#1017. Leica Summicron-R 35/2 on Hasselblad X1D: The last of the vintage glass rolling

By pascaljappy | Review

Jun 20

Can the vintage wide-angle miracle repeat itself? Afther the surprising Otus 21 act of the Zeiss Distagon 25/2 ZF.2, can this Leica Summicron-R 35/2 morph into a wonderful 28/1.4 for the X1D?

No, it can’t πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

But it put on a worthy fight! Vintage style.

 
Favourite game – Leica Summicron R 35/2 on Hasselblad X1D
 

Let’s recap briefly my recent sampling of unused 24x36mm lenses on the Hassy:

 
When the sun goes down – Leica Summicron-R 35/2 on Hasselblad X1D
 

Possibly, yes. And my feeling, after all this sampling is that the first two lenses are definite keepers, but it’s all downhill from there: the 90 is marginal and the 35 probably taking adapted lenses a step too far on this body.

Not that the lens is uncapable of creating great images. But the degree of specialisation it imposes is too much for my tastes. Obviously, that much is subjective and GAS mileage may well vary from one user to another.

My guess is that anyone drawn to the stark rendering of the Hassy stable might struggle with the almost gooey rendering of this lens. But let’s explore in a little more detail πŸ™‚

 
Red Rooster – Leica Summicron-R 35/2 on Hasselblad X1D
 

By now, it’s probably obvious that the surprise love stories with old lenses is coming to an end. But how can I put that into meaningful words, knowing my conclusion could be the result of a novelty factor wearing off and knowing that this lens was never designed to perform on this sensor? Or on digital at all, for that matter …

What credibility or benefit to anyone is there in claiming “this lens designed for 24x36mm film is not perfect on 44×33 digital sensors made 40 years later” ?

It would be an aberration to criticize formal lens reviews (read “to expose that absolute uselesness of lab tests on modern lenses”) and then come to a derogatory conclusion about this prime example of a prime objective lens in an objectively absurd context. That would be wrong, right? πŸ˜‰ Plus, it can look gorgeous. On occasion.

 
Ray of light – Leica Summicron-R 35/2 on Hasselblad X1D
 

Once again, good sense will prevail on DS. Let me present a few photographs made over the past few days in varying light conditions.

Do not readjust your screen.

The photographs are all dark, it has nothing to do with your device. And that is precisely what doesn’t appeal to me in this slapdash photographic combo.

 
Summertime Sadness – Leica Summicron-R 35/2 on Hasselblad X1D
 

Yes, it is possible to push exposure up on the files, but they then look very drab and uninspiring.

The Leica R 90 was brilliant in sunlight and less interesting in the shadows. The Summicron seems to extend this attitude towards photons even more.

Add a touch of lightong contrast to the scene, and it becomes far more exploitable, as below.

 
White horses, they will take me away – Leica Summicron-R 35/2 on Hasselblad X1D
 

Potentially very pretty, then, but a bit too “specialized” for my tastes.

My HiFi analogies with amplifiers, in the past episodes of this lens rolling series, leaned towards the various sounds of tubes. Some sould wonderfully airy, almost ethereal, yet with colour and juiciness. Others feel darker and more hefty. This summicron-R 35 definitely belongs to the second category. Some will love it for it, as I did on my Nikon D801e and (slightly less) on my Sony A7r2.

On the Hassy, I can’t help feeling the two main components of the system are fighting one another with strong personnalities that view the world too differently to really sing in unison.

 
Enjoy the silence – Leica Summicron-R 35/2 on Hasselblad X1D
 

Or maybe that’s not it at all. The Hassy is a neutral beast and the Leica is opinionated, for sure. I’ve often written that gear takes you places and that it’s your responsibility, as a photographer, to carefully select gear that takes you in a direction you’ll enjoy and benefit from.

Rarely has this been more obvious to me than here …

The Summicron paints everything in thick strokes, full of strength and colour. This can turn out really beautiful (and I realise how subjective that evaluation is) …

 
I see a red chair – Leica Summicron-R 35/2 on Hasselblad X1D
 

… or just a little too much for a scene that should have been more breezy and natural.

 
Meet me half way – Leica Summicron-R 35/2 on Hasselblad X1D
 

There’s no political agenda to this post, no intention to convey other than strictly personal taste. And yours, hopefully, will be different πŸ™‚

I like light and breezy. I need stark and neutral. This is neither. The Distagon 25/2 took me off course, with respect to the Hasselblad look, but in a direction congruent with my current aspirations. The Elmarit 90 was a little more off beat, more of a candy recreation. Naughty but nice.

