Leica Users: Rigid 50/2 Summicron or Nikkor 50/1.4 Sonnar?

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by Rolleiflexible, Jul 10, 2008.

  1. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

    Messages:
    1,274
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2005
    Location:
    New York Cit
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have an early 50/1.4 Nikkor in LTM that I've
    been shooting off and on with an M3. It's a
    Sonnar design, supposedly optimized for work
    close in and wide open -- what I typically do.
    For illustration, I've posted a sample from my
    Nikkor (at f/2) here in the APUG forums:

    http://www.apug.org/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=36142

    I've been told that I should consider using a
    rigid Summicron on the camera. Okay: But
    might I expect the Summicron to compare to
    my Nikkor?

    Apologies if this has already been discussed
    elsewhere.

    Sanders
     
  2. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,341
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2005
    Location:
    Dearborn,Mic
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hey Sanders

    For portraits, I shoot them both !

    The mid '50s Summicron lacks the hot Sonnar look,
    and has an across the field clarity. Wide open, it hints at soft tonality.

    If I want to draw peach fuzz on a young cheeks, the Nikkor.
    Lighting falling on the contours of a ... more mature beauty, Summicron.

    Subtle, subtle, subtle. A lot like a mid '50s Planar on your Rollei.

    The only way to tell for sure is to shoot them side by side.

    don
     
  3. lens_hacker

    lens_hacker Member

    Messages:
    173
    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2007
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    The Summicron is lower contrast, will not look as sharp. It will preserve more shadow detail.

    If you can find a collapsible Summicron in good condition, also look at it. Cost about 1/3 less than a Rigid. Not quite as sharp, but close.

    Some shots with my Collapsible and Type I Rigid Summicron on the Leica forum, here:

    http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica...-type-i-rigid-summicron-comparison-shots.html

    Hopefully you can see the images. If not, register for free and then you can view them.
     
  4. kennethcooke

    kennethcooke Member

    Messages:
    49
    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2008
    Location:
    Luddite- Wes
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I agree a collapsable Summicron will not be as sharp as a current rigid Summicron but I would say, as someone who has used both and owns a 50mm Summicron current model that the 50mm Summicron is far sharper than a 50mm 1.4 Nikkor. In fact you would need to be careful using a 50mm Summicron for sensitive portraits of the fairer sex, they my not thank you for it's searching images
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 27, 2008
  5. lens_hacker

    lens_hacker Member

    Messages:
    173
    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2007
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    There are a number of variations in the Summicron. The original Collapsible used Thorium glass, then moved to something less radioactive. The Collapsible, Type I Rigid, and Dual-Range Summicron where 7 elements in 6 groups. Lower contrast, high resolution. The Type 2 Rigid went to 6 elements in 5 groups, a bit higher contrast than the older ones. Finally, the Summicrons went to 6 elements in 4 groups- Same as the 1930s Summar. It is higher contrast, probably sharper. But many users prefer the "look" of the older glass.

    Type 2 Rigid Summicron, wide-open on the M2:

    http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-forum/people/46817-waiting-lunch.html

    Price-wise, the Collapsible Summicron and Type 2 Summicron can be had in the $300~$400 range for a nice one. The Type 1 Rigid goes for a bit more, and the recent ones are in the $1000 and above range.
     
  6. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

    Messages:
    1,274
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2005
    Location:
    New York Cit
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks, all, for the observations.

    Don suggests the Nikkor is the
    sharper, Kenneth gives the nod
    to the Summicrons.

    I guess, in the end, I like the look
    of the negatives from the Nikkor
    and so I should leave well enough
    alone and focus my efforts on
    shooting, not equipment. I just
    wish it were more compact.

    Sanders
     
  7. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,341
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2005
    Location:
    Dearborn,Mic
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Sanders

    Talking about sharpness really is pretty counterproductive since the word really has no meaning.
    Acutance, resolution, sure.
    Intuitively, there IS a distinction,
    and THAT is pretty subjective. Unless you, Kenneth, and I know each other,
    there isn't much useful information we can share.

    (I actually think that the two lenses aren't comparable,
    yet they are complimentary !)

    Sometime, borrow / rent an old Summicron, give it a spin.

    Then, you tell US !

