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User Buyer's Guide:

Leica M Mount Lenses 

Lens Lineup    Fogging  Age,  Bargains   Sharpest & Most for Your $   


This is a  is a VERY opinionated USER'S and Identification Guide to Leica M Lenses.      For any opinion expressed here, you can undoubtedly find someone with the opposite view.   Discussed are most cosmetic versions,  changes in optical formula, and the general reputed optical performances.   This is a GUIDE  to help you find your OWN way in Leicadom, not a map to tell you where to go.   "Per van Hasbroeck" refers to Paul-Henry van Hasbroeck's  superb book Leica, A History illustrating every Model and Accessory.   If you read EVERY Leica book, you soon learn that experts often disagree.  Some say a particular lens was redesigned, another maintains it was not.  The strangest thing is that anyone gives a damn.  Welcome to the wonderful, wacky, strange world of Leica nuts. 


Introduced in 1953,  Leitz M lenses slowly underwent changes which generally represent  improved optical  performance combined with less expensive lens mounting and barrel finishing.    Lookout for small gains in optical performance that come with big price increases.    Sometimes new "improvements" aren't, which helps keep things interesting.  


Leica Screw Mount Lenses on Leica M Bodies

New M users often forget that Leica rangefinder coupled screw mount lenses--even if made by other manufacturers like Nikon or Canon--are ALSO fully compatible M mount lenses  by adding the Leitz screw mount  to bayonet mount adapter.   These older lenses are usually the least expensive way to outfit your M.   See screw mount lenses profile and screw mount to bayonet mount adapters.


Contax Rangefinder and Nikon Rangefinder Lenses on Leica RF Bodies

Amazingly, you can also use many Nikon Rangefinder and Contax Rangefinder lenses on your Leica Screw Mount,  or M Body with a new proper adapter and still have FULL rangefinder coupling!!    See Profile and Pics  


Approximating  Lens Age

Although  the  production  year  can be looked   up by  serial number,   Gandy's Law of Leica Acquisition clearly states "The likelihood of having your Leica reference books with you is inversely proportional to the likelihood of finding a good buy."  And so, these guidelines....


B/W: Leica at its Best

The M's reason for being as far as I am concerned is their incredible Black and White work.     If you have never tried it, you're in for a treat.   Leica negs  stand out on a light table instantly from Nikons/Canons/Minoltas etc.  

For best results you need to process your own film and prints, preferably on Leitz Focomat enlargers.   But you will be in for a real treat not equaled by anything else I have seen.   Shooting B/W and then turning the film and processing over to your local lab is like Leonardo buying the canvas and paint and then turning it over to the local quick sketch artist.  If you want the best, if you want to approach an art form, learn how to do it yourself. BTW, the BEST enlargers are the Leitz Focomats Ic, IIc, Focomat V.  The Ic and V are for 35 only.  The larger IIc covers 35mm  to 6x9 cm formats.  Once adjusted after testing, these Auto-Focus enlargers can focus MORE accurately than you can with a grain focuser, believe it or not!

B/W negs and prints can last hundreds of years, maybe more, if properly processed.  Other than Kodachrome and Cibachrome (and its imitators), color work will begin to noticeably change within a few decades due to the dyes.  Even if it last longer, it will still fade and die long before B/W will.   If you want your photographic work to make a statement long after your visit to the great dark room in the sky, shoot B/W. 


Lightweights: The Most in the Least 


A lot of us really enjoy the smaller size of the Leica and place a premium on smaller, lighter lenses. These are the best choices based upon size and weight:

12  This one is a trick choice.  The Voigtlander 12/5.6 in Leica screw mount is both the smallest and largest 12 ever made, it's the ONLY 12.

15  There is only one choice here, the new 15/4.5 Aspherical Voigtlander Heliar (with bayonet adapter).  Note this is a rectilinear, not fish eye lens!

20/21:   Of the Leitz Lenses, the choice is the 21/3.4 Super Angulon.  Even lighter and smaller is the 20/5.6 Russian lens, but it's not up to the Super Angulon's performance standards.   The 21/4 Voigtlander outperforms all the above.

24/25  The 25 Canons and Nikkors LTM lenses (with bayonet adapters) are amazingly small lenses.   But both are rare collector's items and both are blown away on performance by the new 24/2.8 ASP.   The new 25/4 Voigtlander Skopar  is a very viable alternative (with bayonet adapter).

28  The newest and best in the low cost 28 contest is the 28/3.5 Voigtlander. The 28/2.8 Minolta for the CLE is about half the size of the 28 Elmarits at less than half the price.    Another lightweight alternative is the 28/2.8 Ricoh lens, made for the Japanese home market.  Don't overlook the small LTM 28/3.5 Kobalux aka Bower.  

35 The last non Aspherical 35/2 Summicron is a great small lightweight lens. So is the 35/2 black Canon.  The 35/2.5 Voigtlander is also a contender. 

40/2 Summicron and Rokkors are about the same size as the 35 Summicron, very sharp, and usually less expensive.  

50   The recently discontinued  black  50/2 Summicron with detachable hood and focusing lever is a great choice.   It's twice as fast and has better performance than the current 50/2.8 Elmar, while weighing only slightly more.  If you want even smaller, use the 50/3.5 coated screw mount Elmar with bayonet adapter.  50's just don't get any smaller than that.  The 50/1.4 Canon is much lighter than the 50/1.4 Summilux, yet is less expensive and offers comparable performance.   The newest entry is the compact 50/2.5 Voigtlander.

85/90   1st choice in this small contest is the tiny "thin" 90/2.8 Tele-Elmarit.   Other contenders are the same size 90/4 Elmar and Rokkors for the CL and CLE.  Another possibility would be the chrome 90/4 Elmar, an adequate but not stellar performer.    The 90/3.5 Voigtlander APO-Lanthar is slightly larger, but probably a better performer overall.

