Leitz Summaron 35mm F/3.5
Launched as a screw-mount lens in 1949, and in M bayonet mount in 1956, the 35mm F/3.5 Summaron is a beautifully made lens and, although it can’t compete in performance with later Leitz 35s, it is still capable of producing very pleasing results.
My 1958 copy is in pretty nice condition cosmetically, and is the M3 version with ‘goggles’. The viewfinder on the Leica M3 only has frame lines for 50mm, 90mm and 135mm lenses, so this viewfinder attachment corrects the field of view to match that of the lens and allow accurate framing.
The goggles are detachable for ease of carrying or storage by loosening the screw on the top of the housing, but can only be removed with the lens focused on infinity and, after removal, the lens is then locked at infinity.
Unfortunately, these Summarons are prone to developing haze on the lens elements, particularly on older examples, and mine is no different. This haze is difficult to see without shining a bright light through the lens, but it’s quite obvious when you do.
The potential effects of this are reduced contrast and flaring, most noticeable when shooting contre-jour. Sure enough, my lens flares more than a pair of David Bowie’s trousers, as can been seen in the following photographs.
I still love the look I get from this little lens and, in fairness, some of this flaring could have been reduced if I’d been bothered to use a lens hood (note to self: use a hood!). I like it enough that I’m probably going to send it to be professionally cleaned which will fix the problem. In the meantime, however, I’m just going to use it as is. In fact, I quite like the lens flare, and I’m going to treat it as a feature, rather than a fault!
Framing more carefully to reduce any bright direct light results in more even contrast, as seen here.
Shooting under better controlled light reveals that the Summaron is quite a snappy little lens, with good sharpness.
Like all Leitz lenses, prices on these Summarons have been on the rise lately, but it’s still one of the better bargains in Leica land. Current prices seem to be around the $400 mark, but better deals come around every now and again.
Examples in this article were shot on Fuji Neopan 400 and developed in Kodak HC-110, dilution B.