Which 35mm lens should I buy?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by chris_raney|1, Jun 10, 2008.

  1. Now that my Ebay purchased M4-P is on its way to me, I'm in the market for a
    lens. I've been doing my homework, as any good school teacher should, and the
    35mm is the optimum focal length for me.

    But which lens should I choose? The Summicron M f/2 would be perhaps my first
    choice, but on a teacher's salary I'd be shopping in the used market. This would
    certainly put the current Summicron ASPH out of reach, and as far as a Summilux
    f/1.4 goes...I'd only be dreaming.

    The Zeiss Biogon f/2 looks like a viable alternative, and its less than thousand
    dollar price tag makes it attractive. But as an eight element lens I've read
    that it's large and heavy. Is this so?

    My other interest, the Voightlander Nokton F/1.4 is certainly within the budget,
    and it's small size is very attractive. And as with the Biogon, I wouldn't be
    purchasing used glass, which is a great plus to me. Though I have also read that
    as a 'cheaper alternative' lens that it simply doesn't have the flair correction
    or the solid feel of a Leitz-quality lens. I've read the came comment about the

    I'm an exclusive, natural light, black & white print photographer. I love
    low-light conditions, and I'm photographing people on the fly. With my new,
    twenty-five year old camera I'm certainly not adverse to purchasing used
    equipment; but there's an obvious plus to purchasing new lens. Fifteen-hundred
    bucks for a great piece of glass--what a way to phrase it--is not out of the
    question for me.

    What to do, wizened heads?
  2. I have two of the lenses mentioned: a Summilux (pre-asph) and the new Nokton 1.4. Of the two I still prefer the Summilux for overall performance, sharpness (except wide open) and bokeh. But for the price the Nokton is a fine lens and if I did not have the Summilux for comparison I would likely be perfectly satisfied with the Nokton. I consider the Nokton's build quality to be very good, and the bayonet mounting of the lens hood makes it much easier on and off than the hood for the Summilux.

    That said if I could only have one lens it would be the 'lux. Sometimes you can get one used for less than $1000 but if it doesn't come with a hood you'll shell out another $100 for one.

    For me, the extra speed of the 'lux over the 'cron is important since it is often the only lens I carry. Despite softness at maximum aperture, I have a few memorable shots that I never would have captured at f2.
  3. Well, shopping in the used Leica market isn't so bad. You can buy an excellent but used 35 Summicron, send it to an expert (say, DAG or Sherry) for a complete CLA, and spend far less than you would on the brand-new item. About all you're losing is the packaging that comes with a new lens. I've never bought a new Leica lens, and I'll bet lots of others here can say the same thing.

    The Zeiss Biogon f/2 is a terrific lens, but a bit larger than some folks prefer. If that's a problem you might consider the new Zeiss Biogon f/2.8 --- it's very compact and sounds quite promising (it's newly on the market, so there's no real track record for it).

    There's also the Summarit f/2/5 which looks pretty interesting, and in the $1500 range, brand-new. E. Puts gives it very high marks.

    Not that it matters, but if I were in your shoes, I'd grab a Version 4 Summicron 35, send it off for a CLA, and spend the remainder of the $1500 on film and developing.
  4. If you can afford $1500 for the lens then you should be able to pick up a used Summicron V4 for under that amount.
  5. What about an older Summaron? Can anyone comment on their quality, Leica look, etc.? Just curious. They are definitely more affordable.
  6. Get a clean, older Summicron -- that's what Leica is all about.
  7. If you shoot street on the fly then ultimate sharpness should not even enter the equation. I
    would recommend you look more at contrast and flare control (although I love the way the
    Voigtlanders flare). Good luck.
  8. I have the 35 summilux asph, 35 summicron asph, 35 summicron (iv) and recommend the 35 summicron (iv): no. 1 reason is size : small!
  9. SCL