    In the meantime, SHOOT those pictures.

    d
     
  8. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

    Messages:
    1,274
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2005
    Location:
    New York Cit
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Don, fair enough.

    When you say the lenses aren't comparable,
    but complementary, that is the beginning of
    what I was trying to fathom in this thread --
    how do the two lenses differ? And I was
    grateful to have your thoughts on that. But
    you are right, that subtleties of lens performance
    being what they are, language often fails to
    provide a satisfactory medium for the explanation.
    And scans of negatives viewed on a computer
    screen do very little to illuminate.

    Sanders
     
  9. luvcameras

    luvcameras Advertiser Advertiser

    Messages:
    420
    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have always questioned Dante Stella's comments that the Nikon RF 50/1.4 was "optimized" for up close shooting.... In all my years of reading and camera collecting - I have never heard that comment elsewhere. While I understand Nikon allowed the lens to focus closer than normal, it was uncoupled from the Rangefinder camera's focusing ability - so I am not sure that argument stands up. Any know more about this ?

    Dan

    Nikon RF Page http://members.aol.com/dcolucci/nik.htm
    Leica SM Page http://members.aol.com/dcolucci/c.htm
     
  10. Mark Layne

    Mark Layne Member

    Messages:
    919
    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2003
    Location:
    Nova Scotia
    I prefer the bokeh of the Summicron ( knew an old fisherman with that name- couldn't swim but was lucky enough to fade away naturally.)
    Mark
     
  11. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,341
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2005
    Location:
    Dearborn,Mic
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    DISCLOSURE: I helped Dante do some of this testing. I have always understood that Dante's rationale for publishing the results was enthusiasm; just as there is a marked opinion in his writing, there is also a cheerful take-or-leave-it ambience. You don't PAY for D's work, and he isn't selling T SHIRTS. If it is entertaining, good. If it is helpful, good. If it is irritating and makes you lose sleep over it... well, fine.

    Besides being a fine researcher, Dante is a fine photographer, and has an appropriate approach to careful testing. Without going into pages of detail, it was correct. When you get to the finish line, this era's LTM Nikkors consistently gave slightly higher definition at 1 meter ranges than did Canon, higher contrast. Wide open.

    Different camera bodies, focussed through, etc., etc. It was a fun project for a cold, ugly winter.

    You're welcome, of course, you accumulate a bushel of clean and well functioning samples and do your own tests and compare the results. The motive for the testing was, however, pure: sheer curiosity. No claims were made for this project, we followed the simplistic approach that if his results agreed with mine once, it was an accident. Twice, a coincidence, and a third time, we probably had it right.

    Reading about it is one thing, finding out for yourself is another.

    Nearly all of published photo 'wisdom' is cut-and-pasted-and-republished stuff spanning decades. Since the internet has brought reams of the most commonly recycled lore to 'the masses', it is pretty important to be able to verify what IS, and what is just... well, stories.

    This LTM project was no more than a rational and controlled project to see what differences, if any, there were between the various lenses of the early '50s. The summary is concise, and describes the signature of various lenses under a very specific condition: wide open, 1 meter.
    We looked at Zeiss Sonnars (Contax and LTM), some Leitz lenses, and some Ukraine lenses. Dante's curiousity focussed on the Canon / Nikon lenses. The Sonnar signature was consistent throughout all this, and the small differences were consistent.

    My observation on all of this ? With today's film, on a well set up rfdr body, and with a Focomat or Valoy, the early '50s lenses are wonderful picture takers.

    PLease note, the lenses were only compared to each other. There was no interest in comparing them to the latest glass from Leica. I make a living with my pictures, and have for a long time. I have old lenses in my bag, and I have new ones. It suits me, and may suit nobody else. Your mileage may, or may not, vary.

    don

    .
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 15, 2008
  12. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

    Messages:
    1,274
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2005
    Location:
    New York Cit
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Don, I knew something good would come of my starting this thread.
    Of course I have read Dante's discussion of the 50/1.4 Nikkor -- it
    is about the only detailed discussion of the lens on the web, so far
    as I can see. I appreciate your background on the article -- it lends
    reliability to the article, especially in a world, as you rightly note, in
    which the web provides a medium for endless repetition of lore.

