The Leica 90 Summarit f/2.5 M Lens Review
By Steve Huff
Welcome to yet another Leica M lens review! It has been a while since I have posted a Leica lens review mainly because I have already reviewed nearly all of them over the past few years. But!!! There are a couple that I have not reviewed and one of them is this 90mm Summarit that I just received from Ken Hansen (Thanks Ken) Yep, the “lower end range” of the Leica line! The 90 Summarit may be lower in price when compared to the mega buck 90 f/2 Summicron but I’ll be damned if I do not like it BETTER than that megabuck 90 cron on the 240, and that is no lie or exaggeration!
I guess that comes as no surprise as I preferred the old f/2.8 90 Elmarit to the 90 Summicron as well, mainly due to size and weight and of course, COST.
One from the 90 at 2.5, converted to B&W on the M 240
Always, always click on the images to see the better and larger and sharper versions that are not down sampled like what you see embedded below!
Many of you have seen my review of that older 90 Elmarit 2.8 lens and 4+ years ago when I wrote that review it was indeed my favorite 90 for the Leica M system. It all came down to size, performance and the fact that I had zero focus issues with that lens which is always nice when it comes to Leica.
I’ll just go ahead and spoil it now but I like the 90 Summarit just as much as the Elmarit and now that I have been shooting with it for a while I realized how much I enjoy this focal length on the Leica M 240. It is a joy to shoot with, a joy to focus and the results coming from this lens with the M 240 ROCK & ROLL non stop all day long. Results are rich, sharp and have nice sharpness and texture. Colors can pop and Bokeh is quite nice.
In the past, with the M9 and M8 I was not a huge fan of the 90mm focal length because it seemed that no matter what 90mm lens I picked up there was a slight to massive focus problem (Until that old Elmarit). With the M 240 this 90 Summarit is extremely easy to focus and spot on when using the rangefinder, and what a relief that is. There is nothing I hate more than a mis-focusing Leica M camera and on a few occasions it has frustrated me so much that I almost gave up on the M all together. But since the new 240 I have not had any issues with focus (except when I dropped my 1st M, almost off of a cliff during the last Palouse workshop) and it has been smooth sailing ever since its release.
These days I enjoy the M with a Voigtlander 15, Voigtlander 35, Leica 50 and this Leica 90. I am close to pulling the trigger on the 21 Super Elmar to finish it off and maybe in the next year I will save up for a classic Noctilux F/1. Maybe. But one thing keeps nagging at my brain and that is the fact that these lower cost Summarit lenses are just OH SO GOOD on the M 240. It really is all one needs. A 35 Summarit with a 90 Summarit would be a superb combo and add in a 50 Lux for those times you want that Lux look and you would be all set. A nice mix.
Click the image to see a larger 1800 pixel wide version. Plenty of sharpness with fantastic color pop.
The size and performance of the Summarit line is perfect and they are just as good in the IQ department, if not better, than their more expensive brothers and sisters (Summicron and Summilux). Yes, just as good in the sharpness, detail and color. They will offer a different “look” in the Bokeh and rendering but this does not make them lesser than the more expensive lenses. What it comes down to is SPEED, and SPEED costs big fat money in Leica land.
Yes Sir! The Summarit Line is SUPERB but seems to get the least attention…
This is a true statement. I have used all four of the more affordable “Summarit” lenses including the 35 f/2.5, the 50 f/2.5, 75 2.5 and now the 90 f/2.5. All three lenses share the same semi-fast aperture speed, the same build quality and the same price range. They all come with a protective carrying bag instead of a leather case but all are Leica in build, feel and use as well as the most important..IMAGE QUALITY. But for some reason many Leica fanatics disregard these lenses because they feel that if they are less expensive they must be compromised in some way. This is not really true.
The only compromises that come with the Summarit line is that the aperture is not f/2 or f/1.4, it is f/2.5. So it is all about speed. The focus rings are quite nice and I prefer them to some of the more expensive models. Focus distance is also a tad longer at 0.8 meters instead of 0.7 for the 35, 50 and 0.9 for the 75. The 90 has a 1m minimum focus distance.
All in all, the entire summarit line is quite amazing because they give us a mix of classic and modern rendering. Actually, the 35 Summarit has some of the best Bokeh to be found in a Leica lens and is also smaller than the cron or lux!
Just take a look at the image below of a bird I too a very quick shot with using the 90mm at f/2.5 on the M 240. This is a full size file so RIGHT CLICK it to open in a new window to see it in its full size form.
If you viewed the entire full size image above in a separate window (right-click the image, then open in a new tab or window) you will see that the Summarit 90 is sharp even when used wide open at f/2.5. The Bokeh melts into a creamy classical blur that resembles a painting with rich color and nice medium to high contrast. In fact, this lens makes my M 240 render somewhat like an M9 but with extended Dynamic Range and better color, and yes, I 100% feel that the M 240 has MUCH better color performance than the M9. Perfect? No, but no digital camera is. NONE. The M 240 offers better color, better dynamic range, better noise performance, better battery life, better LCD, nicer feeling and sounding shutter, better RF experience with the light up frame lines, live view if wanted and so far, no focus issues. After one year with the M240 I still prefer it in every way to the M9. Every way, IQ included.
