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Tom Abrahamsson of RapidWinder.com It is almost never that an inventor improves on a Leica product so that it is better than the original Leica product. Tom holds that distinction with his RapidWinder for Leica M rangefinders -- a bottom mounting baseplate trigger advance. In addition Tom manufacturers other Leica accessories such as his very popular Soft Release and MiniSoftRelease shutter releases. Tom is well known as one of the true Leica rangefinder experts, even by Leica. IMPORTANT READ THIS: CWE Forum hosts have moderation powers within their forum. Please observe copyright laws by not copying and posting their material elsewhere without permission.

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Modern fast 50mm lenses for the Leica
Old 01-22-2015   #1
sparrow6224
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Modern fast 50mm lenses for the Leica

I'm seeking sage advice, and where else to turn but to Tom A? Or to whom else, I should say. I have a DR Summicron as my 50mm lens (clean inside but with some serious cleaning marks that keep me from aiming it too often at any bright background) but as I use my 35mm f/1.4 Nokton much more I've grown to desire an f/1.4 or f/1.5 50mm. These things are, we know, largely psychological but when one is happy with the tools in one's hands, the work becomes more joyful I think. And the DR is naggingly heavy....

So -- I don't want a 1950s lens. Again, largely psychological. This eliminates the Sonnars, the Canon and Nikkor 50/1.4's, etc. I've narrowed my choices to the pre-ASPH Summilux (43mm filter size, to match the 35mm Nokton above); the Zeiss ZM Sonnar-C 50mm f/1.5 (which I thought was a 43mm filter but B&H shows as 46?? Did it change??) or the CV 50mm f/1.5 Nokton (with a filter size, it feels like, of about 72mm.....)

Here are my questions in bold italics):
Pre-ASPH Summilux. I think I could find one for ~$1600. Is it, optically speaking, compared to the other two, worth it? Is it smaller/lighter than the DR Summicron by any significant amount?

Zeiss Sonnar-C -- whole different game, I realize. Speak to me not of focus shift -- I'll figure out how to deal with it if I go with this lens. Does it not have a 43mm filter? Is it well built? I think I could score one for somewhere in the $800+ area. This is all very funny because I'm currently unemployed. Speaking of psychological.

Nokton 50mm f/1.5 the LTM can be had occasionally for $350-ish. I had one some years ago. It was too large. But maybe I'm willing to accommodate. For reasons I don't now remember I kept the gigantic hood on it -- perhaps because that was what the cap fit over? -- which now I would not do. I had the chrome version and I assume black is lighter but then I read somewhere that, anomalously, the black is heavier -- is that true?? The M-version is going even used for double the price -- from what I understand a 49mm filter size versus 52mm on the LTM -- is the M version any shorter, lighter, less fat? Are they both close focus to .7m?

Ergonomics matter to me. So of course do the optical qualities. On the other hand, money is very much an object.

Which lens do you recommend? All answers taken with gratitude....
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Old 01-22-2015   #2
yossarian123
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Vince - the Zeiss takes a 46mm filter. Besides that - maybe my all time favorite 50 (I haven't shot with the 'lux). Just loads and loads of character.
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Old 01-22-2015   #3
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Ah yes. Thank you for the info. I meant to ask what "character" means. Everyone uses it for this lens, and for the Zeiss Sonnars of yesteryear. It seems to be, in fact, a word exclusively for 50mm Sonnar lenses (you never hear the 13.5cm Sonnars have character). I realize now my confusion: it's the F2 Planar that has the 43mm filter.

Why by the way, if anyone knows, has the Sonnar-C gone from $1050 retail to over $1200? Shouldn't our strong dollars make it cheaper now than a couple of years ago?
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Old 01-22-2015   #4
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Two versions of the Summilux: E43 (1m min Foc), and E46 (0.7m min Foc). The E46 is more expensive than your budget. Both distort quite noticeably.

The LTM Nokton has min Foc 1m, and 52mm filter thread. It is bigger but lighter than the M Nokton, which has min. focus 0.7m. I find the M Nokton to flare less than the LTM version. It has 49mm filter threads.

I used to have the Sonnar, but it's difficult to focus, IMO. Plus, some of them will wobble after a while.

