Leica Summarit 5cm f/1.5 Review – by Nic Coury

Nic Coury

Nic Coury is a photojournalist based in Monterey, Calif. He has had work published in Sports Illustrated, Cycle World and Bicycling magazines, and has shot commercial jobs for Specialized Bicycles, Ferrari and Bugatti. He also covers crime for a local newspaper. In his free time, he drinks too many espressos and wins mustache competitions.

The Summarit on my M240.

The Summarit on my M240.

One of the things I’ve always liked about the Nikon digital cameras is most all of the older F-mount lens meter and work well on the newer, prosumer and higher-end camera bodies and there is a whole world of old gem lenses from Nikon dating back to the 1960s.

When I picked up a Leica M240 recently, I wanted to shoot some of the older lenses from Leitz as a lot of it has a nice look to the images.

One of the lenses that got mixed reviews on internet forums is the 1950s-era Summarit, labeled as 5cm or 50mm and has a screw mount or M-mount depending on which version you find. Copies range from $300 to $1,200 on eBay. I had seen some very lovely portraits shot with it and many said it’s their go-to lens on the digital Ms for people photos.

Close-up of the focus and aperture rings.

Close-up of the focus and aperture rings.

I found a very clean and shaper copy labeled 5cm on an online forum for around $500 and according to the serial number on the front of the lens, it was produced in 1956. It’s a screw mount version and the seller included M-mount adapter.

In the camera, you can either set the lens detection to a 50mm f/1.4 pre-ASPH for better color rendition or I prefer to just leave it be and shoot it for an old lens look.

I have a 50mm Summacron, which is way sharper and contrast-y across the board, but at f/2, doesn’t blur the background as much as I like for portraits, which I shoot a lot of for various clients.

The Summarit (left) and a 50mm Summacron Vers. 5.

The Summarit (left) and a 50mm Summacron Vers. 5.

The lens wide open is soft, but not out of focus. It has a sharpness similar to defocus-control portrait lens and produces a pleasing tone for skin, which is key for portrait work.

Handling, the lens is a bit cumbersome. The aperture ring goes low to high, left to right, which is reverse of the Summacron. The Summarit also has a lock for infinity focus, which I keep inadvertently locking into when using the focus tab.

Overall, the Summarit is a cool lens that works best for portrait if shot in the right way. The out-of-focus areas are smooth and dreamlike.

Shot at f/1.5 with the camera set to lens detection for a 50mm f/1.4 pre-ASPH.

Shot at f/1.5 with the camera set to lens detection for a 50mm f/1.4 pre-ASPH.

Shot at f/1.5 with nothing set in lens detection.

Shot at f/1.5 with nothing set in lens detection.

By f/4, the lens is fairly sharp with decent color rendition.

By f/4, the lens is fairly sharp with decent color rendition.

By f/11, everything is sharp and has nice contrast.

By f/11, everything is sharp and has nice contrast.

Shot at f/5.6. The lens has a very old look to it with colors and lack of contrast, which gives a nice, softer look.

Shot at f/5.6. The lens has a very old look to it with colors and lack of contrast, which gives a nice, softer look.

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