The first lens I procured for my Leica M3 body was a 1958 Summicron 50mm f/2 Dual Range (DR). The Dual Range is unique among Leica 50mm Summicrons because it allows for close range focusing down to 0.478m as opposed newer models which focus down to no less than 0.7m. To achieve the close-up range, the DR is paired with detachable optics that not only optimize the magnification of the finder for close range, but also correct the angle of view and so adjust for parallax.
In short, the Summicron DR is a marvel of engineering and design. Beyond its functionality, the Summicron DR’s styling evokes a sense of a golden age of Leica that has since passed, and never quite returned. The lens exudes sturdiness and quality, and feels hefty in the hand weighing in at a whopping 339g ‘(391g with the optics), heavy by Leica standards.
Yet despite all its merits, the Summicron DR is often given short shrift, and tends to sell for less than more recent Summicron 50’s. Optically, it is not quite as sharp. Yet on film this matters little. The lens is still plenty sharp, and I have noticed the lens produces a kind of photographic essence, which if not given away by an obviously contemporary artefact in the frame, you would mistake for an image from six decades ago in a way that the more recent Summicrons don’t.
Also, because of the mechanics of its dual range optics the Summicron DR is not compatible with all Leica M bodies. Apart from the M3 for which the lens was made, the DR works fine with the M2, M4, M5, and M6. However, on the M6 TTL and M7, only the main range will work whereas the close range optics don’t mount properly. On the M9, apparently (link for more info) the close range won’t work at all and the main range works only 1-4m. I could find no information on using the DR with a Leica MP or a Leica M-A, but perhaps someone with experience could post a comment.
As for the M10, I assume that the even if you can mount the lens, the close range optics won’t work because of the M10’s thick lens mount bezel, a design compromise made by Leica in order to make the M10 body thinner than the previous digital M bodies. The unfortunate result of that compromise is that the M10 is not backwards compatible with all Leica lenses with add-on optics including the Summicron, Summilux, and Summaron 35mm lenses and probably some others too.
Leica warns that the Summicron DR is one of a handful of vintage Leica lenses that is not compatible at all with the digital Leica M240, but this is only half true. The DR will not mount on the M240 when it is set to the main range. If you try, it won’t twist into place. Pity the photographer who tries force it! Yet when set to close range, the DR mounts on the M240 just as smoothly like it should, and attaching the optics is no problem.
So is it worth it to buy a Summicron DR?
Well, that depends on what is important to you. If you own an M3, M2, M4, M5, or M6 body, why not? It is a beautiful lens and you can use both the main and close-up ranges.
On the M6 TTL and M7 you can use only the main range, but not the close range. You can usually find the Summicron DR sold without the optics for a lower price than with the optics. So if you want a vintage Summicron and you don’t care about missing out on the close range option—like every other Summicron 50mm out there–then fine. The DR is a great deal!
The M9 limitations on both the close and main ranges, for me at least, would be a deal breaker.
And what about the M240? The Summicron DR is no problem as long as you are OK with using it only as a close range lens–that is to say 0.478mm to 0.88m.
Now I had already owned my DR for use with my M3 when I bought my M240, but would I have bought the DR to use with my M240 only at close range if I did not also own an M3, M2, M4, M5, or M6? Probably not. You however might decide differently.
I shot all the photos in this piece with my Leica M240 and a Summicron 50mm f/2 set to close range.