Leica 5cm f/1.5 Summarit Black & White Film Review

Wide Aperture Lenses

F-stop of 1.5 is considered to be a large aperture. A large aperture means that the lens produces a shallow depth of field. Shallow focus is an often used technique that’s usually reserved for the background or foreground, not the subject itself. But the Leica 5cm f/1.5 Summarit has a blur that quite literally softens the subject. While most photographers may prefer crisp and clear images,  the effect was a dreamy glow that gave them ethereal nature. Shadows and the minute imperfections on a person’s face can be easily subdued with warm and softer tones.

leica 5cm f/1.5 summarit + leica m3 + Black and white film

Three Reasons

There are three reasons you might want a Leica 5cm f/1.5 Summarit – faster shutter speeds, a tighter depth of field, and an affordable price. At the widest aperture, images are not sharp, but really hit the optimum at f/4, where sharpness across the frame comes into fine detail. The aperture of f/2 works extremely well for portraits.

leica 5cm f/1.5 summarit + leica m3 + Black and white film

Why It Is Not Popular

Image quality is very good considering the price, and with the aperture at f/1.5, even though the image does suffer from some softness. This is obviously a cheaper lens offering, but the reason why it is not popular is that it has a “bad” bokeh. Good bokeh is smooth and pleasing, whereas bad bokeh produces a jagged and discordant effect. Well, unfortunately, each lens has its very own physical characteristics. Leica 50mm Summilux and Noctilux lens have superb bokeh, this old Summarit doesn’t. Especially wide open, its bokeh is highly intrusive and distracting. Of course,one of the solutions is to avoid trees and lights in the background.

It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.

leica 5cm f/1.5 summarit + leica m3 + Black and white film
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Leica Elmar 50mm f/3.5 With Black & Bhite Films Review

Leica 5cm 3.5 Elmar with black & white film

The Birth of Standard lens

The Ur-Leica of 1914 is the prototype for the first line of cameras that used film in the 24 x 36mm format. It is known that Barnack built at least three UR Leicas and experimented with lenses, the retractable Mikro-Summar 42mm f/4.5.

The technical definition of a standard lens is one whose focal length roughly matches the diagonal or the film. For a standard 24 x 36mm format camera this gives a focal length of around 43mm. In reality, the actual focal length designed by Ernst Arbeit seems to be closer to 43mm.

Max Berek calculated the Elmax 50mm f/3.5 lens for the Ur-Leica, with “Elmax” being an abbreviation of “Ernst Leitz and MAX (Berek)”. In the production Leica I, the 42mm lens was replaced by the optically superior Elmax 50mm f/3.5.

Since then, 50mm has become the standard lens, although some companies do sell lenses which are closer to 43mm focal length.(Pentax 43mm f/1.9, Contax 45mm f/2)

Safe and Comfortable

I love the tiny collapsible 50mm Elmar f:3.5. I’m too shy to use a big lens for street photography. When there is so much light, I set the aperture at f5.6 – f8, Elmar 50mm makes me feel safe and comfortable. All I need is an ISO 400 film and I am ready for some serious streetwork.


This was one of the best Tessar-type lenses of the day, made of 4 elements in 4 groups, with some loss in the outer zones when used wide open. I find it is sharper than the Summar and Summitar by stopping down, even just a stop or two. But not only does Elmar f:3.5 take much sharper pictures. Contrast it is much better, too.  

All uncoated lenses have lower contrast and flares which were best for me on BW.

f22 Red Scale.

I’ve got several 3.5 Elmars smallest aperture is f/18. Only one is the last series with f:22, and the red scale.

On Digital Ms

The lens can be used on digital Ms with an L39-M adapter. But Collapsible Lenses Cause Sensor Dust. I use 3.5 Elmars all the time and have noticed more dust using them. I find the Leica M9 sensor seems to like collecting dust a little more than my DLSRs which have built-in automatic sensor cleaning . 

It would be possible that collapsing or uncollapsing the lens pumps air along with dust into the mount. I provided you do not collapse it when it is mounted on the digital M camera.

I’m not willing to clean my sensor more often knowing that I get non-collapsible lenses on Digital Ms. There’s another way, instead of worrying about digital sensor collecting dust, shift your energy to shooting film.

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I love Leica M3, It’s Just the Beginning

leica m3 + summicron 35mm f2 asph

I love Leica M3

Bruce Lee said this: “It is not daily increase but daily decrease, hack away the unessential. The closer to the source, the less wastage there is.”

This is LEICA’s first M camera. No Batteries, no Battery Chargers and no SD cards. No other frameline inside with 50mm lens.

My heart was beating fast when I got my first film cameras, a Leica m3.

I sold all of my DSLR camera. I love the Leica M3.

Just the Beginning

It is a 60-year old mechanical camera. For the dealer, this is the end of a beautiful friendship. For me, it’s just the beginning.

“A streetphotographer without a film camera is like a body without a soul. Ha, ha, ha.”

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