LTM options for a budget conscious Sonnarholic?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by steve_gallimore|1, Sep 30, 2020.

  1. Hi, my name is Steve and I'm a Sonnarholic.

    I've tried other lenses, I really have, Planars, Tessars, modern 'I don't even know what to begin to call them' formulae, but there's one optical formula that I keep coming back too.

    Currently I have a very nice Jupiter-8 on my Kiev, A rougher J8 LTM on my Zorki, and the 7artisans 35mm on my Fuji X cameras.

    But I can't help myself, I need more.

    So I'm looking at 'true LTM' options to fit my newly acquired Canon 7.

    When I was looking for another camera, something a little more modern feeling than my Kiev, I settled on LTM as the most versatile, forward compatible, budget friendly option. It's also probably the mount with the most Sonnar options available, several of them towards the affordable end on the scale. LTM I can adapt to Leica M, should I ever come to terms with the idea of owning a camera worth more than my car, it can also be easily adapted to mirrorless digital, essentially, it's probably the most versatile of the three main rangefinder mounts. M mount bodies are out of my budget, Nikon are nearly so and are not really compatible with anything else, Contax/Kiev, like Nikon, is a bit of a dead end (though see question below).

    So, I'm looking for a 50mm LTM Sonnar and willing to spend, say, 300€.

    The options I've identified are:

    1. Canon 50mm f1.5 - as far as I'm aware, the only Canon Sonnar.

    2. Nikkor 50mm f2 - much more affordable than it's faster brethren.

    3. Remounted or otherwise modified Jupiter-8 or Jupiter-3. The first is so cheap I'll probably get it anyway, the second prices up against the Nikkor and Canon options these days.

    So, what are people's thoughts on the above lenses? There's not all that much on the internet, the Canon is virtually ignored in favour of the later Planar designs, the Nikkor eclipsed by the faster lenses. I know lenses are a very personal choice, far more so than camera bodies, what suits one person may be unpalatable to another, so in terms of image quality I'm looking for personal opinions rather than outright recommendations.

    In the realm of hard fact, are there any things to look out for with these particular lenses, a propensity for fogging, balsam separation, soft front elements?

    I must admit, the idea of using a Nikon lens on a Canon camera does have a perverse appeal (yes, I know that historically, it is actually very appropriate).

    I'm familiar with the differences between Soviet LTM and everyone elses LTM, also Contax/Kiev vs Nikon and, for that matter, I know the difference between LTM/L39 and M39 and own a bunch of M39 lenses.

    Finally, does anyone have any experience of the FOTOFOX Contax-LTM adaptor? Does it work? RF coupled? Worth it?
    FOTOFOX RF-L39 Contax Télémètre Objectif CRF RF pour Leica mount SM M39 L39 Adaptateur | eBay

    Thanks for reading.
  2. SCL


    I have the Nikon 50/2 LTM and really like fact it has literally replaced all my Canon 50 LTM lenses.
    steve_gallimore|1 likes this.
  3. I contacted 7artisans to ask if they would contemplate releasing any of their M mount lenses in LTM, they replied that they would consider it, so not an outright 'no', but I'm not holding my breath...
  4. I have the Canon 50/1.5 and Nikkor 50/2.0. I prefer the Canon, it just has a better look, but mainly use the Nikkor because it's smaller and lighter. The Canon, with all that glass and a brass barrel, is much heavier than the slower Nikkor. But, if given the choice, I'll always grab the Canon.

    Jim B.
    steve_gallimore|1 likes this.
  5. Just from a quick look for fun, it appears that along with the Jupiter 3 50mm 1.5 you mentioned, there is the Zeiss ZM C Sonnar 50mm 1.5T.

    I got hits on "Sonnar design lenses in LTM Mount
  6. You could buy a Tesla and the sky's the limit.
  7. Barry, I'm familiar with most of the hits from that search result, the first being the list of Sonnar formula lenses that was compiled ten years ago on RFF:
    List of Sonnar Lenses -
    There less than 20 LTM Sonnars total, maybe ten of which could be considered viable as users rather than collectors. Other than the Canon f1.5 and Nikkor f2, the Nikkor f1.4 and Tanar f2 would just about fit my budget, so opinions on those would be welcome too (the f1.4 Nikkor has plenty of info available).

    The Zeiss ZM C Sonnar is M mount, so it wouldn't fit anything I own.
  8. If I were to buy a new M mount body and the 50/0.95 Noctilux, it would equal/exceed the value of my house!

    My budget is around €300, less is better.
  9. The Canon Serenar 50 f1.8 isn't a Sonnar formula per se (6 element Double Gauss I believe?), but it is a terrific lens and one worth having if you shoot with the Canon 7 or any other LTM. It is sharp, but has character in all the right ways (to my mind). I also have a 50 f2 Sonnar and the ubiquitous Jupiter 8.
    charles_escott_new likes this.
  10. I thought it works with a reverse adaptor. I happen to have a Silver CV Nokton 1.5. Its a good lens. I never use it because I hame M mount camera. Contact me if you are interested, would be happy to get it to you for cheap as I never use it.
  11. Thanks.

