The Leica 50 Summicron f/2 APO Review, Part 1
by Steve Huff
Technically, the best 50mm lens I have ever shot with. Period. End of Story. Done Deal. No contest. Really!—-
The perfect 50mm lens..does it even really exist? Many say that this exact lens that I am about to write about is the best 50mm ever made, without question or doubt but I will tell you that what is determined as “the best” for you comes down to personal preference. To some, the best 50mm lens may be a 50 f/2 Rigid Summicron or for others it may be the 50 Summilux pre-asph, for others the classic 50mm Summarit or Summitar.
If someone were to want the 50mm lens with the most perfect specs, this Leica 50 Summicron APO f/2 would be the ticket though, without question. It would also be the one that will melt your credit card because at the price of $7,350.00, this is not a lens to consider lightly, nor is it a lens that is really “needed’ by 99% of us.
Yes my friends, perfection does not come cheap and this is a wallet buster for sure, even if you are well off or have cash in the bank. For quite a while I was upset that Leica priced this lens the way they did and I remember early on after the announcement I was ready to give up my Leica for good as they were pricing so many out of the M system. I mean, $7,350 for a 50mm f/2 prime when the still current non APO sum micron is $2300?
Well, time has passed since then and it was not until after I really understood what it was, and how hard it was to make and the that Leica is reportedly losing money on this lens that I decided to really take a look at it. When I actually had one in my possession for a while, which just happened recently, I realized how special the lens is. Even with that said, no 50mm lens is really “worth” $7,350 to 99% of people but I do understand why it is priced at this level and I do understand why so many of us Leica M shooters lust after this particular piece of glass.
The 50 APO on my Sony A7s
Sure, I enjoy using a $600 50 Summarit just as much as I love using this APO cron but one thing is certain, I can not fault this lens in any way. From packaging, to construction, to quality, to the hood, to the size, to the pride of ownership that comes with it. It is a thing of beauty and just holding it you can feel the quality and care that went into making it.
It is beautifully made, beautiful in size and technically the best 50mm lens I have ever used. No distortion, amazing contrast, super detailed and sharpness, sweet color and smooth as you can get bokeh in an M mount 50 next to the $11,000 Noctilux. But just because this lens has all of those qualities does not mean that other 50’s now have to be dumped. In fact. Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander make some fantastic 50mm lenses for the M mount and they come in at a fraction of the cost. One could buy a Zeiss 50 Planar f/2 for $800 and take the $6500 saved and go on a massive photo trip 🙂 One could buy the original summcrion for $2300 and save $5000 to use for whatever else they desire. Just because this lens is as good as it gets in a 50mm for 35mm does not mean it is needed to create good photos. I have taken many bad photos with this lens, I should know 🙂
The Leica M 240 and 50mm APO Summicron makes for one hell of a combo, but at $14,000+, it is pricey combo.
One thing I love about the M system is that I can capture moments just when I want to. Here I was prefocused and waited…looking through the viewfinder until the one moment that I wanted to capture happened. Ahhh, to be young.
At the cost of this lens and how long it takes to get a hold of one (9-24 month wait after ordering) I do not expect many to actually buy or own this lens. Only the camera crazy G.A.S. stricken few will dare take the plunge into this kind of investment for a single lens, especially when it is a common focal length, 50mm, and common aperture of f/2. But yes! There is a long line for it and that line extends at some dealers for what would equal a good 2 year wait.
But me, I bought one as I have spoken with a few of you who have bought one and swear up and down about this lens. I also never did get a chance to do a full review of this lens so as a service to all of my Leica readers here, I felt I owed it to all of you to write about this lens, lol. Well, that is my way to justify buying it. That and I remembered just how good it was when I had it for a few days over a year ago.
But it is even better now because the latest version of this lens that is shipping has now been fixed of the “flare” issue that was reported on this very lens and the earlier batches. It seems if you bought one early on then your lens may have a flare issue, which was a big no no as this lens was supposed to be perfect. Well, Leica admitted the problem and fixed it. If anyone has an older version of this lens and it fares you can send it to Leica and they will send it back to you flare free. My version would not and could not flare so I know mine is the latest and greatest
Shot at f/2. this one has detail and pop.
