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Website that explains Leica lens history/design?
Old 09-10-2008   #1
luketrash
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Website that explains Leica lens history/design?

My google-fu is weak this afternoon. Do any of you have some quality links stashed away that get me up to speed on Leica lens design and explaination of the terminology?

elmar, elmarit, summicron, summilux? It all sounds like jibberish to me at the moment. I'm trying to identify the lenses to save up for now that I have an M body to put together as a kit.

At the moment I already own these things that'll mount to my body:

CV 15mm Heliar, Jupiter-12 35mm, CV 40mm Nokton MC, FED 50mm collapsible, Jupiter-8 50mm, Nikkor H.C 50mm, CV 50mm Heliar Classic, and a Jupiter-9 85mm.

I'm fairly content with the Voigtlander gear as far as fit and finish goes. The Jupiter-12 definitely stays as well. However, I'm in the market for a 90mm lens as well as some sort of 50mm that's a step up from the Heliar Classic.

The Heliar Classic is a nice lens and has a special look, but I'm looking for something contrasty and cutting sharp wide open as my main 50mm.


So... A quick education in Leica lenses would be appreciated.

I already know about the ZM series from Zeiss and am considering the 50mm Planar since I feel some goofy loyalty by proxy of my Hasselblad 500 kit I've put together

I'm sorry this question has probably been asked about 1000 times and lens recommendations are always really subjective, but I'm looking for a page that shows what each unique name means as far as lens design and elements and coatings go.

Basically I'm looking for my best bang for the buck on 50 and 90mm lenses, but value quality and physical design, so there's no sort of price limit I'm attaching to this post.
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Old 09-10-2008   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luketrash View Post
My google-fu is weak this afternoon. Do any of you have some quality links stashed away that get me up to speed on Leica lens design and explaination of the terminology?

elmar, elmarit, summicron, summilux? It all sounds like jibberish to me at the moment.
Leica names tend to refer to speeds as much as to designs. Thus, among recent designs:

Noctilux: f/1,2, f/1 or f/0.95

Summilux: f/1.4

Summicron: f/2

Summarit: f/2.5 except for some old designs

Elmar/Elmarit: f/2.8, f/3.5, f/4, f/6.3 (4- or 3-glass)

Older lenses:

Hektor: f/2.5, f/4.5, f/6.3

Summar: f/2 and f/0.85 (the latter very rare)

Summitar: f/2

Old Summarit: f/1.5 and (I think) f/1.4

Xenon: f/1.5

Thambar: f/2.2

Summaron: f/3.5 + f/2.8

Summarex: f/1.5

Tele-Elmarit: f/2.8

Just a thought here, on a subject dear to my heart. You are presumably looking for a free website with all this information. To compile such information takes time and money. Who pays for this? And if nobody's paying, how reliable is the information?

Cheers,

Roger
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Old 09-10-2008   #3
Steve Litt
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The Bartender has given us cameraquest and I would certainly rely on the information there.Stephens website is like an old friend. Take a look: http://www.cameraquest.com/mlenses.htm

regards
Steve
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Old 09-10-2008   #4
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Originally Posted by Pitxu View Post
Dear Roger,

I can't decide if you're a condescending pillock, a kapitalist [email protected], or just ignorant of what internet forums such as this one are for.
Dear Richard,

And I can't decide whether or not you are familiar with the old saying, 'you get what you pay for'.

Where do YOU think reliable research material comes from?

Cheers,

R.
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Old 09-10-2008   #5
luketrash
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I never complain about free advice

Thanks for your information! I give out plenty of my own 'free advice' to people when I feel as if I know what I'm talking about. Sometimes I'm sure I'm mistaken.

