Feb 012010
 

Leica 50 Summicron Lens Review

2010-02-01 – The 50mm focal length comes in many flavors in the world of Leica. The 50 Summicron, Summilux, Summarit…ugg. So many 50′s but luckily I have had a lot of time :) It has been a long journey fore me trying to find a set of lenses that I could be happy with on my Leica M9 that fit within my budget. I just do not have the funds to buy a full set of Summilux glass, and even if I did I would probably feel bad about spending all of that money on lenses! It’s a slippery slope really. On on hand Leica M owners can go out and buy something like a Voigtlander 50 Nokton 1.5 and get amazing results. This lens is inexpensive and seems to deliver superb image quality from what I have seen (there will be a guest article/review of that lens coming this week) but for those of us who really want a “Leica” lens on their Leica camera, a Voigtlander, no matter how capable, is not going to cut it so we look for a Leica to attach to our beloved camera.

I have shot with Voigtlander, Zeiss and Leica on  my M cameras and something about the Leica lenses keep me coming back to them. Wether it is their build, their style or their unique color signature I am pretty much hooked on Leica. But do not take that as a negative or a “stab” at Voigtlander and Zeiss. Both companies make some great little lenses for the Leica M mount and the Zeiss ZM range is considered by many as a true alternative to Leica. Today I am here to talk about Leica and one of the classical focal lengths for 35mm photography. The ever so popular 50mm.  I feel that one could do 95% of their photography with just a 35 and 50mm lens which is why I enjoy having both, but the 50 has been the focal length I have really enjoyed shooting for the past couple of months. So if you shoot an M mount camera and are looking for a nice Leica 50, what are your choices for a new current production lens?

Your Leica 50mm Options

For those who want to stick with Leica for their 50mm you a few options when buying a new current production 50. The least expensive is the 50 Summarit. At $1395 it is certainly not “cheap’ but hey, it’s about as low as it goes for a Leica lens. At the time of this writing I have not shot with the 50 summarit so I can not comment on the quality of the lens but if it is anything like the rest in the summarit line, I am guessing it is really really good. The summarit is small and has an F2.5 aperture, so it’s not the best for low light work AND IT DOES NOT come with a hood. That is an extra.

Next in line is the subject of this review, the Leica 50 Summicron. It is not an Aspherical lens and it is a classic design dating back to 1953. Over the years it has morphed into what it is today, a simple, small, well built heck of a 50! I love the design of this lens with it’s pull out hood and small size. This lens ups the ante a bit with a buy in price of $1995 new, but it even comes with a Leica leather pouch and as mentioned, the built in hood :)

The third 50 in the Leica line up is the 50 Summilux ASPH and this is the mother of all 50mm lenses. Its fast 1.4 aperture is it’s main draw and its price is nearing the “I must be insane to but this thing” territory. At $3795 (Feb 2010 pricing) this is a lens you buy when you want the best and most versatile 50mm created.

Finally, you have the worlds fastest most exotic and fastest lens for 35mm photography with the Leica Noctilux F0.95 lens. At $10,495 it is just way out there as far as pricing goes but man oh man is it beautiful. If I had the means to do so I would own one. The drawbacks with this lens is its size and weight. But that $10k buys you a world class “stupid fast” lens as well as a lethal weapon in case anyone ever tries to rob you. He he…

Not all of us have a spare $3800 laying around, let alone $10,495 so where does that leave us? I used to own the 50 Summilux ASPH and I remember buying one NEW at B&H Photo for around $2000. Prices have since gone up (about 4 times) and these days it is getting harder and harder for me to justify Leica purchases. This is why I decided I had to finally settle on a three lens kit for my M9 and STICK TO THEM! Buying another 50 Lux was out for me because if I did that, well,  I would not be able to buy a 35 to go with it. My lens budget consisted of about $4800 and my goal was to get three really great lenses for that money. My search for a 50 led me to try out the 50 Summicron.

Enter the 50 Summicron

My first experience with the 50 summicron was on film. When I bought a Leica M7 years ago it came with a 50 cron and I shot that combo every day. Man, that was a beautiful combo. Talk about classic. I was soon tempted by the beautiful all black Leica MP and sold my M7 but I kept the 50 summicron and used that lens to shoot 90% of my homeless project. It never failed me, never let me down, and never ruined an image due to flare (many say this lens flares bad, but I have yet to see it in ANY of my shots..use your hoods, I do!). I must have taken 2-3,000 images with this lens on my MP. Never an issue with anything! Here is an image I shot years ago with the M7 and 50 Summicron.

