18 August 2017

Period-correct Leitz 50mm Summicron lens

The first-generation collapsible lens, perfectly matched to my Leica M3.

By In Photography 2 min read

As you may have previously read in my post about my Leica M3, I was looking for a proper lens that fits this M body. I bought a Soviet Jupiter-12 lens with an LTM-to-M adapter to have something to experiment with, but a Leica body deserves Leica glass. The problem with Leica glass is… well, it’s hideously expensive. And it tends to stay expensive.

So imagine how happy I was when I saw a period-correct (for an M3) 1st-generation Leitz Summicron 50mm f/2 lens up for sale that had been recently serviced but still exhibited rough action while focusing. The seller was letting it go for a bargain price as he considered this a mechanical defect. At what amounted to a 50% discount I picked it up immediately!


When I received the lens, I had to agree with the seller – the action was really rough and it was hard to focus manually. But I got the feeling that it might just be a case of oil from the recent service that had not distributed evenly throughout the lens. So I picked up a new hobby: every evening, while watching TV shows, I’d play around with the lens, turning the focus ring all the way out and back in again. Non-stop, all the time. For hours every night. I fidget with things all the time, so fidgeting with a camera lens wasn’t really that strange a thing to do. And after about a week of playing with the focus ring, I’m happy to report that it’s smooth as butter now!

The fun thing about this first generation (or ‘Type 1’) Leica Summicron lens is that it’s a collapsible lens; with a twist motion, you can unlock the front lens element and slide it back into the camera body. The Leica is not a very compact body by modern standards, so let’s not pretend that this really makes the camera easier to take with you. But it does shave off a few centimeters in front, making it easier to fit into camera bags and far safer to stow into your luggage.


Do note – if you ever fit a collapsible lens to a modern digital M body, never collapse it. There’s no empty space in the digital body where the analog body does have it, and you will damage your extremely expensive camera in a really dumbass way.

What do you think?