At one point I was able to sit down and see diagrams that showed the difference between Zeiss Planar, Sonnar, Biogon, and Distagon sort of designs which helped me understand their physical characteristics and shortcomings. A site similar to that with Leica lens design in mind is what I was searching for.

ie: if a 90mm Elmar is a bad/cheap design that is not worth wasting money on, I'd be more tempted to save for the more expensive Summicron version if I had any sort of knowledge to back up that sort of judgement call. I just made that up and have no idea if an Elmar design trumps or folds to a Summicron design.

I get what you're saying about maximum aperture rather than element layout though with the naming conventions.
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Old 09-10-2008   #6
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Just buy a copy of Puts "Leica Lens Compendium" not everything is on the web.
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Old 09-10-2008   #7
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Yes,Mr Puts has a great website too.http://www.imx.nl/photo/index.html

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Steve
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Old 09-10-2008   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luketrash View Post
I give out plenty of my own 'free advice' to people when I feel as if I know what I'm talking about. Sometimes I'm sure I'm mistaken.

At one point I was able to sit down and see diagrams that showed the difference between Zeiss Planar, Sonnar, Biogon, and Distagon sort of designs which helped me understand their physical characteristics and shortcomings. A site similar to that with Leica lens design in mind is what I was searching for.

ie: if a 90mm Elmar is a bad/cheap design that is not worth wasting money on, I'd be more tempted to save for the more expensive Summicron version if I had any sort of knowledge to back up that sort of judgement call. I just made that up and have no idea if an Elmar design trumps or folds to a Summicron design.

I get what you're saying about maximum aperture rather than element layout though with the naming conventions.
Para 1: me too.

Para 2: Cox's Optics or the Vademecum. Indispendable.

Para 3: Sticking witb your example, a 90/4 is a comparatively easy design (Cooke Triplet derivative -- or with the last model, I think, an actual triplet) BUT making a faster lens is always disproportionately harder. The original 90 Summicron was soft; the second version (which I have) was very good; and aspherics are even better. But how much do you want to pay? And what effect do you like best? I own three 90s: Summicron (last version pre-aspheric), Apo-Lanthar (current/recent Voigtländer) and Thambar (soft focus, uncoated, 1930s). My favourite is the Thambar.

Too much depends on specific designs and dates of design (later lenses are almost invariably better for a given speed) to make generalizations, which is why you need a book on lens design before you start looking at Leica lens design.

Hope this helps,

Cheers,

Roger
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Last edited by Roger Hicks : 09-10-2008 at 13:55.
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Old 09-10-2008   #9
Michiel Fokkema
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnastovall View Post
Just buy a copy of Puts "Leica Lens Compendium" not everything is on the web.
Actually that was on the web for the last couple of years.
At this moment it is not, but the website promises to get it back soon.

Cheers,
Michiel Fokkema
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Old 09-10-2008   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pitxu View Post
You offered up a list of lens info, freely, then complain about lack of remuneration?

Send the OP the bill. Or delete the post if it bothers you that much.
Dear Richard,

As you say, I offered it freely.

I do not recall complaining about lack of remuneration; I merely suggested that a book, or information that someone has been paid for, may be more reliable. People are used to rubbish on the internet. Anyone who published books that were as unreliable as the internet would soon go out of business -- or at least, would not use the same author again.

You may also care to reflect on which of us has attempted to answer the original question, and which of us has merely indulged in yet another personal attack.

Which of us should delete his posts?

Cheers,

Roger
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Old 09-10-2008   #11
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I'm half your guys' age, therefore you KNOW I'm looking for the Generation-X, Cliff Notes version of this information

I don't need a sacred tome. I just want to understand what sort of element designs these lenses have and its effect on their contrast/flare/out of focus characteristics. I was perhaps too vague in my initial posting.

I'm more interested in modern-ish (1950s +) Leica lenses since I'm not a collector and I plan on using the lenses to make technically accurate shots rather than creative 1930s glamour blur shots.

I have a fairly positive view of the information hidden away on the internet compared to my elder peers who remember sitting down and flipping through physical books. Forums like these are a godsend when people just let the info flow freely rather than to gruffly suggest that the internet is not to be trusted and that I must pay money to some entity and sit down with a book in order to learn anything.

