Ernst Leitz Wetzlar
Summar 50mm F2 Collapsible
Grandfather of the Summicron.:hintingimage
The Summar is the first F2 lens from Ernst Leitz. It is designed by Berek, the precessor of the Summitar, which is the precessor of the Summicron. This uncoated large aperture collapsible screw mount lens from Leitz manufactured between 1933 and 1940, designed as a low light lens after the success of the Elmar and the early attempt of high speed lens design of the Hektor.
I picked up this 1937 produced lens on the past weekend, at the long awaited return of the Sydney Camera Market. This time the event is at the new home of Newington College Centenary Hall. With only 2 weeks notice I am surprised about the good attendance of both the sellers and buyers. We haven’t had a market since the start of the 2020 so this is a welcome time to geekout together. This lens is my pick of the day.
The lens configuration is 6 elements in 4 groups, in the double Gauss type lens construction followed the pattern set by the Cooke Design. Pre-war Double Gauss has a lot of internal reflections, it is prone to flares and veiling glare.
The soft front element scratch easily, so most copies has lots of hairline scratches. When facing bright light, image carries strong flare with lowered contrast. Simultaneously the design of this lens maintain high sharpness and resolution at the centre. Outer edges of image exhibits blurring, softness and other aberations.
It’s unique rendering bring out airyness of spring and summer.
Hexagonal aperture blades, with marking of F2, 2.2, 3.2, 4.5, 6.3, 9 and 12.5 and no click stop in-between. Click stop is a feature not invented until the 50s on the grandson Summicron. Moderate vignette at corners at the widest aperture. The vignetting disappears when stop down to F4.5-6.3.
Swirling bokeh under direct light. Diffuse and indirect lighting bring a realistic look. Low contrast lens provide latitude to pull and push the rich warm tone out of the images. Best image quality is obtained between F4.5 to F9.
Lighting from different direction brings different looks to the image. Front lit, back lit, diffuse light all bring different characters. It is a versatile lens but it is also takes time to get used to.
Impression on the first day out
This 90 years old design is definitely unique in the look. Under different lighting conditions, it renders scenes very differently. On digital camera, it is wonderful for photographic experiments. It will be harder to guess how it behaves on film.
If you look for a lens that is always at high performance, all rounder lens that give you perfect images every time, this is not the lens for you. If you are keen to explore a moody lens that surprise you at all time, without additional filters that give you old timely feel. This is one of those. I think it will be great for stylistic portraits, given the optical abbreviations and ‘special effects’ that is authentic to the early 35mm photography.
This is an affordable fun lens. It is designed first for rangefinder coupling with Leica screw mount and M cameras, as per the image samples on this post. It can also be adapted on all mirrorless cameras via M-mount + screw mount adaptors.
Recommendation for deployment – get a compatible hood to minimise the veiling glares and and flares .
SOOMP is the official Summar Hood that is trapezium shape with cutout for viewfinder.
FIKUS is the Universal Hood. This works with all other Elmars from 50mm , 90mm and 135mm, the one I use.