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Lens characteristics (Leica vs Zeiss)

  
 
Push1stop
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Lens characteristics (Leica vs Zeiss)


I haven't really come across a comprehensive list where people can seem to agree on the various flavors of Leica and Zeiss ZM glass characteristics such as Summilux 50 vs Summicron 50 vs Zeiss 50 f/2 Planar (and all the extra stuff like Aspherical and coatings)
Other than the obvious 1.4 aperture and or aperture blades, what have you been able to actually say is an undeniable trait of each class of lens be it from voigtlander, leica, zeiss, or whatever other M mount lenses out there?
I'd suspect some of you are so in tuned with your lens you can describe every minute detail/characteristic you can squeeze out of it.



Nov 17, 2023 at 12:10 AM
madNbad
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Lens characteristics (Leica vs Zeiss)


I only use film and at this point, the lenses from Voigtlander are all I need. Having said that, over the years I’ve owned lenses from Leica and Zeiss. Leica lenses have some of the best resolution and handling of the three. For many years my only lens was a 35 Summicron paired with a M6 TTL Millennium. It was a great combination, fast to focus and always great results. The new version of the Summicron is about $3500 usd. If I had plenty of walking around money or was involved in a pursuit that required great resolution for every exposure, it would be my first choice. I have also owned a Zeiss 35 2.8 Biogon. There really is a Zeiss “pop” to the images. Zeiss offers one third stops, which is nice but can be annoying at times and instead of a focusing tab, there’s a little nub that works surprisingly well. Some Zeiss lenses suffer from loosening causing a wobble in the focusing. Overall, nice lenses at about half the price of Leica glass. Good coating, handling and consistently good images. Zeiss has the ZM on the back burner for a while, so mostly older designs. Out of the same Cosina factory there are the Voigtlander lenses that are innovative enough to scare Leica into making changes. The biggest being with the introduction of the updated Ultron line, minimum focus went from .7 to .5 meters to take advantage of users adapting lenses to a variety of digital cameras. If you take notice, Leica has been releasing improved models with a closer focusing distance. The lenses are among the most affordable M mount offerings. The coatings are good, handling is close to Leica but will show wear much more quickly than a more expensive lens. The market has expanded greatly over the last several years with lens makers in China offering some really good choices. The nice thing about this forum is, you can find a comparison on just about any lens you can think of.


Nov 17, 2023 at 01:53 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Lens characteristics (Leica vs Zeiss)


Push1stop wrote:
I haven't really come across a comprehensive list where people can seem to agree on the various flavors of Leica and Zeiss ZM glass characteristics such as Summilux 50 vs Summicron 50 vs Zeiss 50 f/2 Planar (and all the extra stuff like Aspherical and coatings)
Other than the obvious 1.4 aperture and or aperture blades, what have you been able to actually say is an undeniable trait of each class of lens be it from voigtlander, leica, zeiss, or whatever other M mount lenses out there?
I'd suspect some of you are so in tuned with your lens you can describe
...Show more

Dig the question.

I think that to start to understand the "traits" of optics, one has to start to study the optical design of lenses ... biogon, double gauss, aspheric (vs. spheric), etc. As the lenses utilize different concepts in design, the traits reveal themselves accordingly. This is kind of a question that is almost the introduction to a course in optical design. While not specific to the M mount lenses, I recall a shootout to find the "best" 28mm lens. What I learned from that one was that there is always some form of quid pro quo involved, and it depends if you want to amplify, attenuate or moderate a give set of traits, as to how it gets approached.

I'm not the most versed person to speak to it from a "technically" correct, basis ... but, I have learned that with optics there is almost always a quid pro quo involved. Those can reveal themselves in the form of vignetting, distortion (pincushion / barrel / mustache), CA / SA, nervous bokeh, onion rings, soap bubbles, flare, etc.

So, on one hand you have the traits of aberrations.

