Is the 50/1.5 Summarit really THAT bad ??

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

  1. Could've sworn I posted in this topic....Ah, No, that was the other one.

    I feel the Summarit and the Xenon mainly get a bad rap because of 70-80 years of grime building up in them. After cleaning they're quite capable.

  2. Little Jessie and big Taylor are good buddies.
    Leica M10, 50mm f/1.5 Summarit (1954, designed 1936. Recoated at Focal Point Lens 2017.)
    This was the first Leica lens I ever used, back in 1969. My grandfather bought it with an M3 camera in Heidelberg in 1954. I'd spiral-scratched the softly-coated front element with over zealous cleaning when I was a teenager. I had it recoated by John van Stelton at Focal Point Lens a month before he retired.

    I'm quite impressed with the overall rendering - sharper than expected at maximum f/1.5 aperture, but still soft and flared enough for a vintage rendering. It had been so soft before recoating that I hadn't used it much.

  3. I just tried to buy one, rated 9+. But somebody beat me to it by seconds.
  4. The Summarit is a slightly different optical formula than the Xenon. A member on the Leica forum posted some of the original Leica design documentation showing the difference for the elements. I have two Summarits, one with perfect glass and a very clean Xenon. Both are quite good. I've taken the Xenon out with an uncoated 1934 Sonnar 5cm F1.5- the latter is better. But- the Xenon much better than the reputation.
  5. Yeah, the glass types used for elements in the Xenon are identical to those in the Summarit. There is a very slight difference between some of the shapes of the elements between the two, but overall performance is very similar. And the Summarit should theoretically have some improved contrast due to better coating (The Xenon originally wouldn't have had it, certainly not in batches delivered before WW2). The MTF diagrams are similar in the resolving power of these lenses is all over the place

    I have a Xenon, a scratchy Summarit and a spotless Summarit and I agree their reputation is often reported far worse then they actually are.

    Scratchy Summarit

    Spotless Summarit

  6. This one has come back regularly since 2007, nearly as many times as the Universal Studio's Frankenstein. "The Son of Summarit" this one might be called.

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the advent of 'digital imagery' has led to a sharpness fetish.

    A f/1.5 lens was not made for the brightest and bestest conditions, it was "targeted towards photographers who wanted to shoot in dim light"

    That's what it was made for and that is what it is still very good for. Everything else is lagniappe.

    from the era when​
  7. My Summarit experience mirrors Mark Bohrer's including the effort to have John Van Stelten's restoration. In comparison color shots I made with a Nikon f1.4 50 mm Contax mount, I find both lenses still usable at 1.4 and 1.5 although low contrast and corners reflect their 60+ years. I prefer using the Summarit on an M3 rather than on a Leica LTM as it is easier to hold the M3 and focus. I'm fortunate to have the actual Summarit lens hood as both lenses are flare prone. Buy one only in great condition, badly scratched you'd be wasting film.

  8. I'm wondering who did your restoration. I'm thinking of it for my Summar.
  9. AJG


    I had a Summarit on a Leica M-3 that I sold when I decided to get into large format. The decision was made easier by the low quality images that I got from what was a badly scratched front element--my Pentax 50 mm f/1.7 ran rings around it wide open, and the Summarit didn't look very good until at least f/8. This was one sample in fairly bad condition, and I wasn't interested in softer focus/lower contrast at the time. The Zeiss Sonnars (post war f/2 and f/1.5) that I have used are much sharper and less flare prone, but they are also in mint condition so not a fair comparison.
  10. Arthur, unfortunately John Van Stelten restored my Summarit several years before he retired and to the best of my knowledge, no one acquired his service. Additionally, over the years I've commented in this post regarding use of my LTM Summarit both before and after its restoration.

    The following may be of interest to anyone contemplating a Summarit restoration. I just reviewed my John Van Stelen Summarit restoration correspondence and the following may be of interest. Upon disassembly, JVS reported my lens was in mechanical good shape with just dried out lubricant. There was no lubricant migration from the shutter leaves onto the adjacent lens elements. With the noticeable exception of the front element, the other lens elements were in good condition. However the front element was in very poor condition due to cleaning erosion of the entire front surface to the extent that the lens coating was almost completely gone and the lens itself extensively scratched. I was informed by JVS that Summarit lens coating and the element itself were soft from new and easily damaged. To complete the restoration, JVS offered to polish and re-coat the front element, then finish the restoration with centering and refocusing. JVS said the result would be close to but not matching Leica standards. However there was one condition regarding the front element restoration: Due the high heat used during the re-coating process, there was a strong possibility that the thermal stress during the re-coating process would crack the front lens for which no replacement was available. I agreed to accept the risk of breakage loss and JVS proceeded with the cleaning, re-polishing, optical bench focusing and fortunately subsequent re-coating proceeded without any problem. As I stated above, I enjoy using the Summarit, but it really is a special purpose lens that gets very careful use. At present I know of no Summarit lens restoration service comparable to that of the retired VanStelten. However you may wish to contact Gus Lazzari for his thoughts on a Summar restoration as he has several on his waiting list.
  11. Very helpful, thanks.
  12. I've posted this in other threads but I love what it can do to OOF areas. Very painterly. Not at all sharp, of course. Never had that reputation.

    This is shot wide open on an M240.

    Vicky, Summarit.jpeg
  13. The 5cm F1.5 Summarit is optimized for ~F2.8 at closest focus and for F1.5 at infinity. I've taken apart 5 of these, all were scribed "51.1" internally- slightly shorter than the Leica standard. Optimize at F2.8 for closest-focus, means that at F1.5 the lens will front-focus. As the focal length is slightly shorter than what the RF indicates, F1.5 will be in focus at infinity.

    I changed the spacing of the front/rear group on my lens to increase the focal length, optimized for F1.5 at closest focus.
  14. Brian, can you post a close shot at f1.5, I'm curious how it will look compared to what I'm getting.
  15. I used a Summarit for a few years in the early 00s. Then I bought a Zeiss Plannar ZM & sold the Summarit. I liked the lens and have a lot pictures that I am happy with. Just get a nice one and have it serviced.
  16. Although expensive and perhaps hard to find, the Summarit specific cast metal lens hood does help with the flare problem. Except for one corner where there is a cut out, it does not blank out the viewfinder. I'm looking forward to using mine for Fall foliage and comparing to a Summilux 50.
  17. I had SK Grimes make a special adapter to use 39mm filters and have a groove cut in it to use the Summicon-M clip on vented shade. I should have kept it but I sold it with the lens.

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