Fresh from 1958: The Japanese Summilux (Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM)

Taipei Main Station, the "Chessboard" Leica M9 Canon 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4
Taipei Main Station, the “Chessboard” Leica M9 Canon 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

It arrived today. After a couple of months looking at cheap, fast 50s I ended up picking up a Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM for the M9. I came across this copy from a seller Japan for a little over $200. This lens’ main rival in price, performance and speed would probably be the Jupiter 3. Both of these are 50mm f/1.4 lenses from the 50s/60s and both can be had for roughly the same price.

I don’t know a lot about this lens and nearly everything I do know has been picked up from reading a few posts here and there, but most of what I know comes from Jason Howe’s excellent write-up. Take a look at his post for some outstanding photos, technical information and samples of the lens taken on a few different bodies.

I was pleasantly surprised at the color reproduction from this lens.
I was pleasantly surprised at the color reproduction from this lens.

According to the serial number this lens appears to be one of the last few Type I lenses off the line before the Type II was introduced. Since the lens has only been in my hands for a few hours it is hard to draw any solid conclusion, but I can say that I’m looking forward to heading out with this lens and getting to know it a lot better.

All of the photos posted here have been edited to taste from DNG files with Adobe Lightroom 5 and Silver Efex Pro 2. Additionally, I shot the lens exclusively wide open at f/1.4 tonight at a variety of shutter speeds and ISO values.

National Taiwan Museum. Older lenses are known for somewhat weak contrast, but it doesn't seem to be much of an issue to correct in post.
National Taiwan Museum. Older lenses are known for somewhat weak contrast, but it doesn’t seem to be much of an issue to correct in post.

2015M9 w Canon LTM-29-Edit

2015M9 w Canon LTM-14-Edit-2

4 thoughts on “Fresh from 1958: The Japanese Summilux (Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM)

  1. and here’s me chiming in, in 2020 🙂 fresh off my vintage 50mm lens excursion, so to speak.

    it all started with the apo-cron. I just had to get it, what with all the hoo-ha about the optical sorcery Peter karbe had imbued into this lens and its levitating elements, but I was sorely disappointed at its unwieldiness. my copy had a loose aperture ring and the focus ring had an unbearable amount of play to it. and it must’ve weighed a ton. I had to return it, but I got my ten grand back, so I had loads of wiggle room to audition my replacements.

    now don’t get me wrong, the image from the apo cron was great. it was sharp basically across the entire frame wide open, and uktra contrasty with deep color cast. it’s first substitute was the planar ZM, which sacrificed corner sharpness and had busier bokeh, but was a joy to handle and had little to no vignetting. but being a planar, it was boring. I got in contact with a seller from Ukraine and he sold me a very pristine jupiter 3, which really impressed me with its relative sharpness, and the ephemeral oof rendering, along with the vintage filmic colors. but alas, it felt like a tin can toy lens..
    undeterred, I turned to the Japanese options and found one of these sumi-luxes that despite being rather worn externally, had glass as clear as a virgin glacial lake.

    well color me surprised, because the moment I chimped my first shutter actuation with it, I knew instantly that it was better than the apo-cron… not in mathematical terms, but through my eyes. of course, it didn’t have the sharpness all across the frame, but who cares about the periphery anyway!?

    it is beyond needle-sharp in the in-focus areas, with the perfect amount of contrast. quite incredible is how the colors read like a modern-day lens, and with bokeh reminiscent of an oil paint background, mottled and diffused ever so gently, and with a pinch of swirliness.

    it’s got a very long focus throw,l that takes some getting used to, but it’s dead precise. aperture is dead FIRM. it balances perfectly on my m10 too.

    just a marvelous lens. it is stuck to my camera for the foreseeable future.


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