Leica M7 with 50 Summicron at F2 and Fuji Reala film scanned on a Nikon Coolscan V

That’s The Look I’m After!

When Leica released the M8 I sold the MP to fund one. I mean, finally there was a digital M and of course I succumbed to my desires. Yep, I had to have one. I also sold the 50 Summicron because I decided I was going to go for a 50 Summilux for the M8 and I was silly like that. I wanted the best and that is what I bought. I remember people saying how much better the lux was over the cron so I never even thought to try it on the M8 (which was probably a mistake). Anyway, to make a long story short once I bought the M9 I tried a bevy of 50′s including the 50 Summilux, 50 Noctilux F1, 50 Noctilux 0.95 and even the Zeiss 50 Planar (ALL reviewed on this website BTW in the Leica section). When I say I “tried” them what I mean is they were sent to me for review. I did not buy them all! After loving and shooting with a 50 Noctilux F1 for a while I decided I really needed a 35 so this is when my search began. I had Leica dealer Ken Hansen send me a 35 Summarit, 50 Summicron and 90 Elmarit, all three new in box. The first lens I tried out of the three was the 50 cron and my first reaction was “Ahhhhhh….thats the look I am after”.

Leica M9 and 50 Summicron at F2 – ISO 1250

The image above was a quick snap at ISO 1250 in lower light at F2 and I was very happy with the “look” here. The lens seemed to have it all. It was small, well built, coded, not insanely priced and with its slide out hood made for a perfect 50mm solution on the full frame M9. Here is a youtube video I made to show you how big the lens is as well as how nice it looks in real-life-video. BTW, the video was shot with the Olympus E-P2 and Panasonic 20 1.7 lens, a great combo for video!

The 50 Summicron Bokeh

Cool video eh? I really fell in love with the lens and also the 35 and 90. YES! I finally found my three lens kit but the 50 is my favorite of the lot. I started shooting with it and really liked the results. Not only is it bitingly sharp at F2, it has a really great signature as well as nice bokeh. Some say the bokeh of the 50 is “busy” or not so nice, but I disagree somewhat. To me, it has that Leica look and feel. This lens also happens to be a Mandler design so enough said :) It may not have that perfect smooth modern bokeh of the 50 Lux ASPH but really, the bokeh of the summicron is just fine and will not make someone look at your image and say “Ewwww, look at that bokeh!”. The truth is, only us photo geeks stress over such things. :)

Leica M9 and 50 Summicron at F2

M9 and 50 Summicron at F2

The Leica M7 with the 50 Summicron at F2 – Tri-X film

The Summicron or the Summilux?

Really, the only drawback of this lens when compared to the 50 Summilux ASPH is that it is F2 instead of F1.4 and it may not be as “perfect” as the Summilux. But perfection is overrated these days and I started to realize this fact when I hit 40. Seeing all of my own imperfections made me ask myself why I used to be so obsessed with finding “perfect” lenses. A lens will not make or break a photo unless it is pure crap, and there really are no “crap” Leica lenses! Basically, it’s all about speed and speed is expensive in Leica world. At about $1800 cheaper than the Summilux, the 50 cron is a no brainer for those who want a fantastic lens at a better price. As I have said, the Summilux is probably the ultimate all around 50mm lens for ANY 35mm system. It beats the pants off of any Nikon or Canon 50, and yes, even the beautiful Canon 50L which I owned for a while. If you have the funds, a summilux would be well, perfect! But if you want a tad but more of a classic rendering and do not mind a “slower” F2 design, the Summicron has its own kind of magic. Basically with Leica lenses you just pick your “flavor” and price range. :)

When you buy this lens it comes with the usual Leica leather pouch seen here:

“The Old 76″ – Leica M9 and 50 Summicron at F4

Since it has been in my possession I have shot with the Summicron in a variety of situations. I shot one paid job as well as my usual family and dumb animal photos. I even took it to St. Louis, MO and shot some old abandoned factories in mid day sun, again with no flare issues at all. The lens performed amazingly well for me. Never once did I say “Damn, I wish I had this lens or that lens”. I was amazingly 100% happy with this 50 on my M9! Here are a few shots from my visit to St. Louis and the old factories, all of them with the 50 Summicron. Keep in mind these have been “processed” and are my final images. I did post an out of camera image in the “sharpness” section below with a 100% crop so you can see the amazing detail of this lens and camera combo. BTW, my “processing” of these files only consisted of using the “Ink” filter in Nik’s excellent Color Efex Pro filters.

