CRAZY COMPARISON! Leica 50 APO vs the Zeiss Planar ZM
So what happens when you take what is considered by many (even me) to be the best 50mm lens in the world (and costs $8000 though is on special through the end of the year for $7250) and compare it to a lens with a massive ambition to be the best it can be (that costs $860)?
Yep, same mount which is the Leica M mount, and same apertures were used for these crazy comparisons. Basically I was curious how much we lose by going from the $8k APO to the $800 PLANAR. After all is said and done, yea, we lose a bit but not as much as one would think. I only had the Planar for a day or so and was limited to what I could shoot for this test but I have shot both lenses extensively for years and the character you see here, is the character you can expect from each lens, when shot on a Leica SL as these were.
The Zeiss 50 mm Planar ZM lens is a stunner, and one that had many buying it up for the M9 as it performed to a higher level than the old Leica 50 Summicron. I still feel the old Leica has the edge in build as many 50 Planar lenses have reportedly become loose after a few years (aperture ring or focus mechanism). Construction will always go to Leica but as for IQ, color, contrast, bokeh…the little $860 Zeiss does in fact IMO beat the old 50 Cron in many ways, and will even challenge the latest Leica 50 APO, which is Leica’s cost no object masterpiece of 50mm perfection.
Before I go on with the samples I will state that in my opinion, the 50 APO wins EASILY in Bokeh and OOC color and the overall smooth butter like rendering. The APO also has no distortion and no issues with CA/Purple Fringing. The Zeiss on the other hand can have busy bokeh which is its main weakness. Other than that the Zeiss has a more muted color (out of camera) at times and looks more “dull” to me. The Zeiss also has some barrel distortion that is visible in certain images (but only straight lines up close).
The 50 APO color and contrast is as good as it gets but the Zeiss holds its own and for a price difference of over $7000 retail, one could buy the Planar, the Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar, a Zeiss 25 2.8 (review) and a Leica 90 Summarit (review) and still have over $2000 left over. Yep, 4 new lenses and $2k could be had instead of one 50 APO. But then you lose out on the awesome Bokeh, color and contrast that the 50 APO gives you as well as the distortion free corner to corner amazingness it can offer but EVEN SO, no one “needs” an APO. This lens is all about “WANT” for anyone who buys it and if you have the cash, that is A-OK! But if you don’t want to bust the wallet and want a 50 f/2 cron type M lens, take a look below at what the 50 PLanar can bring to you…
BELOW: CLICK THE IMAGES TO SEE THEM CORRECTLY WITH 100% CROPS – ALL SHOTS LEICA SL
1st set, 50 APO up top, Planar bottom. Here I see smoother bokeh in the APO shot, a tad bit of a bolder color and as for detail in they crop, they are pretty similar. The 50 APO is like butter.
What I notice in this 2nd set is the color. The color and tone from the APO is perfect. The Planar is a tad more dull and off, BUT it is pretty close! VERY close! So close many will not see any difference here.
Hmmmm. Click on these and you tell me which you think is best. Top is 50 APO, bottom is the Planar.
Again, top APO bottom Planar…
This set has 4 images. The top two are shot at f/2, the bottom two was shot at f/4. Click them to see larger. Here you can see the bokeh in the Planar shot is busier…
… and at f/4
AND NOW…CAN YOU SPOT THE APO SHOT?
Look below and click on the images. One is from the APO and one is from the Planar, but which is which? Can YOU tell? Just leave your guess in the poll below the images!
A – Is this from the APO?
B – or is THIS from the APO?
Vote in the poll below to take a guess. I will reveal the answer by Friday, Jan 1st!
BELOW is the poll results from the past 3 days. 71.63% of you guessed IMAGE A was from the 50 APO Leica. This is wrong. Image B is from the APO. Image A is from the $860 Planar. Makes you think huh?
So most of you guessed wrong which speaks volumes for the little Zeiss Planar. WOW.
What this entire comparison told me is that while the 50 APO is gorgeous in almost any situation, the little Planar is still up there with the best. Of course the Leica build is on an entirely different level. The 50 Planar is pretty lightweight and as mentioned, there have been many mentions of them coming loose over time. But for $860 the Planar would be the best choice for many as the huge $7000 savings can not be ignored. Oh, and I only had the Planar for one day, so my testing ability was limited to what you see above.
WHERE TO BUY either of these great lenses?
If you have the desire for the best of the best, even with diminishing returns kicking in, the 50 APO can be bought from Ken Hansen, his email is email@example.com. You can also buy at PopFlash.com, B&H Photo or Amazon.