We Love It! Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO Review


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Leica M-mount lenses are little works of art. They don’t try to reinvent the wheel from a design aspect and that is one of the things I respect them for the most. Instead, they find ways to enhance their products without departing from what works. That is precisely the case with the Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO. The lens takes what is great about the original Leica Summicron-M 50mm and expounds upon it. And it is naturally reflected in the price accordingly.

It is modestly priced at $8,995 by Leica standards. The 50mm f2 APO version comes equipped with exceptional lens aberration and aspherical corrections. As a result, the lens produces superbly sharp images with bokeh that melts into the background, minimal distortion, and no fringing. This is what sets this lens apart from other 50mm offerings on the market.

If I were to invest in one Leica-M lens, this would undoubtedly be among the top contenders. Keep reading to find out why.

Too Long Didn’t Read

The Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO lens offers a modern look without losing its Leica heritage. Images are superbly sharp with beautiful bokeh. It is the perfect size to take with you anywhere and versatile for a variety of shooting applications.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Very compact
  • Versatile
  • Contrast
  • Sharp images that retain some of the Leica character
  • Beautiful bokeh
  • Easy to focus
  • Excellent build quality

Cons

Gear Used

We used the Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO ASPH lens with the Leica M10-r body. We used the Broncolor Siros L 800Ws when utilizing studio lighting as well as the Broncolor Para 133 when inside the studio.

Technical Specifications

All the tech specs were provided by Leica.

  • Angle of view: For 35mm (24 x 36mm): 47°, 40°, 27°
  • Angle of view: For M8 digital (18 x 27 mm): 36°, 30°, 20° ; Corresponds to a focal length of approx. 67 mm with 35 mm-format
  • Number of lenses groups: 8/5
  • Position of entrance pupil: 24.4 mm (related to the first lens surface in light direction)
  • Focusing range: .7m to infinity
  • Scales: Combined meter/feet graduation
  • Smallest object field:  271 x 407 mm
  • Largest reproduction ratio: 01:11.0
  • Setting Function: With click-stops, half values available, manual diaphragm
  • Lowest value: 16
  • Bayonet: Leica M quick-change bayonet with 6 bit lens identification bar code for digital M models

Innovations of the Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO ASPH Lens

The petite Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO lens is built on the foundations of what made the original Leica-M Summicron 50mm lens great. The newest generation adds exceptional correction of color and aspherical aberrations. The apochromatic correction reduces distortion to where it is nearly imperceptible.

The use of a floating element retains spectacular contrast throughout the image, even with close-up shots. Vignetting has been reduced to the very edges when shooting at maximum aperture. It is further reduced to its natural vignetting by f2.8, and stopping down a full two stops nearly eliminates it altogether.

The lens delivers superior results without imperfections while retaining a similar design to the original inspiration. But in the space of 50mm lenses, what’s making this stand out more is the apochromatic design. This helps keep it super small. Anyone shooting a Leica will crave that.

Ergonomics

The Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO lens is a compact beast. The word “cute” comes to mind when I find myself describing this lens. It is roughly the size of an espresso cup. It measures approximately 2.63 inches in length and weighs just over a half-pound. This is a lens I would leave on my camera almost indefinitely: it is that comfortable.

The lens cozily fits in your palm with room to spare, even when the lens hood is in use. True to the Leica-M formula, the depth of field ring is positioned closest to the lens mount. The focusing ring is not textured, although it does have a u-shaped finger rest. The finger rest is comfortable, making the ever-so-smooth focusing Leica is known for an even better experience.

The click-style aperture ring is next and located before the built-in lens hood. The varying texture elements of the smooth barrel, the textured finger rest, and the click style aperture ring are very convenient. You can feel where everything is and make adjustments without having to leave the viewfinder.

Build Quality

This is a beautiful lens: it feels like a piece of art. The build quality of the Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO lens is impressive. It consists of all metal components and superior glass with a floating element. From a technical standpoint, it is a marvel. The lens delivers some of the most accurate images by utilizing some of the most revolutionary technology in a manual lens.

The lens handles itself well in environments with moderate moisture. It is not officially weather sealed, and I would not feel comfortable subjecting an investment of this caliber to the brutalities of nature when it’s showing off. Despite this, Leica has told us many times that their lenses were designed with weather sealing in mind.

Focus

The Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO lives up to the “M” in its namesake and is a manual focus lens. Achieving focus with it is simple. I found it rather seamless to shift from closer-up images to ones with a depth of field closer to infinity.

Similar to the Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO lens, the 50mm version can also focus at .7 meters. This proved a great starting point when framing close-up headshots.