Like to keep your distance? The 90mm focal length will help you do just that 🙂
So to be clear, the Summarit line of lenses is 100% Leica all the way giving Leica results. The funny thing is that I have shot with them all and NONE of these Summarit line of lenses have ever given me any focus issues (besides an early 75 Summarit that had a loose element inside). The 35, 50, 75 and 90 always focused spot on. I can not say the same for the 90 Summicron..at all. Not only is it large, heavy and very expensive..two of the three that I have had in my possession were a bit off in the focus. That is why I gave up on the 90 cron quite a while ago. Don’t get me wrong, the 90 Summicron is very special and magical when it is “on” but when something is special most of the time and frustrating some of the time I tend to drop it after some time. After four 90 Summicrons over the past 5 years I decided to stick with a slower 90 for my Leica, if I have any 90mm at all.
One thing to note…Many who own the 90 Summicron and have focus issues feel like it is them who is making the focus errors. I have spoken with quite a few 90 Cron owners who were having issues and two of them I met in person during a meet up. I tested out the lenses on their camera and mine and I was able to verify exactly what I told them it was, which was a mis-focusing lens that needed an adjustment.
When any Leica lens is adjusted and focusing properly it is EASY to nail focus. This goes for the Noctilux 0.95, 90 Summicron, 50 Summilux, etc. Focusing a 50 0.95 at 0.95 is just as easy as focusing a 28 Elmarit at 2.8. When that focus patch lines up you are in focus. If your image shows you otherwise something is out of whack.
The 90 Summarit is never frustrating. It just seems to deliver the goods no matter what I decide to aim my M at and not one shot was out of focus during this review period.
Click the image below to see my dog in all her sharp glory 🙂 The 90 at f/2.5..no problem-o!
Compared to the classic and legendary 90 Elmarit f/2.8
As already mentioned, back in 2010 I reviewed the now discontinued Leica 90 2.8 Elmarit. I LOVED and still do LOVE that lens. I no longer own it but do remember when I reviewed it that I enjoyed it immensely. That lens along with the M9 created eye-popping quality and sharpness. I am not sure why Leica discontinued the lens but they did, and its replacement is this lens here, the Summarit. They did downgrade the hood as the 90 Elmarit 2.8 had a built-in slide out hood where the Summarit has a screw in hood. (sold separately) I much prefer the slide out hood but you can’t always get what you want. Some prefer a screw in hood. Leica wanted to create the Summarit line of lenses as sort of a classic styled lens. They give a classic metal lens cap with the Leica logo and hoods are screw in.
Whatever the reason, I remember when I used this 90 Summarit on the M9 I found it to be a little more clinical than the Elmarit. When shooting the Elmarit the results seemed organic and very rich. When shooting the Summarit back then on the M9 it seems al title “colder” and not as rich or warm.
Now with the M 240 being the hot M I decided to give the Summarit another shot and I am glad I did as it gives me much of what I enjoyed with the Elmarit on the M9 – contrast, pop, color depth and sharpness. There is a very evident color difference with the new M 240 over the M9 (warmth vs cool) , and I prefer the M 240 100%. I feel it is much more natural though there may indeed be a pinkish hue going on with the M 240 but then again, it could be the off color hue of the M9 images making the M 240 look off because I now see a green/yellowish hue to the M9 images that I shot back then.
One thing I learned is that when editing images I just go with what looks good to MY EYE instead of worrying and stressing over calibrated displays, etc. I have sold images for thousands of dollars without stressing about any of that. I just enjoy shooting and eyeball the color. With the new M it seems easier to get a rich warm color I like. The M9 with this Summarit was cooler in the output. Take a look below…
First the 90 Summarit on the M240 here in 2014
…and now the 90 Elmarit on the M9 in 2010
This is the least expensive NEW 90mm Leica lens for your M!
When the Summarit line was launched (BEFORE the M9 was launched during the end of the M8 days) the 90 came in at $1600 or so. Today it is $2150 because Leica lenses go up in price every single year. This means if you bought a Summarit back then and wanted to sell it today you could probably get about what you paid for it.
This is the good thing about Leica. If you buy a lens and keep it for a long time you will not lose money. The Leica lenses are legendary and due to the fact that they have the balls to raise prices every year means that a Leica lens is indeed and can be an “investment” if you keep them long-term.
At $2150 the 90mm Summarit is NOT cheap..no way, no how. BUT, it is a REAL Leica German optic and a REAL Leica lens! Anyone who says differently has no idea what they are talking about. It feels, shoots and gives the IQ of a pure Leica lens and like I said, the value does not drop like a rock after a few years, instead, it holds value. You also get the warranty when buying new so that is always a good thing. The 90 is on the higher contrast side when looking at out of camera images (most of what you see here) but of course with the extended DR of the M 240 you can make them much loess contrasty if you wish.