50mm = the new crack
In reality, I am a 50mm junkie. I think I have tried just about every 50mm lens ever made for the Leica M system. I have loved many of them, even the old 1940’s lenses. Lenses like the Canon 50 0.95 were very cool and fun to use and the old summitar was beautiful and cheap.
I have used the 50mm Summilux ASPH for years, and feel that it is a legendary lens. A lens that is still expensive but more realistic in price at $4,000 (though still high compared to other 50mm lenses). The 50 Summilux offers a faster aperture at $3300+ less than the 50 APO, so for most, THAT is the ultimate Leica 50mm lens. I have captured many precious memories with a 50 Summilux ASPH on the M6, M7, M8, M9 and M 240. It has stood the test of time and still today is probably the most sought after Leica 50mm lens. With the Summilux being so good, why would one spend $3300 more on a slower aperture lens?
That is what I wondered myself but again, the 50mm Summicron APO is for those who want perfection and those who want the best technical 50mm lens ever made. For Leica, this lens is a statement lens. A lens that shows that you do not need a big fat housing to have a perfect 50mm lens 😉 Proof that you can have no distortion, nearly no CA and perfect across the frame sharpness even at f/2, when the lens is wide open. The Bokeh of the 50 APO is much nicer than that of the older 50 Summicron, which has been known to have “busy” bokeh. The ONLY fault of this lens is slight vigneting when wide open, but it is slight and adds to the photo IMO. This lens uses very high-end exotic glass, the best Leica can source.
ISO 3200, Leica M 240, 50 APO at f/2. Click it for larger and see just how nice this looks at 3200!
or in color. Even at ISO 3200 in a dim restaurant the M creates acceptable color and smooth bokeh with minimal non offensive noise.
A True Masterpiece
The 50 APO is tiny. Smaller than a 50 Summilux. It is also gorgeous and has the coolest and smoothest twist out built-in hood ever. It is like a fine jewel in feel, use and in quality. The lens even ships in a large deluxe box that houses a fancy presentation case much like the Noctilux box does. The lens comes with two lens caps, one old school brass (black paint) and one plastic. I keep the black paint one in the box so I do not lose it and just use the standard plastic one. When on the camera it feels like I am shooting the normal standard summicron but when I look back at the pics the level of color fidelity and contrast and pop is on another level.
In use the lens is a joy, It has a focus tab so is easy to focus but I do have one quibble. The aperture ring is a little too loose. I keep the lens at f/2 as it is PERFECT for my tastes at this aperture. I find that sometimes it has slid to f/2.8 and I do not realize it until after the images has been taken. It needs to be a little stiffer to avoid shifting on accident. Other than that, I can find no negatives with this lens at all.
I know that when I grab my Leica M and head out the door for a day of shooting and this lens is attached..well, I know that when I return home and load up my photos to my large 27″ screen that I will be in awe of the colors, the details and the beauty of the files. Being who I am though, I know that I will also be telling myself constantly “You spent HOW MUCH on this lens…you could have used that money for something much more responsible”. So with my guilt of spending so much money on a small tiny lens, when this 2-3 part review is all done, it MAY go up for sale but then again, seeing that this lens makes such an amazing one lens kit with the M, that would be very hard for me to do. 🙂
Here are a few more of my 1st photos from the 50 Cron…
Bokeh is about as good as it gets in a 50mm Leica M lens (besides the ultra creamy and smooth Noctilux, but that is a whole new look all in itself) f/2
Mid Day in Prescott, AZ – This little guy was looking at me, probably thinking “Damn, that is a sweet camera”! Click image for larger and more detailed version. f/2
Debby enjoying the day. This is right out of camera at f/2.
The color pops with this lens and the M 240
Many who shoot the M 240 notice that some of their favorite lenses performed quite differently than they did on the older M9. Color was different, the POP was a bit different, the sharpness was even different. In the case of the 50 Summilux ASPH I noticed a big difference in rendering from the M9 to the M 240, though I enjoyed both cameras way of presenting the files. Even so, the color was the trickiest part of the M. With this 50 APO, the color coming out looks rich, deep and much like a nice slide film. As close as you can get in digital anyway. For color on the M, there is nothing like the 50 APO. From pop, punch, depth, and tone…this lens rocks color on the M.
