I recently traded in my Vöigtlander 50mm APO F2 and went back to the lens that was glued to my very first Leica M; the 50mm Summicron v5. As you will see in this blog, and perhaps already know, the Vöigtlander is objectively the better lens. But that did not make it the better lens for me. Let me set some context. If you are not a regular reader of this blog, I should explain that I like to use my M with one lens, and one lens only. For a few years I shot with the excellent 35mm Summilux FLE but I found myself drifting back to what is best described as my standard focal length for the M system; a 50mm. I re-purchased the Vöigtlander APO after having used it on my Leica SL a few years back. On the M this lens is just as astonishing. You can read a few of my own posts on it using it on the streets of Berlin with the M10 and in Italy with the SL.
As good as the lens is, there were a few things that bothered me. The first is that sometimes there can be a thing as 'too' good. In the case of the Vöigtlander this has everything to do with sharpness. It is so sharp at all apertures which means there is no way to play with the sharpness. It is always there. That sharpness is great for gritty urban scenes or crystal clear landscapes. But sometimes when shooting people, I found it too much. It resolves every single detail and renders very 'digital' at times with extreme clarity.
The second thing that bothered me was the size. Even though it is only a little bit longer than the Leica 50mm Summicron, this difference was enough to annoy me. The balance of a lens on an M camera is a tricky thing. On my M10, the Vöigtlander APO just didn't feel right. I know there are versions of this lens for Sony and Nikon mount and I think that would balance much better. Just as it did with the adapter on my SL. I had nothing to complain about the build quality of the Vöigtlander. It is amazing to see what they can do at this pricepoint compared to Leica.
It really was these two things that led me to look for a nice used 50mm Summicron. I wanted the v5 with the integrated hood, compared to the clumsy hood of earlier versions. Since I now had access to both lenses, I decided to do a little comparison. Nothing scientific, just seeing how they resolve and just how much better the Vöigtlander is. It turns out it is quite a bit better, but the 50mm Summicron is more than good enough and does not need to apologize at all. For my purposes, as a one-lens setup for my M, it is what I want and nothing more.
This first scene is a broad photo of an interesting apartment building in my neighborhood. The weather was a little different on the days I took the photo but I think this is good enough to get an impression. What you see is that the Vöigtlander simply outresolves the Summicron. But the Leica is already doing a magnificent job for sharp and clear reproduction of a scene that is a bit further away.
The second scene is a close up shot of a street sign. Here the differences are bigger compared to the overview photo of the apartment building. The level of detail the Vöigtlander manages to capture is again impressive. The Summicron doesn't stay that far behind though and does more than fine in my opinion. You can also see that shooting people with the level of detail is not always what you want with the Vöigtlander. This makes the Summicron a better allrounder for my purposes.
I adore the 50mm Summicron on my M10. It just feels right. The focus ring has the perfect throw and I don't miss the focus knob at all compared to my 35mm Summilux FLE. I look forward to getting reacquainted with this lens and enjoy the simplicity of this great allrounder.