Leica M9 and Summarit 35 | fieldtest
To be honest – I abadoned 35mm lens two years ago. I just forgot of this sticking with 24/50mm prime lens pair on my DSLR. Naturally during migration from Canon and DSLRs I landed with 28/2 and 50/2 lenses. Thanks to Leica Store Poland I was able to go back to 35mm lens world for good.
This 35mm lens has long way behind. Since about 1934 as Elmar 35/4.5 thru Elmar 35/3.5, then Summaron 35/3.5, then Summaron 35/2.8 then finally 2007 as Summarit 35/2.5.
A small one – even Leica calls it ‘compact’. Since it’s the cheapest in Leica family – can be considered as ‘entry level’. To be honest – you cannot be more wrong thinking that.
I think it can be best travel lens if you are on budget but you are Leica lover and you can take/buy only one lens. You can get it for about 1600 USD new in the box on Ebay, and for a little more in Leica Store. One cons at the beginning: no lens hood included in the box. Again – it’s a basic line of Leica lenses. Comparing – for similiar price you can hunt for old Summicron v2 which can be considered as a little big faster and nicer at bokeh area. However – again – new vs old, and whole story about which Summicron is the king (simply answer: the 4th version :P). About the price – Canon and Nikon shooters see it crazy. However – non of both N&C 35 is half optically good – I mean optical & flare correction, sharpness, contrast. Different world.
Summarit gives you high contrast image from wide open. It’s clinical – very sharp, crisp, contrast and very detailed image. For my personal taste – it’s too clinical – a little bit overcontrasted – but it’s my personal preference. However if you are flare lover, this lens will ‘fail’ in that area. Maybe it’s due to that it’s very optically corrected lens giving 50-55 linepair/mm over almost whole image area. If you donot know what it means – you can say ‘wow’ because it’s very good result (according to Leica Compendium and Ewrin Puts – ‘outstanding’).
Looking at parameters: it’s a little bit heavier then bokeh kind Summicron 35 vIV (220g vs 190g). Similiar size. It looks very similiar to old Summicron. Small, compact, very little visible in rangefinder. 6bit coded so for digital Leica (M8, M9) just plug’n’play.
According to Leica Compendium by Erwin Puts – Summarit keeps the quality (contast, sharpness, detail) until f8 and Summicron has its level peek at f4. Shooting this gem on f4-f8 I haven’t found any visible distortion – just look on the first pic – the line of wall is totally vertical! Amazing sharpness towards corners. What can I say: optically near the word ‘perfect’.
The lens play well against the direct sun, since I prefer more flare then clinical image – I have to move my attention towards old Summicron or Voigtlander Nokton (soon on my fieldtest). The image is kind neutral towards warm tones.
About 35mm lens and Leica M9: this is the best wide option you can get to see 100% and more in the rangefinder window. The best pros for rangefinder is that you can see more then image frame. This is real mileage over anySLR and lens tunnel we look thru. 28mm frame is almost at the edge of rangefinder’s window. 35mm frame has some space around and it gives you better point on framing/cropping/composing in my opinion. Summarit gets additional points ‘pros’ – it’s small, doesnot block the viewfinder window. Great partner in street photography/photojournalistic works. The bad side is – every lens draws different. It’s not darker version of Summicron. It’s not much much cheaper version of Summilux. This is a very underrated lens gem, very confused as budget/cheap Leica glass.
below: a few shoots taken during my meeting with Summarit. I tested it mainly against the light and for details drawing. Lens in size and quality you can only love. Will update it with a few samples done on film. Three things to mention: great drawn details against the light or in the shadows. a little magenta in overblown edges. razon blade sharp/contrast.
the strangest flare or definition of optic correction: