothing will be better just different. And that's the fun of it all.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 24, 2011
  11. M. Lointain

    M. Lointain Member

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    If you want a bump in quality over your Nikon gear, Contax would be the way to go. The price of good Contax bodies has come way down in the last few years. The lenses are starting to go up though. I have Leica gear and it is nice, but I prefer Zeiss optics. If you want something small like a Leica M then a Contax G would be a good option. I have been thinking about getting one myself for a beater camera. They have unfortunately been going up in price recently since those that use the puny crappy digital cameras have been buying the lenses. I wish I would have bought one a couple of years ago when a G1 and a 45mm went for a little over $200. You use to be able to get an entire black G2 system for about a grand too.
     
  12. pen s

    pen s Member

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    The best lens is the one you already have or can reasonably afford. Many other factors will affect resolution more than what lens brand you are using. Are you hand holding most shots? Can you focus accurately? These two factors alone will play havoc with lens resolution no matter what lens you use. Back in the day there was an old saying (that at least had some truth in it). 'The best lens is a tripod'. On many SLR's using mirror lock up, or mirror pre-release will even have a measurable effect on performance when used on a tripod. In the 1970's I sold cameras and remember one customer who had bought a Vivitar 400mm f5.6 that just was not producing sharp results at infinity. The problem turned out to be the 72mm Vivitar UVa filter sold to him as 'protection' for the lens. Simply removing the filter solved the problem. As an aside, we tried another Vivitar filter and the lens worked fine with it. So, the first filter was just bad. And....don't get me started on 'sample variation', that is another whole bag of worms.
     
  13. GregY

    GregY Member

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    P, As was mentioned all makers lenses have a signature look. If you're talking Leica rangefinders, some people find them a joy to use (I did) others prefer SLRs. Personally I couldn't live with the electronic rangefinders of the Contax. But no one has talked about the rest of the chain. For B/W I would absolutely dial my own film processing, and become the best silver gelatin printer I could be. If someone else is processing & printing your film, or if you are scanning & inkjet printing....Leica lenses would be...a poor use of good money.
     
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  15. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

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    If You want authentic vibe for Your B&W shots, then, there is one lens - the classical, uncoated Leitz Elmar f=5 cm 1:3,5. This is the lens that made Leica legendary.
    Types of glasses used for elements, position of the diaphragm after the 1st optical element, out of focus rendering, glow, compactness, style etc. etc..
    Summar and then Summitar are interesting refinements. All of those 3 (and many others) were designed by Max Berek and showcase his signature.
    Summicron is modern type of lens, based on Berek's last lens - the Summitar (1939).
    Essentially the Summicron is a Summitar, corrected for color shooting and with not as pleasing out of focus rendering and glow.

    If You are a painter, the brush wont matter much, since You usually might think that u have all the time, patience and fantasies.
    In Photography this is not always the case and especially in smaller formats as 135.
     
  16. pierods

    pierods Member

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    Greg Y, why is that?
     
  17. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    Whenever I see posts like this, I can't help thinking there's a subtext of, "will this make me a better photographer?"...
    The answer is no. The elusive magic bullet doesn't exist. What will make us better photographers is making photographs. Shooting, processing, and printing are the only ways to take our skills to another level. A new lens/system won't. For 99.9 percent of us, it is our technique which is lacking, and which needs more attention.
     
  18. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    All 50mm nikkors are great lenses. Learning to use it and your Fm will make you a better photographer.
    Getting a leica lens will not make you a better photographer.
     
  19. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    What I will say about the differences between Leica/Nikon/Olympus et al, is that if you refine your knowledge and experience to the point where you are able to discern those differences and learn when they can be used to your advantage, you may gain an advantage from using that knowledge and equipment.

    But it is the knowledge and experience that makes you a better photographer, not the lenses themselves.
     
  20. pierods

    pierods Member

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    How come nobody is spending a good word for Olympus?
     
  21. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Because you didn't ask :smile:

    Does 35+ years of shooting with Olympus lenses count?:whistling:
     
  22. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    The typical quality of scanning and inkjet isn't up to reproducing what the lens records.
     
  23. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    Before I entered to APUG world , I had expensive 6 Leicas. Than my income freezed and I sold them. I did not take a frame for 12 years because I had had no money to buy Leica. Than I discovered plastic Leicas , especially Leica Mini Zoom Elmar 35-70 mm.
    Its not looking like a world war 1 Ruger but it is faraway better than Canon EOS system and Nikon 40mm Sonnar Generic and Rollei 35S Sonnar 40 mm.
    So , if you have 60 dollars , you can buy one from them from keh.com.
    No more tears needed.
    I used IA ,IIIC with Elmar , two IIIF with Summitar and Leicaflex with Summicron and it is Elmar lens and takes like 60 years old Elmars.
    It is wonderfully balanced lens and every attemp to correct it with Photoshop is ugly.
    If you dont have money , visit my gallery or flickr galleries and may be you love or hate it.

    Yes , Leica is the best otherwise %95 of Magnum or Black Star photographers wouldnt use it.
    If you are lucky , you will discover at your first roll , if you are not knowing what to look for , you will be lost and continue to drive Toyota.

    Umut
     
  24. GregY

    GregY Member

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    Thanks John..... Exactly that...you will not reach the subtle characteristic qualities of either Leica or Nikon lenses via the medium of scanning or inkjet printing.
     
  25. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    Inkjet printing is nowhere different from your printed media like catalogs , newspapers etc.
    If you have good printer , knowledge to how to calibrate ir will give you a print like every offset prints.
    But I agree , to collect good scanner , good softwares , good ink and printer is more expensive than buying a Focomat and print your own.
    I have a very little knowledge about how photograph trade been done and there are many people sell themselves at facebook or here.
    So good scanning is always been the key.
    I saw some Sandy King Scans and they were excellent.
    If you want to compete with National Geographic Tifdruck Rotogravure prints , you must figure out how to model the different dot depth of rotogravure copper drum plus the ink quality.
    One of my attemps was to find who sells ink to NG and than inkjet with them but even remembered now after years

    Umut
     
  26. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    I've shot for over 40 years with both Nikon and Leica glass. No one has been able to tell me accurately which lens I was using when they see a print. Nuff said.