My Summary of the Leitz 5cm 1.5 Summarit… in Two Shots!

Volumes have written about the much maligned and despised Leitz 5cm 1.5 Summarit.

But, it’s one of my favorite lenses and I can tell you why in just two photos!

Shot One, taken at approximately 5 feet away from the subject at f4 with Kodak Tri-X 35mm film rated at 1600 ISO, processed in Kodak HC110b and scanned by an Epson V500:

EPSON scanner image

 

Shot Two, taken at approximately 5.5 feet away from the subject at f1.5 with Kodak Tri-X 35mm film rated at 1600 ISO, processed in Kodak HC110b and scanned by an Epson V500:

EPSON scanner image

What do you think?!

The critics will cite the serious loss of resolution at full aperture.  And yes this sometimes bothers me as well for particular types of shots.  But when you think about it, mounting the Summarit is like having two lenses at your disposal; one that is a clinical sharp performer for about f3.5 and smaller and one that is a quirky impressionist painter closer to 1.5!

Critics of the Summarit are of course, shooters looking for tack sharp wide open performance.  And while that’s a worthy cause, let’s be honest, that’s a bit boring and there are piles of other lenses that do this.

At 1.5, The Summarit has enough swirlios to make you dizzy.  And notice its signature crescent-shaped out of focus points of light.  Yes, my second image is very soft, but this static scene is dancing now!  The Summarit brings life and style to, two styles in fact, to its subjects.  How cool is that?!

Anyway, that’s what I think of the Leitz 5cm 1.5 Summarit.  What are your thoughts?  Love it or hate it?  Let me know!

 

 

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14 thoughts on “My Summary of the Leitz 5cm 1.5 Summarit… in Two Shots!

  1. Fun, Johnny. I’m with you. Love my Summarit. There’s a time and a place. This is a fabulous, overlooked and primarily underappreciated, falsely maligned lens that loosens up my creativity.

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  2. I mount a c.1953 Summarit on my Canon 7 and have a love/hate relationship with it. I knew its bokeh characteristics when I bought it but haven’t really put it through its paces at f/1.5 yet. Perhaps it’s just my copy, but I haven’t been impressed with the lens’ performance even at f/8. Compared to my Takumars that I regularly use the Summarit really shows its age, and as a consequence I only pull out the Canon 7 and old Leitz glass when I want that particular look.

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    1. Joe, thanks for this and likes in my other posts! Has your Summarit been serviced? One of the biggest problems that I see with vintage Leica gear is that, unlike newer, and often same period, Japanese gear, if it hasn’t been serviced for a while, or perhaps in the case of a lens, calibrated for the camera it’s to be used on, it’s impossible to expect normal performance. Starting out using 60’s and 70’s era Yashica, Pentax, Olympus and Nikon, I was unaware of this and so my first experiences with my Leica Summitar and even 90 Summicron were less than stellar until I began either buying gear that had been serviced and paired together or having my existing gear serviced and calibrated to work together. If you already know/ do this, I apologize for being redundant. I just mention it because you compared the Leitz to Takumar optics. And particularly by F8, at close and mid distances, you should have outstanding resolution.

      That being said, Takumar glass is very well coated and reasonably well corrected, they are known for that in fact. Tak glass is probably right on the threshold of totally modern optics, with a bit less clinical and more charactered a look. So comparing that to a 1940’s design which is pretty much all character with very thin coating and no correction is apples to oranges to put it mildly!

      But from what I’m hearing, it sounds like your Summarit and your Canon just need to be cleaned and calibrated.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh and the hood, if you expect proper performance, you MUST us the correct size hood in many situations! Else you are only inviting flare and veiling to reduce micro-contrast and thus, sharpness.

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      1. Thanks for the thoughts! You’re right, calibration/collimation is something I hadn’t considered (and I don’t have a hood). I have the Summarit and a 35mm Summaron, both bought from the same camera shop but I don’t know if they actually take things apart and service them before selling. The body was bought off evilbay. I suppose that’s the next thing I’ll have to do if I decide to keep the system though it’s already cost me quite a lot of money. I’ve been shooting Pentax SLRs for almost 10 years now and am just totally in love with the glass, so it’s been hard getting used to the Leitz.