Sharpness & Detail

As I have stated, this lens is SHARP! Even at F2 you will not be able to complain about the sharpness of this lens, unless you have a bad copy or an out of alignment rangefinder in your camera. My M9 was recently calibrated to perfection and I can safely say that the combo of the 50 Cron and M9 ROCKS. It rocks HARD. Here are a couple of samples with 100% crops embedded. Be sure and click on the image to get the larger version and to see the 100% crop at a true 100%. I think these tell you all you need to know about sharpness so newspaper text or wall clocks should not be necessary :)

So not only do you get amazingly sharp detail even wide open at F2, you get the Leica buttery smooth Bokeh and color. I converted all of the images from DNG/RAW using ACR 5.6. The 2nd shot of the old Brick Warehouse is pretty impressive when viewing the full size file. You can click HERE to download it if you wish :)

CA/SENSOR BLOOM/PURPLE CRUD

In some of my shots with the 50 cron I did see some CA/SENSOR BLOOM/PURPLE CRUD. I list all three because back a few years ago it was always refereed to as CA (chromatic aberrations) and generally popped up during high contrast situations. People always blamed the lens even though it never showed up on film images. Then, more recently the “sensor bloom” term came into play. Now we blame the digital sensors. The fact is that almost ANY lens will exhibit this “purple crud” (my name for it) on any digital camera but many digital cameras today fix this issue with in-camera software and processing so you never even see it. The M9 does NOT correct for this so if you shoot in a situation with high contrast like tree branches against a bright white sky and the exposure if not quite right, then you may see some of this “purple crud”. I have seen it the M9, D700, Canon 7D, 5D, etc. I have also seen it with just about every Leica lens, Zeiss lens, and Voigtlander lens (except the Noctilux F1..hmmm). Here is a sample with some CA/SB/PC:

This can be corrected in Photoshop or your image editor of choice so to me it is not a big deal and is something that comes along with digital.

FLARE

I love running this website and one reason it is so enjoyable is that I get e-mails from all of you guys with cool info, samples and submissions for articles or pics. I am having a blast on a daily basis. Andrew Logan, one of the readers of this site also shoots with the 50 Summicron and sent me an e-mail with images he has taken with it that show lens flare. This happens with some lenses more than others when shooting in direct sunlight. Personally I have not had one issue with flare when shooting the 50 summicron but I always had the built in hood extended when shooting in sunlight. Anyway, Andrew said I could use his examples so I will post what he says is the “best example of how badly the lens can flare” – Please note that I asked him if the hood was extended and he did not remember so it is possible this was without the hood extended. Thank you Andrew for this example :)

Again, in my thousands of shots with this lens on the M7 and the hundreds of shots on the M9 I have not seen ANY flare but thought I would post this so you know that it is possible.

Low Light with the 50 Summicron

I did not get much of a chance to shoot REALLY low light with the lens yet, but when I do I will add to this review. I see no problem shooting in low light with this lens. For now, here is one at F2, ISO 2500 with the M9.

PROS & CONS

PROS:

  • For a Leica lens, its price is not to astronomical…yet.
  • The size and build is just about perfect for a 50mm lens.
  • At F2 it is plenty fast for 98% of situations. The other 2% will cost you $1800 more for the lux :)
  • It’s bitingly sharp, even wide open at F2.
  • Has a little bit of that classic look without the softness and distortion.
  • The color is nice and I like the Bokeh.
  • Comes with the Leica leather lens case.
  • Great warranty.
  • Widely available, always in stock and if bought new it is 6-bit coded for the M8 and M9.
  • Slide out hood/shade is great!

CONS:

  • It’s still almost $2000!
  • Can give you CA in some situations.
  • Some users say it can flare easily though my experience differs.

Leica M7 and 50 Summicron at F2 – Tri-X Film

My Bottom Line Conclusion

It took me a while but now that I own and use this lens on an almost daily basis I have to say it may be my favorite all around lens for the M9 replacing the 35 Summicron but I also adore the 35. As I shoot the M9 more and more I am beginning to realize that I am a 50mm kind of guy and for an all around 50, the Summicron is fantastic. It may not be a 1.4 lens, and it may not be as perfect and “smooth” as a summilux ASPH but this lens was designed by one of the greats and there is a reason it has been in production for well over 50 years. The current version of this lens is made in Germany, has 6-bit coding, a slide out built in hood and comes in a silver box with leather lens pouch/case. This is my 50mm of choice not because it is the “best” but because it has so much going for it with it’s cost, size, build, rendering and speed. I love this lens and it may just be the one that sticks with me for a long long time.