100/105 There is one obvious best choice here, the late 105/3.5 all black Canon.  Very small, lightweight, and sharp.   The chrome versions cost less and are easier to find.

135   The smallest, lightest, good performing 135's are the black 135/3.5 Canon and Nikkor in screw mount with a Leica adapter.  They are much lighter (and less expensive) than the smallest 135 Leitz lens, the 135/4 Tele-Elmar.  


Bargain Buys: The Most for the Least

SLR Wide angles on your Leica M: If you are on a limited budget and have a wide angle lens for your SLR that you like, do you really need to spend $2500 for Leica's latest wonderful new Aspheric wide angles -- even if they are the BEST ?  Maybe not.  How about an adapter which allows you to use your Leica R,  Contax SLR, Nikon F, Canon FD, or Pentax Screw Mount wide angles  on your Leica M or Leica Screw mount body?     Click Here

12/5.6 Ultra-Wide Voigtlander Heliar: The widest production lens ever made for 35mm cameras went on sale in Japan 9/1/2000, made in Leica screw mount, and the only 12mm choice. Made in Leica screw mount, add the bayonet adapter.  Another option in September 2003 is the Voigtlander SL 12/5.6 in Nikon F mount. With the proper adapters it will also mount on Nikon Rangefinders, classic Contax Rangefinders (not the G series), Leica Screw Mount, Leica Mount, and even Canon F-1.

15  At first there is was  one choice here, the new 15/4.5 Aspherical Voigtlander Heliar (with bayonet adapter).   This modern lens sells at a fraction of a new Leica 21 Aspherical.    Another option in September 2003 is the Voigtlander SL 15/4.5 in Nikon F mount. With the proper adapters it will also mount on Nikon Rangefinders, classic Contax Rangefinders (not the G series), Leica Screw Mount, Leica Mount, and even Canon F-1.

20/21   The Voigtlander 21/4 is a superb performer with an excellent finder included -- the easy winner (add the bayonet adapter).  The 20/5.6 Russar is also good, but it usually costs more than the better performing 21/4 Voigtlander.   Another inexpensive alternative is to use your existing Canon FD, Nikon F or Pentax Screw mount wide angles on your M via Canon's adapters plus a Leitz bayonet adapter.  See   adapters.  The new off brand Japanese lenses do not strike me as a particularly good buy for the money due to probable low future resale value.    With the introduction and the popularity of the 21/2.8 ASP lens, the 21/2.8 non ASP lens is likely to become a best buy.  Another possibility is the 21/2.8 Kobalux, aka Bower aka Adorama (or at least I think all three of these are the same thing).  Nice chrome finish, LTM mount so it will also work on your screw mounts, and it comes with a nice but overly large finder.

Small 21's with non retro-focus optical designs where were originally made for SLRs with mirror lockup can sometimes be found at bargain prices.  These include 21/4 Angulon in R mount, 21/4 Nikkor, 21/4 Yashica, 21/4 Konica, and 21/4 Minolta.  Of course, you need the proper adapters to mount them on your M or Barnack camera.

24/25 classic lenses are expensive even if you choose the older 25 mm Canon and Nikkors.   The answer is the new   25/4 Voigtlander Skopar (with bayonet adapter).

28's The best buy is clearly the Voigtlander 28/3.5, add the bayonet adapter.    The problem with the Minolta CLE's 28/2.8 is that it often has edge separation.   The 28/3.5 Kobalux aka Bower aka Adorama is very nicely finished, very small and lightweight, in LTM so it will fit screw mounts or M's, and comes with a nice finder.   If the mount is good, the 28/5.6 Russian lens with a bayonet adapter is another low priced alternative for about $100.  

35's   The new Voigtlander 35/2.5's makes an excellent choice on a budget, add the bayonet adapter.   Low priced possibilities are the 35/2.8 Black Canon lens and the 35/2.8 Russian Biogon copy--both with a bayonet adapter.  Lenses in the $50-75 range.   The lowest priced Leitz 35 M mount  is the 35/3.5  Summaron.  A smarter buy might  be a 35/2 Summicron with good glass but a worn barrel--the proverbial "user" in the $400 range.     With the introduction and the popularity of the 35/2   ASP lens, the latest  non ASP lens is likely to become a best buy.

40/2  All of the 40/2's for the CL and CLE are just as sharp as the non ASP 35/2 Summicrons--and sell for only about 1/3 the price.  See CL and CLE profiles for more info.

50/2.8 When you can find them, the black 50/2.8 Canon performs well and is often very inexpensive, about $75.  The 50/2.8 Elmar M  is a collector's lens, and not really a good buy for a user, dollar for dollar.

50/2    The lowest priced quality lenses are the 50/1.8 Black Canon and the 50/2 Russian Jupiter.  Again, beware of the Russian's mount, but the glass is usually good.  On both, add the bayonet adapter to convert their screw mount to M mount.    About $50-75   User worn Summicrons, but with good glass, would be a better choice if you can find them.   About $250. 

50/1.4  By far the lowest price quality 50/1.4 is the Canon 50/1.4.  The 50/1.4 Nikkor is probably just as good, but probably more expensive.   On both add the bayonet adapter.    $250-350   The lowest price 50/1.4 M lens will be an older black anodized Summilux without the barrel focal length markings. 

50/1.2  Only one choice here in the "bargain" category, it's the 50/1.2 Canon.  All other choices run much..much more.  Add the bayonet adapter.  About $250

75/2.5 The new Voigtlander 75/2.5 has received many photog kudos.  Add the bayonet adapter.

