Camera Geekery: Skyllaney Zeiss Planar 1.4/50 T* M-mount

Putting a Zeiss Planar 1.4/50 T* on a Leica M body can be considered commensurate to fitting an AMG engine into say, an original BMW M3. Do you really need to? No, not really. But if you could, how cool would that be? Such is the reasoning behind the Skyllaney Zeiss Planar 1.4/50 T* M-mount. It definitely turns heads and starts conversations.

I absolutely love the look of Zeiss Planars. While Pentax glass is legendary in its own right, I’ve tried but with no avail to adapt the 80mm Planar for my Rolleiflex SL66 onto a Pentax 67 because there’s just a je ne sais quoi about the rendering of the Planar formula. So when the folks over at Skyllaney offered a professionally converted Zeiss Planar 1.4/50 T* in CY mount to Leica M, I just had to give it a go.

Background History

The original Carl Zeiss Planar was fundamentally a simple symmetrical Double-Gauss design. It is one of the oldest optical designs in the company’s long history, first invented by Dr. Paul Rudolph 1896. While the design saw some tweaks over the years, the overall concept remained pretty much the same to this day. And why not? Occam’s razor would concur that simplicity is often the best answer and the popularity of Zeiss Planars over the years has proven this case.

The 50mm Planars were continuously manufactured by Carl Zeiss in various camera mounts since the early 1900s. The Contax/Yashica version of the lens reviewed here has been manufactured from 1974. Carl Zeiss officially announced partnership with Yashica of Japan to manufacture its new RTS system from then to 2005 when Kyocera (which acquired Yashica in 80’s) exited the camera business.

Skyllaney have perfectly converted this specimen to work flawlessly on any Leica M-mount camera. With a strong focus on Zeiss glass, Skyllaney has been busily converting classic lenses to be used on Leica rangefinders. They have gained a bit of a cult reputation for extremely high quality conversions using famed lenses, such as the Planar. It’s not just the mount that has been changed but the lens itself has been recalibrated to focus accurately on Leica M, Voigtlander VM (Bessa) and Zeiss Ikon ZM cameras.

Skyllaney Carl Zeiss Planar 1.4/50 T* M-mount Tech Specs

Summary
Lens Composition 7 elements in 6 groups
Angular Field 45 degrees
Minimum Focus 45cm/1.5ft
Focusing Action MF
f-stop Scale f/1.4-f/16, manual
Filter Size 55mm
Lens Hood G-11 soft or No.4 metal hoods
Weight 360g
Dimensions 62.5x41mm/2.4×1.6″

Skyllaney Carl Zeiss Planar 1.4/50 T* Sample Pics

The following is a look at how the widest 4 apertures look to give you a sense of its rendering. Shot on Kodak Ultramax 400 on a Leica M6 and then scanned on a Plustek Opticfilm 8200i.

You can right click and open image in new tab to see the 100% crop in higher resolution

@f1.4

@f2

@f2.8

@f4

Close focus wide open

As mentioned above, the lens can close focus up to 0.45m. Yeah, you’ll have to compensate for parallax on a rangefinder, but the fact that the lens can get in this close is still a nice option to have.

More samples shot on film

Conclusion

What’s wrong with a Summilux? Nothing. Except for the price and it can’t focus to 0.45m. While you may not actually want to accurately focus that close on a rangefinder, you could if you needed to with the Skyllaney Zeiss Planar 1.4/50 T*. And for those who use their lenses for dual duty and interchange their M-mount lens on film bodies as well as digital mirrorless, you could also find this a welcome boon.

At less than half the cost of a Summilux type 2 and a fraction of an ASPH, you’re not gonna get a the same clinical technical performance. However, the Planar formula is the proven bread and butter lens found in many a portrait photographer’s arsenal for good reason. And if you could have the option to use it on a Leica and/or mirrorless setup without losing a kidney then why not.

The Skyllaney conversion is top notch, with the mount sturdily and cleanly modified to work without any hitch. It looks and feel like an original build. As JCH has become the Asia distributor for Skyllaney, there may understandably be a perceived bias and conflict of interest in praising them. For the record, no one has missed Miyazaki san stopping his lens conversions since discovering Skyllaney.

So yeah if you could relatively affordably put an AMG engine into an M3 and be able to use it in your Tesla, then why not. To learn more about their services offered in Asia, please see the details here. If you’re outside Asia, check out their site here.

MN