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Disappointed with your Summarit 50 f1.5 wide open? The fix.

By Glen Charles

The Summarit 50 f1.5 can produce breathtaking detail and color on a sunny day at f4. But interior shots with the lens wide open in poor lighting were disappointing, and I struggled with relegating it to work at f2.8 or smaller, but I love the lens for its mechanical properties and its feel on the NEX-5 - I have 2 Nex-5, a Nex 3N, and a Nex 5R, and the advantage of the NEX-5 series over all other SONY cameras is that there is (or was) a dedicated Hoodman called a Fauer finder which couples to the tripod socket and makes a flat surface from the bumpy bottom. The view through the finder is huge - like watching a big screen TV. So the NEX-6 and 7 don't do it for me as their viewfinders are tiny by comparison. The Fauer finder is like looking at the screen of a field camera (except its the right way up!)
I did a series of test on the Summarit today and finally figured out how to use it wide open snd get decent pictures. First you have to avoid backlighting and any light source coming into the front of the lens, because the flare at f1.5 reduces the scene contrast so it looks as if it is foggy. If you shoot with the light behind you or to the side, the flare is much less. Often the flare can be a creative tool which can work well with portraits. But the NEX has to be set up to compensate for the low contrast at f1.5.
What I have learned so far, is that the Contrast setting has to be at +3, and the sharpness set to +2. Then select Vivid to boost the colors (not for portraits.)
In PP, I increase the contrast to something above average, and choose a "film" curve that boosts colors and mid tone contrast. I don't add any sharpness because in most cases you want skin tones to be smooth.
The aperture setting of 1.5 or 2 will produce lovely portraits, as the residual flare of the lens will smooth out lines and wrinkles without any need to blur the picture, and the hair detail will then stay sharp.

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Reply from Glen Charles on 12-3-14 9:27 AM

I have posted some examples of the summarit f1.5 for portrait work at

http://www.waeshael.com/Christianity/Leica_Summarit_50_Apertures.html
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