Update: I have re-ordered the title of this post to be more legible.
Despite looking dead-sexy on a Leica M240, the 35mm f/1,5 LTM Canon, aka "Japanese Summilux" isn't the Canon I fell in love with. I fell in love with the 35mm f/2 LTM Canon, aka "Japanese Summicron", about which I wrote this ohmage.
And despite being my favourite-drawing 35mm of all time, the Leica isn't on my list of must-buy lenses. This model belongs to my mate, Sean Chan, aka the one that lends me all sorts of cool gadgets, both audiophile and photophile. I love the Summilux. But it is much heavier, longer, and larger than what I consider ideal. Thus, for all its ergonomic and optic bizarrities, the compact Canon stays on the Leica.
And as I'm a vain fellow, that same lens rarely touches the Fujifilm X-T1 except to do articles such as this. It looks far better on an X-Pro 1. But that is the way of things. Rangefinder lenses look good on rangefinder cameras, and their slavish copies. SLR lenses look good on SLR cameras. The Canon 35/1,5 LTM looks like cob on an X-T1.
Which is all well and good because the Fujifilm XF35 1,4R is a lens whose fat, ugly face safekeeps brilliant optics. Its glass is sharp, mostly distortion free, and ultra contrasty. Its flat-field rendering ensures brilliant shots of newspapers and the backsides of a painter's canvass. But performance metrics alone do not an image make. The Canon's older optical design shows stress early on; the Summilux bears the all-to-familiar Leica field curvature. And despite being volumetrically much smaller than the Fujifilm, it is heavier than both competitors.
The most substantial difference is that it is a lens made for sensors 2,25x smaller. Both the Summilux and the Canon are fast wide angle lenses when shot on film or full frame 35mm digital. The Fujifilm makes do with the field of view of a film-equivalent ~53mm lens. Despite illuminating a much smaller image circle, its being made for digital, and for the X series in particular, ensures that its performance is second to none. Naturally, both wide-angle competitors are at a disadvantage. They are mounted to the X-T1 via a Hawk's Factory Helicoid adapter, without which, they cannot frame, or focus on objects closer than 0,7m at the extreme. The Helicoid adapter allows them to focus as close as the Fujifilm 35.
The purpose of this post isn't to prove that one lens is better, or worse, than another. It is to show what you can expect from a non-native rangefinder lens from the 1950's, a non-native rangefinder lens from the 1990's, and from a native lens, all bearing roughly equivalent apertures, though, when shot on their native mounts, dissimilar angles of view.
I did my best to keep equalise all photographic elements.
Digital camera: Fujifilm X-T1
Tripod: Gitzo 3x Carbon
Tripod Head: Arca Swiss Cube
f/1,4 - 1,5 images were taken at exposures of 1/250 second
f/8 images were taken at exposures of 1/8 second
The photograph incorporating the Dala Horse, the MyST IzoPhones-60 headphones, the tube of hand lotion, and of course, the 45-minute wonder board game, Carcassonne, was taken au naturel. Clouds changed the light midway and sort of ruined it for the Summilux. They also randomly darkened frames in the same lens sequence. As a result, the images from the first scene are, certainly from an exposure, hit and miss. My sincere apologies for the weather.
The photograph of the Canon 50/1,4 LTM lens was taken in a piece of savaged aluminium, and chided on two sides by profoto lights. Otherwise, the equipment uses was the same.
All studio-lit images were taken at exposure settings of 1/180 second, and shot at f/8. The profotos went pop! pop! pop!
NOTE 1: Originally I planned to paste up every image I took at every full stop, from f/1,4 to f/8. Better senses prevailed. I began to drink (which may be why I put together a scene comprised of hand cream, an Ikea rat, Carcassonne, a pair of 1200$ headphones, and a Dala Horse).
This isn't a 'see, the Fuji is better than the Leica and Canon' post. Nor is it its converse. This article exists only to show how each lens renders, the colour it produces, and how its contrast, or lack thereof, impacts a final image. If you are looking for definitive metrics, look elsewhere.
NOTE 2: The Hawk's Factory adapter isn't 100% stable. It pitches the images from the Leica and Canon sidewise by a handful of pixels with every change in aperture, not to mention breathing. No matter how many times I tried, I could not obtain images matched 100% from edge to edge.
NOTE 3: Even if the adapters used were perfectly stable, no current X camera allows for truly accurate manual focus framing. 100% and closer magnification is interpolated, and fine details are blurred in the LCD, EVF, and on a tethered or wireless device. As far as I can tell, I am the only person that cares about this. No member of X tribe cares about the repeatability of close focus photography. As you were Fujifilm, as you were.
First, the Dala Horse as seen by the Fujifilm:
Next, the Dala Horse as seen by the Canon:
Finally, the Dala Horse as seen by the Leica:
Below are magnified portions of the above images laid side by side for easy comparison of sharpness, DOF, and field curvature:
Finally, here is a simple studio scene where each lens is focused on the Canon 50mm LTM lens text '1,4', or as close to it as possible. Again, X camera viewfinder and LCD electronics are interpolated, making it very difficult to achieve accurate focus throughout sets.
The point of the below images is to show how similar each lens renders when light conditions are controlled and the lens is stopped down to f/8. Notable differences are: contrast, being lower in the Canon, and depth of field as consequence of field curvature. In the below examples, both rangefinder lenses demonstrate a larger depth of field in the image centre.
When Sean first loaned me the Summilux, I fell in love with its rendering of OOF elements. Returning it to him was like pulling teeth. This is now my second (and hopefully not last) time with the it. Most interesting to me is its deep focus in the centre of the image, as is seen in the rat images above. If central subjects are your thing, getting them in focus, and pulling interest from the viewer is probably best obtained through it.
As I judge it, the Fujifilm is the most contrasty of the bunch*. The the Leica pulls second. Shot wide open, the Canon follows at a distance, doggedly closing the gap once stopped way down.
Both rangefinder lenses were shot on a questionable adapter without which the final image would have been impossible to take. The Hawk's Factory is a godsend for getting in close. It is a miracle for mirrorless camera users that love to use small, well-built, long-lasting lenses that will outlive both them and their cameras. But it wobbles and sags. As a result, images from the lenses to which it supplies connection to the camera can be adversely affected.
That said, the nearly 60 year-old Canon performs admirably. Stopped down, it loses only in contrast to its newer and more hi-tech competition.
In the next part of this review I look with greater detail into the out-of-focus rendering of each lens, its flare, and at subjects to which I feel each lens is suited.
* The Hawk's Factory helicoid adapter has a smooth, reflective inner baffle that reflects light. Both the Summilux and the Canon may well project contrastier images than are seen in this article.