Kids playing at a mall in Scottsdale AZ. Click the image for larger size to see the detail and color depth. Shot at f/2, which is where this lens SHINES.
The 50 APO is a lens that brings a little bit of medium format to the Leica M. Not fully, but a hint of that look from file richness to detail to perfect sharpness and no distortion.
This lens, in my opinion, is meant to be shot at f/2. Wide open BABY!
With most lenses and camera systems such as DSLR’s we have been trained to know that stopping a lens down from its wide open aperture will always deliver better performance. In the case of the Leica 50 APO Summicron, I do not feel this is the case. While you will lose the slight vignette that is there at f/2 when stopping down to f/2.8, you will also start to lose some of the signature of the wide open look that this lens creates. When shot at f/2, this lens creates a look that is part classic, part modern but never in an analytical way (which is what I thought it was going to be when I first tested this lens over a year ago). It has a beautiful smooth presentation and at f/2 you get all of this character. Stopping the lens down, say to f/4..well, this is when you will start to lose some of the reason you paid so much for the lens as there are quite a few 50mm lenses out that there perform just about perfect by f/4.
So if you test this lens, buy this lens or borrow this lens make sure you are NOT afraid to shoot it wide open, which is where it has been optimized to be shot.
More images shot wide open at f/2 and feel free to click them for larger versions! EXIF is embedded in each image.
Full Size files:
The files coming from the M 240 when this lens is used, to put it mildly, is the best I have ever seen the M 240 files. The complete lack of distortion, fitness or soft corners is amazing. There can be teeny amounts of CA but it is the best I have seen.
This is a TORTURE test for CA. The 50 Summilux and 50 Noctilux would be full of CA in this shot. The 50 APO is amazing.
The 1st photo in this article, but this time full size…right click to open in a new window for best viewing
One more full size…
Wrapping up part 1 of this lens review
Again, this is only part 1 of a 2 or 3 part review. I have lots of shooting and comparing to do with the Leica 50 APO Summicron lens but so far, so good. It is a beautiful lens with amazing build and contrast and sharpness across the entire frame, even wide open at f/2. After my 1st couple of weeks with it I feel that I could be just as happy with a 50 Summilux or maybe even a 50 Zeiss Planar (well, almost as happy). While this lens surpasses those other lenses for all out performance, as I said early on, performance of a lens will not instantly make you a magical photographer. I feel that this lens is for those who crave, desire and lust after the “perfect” lens. I am on of those nerds myself, so I love it but I do have hesitations about spending so much money on this little guy, especially when that money could have been used elsewhere that is, in reality, more important. Still, I am having a blast shooting the lens and over the next few weeks I will be taking this lens to the always photo rich Comicon, to the California desert and Lazy Meadows Airstream park/hotel, Joshua Tree Park, San Francisco and all of the photo opps it has to offer, Long Beach, CA, the Queen Mary, and a few cool spots as I go on a 7-10 day road trip in about 2 weeks from today with the love of my life, Debby.
I will be posting part 2 when I return, so in about 3 weeks. I will also be doing comparisons with the original 50 Summicron and Zeiss 50 Planar, two other 50mm f/2 options. 😉 So stay tuned and check back soon for all of the good stuff. I will leave you with a few more early shots with this lens and the Leica M. BTW, my 50 APO came from Ken Hansen (firstname.lastname@example.org) but no one has this lens in stock, there is a wait but you can put your name on that list. Or you can pick up a standard 50 cron or 50 lux or 50 summarit 🙂
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Your comments have decided me to open wide my wallet, and finally ordered this apo summicron. even if, smaller among the smaller, I do not desserve such a nice lens (I am only an amateur photograh).
But I thought it was a good gift to my M10. One lives once only….
