In Depth Lens Tests: Leica Summicron-C vs Cooke S4

By Shane Hurlbut, ASC – Director of Photography
@shanehurlbutasc

It’s always important to perform in depth lens tests before you shoot so you can find the right glass for your film. Sometimes lens tests can be very expensive, so we are going to share one with you. In this article, we are comparing Leica Summicron-C 21mm and 75mm lenses to Cooke S4 21mm and 75mm lenses.

Summicron-C 21/75mm VS Cooke S4 21/75MM

Here are the specs of our lens test:

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Seeing How the Lenses Flare

We are in my backyard, tilting down from the sky to test how the lenses flare. Starting with the Leica Summicron 21mm, we have our ungraded tilt down.

Leica Summicron 21mm, ungraded tilt down screengrab

Leica Summicron 21mm, ungraded tilt down screengrab

Cooke S4 21mm, ungraded tilt down screengrab

Cooke S4 21mm, ungraded tilt down screengrab

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 21mm and Cooke S4 21mm ungraded tilt down screengrab

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 21mm and Cooke S4 21mm ungraded tilt down screengrab

Leica Summicron 21mm, color graded tilt down screengrab

Leica Summicron 21mm, color graded tilt down screengrab

Cooke S4 21mm, color graded tilt down screengrab

Cooke S4 21mm, color graded tilt down screengrab

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 21mm and Cooke S4 21mm, graded tilt down screengrab

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 21mm and Cooke S4 21mm, graded tilt down screengrab

In the two tilt downs, it looks like both the lenses don’t really have a flare. With the Summicrons, they have more of a white out. When using the Summicron, it didn’t have unique flares like the Summilux or the Cooke. Being a less expensive lens, the Summicron isn’t going to do as well with flares.

The Cooke holds a little more detail with the flare out. Looking at the contrast here, you can also see that the Summilux lost some of that contrast. If you look at the tree leaves, they have less contrast with the Summicron, and they look more washed out.

Looking at the Images with Monette

Now let’s look at what the images when we have Monette in the picture. We are looking for the overall look of the lenses and how she separates from the background.

Leica Summicron 21mm, ungraded

Leica Summicron 21mm, ungraded

Cooke S4 21mm, ungraded

Cooke S4 21mm, ungraded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 21mm and Cooke S4, both ungraded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 21mm and Cooke S4, both ungraded

The Cooke S4s and Leica Summicrons both have a neutral look to them concerning the white. It’s apparent that with the Cooke S4, the background is further away from her, and she’s pulled from the background. She also looks skinnier with the Cooke S4. If you look at her body, it’s a lot thinner than it is with the Summicron.

Because the Summicron is a flatter lens, it widens her and pulls the background closer to the foreground. If you look at the roses on the camera right side, you can see that they are much closer to her with the Summicron than they are with the Cooke S4. In addition, if you look at the sidewalk on the lower left hand side, it is much further away with the Cooke S4.

Notice that the Cooke S4 has more depth.

Notice that the Cooke S4 has more depth.

Let’s take a look at the color graded versions.

Leica Summicron 21mm, color graded

Leica Summicron 21mm, color graded

Cooke S4 21mm, color graded

Cooke S4 21mm, color graded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 21mm and Cooke s4 21mm, both color graded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 21mm and Cooke s4 21mm, both color graded

The side-by-side comparison is great because you really can see the flatness of the Summicron and the three dimensional quality of the Cooke S4. Next, we move onto the close-ups, starting with ungraded.

Leica Summicron 75mm, ungraded

Leica Summicron 75mm, ungraded

Cooke S4 75mm, ungraded

Cooke S4 75mm, ungraded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 75mm and Cooke S4 75mm, both ungraded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 75mm and Cooke S4 75mm, both ungraded

Looking at these close-ups, we can see that the color remains pretty neutral. The Cooke S4 has a slightly more yellow cast to the skin, which is great.

With the color-graded versions, we can really analyze the detail that each lens is picking up.

Leica Summicron 75mm, color graded

Leica Summicron 75mm, color graded

Cooke S4 75mm, color graded

Cooke S4 75mm, color graded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 75mm and Cooke S4 75mm, both color graded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 75mm and Cooke S4 75mm, both color graded

The Cooke S4 is seeing a lot more detail, which justifies the difference in pricing. If you look at her face and chin, you see a lot more detail. The Summicron is much creamier and there’s less definition, making it look like a softer piece of glass.

The highlights are also being held better with the Cooke S4, and if you look at the background, you can see that the Cooke S4 has much more contrast. The black is deeper with the Cooke S4, than it is with the Summicron lens. In addition, the flowers in the background are still further away with the Cooke S4.

Notice the arrows and notes

Notice the arrows and notes

Now we take the lenses to another outdoor situation where the backlight is not as strong. By looking at the ungraded close-ups, we can really look at our colors.