Detail..is this lens sharp?
Yes, this lens is sharp. Take a look below and click on the image to see the 100% crop embedded inside.
My conclusion on the Leica 90 Summarit Lens
My lens reviews always seem to be short, especially when a lens is fantastic and has no real weakness. The 90 Summarit is one of those lenses. It is small, light, high quality in build and feel and performs exceptionally well. The rendering is a mix of modern and classic and can be as sharp as a tac. The colors are rich, saturated and lovely, especially on the new M 240. (See my M 240 review here). While I have not traditionally been a 90mm shooter I am starting to enjoy it more and more and understand why so many love this focal length.
An all summarit kit would be killer for those wanting the true 100% Leica experience without going bankrupt buying the Summilux and Summicron models. All you lose is some speed (which may not really even be needed), a slightly longer minimum focus distance and the Leica leather case (instead you get a nice felt style cloth bag).
If you are not 100% committed to the 90mm focal length I suggest giving the 90 Summarit a try. It may not be as exotic as the Summicron but for me it was more enjoyable to shoot due to weight and no focus issues with the Summarit. Highly recommended for those wanting a 90mm solution for their Leica M!
Mine came from the legendary Ken Hansen who is a TOP Leica dealer with amazing service that has to be experienced. Ken is the man. He has this lens in stock and if you mention me, who knows..he may cut you a deal. (Don’t hold me to that though..I have no idea if he can or not). 🙂
You can e-mail Ken at firstname.lastname@example.org
I will leave you with a few more snaps that I shot around town from the 90 Summarit on the Leica M 240!
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Hello, I have recently got this lens for my Leica ME. I found that it is a bit loose when I mount it onto the body. I can easily unmount the lens without pressing the mount release button. I am not sure if it is common for this lens or something is not correct with the lens mount? Thanks.
No, the lens should fit as snug as any other lens you own. There shouldn’t be anything loose about the connection once you hear the lens release click into the locked position.
Thanks for your reply. That is what I think. When I put a 35 lens, the mount/release click is not too loud or determined. But I cannot unmount the lens without pressing the release button. Maybe I need to have for a replacement or repair.
I am also interested in the SUMMARIT-M 75mm F2.5 6-Bit for the sony 7r. Would appreciate your thoughts if this lens is compatible with sony 7r, thanks and regards
Yes it is compatible but I would wait for the new version that hits in a week or two. They have been improved.
The Summarit 90mm sounds like a great lens for the M240. Any feedback on how it performs on the Sony A7R?
and please give feedback on how it performs on the sony a7
i looking for test’s and review for more the 2 weeks now and nothing on the web and i really really want to buy this lens
The 90 would do fantastic on the sony. In fact, any lens over 21mm will do superbly on the Sony.
i can’t believe you reply to me… i looking for info for more then 2 weeks now and 2150$ + adapter and to get 100% Leica quality will be a lost of money. i even start looking on carl Zeiss 90mm lens cuz i don’t sure.
can you please reply for the last time if you test or see photos from the Summarit 90mm on the sony a7 and that i can buy it and feel safe that i get what i pay for?
i wish i could find a picture on line that was taken with this combo
thank a lot steve!
i put my Facebook page if you like to see some of my shots with the sony a7. i think you like my street shots
Just got a 90mm Summarit 2 weeks ago. Was deciding between the 90mm Summarit and Elmarit but never saw a decent used Elmarit for sale. BTW: Older 90 mm Elmarits (with build in hoods) are more expensive than newer Summarits! Finally saw a “used like new” Summarit and bought it. The Summarit joins a Zeiss 50/2 Planar I got earlier. Haven’t had too much time to shot with these lenses. I should have more time after I retire in 4 1/2 weeks!
The 90mm Summarit is a fantastic lens! I’ve owned one for years. If you have a 35 and 50mm Summilux in your kit, the 90mm takes the same 46mm filters. For me, this has meant keeping just one B+W ND filter around that will fit three of my lenses. The lens is also very sharp with buttery background.
Great size and weight too.
Matching filter thread is a good point. I consider myself fortunate to only have two thread sizes with my Leica kit, and frequently use 39 to 46mm step-up rings when I carry a mixed kit.
Translate this please from Swedish to US English if possible?
Interesting reading I can assure you.
With best regards from a former M4 owner
I traded my Summicron 75 for a Summarit 75 about 4 years ago and never looked back. Build quality of the Summarit is excellent and I particularly like its short and smooth focus throw.
During my quest for the ideal small tele lens, I’ve owned quite a few 90mm lenses, Leica Elmar C, Tele-Elmarit thin, Zeiss ZM Tessar, Elmarit, M-Rokkor…, and I must say that the Summarit exceeded all the others, even the Elmarit which I thought was the nicest before buying the Summarit. This lens is SHARP and the contrast is perfect. I’ve also trade my Summicron 50, which I found a bit “clinical” for a 50 SUmmarit and could not be happier.
