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.
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.
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.
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.
Nothing of significance.
This is one area where most Leica-R lenses show their age, compared to the best in the industry.
Flare 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.
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 😉
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.
A note to pixel peepers. This is roughly 5 feet wide and corners are out of focus, not blurry.
In classic close foreground – distant background situation, bokeh is just lovely (the picture below was made on the Sony Nex-5n).
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.
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 😉
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