Leica Summicron 75mm, ungraded

Leica Summicron 75mm, ungraded

Cooke S4 75mm, ungraded

Cooke S4 75mm, ungraded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 75mm and Cooke S4, both ungraded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 75mm and Cooke S4, both ungraded

By looking at these, you can see that the Cooke S4 has a little more yellow and isn’t as neutral. The Summicron is a more neutral piece of glass. With the graded version, we can look more at contrast and detail.

Leica Summicron 75mm, color graded

Leica Summicron 75mm, color graded

Cooke S4 75mm, color graded

Cooke S4 75mm, color graded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 75mm and Cooke S4, both color graded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 75mm and Cooke S4, both color graded

Looking at these, the Cooke S4 still has more detail in her face and more contrast than the Summicron.

Next, we take the lenses to the corral, where the lighting is less controlled. The deck is bouncing up light, and light is flying all over the place.

Leica Summicron 21mm, ungraded

Leica Summicron 21mm, ungraded

Cooke S4 21mm, ungraded

Cooke S4 21mm, ungraded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 21mm and Cooke S4 21mm, both ungraded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 21mm and Cooke S4 21mm, both ungraded

Looking at these, I’m noticing the same things as before. She looks skinnier with the Cooke, and the background seems further away with the Cooke lens. That’s the Cooke look; these lenses really give a three dimensional quality to the image.

These qualities show in the graded version.

Leica Summicron 21mm, color graded. Notice how with the Summicron, everything looks flatter.

Leica Summicron 21mm, color graded. Notice how with the Summicron, everything looks flatter.

Cooke S4 21mm, color graded

Cooke S4 21mm, color graded

With the Cooke S4, you really can see that the background is pulling away from Monette.

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 21mm and Cooke S4 21mm, both color graded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 21mm and Cooke S4 21mm, both color graded

In the side-by-side comparison, it’s really apparent that she looks skinnier with the Cooke S4 lens.

Looking at the ungraded close-ups, you can really see the difference with the bokeh.

Leica Summicron 75mm, ungraded

Leica Summicron 75mm, ungraded

Notice the bokeh with the Summicron is more round, and there isn’t much stop signing when compared to the Cooke S4 lens. This is because the Summicron has more blades in the iris, and when you have more blades in your iris, you get less of that stop signing effect.

Cooke S4 75mm, ungraded

Cooke S4 75mm, ungraded

If you look at the bokeh of the Cooke S4, you really can see that it has more of a stop sign effect. The Cooke S4 has fewer blades in its iris, and this is what makes the bokeh less round.

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 75mm and Cooke S4 75mm, both ungraded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 75mm and Cooke S4 75mm, both ungraded

In this side-by-side comparison, you can see that Monette looks younger with the Cooke S4. Her ears fall back and nose comes more toward us, but with the Summicron, her face looks less dimensional. This is similar to what the Summilux lens did; it made her look younger.

Leica Summicron 75mm, color graded

Leica Summicron 75mm, color graded

Monette looks older and much more sophisticated with the Summicron.

Cooke S4 75mm, color graded

Cooke S4 75mm, color graded

With the Cooke S4, she looks much younger.

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 75mm and Cooke S4 75mm, both color graded

Side by side comparison, Leica Summicron 75mm and Cooke S4 75mm, both color graded

It’s a subtle difference, but she does look younger with the Cooke S4.

To wrap it all up:

Leica Summicron-C Lenses:

  • Flatter image
  • Makes Monette look more sophisticated and older
  • Makes her look wider than the Cooke S4
  • More of a white out with lens flares; doesn’t do as well as the Cooke S4 with lens flares.
  • Bokeh less stop signing, more round
  • Neutral lens
  • Less detail in her face
  • Doesn’t hold highlights as well as Cooke S4
  • Less contrast

Cooke S4 Lenses:

  • More three dimensional quality
  • Makes Monette look younger
  • Makes her look skinnier
  • Better with lens flares than the Summicron-C lenses
  • Slightly more yellow than the Summicron-C
  • Bokeh has more of a stop signing effect
  • More detail in her face
  • Holds highlights more than the Summicron lenses
  • More contrast

 

Model Monette Moio is represented by Melinda Jason.

Technical Specs

Camera:

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Lenses:
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Support:
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Camera AKS:
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Filters:
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Monitor:
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Grip:
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3 Comments
  1. Alex R 4 weeks ago

    It looks to me like the Summicron’s would potentially suit a more period piece. Slightly softer and flatter image feels like it would suite more of that style, vs the three dimensional Cooke’s which also appear sharper and more contrasty. Would you agree or would you rely on the grade to dial back the S4’s?

    • Author
      Shane 3 weeks ago

      I would completely agree. Thanks for your comment.

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