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  1. #1
    arealitystudios's Avatar
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    90mm Summicron vs 90mm Lanthar

    Ok folks, Iíve got a little bit of a dilemma. Iím in the market for a 90mm lens to compliment my Bessa R3M.

    At my local camera shop, they have for sale a used Leica 90mm F2 Summicron (made in Canada) for $399. The lens looks very well used but is perfectly functional and has a 90 day warranty so I have faith the lens will work just fine. Iíve purchased used equipment from this shop before and they are very trustworthy.

    I also notice over at Camera Quest they have the Voigtlander 90mm f3.5 APO Lanthar. Adding in the cost of a screw mount adapter it would come out to be exactly $399 as well for a brand new lens.

    Now, Iíve never held the Lanthar lens in my hand, but from the pictures it seems quite a bit shorter than the Summicron which would be a plus for me. However, the Summicron is the faster lens. According to the Camera Quest website, the Lanthar has a minimum focus distance of one meter. Does anyone know if the Summicron is the same? The minimum focus distance is a big selling point for me, probably even more important than the maximum aperture.

    Also, has anyone done a direct comparison between the two for image quality? Iím very happy with the 40mm Voigtlander lens I own so I trust the quality of their lenses and of course Leica is legendary in that regard, but is there a huge noticeable difference? Heck, in my experience sometimes the "off brands" can even be of better quality but people get so stuck on the cool factor of more popular stuff they simply won't admit it.

    Obviously Iím the one who needs to make the ultimate decision here, but I value the opinions of people on this board and would love to hear your thoughts.

  2. #2
    Rol_Lei Nut's Avatar
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    It sounds like a very good price for the Summicron. Before buying, shine a light through the 'Cron to check for any light haze.

    The Summicron will undoubtedly be better for portraits.
    Otherwise, it is a tradeoff between weight and speed. However, the limited rangefinder base on the Bessa will make close focusing at full aperture very iffy (there is a reason why their 90mm is a 3.5!).

    I don't know about the 'Cron's closest focusing distance, but again, the Bessa isn't likely to give consistent results with a 90mm at less than 1 metre.
    In any case, my Tele-Elmarit goes to 1 Metre, it is likely that the 'Cron does as well.
    M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa

  3. #3

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    There are several versions of the cron, the later the lighter and the better performing optically.

    The Apo is light and a good performer, try and get a mint one 2nd hand...

    Noel

  4. #4
    Lee L's Avatar
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    You could also buy the Summicron and test for your own working focusing accuracy. For a circle of confusion of .03mm the 37mm baseline of the R3M should give you reasonably accurate focusing to about f:2.2 with a 90mm lens. So f:3.5 for the C/V 90 Lanthar is relatively conservative, and f:2 is only overreaching by about 10% or so.

    Lee

  5. #5
    Rol_Lei Nut's Avatar
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    Just a last thought, for me, using a short tele lens at around one metre or less really is SLR territory.

    You can probably pick up a cheap SLR (Pentax Spotmatic, for example) and a good short tele (*lots* of very good and very cheap lenses available between 85 and 105mm), a combination which in practice will probably outperform the however wonderful Summicron for short-range shots.

    However much I like rangefinders, they do have their limits and your intended goals seem to be approaching that.
    M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa

  6. #6
    arealitystudios's Avatar
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    excellent suggestions everyone. There really is a reason I come around here

    I'm pretty new to this whole rangefiner world as I've been doing most of my work with Medium Format for years. My photography has really opened up with the ability to do fast street shooting which we all know has its limits with a larger bulky Medium Format...even a folder.

    Basically my goal for buying a lens in the 90mm focal length is so that I'll have something with a medium tele-photo for street shooting and something where I can isolate my subjects a little better, especially with portrait work. I never considered the limits of focus accuracy with the 90mm and now that has me thinking 75mm might be the better compromise. The Bessa does have the dedicated 75mm framelines....

    choices choices :rolleyes:

  7. #7
    luvcameras's Avatar
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    My Leica M Lens Price & Information guide should help. $ 399 is a good price for clean glass.

    http://antiquecameras.net/leicamlenses.html

    My own experience with the 90 Summicron Type 2 is that it provides for a wonderful 3-d effect when shot at F 2 or 2.8. The image pops from the background....this was not my experience with the 90 Elmarit Type 2 wide open..

