Although detesting giving out grades, and the 'winners and losers' mentality, I could not resist comparing my favorite 50 mm lenses. After having done several tests at apertures such as f5.6 or f8, it quickly became apparent that this method of proceeding had limited interest; indeed, the optics, even those from the 1950s, all showed very good results, even excellent performance, at these apertures. It is therefore necessary to adapt the test to working apertures according to the type of lens being studied.
For example : a lens for which the widest opening is f1.5 will be used, for the most part, at this nominal opening and up to f4, because it is clearly not useful to purchase a lens with a maximum opening this large, only to use it at apertures such as f5.6, f8 or even f11. Conversely, a lens having a maximum opening of only f3.5 will, rather, most often be used at values such as f8. Summarizing, we tested at the maximum opening of each lens and at the aperture corresponding to two f-stops higher.
These corresponded to:
- F1.5 and f2.8 for lenses for which the maximum opening is f1.5
- F2 and f4 for lenses for which the maximum opening is f2
- F2.8 and f5.6 for lenses for which the maximum opening is f2.8
- F3.5 and f8 for lenses for which the maximum opening is f3.5
Leica M7 mounted on a tripod, with an adaptor ring - 39mm screw mount to Leica M mount.
The following lenses were tested :
- Jupiter 3 1.5/50 of 1950 (Zeiss elements)
- Jupiter 3 1.5/50 of 1952
- Jupiter 3 1.5/50 of 1956
- Jupiter 3 1.5/50 of 1985 (black)
- Leitz Summarit 1.5/50 of 1950
- Jupiter 8 2/50 of 1959
- Jupiter 8 2/50 of 1967
- Jupiter 8 2/50 of 1977 (black)
- Leitz Summicron (collapsing) 2/50 of 1953
- Industar 26M 2.8/53 of 1963
- Industar 61 L/D 2.8/55 of 1993
- Industar 22 3.5/50 of 1950
The following tests were performed :
1 (9 August 2004)
: Subject with light source at ¾, this light source thereby
being difficult for lenses having the tendency to experience flare.
Film : Fuji Acros 100.
2 (10 August
2004) : Subject uniformly front-illuminated. Film : Macophot UP
3 (11 August
2004) : Subject uniformly illuminated at a distance of 1 meter.
The lenses are therefore set to their nearest focus distance.
Film : Tura P150 (équivalent à l'Agfa APX 100).
All film was developed in Rodinal 1 + 25.
Evaluation on a light table with magnifying loupe: Each lens is graded on a scale of 6 according to the negatives obtained for each of the two apertures tested.
No expensive modern lens was included in this test. The interest of the test was also related to the fact that the prices of these lenses were between Euro 20 (!) and 300, of which 9 lenses of the 12 did not exceed a price of Euro 100 !!
Pictures produced for Test 1 gave the following results
- The Jupiter 3 of 1950 shines by its performance at full aperture. In spite of a tendency toward flare, sharpness and contrast meet requirements. The image obtained at f2.8 is the best of the comparison tests. The Zeiss elements were indeed the world's best !...
- The Jupiter 3 of 1952 gave identical results at full aperture, but were little improved at f2.8. It is likely that the Russian elements only make a difference beginning at apertures of f4. I have used this lens only at f5.6, and the results were found to be excellent.
- Jupiter 3 of 1956 : Although mechanically more reassuring, this lens presents strictly the same optical characteristics as the preceding lens.
- Rich images, sharp and contrasty for the black Jupiter 3 of 1985
- The legendary Summarit , to wrap up the f1.5 series. Full aperture is disappointing, with a strong propensity toward flare. Lack of contrast and definition. At f5.6, the image is detailed and textured, but still with a slight lack of contrast.
- The Jupiter 8 of 1959 is the revelation of these comparative tests. Less striking than the Jupiter 3 of 1950, this lens gives very lively negatives at f2 as at f4, with even a slight #D effect ! Classy ! Mechanically new.
- The 1960s have only a poor reputation as regards these Russian optics. However, there are several jewels hidden among what is, it is true, a rather disappointing production. The Jupiter 8 of 1967 is not, unfortunately, an exception to the rule: it has a soft image in all fields at f2, with little improvement at f4.
- Having already given some very fine negatives, the black Jupiter 8 of 1977 was awaited with expectation at the first turn. It was seen as disappointing, however, in the 'first heat' of trials: soft images with lack of sharpness in both negatives. Another victim of this incident light !
- The renown collapsing Summicron gave a well detailed image at f2, but with a tendency toward flare, which greatly reduced the contrast. Slight and insufficient improvements at f4: the image remained soft.