85/2   The least expensive common lenses are the chrome 85/2 and 85/1.9 Canons.  Unfortunately, they are not great performers.  A better performer if you can find a good working example is the 85/2 Russian lens in screw mount.  Add the bayonet adapters.    All in the $75-125 range.  Leica made no 85  M lenses.  Either the Voigtlander 75/2.5 or 90/3.5 will likely perform better.

90/4 & 90/2.8  The least expensive is  the chrome 90/4, usually selling for about $150.  Next is the 90/4 for the  CL and CLE, usually running $250 to $350.   See CL and CLE profiles for more info.   The older 90/2.8 Elmarits are quality lenses, and sell for much less than the current lenses, $400 not uncommon.  Another lower priced 90/2.8 is the wonderfully small "thin" Tele-Elmarit.

90/2 The older, larger Summicron is the clear winner here.  Worn lenses with good glass often sell in the $400-500 range.

100/105  Leica did not offer this focal length other than the collector's sought after 105/6.3 Mountain Elmar.   The best are the 105/2.5 Nikkor, 100/2 Canon, and 100/3.5 Canon (all black).  The 100/3.5 Canon is very lightweight, sharp, and likely to be the least expensive.

135's   The winners here are the 135/4 Hektor and the 135/3.5 Canons and Nikkors.  The Nikkor and Canon will probably be sharper, add Bayonet adapters.

Konica M lenses produced for the Konica Hexar RF are relatively inexpensive compared to Leica glass (21-35/3.4-4, 28/2.8, 35/2, 50/1.2, 50/2, 90/2.8), and should be fine performers.  Konica has generally produced some of the best Japanese optics.  Although some people report Leica compatibility problems with Konica Hexar RF bodies, the lenses seem to be 100% Leica M compatible. 


Fogging

Leitz chrome lenses from the 50's and early 60's are very prone to "fogging" or "hazing."   For years I accepted the story it was due to the whale oil lubricants used at the time.     It made a lot of sense to me since something was in there fogging the lenses....how could it be the metal or glass??   Alas,  logic does not always work when it comes to Leica.   Extensive discussions with Mr. Horst Braun, the Manager of the Leica repair department have proven otherwise.   He states: 

"the special glasses with high  refractive index which were used, where unfortunately prone to corrosive damage due to the glass components absorption of moisture. Only later with  the availability of new anti-reflective coatings was it possible to eliminate this problem. I still do not believe, that lubricants should be the cause for fogging, because also some internal lenses where affected which never could possibly come into contact with lubricants. I suspect, that the reason why Nikon and Canon did not have this problem at the time was probably due to the fact that they used less sensitive glasses in their objectives."

In other words, the glass in use at the time fogged up all by itself!  Strange but apparently true.   This is especially true if they have been stored for years in the proverbial closet.     The first thing most camera dealers do with them is have them disassembled and cleaned.   Occasionally you will encounter  etched glass which can't be cleaned.   Then you can charge more for your "extra special" soft focus shots.

Holding the lens up to the light often doesn't tell you its true condition.  Take a small flashlight and shine it through the lens in both directions.  You may be in for some nasty surprises.

Some lenses have soft front surfaces which can easily be scratched even with lens tissue.   This is especially true of the 50mm Summicrons, Summarits, and Summitars.  Despite their reputation as being the best,  Leitz lenses of the 50's seldom aged  as well as their competitors from Nikon and Canon.  The Nikkors and Canons are usually clear as a bell and scratch free.


Sharpest And Most For Your $

Leica's sharpest M lenses are the newest versions.  Surprise ! These new lenses are also the most expensive by a comfortable margin.  By focal length:  the 21/2.8 ASPH, 24/2.8 ASPH, 28/2.8 Elmarit (current version), 35/2 ASPH, 35/1.4 ASPH, 50/2 Summicron, 75/1.4 Summilux, 90/2.8 Elmarit M, 90/2 ASPH, 135/3.4 APO.   To be fair about it, while I don't like the prices, these lenses are incredible performers.

The best compromise between $ and sharpness is another matter.  The answer used to be the previous version Leica M lenses.  Now a good case can be made for the inexpensive current production Cosina Voigtlander lens lineup. 

A good question to ask is whether you really need the most expensive, sharpest lens Leica makes  to get the best photographs.    Most of the immortal photographs by such legends as Eugene Smith, Cartier-Bresson and Eisenstadt were taken with lenses no better than the first series of chrome M lenses from the 50's.   Yet today, the average rank immature  will turn their noses up on those same lenses as not being good enough for their all important and very forgettable snapshots.  

It will be a cold day in hell before any of us are likely to get anyone to forget the likes of Smith, CB, or Eisenstadt, yet we like to feed our egos by imagining  we need better lenses than they had to get OUR great artistic statement.  Yeah, right.  Most of us are lucky to recognize the artistic statement from buying tickets at the local art museum. 

The value of lens tests done by someone else on lenses that we don't own is another of my pet gripes.  See Lens Tester's Anonymous.   


Lenses for Your Leica M Leica made Lenses unless otherwise noted

12/5.6  Voigtlander Aspheric Ultra-Wide Heliar: The widest production lens ever made for 35mm cameras went on sale in Japan 9/1/2000, made in Leica screw mount.  Not rangefinder coupled, it is sold with superb quality aspheric finder, a detachable metal black crinkle paint lens hood, and a front cap that fits over the outside of the lens hood.  Smallest aperture f/22.  Accessories  include a black crinkle metal 77mm filter attachment which replaces the regular lens hood, and an ingenious "spirit bubble level" intended to be mounted along side the accessory finder on the Voigtlander double accessory shoe. Available in chrome or black.  Made in Leica screw mount, add a bayonet adapter for your M.

15/4.5 Voigtlander Heliar Aspheric, made by Cosina.  This new  1999 Japanese made lens offer amazing quality for the money, and is the only 15mm ever made in LTM mount.  Of course, add the bayonet adapter for your M. 

