#191. Leica Summicron-R 50/2 : the perfect 50 for the Sony A7r ?

#191. Leica Summicron-R 50/2 : the perfect 50 for the Sony A7r ?

It was this lovely article by Tim ashley that brought this lens to my attention. I bought one for my NEX-5n 18 months ago, didn’t love it as much as I had hoped (chiefly because of the resulting 75mm equivalent focal length), sold it to a fellow photographer reader of Dear Susan, then bought it back from the same person for use on the Nikon D800e.

Sainte Victoire Farmstead - Sony A7r & Leica Summicron-R 50/2

Sainte Victoire Farmstead – Sony A7r & Leica Summicron-R 50/2

For use on the Nikon D800e, the lens was modified with a Leitax mount in a few minutes and rapidly became a favourite.

When I sold the D800e and switched to the Sony A7r, the Leitax mount remained and a Nikon adapter lets me use both Zeiss ZF2 and Leitax mount Leica-R lenses. It worried me initially that all this mechanical juggling might reak havoc with the optical quality but this simply hasn’t been the same and I can cut the review short by stating the Leica Summicron-R 50mm f/2 is a lovely lens for the A7r.

Leitaxing your way to Nirvana

Leitaxing your way to Nirvana

In hand

Perfect ! Small is beautiful, but great ergonomics are more beautiful, in my book. And ergonomics are perfect on this lens. Mounted on the Nikon adapter,it certainly protrudes more than an M-mount equivalent, though no more than the FE 55/1.8, and matches the sensor way better.

Plus the lens itself is every bit as light and small to carry in your bag.

Sharpness

Natural Oppidum - Sony A7r & Leica-R Summicron 50

Natural Oppidum – Sony A7r & Leica-R Summicron 50

Very slightly soft in the corners (also see the veil), it is razor sharp from f/4 onwards. A fabulous lens for the chart peepers.

Vignetting

Nothing of significance.

Flare resistance

This is one area where most Leica-R lenses show their age, compared to the best in the industry.

DSC01995Flare is present, though no more so than the otherwise perfect Zeiss FE 35/2.8 and usually easy to escape by using your hand as a shade. The real issue is veiling glare with the sun near the borders of the frame, as displayed below.

Flare

Poetic veil

Here’s the scary part for many. Wide open, this lens adds a distinct glow to the scene. It isn’t unsharp as many lesser lenses go at max aperture, but detail is bathed in a halo.

At 100%, it could send the lab minded reader running for cover, so I’ll start with the global view πŸ˜‰

Cliffs 'n cloud - Sony A7r & Leica Summicron-R 50/2

Cliffs ‘n cloud – Sony A7r & Leica Summicron-R 50/2

Compare the bluntly factual rendering of Natural Oppidum in the sharpness section to Cliffs ‘n Cloud above.

That change in personality is one of the beauties of this lens.

Below is an enlargement of the most extreme “veil” I have found so far. It will scare some and endear others. As you cant tell detail is there in spades, in spite of the veil.

DSC01977-2A less extreme example (still at f/2) is below. You can download the complete file (7Mb jpg) to see for yourself what the veil looks like most often. I added the vignetting, the lens has very little.

Wood and Stone - Sony A7r & Leica 50mm f/2 Summicron R

Wood and Stone – Sony A7r & Leica 50mm f/2 Summicron R

A note to pixel peepers. This is roughly 5 feet wide and corners are out of focus, not blurry.

Bokeh

In classic close foreground – distant background situation, bokeh is just lovely (the picture below was made on the Sony Nex-5n).

A cat looking intently at something, Sony NEX-5N & Leica Summicron-R 50At further distances, it looks lovely on the whole, with a slightly bubbly quality at 100%.

Mountain chapel in the Sainte Victoire - Sony A7r & Leica Summicron-R 50

Mountain chapel – Sony A7r & Leica Summicron-R 50 @ f/2

DSC01972-2

bubbly bokeh at 100% (f/2)

DSC01967

Chapel and hill – Sony A7r & Leica R Summicron 50 @f/8

Colour

Out of camera, I find the colour from this lens a tad subdued. But increasing saturation or vibrance soon brings this back to more exciting levels and never looks artificial. So, colour: good.

MossyNook

Mossy nook – Sony A7r & Leica R Con 50

Not so yummy is the slight colour cast when you close down from full aperture to f/8.
DSC01959
Warm and glowing at f/2. Darker and with a slightly colder hue at f/8.

DSC01958Verdict

Here’s a lens that costs roughly 10% as much as an OTUS 55 yet provides performance in the same ball park at f/8. Wide open, it’s likely nowhere close, in a lab. But there is detail in abundance, even wide open, and that poetic glow, as Tim Ashley calls it, gives the lens a true personality without the glaring flaws of other “artist lenses”.