    The old Summaron (2.8) was my favorite lens for a number of years. It lacked the biting contrast of the latest 35 Summicron, but honestly, I liked it and foolishly sold it about 15 years ago. It seems to be attracting a new wave of admirers who have driven the price up in the last 2-3 years, making it less of a bargain than it was for a number of years. If you do get one, plan a CLA as a normal maintenance issue.
  10. I'd go with the Summicron 35/2 asph, less distortion, low flare, high resolution, good contrast and sharpness, not much bigger than the pre asphs, but it is a tad longer. great performance over the whole aperture range, especially wide open.
  11. Hi Chris,
    If you can find a good one used, I recommend the Summilux, I recently picked up a used one (circa 1969) for a little under a grand. I think it's a fantastic lens. It's pretty sharp even wide open and very much so by f:2. It's my second recent 35mm. I bought a new C-V 35mm f:2.5 P2 to make sure the used R-D1 I had just bought was working. Then I made the tragic mistake of buying a used but recent 50mm 'cron. The Leica glass is just a little bit better than anything else I've ever used. The CV is sitting in my cabinet and I only expect for it to come out of the box if the 'lux goes into the shop for a CLA. Now, I'm spoiled and to the detrement of my bank account, more Leica glass has followed.
    That said, I don't think you can go wrong with either C-V (I once owned the 35.classic, the 50 Nokton and the 75 for use on a Bessa) or the Zeiss ( I currently have the Biogon 21mm f:2.8 and I suspect the 35 is equally good).
    Best of luck with your search.
  12. My advice is to buy as much lens as you can afford. Purchasing a used lens is always a gamble, but you can lessen the risk if purchased from a reputable dealer or seller.

    Will you need the extra stop of a f1.4 lens or will f2 suffice? Spending the extra $$$ on a f1.4 and never using it is the same as buying a Lamborghini and never exceeding the posted speed limit.

    From all accounts, the Zeiss lenses are excellent. I use a 35mm Konica Hexanon UC and I am very satisfied with it. Then again, "there is no such thing as a bad Summicron".

    In the end, you will be hard pressed to tell the difference in a 8"X10" print, no matter which lens you decide upon.
  13. 1500 bucks and natural light, low-light conditions ... My first choice would be the Summilux 35mm pre-ASPH. I have this combo (M4-P with the Summilux 35 pre-ASPH) and got some nice results with it. The Summilux at f/1.4 is a tad soft but photos have some nice "glow" ...

    A lens of similar character but a lot cheaper would be the Cosina-Voigtlander 35/1.4. This lens in single-coated version is ideal for BW work and has better control of flare compared with the Summilux pre-ASPH (both have nearly the same size, BTW).
  14. Chris,

    I have bought a handful of new Leica M lenses and also half a dozen of used ones. I
    bought the new ones when I was new to Leica ten years ago, but all recent purchases
    have been used ones. The used ones have been recent and little used lenses. Apart
    from the price (between one-third and half of the new price), I have seen little difference
    between new and used lenses. No, that is not true; I have seen no difference at all.

    I have the Summicron ASPH and before that I had the latest non-ASPH version. The
    advantage of the non-ASPH is the small size; the disadvantages are that prices are
    high considering the age of these lenses, and that negatives are less than sharp in the
    corners when the lens is used fully open - and low light situations is where you plan to
    use your lens.

    The ASPH is of course very sharp, and that is a reason for some people to avoid it.
    The last pre-ASPH version is famous for its rendering of out-of-focus areas. In my
    opinion, it is very easy to see the difference between the two lenses in a 9,5x12 inch
    print (my only print size). Which is "better" is a matter of taste.
  15. 35/2 ASPH is a lovely lens, but the pre-ASPH has a great reputation for B&W, it's
    compact and fits in your budget. Check out www.photovillage.com. Otherwise,
    consider the Voigtlander. Alas, prices are going up all the time.
  16. Shell out app. $250 for a screwmount 3.5 Summaron & M adaptor. I guarantee you will be
    amazed at the results!
  17. The consensus appears to be the 4th version of the Summicron. And when I said I take pictures on the fly I should have said spontaneously, and without a tripod...and never without a sharp point of focus.

    The low-light capabilities of the Summilux sound nice, but I frequently photograph indoors under florescent light, so achieving the proper contrast presents a problem for me. So given the reputed soft nature of the Lux it appears the Summicron is the better choice.

