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Capsule Summaries of Canon Lenses for Leica

35/1.8 Canon black/chrome - this is one of the more underappreciated lenses. The Canon 35/1.8 is a Planar-Type (7/4) lens, single coated, with 11 aperture blades and infinity lock. It has a slow-twist barrel. Full click stops at 1.8, 2 and all stops to 22. This is the same era as the Canon VI and P. Good sharpness without being too contrasty across the whole frame, smooth bokeh. These are often seen with cleaning marks, and they are getting harder to find. Body is aluminum and brass. Thread size is 40mm. You can use the big rectangular hood with cutout with this.

Above: 35/1.8 Canon at full aperture (Canon P)

35/2 Canon black - essentially a rework of the 35/1.8 and the model for the current 35/2.5 Skopar pancake. A world-class lens in its time (made until 1972). Extremely contrasty, very slight blue bias, well-made black enamel on aluminum body, like a little SLR lens. Very compact. Same full click stops. The cool thing about this lens is that like other Canon lenses, the focus mark and the aperture indicator are at the 2 o'clock position. With the 35/2 you can see the selected aperture in the Hexar RF's finder. This lens is hellishly sharp in the center and pretty weak at the corners wide-open. I suspect that Canon tweaked the 1.8 a tiny bit and optimized for contrast and center sharpness. Getting pricey. This lens can only be used with the Canon black clamp-on round shade. Filter size is 40mm; the shade takes series VI filters.

Above: Canon 35/2 at f/8 (Hexar RF)

50/1.2 Canon black in LTM - the Canon 1.2 is a straight Zeiss Planar pattern lens (7 elements in 4 groups). It is huge with a 55mm filter diameter (which will impinge slightly on the 50mm frameline. Has full f/stops from 1.2 to 22, circular diaphragm, and infinity lock. Minimum focus is 1 meter. On-axis, focuses well at f/1.2. Not a super-high-contrast lens, but if you think about what you use superwide apertures for (night shooting, for example) it is not a huge problem. Noticeably soft in the corners wide open. Takes 55mm filters and a special vented shade (which is as costly as the lens). Watch the front element; some filters can contact it.

Above: Canon 50/1.2 at full aperture and 1 meter (Hexar RF)

50/1.5 Canon chrome in LTM (sometimes listed as Canon, sometimes Serenar) - this is a sleeper of a lens, one that is very much a well-kept secret. This is a clone of the Zeiss Sonnar 50/1.5 (7 elements, 3 groups). Heavy chrome-plated brass barrel (heavy weightwise, too), 40mm filter thread, with infinity lock. Click stop apertures f/1.5 to 22. Excellent contrast on-axis wide-open, lots of punch. Not as sharp as a 50/1.4 Nikkor at 40x, but the Nikon lens makes considerably flatter images. More than adequate wide open for most, if not all, of your shooting needs. Focus falloff is just like a Sonnar, with the sharp central image and lovely dissolve into nonfocus. Optimum aperture is f/4. Min focus is 3.5 feet.

Above: 50/1.5 Canon chrome at f/1.5 and 1m (with Hexar RF)

50/1.8 Canon black/chrome - this is a great lens, and you usually see it is a cheap throwin with most Canon bodies. This is often referred to as the "black" one. The Model I (a/k/a Serenar) is chromed brass and is very heavy. The Model II (first chrome/black) and the Model III (second chrome/black) look substantially identical. The Model III has a thicker rear chrome ring and has a more plasticky front filter ring (metal, though). All optical formulae are identical 6/4 Planar-type lenses (even the all-chrome one), and the latter two models sport gold coatings. Lens focuses to 1m and has good all-around performance. A friend and I tested the model II against the 50/2 Summicron (original rigid), and the results were indistinguishable. Decent bokeh. Despite an annoying infinity lock, it is definitely a "buy." Filter thread is 40mm; proper shade is a round clip-on, A42, black enamel with thumbscrew.

Canon 50/1.8 II ("black") at f/1.8 (Canon P).

Canon 100/3.5 black in LTM - Tiny, sharp, and highly coveted, this lens is a must if you are a compactness freak. Excellent across-the-frame performance at all apertures. Like the 135/3,5 described below, this is not really a telephoto, but a long-focus lens. Focuses to 1m. Takes 40mm filters (rotating front barrel). Correct hood is T-42 clip-on. If you don't need a huge aperture, this is a great alternative to one of the giant and heavy 85/2 lenses. The Canon P, VI and 7 have built-in framelines for this lens.

Canon 100/3.5 black at full aperture (law-school roommate George) (Canon P)

Canon 135/3.5 black in LTM - a very common and very cheap lens, the 135/3.5 is a long-focus type lens with excellent across-the-field performance. With 5 elements in 4 groups, it may be your first and last 135mm lens for rangefinder cameras. Focuses to 1.5m (close for a lens this long) and will add quite a bit of length to your camera. Solid click stops and nice, hard coatings make this a great lens. The only caveat is that some of these don't want to reach infiniy with M-camera rangefinders - so try before you buy. Takes 48mm filters (rotating front barrel). Correct hood is T-50 clip-on.