I sold my E43 Summilux after buying the M-Nokton. The M-Nokton is an outstanding, general purpose lens. Super built, too (I have the chrome version), reminds me of the DR Summicron. Photo after photo, it just works.

Check this out, too: http://ferider.smugmug.com/Portfolio...mm-Lenses-on-F
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Old 01-22-2015   #5
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I have compared at least 30 50mm lenses, and I assure you that there many excellent options out there.

The Nokton 50/1.5 is a great modern lens.
The Heliar 50/3.5 is amazingly sharp
The Canon 50 1.2 1.4 1.5 1.8 are great 50mm lenses.
The original Zeiss Sonnar 50/1.5 is hard to beat.
The new Zeiss 50/1.5 has great reviews.
The Nikkor Millenium 50/1.4 is ab awesome lens.
The Rollei 40/2.8 is a very special lens.
The Pentax 43/1.9 is awesome.
The (cheap) Summicron-C or Rokkor 40/2 is great.
The Summilux 50/1.4 is praised a lot.


The list goes on and on ....
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Old 01-22-2015   #6
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What about the cv 50 1.1
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Old 01-22-2015   #7
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I've had a lot of fast 50's. While no one will agree with me (and I've has at least three) a coke bottle is better than the Canon 50/1.2. The best 50/1.4, bar none, is the Leica ASPH. I don't know why I sold it (pay bills I guess). A lot of 50's like the Summarit, old and new Noktons, are more personal preference as far as optics are concern but they all (to me) have issues with odd ball filters, too huge, coatings too soft and ruined or just plain non-ergonomical. The 1st version Summilux isn't a lot better than the Canon 50/1.2. For lots of fall off and low contrast it gives a great bokeh but for and all around lens it isn't much. The second version up to the ASPH are basically the same optics and are decent lenses but pretty pricey.

The winner, and it's a very inexpensive lens, is the Canon 50/1.4 second version.
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Old 01-22-2015   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nikonosguy View Post
What about the cv 50 1.1
Many view it as a bargain. It depends if you need such speed
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Why I sold everything but the ZM C-Sonnar
Old 01-22-2015   #9
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Why I sold everything but the ZM C-Sonnar

First of all, if money is tight then don't buy a lens. Pay your rent and other living expenses first. Over a year ago, when I was unemployed, I sold off many of my Leica lenses because they had the most cash value of all of my equipment. Out went the 35 mm Summicron ASPH, and the latest version 50mm Summicron with the pull-out hood. Out went the 135mm Apo Telyt. Even the M7 got sold off. Survive first, get gear later. In fact, if the DR is a problem for you, then sell that too.


What I did keep in M mount was the Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 C-Sonnar. Mine seems optimized for f/2 which means that the focus shift at minimum focus is about 1cm in one direction at f/1.5, and 1cm in the other direction at f/2.8. By f/4 the depth of field covers over any possible focus shift.

The 50 Summicron was clinically sharp at all apertures. But, it was very sterile and perfect, in my view. My older lenses wide open tend to have lower contrast with a veiling flare over the entire field. Some of the faster lenses also have a bit of barrel distortion.

The C-Sonnar is distortion free. Wide open, the center is high contrast and sharp. The surrounding field dissolves into great bokeh. There is no sense of a veiling flare. If you've ever shot the Nikon 35mm f/1.4 AIS wide open, you'll know what I'm talking about with veiling flare. As you stop down the C-Sonnar, you get greater and greater depth of field. This lens is very flattering to people.

That's the impression that I get from the C-Sonnar. I like the look it gives. Mine focuses smoothly, without any wobble. The hood bayonets on, and a 62mm generic center pinch cap fits nicely on the mounted hood. You never have to remove the hood.

My lens in chrome is not overly heavy. My Canon 50 1.4 seems heavier. The 35mm Summicron ASPH in chrome was one heavy beast for such a small lens.

BTW - I did keep the collapsible Summicron 50 and the Canon 50 1.4 in LTM.

Now I only need an M mount camera to use the C-Sonnar on.
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Old 01-22-2015   #10
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The 50lux is a decent performer at moderate apertures, rather soft wide open but I feel that it is a nice lens overall. The E46 version is slightly more expensive but I would prefer it for the close focus.