15/8 Zeiss Hologon made in Leica M mount by Leica 1972-1976.  This is a very rare and exotic lens.  Boxed mint examples have sold for as high as $15,000 when the market was at its highest.  Not a shooter lens, at least not for most of us.   Per van Hasbroeck, production only 350.

15/11-22  Panomigon   Late 1999 saw the introduction of the French made PANOMIGON 15MM - f / 22.   It's a f/11 lens with a fixed effective aperture of f/22, selling for about twice the price of the much faster 15/4.5 Voigtlander Heliar.   Perhaps I am missing something here, but at that price I don't see the point for such a slow lens.

16/8 Hologon Contax G conversion  Various conversions from Contax to M mount are showing up,   for different prices.  Some are better than others.  See it before you buy to make sure you are satisfied with the conversion.  An outstanding lens.   But the conversion seems silly to me, since it's cheaper just to use the lens on a Contax body, which also gives you a host of features not found on the M's.

21/2.8 ASPH Aspherical elements from 1997.  This lens has got great reviews.  Presumably it is the best performer of  all Leica M 21's.  Happily, it is only very slightly larger than its predecessor. Black or chrome.

21/2.8 Elmarit 1982 to 1997, discontinued with the intro of the 21/2.8 ASPH. Black M mount only.  Usable on the M6 for TTL metering.  Most shooters seem to prefer the 21/3.4 over the non-aspheric 21/2.8 Elmarit  due to the 3.4's smaller size.  Their performance is so close that   both have supporters claiming one is better than the other. 

21/4  Super Angulon 1958-1963, all chrome lens.   Made in M and screw mount versions.  M mount lenses were made with a screw mount adapter, which could be removed by turning a tiny screw.  It was thus usable on the screw mount bodies.  Too bad ALL M mount lenses are not so made!!!  This lens has the poorest reputation of all Leitz 21 lenses, but can still be a good performer from f/8.  Will not meter with the M6 due to deep set lens.  Its special rear cap and hood are hard to find.  Likely to be encountered fogged from original owner, see Fogging.

21/3.4  Super Angulon 1963-1980 M mount only.      Will not meter with the M6 due to deep set lens.   Its special rear cap and hood are hard to find.   Much smaller than the 21/2.8, many photogs prefer it, a very sharp lens.   Prior to the 21 ASP, this lens had the reputation as being the best of the Leitz 21's.    Some still prefer it to the 21 ASP

21/2.8 Contax G conversion  Remember the 15/8 Contax conversions?   The same clever people will convert 21's too.  Same warnings apply.  An outstanding lens, certainly comparable to Leica's best.  However, a waste of money unless you are a Zeiss fanatic, considering Leica's 21/2.8 ASPH.

21/2.8 Kobalux aka Bower aka Adorama.   Nicely finished chrome lens with good finder, very small and lightweight and priced right.   of course add the bayonet adapter.

21/4 Voigtlander Color Skopar, introduced at Photokina 2000, small lightweight multi-coated screw mount lens with great brightline finder, unusual close focusing, and VERY quick lever action throw from infinity to close, a good choice for the most for the least in the 21 focal length.   Users report outstanding performance.

21-35 f/3.4-4 Konica M,  for Konica Hexar RF, announced February 2002 for sale in March 2002,  this is a dual focal length 21 or 35 lens, it is not a zoom as you turn a ring to select either the 21 or 35 focal lengths,  limited edition of 800 lenses, 21 viewfinder supplied with lens, list price about $1550 

24/2.8 ASPH  introduced in 1997, this is a new, long overdue  focal length for the M series.  Many photogs choose the 24 as their most useful super wide.  Only one version so far, sharp, and relatively expensive as you might expect.   Note the 24 finder(and lens)  is the best ever made for the 24/25 focal length for any Rangefinder.  You could use the viewfinder with other lenses.  Black only.  If you want only one wide angle lens, this 24 gets my vote. 

25/4 Voigtlander Skopar made by Cosina.   This new 1999 lens offers great performance for the money.  Made in LTM mount,   of course, add the bayonet adapter for your M.  

28/1.9 Voigtlander Ultron Aspherical,  to be introduced at Photokina 2000.  Leica screw mount, just use the bayonet adapter to mount on your M.  9 elements, 7 groups, closest focus .7 meter, 46mm filter size, chrome or black.   The fastest 28 ever made for any full frame 35mm RF camera. 

28/2 Summicron ASPH to be introduced at Photokina 2000.  Presumably the best and sharpest of the Leica 28's.

28/2.8 Elmarit  There are four optical versions, each presumably better than its predecessor.  

28-35-50/4  Tri-Elmar-M  ASPH  Introduced in 1998, this unique lens is a noteworthy achievement as a completely new type of lens for rangefinder cameras, available in black or chrome.     It is the first 35 mm RF coupled multi-focal length lens.   The photog can choose any of  three different focal lengths: 28, 35, or 50.  Note it is not a zoom.     Roughly the size and shape of the 90/2.8 Tele-Elmarit.  It is also noteworthy as being the most expensive production 28 to 50 lens in 35mm format ever.   No doubt the folks at the Pentagon who buy $4,000 hammers have several hundred thousand on order.  With its high price, noteworthy design, and low production, it is sure to be a future collectible.   The chrome version was discontinued mid 2000.  Personally, I prefer faster single focal length lenses.

28/2.8 Rokkor made for the Minolta CLE 1982-1985, multi-coated.  Very small compared to the current version of the Elmarit.  Not as good as  the Elmarits, but usually less than half the price.  Watch out for the often defective lens element edge coating, showing up as white spots at edge of glass.   While it might be ugly, it seldom effects the pics unless very severe. For more info see CLE Profile.

