Sharpness

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by chris_greenberg, Apr 9, 2010.

  1. Hi everyone, it's lightly snowing here in Toronto, hope the weather were ya'll are is treating you to something resembling a proper springtime.
    I know this may be a debatable question, but what 50mm lens is the sharpest? The reason I ask is that earlier today I posted questions about the Nokton 50 f1.1, and one of the responses got me wondering about the functionality of a super fast lens. Specifically, these lenses can be beautiful when used correctly for their intended purposes a la low light photography, but what if you plan on shooting at f2 most of the time? The convenience of have another stop is very nice, but wide open is always more tenuous shooting than stopped down.
    Comparing Leica, Canon, CV and Zeiss glass what is the community's opinion(s) as to the sharpest 50 presently available? Are newer lenses by default sharper than older lenses? Has technology changed so much over the last twenty to thirty years that today's glass is noticeably sharper at all stops? Does ashperical make a difference? And what about coatings for flare?
    As always your thoughts are most appreciated. Thanks much!
    Chris
     
  2. Hello Chris, I tried to keep my mouth shut after your post this morning, but after this second one, I just don't have that much will power.
    If you have enough money to think about buying a $10,000 lens, then you should just buy it. It is the one that other lenses are compared to. You keep talking about looking at comparison images; are any of them prints? Images on a monitor don't mean squat.
    Sharper? "Sharpness is the luxury of the bourgeoisie." (HCB) Then, anyone buying a $10K lens has that luxury, I guess.
     
  3. Hi Michael, good hearing from you. I appreciate your thought about just buying the Noctilux f.95 but that's not what I'm interested in. I quite like the idea of the Nokton f1.1 performing as well or better than the Nocti and my questions were aimed primarily at whether or not Leica purism had seeped into the conversation and was coloring some of the thoughts and reviews.
    Sadly the only comparison images I've viewed have been online so I think you raise a good point there, just the same that seems to be where the preponderance of evidence is being displayed.
    But I here what you're saying and I get your point, I think there was just a miscommunication, I don't want a $10,000 camera lens, I'd be quite happy with a Nokton or a Summilux 1.4, I'm just trying to make an educated decision. Hope you have a great weekend.
    Chris
     
  4. Better to have interesting pictures than razor sharp dull pics...
     
  5. My favorite apertures are f5.6, f8 and f11 therefore my fastest lens 50mm prime is f1.4 and at that aperture I will usually get the image in low light and be quite happy with the result. Friends have owned f1.2 and even f1.1 and have complained about sharpness and lack of depth of field and have paid large money for these types of lenses. IMHO I can't see spending that kind of $ unless you do an awful lot of low light photography.
     
  6. Hi Paul, I like your thoughts on the 50 1.4, is that a Summilux you're referring to? If it is won't a pre-owned pre-asph run in the neighborhood of $1,800, or am I mistaken? I'm not hell bent on the Nokton at the expense of all others, rather I'm trying to find the lens that will give the best results and the most flexibility within a certain price range, say $2,000. Any thoughts?
     
  7. Summicron.
     
  8. SCL

    SCL

    I'll stick my foot in my mouth and tell you what I found after a number of tests on 50mm lenses. A couple of years ago I looked at the collection I had built up, Leica M lenses, Canon FD lenses, Nikon AF lenses and decided to try a test. I knew what I liked shooting these days...nature stuff, macros and family/pets. My favorite cat (and uncomplaining model for for many camera experiments) was asleep on a dark couch, partially bathed in sunlight. I set up a tripod, took a meter readaing, and then shot away with all my 50mm lenses (and threw in a couple of 90s and a 35 as well). The film stuff I developed by my normal standards and scanned it...each shot being similarly adjusted. The digital shots were slightly different in tonality from the film ones, so I adjusted them to approximate the film ones. Then I made contact sheets in PS comparing the lenses wide open and at a given aperture across the board. The winner for me was a 1954 Collapsible Summicron (Ver 1), but only by a hair...it took me a couple of weeks to make that decision. Since that time I've used that lens for a lot of portrait and still life work. When I want razor sharpness but less distinctive rendition, I grab the Summicron (Ver VI). The Summilux of 1950 was tied for 2nd, the Noctilux 1.0 for me just didn't give the tonality of the Summicron or the Summilux. The current Elmar was too crisp for me (although it is a wonderful lens). The point of all this, is the results are in the eye of the beholder and often a function of the subject matter. I wouldn't use a high contrast, crisp lens for a female portrait, but I love them for winter scenery. I don't use the 50s (Leica) on my DSLR, but I do use the 65, 90, 135 and 400 on it...with different rendition from film. So it all boils down to what you shoot, the rendition you prefer, and what you want to spend. FWIW I can highly recommend the current 50 Summicron for most work...it is a real gem of a lens.
     
