Best Leitz Lens Build Qualiy

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by wendell_kelly, Aug 29, 2015.

  1. I have a number of Leitz lenses, 1930's to the present.
    It is clear to me that the mechanical build quality of Leitz lenses of the 1950's has never been surpassed.
    Of the lenses that I've seen and handled myself, I believe that the Summarit 50mm f1.5 gas the finest fit and finish and overall build quality (please remember that I'm not discussing optical performance).
  2. I think the best are from about 1953-1967.
  3. "Summarit 50mm f1.5" Wendell K.
    Too bad you chose a Zeiss/Leitz hybrid.
    No doubt in my mind (even comparing the latest high dollar modern units), the Dual-Range Summicron is virtually indestructible and in all categories, feel, fit, finish and choice of materials, second to none...
  4. Gus- only the glass is a Zeiss hybrid; the mechanicals are all Wetzlar.
    As it happens a DR Summicron was my first Leitz lens and I can do a side-by side with my Summarits.
    IHMO, unchanged, the Summarit has superior fit and finish. The quality of the chrome plating is superb.
  5. In actuality Wendell, the design of how the helical, aperture and lens securing mechanisms are completely different & more complex than every other Leitz M or LTM units. For example, the Zeiss products (Like the Summarit) are typically unorthodox in their design & tear-down procedures. Because of that added complexity and therefore fragility, tampering, impact or neglect usually causes permanent changes in the feel & performance of the Summarit as a whole.
    A Dual-Range on the other hand, because of it's simplicity and heartiness (even with those traumas), can easily be brought back to factory feel & specs...
  6. I feel the opposite and when it comes to the glass itself, there is no question: newer is better. The 50s Leitz had soft coatings and so many are now flawed.
    As to the build, again my newer lenses are better built and feel better in use.
    That said I had to have both 28 cron and SEM 21 front groups tightened LOL, but they have been good ever since. My 83 75 Lux is pretty solid, but the 90/2.5 has a better build. The older ones seem simpler, but copy variation in the 50s was huge, compared to today.
    With exceptions, I'm sure.
    I have many M, LTM and contax lenses from 1936 till 2011. I love the old ones and often shoot them. But for pure performance the latest Leica lenses are hard to beat, and the build is far ahead of cosina/zeiss.
  7. Can't disagree with Gus. I've got one. Mind you, I never dropped it. But I have dropped my modern Zeiss C Sonnar 50 three (aaaahhh) times, and it still works perfectly. Saved by a hood once, the filter the other time and nothing the last time.
  8. I find my 1933 and 1941 50mm Elmar F3.5 lenses to be very well designed, manufactured and finished. That these lenses are timeless is demonstrated by the condition of many of these lenses going back 80 well as the quality of the results these lenses are still capable of today. Many may criticize the pull out barrel design but I believe when these lenses were designed in the mid to late twenties the "smallness" and compactness of the camera/lens combination provided the desired selling points for a "miniature" camera. My 1937 Summar doesn't seem to be as robust as these lenses, and although it is in perfect working order and cosmetics, the design of the diaphram looks "iffy" to me. But one must remark that the Nikkor rangefinder lenses manufactured in the 1950's are remarkably well built, well designed and also have held up extremely well to this date. The fact that a lens is available today in very good condition is, I believe, the best confirmation that the lens was produced with the utmost build quality for a commercially made mass produced item. Additionally the coatings on the old Nikkor lens are almost always in very good or better condition...the coatings/glass held up much better to cleaning and fungus conditions unlike many of the lenses from Leitz of the time.
  9. "Too bad you chose a Zeiss/Leitz hybrid."
    Gus are you sure about this?
    My copy of "Leica and Leicaflex Lenses" by G. Rogliatti, 1978 edition indicates that the Summarit is an improved version of the earlier Xenon lens, A Schneider design. The Summarit also had some features that originated with Taylor-Hobson.
    Rogliatti make no mention of Zeiss at all.
  10. Lenses produced in the late 50s to late 60s were noted for their massive construction. Machined out of solid brass, with a firm but smooth focusing action and crisp aperture selection. I have two lenses, a DR Summicron 50 and Summicron 90 in which the elements can be removed for use on a Visoflex. Thus visible, the keyway, used to keep the lens motion linear while the helix is turned, is adjustable. Consequently the focusing mount can be adjusted to remove any noticeable trace of backlash.
    I find it a minor annoyance to feel a little thump when I change focusing directions once the grease thins. It is a nice touch only the OCS engineers at Leitz seem to have used.
  11. I was about to say what Wendell did, based on reading which did not include Rogliatti.
  12. I'm with Gus. The structure of a 50/1.5 Summarit is prone to being shaky and wobbly, made of way too many pieces of metal. Probably done in order to make it smaller and lighter (staying out of the way of the finder), but it's mechanically compromised. I have a saved image of a cross-sectioned one, many many rings screwed into each other. (Can't share it, not public-domain.)
    Typical solidly-built lenses have two cells, one on each side of the aperture mechanism, which are each one piece of metal, with the groups held in by retaining rings.
  13. I don't have any of the older lenses, having owned the pre-asph 35 and 50 Summicrons for more than 10
    years along with a 28 asph. I have had 3 copies now of the 3rd version 28 Elmarit, having just picked one
    up again, and found that all of those copies focused smoother than my other lenses. I don't know if that's
    because the others could use servicing or if it has to do with the larger barrel of the version III 28 Elmarit.

    I've never had break down issues with any of these lenses, but I also don't subject them to abuse.
  14. In terms of build quality, I suspect that the 50mm Summicron (DR and Rigid), plus the collapsible 90mm Elmar are hard to match or exceed by any Leica lenses. The 8 element 35mm Summicron is also built beautifully.
  15. Dang -- they've all been so good ever since I got into Leica in 1952, that it's like comparing apple pies. They're all good, but the best one is the one on my plate right now.
  16. I agree the 50s/60s lenses were something else build quality wise. I have an Elmar-50 and a Summaron-35 (rigid M-mount) from that era and both are astoundingly solid. Just sent the Summaron off to get the helical regreased since it was getting a bit stiff and it came back looking and working like a brand new lens. Solid, solid little piece.
    Also had a DR Summicron that was built like a tank. My 21mm Elmarit-M and 90 Summicron-M, both from the early eighties, are very nice and well put together but don't feel quite as bulletproof.

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