With the summicron as photonic gate keeper, this side trip goes a step too far. It’s Madness, I tell you πŸ˜‰

 
One step beyond – Leica Summicron-R 35/2 on Hasselblad X1D
Our house – Leica Summicron-R 35/2 on Hasselblad X1D
 

I’ll shut up now, and will leave you with photographs from yesterday’s walk in the hills (bliss) in sunlight, in shadows, in colour, in black and white, in various states of neutral/aggressive post processing. Hopefully, this will give you an idea of what this combination can produce, to let you decide whether that look is for you or not.

 
Way down we go – Leica Summicron-R 35/2 on Hasselblad X1D
 

And a touch of monochrome

 
Spread your wings and Fly away – Leica Summicron-R 35/2 on Hasselblad X1D
 

Even with the above caveats, my rebutal of this lens seems unfair. And this probably says more about my amateur status than about the lens itself.

Crop a bit off the edges, and most of the nastiness goes away. And if you’re happy with the look this lens naturally draws you towards, and are willing to learn to PP process that brings the best out of it, then you have a sure winner on your hands.

Technically, if you avoidthe corners, the Summicron is excellent as this f/4 shot and its 100% crop below illustrate. Colour and sharpness are on point.

 
 

So my reticence is strictly personal. Although, in the right light and with the right PP, this lens can produce stunning photographs that look like paintings, the always-on magenta hue is not my cup of cha and the “dense” tones are too much for me. What now?

That’s the end of the road for vintage lens testing as I have no others left to test πŸ˜‰ If you want to send me something in M-mount, Nikon mount, XCD mout or Hasselblad CF mount, just for kicks, I’ll be happy to review it. The latter is my next direction. And, hopefully a review of the Sonnar 150/4, made by Zeiss for Hasselblad a few decades ago, will be published in a few weeks.

This will represent a opposite take on adapted lenses. Instead of glass designed for smaller film, the old (real) medium format lenses will easily cover the sensor and we will see none of the corner oddities so obvious in those past few posts. But the resolution of those larger lenses is also inferior, which could lead to a very different style. Most of those old lenses have very few glass elements, making them very transparent and natural. I’m hoping to stitch images to recreate the old MF look those lenses were designed to create, stay tuned.

 
 

In the mean time, what do you think of the Summicron? And which of the 4 lenses reviewed recently do you prefer?

 

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  • Jeffrey Horton says:

    Have you tried any of the H series lenses on the XCD? I’m very close to purchasing an X1DII and am intrigued by the H series lenses and how they might render on the X1D.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Jeffrey, no I haven’t but was told they are pretty similar to the older generation, some of which I am going to try out, beginning with the Sonnar 150/4. If you have H series lenses and want an adapter, I can sell you mine much cheaper than new, as I will not be using it. I’m going to buy an adapter for the CF series instead. Cheers, Pascal

  • Sean says:

    Hi Pascal, I like this bit where you said “… the Leica is opinionated, for sure … carefully select gear that takes you in a direction you’ll enjoy and benefit from…” and that’s a journey in itself. A journey I sense that will, and surely does for some, start, sustain and feed a condition referred to as G.A.S. Sometimes it’s fun and other times jarring, but every now and then it’s rewarding – but it must pay due respect and homage to personal tastes, sensibilities and realities in the art and craft of one’s journey in photography. I think you’ve revealed that reasonably well in this article you’ve penned here. I wonder how a Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Biometar 2.8/80 would marry-up on your treasured Hassie?

  • Alan says:

    Pascal, pardon my ignorance, but how does this work? How do you physically attach a Leica lens (or whatever) to a Hasselblad body (or whatever) so you have the correct flange to focal plane distance? Where do you find the adapters? I presume there is no automatic aperture (or automatic anything else) and I don’t understand how the shutter would work. And an image circle for 24×36 film won’t necessarily cover a larger sensor so I’m surprised that isn’t more of an issue. Anyhow, it does seem to work even if I can’t figure out how. Please enlighten!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hello Alan, yes that is correct, you can use adapters that physically ensure the lens is at the proper distance. Novoflex make some, Hasselblad have their own, and there are other good brands out there.

      You can set the aperture on the lens’s aperture ring and the camera uses its “electronic shutter” to set the exposure.

      I was very surprised to see those 24x36mm lenses cover a larger sensor so easily. The 35/2 suffers a lot in the corners, but the others seemed much more at ease ! Very impressive indeed.

      I hope this helps πŸ˜‰

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