Leica Summicron 35mm f2 V1 8 Element – Lord of Black and White

Lens Review

Leica Summicron 35mm f2 V1 8 Element

Lord of Black and White

Leica Summicron 35mm f2 V1 8 Element – Lord of Black and White

Background

Summicron 35mm f2 V1 is the first standard wide angle lens with an ultra-fast aperture at F2 produced by Leica from 1958 to 1969. It was designed in 8 elements in 6 groups augmented classic symmetrical double-Gauss and used rare earth optical glass.

During its production period, it was available in M2, M3 (with goggle) and LTM mount versions with 39mm filter thread and constructed with a nice infinity lock function. In terms of minimum focusing distance. M2 version focuses at 0.7m to infinity; M3 goggle version focuses at 0.65m to infinity and LTM mount version from 1m to infinity.

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Details Summicron 35/2 V1

Outlook of Summicron 35/2 8 Element

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Leica Summicron 35mm f2 8 Element V1 (Germany)
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Lens barrel (top)
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Lens barrel (bottom)

The Character of 8 Element

The first thing that I noticed was its contrast, it has relatively low contrast compare with other 35mm Summicron in Leica, bokeh is different from other 35mm Summicron, it doesn’t have swirly bokeh but in rather busy and non-uniformed structure, lens’s sharpness improves really well at F5.6 to F8. At its largest aperture, it has Leica glow on highlights but it also depends on which year your Summicron 8 Element belongs to, I have tried serial begins with 165, 209 and 210 and I assume their coating contribute to their Leica glow intensity. I like later serial within the range of 209 and 210 more because images shot are more solid and sharp. Early batches often produce even lower contrast and much more glow.

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Kodak Double-X 400 (Rodinal), Hong Kong
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Kodak Double-X 400 (Rodinal), Hong Kong
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Kodak Double-X 400 (Rodinal), Hong Kong
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Ilford HP5, Ljubljana

Colour Negative and Colour Reversal Slide Film performance

If you have been following my blog then you know I love to pair different lenses with various films. Although I am not really a colour person I have tried Summicron 35mm V1 on different types of colour negative film. If you like colour pictures that are not saturated but rather natural and relatively low contrast, then this lens is probably a good choice for you as it is plain on its film look.

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Fujifilm Provia RDPIII, Fukuoka
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Fujifilm Provia RDPIII, Fukuoka
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Fujifilm Provia RDPIII, Mt Aso

Summicron 8 Element vs 7 Element

If people call 7 Element Summicron IV as King of Bokeh, this 8 Element Summicon V1 will be lord of black and white. 7 Element excels most in colour negative film by its great sharpness and saturation, it also has more uniform bokeh at F2.

If you are looking for vivid and saturated colour from a lens then I would suggest you to go for Summicron 35mm IV 7 Element rather than 8 Element. But if you tend to find a lens that produces the perfect transition from dark to bright tones, this Summicron 35mm V1 is something you will love.

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Kodak Tri-x 400, Hong Kong
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Kodak Double-x, Fukuoka
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Kodak Double-X 400 (Rodinal), Hong Kong
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Kodak Tri-x 400, Hong Kong

My Personal Experience with 8 Element

In 2014, I had a chance to get this lovely lens from a local dealer and soon after that, I went on a trip with it. After spending 2 weeks in Germany, I shot around 10-15 rolls of film. Then I developed all of my pictures, scanned and printed some of the images. I was stunned by this crazy lens with its amazing tonality and resolution on film. Besides its exceptional performance and the unique look from vintage lenses and adding my personal experience with this lens with all these memories it will always be my special black and white lens. I used this lens extensively on different work as well as my best travel buddy. I used to travel with this Summicron 8 Element and Summicron collapsible as well as Hasselblad Xpan. 

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Berlin, Germany 2014
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Berlin, Germany 2014

Thoughts

If you are keen on investing just one or two Leica lenses, this will be one of them. Its value has been going up and up in the best 10-15 years and it is getting harder to find such a nice condition lens. I would highly recommend you to shoot this lens with black and white film. It’s digital performance isn’t that impressive on CMOS sensors but looks pleasant on CCD sensors only and I guess that’s the only digital camera that can bring out its essence.

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Kentmere 400, Hong Kong
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Kodak Ektachrome E100, Takachiho
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Kodak Double-X 400 (Rodinal), Hong Kong
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