15 January 2013

Digital rebirth for my vintage Leica lenses -- via Fujifilm X-E1 (Part 2): 50mm Summilux first version, 35mm Summilux ASPH and Summicron ASPH

While Fujifilm has provided some help to users of M-mount lenses by showing a list of compatible lenses for its M mount adapter used on the X-Pro1 and X-E1, many notable Leica lenses are not included. For example, in Part 1 the Noctilux 1.0 (1976) and 75mm Summilux-M (1980) are included in the list while the 135mm Tele-Elmar (1965) is not -- the earlier version, 135mm Elmar (1960), is nevertheless in the list.

In Part 2, I continue the test of compatibility with 3 more Leica lenses. The one included in the official compatibility list is the 35mm Summicron-M ASPH (1997), while the other 2 not on the list are the 35mm Summilux-M ASPH (1994) and the 50mm Summilux first version (1959).

On the left is Leica 35mm Summicron-M ASPH (titanium), in the centre mounted on the X-E1 is Leica 50mm Summilux (I), and on the right is Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH (titanium) with a customised hood from Contax (the original hood, unlike that of the titanium 35mm Summicron, is black plastic which I thought is not a worthy match of the titanium finish of the lens proper).

The first version of the 50mm Summilux was released in 1959 (with a serial number starting from 1640601), and had the shortest life span of any Leica lenses as it was soon replaced by a new redesign in the second version two years later (with a serial number starting at 1844001). My lens has a serial number 1661xxx, which was released in 1959 according to records. According to Erwin Puts, it has low overall contrast at full aperture, and "on-axis coarse detail is rendered with good clarity but with soft edges". In fact I found these characteristics make this lens one of my favourites for portraits because the low contrast and the mild degree of softness result in very pleasing and comfortable facial features and skin texture of the subjects pictured. The bokeh is also smooth and attractive. Overall this lens has that special "vintage Leica fingerprint".

Leica 50mm Summilux (I) at f/1.4, 1/30s, ISO 320

Leica 50mm Summilux (I) at f/4, 1/180s, ISO 200

100% crop (near centre)

100% crop (right lower corner)

It can be seen from the 100% crops that this 50mm Summilux of over 50 years of age is still performing well.

Leica 35mm Summicron at f/2, 1/30s, ISO 2500

100% crop

Leica 35mm Summicron-M at f/4,1/30s, ISO 1250

100% crop (click to enlarge to original size)

The 35mm Summicron-M ASPH needs no introduction. Fujifilm X-E1 can handle this lens very well. Its sensor and processing engine also show their power in the high ISO pictures above.

Leica 35mm Summilux-M at f/1.4, 1/30s, ISO 500

100% crop (click to enlarge to original size)

Leica 35mm Summilux-M at f/1.4. 1/40s, ISO 800

These lenses make the X-E1 all the more lovable.