The 50mm Sonnar Compact is one of the nicer offerings from Zeiss. I really like its bokeh, but even without focus shift the lens is pretty soft wide open. But then again that might be what you're looking for. Build quality feels fine but I have seen three copies of this lens develop the Zeiss "wobble". In fact both ZMs I have ever owned personally - the 18mm and the supposedly "German" 15mm Distagon - have developed the "wobble". The 15 is still in Germany for repairs...

I agree that if you can handle the budget the 50mm Summilux ASPH is the best call. It is IMO as close to perfect a 50mm lens as one can hope for. Used ones are going for less than $3k now and for new copies there are the $250 Leica discounts.
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Old 01-22-2015   #11
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nikonos-- If the 50 f/1.5 Nokton feels too big for my everyday use, the f1.1 is right out. Tom A. loves the f/1.1 Nokton as I recall and has posted some superb photographs taken with it. But I don't need that fast a lens and it's too big.

Ferider. Thank you for the rundown. Love your 50mm page -- that Hexanon is something else, same with the Pentax and the Zuiko f/1.2. And the Summicron shot of the dog almost convinces me to shut up and use my DR with good grace. How'd you get that close?
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Old 01-22-2015   #12
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Robert Lai -- I should have said that whatever I buy I'm going to have to pay for by selling other stuff. I have the Summicron DR, a fairly hard to find Nikkor AIS 25-50mm f/4 zoom, an F2 Photomic, and just possibly, though I doubt I'd go through with it, a beloved Summicron C 40mm. And a few other things. So have no fear I'm not eating into the rent money.

I'm leaning strongly toward the ZM Sonnar but that whole "wobble" thing is nerve wracking to consider. How much does it cost to fix?
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Old 01-22-2015   #13
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Like many, I have a bunch of fast 50s, from 1937 to 2014 in manufacture date.

I don't have the best one, as noted above, the Lux asph. Someday.

Instead I've been splitting frontline daylight/lowlight between the cron v4 and nokton 1.1, both really fine lenses. With the M9 in lowlight, I believe you want to have an option faster than f/1.4, though i may be mistaken in this. At any rate, my copy of the CV 50/1.1 is perfect and can easily focus wide open on the M9: more easy than A7. But of course it is heavy, and you almost never reach for it in daylight.


Mike Hughes by unoh7, on Flickr

But recently the lens many of you already know about, a very light 1.1 sonnar, came to my attention:
http://www.japanexposures.com/shop/c...ar-50-1.1.html

Of course this will have some quirks, but I am a fan of the wild sonnar bokeh---I have the nikkor 50/1.4 SC, and a CZJ, so with the yen down a bit I could not resist placing an order for one of these

I also have the Canon 1.2 and 1.4, and here's a question for Canon lovers: is there really a difference in optical formula between 1.4 v1 an v2?
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Old 01-22-2015   #14
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I sure love my Sonnar C.


Amelia Pond, January 07, 2015 by Maggie Osterberg, on Flickr
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Old 01-22-2015   #15
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Over the years, I've had the 1950s collapsible Summicron 50 and the 1990s Summicron 50. Both were excellent. The Summilux was always just that little bit more expensive than I wanted to go for.

When I re-vested myself with Leica gear in 2011/2012, I went for a Nokton 50/1.5 ASPH (LTM). It's been my most used lens on the M9. The rendering is just barely a little busier than what I see out of pre-ASPH 'Luxes.

The 'Crons are a bit more accurate and consistent...

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Old 01-22-2015   #16
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The Rigid Summicron is a wonderful lens too, and is like the DR. I often use the CV 50/1.5 ltm. These are my most used 50mm lenses these days.
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Old 01-23-2015   #17
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I also should have said I shoot b/w film -- almost entirely Tri-X. I shoot the city at night a lot; and in late afternoon and dusk. Thus I don't think I need the f/1.1 -- though they are going for $700 on certain auction sites right now.....
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Old 01-23-2015   #18
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I recommend the C Sonnar. It's my favourite lens on B&W film on my M3, and on digital with the Sony A7S. At f1.5, edges are softer and backgrounds dreamy, but contrast is still high enough to appear good for portraits. Mine hasn't had the wobbles. I read more recent ones don't. Mine is a 2013 model.
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Old 01-23-2015   #19
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Leonardo's bicycle in support of C Sonnar being softer but usable at f1.5:
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Old 01-23-2015   #20
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And the C Sonnar is compact, light, and tough. Love this lens. Never to part.
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Old 01-23-2015   #21
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The Nokton-M 50mm f/1.5 is hard to beat in difficult light.