Thanks Steve for yet another brilliant review. I appreciate your insights.
I have been experiencing varied results from my 90mm Tele-Elmarit ( thin version) on my M9. Sent both to NJ and still see less than acceptable results. Have been thinking about replacing it with the 90 Summicron.
Is this really an M9 problem? If so, what improvement in the M240 corrects the problem?
Dear Steve, all, I am wondering:
1) whether you or anyone else has made a comparison of Leica 90 mm lenses when mounted on a Fuji X-Trans (for example the XE2).
2) which Leica 90 mm lens would be better for macro photography on a Fuji X-Trans, in your opinion. Sharpness and colour rendering would be the key here!
I really trust your opinion, and my last purchases (DLUX4 then DLUX5 when the DLUX4 was stolen) were in good part due to reading your reviews.
I have not used any of the 90’s on a Fuji, sorry!
I have an Elmarit 90 f2.8 that I use on an XPro1. The minimum focus length is around 90 cm so for macro work I don’t know if it is useful, however, sharpness is beyond the capability of the sensor and backgrounds are non distracting.
I’ve uploaded some shots to my 500px account, they are all named “Elmarit Sample” and you can see them here: http://500px.com/TimRule
The results seem to be extraordinary (your shots are also very good!!) …. I particularly like the background. Thanks a lot Tim! I see you have also short with the Leica 28/2.8.
Do you know of anyone who has tried the 90mm Macro?
Thanks. I try to use this lens wide open as much as possible simply because its so sharp and the background is so … relaxing
I did consider the 90mm Macro (extending barrel), its also a sharp lens apparently. But I could not get the current one without the funny optical thing for the older M cameras, and I have a problem paying 1000+ for something I don’t need! Its also a bit slower at f4 and a lot less weight.
I am considering the purchase of the 100mm/2.8 Apo Macro Elmarit …. with the right adapter should be great for the type of macro I tend to do (plants, mostly, and some insects). What do you think? What do you think Steve?
By the way, what on earth is the E60 3 cams version of the 100mm/2.8 Apo Macro Elmarit ???? I could not find any explanation.
“Do you know of anyone who has tried the 90mm Macro?”
I replaced my Summarit 90 with the latest 6 bit version of the Macro Elmar 90.
The only advantage the Summarit had was being 1 stop faster.
The Macro Elmar is much nicer made, extremely compact, lighter, smoother focusing, is as sharp as the Summarit but has more pleasant rendering.
It also takes the tiny 39mm filters
I tried both, and kept the better lens. There is a very real reason why things cost more. I bought mine used w/o the ‘macro’ attachment as I will never use that.
If possible, try to visit a shop that carries Leica gear and see for yourself.
Used Summarits auction in the $1000-$1200 range, used Macro Elmar M (latest version) auction in the $2200-$2400 range w/o goggles.
Thanks a lot for your answer. We were discussing using these lenses on Fuji X cameras though …. are you referring to the same?
I’m not surprised that the Summarit is an excellent lens, I’ve never ever been disappointed with any of the Leica lens range. i think Leica is vey consistent in quality right across the range unlike a lot of Japanese brands. I have the 50mm 2.8 Elmar collapsible ( last version ) which was cheaper than the Summicron 50 and therefore judged inferior but i can tell you that it is so good in terms of optical quality that I’ll likely never part with it. Superb results.
Steve,I’m also lucky enough to own that 2.8 Elmarit you mentioned, and the M Telyt 135. All superb.
Reasons enough to keep using and enjoying my M6 TTL even in the digital age.
If i was building an M system from scratch today I wouldn’t hesitate to go for a couple of the Summarit lenses. save money but lose NOTHING in optical quality.
Birds on feeder & cup are wonderful.
90 F4 Elmar (screw mount non collapsable) renders in an old skool way.
F4 for me is fine shallow dof on FF (considering I was happy with 100mm F2.8 Olympus shallow dof on Ep1).
Thanks for the review.
I too had focusing problems with the 90 Summicron on my M9. It refused to go out to infinity. I returned it and the camera to the factory, but the same problem soon returned. I decided to sell the damned lens, even though 90mm has long been one of my favourite focal lengths for landscapes. [Remember that Klimt used a telescope to view the scene when painting his landscapes.]. Luckily the M240 came over the hill like the US Cavalry and saved the lens. On the M it focuses perfectly – over the full range of distances out to infinity. The EVF makes precise focusing easy. Now the 90 Summicron is on my M most of the time. It produces many of my most successful pictures. It is a brilliant lens that has found its mate, the M240.
Since I have the M240, should I choose the SUMMARIT or the SUMMICRON beside the price?
I find the 90mm Summicrom an excellent lens and recommend it. I have no experience with the Summarit and cannot therefore comment on it. Goff (actually)
Thanks for the reply. I have the M240 with the 35 SUMMILUX very compact. Is the M240 with the 90mm SUMMICRON bulky and heavy?