On the other hand you have the traits of acutance and resolution. Different approaches in design can render those centrally oriented, requiring more stopping down to get to your edges / corners, with little or simple distortion Other lens designs will use an aspherical design and achieve the placement of the acutance / resolution more broadly ... but, at the expense of the distortion or field curvature to become greater, or being mustache / complex oriented.

Other lenses will have traits that are heavily vignetted, and some that are less so.

When I think of lenses, I often think of "choose your poison", as they all have attributes, characteristics that live in the world of quid pro quo as designs work one direction or the other on the sliding scale of optics.

I suspect that there are others who can better "classify" the categories of optical designs ... and then, the corresponding traits that extend from such designs, but that is one heck of a good question. But, it isn't going to be a quick / simple answer, as the intricacies of optical design are ... well, intricate.

I think if one is to break down the attributes, and then present those attributes ... you can start to see what they bring to the equation. Kind of like understanding how sweets / sours / salts / bitter / spice / heat can be arranged in combinations to influence taste for cooking and the myriad of combinations that can be applied to yield different outputs.

What is spherical vs. aspherical?
What is resolution vs. acutance?
What is CA vs. SA?
What is field curvature?
What is distortion?
What is vignetting?

As I mentioned, it is a really good question, and I'm looking forward to how others will bring their insights to the table. I'd just be careful to understand that optical design is both a complex and nuanced endeavor that is rooted in the elements ... the design combinations of which are essentially endless. This moreover than being able to say all Summicrons exhibit these traits. For example, my 35 Summicron ASPH and my 40 Summicron exhibit very different traits. While they do share the same speed to get the moniker of Cron, they have different design approaches, and thus different traits.

Again, really good question ... looking forward to what others can offer.



Nov 17, 2023 at 04:02 AM
BastianK
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Lens characteristics (Leica vs Zeiss)


Not a single manufacturer has a specific look across all their lenses, some try to have a somewhat matching look across a specific line though, especially if we are talking cine lenses.
The better Zeiss Loxia lenses were designed as industrial lenses, absolutely no one cares about a specific look/bokeh rendering there, we can just be happy it ended up being somewhat appealing.
Some lenses also have been in production for decades (Canon 135mm 2.0 L USM comes to mind) and I am sure the ones produced in 1991 don't create the exact same look as those produced in 2010.

That being said, not all manufacturers go for the same design criteria.

What stood out to me:
Samyang cares a lot about correcting Coma - I was surprised how bad astigmatism was in their f/1.2 lenses though
Canon cares a lot about resolution and contrast - not always good news for bokeh
Cosina cares about high contrast and flare resistance - not so much about field curvature
Nikon, I am surprised about the bad Coma correction in some of their latest Z lenses
Leica, I am surprised how bad off center sharpness is in many of their fast lenses
Laowa lenses often have complex floating elements designs leading to very good performance at closer distances
Miyazaki cares a lot about correcting astigmatism

For every manufacturer I can also name you several outliers though, so there is no clear line here, really.
If anyone can tell me how the 90mm 2.2 Thambar resembles the treats of a 50mm 2.0 Apo Summicron I am all ears.

These design criteria can also change over time.
Nikon's DSLR AF-S f/1.4 primes had absolutely awful loCA correction, just awful, the latest Z lenses are definitely better.
Now they decided to release a 135mm 1.8 with very little optical vignetting (together with the Zf the smartest thing Nikon did since the release of the D3/D700 imho),
remains to be seen whether they implement that design philosophy in future lens designs.



Nov 17, 2023 at 04:25 AM
Nomads
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Lens characteristics (Leica vs Zeiss)


It depends if you shoot film or digital. On digital I found the 50 Planar very rough on color. Too much contrast and a sharpness that wasn’t nice especially on skin.

The 50 Summicron is very gentle. This is my lens

The 50 APO is optically perfect and the 50f1.5 Nokton is warm and nice. Softish on the M10R but closed down is sharp enough.