Guess what happened when I received this splendid lens: just after unboxing it, and after few seconds of watching this beautifull lens: I turned the diaphragm setting, like every one would have done. I was then not a few surprised to see that some of the blades remained stuck at f:16 or f:8, and never opened at f:2. I could not believe that such a prestigious lens left the factory whithout being carrefully checked. I tried two or three settings from f:16 to f:2 and back, but no doubt, somes blades did not follow the setting. I returned the lens to the seller, for change. That was two weeks ago, and I am still waiting. I wrote to Leica to explain what was my desapointment, but no reply so far. What do you think I should do ?
Please appologize my poor English
although I could afford a new car I have always bought secondhand, I have a secondhand m6, s/h cron, s/h 35mm lux and a s/h 75mm cron. I waited in vain for a s/h m typ 240 & bought new on black friday and using some more of the s/h motor money I saved I bought a new APO ASPH Cron. again on black friday, I’m a very happy bunny. The tax man will get enough when I go to the great dark room in the sky, without me saving more for him. Only thing I wish is that Leica would convert the lovely m6 into digital.
guess your wish just got answered in the M10
My Fuji 56mm f/1.2 is 10x better than this overpriced garbage.
Actually, no it is not 😉 This is the best 50mm prime in the world IMO and going by many lab tests. While silly in red, the black model is beautiful and is an amazing optic. The fuji is nice too, but not at this level, and 5X larger.
Disagree that this lens is flare-free. Quite easy to make it flares (and mine is 2015 batch). Compared to the summicron ver. 4, it is much much better though. Anyway, for its price, quite disappointing on the flare control issues, but otherwise it is a fantastic lens.
Really want to see your review on part 2.
STEVE? As the picture nerd you are, I assume you have a screen for editing which has a solution as the new iMac 5K and 27″? Well, I guess not as the new iMac with 14.7 million pixels is not in your store yet?
Please let us readers know what sort of facilities you are using for picture handling and watching?
Talking about this new 50 mm lens you should have the best screen in line with this. As in Hi-Fi music facilities there should not be any weak link.
It is embarrassing that I come all this way to look for examples of ‘bokeh’ for the 50 Summicron APO. But I did. Anyway, fun review. Thank you.
Where is the Part 2????
I was wondering if the analog camera’s benefits from the apo 50 also?
Would the analog Leica such as m6 ,m7, mp ect benefit from this lens?
I have the 50mm f/2 APO and the f/1.4 35mm lux so have the perfect duo of lenses.
I have “invented” a lens changer which allows swapping of lenses without hassle – you just glue two cheapo chinese leica lenscaps back to back and away you go!!
OMG, here I am trying to talk myself out of dreaming about a Leica system… and then I see your images…
You are making it really tough to keep my dreams “practical”.
Part 2 of this review will be up soon. 🙂
How soon? Eagerly awaiting….
Anybody know what happened to part two?
I’ve been reading many of your Leica reviews and since then i end up buying M240, 21 super elmar 3.4, 50mm Noctilux 0.95, 50 summilux asph and just ordered today the new summicron 50mm APO. Infacts, i need to get rid 1 of the 50mms (may be summilux) and replace by 35mm summilux or 90mm summicron and i need your advice.
Travel photography is my hobby. I love my Noctilux for taking pictures at dawn and at night. For day time, i think the 50mm summicron APO would meet my needs but i also love my 50mm summilux asph alot as i have been using it over the last 2 years.
I would highly appreciate it if you can give me your advices
Much thanks & regards,
Well, with the Summicron I found the Lux obsolete as the APO will deliver much better color, detail and 3D pop. It is medium format like. I’d sell the 50 lux and buy the 35 lux if it were me.
Thank you so much for your advice. Your articles and reviews always aspire me much
sorry Steve, i mean ‘inspire’ not aspire
A lens porn, nothing less nothing more, quality of pictures included.
New to this so please excuse any crass comments!
Had an M9 for a while and also a 1953 M3 for which I just had to buy a 50mm silver f/2 of simialr (later) vintage and loved it so used on my M9.
Last year, shopping in November for Christmas prezzies we wandered into the London Selfridges Leica store and I was told about the new ‘chron ASPH – decided to go for it.