  9. Sharp? The Zeiss M lenses with greater contrast can seem sharper. Sharpness is a complex quality of images - worth searching outside the Leica and Rangefinder forum for a great thread on this in either the Canon or Nikon forum some months ago. The ZM 1.5 50 C Sonnar is sharp at 5.6 and smaller, but seems very sharp even at 1.5 in the plane of focus precisely because of the beautiful blur a few cm behind, and in front. Everyone sings the praises of the 50 Summilux aspheric but I haven't used it or seen it. I like the sharpness of my Summicron, tabbed from the '70s. Maybe the ZM Planar 50 would seem sharper? Depends what you want.......
     
  10. i have a 50 f/2 summicron i bought while living in berlin about four years ago for 700 euro, to use on an m6/m7, then later on an m8. its the version before current, same optics, but clip on plastic lens hood as opposed to built in metal (and bendable). its the single best lens ive ever used in terms of sharpness, contrast, color, tonal rendition (and plain old value-for-money). it makes stunning prints. f/2 was never a dealbreaker for me. the closest lens i could compare to it in terms of native ability would be a hasselblad swc. these are of course subjective observations based on working photoshop files on a monitor, and then the quality of the subsequent prints. it puts LOTS of information onto the sensor- its my default lens on my m8.
     
  11. It's a few years old (and so are the prices!), but a number of Leica-mount 50s are tested here.
     
  12. The more technical terms for a lens is resolution and contrast. A very high resolution lens has lower contrast, and very high contrast lenses have lower resolution.
    With all other aberrations being equal, such as flatness of field and chromatic aberration, "Sharp" is somewhere between the two, and most people would state that a higher contrast lens is "sharp".
    My $67 1953 5cm F1.5 Jupiter-3 has enough resolution wide-open at F1.5 on my Leica M8 that color aliasing is an issue. Other Jupiter-3's used wide-open are soft enough wide-open to act as an Anti-Aliasing filter. SO: my $67 lens is a perfect "matched-Optic" for the M8. Resolution beyond what it does is meaningless, as the CCD detector in the camera cannot resolve further.
     
  13. The Summicron 50/2 is light, very sharp and not expensive. A lovely lens. I have one and love it.
     
  14. Morning everyone, I hope the weekend is off to a great start for you all. Thanks so much for all of the feedback concerning sharpness, I sincerely appreciate everyone's comments. I've been doing quite a bit of research about 50mm glass because I'm trying to educate myself prior to making a purchase. I understand that a higher stop lens will by nature be sharper than a lower stop lens and my thoughts on the Nokton and Summilux were due to my questioning myself on whether or not I would need the extra speed. Would I want to potentially put up with focus shift issues for the sake of a faster lens?
    After much deliberation, for me the answer is no. Having had to rely on my cameras for work for many years I'm of the mentality that I need to know that every time I pick up my gear it's gonna work and that I'm not going to have quirky glass wide open. For what I'm going to be shooting I think the difference in shutter speed brought on by f2 v. f1.0 is minimal and something I can deal with. First and foremost to me is sharpness above everything else, (it's just the most pleasing to my eye), with speed second and bokeh running third.
    As such I think the comments by Bill, Stephen, Tom and Richard concerning the Summicron and perhaps the Zeiss f2 Planar are probably right on. I'm stepping out now to see these two pieces of glass in person and will be making a purchase soon. I think the Voigtlander is a beautiful piece of equipment, but for my purposes the more I think about it the more I think I can get by with an f2.
    Honestly, thanks very much everyone for your comments and suggestions, this is exactly the reason I turned to the community with this question. Have a terrific couple of days off.
    Chris
     
  15. You cannot go wrong with a modern Summicron. Good choice.
     
  16. Chris,
    I own and use both an early 1970s 50mm Summicron (Wetzlar made) and the current 50mm Planar. While it is not a fair comparison, I find the Planar a much better lens with respect to contrast and resolution, especially wide open. Moreover, I believe Erwin Puts has compared the Planar with the current Summicron and has concluded that the Planar is slightly better with respect to contrast and resolution.
    John
     
  17. Hello,
    From my own experience with Leica 50s:
    I owned at some point the last summicron F2, the pre asph summimux and the first version of summicron f2. Hand held from f4 yield the same sharpness. I suppose that on a tripod and with slow film the modern summicron may be very slightly better. Conclusion for daylight outside, find any good condition summicron and you'll be fine.
    Using the leica in low light brings out the differences between lenses:
    a) The constrast and edge sharpness of new summicrons is significantly better than the first version (contrast is much highe rwhich may or may not be good).
    b) The summilux remains sharp in the center of the field up to 1.4 but edges are much softer.
    My own advise if you also shoot indoors or low light would be to buy a pre asph summilux, they are not cheap as I take many people regard them as versatile which they are. I sold mine and do regret it as one speed fatser makes a hell of a difference in sharpness. I tested the new asp summilux (on film), it's outstanding but the rendition of out of focus has the "asph" look which is not to everyone taste.
    Outsider: I also used a pre war zeiss f1.5 which was not sharp at full aperture, and v godd but not as good as modern leitz at 5.5 However id did produced nice work, it is said that the ZM equivalent was somehow based on the old design and could be an option if you look for a certain classic look.
     

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