Archive for March, 2023

I’m a day late, but this is a good one 🙂 The Leica 50mm Summicron Dual-Range is a masterpiece vintage lens that you can buy used for a low price. OK by low price, I mean by Leica standards. But what is it? Ah it is basically an M mount 50mm f/2 lens that works on Leica rangefinder cameras like the M3. But what separates it from every other 50 Summicron is the dual-range ability. This lens originally came with a set of ‘goggles’ that when clipped to the lens would cover the rangefinder and viewfinder windows. The lens can then be moved in to a close up range allowing you to focus roughly twice as close to about 20 inches. The parallax is corrected and the rangefinder remains coupled.

The Achilles heel to 1950s and 60s rangefinders was the inability to focus close. Leica had the Visoflex device that converted the rangefinder into a defacto SLR but that was clunky and awkward to use. This dual-range lens gave M users the opportunity to focus as close as SLRs standard 50mm lenses could. The lens remains sharp and contrasty in the close range as well. So all you M mount users take note this is a gem of a lens.

Leica Closeup Goggles

Now this translates well to using the lens on a modern digital mirrorless camera. As many of you are aware, I use a close focusing M mount adapter on my mirrorless bodies that allow a regular 50mm Summicron lens to focus much closer, I get about 17 inches MFD instead of about 32-39 inches depending on the vintage of the lens. But this lens in the closeup range combined with the close focus M adapter reduces the MFD to an amazing 10 inches! You know me, I like getting close and blowing out the background and that’s exactly what happens with this scenario.

I bought mine from Seawood Photo. Seawood will of course be at the next PhotoFair show on March 25th at Newark Pavilion. A little Pluggy McPlugerson for the show and Seawood; Hmm I should bill them 😉 Anyhow Seawood had two of these lenses one was very clean perhaps excellent plus condition with the box and the googles and they were asking $1000 for that one. It sold immediately. The other one I bought a week later after it sat on their shelf for a while. They were asking $900 on that one. It had no box and no goggles, so the Leicaphiles were not interested. This one was in very good condition. I bartered a bit with Seawood offered a trade on one of my Chiyoko lenses and we came to a fair and amicable deal. Effectively these lenses in good to very good condition without the googles are available in the $700-$800 range and at that price they are a steal of a deal.

The bokeh on this lens exhibits some suggestions of swirling and is fairly smooth. It always seems to have some motion when the background has a lot of highlights. It can get a little harsh at times but not to the detriment of the overall image. In general I give this lens a 7 out 10 on bokeh.

100th sec @ f4 cropped from 1:5 to 1:1.6

I can’t see any severe optical issues with this lens in the normal range compared to a standard vintage 50mm Summicron. In the close up range the lens doesn’t exhibit any significant aberrations aside from some occasional color fringing. I’m sure you can find a YouTuber that has tested it on a chart but just looking through the images, it performs brilliantly even up close and even closer than Leica intended when coupled with the close focus adapter on my R5. That camera has 45mp and is a solid test for a vintage lens; this lens delivers delicious results. I have a photo of a US Quarter Dollar which is roughly one inch in diameter. At the closest focus with this Leica lens in close up mode and coupled with my close focus adapter on my R5 at about 10 inches I got an image which presented the quarter at a size where roughly 20 of them could have fit inside the image. That works out to about a 1:5 reproduction ratio which is similar to a macro mode on a consumer grade zoom lens. Not bad really. I cropped the image tightly taking the 45mp original to just 7mp and the detail holds up well.

Here are some images I made with this lens while setting up for the PhotoFair YouTube video I also have posted below.

@ f/2 focus point in the center of the red mass, this was more of a background bokeh image, EOS R5
@ f/2 focus on left eye, EOS R5
@ f2 EOS R5
@ f2 EOS R5
@ f2 very near minimum focus, this is a small wooden wishing well, EOS R5

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