28/2.8 Konica M,  for Konica Hexar RF, relatively inexpensive compared to Leica glass

28/3.5 Kobalux aka Bower aka Adorama.   Nicely finished chrome lens with good finder, very small and lightweight and priced right.   Add the bayonet adapter.

35/1.2 Voigtlander Nokton Aspherical  announced Photokina 2002.  Leica M mount, the fastest 35 ever made for any full frame 35mm RF.   Availability May 2003.  PICS and INFO

 35/1.4 Summilux  1961 to 1997.      The earlier lenses were chrome and magnificently made. You won't believe the craftsmanship until you see an early chrome for yourself, a work of art.   The later black finish has a much lighter "feel" to it.   A very long lived optical design.    While not considered as sharp as the 35 Summicron, the Summilux has a nice following for the "glow" it gives.  Also available in a very handsome titanium in the 90's.   It interesting that this lens stayed in production for almost 40 years. Most sources say it was an unchanged optical formula.    van Hasbroeck,  however, states that it was recomputed in 1966 from # 2166702 onwards with noticeably improved performance.          All 35/1.4 Summilux are low production future collectibles.

35/1.4 ASPH Aspherical 1991 to date.   This lens has got great reviews, but it is also about 50% larger and heavier than the previous 35/1.4  and costs more than twice as much.  Available in black, chrome, titanium.  Very sharp wide open, but at smaller apertures the 35/2 non ASP Summicron is more lens for your money.

35/2  Summicron.  This is a fine lens in all versions, but is a bit confusing with five optical versions and many variations.   Considered sharper than either version of the Summarons. Generally the later the version, the better. All versions have a convenient focusing lever.

35/2 Summicron ASPH or Aspherical from 1997 on,  Black   This lens has gotten great reviews and is presumably the best of all the outstanding 35 Summicrons. Unfortunately, it is also about 50% larger than its non ASP predecessor.    In December 2001,  Leica announced  500 35/2 APO Titanium lenses would be made to match their newly introduced limited edition .72 M6 TTL Titanium body. 

35/2 Konica M, announced mid 2001.  New optical formula compared to Hexar AF 35/2 design.

35/2.5  Voigtlander, two versions, sharp new multicoated screw mount lenses at a budget price, add the bayonet adapter

35/2.8  Summaron 1958-1974 Chrome, a good performer, but the Summicron is usually thought better. . Two versions, with "eyes" and without.  "Eyes" were a viewfinder attachment built into the lens which converted the 50 frame on the M3 to a 35 viewing field.  The exact same idea used on the later 135/2.8 Elmarit to give it a larger frameline.     The M2 version outnumbers the M3 "eyes" version about 2-1.  Likely to be encountered fogged from original owner, see Fogging.

35/3.5  Summaron 1954-1960 Chrome.  Inexpensive, adequate, but not stellar performer.   Two versions, with "eyes" and without.  "Eyes" were a viewfinder attachment built into the lens which converted the 50 frame on the M3 to a 35 viewing field.  The exact same idea used on the later 135/2.8 Elmarit to give it a larger frameline.     Production about evenly divided between the two types.   Likely to be encountered fogged from original owner, see Fogging.

40/2 Summicron made for the Minolta made Leica CL 1973-1977.  A sharp, relatively inexpensive lens. Brings up 50 frameline in M series. Leitz claimed the possibility of incompatibility between these lenses with their sharply inclined rangefinder cam and the M series.  In practical terms, it's very difficult to find a 40/2 which does not focus correctly on your favorite M.    Many people,  including myself,  wonder if the incompatibility warning was primarily a Leitz Marketing ploy to help prevent 40/2 sales affecting the sale more expensive M series lenses.  Contrary to some claims,  best evidence indicates this was not a multicoated lens, unlike the later 40/2 Rokkor for the CLE.  For more info see CL profile.

40/2 Rokkor.  for the Minolta CL 1973-1977,   Very Sharp lens, brings up 50 frameline on M series.  RF cam comments of 40/2 Summicron also apply to this lens.  Easily recognized differentiated from the other 40/2 Rokkor because serial number is on filter ring.  For more info see CL profile.

40/2 Rokkor for the Minolta CLE 1982-85.     Very Sharp lens, brings up 50 frameline on M series  Traditional Leica cam .  Easily differentiated because the  serial number is on lens barrel.  Multi-coated. For more info see CLE Profile.

40/2.8 Elmarit-C   This was intended as an inexpensive alternative to the 40/2 Summicron for the Leica CL.  It was never officially sold to the public.  A set of 500 numbers were allocated by the factory, from 2 512 601 to 2 513 100.  As the factory finally decided not to market it,  lenses already made were sold in 1972 – 1973 very cheap to employees of Leitz (Leica).      Information provided by Mr. Horst Braun, Manager of Leica Repairs.

40/2.8 Rollei Sonnar  Made for the Rollei 35 RF introduced in January 2003, a re-badged and much more expensive Voigtlander Bessa R2.   Believed to be Zeiss glass, in a Cosina made barrel, assembled in Germany by Rollei.  Said to be an excellent performer, however it will probably be a rare lens due to slow sales.

43/1.9 Pentax:  Sept 2000 Pentax announced their first Leica screw mount lens ever, the same optics as their 43/1.9 Aspherical in SLR mount.  Made for the Japanese home market only, announced production is 800 chrome and 1200 black, with finder.      I wonder if the other Limited edition Pentax lenses, the 31/1.8, 50/1.2, and 77/1.8  will also be made in Leica screw mount.   This lens has a fanatical following amongst Pentax users.  With its later Aspherical design, it's almost certainly the sharpest 40mm lens for your Leica CL or Minolta CL, just add the screw mount to bayonet adapter.  List price is a not so inexpensive 150,000 yen.

