Posted April 2017

Rediscovering 50mm


Something peculiar I’ve noticed in photographers in general and in me personally in particular is that once I had shot with some different types of gear two almost opposite things happened. I realized that the gear I used had very little actual impact on the photos I took. But on the other hand I also became extremely picky with what gear I was using.

Making matters even trickier these extremely specific preferences shift over time.

Case in point – my use of 50mm lenses. In my review of the Summicron 50 V I alluded to this, writing “to me it feels like no-mans-land (…) it doesn’t really feel like a slightly long normal, but rather as a very short tele (…) I've not quite bonded with this lens”.

I’m guessing this can be traced back to spending a lot of time shooting 40mm lenses through the years. First on my parents SLR as a kid and later on a number digital system cameras*. I became very comfortable with the neutral perspective it offers and even just the small difference in angle of view up to a 50 made me loose my bearings enough to feel a little uncomfortable.

* Or equivalent ones. A Nikon 28/2.8 that I used on my APS-C DSLR:s, the Voigtländer 40/2 for Canon, the 20/1.7 for the GF1 and then the Zeiss ZM 28 and later Leica Summicron 28 on the NEX–7 & 5N.

However in the past few years I’ve noticed a slow shift in my preferences.

A roll of HP5 I've written about before might have set things in motion.

I’m not totally certain of why, but 50mm suddenly started making a lot more sense to me. Maybe it’s because it pairs so well with that 28 I like so much, or maybe it’s the slightly wider framelines* in the Leica M4-P I got a while back. In any case during my 366 I’ve shot a lot more with a 50 than I have in years. Enjoying that short-tele look, rather than feeling it a drawback.

* Compared to the M9. If I’ve understood correctly it depends on the distance the framelines are calibrated for – the M4-P is at its most accurate around 2m, the M9 around 1m.

A 50 isn't quite as chamelon-esque as a 40mm lens but I've come to really enjoy that added bit of condensation the perspective allows, and it's still a far cry from a pronounced tele-look.

I’ve branched out a bit from the Summicron too, trying two other M-mount 50’s by Zeiss – the f/2 Planar and the f/1.5 Sonnar. Both excellent in their own way. I’ll get around to reviewing both in due time.

All this has also made me find new appreciation for the Summicron and while I was a little lukewarm towards it when writing my initial review back in early 2015 I’ve now warmed up to it considerably and see it as a truly excellent lens (though still not without issues). I’ve updated my review with these new views and also short comparisons to the Zeiss lenses.


I have a feeling I'll keep shooting at 50mm more than I used to, unless I change my mind again.

What this amounts to

I’m not sure there’s a clear bottom line to all this. If there is it might be to challenge your preconceptions every once in a while, and try things outside your specific preferences, you might come away surprised.



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