Leica M9 - Thoughts On Lenses

2000_054_08.jpgHave had a lot of interest and some interesting conversations fueled by my enthusiastic post greeting the recently released Leica M9. It appears that I am not the only one interested in the new M9. That's not surprising - what is surprising is that there seems to be way more people interested in the M9 that have never shot with a film version - like the M6, than I ever predicted. A lot of the conversations that I have had with folks that would be delving into rangefinders for the first time are about lenses - given how idiotically expensive Leica glass is.

After giving it some thought over the weekend, I have come up with what I would do about lenses. Not necessarily what I have done but what I would do now - assuming that I did not have unlimited funds and knowing what I know now either by experience or the experience of others that I trust personally. Here are a couple of very broad things real quick and then some specifics. First I would NOT buy the new Leica budget lenses. It's not because they are no good, it's because I could do better for the same or less cost. I would also not buy the newest of the idiotically expensive Leica designs, like the 21 f1.4,  unless I had a really really good reason. 2001_042_10.jpgIf you must have a brand new Leica lens to go with your brand new Leica M9 - just so you have perfection to compare other things to, I would stick with something like the 35 or 50 f2 summicrons. Not cheap but as close to perfection as it gets.

Here is what I would do. I would probably buy Leica's "normal-ish" kinds of lenses used of the 90's or early 2000's vintage. These lenses are perfect, are built to last a life time, and most of them have not been used all that much. They are not collectable and are half what new ones cost that have no fingerprints. On that point unless you are a collector  stay away from collector stuff.

2000_053_23.jpgMoving on to the more exotic kinds of glass. I would buy the Voigtlander lenses. Specifically the 50 f1.1 and the really really wide stuff. If you are on a much tighter budget I would not hesitate to use any of that line of lenses. The build quality is extremely good, probably better than the new "budget" Leica glass. For lenses that are not quite so exotic I would probably go with the Zeiss ZM series.  The Zeiss ZM series are built by the same people as the Voigtlander lenses - just Carl Zeiss designs, tolerances, materials, etc. The 18, 21 f4.5 and 21 f2.8 are all very affordable and you will never see a difference between these and the Leica lenses. Heck the Voigtlander and Zeiss lenses are very good throughout the range if you want to go all out brand new. While you are at it grab the anniversary R2/R3 Voigtlander set WITH a 50mm f2 that is rated as good as anything else on the planet for about $1000 and you will have a film body to boot for half of what a 50mm f2 Summicron cost new.

Just my 2¢


Ps. The photos included with this post were all taken with an M6 and 50mm f2 Summicron. I would say about 80% of the reasonably decent photos of my three daughters where made with this combo or the 90 f2.8 Elmarit both extremely affordable and extremely capable.

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