Lens review

Leica Summicron-M 50 mm f/2.0

27 October 2009
Szymon Starczewski

3. Build quality

As far as comparing Summicron-M 50 mm to optics available for DSLRs, it’s quite difficult. First of all, no full-frame and digital system currently has in their regular offer a lens of 50 mm focal length and f/2.0 brightness. If so, we’re dealing with cheap lenses of 1.8/50 class, in whose body there’s plastic everywhere. Wanting to find metal constructions of parameters similar to Leica, we need to go back in time or compare products as original as untypical as fixed focal lengths of Pentax. This table shows the comparison of Summicron to old and metal lenses like Nikkor S 50 mm f/2.0 or Olympus F. Zuiko 50 mm f/1.8, and contemporary Pentax 43 mm f/1.9. You notice one thing right away, as you take the lens any of the M series lenses, i.e. its hefty weight. Leica’s lenses seem armored – they’re really small grenades – heavy, compact, solid. Only the finest metal and solid blocks of polished glass. The combination of this build quality, weight, classical looks and omnipresent metal makes a really good impression.

Leica Summicron-M 50 starts with a metal bayonet of classic shape for the M mount. Going further we find depth of field markers. Even higher there’s a convenient and corrugated manual focusing ring, which works with no reservations. You operate it fluidly and with appropriate resistance in the whole scale. On the ring there’s a distance scale expressed in meters and feet. What’s worth noticing is the minimum focusing distance of as much as 0.7 meter. This is typical of rangefinder optics in which the rear lens is very close to the large sensor. Constructions of competitors of 50 mm class designed for DSLRs have the minimum focusing distance of about 0.4 meter.

Leica Summicron-M 50 mm f/2.0 - Build quality

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - advertisement - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Then , there’s an aperture ring. It works in 0.5 EV steps and again it’s hard to blame it for inconvenience. Changing the aperture is fluid and also resistant enough not to let us do it accidentally. The lens ends with a non-rotating filter thread of E39 diameter.

The image of how small the tested Summicron is give the pictures below, in which it’s standing between Leica 2/28 and Nikkor 1.8/50 and then between Nikkor 1.8/50 and Leica 1.4/50.

Leica Summicron-M 50 mm f/2.0 - Build quality

Leica Summicron-M 50 mm f/2.0 - Build quality

As far as the internal construction is concerned, we have 6 lenses set in 4 groups here. It’s not a very complicated instrument, as the old Nikkor S 50 mm f/2.0 and Pentax 43 mm f/1.9 have as many as 7 elements. According to the manufacturers claims, the arrangement of lenses is so well-designed that Leica, while modernizing the lens, didn’t decide to replace the old arrangement of the 70s of 20th century with a construction based on aspherical elements, they only changed the technology of producing the glass and their optical features. Inside Summicron there’s also a circular diaphragm of 8 blades that can be closed down to f/16.

Leica Summicron-M 50 mm f/2.0 - Build quality

A buyer can choose between two versions of the lens, available in black and silver. Furthermore, they get both caps and a solid case of soft leather.

Leica Summicron-M 50 mm f/2.0 - Build quality