A Taste of the Leica 50 APO Summicron f/2 on the Leica SL.

A Taste of the Leica 50 APO Summicron f/2 on the Leica SL

What happens when you take the best 50mm lens ever made and attach it to the latest and greatest from Leica, the SL? Well, I loved the 50 APO on the M and it is just about exactly the same on the SL, but easier to nail focus. I will be doing my long-awaited PART 2 Leica 50 APO review next, and it should be up within 2 weeks (and the way time has been flying by lately, will be in no time)!

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Before that Part 2 review, be sure to read Part 1 HERE and then a companion to that HERE. I also gave a taste of it on the Sony A7s HERE.  Below are four shots from the SL using the 50 APO around my house, in various light while testing it. To see these correctly, you must click on them.

The 50 APO is a stunning piece of glass that offers contrast, color and pop along with details and micro details while never coming across as analytical. In reality it is a masterpiece of design that has went up in price a few times and currently resides at over $8000 retail. The most expensive production 50mm lens in the world, and while ridiculous and obscene the results have a signature that can only come from this lens. I am excited to delve into my part 2 review using the SL.

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25 Comments

    • There are two Tri-Elmars: the super-wide one, 16-18-21mm, and the medium one: 28-50-35mm (in that order; you can’t use it to zoom from 28mm through 35mm to 50mm).

      They both perform – as you’d expect – beautifully.

      Note that Leica’s own M-to-SL adaptor reads any 6-bit code on the rear of any M lens via infrared, and then delivers that info through metal contacts to the SL ..so the SL knows, or can be told, the characteristics of M lenses, and can make allowances, if necessary, for corner vignetting, etc.

  1. There are other not to say lots of fantastic lenses that get very little or no attention on this site at all:
    When it comes to bokeh: AF-Nikkor 85, 1.4 D (my fave), M 75, 1.4, AFS-Nikkor 200, 2.0.
    Thanks to the SL the usual whim’s argument: too heavy too cumbersome is relatively obsolete nowadays…
    For sharpness and microcontrasts: Zeiss 135, 2.0 APO and Zeiss 100, 2.0
    This is my personal experience. Others may have other selections. I don’t say that I wouldn’t mind to have a go with the 50 APO but when it comes to the price performance ratio it would not be on my list.

  2. No doubt about it it’s superb.For those that can afford it please use it and enjoy it.Take out insurance when you travel but please use this lens -that’s what it was made for.

  3. Outstanding look to this lens. Luckily (or unfortunately?) I don’t have the money to drop on this lens, so it’s at least not a temptation. From these images I can definitely see a different rendering than my Lux 50. Not necessarily better, but gorgeous in it’s own way. The difference may be diminishing returns at a point for some people, but a lot of us are obsessed by that last 1% in quality/difference, which is what makes this hobby fun (and expensive ;)).

    On a related note, this is a great time for camera equipment: you can spend far less on a fuji lens and still get mind-blowing quality, and as the (true) cliche goes, the photographer matters more than the equipment. But, great gear is still great great gear all else being equal.

  4. Very cool renderings! The out of focus areas remind me a lot of my 58mm Rokkor f/1.2 But the sharpness is much much better controlled. Color is gravy on both as far as I’m concerned! Steve you’re awesome for showing us this stuff.

  5. Hello everybody,
    Last month i bought a new / old x-pro 1 .
    400 euro with leather case in Belgian.
    After some searching i ended with a 35 year old Minolta Rokker f 1.4 for 85 euro incl. adapter and an extra UV filter 24 euro. Results are amazing!

    Sometimes i can’t believe the emounts of money people spending…
    Luxery is nice when you have enough of everything else and to much money.
    Crazy world with crazy people like me

    French from Holland

    • Its like cars, you can buy a nice used car which brings you from A to B for $1000 or even less. Still many people prefer to drive other cars.
      It is also a question how important is that very little bit more IQ, or quality, or user interface to the user.

  6. Steve, I would like to hear how it compares to the 50 lux asph at F2.0-4.0, which is what i shot 90% of the time with my 50lux asph.

    • It does not. The Lux ASPH is 100% different in look, rendering, bokeh, color. micro contrast and contrast. Color is cooler and less rich/accurate with the lux. That bite and pop is there much more so with the APO, the color though is the largest thing IMO. Then the corner to corner sharpness while still retaining a mix of classic/modern quality. Bokeh is outstanding, best I have seen, and optically you will never have issues with flare (lux flares), CA (lux has CA) or distortion. COrner to corner you have perfection whole never being analytical. It’s a very unique lens with a signature I can spot a mile away. Much more refined than the Lux in every way. I received this lens, took off the Lux from my SL, put this one and told myself “there is now no going back”. As good and legendary as the lux is, on the M 240 and SL the 50 APO turns it into Medium Format type of stuff. This lens on the M 240 transforms the camera IMO. Is it overpriced? Sure, but most of Leica’s lenses are indeed. Even so, owning the APO means you know you have the best 50 in the world, technically. If you enjoy what it does for you, it may be your fave as well. It is mine, no contest. I sent my Lux in towards this after testing both, and I have no regrets.