I bought mine from Leica dealer Ken Hansen. He always has Leica glass in stock and is a legend in the Leica community for service and being an all around great guy. If you e-mail him be sure to tell him I sent you! I so not make any money from mentioning him but he does let me use lenses from time to time to try out and review. Great guy, and great Leica dealer.

B&H also sells this lens HERE, and you can also find it at Amazon. With that, here are a few more images from the M9 and 50 Summicron. Thanks for reading the review, I hope you enjoyed it!

The last image was shot on Tri-X film on a Leica M7

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  54 Responses to “The Leica 50 Summicron Lens Review”

  1. By and large, an excellent review but I wouldn’t say that bokeh is a strong point with the 50 CRON. The image with your son and cat is a case in point. This is a lovely image but the caffeinated out-of-focus elements in the background are rather distracting. The same is true for the image of the fire hydrant. The bokeh is somewhat jarring. I have owned many samples of this lens over the years and flare was also a problem more often than not when shooting in bright conditions (particularly with the M8 due to the added filter up-front).

  2. I like the look in your wife’s eyes: I can tell she’s looking at a hardworking happy husband playing around with the crown jewels of modern photography ;-)

    The 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0 is really a magnificent lens (and so is the 50mm Summicron-R f/2.0 for the R system). The Summilux is magic, but what the 50mm Summicron has is usability and charm. It is easy to focus and get sharp pictures with, even when photographing a group of people you can get all faces sharp (whereas with a Summilux the DOF might make that difficult). And at the same time is has that magic look and bokeh.

    I know I shouldn’t say, but even the old Summicron lenses one can buy for much less are great. They’re all Dr. Mandler designs and display outstanding Leica core qualities.

  3. Thank you once again for the great review. The price range fits my budget and I hope to get my hands on it to test it out soon!

  4. I know you really liked the 50 lux pre asph. The pre is also a classic lens and I wondered how you would compare the two.

    Cheers
    Chris

  5. Thanks Steve. I am not sure but I like the oof on this lense it keep things in context…i have to see how well thé context of the picture is preserved with a smmooth crazy bokeh

  6. [...] the rest here: The Leica 50 Summicron Lens Review | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS Share and [...]

  7. Steve, assuming I can ever get my hands on one, what lens? Objective is Raw, brutal street photography/reportage…35mm or 50mm, if so, which one, summicron or summarit, what about summilux. The choices are overwhelming and confusing, 1 lens per year, which one do I go for?

  8. I am using both on a M6 and MP. The Summilux 50 apsh. and the Cron.
    I always prefer the Cron. price, handling, weight, size… it’s just right.

    but one thing you forgot to mention:
    as the optical formula hasn’t been changed since the 70s there are many used ones around. you can get them for around 600$ and they deliver the same (!) optical performance, though the earlier versions still had the external vented hood (what I prefer) and are somewhat different looking.

  9. Thanks for the review Steve. I’m a big fan of the site. I currently have a Zeiss 50 f/2 Planar and thinking about switching to the Summicron. I’m curious what you thought of the two lenses side by side. Was it just the color and bokeh that led you to move on to the cron?

    Keep up the great work.

  10. Hey James,

    The Zeiss is great but just gives a different color signature and bokeh. The Bokeh of the Planar *may* be smoother, but I chose the cron to stick with a coded, all Leica lens set. I like the build, feel, and the Leica warranty. Either lens will do the job. Zeiss for the brighter/warmer color and Leica for the more neutral colors.

    Also, the Zeiss has an odd filter size and the build seemed inferior as focusing on the review copy I had was kind of sticky. I paid double the cost of the Planar for my Summicron but like Daniel said, you can buy used 50 Crons for about $800-$1000 (very rare to see a $600 cron these days unless it is really beat to hell) so that makes it a very good buy.

    Both lenses deliver in the IQ department.

  11. yes, you are right. I meant about 500€ (and did the conversion wrong).

  12. funny how almost every leica lens you test, is your favourite. it just means that every leica lens you’ve tested is fantastic. like you said, leica don’t make bad lenses. great review. can ellaborate on ‘classic’ look please? i struggle to understand your meaning. what are the tell tail signs of a classic look?

  13. Hey Bruce, I have to say that every Leica lens I try out is SUPERB but they are not all my favorites. For example, the WATE was nice, but not a lens I would really ever use. Other lenses that were not my favorite “90 cron, 21 lux, etc etc”

    It’s funny how I use a lens and love it but try another and like it even more. In this case, I like the cron more than the pre-asph lux I had.