50/1 Noctilux 1976 to date, one optical formula.  Generally considered to be the best production Super Speed lens ever.  Although it's rather heavy at three times the weight of a 50 Summicron, it has many fans.     All  Noctilux are sure low production future collectibles.   The extra 25% focusing accuracy of the M3 or new 1998 M6 .85 will make a difference with this lens.  Later lenses are believed to have improved lens coatings.

50/1.2 Noctilux  1966-1975  This is a rare and sought after collector's lens.  Not smart to use it from a financial point of view.    The later 50/1 costs less, 1/2 stop faster, and generally considered a better performer.

50/1.2 Konica M,  for Konica Hexar RF, relatively inexpensive compared to Leica glass, d only  2001 were produced, sold only with the limited edition 2001 Millennium Hexar RF  

50/1.4 Summilux  Two optical designs.   Chrome or Black.   With an average production of only about 2,000 per year, the 50 Summilux is actually a rarer lens than is generally recognized.   Note closest focus is 40."

50/1.5  Summarit Chrome  This is an early 50's version of a "super" speed lens. While good examples have their fans they are far a few between. Basically it is a coated pre-war Xenon.  Noticeably softer than the Summilux that followed it, it can still give wonderful but not super sharp results.   Again, very prone to front lens scratches.  Likely to be encountered fogged from original owner, see Fogging. 

50/1.8 Rollei   Made for the Rollei 35 RF introduced in January 2003, a re-badged and much more expensive Voigtlander Bessa R2. Believed to be Zeiss glass, in a Cosina made barrel, assembled in Germany by Rollei.  Said to be an excellent performer, however it will probably be a rare lens due to slow sales.

50/2 Summar (Screw Mount Collapsible)   I included this lens because it offers an important alternative for M users--just add a 50mm M Leitz bayonet adapter.    This was Leica's first f/2 lens, produced before the war 1933-1940 in large quantities.  Translation: dirt cheap.   An uncoated lens, it is admittedly not a very sharp lens, but that is it's unique advantage.   Shot in the F/2 to F/4 range, it will give you a beautiful semi-soft focus effect in color that no other inexpensive lens can give you.  It's great for portraits, scenics, nudes. While it's prone to fogging and lens scratches, these will only add to the effect.   Not collapsible on the M5 or CL due to meter constrictions. 

50/2  Summicron  Many variations, so it can get confusing.  Many consider the 50 Summicron best of all 50 mm lenses, by any manufacturer.  It's the standard that other 50's are judged by.

The 50/2 DR will probably work fine on the M6, but you must remember to mount and dismount the lens focused at infinity.   When focused near it's closest regular focusing distance, the lens will be difficult to mount OR unmount.    I have reports of  the DR not functioning in close up range on a M6.   I am frankly unsure if these reports are due to variations with the bodies and the DR, or are the result of user error.  More research will till.   It seems prudent to try a  DR  on your  M6  before you buy it. 

Howard Cummer in Hong Kong reports difficulty using a 2nd series DR in close-up range on a M6 .85  # 2296539.   While he could mount the lens, if it was not focused at it's closest regular focusing distance, the close up range was inoperative due to some sort of internal body restrictions.   Whether this is true of all late M6's in general, or of just the .85 model is not clear at this time.   In any case, it's a good idea  to try it out  to be sure on your own body/lens combination. 

The 50/2 DR will NOT work on a Minolta CLE in my experience.  Although the lens will mount, it will bind with the body just slightly from the infinity marking.

The DR lens has two focusing ranges, thus the brilliant name "Dual Range." The DR can ONLY be mounted on the camera without it's "eyes."      The "eyes" are a detachable viewfinder which clips onto the top of the lens and in front of the camera's rangefinder/viewfinder.   They look pretty much like the viewer built into the 135/2.8 or the M3 versions of the 35/2 and 2.8.   Once mounted, the closer focusing range is attained by turning the lens to it's closest normal focusing point.     Then attach the "eyes" which clip onto the lens.    ONLY at this focus point can the eyes be attached and the closest focusing range attained.   THEN pull the focusing barrel out slightly, and the lens barrel can be swung over farther to the left, to get into the close focusing range.    It sounds more complicated than it really is in practice.

It is worth noting that many experienced used find the DR Summicron not only their favorite 50, but their favorite lens, period.    It has a combination of higher resolution and lower contrast and superb out of focus images. 

The Earlier version of the DR focuses to 19" and is marked in either feet or meters, but not both.  It is also marked in reproduction rations from 1:15 to 1:.75.   The  "eyes" for these have the "condenser" trademark, inside of which is "E.
Leitz Wetzlar."

The Later version of the DR focuses to 20" and is marked in BOTH feet and meters, without the repro ratios.  The "eyes" for this version are  marked "Leitz Wetzlar" without the condenser trademark.     The second version also has wider and deeper knurling on the focusing ring than the previous version.  I have noticed a "warmer" color of lens coating on these later DR's, but am not sure if it extends to ALL of this variety.    The lens head and glass appears to be identical to the earlier version and to the rigid version, at least from the outside.   The second version also has a smaller ball bearing mount for the eyes, which means the later eyes will not fit the earlier lenses, though the older eyes will fit the later lenses.

50/2 Elcan made for the military version of the M4, the KE-7A.  Rare and Expensive.  ELCAN stands for E. Leitz Canada, the former Leica  facility.  Leitz sold it to Hughes, who was bought by General Motors, who just sold it to Raytheon (1/98).  The plant  continued to make selected Leica lenses, at least up to the recent Raytheon purchase.  ELCAN specialized in various military lenses, which show up from time to time, often without the special cameras they were designed to work on.