The Summarit M line indeed represent real fine and nice leica lenses.
When I purchased my first M (8) in 2010 the shop owner proposed me either to go for a Voightländer or a cheap 35mm Summarit.
Hearing about the focus shift of the VG, I decided to go for a REAL Leica lens and bought the 35mm Summarit.
Nice images, indeed, sharp nice colors etc.
The Summarits are modern lenses that will go very well with digital M.
However, I’m wondering how these lenses will be in 20 years. Not sure of their build is of same quality as the cons and the luxes.
There must be a quality price to pay somewhere……
For the 90mm range, the 2.8 Elmarit is also a fantastic lens, I own one and use it quite often.
Thanks for sharing this review Steve!
John from Germany
So nice to see the review, since by chance I just ordered a LN 90/2.5 from keh, and have high hopes for it with my M9. I just tried a 90 Elmarit, but found it heavy and the copy had quite a bit of dust, so flared. Before that I tried a M-hex 90, which had great handling but would not focus 🙂
Third time a charm I hope!
For backup, I also have a CV 90/3.5 APO Lanthar coming, and will be interesting to compare 🙂
The Summarits are all outstanding. I should never have sold my 75, but I needed the money to help pay for the Monochrom. I’ll get another someday.
The two I could never sell are the 35 and the 90. The 35 Summarit is, in my opinion, as good as anything in its focal length. Yes, the others are faster, but none has a more pleasing bokeh than the 35 Summarit. The 90 Summarit is every bit as good as the 35. I don’t shoot a 90 very often, but when I do I’m always delighted with the results.
Leica glass is addictive, thats for sure.
This is a very nice review. Lovely images all the way around.
I too finally gave up the 2.8 Elmarit 90. Mine was chrome and made terrific pictures but I grew tired of the weight and the overall handling dynamics of the lens. I had also picked up a 50 year old, tiny 2.8 Tele- Elmarit which has incredible fast and accurate focus. I also prefer its somewhat softer signature compared to the more clinical look of the Summicron and the Elmarit. The Tele- Elmarit is a great street lens because it is so tiny and has such fast and accurate focus. Good ones are available at very favorable prices.
I have always thought that the 90 Summarit made great pictures, and I am happy to see that you have confirmed it. If I ever become dissatisfied with the Tele Elmarit, I will try the Summarit.
You and others mentioned there are focus problem with the 90mm Summicron, can you give more details of the problem.
I am not saying that every 90 summicron has a focus issue, just that the ones I have owned and tried had issues with a focus shift or problem. There are some that are spot on, but it has been a lens known for focus issues, especially with the M8 and M9.
I am in the process to buy either the 90 SUMMARIT or the SUMMICRO. I have the M240 boidy and your review is definitely different than I read from Ken B about the build of the SUMMARIT. In addition, if the SUMMICRO has been reported with the focus issue, then I should choose the SUMMARIT.
you’re right of course and it’s a pi$$er
26 -cron/50 -cron/50 noct (new model) all focus perfectly, I mean you can see the lanugo (baby facial hair) and iris detail on blow ups.
My 90 -cron…? just waiting for the right time when I do not need it to go back. Not bad at > 3-5 m, but relentlessly front-focuses close up. Is that what you typically see on 90 -cron mis-focus? Too much front focus? I dial it in now, but DOF is so tight at this distance it’s not easy to nail it…
Have a Summarit 75mm -it is excellent not as good build quality as my Summicrons 35 and 50 which are old now but have never had any tactile or optical issues with the Summarit lens.
The only Leica lens I have ever had an issue with is that unique 135mm Elmarit f2.8 -the one with the specs. It brings up the 90mm screen and the Specs give it the extra for a 135mm view (180mm on M8). I have tried it on the M8 -images always slightly soft. I always considered that it was my poor focussing technique but it seems others have had focus issues with the lens.
I would love to see what a properly set up lens could do-I remember some time ago a contributer submitted some excellent images of a remote region of China. Among these was a beautiful atmospherical image of village -taken with a 135mm Elmarit with specs. This lens is not supposed to be stellar but is cheap and could be an option for a Leica shooter -say for Landscape or shooting concerts or jazz?
To all the Leica affectianados (and I’m one) that feel the Summarit’s are of lesser build-quality, seriously I’m not going to hammer nails with the lens’. Any Leica lens is of higher build quality than any Canikon-branded optics. I also shoot with Canon and there’s no comparison.
“Any Leica lens is of higher build quality than any Canikon-branded optics.”
I’ll put the build quality, longevity, and reliability of Nikon’s ‘Holy Trinity’ of lenses up against anything from Leica, any day.
Can’t speak to Canon’s pro glass; haven’t shot Canon in over 20 years.
Many moons ago I used to shoot with Canon FD lenses and Canon F1’s. The build quality of those optics reminded me very much of Leica lenses today, although I can’t speak for the optical quality of the old Canon glass. In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter. You shoot with what you are comfortable with, if it breaks you either get it fixed or buy something else.