Leica M2, Nokton-M 50mm f/1.5, Tmax400.

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Old 01-23-2015   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik van Straten View Post
The Nokton-M 50mm f/1.5 is hard to beat in difficult light.

Leica M2, Nokton-M 50mm f/1.5, Tmax400.

Erik.

Erik, your photography and developing is always right on. If I gave you either of my Canon 50 1.2's or Canon 50 1.4 you could come up with the same result. My lens are like yours; clean and serviced without any fog etc.
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Old 01-23-2015   #23
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I only have an M3, the only Leica I will ever have for that matter. I needed a fast 50 that goes when I say go, jumps when I say jump and focus when I say focus. There is only one lens that does all this with what I feel is a distinct look and does not whimper or serve up some form of maddening focus shift, the 50 1.4 asph. It's a tool, not a toy.
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Old 01-23-2015   #24
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It is a very expensive "tool". Else, it would be an enormously expensive toy!
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Old 01-23-2015   #25
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I would seriously consider the C Sonnar 50mm f1.5. It is small (relatively speaking) and very good. For some reason it works very well with black/white - nice tonality, very little flare and easy tp handle. Mine is part of my "travel" kit whenever we go somewhere - I jus know that it will perform.
The Nokton 50mm f1.5 is another choice - bigger yes, but a very high performance lens - choosing between a Summilux 50f1.4 and the Nokton 50f1.5 - I would go for the Nokton. Filter size is a bit inconvenient, but as many of us - I used Nikon SLR's for decades and have boxes full of 52mm filters!
The new M-version Nokton has certain advantages - it is a bit more compact, it will focus closer and in the black finish, lighter than the chrome version. It also intrudes a bit less in the finder of an M camera than the Ltm version - though I haven't found that it is problem, at least not for me.
The Summilux 50 ipre-asph is also an older lens - and you have to be careful with glass condition with these. They do look good on a M - but unless you get a bargain - they are over-priced compared to the rest of them.
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Old 01-23-2015   #26
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Quote:
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It is a very expensive "tool". Else, it would be an enormously expensive toy!
So is a formula one race car, I can't afford second place...:-)
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Old 01-23-2015   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beemermark View Post
I've had a lot of fast 50's. While no one will agree with me (and I've has at least three) a coke bottle is better than the Canon 50/1.2.
Well I do agree, so there
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Old 01-23-2015   #28
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Surprised no one has mentioned my favourite 50: the ZM Planar. No focus shift and beautiful rendering. Better than the latest 'cron as it has less flare (and cheaper).
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Old 01-23-2015   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lawrence View Post
Surprised no one has mentioned my favourite 50: the ZM Planar. No focus shift and beautiful rendering. Better than the latest 'cron as it has less flare (and cheaper).
Only because the OP wanted something faster... :-)

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Old 01-23-2015   #30
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I currently only have 2 50's: the ZM Sonnar (optimized at f1.5) and the ZM Planar. With these two, I really don't feel the need to own another 50, but wouldn't mind trying out the CV 50's: 1.1, 1.5, 2.0, 3.5.

I go to some lengths to shoot the Sonnar at f1.5 because wide open is where it is very distinctive. I sometimes use an ND filter to shoot it at f1.5, especially here in perpetually-sunny Southern California.

The Planar covers everything else.
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Old 01-23-2015   #31
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Quote:
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Well I do agree, so there
Not sure about Coke bottle bottoms, even with the 55/1.2 wide open, but it's a pretty good lens by f/5.6 or so. But wide open... Well, I actually like the effect at f/1.2, which is actually quite similar to the effect at f/22 (except DoF), but they're flat and fuzzy outside the f/4 to f/11 range and if I wanted a sharp fast lens I'd certainly look elsewhere. One of mine was rebuilt by Balham and was therefore about as good as it was ever going to be. Lovely plumage . . . sorry, 3-D effect!

