I’d been wanting to use some Leica glass on my X-Pro1 for a long time, but it doesn’t come cheap so I kept putting it off. While I waited for it’s price to drop, I bought a few cameras for youtube as I am planning to start my own channel quite soon. Luckily I did not have to wait for long as I found a Summicron 50mm lens on eBay that went relatively cheaply so I picked it up, along with both a 3rd party and the genuine Fujifilm Leica M adapter. For those that don’t know, Leica name their lenses based on the maximum aperture, so a Summicron is an f/2.0 lens. The lens I managed to get was one from the mid 80’s, pre-asph. Despite the lens being around 25 years old, and although the lens design changed in 1994, the optical design has stayed the same until this day, and only recently have Leica introduced a newer aspherical design (which is a cool £5400!). You can still buy this same non-aspherical version new for the basement price of £1550. The one I had was in absolute mint condition and relatively, a bargain!
FUJIFILM FinePix X100 (23mm, f/4, 1/140 sec, ISO400)
The Summicron is the image of sexiness on the front of the X-Pro1! It just looks fantastic doesn’t it?! Retro cool! 🙂
As soon as you hold the lens you can feel the quality. I can see why some Leica shooters might think that the Fujinon lenses are “too light” – though when carrying them around in my bag all day I’d have to disagree! It’s a very solid heavy feeling lens, and despite the age, everything on it still has a silky smooth feel to it. It’s simply a beautiful piece of engineering and you can’t help but admire it for that alone.
I was expecting the manual focus to be a real pain, but one of the great things about this Summicron is the tab on the focus ring that your finger falls into below the lens and makes adjusting the focus super quick. I thought I’d be forever zooming in and out with the manual focus aid on the X-Pro1, but with the high quality high-resolution screens on the X-Pro1 it is surprisingly easy to manual focus and get it right using the normal EVF/rear LCD view without having to resort to the MF zoom aid.
Close up focus is a breeze and you get a super shallow depth of field with the combined f/2.0 aperture and 75mm equivalent focal length. Click on any of the images here to get a larger version.
The lens works well on the X-Pro1 and with the X-Pro1 menu option you can set the correct focal length of the lens to show up in the EXIF data – although as with all manual lenses, you don’t get any information on the aperture, so you have to note it down if you want to remember the settings. With the official Fujifilm Leica M-mount you can define specific settings for the lens, distortion, vignette control etc to be applied to the JPEGs as well.
Images are sharp with nice contrast from the Summicron. However, where the Fujinon 60mm macro has beautifully smooth bokeh even under difficult conditions, the Summicron does suffer from rather fussy bokeh under the wrong circumstances. As you see below, the leaves in the background are not all that smooth and there are some strange things going on in the second image with the highlights on the right side of the frame. This doesn’t happen all the time and is very much dependent on the background, you do have to be aware of it and be careful where you shoot to get the best out of the lens.
With the X-Pro1 set to Aperture priority mode (basically by default of having a manual aperture lens) you don’t need to worry about settings things up manually, you select the aperture on the lens and the camera will select the right shutter speed and ISO is you have that set to auto. You don’t really even need to open it up wide to focus as the auto-gain on the EVF/LCD keeps the image bright enough to see under normal lighting, although opening up the lens to get pin-point accurate focusing before closing it down to take the shot is an advantage.
The image colour is different between the two lenses, the Summicron has a much warmer feel to the image where the Fujinon is more realistic – neither is right or wrong, it just depends on what you prefer, and can always be adjusted in a matter of seconds in post in these days of digital photography.
I did some side-by-side tests with the native Fujinon 60mm macro lens as this was the closest to the 50mm. I’m afraid that I messed up some of the comparisons so I’ve only got the one scene below to show you the differences, and I sold the lens before I had chance to do more (I’ll explain to you why I sold it later).
I’ve taken each image from f/2.8 (I ignored wide open as they both start off at different points) and run through to f/11. The focus point is on the ‘vine’ by the ear, and in this case I used the magnified image on the Summicron to make sure I got it spot on. The best way to view the images is to click on them and load the matching pair into two tabs on your browser so you can flip between the two, but feel free to download them and look at them on your computer too. There are slight variances in the images as the two lenses have different focal lengths and I stood in the same spot for consistency.
Here are the 100% side-by-side views to make it easy for you to see the differences.
To my eyes, and my surprise, the Fujinon is the sharper of the two. At f/2.8-f/4 they are pretty evenly matched, but by f/8 the Fujinon is way ahead and by f/11 there is really quite a difference. That isn’t missed focus on the Summicron – I was very particular and I’ve had a good look over the whole frame at 100% and it’s consistent across the frame.
Leica lovers don’t hate me here! I just didn’t see that one coming given Leica’s reputation for excellence, and especially given the fact that I paid nearly twice as much for a 25-year-old lens than I did the Fujinon new. I’m not saying that the Summicron is a bad lens, what it does show though is just how damn good a job Fuji have done with the 60mm macro lens. It’s widely praised as super sharp, but this goes to show how good it really is when compared side-by-side with a lens as legendary as the Leica 50mm Summicron. The performance is probably a combination of the pure optical brilliance of the Fujinon and the fact that is has been designed to work specifically with the X-Pro1, whereas the Summicron was designed to work with the old Leica film cameras, even though many people still use it today with their digital cameras.
I bought the Summicron more out of curiosity than need, and would decide whether to keep it depending on performance. Whilst manual focusing was a very pleasant experience and a lot easier than I expected, the optical performance across the board wasn’t as good as the Fujinon. Combine that with not having a full set of EXIF data, having to open the lens to focus then stop it down to shoot, the rather fussy bokeh, and the fact that using the 60mm macro just makes more sense given that it is a native lens means that I decided not to keep the Summicron. The best part here being that not only did I have the pleasure of shooting with a beautiful piece of glass, I managed to sell it for more than I paid for it! 🙂