Nov 17, 2023 at 05:59 AM
 


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retrofocus
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Lens characteristics (Leica vs Zeiss)


From my experience working with Leica and Voigtlander M and LTM lenses, the Voigtlander ones have in general a more yellowish/warmer look which I actually prefer over the bit colder/blueish look in Leica glass. Both can be corrected in PP easily - not a biggie. Just comparing how the images look like directly from camera.

Voigtlander lenses - especially a bit older ones - tend to have more oval bokeh shapes especially towards the corners of the frame. The CV 35/1.2 II is a very good example here. I find this look quite pleasing, too.

Quality-wise, I had a few Voigtlander lenses where the black color came off very easily from the lens housing revealing the metal underneath. And not by severe usage! My two lenses affected by this are the CV 35/1.2 II and the CV 21/1.8 M-lenses. Later Cosina seems to have improved the black paint coating since I don't see it with newer lenses I have like the CV 28/2.0.

The only experience I had with ZM lenses is with a borrowed Zeiss 50/1.5 lens. It was wide open and even at f/2.0 much softer compared to my Leica Summicron 50/2.0 (Vers. V). The softer look might work better for portraits - but I liked the look of the Leica lens better. Simply due to lack of good buying opportunities I never vested into other ZM lenses and went often with Voigtlander or Leica M mount lenses instead.

There are now also quite a few new players in the game for M-lenses. Just naming 7Artisans and TTArtisan as the two biggest Chinese contenders here. I own one TTArtisan lens I really like which is the 11/2.8 fisheye lens. Bought it because no other fisheye for Leica M cameras exist made by Leica, Cosina, or Zeiss. I am amazed about the rigid built style of this lens and its performance. I have the Canon 8-15/4 L EF fisheye lens for my DSLR, and this much more expensive Canon lens is not better in image quality at 11 mm.



Nov 17, 2023 at 06:55 AM
Push1stop
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Lens characteristics (Leica vs Zeiss)


I wish there was someone trustworthy (and with the time) we could collectively send lenses of a given focal length to so that he/she could test and post photos from a range of lenses across whatever makers we could muster up in order to understand what each equivalent was able to produce as a base.. for instance
Summicron 35 (whatever versions we had on hand), Zeiss 35 f/2
Biogon t*, voigtlander 35 f/2 ultron & apo lanthar asph.

Id be interested to see if different focal lengths from makers resembled each other more so than being from the same maker and same speed i.e. having all summilux or summicron lenses



Nov 17, 2023 at 09:50 AM
Grenache
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Lens characteristics (Leica vs Zeiss)


I’ll second the cron 35 ASPH as being quite special. I wish either that it was compatible with Sony mirror less or that my brain was compatible with Rf cameras. I loved its rendering on the M9 when I had both, but I just couldn’t get my brain to mesh with Rf

I still have and love the 50 cron on Sony, and the Voigt 75/1.5 also has similar rendering in some ways.

I foolishly sold my lovely Leica R 50/2 and Contax 50/1.4 and 85/1.4 when times were tougher years ago. I greatly enjoyed the rendering of all three. This will sound an odd way to describe a rendering style, but the Leica cron 35 and 50 when shot between f/2 and f/4 render portrait distance subjects the way your memory renders scenes in your head. Detailed, saturated subjects and backgrounds that disappear gradually into a blur.

Sigh…
Jim



Nov 17, 2023 at 02:46 PM
CrazyLeicaFox
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Lens characteristics (Leica vs Zeiss)


Another factor to consider is the camera. Rangefinder vs. mirrorless, film vs. digital, even early digital like the M9 or 240 vs. newer like the M10 and M11. Some lenses will perform pretty much the same across camera types while others can have significant changes to bokeh, resolution, and color casts. For example, the ZM lineup was designed for film and their Ikon cameras, except the 35mm/1.4, which was released after the Ikons had ceased production and was meant to do well on digital.

What camera(s) are relevant to you for lens characteristics?



Nov 17, 2023 at 02:49 PM







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