Is the 50/1.5 Summarit really THAT bad ??

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by soeren_engelbrecht|1, Aug 2, 2007.

  1. Hi all, I'm considering a fast 50 for my M3, and I can get a 50/1.5 Summarit for around a third of the price of a (Pre-asph) 50 Summilux. I can even get it in LTM, so I can use it on my IIIa as well :) So: I googled around a bit, and quite a few people found it soft wide open and/or close up. On the other hand, I don't mind a bit of "character" in my pictures. I am happy with my 1970 50/1.4 Nikkor wide open, for instance... The question is: Is the Summarit too soft wide open for "all-round" use ?? I have a fogged/scratched Summar that I like to use wide open for the occasional super-soft shot, but I wouldn't consider it fo all-round use. Supplementary information: I have an 50/2.8 Elmar at the moment, but would like something significantly faster. And the Summarit is even cheaper than a Cron... And Voigtländer lenses are nigh on impossible to get around here - and I would like to have a classic/contemporary companion for the M3. Thanks in advance for your responses :) Soeren
  2. I haven`t seen really bad lenses, especially leica lenses, but really bad photographers!
  3. summarit is a great lens -- i have used one extensively -- also a favorite of bill eggelston's and many others
  4. The Summarit is very good. It's not the sharpest and it doesn't have the best contrast but...

    I like it.


    Here's a link --->
  5. I've always considered the Summarit a fine lens. I bought mine back in the early 1980's when
    you could hardly give them away, they had such a bad reputation. Paid $20 for it. Go for it!
  6. Here's another link that might be useful to you:

  7. It will depend on how clean it is. If it is very clean without coating marks, it should be fine. If
    it is scuffed up, the results will be like the photo you have above.
  8. jtk


    Like Jim P said, they had a bad reputation decades ago... and the passage of time has only made them worse (fungus, abrasion of soft coatings). You'd be better off with something 50 1.8 Canon. Inexpensive, mechanically equal to Leica, optically better than Leica of the era. If you're going to shoot Leica cameras, why not have good lenses?
  9. Maybe it's not the aesthetic you're pursuing, but i love what this guy does with his Summarit
    (and Neopan 1600):
  10. If you plan to buy one of these, allow some cash to have the lens cleaned. The Summarits seem to be prone to accumulating a film of something or other on the interior lens surfaces.

    My lens was fogged in this way and Sherry Krauter was able to clean it up perfectly.
  11. mine is absolutely perfect. the glass and everything else. i have never handled a lens that
    feels as good when focusing or changing apertures as this one. but i have to admit that i use
    my old and new summicrons more. the shade is a big drawback because of the size and
    mounting screw. filters are hard to get too, since they are 41mm thread. it looks great on my
    M3 and chrome M6 by the way.
  12. I've never used one, but I have seen a number of black and white shots taken with one and they were beautiful. I was surprised how good they were.
  13. The Summarit was my first Leica lens, coming on an M3 that I bought to get into the M system back in the 1980s. Having not done my homework, and thinking (based on the media praise) that every Leica lens was magic, I was quickly let down by my pristine and perfect Summarit. Every (SLR) Nikkor that I had blew it out of the water up to about f/2.8. In the middle of the aperture ring, it was pretty good, but then what 50mm lens isn't? I quickly moved to a Summicron, and saw great performance at f/2.0 and beyond. Not only sharpness, but the contrast from the Summicron was a great improvement. If you like slightly soft and flairy, the Summarit is nice at f/1.5, but the Summicron at a fraction of a stop less in speed was so much better that I sold off the Summarit. My use of the Summarit was so long ago that I have nothing scanned or of any true posting quality, but I have some prints from a (non-scientific) test against the Summicron showing the difference in sharpness and contrast. If it is not clear from the low res scan, the Summarit is less useful as a technical lens. Also, I Know the scale is not perfectly matched. Again, this was an old test for my own use, but it might give you one data point in you quest. When the girl is holding the chrome lens, the shot was made with the Summicron, and when holding the black lens the Summarit made the shot.
  14. ''' and a portrait at f/1.5. In some subjects, this lens can flatter, but when you need sharpness and contrast at full aperture, it has been surpassed since it was designed.
  15. Nice B & W shot Albert. The creamy tonal transitions are why I had John VanStelten clean, polish, recoat and re-calibrate my LTM Summarit. Probably a waste of money as I'll never be able to sell it for what I have in it. Contrast is low, flares easily especially wide open, but it sure is a nice portrait lens. The cast hood is a pain and expensive; also easy to knock off and lose. Not a general purpose lens, save your money for a Summicron version II. But the Nikon 1970 is not a good comparison, the 1950's Nikon 50 f1.4 is. Note that the Summarit is a coated version of the late 1930's Leitz Xenon 50 f1.5, so the design is very dated. I like the results with Tri-X and EK Portra 400 as you don't have to shoot wide open and the low contrast doesn't matter. Stopped down below F4.0 its a pretty good lens on center.
  16. I love my Summarit. The glass is not perfectly clean, but at around f2 or 2.8 it does great. Soft and sharp at the same time. I adapted a hood with a filter step-up ring and a generic hood. I have seen two examples of the aperture blades coming apart inside the lens, but it is sometimes an easy fix. If you need real sharpness at the edges of the image at wide apertures, use a different lens. But it is definately worth exploring the Summarit.
  17. Forget the Summarit, and trade your Elmar on a LTM Summicron.
  18. I just got my own summarit and its a beautiful lens. Its not the sharpest but it is plenty sharp when stopped down a bit. Wide open it is soft but its not a bad softness. The picture you posted above is soft but it is nothing like what the summarit can produce. The summarit makes the highlights flare and it gets its softness that way. The sample above just looks like a generic soft/badly designed lens. I have a summar too and wide open it is actually better (as in sharper/less flare etc) than my summarit. Both are in similar condition with very slight marks on the front elements. I prefer my summarit by far. The summarit produces effects almost like a soft focus lens. Smooth but with sharpness. The summar is just a crappy lens that is soft all round. Both have their uses for me, that's why I have them but I would use the summarit for more all-round use over the summar. It also looks sooooo damn nice on my M2. Its like they were made for each other.