- The worst negatives of this test 1 were given by the Industar 26M : No definition, no contrast, and a great susceptibility to flare.
- The challenger of all the tests, namely the Industar 61 L/D, provided only limited interest here: a soft image at f2.8, and soft at f5.6. The lens made from lanthanum provided no improvement !
- The copy corresponding to the Leitz
Elmar, designated the Industar 22 provided a rather soft
and low contrast (due to flare) at f3.5, but was excellent at
f8, immediately placing this negative just behind the Jupiter
3 of 1950 at f2.8 ! From this too large difference, this lens
picked up "only" 5 points.
- The three best images were therefore produced by the Jupiter 3 of 1950 at f2.8, the Jupiter 3 of 1985 at f2.8, and by the Industar 22 at f8.
- Differences among the three Jupiter
3s of the 1950s is significant : that of 1950 with Zeiss elements
showed significantly better performance than the newer ones. It
is, however, highly probable that this difference is reduced or
even eliminated toward f5.6. The 1985 examples remains a reference.
We should not forget that this lens was produced by a manufacturer
of repute. Had the Soviets altered the manufacture of lens elements
for the black lenses? Still, the black lenses give consistently
results that are chromatically neutral, whereas the chrome lenses
display a decided tendency to deliver a slightly warm chromatic
- The Industar 26M is seen as unusable.
- The Industar 61 L/D however capable did not prove itself in this test.
- The Leitz lenses showed themselves
to be quite average. They were out-performed by their Soviet equivalents.
Will this test also be as astonishing as the first ? Let us see the results below:
- The Jupiter 3 of 1950 sets the tone: contrasty and sharp. The values are excellent.
- Its two twins, the Jupiter 3 of 1952 and 1956 are just a notch below. Very good lenses, which suffer only in comparison with their elder brother.I am sure that these grades would be even less differentiated at smaller apertures.
- The negatives of the Jupiter 3 of 1985 are notable right from the start : clarity, sharpness, contrast.just the kind of negatives that one would want to take !
- Slightly behind its predecessor, the Summarit provides satisfaction: Precise, clear, and sharp. Only the contrast is somewhat reduced.
- Very good at the two apertures tested, the Jupiter 8 of 1959 confirms its abilities : sharp, contrasty, integrity of image.excellent ! A true "old style" lens, from which it would be a pleasure to print the negatives on baryte paper.
- Still somewhat insipid, the Jupiter 8 of 1967 does not do honor to the fiftieth anniversary of the October revolution.
- " Rather mediocre wide open, the black Jupiter 8 of 1977 catches up at f4 : good sharpness and serious contrast for a modern lens.
- " Somewhat soft at f2 and showing little improvement at f4, the Summicron lags behind. Surprising !
- " Again, the Industar 26M displays not the least quality.
- " Soft at the two apertures tested, the Industar 61 L/D is really disappointing. However, no trap from the light this time !
- " As in the preceding test, the Industar 22 is fairly average at f3.5, but striking at f8. A negative that one quickly notices; good contrast and sharpness.
- The Summarit regains its laurels, its legend, and its true level: so much the better ! The astonishing Jupiter 8 of 1959 also wins the maximum score.
- The Jupiter 3s of 1950 and 1985 are decidedly wonderful lenses. They are followed closely behind in this test by the Jupiter 3s of 1952 and 1956.
- If one must make photographs where the f-stop is important, the Industar 22 would be the best choice, since f-stop settings such as f8 and f11 do not seem to trouble it ; on the contrary !
Final test in order to have a peaceful conscience:
- Again, the Jupiter 3 of 1950 offers a crystalline reproduction of the subject, with the added benefit of the "magic" of Zeiss optics.
- Again, also, the Jupiter 3 of 1952 performs just behind its two year older brother.
- A notch below, the Jupiter 3 of 1956 is at a level with the Summarit. (contrast)
- The negatives of the Jupiter 3 of 1985 are extraordinarily sharp and contrasty. The finest details come out clearly at f2.8. Impressive ! We find also, however, the hardness of certain modern lenses.
- The Summarit suffers by comparison : beautiful negatives, well detailed, but the contrast is not up to the mark. The opposite of the preceding lens. This nice softness is sometimes useful !
- Beautiful negatives, sharp and contrasty for the Jupiter 8 of 1959 , with some of that magic which is linked to the respect of values. A pleasure.
- Again, soft at the two apertures, the Jupiter 8 of 1967 does not offer much interest.