Apparently only 2 – 3 per batch make it through testing so after a long wair will be picking mine up Monday 11th August…
Also used a 35mm ‘lux in freezing conditions in Norway – above the Arctic Circle – needed a wider view so ended up stitching 5 images taken vertically – hand held and wide open.
The result was unexpected and extremely sharp and great colour rendering – shoul print up abot 5×2 feet.
Can send a link if yr interested.
We can expect to get two of these lenses with sequential serial numbers before part 2.
Part 2 and or 3?
A comp between the Noct .95 and this lens?
Not even the same kind of lens as a Noct. The Noct is 5X larger/Heavier, 0.95 and gives a much different rendering. The Cron is small, light, f/2 and the sharpest yet most beautiful rendering of any lens I have ever shot with. But if one needs or wants a Noct, they will not want the 50 APO and vice versa. Many own both!
When we can expect part 2-3?
Steve, Is the APO significantly smaller and lighter than the Summilux?
Yes, it is quite a bit smaller. Wouldn’t say lighter. Weight should be around the same.
I suppose it’s an ‘achievement,’ of sorts, for Leica. But, how relevant/significant is it?
If i look through all of the hundreds of photography monographs on my shelves, i note that none of the images were shot with this lens. None, even, with an ASPH lens of any sort. I can’t imagine that any of the photographs i love would have been improved by this lens. It’s easy to see how many of them would be diminished by it, though.
Some technical advances are good for photography. This? Not so much. Take the 8 grand, buy an ‘ordinary’ lens, and a trip around the world. The PHOTOGRAPHY will be better.
I just read that its price will be raised with $900 in July. Ouch!!!
Most people these days are shooting photos with cell phones! The best reason to buy the 50mm APO now is that in a few years the price will go to $10,000 and you won’t be able to get one! I should buy mine now since I’ve been hoping for my wife to find a reason to divorce me.
If you put your money on a bankbook you get nothing for it here… I’ll go for this Lens, just to save my money, I think it’s the best way to save the money in long term….
Steve, let’s say you have acquired a Davinci, the Mona Lisa. Do you then say to yourself, I can’t justify keeping this masterpiece, and settle for dogs playing poker or a black velvet Elvis poster? No. Keep the cron!!! Seriously, this lens is giving me Leica envy.
Already have the 1.5 Nokton. Should I sell it, my kidney and my lung to get this Cron APO?
Please compare them on A7
Hi Steve, I would love to see a comparison between the Summicron APO and the Noctilux, both shot at f/2.
Can you do that?
Won’t a 4k screen @ 1:1 look the same as a standard screen at 1:1?
I knew you would love this lens. The bokeh is just so smooth. Color is fantastic and the sharpness of the lens just jumps out at you. Probably, my favorite must have lens, more than the Noctilux. i just love this lens.
Looking forward to seeing your next set of photos when you have the opportunity to explore the creative side of your passion.
Mine went back to the dealer in September for the central veiling flare issue. I think I must be due for one soon from them, now that they are starting to ship again.
Great write up, Steve. You were hinting at some thoughts on how the 50 f/2 stacks up against the Noctilux. Would you take this Cron over the Noctilux?
Yes, 100% for the simple reasons below:
Its less expensive
It is MUCH smaller and lighter
I prefer the IQ
It focuses closer
It is technically a better lens
You lose out on the 0.95 look, and that can not be achieved with the 50 APO though some of the Bokeh characteristics are similar.
Well for well under $2,000 I’m walking around with Oly EM1 a d Pany/Leica 25 mm (50mm) f/1.4 and loving it.
For well under $150 I’m walking around with Zeiss Ikon Contessa w/ a real Zeiss Tessar 45mm f/2.8 (not Cosina Zeiss) and loving it.
Hmmm. Already have a 50-cron and a .95 Noctilux for my M. On the wait list for this one. So you think the water shot would show a lot of CA with those?
Will try it and send you a result. Will try different apertures
Oh Boy… a project…!
The Noctilux has the worst CA of any lens I know, so yes.
Oh… the horror… the hor…ror…
To my untrained eyes, I can’t spot the difference between this and a cron, but I’m glad that this lens makes you happy steve.