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      2. Glad my comments were useful! I went through the same growing pains so I can totally relate. If being cost effective is important to you, Leica, even when running screw mounts on a Canon RF, might not be a great idea. People go and on about how tough and reliable Leica is but that is largely dependent upon how frequently you have everything serviced! When 100%, those lenses and bodies work beautifully but anything less and you will be left wondering why you’ve wasted your time and $ on them.

        Your Canon may be fine enough but it’s not calibrated to these specific lenses. They may be the same mount but they are very different. I send my M6 and Barnacks in with the fastest/longest lenses I use on them to all be set up together. Really fast lenses like Noctilux need to be calibrated with the camera they will be used on even when new from the factory.

        Many non-Leica-dedicated camera shops resell Leica gear without even looking at it or doing very little or just not doing it correctly. Repair and service is expensive when done by an expert and it doesn’t make financial sense to spend say $250 to refurb a $500 lens after you’ve already paid a decent amount to get it. A store without in house Leica repair or an agreement with a Leica repair place, cannot make money like that. Whereas Pentax is usually a no service or basic service required kind of thing and you can find unserviced Pentax gear for just a few bucks so there’s no big investment up front.

        And all this isn’t because Leica sucks. It’s just the nature of interchangeable lens rangefinders and hardheaded German design. And, in all reality, we should be pampering our Japanese gear as well as Leica requires. No vintage cam or lens that hasn’t been totally torn down and rebuilt since it was built needs to be! Or we’re just slowly damaging the internals.

        Anyway, if you’d like to email me when you are interested in repair and buying other Leica stuff, I can provide some contacts/opinions over email at JohnnyMartyr@Hotmail.com

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      3. Thanks for all the info, there’s a lot of good stuff that I probably didn’t think about when I started getting into the Leica stuff. Truth be told I’m very much into being cost-effective. I’ll be happy to have a chat when I’m ready to take the rangefinder stuff to the next level!

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      4. Pentax guys usually are cost-effective. I should know because that’s what I started out on! It’s probably best to spend money on fresh film anyway than buying redundant gear anyway! But yeah stay in touch! Glad to help out. Love your WordPress too!

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  3. I found my grandfather’s Leica M3 with 50mm f/1.5 Summarit and 135mm f/4.5 Hektor in my parents’ basement in 1969. That camera got me my first camera store job when I went to buy a roll of Tri-X for it. Neither lens was particularly sharp – the bookkeeper at the camera store always talked about how the sharpness from Leica lenses just jumps out at you, but I never understood what she meant – never saw it with those lenses.

    I scratched the c&@# out of the Summarit’s front coating with teenaged over-zealous cleaning. After seeing your review and Steve Huff’s, I got it re-coated by now out-of-business Focal Point Lens in late 2017. It’s good for some subjects wide open, but it’s extremely flare-prone with a light source anywhere near the front element.

    I prefer the rendering and *relative* flare immunity of my 1949 50mm f/2 Summitar. And I’m waiting for a repair of a 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH. When that lens comes back from International Camera Technicians in Mountain View, California, I’ll sell my 50mm f/1.4 Summilux (non-ASPH). That lens flares and doesn’t offer anything special compared to the 50/2 Summitar and 50/1.4 Summilux ASPH.

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    1. Thanks for sharing so much of your Leica story, Mark!

      I believe that people coming into Leica with these early uncoated and single coated lenses are often disappointed with sharpness. That is part of my reason for writing this.

      It sounds like you are probably a Leica scholar by now, given the expanse of your gear so I needn’t bother discussing the massive differences in design and public understanding/acceptance of what is “sharp” from the 1930’s to current aspherical lenses.

      I hold that a good copy of the Summarit, with correct hood, used in knowledge of its thinner coating can produce very sharp images, as demonstrated. Does it’s resolution stand up to a Summilux ASPH on an MTF chart? Of course not. But I believe that if used with understanding of it’s age/design, excellent results can be had.

      I use a Summitar also. It’s performance at f2 is certainly higher resolving and less prone to flare than the Summarit. But stopped down, the Summarit outresolves my scanner and flare is well controlled with the hood.

      But one doesn’t choose a 50/1.5 Summarit for clinical wide open performance. That is clearly not sensible pushing nearly a century of optical evolution after its design. In my opinion, as expressed above, I think that one should choose it for its unique way of drawing and dual experience in a single lens.

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