    I had to step back and take a look at what I needed vs what I wanted and the cron fit right in not only for its cost but its quality.

    When I say a lens has a “classic” look I mean it is not perfect. Some lenses like the 50 Lux ASPH do not render in a classic way. That lens is pretty much perfect corner to corner, has smooth bokeh and is crazy sharp even wide open. It has a more “modern” look with higher contrast as well.

    Lenses like the Leica 50 Summilux PRE-ASPH have a more classical look with less contrast, sharpness and some distortions that are sometimes confused as “glow”. The Summicron has a mix of both really. Its very sharp, but also has a “rounder” way of rendering and is not clinical, or perfect.

    Also, the truth is that not many people even notice these things :) Just guys like me and a few other crazies. My wife thinks I am nuts when I show her two images from two lenses and tell her how different they look. She just shakes her head and says “You are crazy”…:)

    Thanks for the comment!

  14. “My wife thinks I am nuts when I show her two images from two lenses and tell her how different they look. She just shakes her head and says “You are crazy”…:)”

    Perhaps you should actually listen to her… :-).

    I loved exploring the nuances of various Leica lenses over the past few years so I also know where you’re coming from also. However, she is right, it’s all about the image. But for us leica’holics the devil is in the detail…

    • For Steve and Eoin –

      I’ve only just recently discovered this fantastic website and ‘blog, Steve, and I gotta say, I’ve rarely found any such place as informative, well balanced and, well, fun.

      I’m not even close to the “pro’ ” territory of many of the folks here, but have nevertheless had a long-time love of all things photographic and photographable. Drove my mom CRAZY when I was kid! It all started with my old Konica Autoreflex T2 and 57/f1.2 (a most fabulous lens, I must say!) Needless to say, though, that beast was anything but a stealthy street camera – and street and people shots are what I do and love.

      So yep! I eventually wound up with a 1956-ish M3 and collapsible 50 Summicron. Even though the poor lens is in dire need of a cleaning nowadays, it produces what I know as that “classic” look to which you refer. But oh boy does it wash out from being so dirty! Rarely used now… BUT! My newer 50/f2 is my almost-always on the M3. I’m also getting acquainted with my “new” 1946 50/f2 Summitar. WOW. Love it. Glad to hear that you’re liking yours as well!

      So why do I finally jump in and write? Because Leica glass _always_ shows itself, in my experience. Always. I work at a maritime academy, at sea a good deal of the time, around a bunch of “kids” with all manner of P&S this or that, even some fancier digicams (but nothing M9 or X1 class, of course). We’re all frequently shooting very similar snaps and stuff. They joke with me all the time about my silly old-school film camera (ye gads!), claiming how prehistoric and “inferior” it is; how “slow” it must be; how “expensive” it is to do film. In the next breath they typically change their tune, when they see the difference in the pix. Not to mention when they cannot take a picture anyway because their camera is refusing to cooperate in the humidity…

      Without fail, even on hasty scans, somehow they can always pick out the Leica shots as looking nicer – even when they’re clueless as to where they came from. I then explain that it’s the glass. Now everyone wants to borrow one of my film cameras so they can play too!

      It’s that subtle roundness; that 3D effect… er, that “glow”? I’m forever hooked. Now all I gotta do is resist the temptation to get one of those Sonnars! That one I may have to beg to justify with the “other half,” but the Leica stuff? Proven worth.

      Thanks for really cool site!!
      Scott

  15. Hey Steve, just purchased a 50mm Summicron from B&H, using the link from your site. Thanks for the great info. I have been waiting on a Summilux, but who knows when they will be in stock. For now, I’ll try out the Summicron for my 8.2 and see how it goes!

  16. Been doing my homework on lenses for my recently acquired black M8.2 and have come to the conclusion that a clean, gently used 50mm ‘cron and a new (likely from B&H) 28mm 2.8 Elmarit ASPH will be my two lens kit. Should do everything I need it to do, and the body, 2 lenses, camera bag, extra battery and a few SD cards drops my saving account about $7500.

  17. “My wife thinks I am nuts when I show her two images from two lenses and tell her how different they look. She just shakes her head and says “You are crazy”…:)”

    hahah… you are not alone, i get that all the time…
    but the good news is .. these days my wife seem to able to spot a shot taken from a Leica lens as compared to the jap equivalents…

    Somehow that lightens the pain from my leica purchases just that little bit more :)

    Great review, Steve.

