DIGITALLY RE-MASTERD – LEIZT SUMMILUX 35MM CLASSIC!
Thank you for popping by and read my latest discovery of vintage Leica lens. If you’ve missed some of my previous posts on the other vintage lenses, you can read about my lovely Leica Tele-Elmar 135mm and Summicron 90mm. Why am I doing a revisit? Well, first, I just want to see if some of these vintage lenses can still perform with the latest digital sensors. They were designed with analogue in mind, everything was theoretical but in reality, even with Leica’s superior engineering and assembly skills, there could still be a hit or miss from time to time, especially for super fast lenses like the Summilux and Noctilux. Modern days are different, They were CAD assisted with super accuracy, digital sensor so provide instant feedback for checking lens and rangefinder accuracy, something that was impossible with film cameras. So modern Leica lenses will be indeed better by default, in terms of matching with the mechanical focusing system.
Many Leica shooters, especially those who have photographed film Leicas before, would have a collection of vintage lenses spanning some decades. By all means that Leica doesn’t produce anything crap but over time, if lenses aren’t service, they lose accuracy. Also the since they were manufactured by batch, there could be difference between them too. When everything adds up, you may find that some of these older lenses may not match modern day digital Leicas very well.
In my case, the truly magical Leitz Summilux 35mm Classic. I acquired this lens base on the review from Ken Rockwell. My first review with the M6 was HERE. There were many reasons why I chose this lens, first and foremost, I love the character of this lens. It may be a love or hate thing with modern photographers but I love the Leica ‘glow’, especially when shoot with black and white film. Second, it’s small and compact. This Lux is probably the smallest 35mm 1.4 lens full stop. Nothing can come close in terms of size and build. Voigtlander makes a copy of this lens but it’s no where near as ‘perfect’ as this lens. Finally, when stopped down, this lens even out performs some of the newer Summicron lenses with absolutely no distortion from ASPH elements too! It’s a really good travel lens indeed.
When I bought the M240 earlier this year, I was ever so eager to try this lens on it. When it was mated to the M6, I had lots of fond memories of it, sharp and full of those wonderful character and always in focus no matter which aperture I chose. However, when it was attached to the M240, I was shocked at the focus. I just couldn’t get it to focus at all. It was always missed by a little bit. Having tested with LiveView of the camera, I thought it was focus shift at first but latest discovered it was simply off. Also because of this reason, I bought the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm 1:1.2 ASPH VM II! This is a lens probably closes to the Lux’s character without all the drama (glow). It’s equally sharp when shoot wide-open with lovely bokeh! But there’s something I want to see my old Lux, a perfectly adjusted lens for today’s digital M camera. What will the images look like when it’s a perfect match??
I sent the Lux to Germany for an adjustment with my M240 after the rangefinder was out of alignment after a drop at a wedding. At the same time, I sent my Tele Elmar and the new 50 Lux ASPH for a complete match. I never needed to match the Summicron 90mm because it was perfect already!
Three months later, I got the Lux back from Leica Store London. Having spent £300, not only the Lux received a service, it had a new focusing mount, barrel and focusing tap! From the outside, it certainly looks like new!!! I didn’t expect this at all!!! My Lux wasn’t a beater but since it was a 30-year-old used lens, there were some ‘scars’ from the time passed. Now, I have a ‘mint’ condition lens but nothing deflects the fact that I wanted to test the focusing accuracy of this lens. This was what I spent the money on. I need it to perform.
Not surprisingly, it was great!!!! All the glow was splendidly showing, the low contrast and smearing coma on the edges. All these ‘flaws’ made this Lux one of a kind. Yes, many will hate these ‘characters’. But to me, they are the signature of this lens. Recently I also bought a Lomography Petzval lens for this type of effect. They called it ‘art’ lens simply because of these flaws. Now I have one ready to rock. When stopped down to f/2, most of the glow and coma would have been gone so I could use it as a Summicron if I wish too. It may not be as sharp when compare to the 8-element Summicron but it’s definitely a close match to the rest apart from the latest ASPH. When it stops down further to f/6.3-11, this lens outperforms them all!!! I am not joking!
So now, I have a perfectly matched old Lux classic that I am so proud of. The bonus being that Leica gave me a new lens (virtually, and between you and me, the front element of my Lux looks new too but I wasn’t too sure but it certainly looked very shiny and smooth and all those tiny little scratches from cleaning were all but gone!!!!). The back silver mount and the aperture blades were the only signs that I could tell this was my old Lux! Wow. Thanks Leica!!! £300 was very well spent indeed.
Here I am, taking a few photos using the Lux over the past couple of weeks after I got it back. I was over the moon indeed with now a perfect Lux Classic for my treasure and pleasure. Enjoy!
eBay is currently the largest market in used Leica lenses so if you want to try a sample of this lens, feel free to click on to the following links
I have shot black and white jpeg from the M240 for this test so I don’t have any colour photos to show but please check out my flickr page for more as and when I update it to include more photos. My flickr page is HERE.