The only alternative I’d be interested it at this point it the Zeiss 50/1.4 ZA but that’s a much bigger hunk of glass and it costs 4 times the price. So …

The Zeiss Planar 50/2 ZM is also a darling, but it suffers a great deal more in the corners. UPDATE : The Summicron-R50/2 has been extensively compared to the more recent Zeiss Loxia 50/2 based on this lens. Read the comparison here.

The Zeiss C-Sonnar also comes to mind, with even nicer bokeh but a more costly sacrifice in sharpness compared to the Cron-R.

An OTUS would be nice as well, if I’m honest πŸ˜‰


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9 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Mitch Zeissler January 03, 2014

    I keep looking at the OTUS and wondering how long I’d last on a daylong shoot with a lens that big, being that it’s almost a full POUND heavier than a Noctilux. I like your R glass solution better…

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy January 03, 2014

      Hi Mitch. I know how you feel. Having tested (briefly) the OTUS on my previous D800e, I was sorely tempted. If 50mm was my primary focal length, maybe, just maybe. But it doesn’t seem like a realistic solution. The good news with the Cron-R 50 is that you can buy it off ebay, try it for 2 weeks and sell it off for the same amount if you’re not hooked. I don’t think there is much sample variation, so you are quite unlikely to pick a lemon. Apparently, the FE 55/1.8 is an excellent lens, although review samples seem a bit lifeless compared to the FE 35/2.8. I’ll try to find one for review one day. Cheers, Pascal

      • Avatar
        Mitch Zeissler January 03, 2014

        My ultimate goal is to get another Noct. I’ve got the 50mm HyperPrime T0.95 lens right now, but it just doesn’t compare to the Noct — and it’s still heavier. The Noct gave me the best, dreamiest images I’ve ever captured and I continue to miss it.

        • Avatar
          pascaljappy January 07, 2014

          Ah, now that’s precious information. I’ve been dreaming about the HyperPrime myself, but your first hand experience places this into context. Thanks. I would love a Noct as well, but that is another budget range altogether … Dreams πŸ˜‰

        • Avatar
          pascaljappy January 07, 2014

          Ah, now that’s precious information. I’ve been dreaming about the HyperPrime myself, but your first hand experience places this into context. Thanks. I would love a Noct as well, but that is another budget range altogether … Dreams πŸ˜‰

  2. Avatar
    mb-de January 28, 2014

    Hello Pascal,

    being a ‘Cron R 50 on A7 user myself, I like seeing your post on the topic.

    I have tried a number of 50ies on the A7, Otus (Nikon mount with Novoflex Adapter) as well, and the Sonnar 55 f/1,8 FE amongst them.

    The Otus wins hands down, except for weight, bulk and price. The Sonnar 55 is quite close – so, if one is ok with its handling, it is certainly worth its money.

    As far as ‘recycled’ 50ies go, the Summicron R 50 f/2 (second version, produced from 1976 onward – your’s is of this type) is a very, very good option – and my ‘standard’ lens on the A7 (since the day I received my A7)… I have more than 20 ‘classic’ 50ies in my collection, Zeiss, Leitz, Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Kern, …) – the Summicron R 50 (1976) and the Summicron M (III and IV) are my favorites from the collection – closely followed by th Zeiss Sonnar 50 f/1,5.

    I just enjoy the combination of full frame mirrorless camera and decent manual lens…

    Regards from NL,

    Michael
    =->

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy January 30, 2014

      Yes, the Cron-R 50 (latest version at least) is glorious and cheap. I didn’t like it so much on my APS NEX but it really sings on the A7R.

      I think we all agree the OTUS is really special. I tried it on my D800e but never on the A7R. If 50 was my favourite focal lenght, I would probably sell a child and go for it. Happily, it’s not and I won’t πŸ˜‰

      Kind Regards,
      Pascal

  3. Avatar
    deelight May 04, 2014

    It would be interesting to hear more from both of you (pascal & michael) on the difference between the m cron and r cron in use) and the difference particularly on the aps-c sensor. It would be really useful!

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy May 05, 2014

      I’ve never used both simultaneously so can’t really comment on this. On paper, the m cron has slightly better MTF curves. Both have quite wavy curves meaning that, on an APS sensor, the corners would be a bit sharper at f/2 using the Summicron-M. With a 16 Mpix camera, which seems like the sweet spot for this sensor size, differences would likely be too small to justify the big difference in price. On a 24 Mpix such as the NEX-7 – and assuming the M’s optical formula suites the sensor design, which it probably does – differences would probably become more noticeable. Another consideration is the size of the lens and mount. The R + adapter is significantly larger than than the M + adapter. I prefer that, as I prefer the layout or focusing and aperture rings on the R. But that’s a very personal comment and largely dependent on your prior experience. Some M users would not touch an R-mount lens with a stick πŸ˜‰

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