  18. Hi Steve,
    My name is Fernando Siqueira, I am a Brasilian Professional Photographer, living in Sao Paulo, Brasil. It looks crazy but I am planning to buy my first Leica in november of 2011. I am planning to have around 10.500 dollar for my Leica plus Lens. I read your texts and I think we have a similar though about photograph.
    I like to protograph people and ” street people”. What kind of Lens do you suggest me, considering that the 10.500 dollars that I have will be for the M9 camera and Lens?
    My main doubts are if I should invest in Leica Lens or could spend less money in good lens as Voighlander and Zenss. Would be better to invest more money on a Leica 50mm 1.4 and just buy this lens or could I buy the M9 plus 50mm 1.1 voighlander, 90mm summicrom and 35mm voighlander 1.4?
    I don’t know what to do, so I will really appreciate your help.

    And if you came to Brasil, please contact me. It will be a pleasure to meet you and show you some nice places here to photograph.

    You can see some photos on my professional site:
    http://www.primelight.com.br

    or personal site:
    http://www.olhares.com/fernandosiqueira

    Thanks a lot.
    Best regards,
    Fernando Siqueira

  19. Oooops the 90 mm Leica lens is summarit and no summicron

    Thanks !

  20. Hi Steve,
    Thanks very much for your review and blog. I have been following your blog for about a year now. i cant say how thankful i am to you for the exposure to the Leica world. This is the best Leica Blog Ever!! I hope you can keep on writing this review and show us the wonderful photos !

    I will buy the M9 one day but right now GF1 will have to do just fine. I ve even got the Leica M adapter to prepare my gear towards the M9. I got the 20mm f1.7 but i need a telephoto now. So i am in a little of conundrum as i got three options infront of me. 50 f1.5 Zeiss, 50 VC Nokton and 50 Summicron (used). Do you think i should go for the summicron? I love good bokeh but I enjoy sharp images more than anything.

    Thanks Steve.

  21. Hello Steve, still in a quandry between the Leica X1 and the EP2. I am thinking of going for the EP2 with the 50mm Summicron. I know I won’t be getting an image as good as the ones from your M cameras but will the image be better than the one I would get from the fixed lens X1?

  22. Hello Steve and all,

    Call for experience :

    I have 2 1992 Summicron 50 and 35 PreAsph and a M6.
    I have my M9 for 2 weeks.

    My Cron 50 was out of focus, the focus was nearer, eg to be focus at 1m I had to focus behind.
    I have been told that the lenses have to be adjust for the M9.
    My Cron 50 is already gone to Solms.
    Does anybody knows something about that ?

    I shall tell you the result when it goes back.

    DS

  23. Hi Steve, I’m currently looking for a great 50 to be shared between my m8 and 7. I’ve been reading your reviews and I just want to ask if you if it would be better to purchase this summicron rather than the Voigtlander 50mm F/1.1. I know that F/1.1 aperture is incomparable with the summicron’s f/2 but i’m looking for the best 50 within the budget. What would you recommend as a person whose shot with both lenses? Thanks :)

  24. I guess I should join the club here. Your advice and reviews on this sight have been very helpful to me as I transition some of my photography from Nikon (D3,D2Hs, D200, etc. +GIANT pro zooms) to this incredible Leica world of photography that I’ve admired and dreamed about for so long. I got an incredible deal on an M7 that had never had a a lens mounted. Pristine. $2500. Now, today, I just walked into Bel-Air Camera to see if they indeed had a silver Summicron for $1995 as on their website. My goal was to buy a Zeiss 50 2.0 Planar. The guy says YEAH we have a silver 50 ‘cron and he scans it and it comes up at $1695. I don’t know what’s up but the card jumped out of my wallet and now I’m the proud owner of a brand new M7 and a brand new 50 Summicron. I loaded with Supra as per it being one of your favorite films. And now I’m RE-reading the reviews on the ‘cron to make sure I got the right lens. I’m a sharpness freak and I like to shoot wide open and I think this lens with some 400 ISO Supra loaded is going to be a great combo. Anyway, I’m rambling with the excitement of it all. But thanks for this site. I’ll do what I can to help in the future. I was going to buy the ZM Planar through your “silver” link in the review, from B&H, but this 50 cron jumped into my life.

    thanks

    db

  25. Hey Donald! Congrats on the M7 and cron. They feel great in the hand don’t they? You could have gotte the new silver cron i am selling for $1300 though and used your credit card :) but have fun with it and let me know how it goes! you have a camera and lens that will last you a lifetime!