    Before I began teaching school I spent most of my adult life in retail, so I'm a firm believer in the adage: You Get What You Pay For. All other considerations aside, I'll stick with Leitz lenses.
  18. As you have correctly surmised the latest 35mm Summicron will be your best purchase. The older lenses are aging and can suffer from numerous faults. A newer lens simply gives you a chance of a longer lifetime as well as better coatings. Until the advent of the Summilux 35mm ASPH, a Summilux of a generation would be softer wide open than the equivalent 35mm Summicron wide open. The current ASPH 35mm Summilux is very sharp and is what I now use, my Summicron RF relegated to its box. You should be able to obtain a nice used pre-ASPH Summicron for a good used price and certainly purchasing a used lens is a little easier than a used camera.
    Don't as suggested, assume you will have to have a CLA on any used lens. If you ask and demand a used lens in decent condition, it should not need anything. Good luck!-Dick
  19. The 35mm is the lens I most often use. I have the pre-asph. 35/1.4 the Summicron
    35/2 Aspherical and the Nokton 35/1.4 among others. If you can can spare the cash
    get the Summcron 35/2 Asph. A great all around lens. I also highly recommend the
    Nokton 35/1.4.
  20. The 2nd or 3rd cron will be cheaper.
  21. I also recommend the 35 'cron IV. I also have the 35 'cron ASPH and 35 'lux ASPH and a Canon LTM 35/1.8. For black and white, I almost always shoot the 'cron IV or the Canon. The 'cron is better for portraits, I think, as the bokeh is better than the other 35s. The Canon goes for about $200 (plus adapter) in excellent condition--one of the best values I know. You can get a 'cron IV in great shape for not much more than $1,000. If you're getting one lens, then I stand by the 'cron IV.
  22. hi, chris - you've probably already decided, but - for what it's worth - i would
    recommend the 35 summicron v4, non-apsh [as late a model as you can find]; i own
    a 35 summilux asph., but have always wanted an earlier, petite 'cron [possibly the
    smallest, most intensely capable lens ever!]. i had - and still have - the 50 'cron, so i
    figured the next lens i should buy should be wider And faster! if the extra stop isn't
    Essential for you, then you won't be in any way disappointed with the summicron -
    especially if it's the Only lens you're going to have. the price is nice, too. it really is
    ludicrously tiny and light, too: 27mm poking out, and 190g - whereas my asph.'lux is
    a rather chunky 46mm, and 250g. all specs for Black lenses, btw - chrome ones are
    significantly heavier!
  23. I used the f/3.5 Summaron for many years on my IIIf. With the bright line viewfinder it was light and unobtrusive.
  24. Yea, Alex. That's exactly where & how i use it.
  25. Definitely go with the 35mm Summicron Asph. It may break the bank now but you're going to end up buying it anyway, as everyone ultimately does.

    It is great in color and in B&W. Its ability to resolve detail is legendary and unmatched. It has more "character" than the Summilux Asph.

    The problem with the pre-Asph lenses is that light conditions have to be good to average to render things well at f/2. With the Asph, f/2 handles all light conditions.

    Like others say, it's also reasonably small.

    Photovillage sells stuff that's in good condition but there's no bargains there.
  26. Also, it is true that the pre-Asph lenses have more character than the Asph, but like I said, at f/2 it gets a bit hit-and-miss with the pre-Asphs.

    The Summarons are amazing lenses, and I was out shooting this morning with one on my M2, but in the subway at f/3.5 (wide open) I had to take the shutter speed down to 1/15th (with the summicron, I could get away with 1/60th in the same light).

    Most of these photos are taken with Summicron Asph. 35mm

  27. You really can't go wrong with any of these options- see what sort of a deal you can
    hunt up. Personally, I prefer smaller lenses. Years ago, I bought a 35 pre-ASPH
    Summilux, and got excellent results from it. Sure, it was a bit soft wide open, but
    over-all it's a very nice lens. Like many folks, I thought of it as a Summicron with
    an extra "emergency" stop. However, I'm not much for shooting with a 35- and I
    was strapped for cash- so I (foolishly) sold it- for the $600 I paid for it. Man, do I
    regret that move now. <p>Anyway, since you say $1500 is not beyond your reach, it
    seems a no-brainer to me to find a good used Summicron, or possibly an old
    Summilux. The Zeiss is a great lens, no doubt, but to me it's far too big for an f2
    lens. Since you say you are exclusively a b&w negatve shooter, look for a pre-
    ASPH lens. If you said you shot primarily chromes, I'd vote for the ASPH, since the
    extra contrast really helps them POP. But for b&w- and even color negs- the lower
    contrast of the older lenses will actually help you out, revealing more detail on your
    negatives. Plus, there are some really small older 35mm 'crons- like "king of bokeh"
    4th version (my personal favorite).<p>Talking about optimum contrast for b&w, other
    options worth considering might be the SC (Single Coat) versions of the 35 f1.4 or
    the 40 f1.4 Voigtlander Noktons. If you go this route, I'd say get the SC, for the
    same reason as going pre-ASPH with Leica- the lower contrast coatings will bring
    out more shadow detail. The Cosina Voigtlander lenses are great values. They
    don't have to cache of a Leica lens, but they produce excellent photographs- and
    they are well built. But again, if your budget allows, I'd look first for an older
  28. I guess I'll chime in with a different suggestion. I used to have a v.4 summicron. I sold it after buying a 35-UC hexanon. There aren't a lot of them out there (I think the production run was 1,000), but it is a nicely compact and very well-made lens. Produces images very similar (bokeh, etc) to the version IV summicron.