50/2 Konica M,  for Konica Hexar RF, relatively inexpensive compared to Leica glass

50/2.8 Elmar chrome collapsible, 1958-1974 the ultimate form of the original Elmar.  sought after by shooters and collectors.     Likely to be encountered fogged from original owner, see Fogging.  Not collapsible on the M5 or CL due to meter constrictions.  4 elements

50/2.8 Elmar new 1994 "retro look" lens introduced in 1994  with the M6J.  Chrome or Black.  Easily recognized by their "50" on the lens barrel which the earlier lenses did not have.  This lens seems to be rather popular, and damned if I know why.  While it is sharp, it is generally not considered to be as sharp as the late 50/2 Summicrons ( 3rd, 4th, or 5th versions).  It's a stop slower than the Summicron and only 25 grams lighter than the very recent 4th version.  On top of that, it just doesn't measure up to the craftsmanship and fit of the 1958-74 version.  It offers less all the way around, so why buy it?   Not collapsible on the M5 or CL due to meter constrictions. 

50/3.5 Elmar (Screw Mount Collapsible)   I included this lens because it offers an important alternative for M users--just add a 50mm M Leitz bayonet adapter.   Even with the bayonet adapter, it is the smallest 50 mm lens you can use on your M--significantly smaller than the M mount 50/3.5 or 50/2.8 Elmars.  More importantly, when collapsed, it produces only 1/4" from the body!  Choose a later post war coated model, and be prepared to have it professionally cleaned as it is   Likely to be encountered fogged from original owner, see Fogging.  Still, it's unique miniscule size and fine performance make it an important lens in your bag of tricks. Not collapsible on the M5 or CL due to meter constrictions.

50/3.5 Elmar chrome collapsible 1954-1961  The classic sharp Elmar.  Sharp, but likely to be encountered fogged from original owner, see Fogging.  Not collapsible on the M5 or CL due to meter constrictions.

65/3.5 Elmar Viso lens designed for macro work.  This lens was made for the Visoflex system only and does  not mount directly to your camera for rangefinder coupling.  The shortest M focal length focusing  to infinity with the Visoflex system.  It has a great reputation, and is generally considered one of the best M Lenses.

75/1.4  Summilux  introduced in 1980.     Superb reputation. Personally, it's just too short for my tastes to be a viable portrait lens.  All 75/1.4 Summilux are low production future collectibles.    The extra 25% focusing accuracy of the M3 or new 1998 M6 .85 will make a difference with this lens.  A  big heavy lens with a great reputation and many enthusiastic fans.

80/2.8 Rollei   Made for the Rollei 35 RF introduced in January 2003, a re-badged and much more expensive Voigtlander Bessa R2. Believed to be Zeiss glass, in a Cosina made barrel, assembled in Germany by Rollei.  Said to be an excellent performer, however it will probably be a rare lens due to slow sales.   This is believed to be the same lens used on the Rollei twin lens.

90/2 Summicron   This is a very long lived lens, introduced in 1957 with many minor variations and two major versions.  Not generally recognized is all 90 Summicrons are low production lenses.  From a collector's standpoint, nice original style chrome versions are VERY under priced relative to their rarity.  

90/2 Summicron ASPH Aspherical lens, 1998.     Likely to turn out the sharpest of all 90 M lenses.  In December 2001,  Leica announced  500 90/2 APO Titanium lenses would be made to match their newly introduced limited edition .72 M6 TTL Titanium body. 

90/2.8 Elmarit  1959-1974, detachable lens head for Viso work.  Two variations, chrome and black, same optical formula.  Easy differentiated from   later 90/2.8's  due to NO built in lens shade.    Likely to be encountered fogged from original owner, see Fogging.

90/2.8 Tele-Elmarit "Fat version"  1964-7   This was Leica's first attempt to produce a compact 90/2.8 lens. Generally considered to be a good performer, but exceeded by the lenses that followed it.  Now getting hard to find.   

90/2.8 Tele-Elmarit 1974-1989 "thin" version   This  smaller Tele-Elmarit version has the honor of being the smallest and lightest 90/2.8 ever made for the M Leica.  Amazingly, despite being one stop faster, it is virtually the same size as the 90/4 Elmar made for the Leica CL.  It is an outstanding choice as a travel lens.    While some have complained about its sharpness, others have praised it.  Modern Photography rated it sharper than the 90/2 Summicron--something of  a surprise to many photogs. 

This version  has a chronic problem to look out for which shows up in my experience about 5% of the time.  For reasons unknown, it can develop a severe etching of the rear element.   The problem can be stopped in the early stages by a professional cleaning of the lens elements.  If it has proceeded too far, however, cleaning will do no good and the damage is permanent.  Unfortunately this turns the Tele into a nice paperweight, since the rear elements of this particular lens are a sealed unit -- making it too expensive to replace even if you could find the elements.

I long believed the problem was the result of animal based  lubrication attacking the glass.  I had my Tele relubed to alleviate the problem -- and it hasn't shown up.        Mr. Horst Braun, the Manager of the Leica repair department,  firmly believes this is not true, since the same lubricant used in Tele-Elmarit is used in other Leica lenses.  He suggest the problem may be a lens fungus...but why it should attack this particular lens design more than others is unexplained.   Leica is looking into the problem.

90/2.8 M Elmarit A compact lens introduced in 1989.   Many believe this to be the sharpest 90 M lens.  Same glass as the R version.   Head not detachable for the Visoflex, surprisingly heavy for a 2.8 lens.    "90" on barrel, built in hood.   The 90/2.8 is expected to be discontinued in 2003 with the introduction of the 90/4 Macro Elmar.

90/2.8 Konica M,  for Konica Hexar RF, relatively inexpensive compared to Leica glass

90/3.5 Voigtlander ApoLanthar:  To be introduced at Photokina 2000.  6 elements, 5 groups, close focus 1.2 meter, filter size 39mm, smallest aperture f/22, black or chrome.   add the bayonet adapter to use on your M.   The only modern multi-coated 90mm screw mount lens in production.

