They were considered the best lenses from the first half of the last century. The summarit, summarex, summar, summitar, elmarit, elmar …. unforgettable names for lenses that each guaranteed the impeccable quality of its makers Ernst Leitz and Max Berek. Today we review a summitar F2 / 50 mm that will look out of place on a modern digital camera, but with an adapter surpasses many modern lens in terms of sharpness and color rendering.
The summitar was produced between 1939 and 1953 and has been modified over the years (coated from 1946, first 10, then 6 aperture blades). As with other Leica screw mount lenses (M39), these lenses can be extended or better collapsed. Half the size can be ‘stored’ in the camera to keep things portable. This particular lens is dated from 1951 and it is considered by many as an optically and mechanically great performer (see also Ken Rockwell’s review). Its central sharpness is extraordinary. We put it to the test.
With an K&F Concept M39-NEX adapter we attached the lens to a modern Sony A7III and went out with the odd looking couple. Silver on black. Focusing is done by means of the front ring that is operated with a small protruding button that also serves to lock the lens. The aperture can be set continuously without clicks from F2 to F16.
Be careful not to retract the lens on a digital camera where the sensor is close to the lens mount. The rings work smoothly and it is wonderful to work with this oldie. The camera controls the shutter speeds and the best part is done manually. What is striking are the unexpectedly high sharpness and contrast of this lens, especially considering its age. But I was also lucky with a haze-, fungus- and scratch-free lens. Those are the things that you should pay attention to when buying (on eBay, prices vary around Euro 400), although these lenses can be easily cleaned by a specialist. They certainly deserve that!
See also my review of the Leica III with the Summitar!
More Summitar? Read the extended review of Ken Rockwell.