    Your concluding paragraph above focused (pardon the pun) on what
    I was hoping to elicit discussion: The Nikkor's "Sonnar signature" and
    its differences (if any) from the way a Summicron draws an image.
    I shoot Planars and Sonnars in my 2.8 and Tele Rolleiflexes, and I
    imagine I see some differences but I am at a loss to voice them.
    You earlier mentioned the "hot Sonnar look," and again I am not
    sure what it is you are seeing that you are trying to voice with "hot."
    You praised the Summicron for its resolution across the field, so I
    am thinking you see the Sonnar as falling off at the extremes. Yet
    I usually put my subjects near the edge of the frame, as in the
    example I posted at the top of this thread, and the Sonnar seemed
    there to render my offcenter subject with clarity.

    So, I guess I am trying to wrap my head (and eyes) around the "hot
    Sonnar look" and the "Sonnar signature" and how it differs from the
    Summicron. And Dan, if you're still reading, about those Leica lens
    reviews on your site: What distinguishes a "warm" (Summar) from
    a "cold" (Summitar) lens?

    The more I read, the less I understand.

    Sanders
     
  13. Guillaume Zuili

    Guillaume Zuili Member

    Messages:
    2,657
    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Sanders,
    I almost only use 50 mm and have 4 of them. I have a 35 that stays in the bag or the shelve.

    - Summicron Black Classic from the 80's : It's good...! Uniform, can't say anything against it :smile:
    - Elmar 2.8 Chrome : Soft wide open, at 5,6 it is a killer.
    - Summitar : Creamy effect beautiful for portrait wide open and very prone to flare.
    - Nikkor 1,4 : Crazy close up quality with amazing vignetting :smile:

    This Nikkor is amazing if you center your subject and like vignetting. Shooting with Efke 25 I get impressive results.
    The Elmar is a fantastic little gem and you don't feel it when folded.
    The one I almost don't use anymore (except for color but the Nikkor is very interesting too) is the Cron. Too clean... :smile:
    Next caprice will be the DR... :smile:



    Guillaume
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

    Messages:
    1,274
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2005
    Location:
    New York Cit
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Oh no, Guillaume! You had to muddy
    the waters, didn't you?

    The 2.8 Elmar ....

    How do you compare it to the Nikkor?

    Here's the thing: I like the Nikkor a lot,
    except for its size. I like more compact
    collapsible lenses. I had not considered
    the 2.8 Elmar. Should I?

    Sanders
     
  16. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

    Messages:
    18,131
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    Location:
    West Midland
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have a Summicron, late 50's it's superb, it's not just what we photographers think of the images that really counts. I shot informal images at wedding with it 18 years ago outdoors & indoors (at f2), the groom saw the images a few months later and asked if I'd bought a new camera. A year later when a wedding photographer screwed up it was the same lens that provided all the images of a cousins wedding.

    Would a modern lens be better, I don't really care because the images always work. Would I like to use your f1.4 Nikkor - you bet !!! These lenses have real character. At one time these were state of the art lenses and they are the benchmarks for all our modern standard lenses.

    Ian
     
  17. lens_hacker

    lens_hacker Member

    Messages:
    173
    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2007
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    I agree with Dante's assessment that the Nikkor went all-out for close-up and wide-open performance. The lens is a Sonnar design, and the focus shift as the lens is stopped down is large compared with Planar formula lenses. The Nikkor is Shimmed for close-up and wide-open work. Compare with a Canon 50/1.5 Sonnar lens. The shim on the latter seems like it is set for F4. I re-shimmed mine. Same goes for the Zeiss Sonnars- great at F4. I reshimmed two of them for wide-open work.

    Now- put an LTM 5cm F1.4 or non-collapsible 5cm F2 on a Canon P for 2.5ft close-up; the 5cm F2 non-collapsible on a Zorki 3M for close to 2ft minimum focus. The Collapsible Nikkor only goes to 3ft.

    Also- 1991 Pop Photo test of the Nikkor 5cm f1.4 from the 1950's, did quite well at F1.4, better than it did at F2. I personally believe the Sonnar focus shift was the reason.

