Home LensesLens Tests In Depth Lens Tests: Leica Summicron-Cs vs Zeiss Ultra Primes

In Depth Lens Tests: Leica Summicron-Cs vs Zeiss Ultra Primes

written by Shane Hurlbut, ASC

Leica Summicron-C 21/75mm VS Zeiss Ultra 20/85mm:

In this article, we are going to compare the Leica Summicron-C lenses to other lenses that are around the same price range, the Zeiss Ultra Primes. We’re going to start with the Summicron 21mm vs the Zeiss Ultra 20mm.

Leica Summicron 21mm, ungraded

Leica Summicron 21mm, ungraded

Zeiss Ultra 20mm, ungraded

Zeiss Ultra 20mm, ungraded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 21mm and Zeiss Ultra 20mm, both ungraded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 21mm and Zeiss Ultra 20mm, both ungraded

By looking at the side by side comparison, you can see that a 1mm difference is a big jump for wide lenses. That’s why there are so many different wide lenses. There’s a 14mm, 16mm, 18mm, 21mm, 24mm, 25mm, 27mm, 29mm, and 32mm. When you get into 50mm and up, you jump to 75mm, 100mm, and 135mm. There are bigger millimeter jumps because the longer lenses don’t look as different with the small millimeter changes. For example, a 25mm jump is going to produce a much different image with a wider lens, but with a tighter longer lens, this 25mm difference isn’t as big.

Comparing the two, they’re both similar in sharpness, but the Summicron is flatter. The background looks closer to her with the Summicron, and the background looks further away with the Zeiss Ultra lens. The Zeiss Ultra lens also makes her look skinnier.

Notice that she is thinner with the Zeiss Ultra and that the Zeiss Ultra has more depth.

Notice that she is thinner with the Zeiss Ultra and that the Zeiss Ultra has more depth.

Here are the color graded versions:

Summicron 21mm, color graded

Summicron 21mm, color graded

Zeiss Ultra 20mm, color graded

Zeiss Ultra 20mm, color graded

Side by side comparison, Summicron 21mm and Zeiss Ultra 20mm, both color graded

Side by side comparison, Summicron 21mm and Zeiss Ultra 20mm, both color graded

With the color graded images, she’s still skinnier with the Zeiss Ultra 20mm lens. With this lens, the background is also still pushed further away when compared to the Summicron 21mm. The Summicron 21mm is designed to be flatter so it looks like the background is much closer.

With the closeups, we’re looking at a Summicron 75mm vs a Zeiss Ultra 85mm because there isn’t a 75mm Zeiss Ultra. Starting with the ungraded look, we have our Summicron 75mm:

Summicron 75mm, ungraded

Summicron 75mm, ungraded

Here is the Zeiss Ultra 85mm lens, ungraded:

Zeiss Ultra 85mm, ungraded

Zeiss Ultra 85mm, ungraded

Side by side comparison, Summicron 75mm and Zeiss Ultra 85mm, both ungraded

Side by side comparison, Summicron 75mm and Zeiss Ultra 85mm, both ungraded

Looking at these ungraded images, I can see that the color of the Zeiss Ultra 85mm and the Summicron 75mm look pretty similar. The Zeiss Ultra 85mm has a little more red, yellow, brown color in the glass.

Notice the yellow, red, brown color with the Zeiss Ultra.

Notice the yellow, red, brown color with the Zeiss Ultra.

Next is the graded look of the Summicron 75mm and Zeiss 85mm lens. We’re going to look for sharpness in detail on her skin.

Summicron 75mm, color graded

Summicron 75mm, color graded

Zeiss Ultra 85mm, color graded

Zeiss Ultra 85mm, color graded

Side by side comparison, Summicron 75mm and Zeiss Ultra 85mm, both color graded

Side by side comparison, Summicron 75mm and Zeiss Ultra 85mm, both color graded

With the Zeiss, it looks like there’s a little less contrast and a little less detail than the Summicron.

Taking the Lenses to the Backyard:

With the backyard setup, we can see how the lenses read color. We have nice flowers in the background and Monette is backlit.

