Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/3000 sec @ f/1.4
Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/3000 sec @ f/1.4

Recently I obtained a vintage Leica Summilux 1:1.4/50mm lens (sometimes referred to as the Type 2). A 50mm lens was on my wish list, and since I like the rendering of my Tele-Elmarit (which is from 1979) I decided to go for a lens with a similar age. This particular one was made in 1970, and it looks gorgeous on the M (not really relevant, but a nice bonus). I have used it in several different locations and light conditions, and I thought it would be nice to show what this lens can do. All photo’s in this post have minor tone-adjustments in Lightroom, but no clarity or contrast was added.

On my first outing with this lens it was just before sunset (photo above and below). A good moment to test it with backlight: no problems here. Colors are great, a bit of flare, but in a good way.

Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/90 sec @ f/16
Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/90 sec @ f/16

Resolution:

The two photo’s below were made in the woodlands near Hilvarenbeek, on a sunny morning on my way to work. In the top one you can see that resolution is not very good with an almost wide-open diaphragm. I am not sure if it is really resolution or microcontrast that is lacking, it is difficult to distinguish between the two. By the way, for a nice description of lens terminology, have a look at this post from 35mmc.

The lower photo shows better resolution when stopped down to f/5.6, but it’s still not as crisp as my Summicron (f/2). It’s not always necessary to have perfect resolution, but specifically with leaves I prefer higher resolution/microcontrast.

Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/350 sec @ f/2.4
Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/350 sec @ f/2.4
Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/125 sec @ f/5.6
Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/125 sec @ f/5.6

Low light:

I tested the low-light performance in a forest in Brunssum at 5.30 in the morning, around sunrise (but it was completely overcast, so pretty dark). Here the wide aperture comes in handy. For these kind of shots I don’t mind the lack of microcontrast, the overall picture is soft, so no contrast needed.

Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/30 sec @ f/1.4
Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/30 sec @ f/1.4
Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/30 sec @ f/1.4
Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/30 sec @ f/1.4

Color / Bokeh:

These two photos were made on a bright afternoon in the city Aachen (Germany). I think the lens really performs well under these circumstances. I like the colors. The front bokeh (top photo) is not too busy. The back bokeh can be a bit rugby-ball shaped (slightly visible in the top photo), but depending on the subject can also be nice and round (see photo of fountain below: the water drops give nice round bokeh).

Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/1000 sec @ f/1.4
Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/1000 sec @ f/1.4
Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/200 sec @ f/2.4
Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/200 sec @ f/2.4

The vintage look:

Now this makes me happy! For me, this is a perfect example of a lovely vintage look: nice colors, great detail in the roses, nice soft background. These photos were made on a sunny morning in Delft, where I had a stroll in the neighbourhood of the old city-gate.

Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/1000 sec @ f/1.4
Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/1000 sec @ f/1.4
Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/1500 sec @ f/1.4
Summilux M 1:1.4/50mm; 1/1500 sec @ f/1.4

Conclusion:

First a practical remark: the focus throw is quite long, I cannot go from close focus (1 meter) to infinity with one hand-movement.

Apart from that, after only two weeks I am pretty happy with this lens. Of course it has its drawbacks, but to me the results are wonderful. I love the colors in the top two photos, which were shot against the sun. I love the softness in the background in the rose-photos. I would say, not bad for a 45-year old lens! And I am sure I am going to enjoy using it a lot.

Leica C (Typ 115)
Photo of Leica M with a Summilux 1:1.4/50mm taken with Leica C (Typ 112)

Thanks for reading!