Differences are pretty extreme. Color is MUCH different. The Standard cron has a cool color cast. Sharpness is next. The corners on the standard cron are not sharp wide open, and at f/2 the APO is MUCH sharper but at the same time it offers a nice rounded look without being analytical. BOKEH is MAJOR. The old cron has busy bokeh that was always a complaint from the owners. The Bokeh in the APO is much improved. CA is present in the standard cron, it is absent (well, 98% absent) in the APO. Contrast is increased dramatically in the APO as well. When side by side, the standard cron looks like a 100% different lens from color, to detail, to contrast to well, everything 😉 BUT I WISH I could not see these differences, trust me. This lens is distortion free, and as perfect as a 50mm can get for 35mm.
Yes, standard 50-cron is cool,,, but nothing that can’t be addressed in post with just a touch of warmth. What’s cool about this lens is its size…!!! In your pocket with ease. Will see if I like it as much as you… hope I don’t wait much longer
Certainly I could never, ever justify such a lens.
But at the same time, it’s pretty clear that it is truly amazing, stupendous, [insert superlative]. Once you hit the $1000 threshold with any lens, you’re well into the domain of chasing tiny diminishing returns…but you can still see the difference.
“You spent how much … ?” While $7,000 is big biccies it’s not a lot to have the very best in your chosen hobby. I know people who spend more than that on a mountain bike or a piece of stereo equipment, let alone the car of their dreams. To get the lens you dream about, Steve, I would argue it is relatively inexpensive!
Hi, Steve, can compare 50 lux against APO as well?
Steve, your about to make so many husbands having fights with their wifes over the justification of crashing their US$7,000 saving 🙂 Assuming you do not put too many additional sharpening, your picture shows the magic of this lens… I see the magic, but I agree with you it is a damn hard justification of crashing your saving for it when what you had in mind is simply lovely pictures.
Very impressive results -probably is the best 50mm ever made -so my advise is keep it and enjoy it -do not even think of selling it!
I’d love to see some shots taken with this lens at f4 to f11… Surely this lens in incredibly sharp at those apertures?
I would need a Leica body for that lens plus a professional monitor just to get started to enjoy a great prime lens. Wonder if these Leica prices (roughly $20000 incl. monitor) justify these modest incremental IQ improvements compared to the Sony A7R and the Zeiss 50mm. Paying $7000 plus for a standard prime lens is grotesque.
Give it 6 months and it will be half the price… no wait…
Lol, no it will never be half the price. No Leica lens is ever half price. A 50 Lux sells today, USED for about $1k more than it did new 10 years ago. This lens is selling used for the new price or slightly more. I have seen used ones sell for $8k. So if you think you will find one of these for $3600 in 6 months you are HUGELY mistaken 🙂 Will never ever happen. As it is there is over a year wait for this lens right now, if you order today. They probably ship 3 per month to the USA.
Three per month! Exclusive club to own one! I have been on a 10 month wait list at B and H. Now that the flare is eliminated your tests have piqued my interest even more. Viewed you images on a new Dell 3800 with a super HD screen. The focused subjects were beautiful color and sharp. The girl playing in the water looked as if she were in 3d.
How long was your wait to receive the lens?
I see APO can be rented for 311bucks for 5 days…anyway it is still not available at rensrental and pretty sure there is nice queue for it 🙂
Looks more Zeiss than Leica to my eyes. Interesting.
Naaaah ,, I will say 50 Summilux is wonderful .. compared to this one .. 7300$!! too much.
Fantastic review and amazing photos but what is missing is a thoughtful photo of this awesome lens mounted on the M…you know…for us gear-heads 😉
50 APO and MM. Best combo to date.
The 50 apo and the MM were made for each other. Literally.
An expert on an expert lens – great start for your APO50 review series Steve.
wow, the detail is astounding!