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Old 01-23-2015   #32
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Thank you all. I feel much clearer on the issue now. I'm looking for a black C-Sonnar. Make that focus shift into a focus mu-mu.

A joke that gives away my age.

Thanks again.

Vince P

PS I've been using 28mm f/3.5 and 35mm f/1.4 VC lenses for ~3 months, with occasional days of 21/4 and Summicron-C 40mm. I took out my Summicron DR today -- what a beautiful object -- and the coating damage has gotten much worse, basically covering the back of the front element and with a couple of small spots of what might be fungus thrown in at the edges. I'm going to shoot with it for a week or two to see what it can still do.....
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Old 01-23-2015   #33
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Only because the OP wanted something faster... :-)

G
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Old 01-24-2015   #34
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I also chose the CV 50/1.5 and not the 50 Summilux. I did get the 35 and the 75 Summilux lenses, though.
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Old 01-24-2015   #35
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I started with a Canon 50mm f1.4 then went to a Summilux V2 and after reading all this stuff about the Sonnar new and old for years I finally picked up a Jupiter 3 two years ago. Now I use it more then I do the Summilux, all my Leica pals think I have gone coco but it makes me want to get a new Sonnar. However I know my pictures will not improve with a newer lens so I will stay with what I have.
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Old 01-24-2015   #36
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Jupiter 3 50mm f1.5 on a IIIg. Fuji Presto 400 in Td 201. Cant complain about sharpness or flare control. I like T-shirts with these kind of legends on them. Saves me from trying to remember where the shot was taken!
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Old 01-24-2015   #37
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Any fan of the Nokton 50/1,1 cv ? I'm tempted...for my M7
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Old 01-24-2015   #38
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The Nokton 50mm f1.1 is a spectacular lens. However it is big and heavy - and unless you shoot just about everything at f1.1 or close to it - it is over kill. However, it is an interesting lens for using slow films - the focus drop off is dramatic to say the least. I have one and when the lights go down - out it comes. It is also a lens that takes no prisoners - you better focus right as any screw-up on your part will show up. Just like the Noctiluxes you also need to check your rangefinder - the slightest but of misalignment will show!
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Old 01-24-2015   #39
neonart
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I had and *loved* the C Sonnar ZM. If you can live with the .9 min focus distance and 46mm filter, it's a wonderful lens. I had no issues with focus shift. Mine came from BH and I never had it optimized or anything. It just worked. YMMV. I even used it for a critical assignment when my planar was out for CLA. Yes, it's not super sharp, but sharp enough. And the bokeh! (I've now "merged" the Planar and Sonnar into a Lux ASPH.)

I tried 2 of the current Voigtlander VM 50/1.5s. One had severe back focus (3"), the other front focused slightly(1.5"), but noticeably. It sounds like a great lens on paper, but I had those bad experiences. However if you get a good one, which I assume you can from Cameraquest, it ticks all the boxes (minus filter size) at a really great price!

I've also had 2 Voigtlander 40/1.4s, and they were great! Used them on an M8, RD1, and M240. Really nice if you are ok with the 40mm FL and the softer classic rendering. They distort at the edges, but for the money it's hard to complain.

Got to try a really nice Lux Pre-ASPH and besides the .7 vs .9 close focus difference from the C-Sonnar I could not see enough advantage to warrant the increase in price (especially for a used lens). However, lots of people love the Pre-ASPH Lux, so if you can find a really good deal it could be worth it.
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Old 01-24-2015   #40
Tom A
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Nokton 50mm f1.1 at 1.1. I was using a copy film, Orwo MA8 rated it at 12 iso, developed in home-made Delagi D8. It was a really dark and gloomy January day! Speed was around 1/30s with a Leica M6 0.85 finder. Focus on the white shawl as it was dark enough to make it virtually impossible to focus on anything else! The Orwo MA8 is an interesting film - but it will attract dust with a vengeance!
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