Summicron 75mm, ungraded

Summicron 75mm, ungraded

Zeiss Ultra 85mm, ungraded

Zeiss Ultra 85mm, ungraded

Side by side comparison, Summicron 75mm and Zeiss Ultra 85mm, both ungraded

Side by side comparison, Summicron 75mm and Zeiss Ultra 85mm, both ungraded

Looking at these ungraded images, the Summicron looks like a neutral piece of glass. The Zeiss Ultra has that yellow, brown, red color to it. Next we’re going to look at the graded version of this setup in the backyard so that we can analyze the highlights.

Summicron 75mm, color graded

Summicron 75mm, color graded

Looking at the Summicron 75mm lens image, the highlights on top of her hair are blooming and the Summicron has good detail on her face. The blue in her shirt seems vibrant.

Zeiss Ultra 85mm, color graded

Zeiss Ultra 85mm, color graded

Looking at the Zeiss Ultra 85mm, I can see that this lens has less blue than the Summicron, which has more contrast. There also is less detail in her face compared to the Summicron, but both highlights are blooming on her head about the same.

Side by side comparison Summicron 75mm and Zeiss Ultra 85mm, both color graded

Side by side comparison Summicron 75mm and Zeiss Ultra 85mm, both color graded

At the Corral, a Less Controlled Environment:

Next we go to the corral because it is a less controlled environment and there’s a lot of light bouncing everywhere because of the light colored deck.

Summicron 21mm, ungraded

Summicron 21mm, ungraded

Zeiss Ultra 20mm, ungraded

Zeiss Ultra 20mm, ungraded

Side by side comparison, Summicron 21mm and Zeiss Ultra 20mm, both ungraded

Side by side comparison, Summicron 21mm and Zeiss Ultra 20mm, both ungraded

The Zeiss definitely is creating that three dimensional quality by pushing the background away. Even with just a 1mm difference, the background looks much further away from her than it is with the Summicron. The Summicron is flatter, and there isn’t as much of a three dimensional quality. The fence line in the background looks more horizontal and flat with the Summicron, but with the Zeiss Ultra, the fence line looks like it is trailing away from us. She also looks skinnier with the Zeiss Ultra.

Notice the fence with the Zeiss Ultra 20mm looks like it is trailing away because the lens pushes the background further away.

Notice the fence with the Zeiss Ultra 20mm looks like it is trailing away because the lens pushes the background further away.

For our graded versions with the Summicron 21mm and the Zeiss Ultra 20mm, we also have the same notes.

Summicron 21mm, color graded

Summicron 21mm, color graded

Zeiss Ultra, 20mm, graded

Zeiss Ultra, 20mm, graded

Side by side comparison, Summicron 21mm and Zeiss Ultra 20mm, both color graded

Side by side comparison, Summicron 21mm and Zeiss Ultra 20mm, both color graded

Looking at Monette’s face in the close up with the Summicron 75mm and the Zeiss Ultra 85mm, I can see that both lenses age Monette differently. With the Summicron, her face looks more flat. She looks older and more sophisticated.

Summicron 75mm, ungraded

Summicron 75mm, ungraded

Zeiss Ultra 85mm, ungraded

Zeiss Ultra 85mm, ungraded

Her face with the Zeiss Ultra has more depth, her nose seems to be coming more forward, and her ears look further back.

Side by side comparison, Summicron 75mm and Zeiss Ultra 85mm, both ungraded

Side by side comparison, Summicron 75mm and Zeiss Ultra 85mm, both ungraded

She looks older and more sophisticated, like a 27-year-old woman with the Summicron. With the Zeiss Ultra, she looks like a younger, 16 year old school girl. This is noticeable with the graded version too.

Summicron 75mm, color graded

Summicron 75mm, color graded

Zeiss Ultra 85mm, color graded

Zeiss Ultra 85mm, color graded

Side by side comparison, Summicron 75mm and Zeiss Ultra 85mm

Side by side comparison, Summicron 75mm and Zeiss Ultra 85mm

To sum it up:

Leica Summicron-C:

  • Makes Monette look older
  • Flattens the image
  • Makes her look wider compared to how she looks with the Zeiss Ultra
  • More of a neutral piece of glass

Zeiss Ultra:

  • Makes Monette look younger
  • Has depth, pushes the background away
  • Makes Monette look thinner when compared to how she looks with the Leica Summicron
  • Has a red, yellow, brown color to it.

All videos were edited on HP Z840 workstations using HP Z24x DreamColor monitors.

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