    I have the later Canon 50/1.8 in black and can confirm that it is indeed a double gauss, having had mine in pieces. Doesn't really do it for me, but mine is a poor example, balsam is failing between 4th and 5th elements.
    Fiddlefye likes this.
  12. Thanks for the offer, I'll keep it in mind.

    You can use the Nokton on your M with a simple adaptor, if you didn't know. Fully rangefinder coupled.

    As far as I'm aware, the reverse (M mount lens on ltm camera) isn't possible, at least not without extensive modification.

    Interestingly, looking at the Zeiss C-Sonnar, it would appear to bear a striking resemblance to the 1960s Jupiter 17, taking advantage of modern coatings to allow removal of the middle element from the front group.

    Zeiss copying the Soviets? No, that would never happen...
  13. I did that and even can use it on my Fuji, actually works quite well there.
  14. The Nikkor-HC 50mm f/2 (LTM) is an fine Sonnar 50/2 copy :)

    Jupiter-3 lenses certainly can be had for under $300, though might need a little tweak in their focus calibration.
    steve_gallimore|1 likes this.
  15. I gather quite a few examples didn't age well. I got lucky I guess. Mine is the original chrome and brass version, came with a IVS and is basically in as-new condition in every respect, as is the camera. I liked the Serenar well enough to begin with, but finally dug up a 40mm-> 40.5mm ring so I could mount a decent hood on it and now I really am loving the results. We're all searching for a "look" we like and what works for one might not appeal to another.
  16. That's it in a nutshell.
    bertliang likes this.
  17. I, personally, am more of a "double-Gauss" nut, but there are some Sonnars that I love too:

    Admittedly, this particular example is in Pentacon-6 mount, but it was originally for the "Schmalfilm" Contax II - used in the 1936 Olympics.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2020
  18. The Canon 50/1.5 with clean glass is a safe bet, beware of haze and etched glass. Prices are all over the place. Low one month, high another.

    The Nikkor 5cm F1.4 has skyrocketed in price. More than the $95 that I paid for mine in LTM.

    The Jupiter-3 will require work, unless already adjusted for the Leica/Canon standard. If you are handy with cutting paper shims, and working triple-zero screws, not a hard job.

    The Nikkor 5cm F2 is a safe bet, and can be found for well under $250.

    The modern C-Sonnar is Bertele's original Ernostar Design with the rear group split into a triplet for the faster F1.5 aperture.

    Lesson in History: The Magic of the "Value for Money" Zeiss C-Sonnar 50mm F1.5 | THEME

    I favor the pre-war Sonnars.
    steve_gallimore|1 likes this.
  19. Thanks Brian, valuable info as always.

    I think I'm leaning toward the Nikkor f2, unless I come across a clean Canon f1.5. From the images I've seen, I think the Nikkor tends to have very slightly more contrast, at least wide open?

    Wide open and close focus is where I'm looking to use this lens, candid family portraits mostly. On film for now, digital, one day, when I can afford a full frame sensor. I've tried the J-8 on my APSc Fujis, I like the results, but the 75mm effective focal length starts to become a little unwieldy in my tiny house.

    My most used lens currently on digital is the 7artisans 35/1.2, small size and Sonnar signature make it a very appealing choice for my use. I've also recently acquired the
    Viltrox 33/1.4 in Fuji X mount, which, at least to my eyes, has some of the same traits, I like it, it's a good match on the X-T2, but the whole combination is starting to get a little large, so I'm more likely to grab the X-E1 with the 35/1.2, even though the X-T2 is better in almost every way.

    The ~1 stop difference between the f1.5 and the f2 lenses doesn't bother me as far as depth of field is concerned, but I do feel the faster lenses are beneficial for film use, where I can't just whack the ISO up to 6400 in order to get 1/60 sec. I've always been able to hand hold slow shutter speeds fairly successfully, the Kiev (Contax) always seemed the smoothest choice, maybe one stop better than a Leica style shutter? I have some wonderful shots of my family taken with my Kiev and J-8.

    Pre-war Zeiss, I'd love to get one, one day perhaps, most likely in Contax mount, perhaps by then there will be a few more Contax adaptors on the market, though that would drive prices up...

    I've seen a few 5cm/f2 Nikkors being sold on Nicca cameras, contemplating buying a clean one with the intention of reselling the body, but my track record on selling cameras isn't all that good and it would be a shame to separate an original camera/lens combination.

    I've got 58mm Helios-44s coming out of my ears, like pretty much anyone who collected Zenits before the 'mirrorless revoloution' made the lenses worth more than the cameras. Also a good selection of Konica Hexanons. And a few Tessars. They all have their traits and uses, just depends on what I feel like using on any given day.

    As for longer Sonnars, I have a couple of Jupiter-9 and a Pentacon 135/2.8 (not sure on this one). For some reason though, I've never acquired a 135mm Sonnar in a rangefinder mount, I think maybe once a lens starts to get that long, much of the benefits of a rangefinder are lost and I might as well be using a reflex. The Pentacon, on a Lens Turbo on a Fuji X camera is a beast of a thing, but the images are lovely.

    Guess I'll wait until payday and browse some more...

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