  26. Hey. Wait a minute. Maybe I need to see about taking this one back. I’ll think on it. How new is it?

  27. Well it turns out that the new 50mm Summicron I bought at Bel Air Camera in Westwood is actually a USED 50mm Summicron. It had been sold, and owned by someone for a month, then returned earlier this year. Leica would issue no warranty for me and so I returned the lens, kind of not in a good place with that store. Read all about in in the Leica forum on DPReview.

    Steve, do you still have that silver 50 cron?

    http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1038&thread=35147545

  28. Hey Donald, sorry to hear it. Sold my 50 yesterday, sorry!

  29. Got my 50 cron today in the mail! I secured it for what I felt was a decent price. Glad you sold yours Steve, I almost grabbed it but went for black instead.

    I have yet to figure out which body I want though, so it is sitting on my desk staring at me… pleading with me…

  30. Tyson, must be torture! A lens and no body to mount it on!

  31. And here I sit with a beautiful M7 and no lens.

  32. Doews anyone know why both BH Photo and Adorama show the Silver 50mm Cron as no longer available? Is Leica discontinuing the silver 50mm cron?

  33. Yes, David. No more silver 50 crons. That is from both the Los Angeles Leica rep and Tibor the Leica sales … buyer… institution at Samys Camera in LA. Only special orders at this point.

  34. @ Donald: thank you for that information. Interesting I wonder why? Does that mean they are beginning to phase out the cron in favor of a new version? But then again, they’ve phased out the silver for the Summicron 90mm ASPH and also for the Summilux 35mm amd, at least at this point, no replacement for either (though rumors are everywhere that a new Summilux 35mm with a floating element should be announced any minute now).

  35. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for a wonderful review of this lens. I was just wondering if you had any thoughts on the absence on a focus tab on the new version. I have used the older version in the past and really liked using the focus tab. I felt it gave me very precise control.

    What is the travel on the focus ring like on this new version, do you have to do much rotating? I would love to know your experience.

    Best regards
    Stephen

  36. Nice review. I have owned three versions of that lens so Im not sure why i am reading, much less commenting on the review, lol.
    (current version in black and silver and previous version in black)

    I agree that the lens is magnificent lens for such an old design. Here are some of my own notes and comments on that lens.

    - It CAN flare badly in certain situations. The pull-out hood on the current version isnt sufficient. The previous version had a separate hood which is better. However it is flimsy so try look for the metal hood that is hard to find.

    - The previous version has the exact same optics but in a smaller package and includes a focussing tab. Some people prefer the tab and some prefer the knurled ring of the current version. I like tabs myself so I sold mine to get a previous.

    - The silver version of the current lens is silky smooth gem of mechanical perfection. However it is quite heavy ( I think over 300 grams) so steer away from that If you like to keep the weight down. Previous version, black, is about 185 grams. A big difference on such a small camera.

    - For some reason, all the 50s I have owned are prone to ghosting from filters, more so than other lenses. I now use mine without a filter at all (M9) to make sure I never have ghosting.

    - Bokeh at f/2 is creamy smooth, just like proven in Steves review. However, at mid-apertures such as f/4 the bokeh can be terrible and busy, especially with branches and other high contrast subjects in the out of focus area. Because of this I try to shoot this lens either wide open or at f8 -f11.

    - 6-bit coding is not really necessary, but I HAVE noticed that here is more camera vignetting with the lens set at “Uncoded” versus having the lens correctly identified (either via coding or dialing in the correct lens).

    - Someone asked about focus travel, and I would say thats about 100 degrees. (a little over one quarter of the lens barrel.) I think this is the same on both versions but I have not made a side to side comparison. With a tabbed version this is perfect – enough to get precise focus quickly. With the un-tabbed current version I felt that I sometimes had to change grip when focussing from near to far. Not an ideal situation as I like to know where my focus is “by feel”. With a little bit of training one can learn to estimate focus distance. Being able to prefocus the lens to within 10% or even 5% before even looking through the finder is a big advantage with this lens. That is in my opinion much easier with the tabbed version. 50mm is long enough that you need to be pretty accurate with your focus, especially at f2.

  37. Great review, Steve. I have owned the 50 Cron for some time now, and it is my go-to lens – the one that is on my M9 75%+ of the time. For my money, its the best lens I have ever owned.