    BTW: I keep a perfect 5cm F2 on "that" particular SP. The Twelve Nikkor 5cm F1.4's are on the other cameras... The 5cm F2 renders a gentler look than the F1.4.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 15, 2008
  18. Guillaume Zuili

    Guillaume Zuili Member

    Messages:
    2,657
    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Lens Hacker mentioned the Nikkor f;2. Don't dismiss this one. It has a very nice rendering, is more universal and compact.
    Sanders, The old Elmar is cheap and of tremendous quality. When collapsed, you don't feel it on the camera. Perfect under a jacket. :smile:
    If you want a classic Cron, I would go for the DR, which on a M3... would fit like a glove. And you get close up. :smile:

    Welcome to 50's madness !
    G.
     
  19. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,341
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2005
    Location:
    Dearborn,Mic
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Welcome to 50's madness !

    Indeed.

    There was a gathering of classic T-Birds in my town over the weekend.
    Heading out on a bike ride, a Coral '57 crossed my path, heading for a park, I sprinted home for the Contax IIa, 50/2 Sonnar, and some Plus X- the Kodachrome was in the freezer !

    I caught up with the T-Bird, and hung out with the owners, and made some snaps... keeping an eye peeled for Della Street.

    http://www.perrymasontvseries.com/audio/theme_e70.mp3
     
  20. luvcameras

    luvcameras Advertiser Advertiser

    Messages:
    420
    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks for the "inside info" on the Dante comments.... Has Rober Rotoloni any Nikon research on the matter ?

    Dan
     
  21. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,341
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2005
    Location:
    Dearborn,Mic
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Has Robert Rotoloni any Nikon research on the matter ?

    Dunno.

    I recall - some time ago - the walk a Professor took with me one afternoon, softening the blow as best he could that I would only ever be a second-rate scholar.

    He felt bad but I was flattered. Wow ! Second rate ! As good as that ? REALLY ?
    Academics were like learning to fly from the barn roof, something I always hoped to do, but not something I was naturally equipped for.

    So I'm NOT a collector, just a guy that takes pictures. And it is usually easier for me to try stuff to see what it does instead of reading about it... cheaper, faster, and gives me more confidence facing the client. Although in the case of flying from the barn roof, perhaps a little more research would have been helpful. But that was a long time ago,
    and I'm feeling much better now.

    While he doesn't address the 50/1.4 directly, OHSHITA talks about the 50/2.0 and furnishes a little context on both the Sonnar designs.

    http://imaging.nikon.com/products/imaging/technology/nikkor/n34_e.htm

    don
     
  22. davela

    davela Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,790
    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2008
    Location:
    Pasadena
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I've used the 50/1.4 Nikkor and I own a collapsible Summicron 50/2, and I can tell you they are both top-drawer optics. The Summicron might be the best fifty ever made (even the old ones like mine are astonishingly good), but of course it is "only" an F2 optic. The Rigid Summicron is uncommon in LTM and very expensive (although they appear on eBay), but it's easily available in LTM collapsible and common in M mount in any form. If you have the money for the LTM Rigid though go for it - you'll have a nice collectible as well as a fine lens.
     
  23. Venchka

    Venchka Member

    Messages:
    692
    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2006
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I own both. The 50/1.4 Nikkor since the mid-70s and a pristine 50/2.0 Dual Range Summicron since 2006. I use both. I tend to use the Summicron more often for color and the Nikkor more often for B&W. As for wanting the 50/1.4 Nikkor to be more compact, I doubt that there has ever been a more compact 50/1.4 lens. It is smaller than the Dual Range Summicron. Next to my Canon 50/1.4 in BL mount, the Nikkor is tiny.
     
  24. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

    Messages:
    1,274
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2005
    Location:
    New York Cit
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    V, why do you prefer the Nikkor for B+W work?
     
  25. Louis Nargi

    Louis Nargi Member

    Messages:
    202
    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2004
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Thanks for this thread I use a Leica and only have a50 Summitar which I like. I know this is not Leicas' best 50 but it seems to me a very nice lens
     
  26. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

    Messages:
    3,879
    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2004
    Location:
    Southern Cal
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have the Nikon LTM 50 f2 and f1.4, plus 2 collapsible Summicrons and 2 Solid mount Summicrons. I have recently added a ZM 50mm Planar and 50mm ZM Sonnar and those are the 2 lenses that I am currently evaluating (along with an M mount 35mm f2 Aspherical CV Nokton). Still early days.



    0