Leica Summicron 50mm F2.0

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There are two versions of the Leica 50mm F2 Summicron. The non APO, or the amazing uber expensive APO. Both are F2. The APO is, by accounts, way sharper, but this review is about my non APO version (which is still bloody amazing). All the images in this review are available in full resolution.

The Specifications

  • 39mm Filter
  • Pull out Lens Hood
  • F2.0 to F16
  • Minimum Focusing Distance of 70cm
  • 45° Angle of View
  • Leica M Mount (Obviously!)

The 50mm `cron (non APO) is a sharp lens, but in my view, not the sharpest lens in my arsenal. This doesn’t bother me. It still serves a great purpose and I think it is fair to say I have shot some of my favourite images with this lens. As Ken Rockwell mentions, to serious photographers creating images that they intend to evoke emotion in the viewer, sharpness doesn’t really matter.

The shallow depth on this lens allows for some great composition.
But, this article is my review of the Summicron 50mm, not my photographic philosophy.

This is an unusual Leica lens. Firstly, it lacks the iconic focusing tab in favour of a ring. As it is a fairly small lens, this tends to make it a little more fiddly to focus, albeit the ring is buttery smooth to turn. Even more unusual is the built in hood. The hood is extended or pushed back manually and is not removable.

Even with the lack of a focussing tab, focussing in a hurry is still possible with the ring.
Shooting at F2 is just right, particularly on a rangefinder. I get just enough bokeh to be happy while maintaining a nice depth in my images and for the background to still play a part. Fair to say, some shooters (knobs with DSLRs) who have discovered a shallow depth of field lens tend to go overboard and just use shallow depth for the sake of it without considering how it could add to the picture, even if you are subtle with it. F2 is also great to shoot a 50mm handheld for street photography by night at around 200-400 ISO assuming you have street lights or store lights to work with and for my type of shots can easily work with this.

The bokeh at F2 for most situations is “just right”
I don’t think I’ve ever stopped this lens to anything tighter than F2.8. It’s actually really easy to work with. The 50mm frame lines in the rangefinder (on a 0.68 or 0.72 viewfinder) are fine. For me they let me compose my framing with ample space to move around.

The aperture ring itself feels firm but easy to move. It clicks between stops confidently, and yet it’s easy enough to change. You can rely on it not to shift accidentally. Like the focusing ring which is easy to move but you know isn’t going to drift.

You get a complimentary leather case with the lens, as well as the usual signed off test certificate.

Onto clarity and sharpness: In my view, the 35mm Summicron ASPH is a sharper lens. In many ways I prefer to use that, it has a focusing tab. But, you don’t get the same composition space afforded by the 50mm, nor the same level of depth of field. More on that lens soon. That said, the 50mm is still beautifully sharp and what it affords you as an artist is worthwhile. Immediately for street photography, you can take a step further back from your subject to or crop in a bit more intimately. Minimum focus distance is 70cm.

So in conclusion, if you are buying Leica Ms purely based on sharpness, maybe this isn’t the lens for you. If you want something sweet for artistic photos, and grabbing that important moment from a bit further back than you may be able to do with a 35 or 28mm, then yes this is a great lens and affordable. In fact, it isn’t much more expensive than the 50mm F2.4 Summarit, which if you were considering, I’d recommend spending a little extra and getting the Summicron.

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Leica Summicron 50mm F2.0