Leica lenses Collapsible vs Rigid 50mm f/2 Summicron
I have a very nice M3 with it's original Collapsible 50mm f/2 Summicron--My question is how much better are the non-collapsible/Rigid Summicrons in regards to sharpness. I normally shoot MF (not so easy for carrying) but for a camera on the go I really like the M3--fabulous with Tri-X 400. This is not a reference to my satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the collapsible Summicron but rather any experience from users with both to get an experienced opinion. BTW-I only have the ONE lens for my Leica and since I can't make any comparisons on lens sharpness I assume this would be a great place to inquire!!
The first generation Summicron is surpassed a little bit by the DR / Rigid Summicron, and they in turn by the 1969 version, they in turn by the current one (1979). That said, the only way you can perceive the differences is if you make pictures in conditions in which they are perceptable. I know that's obvious, but we are interested in making pictures, not doing lab tests.
Originally Posted by JosBurke
First, there is much more than sharpness involved. I'll assume you mean 'acutance', or the ability to RENDER important detail, which is a product of both image contrast and resolution. Resolution usually means the ability to discern fine detail at any contrast. Since pictures, made on film, in real conditions, are determined by acutance and seldom by resolution, that's what we need to talk about.
The art of the lensmaker at the time your lens was made was in balancing the performance of the lens to have pleasant characteristics across the field, and at all apertures. Leica lenses have always made the most of the virtues and always hidden the flaws artfully.
You know what a handsome world the lens sees. If you were to bolt the camera to a solid tripod, like a #5 Gitzo or a Foba ( please, nothing that says Manfrotto, please ) and use a cable release and some TMX developed in FX39 or some acutance developer, and printed the image in a Focomat, and in turn photographed a brick building in flat lighting, or shot in high contrast light... say, an urban nightscape, you'd see a visible difference between the first and recent Summicrons. Sharpness, contrast, flare.
That said, unless you were setting out to make a book of urban nighscapes, I wouldn't expect ou would ever lose a picture with your Summicron that a new one would get, or that you would need ever think about switching lenses. It is a splendid lens, with a wonderful style, and with Tri X, or FP4 (!) you'll make wonderful, satisfying pictures forever.
When you get a second lens, you might go to a 35/1.4 Summilux ( new version ) or a 35/2 Zeiss that will have shockingly different character than the Summicron. And you'll have a choice.
My own reference for this, besides being a pro Leica shooter for 35 years, is a background in photojournalism ( "Leica & loincloth", available darkness stuff ) and, surprisingly, photomicroscopy, the other end of the technical spectrum. I've picked a palette of M lenses running from a 1936 Summar, to a 1945 Sonnar, to a mid '50s Summicron. They each have something to offer, the best balance being the Summicron. I've shot the newer ones, and for my work there is nothing to be gained by 'trading up'.
Have fun... hope I got around to what you were looking for.
Last edited by df cardwell; 12-03-2005 at 10:55 PM. Click to view previous post history.
"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"
I think that well put df. I was printing a roll of Plus -X taken in Vancouver recently taken with a late Summicron 11819.
The shots on the roll of boats and other landscapery look wonderful, the family group shots- well I think an older lens would have been preferable.
I think df summed it up fairly well. Older Leica lenses have more "character" while newer ones sacrifice character for increased sharpness and local contrast. I would note, however, that "trading up" is contrary to the Leica-user's Manifesto. We are supposed to add to our array of lenses, not trade them.
My assumption has always been that the collapsible 50 was intended to make slipping the camera into a coat pocket more convenient, while the rigid designs were more conventional, albeit bulkier.
In keeping with the Manifesto, I have three 50s - a current model 'Cron, a DR (dual-range, with "eyes"), and a Noctilux. The DR is by far my most-used 50.
[COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]
Rio Rancho, NM
I am a happy user of the 50/2 collapsable 'cron, it came with my M3 and I also recieved a Canon 50/1.4 as part of the package, it all came from Dad's estate. Both lenses are within 8 years of each other, both produce great pictures. I tend to agree I would prefer the character, for lack a of a better way to describe it: I want the look of my photos to be taken by a camera that is from about 40-50 years ago. If I want techinical brilliance I would spring for an R2a with a full kit of Voightlander lenses which is also sort of part of the long term game plan for gear. If I come into real money then it will be Zeiss Ikon all the way.
That being said I also shoot with a CV 35/2.5 SKopar on the M3 and its given me some really nice shots and I am in no rush to replace it with Leica glass. Shoot with the collapsable and enjoy.
"Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once and a while, you might just miss it."
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I have a collapsible 50 Cron in LTM, a rigid type-1 M mount, a 11817 (1969), and I used to have the latest style. In practical shooting of all types of subjects I could not detect one iota of improvement of the latest type over the 1969, so I sold it and put the money where it actually had some perceptible value. The rigid lives on my M3, neither of which I find suitable for travel (the M3 because the rangefinder prism is starting to de-cement and the rigid Cron because the infinity lock is a nuisance and it flares easily even with the hood). The collapsible is the fastest lens I have for the LTM bodies, but though I've got an M adaptor I don't use it on the M because even collapsed it isn't that flat. I've got a 3.5 Elmar, now that's a pocket lens!
All that said, about a year ago I got a 1980s Summilux and haven't used a Cron since then except on a long trip where I took a full set of lenses and needed that all of them take 39mm filters.
Leica's 50's are wonderful with different characteristics and personalities. I have four 50's and would not give up any of them. The collapsible 50 Cron is sort of dreamy at it's wider stops. It has low resolution and contrast wide open, very pleasant for some subjects like portraits. Above f4 it has very good sharpness but a little less contrast than it's younger siblings. The DR Cron with eyes is a wonderful lens and my favorite. It is sharp at every stop and mine seems to be sharper at f2 then my current Cron. From about f5.6 and above I can't tell the difference between the DR and the latest. The current Cron is a wonderful lens and sharp everywhere. Then I have the latest Summilux. That lens has surgical resolution and beats the current Cron at every stop. I like it a lot for subjects where I want to bring out detail like old buildings and wood grain. I use my collapsible the least and then split between the DR and the Summilux. I'm working on trading in some of my Nikon AFS lenses for a Noctilux. Can't wait.
I never noticed any difference between a screw mount collapsing Summicron and a 1970 vintage M mount version in practical phototgaphy. However, the 50mm f/2.8 Elmar was better in a resolution test.
I have a cron, lus, summar and 2 elmar's, one old and one new (latest) especially with Tri-x the latest elmat is great.
The cron and specially the lux resemble digital pics, very sharp.... no character sort of stuff... I call it lack of personality, try the Elmar you'l be surprised. Only hassle is that you have to retract the lens, which doesn't enable very fast photography, but neither does the 2.8 speed... but it's worth it.
I tested both lenses in a test of twelve 50mm LTM lenses that was posted on the RFF. You can see a slight difference between the lenses.
Last edited by raid amin; 05-04-2006 at 11:53 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: I added a link.