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Introduction

Leica's Summicron design dates back to 1953 and replaced the previous generation Summitar design. Over the years, Leica has redesigned the wildly popular Summicron a few times - this a review for the second type (often called Type 2 or Rigid) Summicron. The lens was manufactured in Leica M bayonet mount as well as M39 LTM mount, which is fairly rare. Leica actually manufactured the Type 2 Summicron in two variants - the regular one as well as closed focus version (or dual range), which had an identical optical formula, but was capable of focusing down to 47cm instead of 1m for the regular version. The Type 2 Summicron was manufactured from 1953 to 1968, eventually replaced by Type 3 design. Used copied of this lens are commonly available, but often are in a below average condition, with coating and element scratches. A copy in an excellent condition typically sells for ~US$700-800 on used markets.

The optical construction of the lens consists of 7 elements in 4 groups. The build quality is as good as any other Leica lens, that is a fully metal barrel, with metal focusing and aperture rings. The lens weighs 340g (0.74l)b. The Type 2 Summicron was manufactured exclusively in Germany at the Leica's Solms factory. As mentioned, the lens has the minimum focusing distance of 1m (3.2ft). The focusing ring has a focus lock, which allows you to lock the lens in the infinity position. The aperture ring moves from f/2 to f/16 in one full f-stop increments. The lens accepts 39mm screw-in type filters.

 

 

All Leica's Summicrons are fully compatible with Leica M mounts and hence can be used on both film as well as digital cameras, including M8 and M9. Within the scope of this review, the lens was tested on an APS-H type M8, giving us an EFOV of ~66mm.

 

Summary
Lens Composition 7 elements in 4 groups
Angular Field 46 degrees
Minimum Focus 1m/3.2ft
Focusing Action MF
f-stop Scale f/2-f/16, manual
Filter Size 39mm
Lens Hood 12585 (optional)
Weight 340g/0.74lb
Dimensions 51x48mm/2x1,88"
Lens Case N/A

 

Handling

Leica Summicron 50mm f/2 Rigid is the prime example of lens over-engineering - while Leica is well known and respected for high quality optics, precision engineering and sturdy construction, the company had to engineer a fairly complex mount in order to incorporate the regular as well as the DR variant, which has the closest rangefinder coupled focusing of any M lenses and relies on removable goggles to provide parallax corrected view at close ranges. This resulted in a fairly large and heavy for the Leica world lens - the Rigid Summicron is actually the largest in the Summicron 50mm family. Of course, largest is a relative term, particularly if you compare this lens to say Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.1 or your average 50mm SLR lens. When mounted on M8, Summicronn Rigid balances quite well, although the camera/lens combo is not as compact  as say with the latest generation Summicron 50mm or the even smaller C Summicron 40/2 (again, we're talking in relative terms terms here). The lens blocks ~5% of the viewfinder's area when fully collapsed at infinity and ~6% when the lens is focused at MFD, but in either case, it does not encroach into the 50mm frame-lines.

ISO 640, 1/20, f/2, 50mm (Leica M8)

As with all Leica lenses, modern or from days past, Rigid Summicron sports a dedicated DOF scale to help you preset the lens, but unlike modern lenses, the DOF scale has markings in meters only. Setting the lens to f/16 gives you a working focusing range from ~2.5m to the infinity, which effectively means you can use the camera as a point and shoot. The focusing ring rotates for ~150 degrees when going from the MFD of 1m to the infinity, giving enough prevision for accurate focusing. The lens has an infinity lock, which locks the focusing ring at the infinity mark, which I personally find useless and sometime even annoying it it requires fiddling around with the push down lock pin, which slows down focusing when you need to move between infinity and some other focusing distance and then back.

If you plan to use the Rigid Summicron on M8 or M9 digital cameras, you might want to consider coding the lens so that the camera's built in firmware can properly recognize it and apply in-camera correction for vignetting and color drift. Unfortunately, self-coding the lens with a sharpie market is not going to be an adequate solution, since the mount of the lens lacks a groove, so any markings will be smudged when screwing the lens on or off. On M9 you can try selecting one of the predefined lens options, although I have not tried that personally and so cannot really vouch for results. Alternatively, just deal with the artifacts in post-processing - a combination of Photoshop and Cornerfix would do the trick.

Since you're likely going to acquire the lens used, you need to think about whether you want to also buy a lens hood for it (hint, yes you do if you want to avoid flare). The original Leitz 12585 clip on hood can be found once in a while on eBay, but would set you back anywhere from $50 to $100. A good alternative is a generic 39mm vented screw-on lens hood, which can also be found for less than $10.