Ease of Use

The steepest learning curve for me was retraining myself to utilize center focus and recompose accordingly. As a primarily DSLR shooter, I have the convenience of choosing where I want the focus to be. Once I got used to the feel of the Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO lens, it was very easy to use.

The focal point of the lens was visible in a variety of lighting conditions to easily achieve focus. As I continued to become familiarized with the lens, I developed a rhythm of prefocusing and waiting for the precise moment. This dance transported me back to the days of analog, and I found it hard not to smile. Additionally, this rhythm made capturing action images of athletes pretty effortless.

Image Quality

The Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO lens delivers an image quality that is sought after by industry professionals. When zoomed in at 100%, the sharpness in the details that matter most pairs well with a creamy soft focus. This formula creates compelling portraits. It also provides enough versatility that you could document a vacation entirely with this lens alone and be satisfied.

Bokeh

While this lens is “only an f2,” it delivers a dreamy quality of bokeh. When the subject is closer to the background, the Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO lens blurs the background enough to make an impactful portrait.

This is also true at smaller apertures. As distance increases, it naturally becomes a smoother transition and can create bokeh similar to that of a larger focal length. Images become more magical when opening up the aperture.

This lens doesn’t have an onion ring problem, nor does it have the harsh tonal differences at the outermost limits of the bokeh rings. That’s what you are paying for with the APO version.

Sharpness

This is one of the sharpest 50mm lenses I have ever had the pleasure of photographing with to date. At f2, the sharpness extends from the center and remains in focus from edge to edge. This sharpness is only improved upon by stopping down. Frames that I barely miss focus prove to be sharper than a lot of the usable images I have captured on DSLR 50mm lenses over the years.

Lens Character

This technological beauty produces incredibly sharp images with a smooth mosaic background. It has been said that this lens has less of the Leica “look” than other options. Yes, it is almost technically perfect on paper, as well as the near distortion-free images it produces. However, it isn’t so perfect that the look becomes sterile and clinical.

The Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO lens has managed to retain some of its heritage Leica characteristics. Thanks should be given in large quantities to the wonderful contrast provided by this lens. It also helps that the natural vignetting hasn’t been completely stripped from this lens in an attempt to join the desires of modern digital cameras. It has found a way to compete with the styles of today while remaining timeless and true to its brand.

Color Rendering

The combination of the Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO lens paired with the Leica M10-r creates true-to-life colors with the extra pop Leica is known for. The need for any color correcting in post-production is minimal at most. Because of this, I became very fond of shooting during sunset as well as transitioning into the blue hour.

The warm and cool tones play off of each other exquisitely, and I found myself becoming inspired by colors in a multitude of color temperatures. Fringing within the highlights doesn’t even register as a concern on the radar.

The golds are the color of wheat, not too magenta or green, and the blues border on the deep Aegean hues that have become synonymous with identifying a Leica image. Even the most basic styling became something to look forward to again.

Extra Image Samples

From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews that show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.

Edited

Unedited

Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO Conclusions

Likes

  • It’s a lens that you can take with you anywhere and document anything.
  • Sharp from edge to edge, even in the details when zoomed in at 100%
  • Bokeh that is as dreamy as longer focal lengths and disappears from the subject
  • Desirable contrast to keep from feeling clinical
  • Creates modern images that still “feel” like a Leica
  • Versatile for a variety of applications

Dislikes

  • Manual focus. Most Leica shooters, as well as myself, do not view this as a con.
  • Not truly weather sealed
  • Modestly priced in Leica terms, very expensive for the masses

The Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO lens is one of the best 50mm lenses money can buy. From a technological standpoint, it is almost perfect. Leica has found a way to modernize the lens and retain some of their prized lens characteristics. It’s a beautiful balance.

There really isn’t much to complain about with this lens. It provides razor-sharp images that radiate from the center of the frame and bokeh that is as smooth as a lake on a windless day. The lack of distortion and color correction we have become accustomed to in post-production are drastically reduced. This frees up precious time to go out and shoot again.

I found that this makes shooting a more enjoyable when routines begin feeling redundant. Focus is easily achieved and makes capturing precise moments feel effortless. The versatility of this focal length is ideal for fashion, portraits, beauty, weddings, sports, landscape, and nature photography. This rendition of a very common focal length unleashes a lot of creativity.

If you can afford this lens, we would highly recommend it; it’s almost perfect. The quality provided by this investment should last for years to come. As a result, we give this five out of five stars. Want one? Check them out on Amazon or the Leica Online Shop.







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