I live in Generation Right-Now, and love being spoon fed information. You will be happy to know that I reserve rainy days for visits to both of my public libraries, where I pore over old photography books, which occasionally do have some excellent information hidden away inside of them.

Thanks for any URLs.

I just read Stephen's materials on Cameraquest. It covers most of what I was looking for.

As an aside, the primary goal of these 50 and 90mm lenses is to find ones that are sharp, but also have a layering effect. I was quite moved by a lecture given in person by Sam Abell last year as well as the photos of James Nachtwey when I watched the documentary War Photographer. It's this technical sharpness with a quality of layering I'm seeking in these lenses in order to sort of do nonverbal storytelling with the camera.

Some of the lenses I have already stand up to this goal. I am hoping to figure out if I do or do not need to keep saving up for some Leica lenses. Obviously I do not NEED to do anything, but you guys get what I mean
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Old 09-10-2008   #12
ferider
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Google for

Leica M-Lenses, Their soul and secrets, by Erwin Puts (2002).

You'll be able to download this in PDF. Not complete, but great info if you are looking for a Leica lens.

If you want a real sharp 50, f2 or faster, your only choices for less than US 1000 are Planar, Hexanon, Summicron or CV Nokton.

Best,

Roland.
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Old 09-10-2008   #13
luketrash
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Thanks much! Here's that direct link to the pdf:

http://en.leica-camera.com/assets/fi...=file_1762.pdf

I've saved it and will give it a once over.
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Old 09-10-2008   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luketrash View Post
I don't need a sacred tome. I just want to understand what sort of element designs these lenses have and its effect on their contrast/flare/out of focus characteristics.
Perhaps you do need a sacred tome. Actually understanding how lens designs work is not easy. I know lens designers who would not pretend to know how layout affects out of focus characteristics, even after adding in glass types, glass thickness and curves.

Saying, 'oh, yeah, right, Sonnar-type' tells you a modest amount about contrast and flare (probably 3-group, could be 4-group) but the variations between different Sonnars of different vintages is very significant; and the lens designers themselves freely admit that the 'signature' of a lens can only be seen after you've built it. Variations in symmetrical derivatives are even greater.

In other words, unless you are prepared to put a reasonable amount of effort into learning the history of lens design, whether on-line or in books and other sources, you run the risk of not learning anything at all -- though you may be able to kid yourself that you have.

Sorry if that makes me a condescending old f*art, but I fear you may be wasting your time unless you look at some real books (or CDs, in the case of the Vademecum) or go rather deeper than the average web-site. There may well be sites that do this; but you will have to search for them, and devote some time or effort or both to understanding them.

Cheers,

R.
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Last edited by Roger Hicks : 09-10-2008 at 14:13.
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Old 09-10-2008   #15
MikeL
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Pitxu, it's like many applications you come across these days:
Plenty of good information, but poorly implemented interface.
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Old 09-10-2008   #16
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Things have been peaceful around here for a while. Let's just keep it that way.

/T
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Old 09-10-2008   #17
Roger Hicks
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Quote:
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How do you get away with such behaviour?
Dear Richard,

Possibly because I make positive contributions as well, based on a modest degree of technical knowledge and experience.

Possibly also because not everyone places the worst possible constructions on what I write.

Maybe it's time for both of us to hit the 'ignore' button.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 09-10-2008   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luketrash View Post
but I'm looking for something contrasty and cutting sharp wide open as my main 50mm.
i would recommend the 50/2 m-hexanon. the price/performance ratio on that sucker is exceptional makes a good lens carry all around. of course there is the summicron and zeiss planar. i am personally keen on getting another 50..possibly the zeiss sonnar for a different look but it will have to wait.
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Old 09-11-2008   #19
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I thought I'd swing by again and mention that the .pdf file mentioned above was exactly what I was looking for.

Thanks!
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