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Monday, 23 December 2019


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I’ve recently switched from a bulky Nikon SLR to the Sony A7R IV. I don’t wish to waste the potential resolution of my new camera but I yearn for small light prime lenses that will make my new kit more easily portable. I generally shoot at f4 - f8 so the lens reviews comparing charts and edge sharpness at maximum aperture are of little use to me. It would be helpful to compare lenses at a standard aperture such as f5.6.

WOW. I just clicked on the size comparison link. That's some serious compensation going on with the Sigma. I won't even use the 23 1.4 or 16 1.4 on my X Pro 3 because it they seem way out of proportion to the camera. The Sigma on the Sony takes that to a whole new level of absurdity. If I could afford the Leica that lens looks absolutely beautiful on the camera. No doubt it's a great lens.

35 Summicron the best lens for Leica M? Balderdash or,?

It is certainly what I have chosen for the last 40+ years, but was I right? Not sure. The couple of 35 Summiluxes I owned or used were certainly pretty marginal wide open, just like any Japanese 50mm 1.4, but unlike a 50mm Summilux, but I didn't know that or care, I was not a 50mm user back then.

Back when I sent back the 35 Summilux and bought the $15 cheaper Summicron I thought I had done the smart thing. $215 for the Summicron and $240 for the Summilux. Both prices brand new in 1977.

These days I have the "wrong" 35 Summicron, The Asph but in Chrome, a bit heavier and I never warmed up to using it, though the images are really quite beautiful. Or more than that, really. Shocking but in the most subtle way.

However, the current digital M cameras are things I don't like, chubby, expensive and failing to offer the advantages they held in the film era.

For me, and the way I work, rangefinders are OK, SLRs are OK, but being able to view the actual image in an EV? Simply better. I have been viewing the image at full size on the ground glass, and using a loupe for long enough that I am not willing to let that go. And EVs do that and the others do not.

And I find the camera and lens at the top of this post rather unattractive, my film era bias, no doubt. But f2.4, why?

Anyway, the Summicron has always been the right lens, or close enough.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Mike.


Small, light and nimble is fine for the most part, but won't cut it for motor racing.

That Fujinon 200mm f/2.0 sure can, though. My goodness. The finest and sharpest lens I have ever shot with, and that includes the legendary Canon 200mm f/1.8.

Wonder if Roger Cicala has ever tested it; it has an MTF chart that beggars belief.

Just get a Panasonic 20mm f1.7 and slap it on one of the great m4/3 bodies from Panasonic and Olympus. Wonderful lens and wonderful cameras. Put it on a PEN-F or GX7III, GX7II, or GX8 for the rangefinder form factor. I didn't check the price of that Leica lens, but I expect it is super expensive. For that price get a whole, big m4/3 kit. :-)

Being old is bad for my perceptions of money. I bought my Leitz Summicron 35mm f/2 for $240 new, as I remember it, at a local camera store that's no longer extant (Finn's Cameras in St. Paul), and that seemed pretty reasonable. My Summicron 90mm f/2 was $360 new from B&H I think (both around 1974).

I considered f/2 slower than ideal, but it's what I could get at the time for the M3. Brighter viewfinder and less shake helped compensate for the slow 35mm. (The 90mm did seem fast to me.)

As Leica discussions unfortunately (pun intended) are so often about money, please note that used Leica lenses are very often of real mint quality - the previous owner usually has been handling their gear very carefully, and the lenses are technically uncomplicated (no auto-focusing electrickery). I bought (of necessity, but quite happily) my summarits second hand. The summarits are excellent, the older ones (f 2.5) as well as the newer ones (f2.4). And as rumours have it, the older 35mm was already ASPH without Leica mentioning it. The summarits being so small has the added advantage of not blocking the viewfinder at all (without hood), or only a wee bit.

Yep - I'm totally with HR on this one. That Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 of my wife was for me the reason to change from Four Thirds to Micro Four Thirds. Still don't have that lens (I have the 25mm/1.4 Leica branded one), but I still dearly love her 20mm. Would definitely be my go to lens if I'd have an OCOLOY challenge for myself...

"...aperture is immaterial now that ISO speeds for digital are so much higher than they ever were for film"

Erm, not so much. Shoot a wedding in December in the UK and you'll soon find that there are limitations to higher ISOs when it comes to getting finished pictures - files tend to fall apart fairly quickly if there is much to be done to them and they are at 2000 ISO or above. In fact, I think that for much of the world today's high ISO cameras are pretty near perfect but in the UK, with our innumerable grey days, there is a long way to go before aperture no longer matters.

Have a lovely Christmas Mike and thanks for all you do for us, your loyal readers.

[Yes, but we're talking about a 2/3-stop difference between the maximum apertures of the Summicron and Summarit. An art-photographer friend of mine who shot color neg film with a Pentax 67 made the momentous change from ASA 100-speed films to ASA 400-speed films only in the early 1990s. ISO 2000 is TWO AND A THIRD stops faster than ISO 400. So a Summarit on a digital camera is effectively much more practical than a Summicron on a film camera, which was my point. --Mike]

For me, the perfect lens for a Leica is the Zeiss 35/2.5 C-Biogon. It's got that Zeiss "3-D" thing going on and renders color in a most pleasing way. It was my only lens during my Peter Turnley Cuba workshop, and it was flawless.

Exhausted Boxer, Havana, February 15, 2017

Running Boy, Havana, February 11, 2017

I've come to love the integrated metal focusing tab- I reset the focus to infinity after each shot and slide that tab in one direction until I lock focus. Easy peasy!

The other shock to me is that fat Leica body in the picture. Like somebody you haven’t seen for years who turned obese.
It is clear that shooting with that Sigma wide open you can produce pictures that you won’t get with a 35mm f/2.4 lens. It’s not better, but different. Will mainly be used for environmental portraits with so much blur in the environment that the models look like cut outs. Looks a bit surrealistic to me. Staged, but if it’s done well it can be very effective for commercial photography.
See the f/1.2 results of its Flickr dedicated group:

Zeiss makes a f2 planar for M that draws beautifully. Still my favorite lens of all time. Whenever you write about Leica, I think back to that lens, and think about getting a full frame mirrorless to mount one on.

This was with Ilford HP5, during my Leica year.


You read my mind, Mike. Over the last week I've found myself wishing that Leica would come out with a 35/50/90 Summarit set of autofocus SL lenses and make them MUCH smaller than the current Summicron-SL and Summilux-SL behemoths.

The Summarit is an almost perfect balance of size, speed, cost, and performance.

Not M mount, but the Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar 50mm f/2.0 for Sony FE mount is amazing. Small, reasonable weight, incredibly sharp, and just pleasant to use. The Zeiss Batis 40 mm f/2.0 is nice for a an autofocus option (same weight as the Voigtlander, but a lot bigger).

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