    The great thing is that you can still find them new on ebay (around $900) - a seller in Japan seems to have cornered the market on these, and usually has one for sell most of the time. It does require a ltm adaptor, but that's an easy fix.
    Here is an interesting review by Dante Stella: http://www.dantestella.com/technical/hex352.html

    In the end, any of those choices you've mentioned will produce good images. You really have to work hard these days to pick a bad 35mm lens.
    And one final thought on the advantage of buying used: As long as you don't overpay, you can always resell the lens and get most/all of your money back if you want to change to a different lens.
    If you buy new and decide to sell, you'll lose a healthy chunk of money.
  29. it


    The VC 35/1.7 is awesome for the price. I can't believe some of the results I got out of that tiny hunk of glass.
  30. Another vote for the Ultron 35/1,7. Slightly lower in contrast as it should be.
    Great size on my M4-2.
    cheers, Rob.
  31. I also vote for the Summicron pre-ASPH. Very small. I once had a Summilux 50mm
    and thought after it was stolen and I got the Summicron I would miss the extra stop. I
    never have. The other week I snapped two friends in a cocktail lounge at f2 and 1/2
    sec which I have never tried before and it was a very pleasing shot.
  32. If you decide on the 35 Summicron Asph then you can certainly get good lenses within your $1500 budget. For instance a very good looking lens went for $1495 USD on the auction site about 4 days ago. Not so with the 'lux asph which is out of your budget.

    I, like many others here have never bought a new Leica lens or indeed a new lens for my Leicas. My experience is that lenses of all ages are good lenses but my choice from now on in would be to buy the newer aspherics. They are just better lenses all round in my humble. All except size that is.

    Good luck.

  33. Another vote for the Summaron f3.5. First roll I got back made my jaw drop. It's as sharp as I would like any lens to be, and has bags of "Leica-ness".
  34. "The Zeiss Biogon f/2 looks like a viable alternative, and its less than thousand dollar price tag makes it attractive. But as an eight element lens I've read that it's large and heavy. Is this so?"

    If I were you this 35/2 mm Biogon would be my first choice. IMO at present this is the best fast 35 mm (with a nice bokeh) money can buy. Okay, it is bigger and heavier than the old Summicron 35/2 but it is much better, too. Don't worry about the weight and size of the Biogon, its results are worth this little extra "burden".
    I am a 35 mm lens loonie. Since many years I possess und use a Summilux 35/1.4 ASPH, the excellent and ridiculous cheap Nokton 35/1.2 Aspherical and as my latest purchase a pancake Skopar II 35/2.5. (sold my Summicron 35/2, 4th edition without any regret). According to my experience in most cases f2 is fast enough.
    Happy shooting with your new M4-P! It's a fine camera.
  35. BTW, Ian and Rob are right: If you want to save money go for the VC 35/1.7. It is a wonderful lens that can compete with the old style Leica lenses (non-aspherical Summicron 35/2 and earlier). Some years ago when I used this (borrowed) lens for a story I liked the results very much. My only (minor) complaint: I wished the focus ring was a bit more riffled. Well, it's a matter of taste.
  36. i sold my summaron f3.5 M-mount, including the original sales receipt from the 50's to
    someone in japan, to help finance my V4 summicron and i don't regret it.
  37. The 35mm focal length is not my favorite one. Therefore, I use what I get for 35mm.My favorite is the first version Summicron with eight elements. My other favorites are the Canon 35mm/1.8 and 2.8.
  38. summicron VIII. $650.
  39. This is Leica - you have to buy them all and then decide what YOU like... I've owned the 35 lux ASPH, 35 cron ASPH, 35 cron V4 and Zeiss biogon. It's such a tough choice, I still own the last three! The Zeiss is without question the best value though.
  40. try a canon one.

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