Leica M3 (1959) – Part 2

While using the borrowed 50mm 5cm Summicron-M f/2.0 (Rigid/2nd version) (1956), I decided that I really needed to purchase my own lens. Having just spent what I think is a considerable amount on the M3 body, I wanted to limit my lens purchase to something more affordable. Searching for an M-Mount lens on eBay led me to this lens, followed by some research, and a week of careful consideration.

The 7artisans f/1.1 50mm is a new lens made in China. According to the 7artisans website, a group of seven Chinese camera enthusiasts, having various professional backgrounds, came together to create this new lens. The 50mm lens is a Leica M-Mount and has an aperture range from f/1.1 to f/16. It has 12 aperture blades, and 7 elements in 6 groups. The lens itself is a heavy piece of glass and aluminum, with a copper core. It weighs nearly 14 ounces, so slightly less than 1 lb.

As I was doing some research on this lens, I wanted to see actual images taken with a Leica camera. However, all I could find were digital photos taken with Sony cameras. I determined that Sony users are the perfect market for an affordable prime 50mm f/1.1 lens. I found this review by Hamish Gill on 35mmc.com, where he used the lens on a Sony body. And then found this review by Emulsive, where he used the f2 version of the lens on a Leica film camera. Note/opinion: the f/2 50mm has a better review because the f/1.1 tested was a pre-production model.

The shots below are my initial results with the Leica M3. Being a Leica newbie, I must have done something very wrong because the first half of this roll did not come out. Overall, this is a solid lens. The build quality is good. The aperture and focus are smooth and easy to use. Unfortunately, a focus tab is not built on to this lens. They ship a rubber tab that you can stick to the lens barrel if you want, not ideal. The optical quality is what I would expect for the price. I expected the lens to be soft when it’s open at f/1.1, but was surprised by a few shots. The thin slice of focus is nice, but hard to achieve. And really, how often do you need something at f/1.1? This lens is also shipped with a focus sheet and some instructions on how to adjust the focus. Something I don’t think I’d attempt to mess with.

I spent a week in New York with the M3 and the 7artisan 50mm f/1.1. After a while, my biggest complaint became the weight. The 50mm Summicron-M would have been a better choice. Or anything smaller and lighter for that matter. Walking 7 to 14 miles in and around the city made me reconsider the choice I’d made. There were three days I left the camera behind. I’ll be sharing some photos of New York in the coming weeks.

Camera: Leica M3 (1959)
Film: Kosmo Foto Mono 100
Process: Kodak D-76 (1+1) 10:00 @ 20c
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo


4 thoughts on “Leica M3 (1959) – Part 2

  1. define “did not come out” for the first half of the roll…too dense? Too light? did you perhaps leave the lens cap on? This happens.


  2. Wow, that focus is razor thin! A really nice article. I am sure with a couple more rolls through it you’ll get some great results.

    One note for focusing I would get the focus roughly right with your hands then rock your entire body forwards and backwards till you hit perfect focus. Much easier to deal with just one variable rather than adjusting the lens and your body at the same time!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “and really, how often do you need something at f/1.1?”

    I have read about this and other superfast lenses. Even considered figuring out how to gather the $7 or $8k for a used Nocktilux, but you’re right, anything faster than a 50/1.4 is a bit of a luxury that only adds weight and size to your camera and won’t be used often. I use a Pentax 50/1.2 but with an SLR, a faster lens also means a brighter focus screen. And SLR’s are larger anyway. So while I love fast primes, I agree with your this and your comment that maybe the 50 Cron might be better suited for you. The 50 Cron’s are pretty small and pair nicely with the M bodies in terms of balance, lack of viewfinder blockage and easy focus.

    “This lens is also shipped with a focus sheet and some instructions on how to adjust the focus. Something I don’t think I’d attempt to mess with.”

    Well… while you might not want to tackle this yourself, if you’re going to keep this lens, you may want to reconsider. Something many don’t consider when using an interchangable lens rangefinder is that the RF needs to be calibrated to your fastest lenses in order to focus them correctly. Even if you buy a brand new Leitz 50/1.4, certainly a 50/0.95, Leica recommends having the body and lens calibrated to match. I imagine a non-Leica made lens will have potential for even greater difference in accurate calibration. I bet you’ll find that you can squeeze a big more performance out of this 7Artisans if you have the lens and body adjusted to match. I send my Leica kit out for this but it is something one can do oneself too apparently.

    Nice first photos!


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