Ever since investing some of my hard earned money in some Leica gear, I of course started researching good lenses for the system. Knowing that native Leica lenses are sublime, they are also wickedly expensive, so I tried to widen my horizon and look beyond the german wonders.
One name kept popping up when researching fast fifties. “The Japanese Summilux!” – The Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM.
Introduced in 1957 (type 1) and discontinued in 1972 (type 2), the 50/1.4 LTM was part of Canons rangefinder line until they started investing into SLR systems. The Serial number of the type 2 starts at just around 29.700.
The lens consists of 6 elements in 4 groups. This is true whether you buy a Type 1 or Type 2.
Close focus ability is limited to 1m. This is true for most of the older rangerfinder lenses.
I found a type 2 in near mint condition from Japan on eBay. It cost me $299.
When it arrived it took my breath away! – Such a gorgeous piece of gear! The seller did not lie. There was not even signs of use on the external barrel. Incredible! The glass itself was spotless. I got lucky I think, but normally in this price range you get great condition versions.
It has an infinity lock which can easily be removed if it doesn’t suit your tastes. The lens is heavy! Almost 250g – Metal and glass – ALL the way.
Aperture clicks to the firm side, but mine has actually loosened considerably with use. Same can be said about the focus ring. A bit stiff in the beginning, now smooth as butter!
The lens mount is the Leica 39mm screw mount. I bought a small ringadapter that makes it an m-mount lens. This mounts totally rangefinder coupled onto my M8 and M9.
On the Fujifilm X-series I use the Kipon Helicoid adapter which allows me to focus closer than 1 m. This is a GREAT invention and I really advise you to check it out if you use M-Mount rangefinder lenses on your Fujifilm X-series setup.
HOLY SHARPNESS BATMAN! – This lens renders in such an amazing way. The nickname certainly holds true. I have never used vintage lenses other than Zeiss and Leica that keep this kind of sharpness wide open. Not like the modern day aspherical lens, but it has PLENTY of sharpness when shot at f/1.4! – It really delivers great sharpness.
Image contrast is also leagues ahead of any other 1950’s/1960’s lens in this price range. It actually has some microcontrast when given the right light. It retains great shadow detail, and delivers that great smooth vintage lens look.
Bokeh is nice and clean wide open. Not busy. Well defined, yes, but not busy. You actually get a little bit of swirly bokeh which I’m a HUGE fan of!! (Helios 44m-4 58mm f/2 anyone?) Stepped down to f/5.6 you get some really funky specular highlights in the OOF areas because of the shapes of the aperture blades. It almost gives a star shaped appearance. Whether you like this or not, is up to you. I don’t like it all too much.
I have been using this lens almost non-stop since I purchased it 6 weeks ago. On the M9 its a 50mm, on the M8 its a 65mm and on the Fujifilm X-bodies it equals a 75mm. Shooting style of course differs accordingly, but I’ve gotten pretty used to this by now.
Samples are a little bit of everything. I processed them to my liking in Lightroom 6. This of course limits the samples to show what I use this lens for and what I pull from it. If you are looking for full resolution RAW files to pixel peep at, they can probably be found elsewhere 😉
On Fujifilm X-Series
On Leica M9
This lens is the best vintage lens I have ever mounted onto my cameras. Its sharp, it has character, it has oldschool swirly yet nice bokeh, its built like a brick, it looks amazing, and it costs 1/10th the price of a Leica 50mm Summilux.
It is a no-brainer for me to recommend this lens to anyone looking to add a new 50mm vintage lens to their setup.