        • VERY tough. I chose the APO but wish I could afford both as the Noct gives a one of a kind rendering like no other lens made today.With that said, I owned the Noct three times in my life. Each time I ended up selling it as I grew tired of the look it gave. All of my photo started looking the same and it starts to get old. I then would sell it as I can not afford to have a $10k lens being unused. I always miss it though, but at the end of the day, the best day to day 50 for me are lenses like the 50 APO, 50 Lux, 50 Zeiss Planar or even the old 50 Cron. All of them are great in their own way. I have the 50 APO now along with a 28 Elmarit that I am using on the SL. The 50 APO is stunning in every way, but also quite different to any other 50. What does it for me is the color performance.

          • Steve, your comments about the APO reminds me to some extent the Zeiss Plannar ZM 50, which I also own and have shot with a lot. It is a very, very good lens technically. But iit is a little bit too clinical and sterile. Do you think the APO is a little bit like the Zeiss on steriod, which might be too clinical too me? Thanks for your wonderful review.

          • APO is on a totally different level than the 50 PLanar. I owned the planar for a long time, and recently gave it a try again. The APO is in no way at all clinical. Just look at the main part 1 review of it which has better images (content). The quality you see there would never come from the M 240 and the 50 Planar, as that lens on the M 240 is no where what it was on the M9 (same as the 50 lux). The 50 PLanar is a huge bang for the buck though at under $800. Can’t beat that at that price. This lens is so expensive due to the crazy high costs of manufacturing it and the fact that it is a statement piece above all else. But it is the technically best performing 50mm lens ever. I will be testing the Planar on the SL soon, so will do some side by sides. Biggest thing you will see is contrast and color differences, sharpness across the entire frame and a buttery smooth Bokeh that the planar can not get close to. If we were living in a fair world, the APO would cost $2999 as that is about how much bette it is over the 50 Planar, $2k or so. Not $6k of difference.

  7. I know this is about the 50 Apo cron on the SL. But if you in your coming Part 2 of the lens review could say something about how you see it on an APS-C sensor – for example the NEXes, whic I am getting tolike a lot more since my C3 and my 6 acquired Zeiss lenses. (Sorry if this is off subject.)

  8. Images from the 50 APO are unreal, but I would not be comfortable travelling to third world countries with a $8,000 lens… good way to have your arm chopped off with the camera lol

    • Hey, leica gear or mirrorless gear doesnt attract attention so the insecurity comes from your self. besides, I live in a 3rd world country, you’d be surprised by the level of hospitality and kindness here 🙂

    • I’m from the third world and in my opinion people here don’t know the red dot. And it is your bag that is important. Use a cheap bag no luxury watch and dress normal. Of course looking like a foreigner will catch attention.

    • You will be surprise to see so many leica shooters are in the streets of third world countries. If you mean that Leica is too flashy, we get more DSLR stolen in here. You have more chance of criminals in countries that understand what is a leica n how it looks like.

  9. OK, I’ll say upfront that if I could spare $8K for one lens, then this note would likely have a different “tone”, however, I simply don’t see how low-Res jpegs can do this lens/system justice. Frankly, at these display resolutions (and with my 58 year old eyes), I’m seeing very similar “sharpness, pop and micro-contrast” with my Fujifilm XT1 and the new $400 Fujinon 35mm f/2 WR lens (at 1/20th the cost)! Even the build quality of that Fujinon gem is outstanding. It would be interesting to see a side-by-side comparison…if you’d like to send me the Leica 50 with body to test, I’d be OK with that too! 😉 Happy Holidays!!

    • If you cannot see the difference does not mean that others cannot see it and if the $400 lens is sufficient to you then Happy Holidays to you and Happy Holidays to the people that can see the difference and appreciate the difference so they pay $8000 for this excellent lens.

      • Thank you, LeicaFriend. To clarify, I didn’t mean to imply that there was no difference in performance between these two lenses…just simply stating my opinion that I can’t see it in a low-Res jpeg. I certainly do respect the quality of the Leica System. If others can see an IQ difference that is commensurate with the premium cost, then more power to them! Happy Holidays to ALL Photographers!

    • Steve, I got 65 year old eyes and I can see it. The pictures in this article don’t do this lens full justice. However, go to Part 1 of this lens story and view the photos there. If you study them you will soon see what the big deal is. Particularly instructive is the fountain picture, but they all have that thing that it seems Leica glass projects. If I had to use a single word to describe it… clarity. You can imagine what happens in a 300 dpi print.

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