Even the new Canon glass is very well made, at least the high-end stuff. Of course, it isn’t cheap either.
Although the nikon pro lenses are well build i doubt that they will live for 30+ years. I used to own the 300 2.8 ai lens and the focus motor died. There is a lot more parts in these modern nikon lenses that can fail compared to the more simple (and rugged) build Leica lenses. Nikon used to make some classics but in terms of build they are now just made for the mass market where you calculate in pennies when you choose materials. It comes in handy for nikon that they can argue that plastic is lighter than metal 😉
that pic of your dog is bonkers! nice review as always.
thanks for the review Steve…love your site ….having owned the 70’s version of the 90mm summicron
you’ve made a very cogent , both literally and photographically, case for this latest offering from Leica
That is one cost effective (relatively speaking) Leica lens. I’ve had it for over 5 years on my M3, M4 or R4M. With 400TMax, this lens is an absolute pleasure to use.
Have to agree. Its a lovely lens that is also small and light! Very Easy to focus.
Its part of my Kit (21mm Super Elmar, 35mm Cron ASPH, 50mm Lux ASPH & 90mm Summarit) and fit s together with my M9P in a Billingham Hardly Digital!
Sorry but I have to disagree.
There is a difference for all the reasons I stated. I have tried several Summarits to compare, thinking that maybe I bought a “bad” one.
For some of the points I raised you could take close up photos comparing the lens mount finish and engraving/paint fill of the Summarit vs a regular build Leica lens, post them on this site so we can compare them side to side. You WILL see the difference in the finish of the mount, and you will see how the engraving is shallower, the paint fill less precise (especially around the front element).
Let’s step back for a moment.. how do you think Leica is able to sell the faster Summarit (2.5) vs the slightly slower Elmarit (2.8) for less money?
Obviously they had to cut back somewhere. And I think they absolutely made the right choice by cutting on the build/finish than cutting back on the optical quality.
My day job is in QA, which is why I pay attention to these things.
I did not say the 90 Summarit was built to the same standard as a 90 Summicron. It is not. In fact, it is lighter and has small differences. What I said was that they are built to a true Leica standard and are not cheap in any way, shape or form. They are just as solid feeling as my other lenses, just not as heavy as others. As for the engraving, does that make a lens cheap? Does the engraving being different mean the lens will fall apart sooner? NO! I have had a 50 Noctilux 0.95 fall apart on me twice..a 50 Lux fall apart on me once..a 35 Lux lens element come loose..once. But it was not the deeper engraving that made them do that.
The focus ring is silky smooth, not in any way rough as you state. In fact, the summarit line is easier to focus IMO DUE TO the focus ring being larger and with more grip. I have never heard a report where someones Summarit fell apart or the mount broke or the lens aperture ring was dodgy.
All I know is that the Summarits I have had, and I have had them all, were all wonderful in build, feel, smoothness and performance. The IQ is superb and the lens comes in at a MUCH lower price than the others. So while little things were taken down a notch like the engraving (which again, has nothing to do with lens build or IQ or lens use) and lens mount, it is still a Leica made in Germany lens of very high quality.
Not sure where you found a stash of rough focusing/rough aperture ring Summarits but I have never seen one.
Hmm… The only lens I have for my M4 now is a 35mm Summarit. I think it’s focusing ring is actually smoother than the old Elmarit 24mm I borrowed for a few weeks. There’s no reason to consider the Summarit a “starter” line. It’s a full fledged line of its own with great optics. On mine, at f8 you can practically cut glass with its sharpness. I imagine the 90mm must be similar stopped down a bit.
I would love a blind testing of lenses. Including different cameras as well. Is anyone willing to put their $’s where their mouth is regarding your ability to pick out the Leica at a level of at least 80%.
It reminds me of when I go to the audio shops and they want to sell me very expensive cables, I always say….I’ll buy them, in fact I’ll pay 2X the price if you can effectively choose the cables in a blind listening at least 80% of the time…..Takers?
It’s actually quite easy to pick. Does that mean it is the best? No, not really, just means it has a character to it, and ALL lenses made have a different character. A Nikon 50 1.4 renders NOTHING like a Leica Summilux 1.4, nothing at all. I could pick out a Leica M9 with 50 Cron or Lux vs a Nikon D800 with Nikon 50 1.4 any day of the week, all day long..have done so in the past. That is because the lenses render differently and i know how they render and what to look for. Easy.
As for Audio cables, well..I have a set in my office now that anyone can hear dramatic differences with. I have done it for others, night and day – high to small, clear to muffles, soundstage width and depth to a big shrink fest. Many do not hear differences with Audio cables because their system is not resolving enough to do so. A better cable will not turn an average system into something magical but a cheap cable can turn a high resolving system into a lower end sounding system.
I’ve been there and done that, blind tests, with audio and lenses.