    As for the aperture size. f1.5 is almost a whole stop brighter than f2. This is a big advantage. I have a Minolta CLE 40mm f2 and I frequently find that it is limiting in low-light, and I shoot Neopan 1600! The summarit opens up a stop more and it makes things just manageable although I would like faster if I could.

    If the summarit is clean and well calibrated, then go for it! I'm not sure it would serve as an all-round lens like a summilux or summicron (sharp all round etc etc) but stopped down (around f8) it is fine. You'll be using it in dark places wide open which will make the flare worse but the resulting images imply a dreamy soft look.
  19. I had it about 20 years ago. Sold it. What a regret! Like most of my Leica sales.

    It's not a general purpose lens. At F1.5 it's too soft for general use. By around F5.6 it gets rather harsh.

    It's also not for colour. But what B&W! I didn't know back then. I now realise that my best BW photos were taken with that lens.
  20. So the Summarit makes the Summar a crappy lens and the Summicron is so much better than the Summarit. I wonder why I like Summars better than Summicrons ?

    I must try one of these - or rather, a few of these Summarits (wouldn't want to judge them on just one example, would I).

    Were they all made by Taylor Taylor Hobson ?
  21. I like this lens. I wish it had more contrast but provided it is in good shape -- watch for fungus & decementing -- it is a fine lens. Technical data on the lens gathered by me.
  22. The Summarit is basically a 70+ year-old POS compared with its competition, the Zeiss Contax f:1.5/50mm Sonnar. It wasn't very good then, and it's even more antiquated now. Don't waste your money.
  23. I've owned and used the 50 Summarit, Elmar, DR Cron, and 'Lux. Imho, if you don't really like the low-contrast, "soft" rendition that's typical of the Summarit wide open, then you can stop it down and so increase contrast and sharpness considerably. In other words, it can do two things for you: gentle for close portraits and sharp for other things. The 'Lux has a similar split personality, just less old school than the Summarit (overall higher contrast and sharpness).
  24. Miles, that's excellent, thank you.
  25. Its "different". The Summarit is low contrast and a little soft and can have a tendancy for veiling flare when wide open. But stopped down a bit and (for my taste) especially when used with colour film it is nice as it tones down the modern "in your face" colour that such films have. Many like if for black and white to. And oh, it is a very sexy looking lens!
  26. Whew, those were a lot of thoughtful responses - thanks a lot !! As always on this forum, opinions were split quite a bit :) I think I'll go for it - especially since the dealer has a 60 days exchange policy.

