Our friend Sean Reid at Reid Reviews has just added three more lens tests to his ongoing series—this time focusing on three "one-off" 50mm lenses for rangefinders: the Leica Summarit, Cosina/Voigtländer Color-Skopar and C/V Heliar Classic collapsible.
Just as a curmudgeonly aside, who would buy a 50mm Summarit over a Zeiss Planar? Note those prices. I can see preferring one marque over another; I can see paying more for better; I can see settling for not quite as good if it's cheaper; and I can see preferring a new lens in a market awash with great used ones. Planar vs. Summicron might be a legitimate debate, although, having used both extensively, that too is a no-brainer in my view. Albeit less of one. But a Planar is faster, considerably cheaper, and optically better than a Summarit. I can't see a single comparative advantage to the slower lens—it's not even lighter. Faced with that choice, who considers a Summarit? Is there a thriving anti-Oriental xenophobe niche market that I don't know about?
All right then, grump mode off.
Sean also recently published Part I of his Panasonic G1 review, as well as an epic comparison of fast 50s for Nikon F mount cameras. (Reid Reviews is a pay site.)
P.S. Although, if you have a Summarit 50, I'm sure you had a very good reason for getting it....
Featured Comment by Sean Reid: "The 50 Summarit performs quite well in most aspects. I think Mike's point is that the Zeiss outperforms the Summarit in some technical respects while costing less. But I personally would never think of the Summarit 50 as a dog. Rather, there are a lot of excellent 50 mm RF lenses out there and so competition is pretty fierce. Another standout bargain in 50 mm RF lenses is a good copy of the CV 50/1.5 Nokton."
Mike adds: No, not a dog—it seems like a fine little lens. It's just pretty far down on the value-for-money scale is all, and doesn't compete well in its class, which makes it an also-ran. By the way, I don't know if this is true or false, but the rumor I heard years ago was that Leica was considering redesigning the 50mm Summicron to bring it up to date, but decided that the selling price would be just too high at the time for a lens of the Summicron's specification; so they opted to make a no-holds-barred, price-no-object 50mm Summilux-M instead, which they did. The price on that one is high too, but not too high for its specification for people who want the best. Seemed like the right choice.
Sean: I agree that the Summarits are excellent lenses, on the whole. Some may also like the fact that they're slightly lower contrast than some of the Zeiss and (faster) Leica lenses. Horses for courses really. The small number of us still using RF cameras are spoiled for good choices when it comes to many focal lengths.
Mike: That's true. Have you used the Zeiss Biogon 28mm ZM lens much? I know you reviewed it some time ago. I wasn't thoroughly impressed with the SLR 28/2, but that little ZM lens is awesome—it really has that ineffable je ne sais quois, as my friend Gordon would say, with B&W film at least.
Sean: Yes, I certainly have used the ZM 28 (on the R-D1 and M8) and it is indeed excellent. The current 28 Summicron is exceptional as well and so is the little CV 28/3.5 Skopar. Cheers.