I tried the 50mm APO recently on an M240. I was handholding the camera, and it’s perhaps tough to see as a result of that handholding a massive OBVIOUS difference versus the regular Summicron or the 1.4 Lux, but there is a difference for sure ….. The APO is more smooth, more “rounded” in its rendering indeed, but at the same time it is ULTRA sharp in terms of capturing detail but somehow it does that in a natural way (ie, the resolution is higher than any other lens I’ve tried, but in a non-aggressive “digitally sharp” way. In that sense, it makes the APO reminiscent of medium format, whether digital or film).
As a side note, and as my first post here, your website, Steve, with your very skilled writing style, passion for the subject matter, and ability to absorb well documented articles with contributing images from others, make it utterly superb and has given me a lot of joy over many months.
Good Evening Steve!
Thx for that great review and your insight look on this awesome lens. Looking forward to part 2.
thx 4 your review: very interesting. A comparison between the leica cron 2.0 and the 55 mm Otus would be very cool too.
Hi Steve, Really like to read about your enthusiasm for exclusive things, both photographic and audio. However if you know about the law of diminishing returns you will understand that any extreme is never really justified on a logical basis.You obviously are passionate about this lens,and good luck to you. Maybe in twenty years time it will even prove to be a good investment. However, as far as pictures are concern, a good picture needs some important things:- an interesting subject, a special moment in time, good lighting and an eye for composition. Given these thing the camera and lens are not really so relevant. On the other hand we can also enthuse over the technical perfection of a mediocre picture which has no real objective. I have spent over 55 years and lots of money trying to find the “Holy Grail” and quiet honestly I am no better a photographer for it. Have now sold my medium format equipment and most of my DSLR`s and Leicas, I am getting more satisfaction and better pictures from a simple MFT outfit . You are doing an excellent job arousing the passion in your followers and no doubt Leica is happy too. I like your site and hope it flourishes but beware the muggers with $15,000 around your neck. Regards David
How true! Without an interesting subject it’s all just a waste of time and money 😉
Congratulations, Steve, with this phenominal lens. But also with your approach for this article and not in the least with the nice pics. The quality of the color indeed popped out immediately and tremendously to me, next to all its “obvious” qualities. Love at first sight!
Personally, I also love to own and use nice gear (don’t we all, really?), yet I absolutely can’t spend this kind of money. But for sure, should I have access to an abundance of financial means, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second, I would probably even prefer it over my Otus (were it, the Cron that is, on my present A7r body or the M), because of its ultra compact size, compared with absolute top performance. I agree it’s really not relevant to compare those two (Otus and Cron) in detail, they are too different in purpose and size, but without any doubt, they are both absolute top level products. For sure, I can really imagine it vividly, with this Cron on the M (and surely also on the Sony, but preferably on the Leica with which it combines absolutely perfectly in every way) the joy of use must be the highest imaginable. And joy of use to me is a combination of size, ergonomics, tactility and the resulting IQ. I am really very happy with my Planar ZM 2/50 on my A7r, in many ways comparable, but by far not as exclusive, yet so much more affordable! And it shoots wonderful pics too. But still, it must feel great to have this Leica combo in your hands. There’s only one downside to a lens like this IMO: the fact that nearly everybody who will ever buy it, will, like you wrote, be plagued by the guilt feeling that he probably could have used his money in a much better way.
Last consideration: if Leica really looses money on this lens, what is the value then of the statement that it’s really possible to make a virtually perfect lens in a size that compact. I’d really like to know what the real cost would be. I guess it must be quite a bit more, because I don’t expect Leica to underprice it for a mere $500. So I’m not so sure if we really can speak of a strong statement here…
Please do some film shots Steve. Would love to see how this lens works with Tri-X & Portra.
This lens is way beyond my budget. I just want to share the fact here that all camera brands have a decent, affordable, fast 50mm equivalent lens in their line up. I own the Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II and I still recall the day I put it on my 550D. It was the lens that really introduced me into photography. It can be bought for less than $100. Nikon has it, of course, and taking the crop factor into account, the Nikon 1 18.5mm is also part of the club.
Steve, I enjoy your review writing style and I am looking forward to part II & III. If possible, I would love to see some pictures of the Leica-Lumix 25mm f1.4 @2 next to the Lecia pictures.