    If I decide to do so, I'll post my results here, so we can finally get to know, whether the Sumarit really is "a beautiful lens" or "a 70+ year-old POS" :)

    Thanks again,

  27. Film Fuji Superia 800 from Walmart<BR><BR>Processing and scanning Frontier at Walmart<BR><BR>Camera Body Bessa R<BR><BR>Lens Summarit 50mm F1.5 LTM at F1.5<BR><BR>Decent amount of digital noise in the shadows; byproduct of a 7 cent scan.:)<BR><BR><img src=""><BR><BR><img src="">
  28. Not at all used at 5.6 it was incredibly good in BW, the contrast range made images easier to pring than those from summicron !
  29. Update: I finally went for one after a couple of years of considerations - and I really like the results. I have posted some Early Impressions from it.

  30. Most all leica lenses are FAR better than there obsolete rangefinder focusing mechcanisms. All testing of leica lenses done by myself has revealed that the badly collimated levers and gears and reflective windows are giving out on m39 & L/M rangefinder cameras M series. That said, the lenses are simply great on Modern Mirrorless cameras; DSLM. From m4/3 rd's to APS-C to Sony Full frame A7 series, the lenses draw blood when focused at 7x magnified focus. There is NO system as good as Mirrorless digital focusing using EVF eyepieces, period! Nikon & Canon both know this and Nikon latest DSLR use the Sony FF chip, so what does that tell you? As for the Summarit 5cm F:1.5 which is nothing more than a coated Xenon in 5cm, USE a lens shade! Myself I have discovered that a polarizer & rubber collapsible sunshade to be the best combination on a Sony DSLM camera. Lens flare is reduced greatly and the polarizer helps reduce the chromatic abberation the early design of the lens may have have. A 40.5mm polarizer and rubber shade is the answer and a God send! Otherwise a stupid photographer using any leica Rangefinder camera & any older fast lens (F:1.5 or <) wide open with No lens shade is an idiot and should never be allowed to post there result or comments.
    Leica lens in the 1950's used air spaces between elements, no balsam glue! Leica was NOT the only manufacturer to do this. Unfortunately time and high humidty climates have played havoc with these lenses. There almost always humidty hazed and need to be taken apart and cleaned. Sometimes this is easy, sometimes its not! If your buying the lens from any coastal area of high temperature and humidty, like the gulf coast USA be warned that online sellers are liars; they know the lens is hazed, BUT they rarely check it with a good strong backlighted flashlight. Anyway there not likely to tell the truth, so you better darn well ask? In a yard sale, auction, or camera show; its easy to see, you dont want to buy that lens! Watch out for Florida to Texas gulf coast lenses and cameras, my experience is too stay away, or get it dirt cheap! A cleaned Summarit 5cm F:1.5 is an excellent lens on a recently serviced Leica m39 or L/M mount rangefinder camera, if used with a sunshade! On a DSLM camera with a Polarizer & Rubber Sunshade its shockingly GREAT! Regards, Don@Eastwestphoto
  31. An old thread, I've taken apart 5 Summarit 5cm f1.5's, and in all cases the inner barrel was marked "51.1". The focal length is shorter than the 51.6mm that the RF is calibrated for. I suspect this is to deal with focus shift, best focus is at F2.8 when used close-up and F1.5 at infinity. <p>

    I modified one of my Summarits by moving the rear group back 0.2mm. This slightly increased the focal length, and optimized the lens for F1.5 used close-up. Focus is still good at infinity. <p>

    Wide-Open on the M9:<p>

    <img src=""> <p>

    wide-open on the M Monochrom:<p>

    <img src=""><p>


    For comparison, a 1943 Carl Zeiss Jena 5cm F1.5 Sonnar "T", original LTM mount and perfect glass. Wide-Open on the M Monochrom.<p><p>

    <img src=""> <p>
  32. I've just had my Summarit recoated - actually the groups had to be teased apart first, so rebuilt would be more like it - and it's a wonderful piece of glass, now that the thing is spotless and has been optimized with modern gear to current standards.
    Wide open it's an instant "antique" Xenon-type large format look, especially in black-and-white and just a stop and a half down it's back to the regular signature Leica 35mm look.
    I use it for fashion and beauty portraiture and street / lifestyle shots on an M9, and can compare it with a v8 50mm 'cron and a 45mm f/2 G2 Planar that I also have in M mount. Well worth it, and definitely not for everybody.

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