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  1. #1

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    Carl Zeiss Sonnar vs Summicron

    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).
    Last edited by puketronic; 01-28-2013 at 03:50 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  2. #2
    chriscrawfordphoto's Avatar
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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.
    Chris Crawford
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  3. #3

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    Ditto.

  4. #4

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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. #5

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

  6. #6
    brian steinberger's Avatar
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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. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by brian steinberger View Post
    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.
    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. #8

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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!

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  9. #9
    Richard Sintchak (rich815)'s Avatar
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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.
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  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by brian steinberger View Post
    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.
    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.

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