Ha – shot 10 – where did you get the idea? reminds me of the cover of Led Zeppelin IV http://www.amazon.co.uk/Led-Zeppelin-IV/dp/B000002J09
And nice lens too!
LIke most creative stuff, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I see nothing here that will entice me. I will stay happy with what I already have.
I enjoyed reading the review and seeing the images, even though I shoot with Canons and Nikons, and may or may not ever acquire a Leica M-series camera.
Nice review. The lens is wonderful. It is even better on the MM, which captures even more of the fine detail the lens is capable of capturing.
Steve, with this lens I’m thinking? Don’t we need a screen with Ultra HD or 4K in order to see all this qualities you explain so well?
I see the qualities on my 27″ Apple display and it is not Ultra HD. 🙂
OK Steve, I understand. My suggestion is; borrow from a Dealer a 4K screen and judge the results and please let us know? For me it is a comparison with music and Hi-Fi equipment, the weakest link link you know, et cetera..
The shot of the clothes hanging is absolutely fantastic.
Thank God I don’t need this. There is just no way for me to even start rationalizing getting one.
To begin with I would need a totally new computer. Oh, and a new Leica M…. or maybe M and MM combo (note to self: seriously look into TWO Leicas). Just not happening. So I *seem* to be safe.
No, the lens will haunt you. In every dream and every minute it will whisper in your ear, “you need me…you need me…”
Roger at lens rental, just did a comparison of the best 50mm lenses using his new optical bench and the 50mm f/2 APO did very well indeed. In terms of sharpness beating both the Sigma Art and the Ottus at f/2 center middle and corner as well as having near the lowest distortion. Very impressive lens from a technical standpoint, and this review says the same in a artistic sense.
Wow that test shows the Leica superior to the gigantic Zeiss Opus, and overall how great all the Leica glass is. Even the lowly (!) standard Summicron.
I was a bit surprised at the performance gap between the Zeiss Planar and the regular ‘Cron. That and the difference in materials and construction shows you get what you pay for.
The one thing the test does not measure is flare resistance, which is why I use the Planar as well as Leica glass. It resists flare better than my Lux and Crons.
Nothing lowly about the (non-APO) Summicron whatsoever. Not bad for a 1979 spherical design.
Thanks for the link. Great results for the Apo Summicron. But I`m most impressed how well the old Summicron 50 keeps up, this is a real surprise to me. You often read in reviews that the ZM Planar is as good if not better than the 50 Summicron. Roger`s test shows quite some difference in performance.
Thanks Steve, awesome to see you so pumped about this optical wonder. Would love to hear your thoughts on how they compare, think you had a pretty good time with it when you were checking out the A7 right?
Ahem… compare to the Zeiss Otus 55! Sorry…
No plan to compare the Zeiss Otus. Why? Well, the Otus is not for use on an M and the 50 APO is not for use on a Canon or Nikon 😉 The Otus is also a GIANT lens, the APO is tiny. Complete Opposites. With that said, I did do quite a bit of shooting with the Otus when I did my A7 reviews and it too is a phenomenal lens.
Roger Cicala put both of them (as well as the Sigma Art lens and some others) on his shiny new MTF bench and wrote up his results over on the lensrentals.com blog. Of course MTF numbers don’t say everything, but it makes interesting reading just to see how very, very good lenses produce somewhat different patterns of numbers…
Roger is amazing over there and his data confirms Steve’s real world experience. I find it interesting when the two worlds – objective data and subjective perceptual – synch nicely. Wish he had thrown the FE 55mm into that test mix.
And then there is this rather inexpensive (USD 1k) weather sealed AF f1.8 55mm Sonnar e-mount……… ;). Before spending 14K on a 35mm body lens combo I might as well look at a used Leica S2 if ultimate IQ is absolute priority.
Waiting 10 months and counting for mine. I will know it shipped the minute my credit card maxes out!
That is usually how it works. When mine became available I was NOT ready for it but had to jump.
This is torture. I just bought the 50mm Lux, and now you’re making me lust for a $7350 lens. It’s not fair!
The 50 Lux is a legend. Enjoy it and use it. 🙂
This makes me want to do my own Summilux article. Very insipred.