- Excellent negatives for the black Jupiter 8 of 1977, which continues its progress ! I return to the lens which had given me such fine results last February on Ilford Delta 100 ! Contrasty and sharp, with values which hardly lack nuances.
- Another disappointment for the Summicron : the negatives are quite sharp, but there is practically no contrast. This is probably due to the particular lens tested, because this lens enjoys an excellent optical reputation.
- A jump of pride/respect for the Industar 26M : certainly the two apertures tested here do not incite the most expansive enthusiasm, but this time, the negatives are perfectly useable ! Sharpness and contrast are at the required level.
- The disappointing Industar 61 L/D again gives negatives which are too soft.
- Faithful to its usual performance, the Industar 22 provides a satisfactory negative, but not more than that, at f3.5, but is a true masterpiece at f8.from which we award its grade of 5.
- Not much new, other than perhaps the very fine negatives given by the Jupiter 8 of 1977, and the good results of the Industar 26M.
- The "modern" lenses demonstrate in this kind of test their somewhat better contrast, which might be a disadvantage or and advantage, according to the subject.
- The kind of values provided by the
Jupiter 3 of 1950, the Summarit, and the Jupiter 8 of 1959 typically
matched the results that I had looked for.
The averages obtained by each of the several lenses are as follows :
In First Place : The Jupiter 3s of 1950 and of 1985. In Third Place: The Jupiter 8 of 1959. (4th, the Industar 22, 5th, the Jupiter 3 of 1952, 6th, the Jupiter 3 of 1956, 7th, the Summarit and the Jupiter 8 of 1977. The other lenses did not achieve the "average".
The fantastic pre-war optical designers of Zeiss were not wrong : their 7 element optical formula received the best scores in the test. Indeed, even if the name "Zeiss" appears on none of the lenses in this test, the Jena firm is omnipresent: the Jupiter 3s are all the progeny of the same original Zeiss formula, as are the Jupiter 8s (6 elements). And if the Jupiter 3 of 1950 is stamped "Jupiter 3", the constructor KMZ is responsible only for the mounting; the optical group is certainly part of the German goods confiscated by the Soviets after the victory of 1945. The Jupiter 3 of 1952 is and excellent optic, and that of 1956 can pride itself as being at the level of the Summarit ! Surprising for a lens that one finds easily/widely, and moreover, for a moderate price.
The surprises are rather among the losers, rather than among the winners : The Summicron of 1953 likely has some defective aspect ; it is not possible that the best 50 mm lens from Leitz should be among the poorest performers !
It is not useful to invest in a Jupiter 8 from the 1960s: its two cousins provide such superior performance that its interest is certainly limited. More so, in that the 1959 model has the little control for the index finger (which simplifies focusing), and that the 1977 model adds to the lack of this feature by very viscous mechanical quality.
The Industar 61 L/D which had given such fine results last year did not live up to his prior result ; the mediocre mechanical quality of these lenses from the beginning of the 1990s is certainly a factor.
Provided "free" with the Fed 2 cameras, the Industar 26M, looks somewhat like a camera body cap, rather than the low end of the lens range.
Confirmation for the Industar 22. A copy of the Elmar f3.5, it is understandable why this optical formula so pleased the first Leica users ! The absence of a rangefinder on the first Leicas were compensated by the quality of this lens : indeed, with and f-stop of f9 or f12.5 (values used at that era), and.long live depth of field !
Last, but not least, the Summarit is not the best of performers, but it remains irreplaceable by its quality of being "the archetype of the classic lens", somewhat soft, nuanced, prone to flare, but so captivating, and with an inimitable bo-keh !
Having absolutely no pretensions to being "the truth", this test underlines several tendencies :
The Soviet lenses, when they were in mechanically good condition were really of good performance. At last word.
The Leitz lenses do not age better than the others.
Considering the very strong personality of each lens, it is better to select them as a function of the photographic subject, rather than for their pure performance. (and, that is what the users of modern lenses having a high contrast do not generally understand).
For the aficionados of four element lenses, the Elmar of Leitz should be preferred to its Industar 22 copy, since these imitations were unconvincing.
The fact to have tested these lenses at their maximum aperture and at 2 f-stops higher had certainly allowed them to by distinguished, one from another. Indeed, all are at least "satisfactory" at f8 !
Thanks in advance to my future readers, perhaps as crazy as I am for diving into a small, somewhat outmoded study such as this. Thanks for having read this.
Thanks to the Leica M7 batteries for having held up.
Thanks to Rodinal for having produced such fine negatives for more than 113 years, (almost) regardless of the lens used !