90/4  Macro Elmar introduced September 2003.  This is a unique innovative Leica lens design.  It is the first close focus RF coupled longer than 50mm lens ever for the Leica M system.  It is a collapsible 90/4, available in chrome or black.  In collapsed position it is about the same size as a 50/2 Summicron.   Close focus without close up adapter .76 meter.  Close focus with "eyes" adapter similar to the classic 50/2 Dual Range Summicron .5 to .77 meter, to a maximum of 1:3.   Unfortunately the close focus adapter will NOT work with other Leica 90's.  Filter size is 39mm.  The lens hood is thankfully detachable and also reversible.

90/4  Elmar This is an older chrome lens from the 50's.    OK optically, but the later lenses are better and faster too.   Still, the 90/4 rigid offers the most for the least for the pocketbook.4 elements.  Under appreciated today and one of the least expensive M lenses.   Even older black 90/4 Elmars from the '30s are uncoated, but can still give a very nice "vintage" look to your B/W or color shots.

90/4 Elmar and Minolta 90/4 Rokkor made for the Leica CL and Minolta CL 1973-1977.   These are really the same lens, both made by Leitz.    Sharp and lightweight lens, the  RF cam comments of 40/2 Summicron also apply to this lens.    Almost identical size to second version of 90/2.8 Tele-Elmarit. For more info see CL profile

90/4 Minolta Rokkor made for CLE. 1982-85  Multi-coated. Traditional Leica cam. Easily differentiated from the earlier 90/4  Rokkor because serial number is on lens barrel instead of on the filter ring.   Almost identical size to second version of 90/2.8 Tele-Elmarit.  For more info see CLE Profile.

135/2.8 Tele-Elmarit 1963, discontinued 1997,  is a rather large lens with a built in 1.4x optical magnifier to increase the size  of the camera's frameline and accuracy of the camera's focusing.   This allows you to effectively use the larger 90 mm frameline on your M2/4/5/4-2/4-P/6.  This increase in focusing accuracy also works with the earlier M3.  Not a popular lens on the used market due to its large size.  All versions are black, with detachable lens head for Viso work and built in hoods.   

135/3.4 APO Telyt M  1998, currently the only M 135 lens, and the sharpest M 135 ever.

135/4 Elmar  1960-65  Chrome, although a few may be in black.  Sharper than the Hektor, detachable lens head  Viso work.

135/4 Tele-Elmar  1965-1998.   Black only.     Outstanding performance,  very popular, long lived lens.

135/4.5 Hektor 1954-60  Chrome lens with detachable lens head for Viso work.  Generally the most inexpensive used M lens.  Very plentiful on the used market, but not a bad performer.   Suddenly made popular by a 1997 article in the Leica Viewfinder, much to the astonishment of dealers who were previously unable to give the lenses away.  

Lenses Longer than 135 mm require the Visoflex system,   which essentially converts your Leica into a large and clumsy SLR.   My advice is to junk the Visoflex and use it as a paper weight, while using the Visoflex   lenses adapted to your favorite SLR.  See Viso 4 Profile.  To be fair about it, some photogs love the Viso system.   I suspect they were dropped on their head as a baby.  

All  Visoflex lenses are relatively hard to find today.  The later the lens, the better the performance and the higher the price.  Yet, they still offer bargain performances compared with the often identical lenses in R mount.

180/2.8 Elmarit was made in very limited quantities for the Visoflex -- now a prized collectible.

200/4 Telyt  Black

280/4.8 Telyt 1970-84 Black only.  Improved formula after 2340953

400/5.6 Telyt 1966-73  Black only, has built in rapid focusing mount with "squeeze" pull/push focusing.  Much harder to find than the 400/6.8 lens

400/6.8 1968-84 Black, came with an interesting shoulder stock, dismantles into two parts, the easiest to find of the M long lenses.

560/5.6 Telyt 1968-73 Black  This is much harder to find than the 560/6.8 lens.   Sold with a shoulder stock.  Dismantles into two parts.

560/6.8 Telyt 1971-84   Sold with a shoulder stock. Dismantles into two parts.

1.5x Leica Teleconverter: Unfortunately this is an almost unknown  ultra rare prototype.  I am including it here in the hope that if enough of you email Leica, perhaps they will be convinced there is indeed a market for it.   Leitz Canada produced a prototype RF coupled 1.5x Teleconverter in the 1980's.  Estimated production 10.  The idea was to discontinue the 135 lens, and replace it with the 90 and a 1.5 Teleconverter.  The 135 lived on, the Teleconverter died.   Leica seems to be missing the point and convenience of Leica photogs having 1.5x, 2x, and even 3x converters.  The rear mount should be Leica screw mount, not only to allow its use on screw mount bodies, but also to allow M users to use the appropriate screw mount to bayonet converter to bring up the framelines of their choice.    The front mount should be Leica M, to allow the use of both M lenses and Leica screw mount lenses with the bayonet converter.   Not only would a 2x turn your 135 into a 270,  it would also be very useful for close-ups since the closest focusing distance remains the same while the image size increases by the Teleconverter magnification size.    Email Leica, perhaps they will build it -- who knows ?


Trivia Question:  How can you use a SLR Tele-converter with Leica M lenses, mounted on your Leica M body,  while still maintaining infinity focus?   Take any Visoflex mountable lens, with the same adapters or mount that would be used on the Visoflex II or III,  mount it on the Visoflex, mount that on your   Teleconverter, mount that on the SLR to Leica M Adapter.    Sorry, no rangefinder coupling, scale focusing only.      


 

There is no such thing as an ALL informing Leica Lens Guide.  I hope this one has been of use to you.  Good Shooting and Have Fun!

 


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Revised: October 12, 2004.    Copyright 1998-2002  Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved.   Information in this document is subject to change without notice.  Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.