I will say it again. Lenses like the Leica 50 Summilux, 50 Summicron, 50 Noctilux, 21 Summilux, 35 Summilux, 75 Summilux…all of them and others have a distinct character just as the Zeiss 50 Sonnar does. This is how they can be distinguished from each other. No Nikon lens I have shot with comes close as they render much differently.
I remember 2-3 years ago a guy challenged me via email and bet me $500 I could not tell which image was shot with a Leica M9 and 50 Summicron vs a Canon 5DII and 50 1.4. I took the challenge and picked three Leica shots out of 7 (4 were Canon). I was correct. He never paid up. 🙂 I just looked for the Leica character of the lens as well as the M9 sensor.
The only other difference not mentioned and one I have no reasonable way to verify is that the aspherical lens elements in all Summicron lenses are the same glass as the Noctilux. This would not be the case with the Summarit lenses. I was told this by two different Leica representatives at two separate Leica Academy sessions.
And, if one really wants to split hairs, the font on the lens barrel of the Summarit lenses is different than the font on all other current Leica lenses.
Finally, the pictures posted here are top shelf, as always. Thanks!
I will second Steve’s comments about the older f2.8 Elmarit. I bought mine used for about $1000 and it is an exceptional lens. This was the standard 90mm lens just before the new f2.0 Summicron. There is an even older Elmarit that was also very good but the edges were a little soft wide open. It can be hard to tell the two Elmarits apart on a list of used lenses. The barrel of the newer one is about the same size from front to back while the older one is smaller on the front. If you need to check out photos of both they are available on Ken Rockwell’s site (sorry Steve, no other reason to visit Rockwell’s site). In any event, these are a very good alternative if you can find one.
I really enjoyed your review and your enthusiasm. I do own this lens as well and shoot it on my M9. I can confirm everything you wrote. This lens is a joy to use. It is in no way build cheap or does feel cheap as some people wrote this on other platforms. Like yourself i find the lens easy to focus even on the M9 with no focus issues. The focus ring is made of rubber which some dont like, but it helps to nail focus quick.
I dont use the hood and i dont miss it as the lens does really well against the sun. It is not going to flare easily. Image quality is really top. I think the Cron apo has a tiny bit more micro contrast. But it is heavy and really expensive. The 90elmarit as well as the cron give slightly richer colors on the M9 as well but on the 240 it seems to be just right. This 90 summarit is one of my favourite lenses to shoot and a bargain in the Leica lineup. I think about buying the 35 as well. Saw really great results from this glass.
The out of focus issue with the 90mm M lenses is interesting. I tried several 90mm M lenses (Summicron, Tele-Elmarit, Elmarit) and 3 different 135mm f2.8 Elmarits that all had the same problem. Finally sent the best 135 Elmarit to Leica for re-calibration to M9 specs and the difference was spectacular! I wonder if a) it is an issue with long focus or tele-M lens that were made prior to digital, and b) if all those reports of the 135 Elmarit being soft is a consequence of not being calibrated to the flat digital sensor?
All of my ZM lenses work perfectly – go figure. Ever tried the 85 f2 ZM Sonnar? My is beautifully sharp & contrasty, but as big as the 90 Summicron, which makes it a bit heavy for a jacket pocket.
Thanks for the review!
Yea, strange huh? I found the same. Zeiss ZM – never an issue or problem, even the rare 85. But long Leica glass from 90-135 seems to have many issues. The 135 is razor sharp, so if anyone has softness there it is a minor focus issue most likely.
I have a Leica M240 with a 50mm Summilux ASPH and recently picked up a gorgeous, lightly used 90mm Summarit. The Summarit is really nice and I love its rendering. I would highly recommend it. I do NOT agree with some Leica dealers/distributors who consider the Summarits to be ‘student lenses.’ That’s just snobbish rubbish, IMHO.
As a side note, I sold all of my Hasselblad digital and analog gear and am using my M240 exclusively for my project of photographing the American West. God, I love that thing! And much of my decision to procure it came from your comments and reviews. Thanks for all your work and I’d love to buy you lunch or a vino if I get to Phoenix (I think that’s where you are.). 🙂
Thanks Bob, if you are ever around the Phx area send me an email!
Hi Bob, Would love to see your in the American West Stuff…Is The Avedon book your insperation ?
Avedon’s book is absolutely an inspiration, as well as the fact that I grew up near Boston and didn’t really believe that cowboys still existed when I first came out West 30+ years ago. 🙂 I live in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and there are lots of cowboys here (though not as many as when I first arrived). I’m really fascinated by the dedication of the cowboys and their families to maintain this lifestyle, which is truly very difficult and rewarding. I’d also like to photograph some farm families, as well. I’ll post some images with Steve as I move forward. In the meantime, you can see some of my work at bobmacdougallphotography.com. Sorry it hasn’t been updated in a while but I’m working on it. 🙂
Forgot to mention, even the lens mount is cheaper on the Summarit. The chrome plated brass is much thinner and less shiny than other Leica lenses. Mounting it you can feel the difference and again is a differentiator.
