Old Leica lenses are fabulous, but don’t think for a second that they are sharp wide open. If you want sharpness, save the $500 investment and find a $10 Fujica or Canon FD 50mm lens in a bargain basement bin in a camera store. However, for their time in the 1940s and 1950s, they were the best 35mm lenses out there. Like other lenses of this era, the older optical formulas and non-coated or single coated lens elements produce a completely different, somewhat dreamy result that is not attainable from modern lenses.
Recently I travelled though Eastern Ontario and attached the Leica 50mm f3.5 Elmar to the NEX. This collapsible lens for the standard “kit” lens with most Leica cameras in the ‘30s, ‘40’s and early ‘50s, and mine, being a lens from the mid ‘30’s is uncoated. Here’s a couple shots of barns and buildings, and the effect with this lens is great on these sorts of subjects. The first was shot at f8 and has significantly better resolution and contrast than the shot below taken wide open.
I like both these images as the viewer has no idea when either of them were taken. The subject matter, combined with the older style image rendering makes for a timeless photograph. Despite being shot only week ago, it would not be hard to convince a viewer that these were taken 70 or 80 years ago.