    I feel that I should weigh in on the flare issue, however. Its quite real. I can get flare occasionally that will render a photo completely unusable. This happens under the following combination of conditions:

    - the source of light is very bright
    - the source of light is completely outside of the lens’s field of view
    - the source of light is directly “above” the lens vertically .
    - the subject of the photo is underexposed

    The example that you include is a perfect illustration of 50 Cron flare.. Using the collapsible lens hood reduces the risk significantly, but it still happens from time to time. I have lost maybe a half a dozen images to flare out of several thousand.

    Having said that, this is still my favorite lens by a mile. I regard the occasional loss of an image to flare as a necessary sacrifice gratefully offered to the wonderful spirit that inhabits this glass.

  38. My 50mm 2.0 Summicron was purchased in 1974 with my M4, I use it with my M9 now, and it still dazzles me with the shots I take, granted this is a type III Summicron, with no slide out hood, but an attachment hood, but this lens is still wonderful.

    I was impressed with this 50mm lens with 35mm color film, but with the full frame sensor on the M9 and a HD monitor, it is like a good girlfriend, always taking care of you.

  39. Thank you very much, Steve,

    after I had read your review a couple of days ago, I decided to send my inherited lenses Leica Summicron-R f/2 50mm (made in Canada, 3 cam) and Vario-Elmar-R f/4.5 75-200mm (made in Japan), both in mint conditions, to leitax.com in order to get them F-mounted for studio and landscape use with the Nikon D800.

    The lenses came with a Leica R4 and I just bought some Ilford Panf Plus 50 and I shot a whole lot of test photos and then decided that the Nikon D800 would be a good “nose” to carry those lenses. Fortunately, I got it for a really good price at El Corte Inglés of Las Palmas/Gran Canaria (2.499 €).

    The current Sigma FX 24-70mm I bought to bridge the gap does a very good job, but not really comparable with the razor sharpness and creamy bokeh of the Leica lenses at full aperture.

    I don’t know why Leica doesn’t built an a digital reflex apt for its -R lenses for a reasonable price. I mainly shoot in monochrome and mainly use, beside RAW(NEF) adjustments the NIK Software Silver Efex Pro 2 filter to match my needs.

    The results are autstanding even without a Leica lens, but I can’t wait getting my two Leica lenses back and fit for digital use!

  40. Now I’m even happier to own a Summicron 50mm F2, I was going to buy an used 35mm 2.5 instead, then lucky found an used Cron 50mm F2, paid about $1,300 and now am very happy so far. Thanks for your review.

  41. This was the exact review I was looking for. About to step into my first Leica M9 (from Nikon D700/Zeiss camp) and wanted the perfect first lens for daily use. I think you’ve convinced me in this one article that this is precisely what I need. Thank you for all the work you put into the site – and all the fine examples you’ve given me!

  42. Hi Steve,
    I am just getting into the more sophisticated amateure photographing.
    I watched your great reviews and now want to buy gear, which costs less than a Leica M + a Leica 5000 $ lense.
    So even though I like the puristic Leica camera style better than the Sony Nex computer like cameras, I would chose a Sony Nex 7. And as the pics here with the Leica summicron 50 are the best I have ever seen, I would want to buy the summicron 50 and use it with the Sony nex 7.
    Could you tell whether these would work well together or would you recommend an alternative, if you want to stay under 3500 $ for a set?

  43. Steve,

    I’m contemplating taking my first step into the M range, and buying an M8.
    How preferable is 8.2 over the 8? I saw your great comments on 50mm Summicron. Is there any reason it would not be such a great fix with the M8, as it was with the M9?
    Is 6 bit coding preferable?
    Hope my beginner questions are not too prosaic.

    Paul.

  44. [...] put a Leica Summicron 50mm f2 lens on the Sony NEX-7, which gives me a slight telephoto. But I cannot do close ups or macro wth [...]

  45. Just bought a 50 cron today. I expect it will be on my Monochrom more than any other lens.

  46. Steve- Cheers. Just purchased this lens after having the 35mm 1.4 for a few years. Excellent real world review.

  47. Just bought a cron from’95 for My sony alpha 7r ,will get it tomorrow and will do Some conceptual photography with it. Will post them. in You Blog if you like, herzliche Grüße Andy photographer

  48. I’ve had the 50 Cron for four months now and agree with everything said in this review. It is an outstanding lens for general use.

    For portraits I prefer the various Sonnars (I own the Zeiss C Sonnar ZM, a 1937 uncoated Zeiss Sonnar and a coated Jupiter 3), but for travel and general use the Summicron is better, with beautiful rendering and that Leica glow.

  49. Got. My Adapter for the sony 7r for the cron , to bei honest just Love it ,

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