Again, feels NO DIFFERENT mounting it, at all. Just mounted a 50 lux, 50 cron, Zeiss 50 Sonnar and 90 Summarit. All felt exactly the same mounting the lens. Total nonsense.
I had the Summarit 90 for a little while. I was not as impressed as Steve.
While it was very sharp, the build quality did not come remotely close to matching other Leica lenses. The aperture ring is looser and the focus mechanism feels almost gritty in comparison to the silkiness of other Leica lenses. The rubber focus ring is also a departure from the more expensive and much nicer metal focus rings of other Leica glass.
If you look closely at the markings on the barrel and around the front element, you will also see that the engraving is shallower and the paint fill is much less precise, almost sloppy compared to a Elmarit/Summicron/Elmar. My copy and others I looked at had very faint smudges.
There is a reason that Leica is able to sell this for less than their other lenses. It is a cheaper lens in build.
If I didn’t know who made it I would have guessed Voigtlander. They have some really nice sharp lenses but with lower build to offset the lower prices than Leica.
I sold my Summarit and bought a Macro Elmar 90. That lens is everything that a Leica lens should be. Fantastic sharpness and rendering as well as peerless quality of build. I particularly like how compact it is as it collapses on itself.
If all you care about it sharpness, then the Summarit 90 will suffice. But if you care about build and tactility too, then look elsewhere.
My aperture dial feels just as nice as the one on my 50 lux, and previous 50 Noct. IN fact, no difference. Focus ring wise, my 90 Summarit focus ring is SMOOTHER than my 50 lux focus ring. Build is fantastic with the Summarit line. You may have had a dodgy or worn out lens (if you bought used). The rubber focus ring adds a much nicer grip and makes it easier to focus with IMO. The engraving is different but no worse, looks more classic which is what they were going for. Nothing at all sloppy about it, nothing.
I have the Summarit 90 and the Summarit 35 and find no difference in its build quality compared to the 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-ASPH. The 50 Summicron feels a bit more solid, but not enough to matter.
I’ve been using my m8.2 with my 35mm 2.5 summarit and it’s only LOVE-LOVE… there is plenty leica users that doesn’t even know about the summarit line. I bought mine in demo consition for $1100 and it’s such a joy….there is also the 75mm 2.5 not sure if it was mention before…thanks!
lovely images and LOVELY COLOURS 🙂
The only drawback I found was with minimum focusing distance. Which is why I sold a tack sharp 75mm Summarit and traded a 90 Summicron for the 75 Summicron. The latter has been with Leica NJ as it needed a calibration because it was missing by at least an inch… a “feature” that the Summarit fortunately didn’t have!
Still love the Summarit 50mm though. And it plays very well on the Monochrom:
Photo of a nephew showing off a Christmas present.
The 75 cron offers the best close focus bang for the buck no question, and it is a fantastic lens. Thanks!
All of the Summarits are traditional spherical designs, which on the Monochrom look fantastic. All four are terrific on the Monochrom, as is the (non-APO) Summicron and the Zeiss Sonnar.
Totally convincing images! I wonder what the summarit family would be like on an M8 or 8.2, Steve? Might bring the rangefinder experience within spitting distance!
My main Leica compo is an M8 with Summarit 35mm f2.5 ( 46 mm on M8 ) and I don’t thing there is a difference at 2.5 with Summilux 35 . However with M8 a faster lens make sense, as the ISO capabilities of the camera are not to current standards
All of the mentioned Leica 90mm are very sharp! I think, the decision primarily depends on
2.) color output
3.) gearing of the focus ring
Hi: I clicked on Steve’s Amazon link; have the 90 in my wish-list folder. They’re offering a bundle with the 90, leica haze, and the hood for almost $200 less than Leica list price. Another Leica bargain 🙂
Hi Steve: Great review. I have the 75 2.5 and use it extensively for portrait work. Fantastic optic and a fairly reasonable (by Leica standards) price. I considered the 90 but instead I have the M to R adapter and will at some point be trying out the R 180 3.5 on the M. That’ll be a trip; shooting R-glass on an M!
That R 180 should be fun to shoot, let me know how it goes!
Will do, once I purchase a lens! I have a lead on the expensive apo 2.8, but right now I don’t feel the extra 1/2 stop will be worth the price premium. The M is so good at high ISO, the speed difference is minimal and can be mitigated by bumping the ISO on the camera. That’s one prime reason why I didn’t feel the need to get into the F2 M tele’s.
Hello Steve: It’s enjoyable to see 6-month old threads resurface! I did purchase the 180 3.4 from a local photog that still has a boatload of retired R glass. It’s plenty sharp even wide open and built like a tank. The only thing difficult to get used to is the lack of IS when handholding. One get’s used to that feature having shot with stabilization for the last 10 years. For interior use, I almost always use the M240/180 combo on a tripod with the collar permanently attached.