    Dan
    Antique and Classic Camera BLOG
    www.antiquecameras.net/blog.html

  8. #8

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    If you're isolating the subject the Summicron would be a better choice. For a shallower DOF.
    From the first version to the 1998 APO, they all have a close focus of 1M.
    Heavily sedated for your protection.

  9. #9

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    It's max f stop + rangefinder base = focusing accuracy.

    If you bear with me for a second to tell my own example I think that I can tie all of this up for you. There is a lot of great information, but their conclusions are a little off I think.

    Here's my example;
    I used to own a Minolta CLE, with which I used a 90 mm f 2.8 Tele-Elmarit. Yes, a great camera & yes a great lens, BUT the camera was designed to be shot with an 90 mm f 4.0 lens. Whenever I attempted to shoot the lens at f 2.8, all of the shots would be out of focus.
    This was the result of the shorter rangefinder base.
    This was mentioned previously. When I stopped down to f 4.0 all of the shots were sharp.

    So, the comment about throwing the background out of focus, is meaningless to you, because you CAN'T shoot this lens at f 2.0, except at infinity. The rangefinder base, doesn't matter if you're at infinity.

    So I always shot the f 2.8 lens at f 4.0. It's been said, that lenses are sharpest if you shoot them 2 stops down from wide-open. You could do the same, with the Summicron, However as I recall, the f 2.0 Summicron is very big & front heavy, compared to the f 2.8's & the f 4.0's.

    In my opinion; the conclusion is to NOT go for the 90 mm f 2.0 Summicron, unless you are planning to buy a Leica m camera down the road, where you can take advantage of the f 2.0. Either follow my example & get a Leica f 2.8, or get the Voigtlander APO Lanthar.

    In conclusion, I got rid of the CLE, so I could get a Contax G2. I've always marveled that despite the Contax having a rangefinder base, similar in length to the CLE, that it accurately & repeatedly, ( better than I could ), focus the 90 mm Sonnar at f 2.8 & have ALL of the shots in focus.

  10. #10
    Lee L's Avatar
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    The choice of a 90mm f:4 lens was based on the 18.9mm effective baseline (EBL) of the Leica CL (not the later CLE), and for good visual acuity is just over the limit for being focusable at f:4 (about 107% using the visual acuity model).

    The CLE had an EBL of 28.8 (over 50% longer than the CL), and with a 90 f:4 hits about 70%, and with a 90 f:2.8 is right at 100%. So the 90 f:2.8 on the CLE should be slightly better able to focus accurately than the 90 f:4 Leica chose on the CL.

    The R3A that the OP is using has a 28% longer EBL than the CLE, so hits about 78% with a 90 f:2.8.

    One reason that I recommended purchasing the 90 Summicron and testing is that the acuity of the photographer's vision comes into play, and someone with worse vision at given distances won't be able to use the rangefinder to it's maximum capability. Vanishing Point seems to have hit the wall earlier than the models, which points up the need to establish personal parameters with a given setup.

    In any case, there is no law against using a Summicron at f:2.8, or f:4, and as pointed out, that starts to get into the peak performance of the lens. I use both Leica and C/V lenses, and leaving image quality aside, would spring for the 90 Summicron over the 90 Lanthar because of build quality, longevity, and potential utility with future camera bodies and in lower light levels. If the OP can get reliable focus for himself at f:2.8, or even f:2, (the acuity model suggests f:2.2 as the limit, 100%, on the R3A) he's ahead of the game over the f:3.5 for isolating the subject.

    I wouldn't buy the more limited optic at the same price point as the one with greater capabilities, as long as the condition of the used lens isn't an issue.

    Lee

    (As info, I own and use a CL, CLE, R3A, and a 90 f:4 from Rokkor and one from Leitz, but haven't used a 90 Summicron, Elmarit, or C/V Lanthar.)

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