Old Lenses, Good Enough?

Old scooters are certainly good enough, and stylish, too!

Old scooters are certainly good enough, and stylish, too!

Ok, second post about my experiences with the Leica M9. As seems to be the case with all high-resolution digital cameras (and the Leica M9 can surely be counted among them, if not for it’s 18 MPix then of course for the lack of an anti-aliasing filter in front of the sensor), it is very demanding of the lenses you use. For example, the Voigtländer Color Skopar 35 mm f/2.5 that I used with great success on the Leica MP (down to the resolution a Kodak Ektar provides) seems somehow limited in resolution on the M9’s sensor. Granted, this is pixel-peeping, but when you get down into the files at 100%, the details turn pointilist. For example, leaves on a tree in a landscape scene look like small brushstrokes of an arbitrary form. And mind you, we’re not yet at a level here to see JPEG artifacts. This effect is visible in the RAW files as well and interestingly it is evenly distributed over the image area.
But there was a more serious gap in my M lens lineup: I had no 50 mm lens I could use on the M9. The Voigtländer Heliar 50 mm f/3.5 that I have would resolve enough detail, but it has the problem of being a retractable lens. The M9 user manual allows NO retractable lenses apart from the two current Elmars (that don’t protrude (much) into the camera body when pushed back) and I know I would someday forget this if I mounted it in the extended position. Finally I’m a bit suspicious about the long-term parallelity of lens and sensor in such a lens.
Even in Germany, at the source, so to speak, Leica M lenses are in hot demand recently, and scarce. So I was lucky to find a Summicron M 50 mm f/2.0 in used, but impeccable condition at Meister Camera in Hamburg yesterday.
Cocoa and cream, mhmmm!

Cocoa and cream, mhmmm!

I chose it over the Summarit for the creamy bo’keh. The Summarit has corner-intense diffusion circles that swirl around the image center. Interesting, but after a while it’s only a distracting gimmick. On the other hand, out-of-focus areas depicted by the 50 mm Summicron are so creamy, Clapton would be tempted to reunite his band. 😉
The Summicron’s resolution is certainly up to the demands of the M9’s sensor, but you’ll have to nail the focus. Yesterday, I did a lot of snapshots of my daughter that looked interesting on the camera’s rear display. A lot of them had to be relegated to lesser use after I examied them on the computer. I’m speaking of portraits or medium distance scenes at f/2.0 or f/2.8. Here’s one that turned out to sharp on her eyelashes.
Binning Polly Pocket dolls with a friend

Binning Polly Pocket dolls with a friend

So, a new lens always teaches you something new. Even if you’ve had it before.

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