Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO – Lens Review
The latest addition to my Leica camera bag is a Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO lens.
Why do a ‘need’ another Leica M mount lens for my Leica M cameras?
Without doubt my biggest frustration with the Leica M cameras is the rangefinder focus system only focusing as close as 0.7M. After coming from a Nikon D800 DSLR camera I was used to working very close to my subjects to either create a shallow depth of field and/ or to crop tight to improve my composition. I now have some nice Leica M lenses but I never seem to be able to get as close as I would like. I can get shallow DOF with lenses like the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 and Leica Summicron 90mm f2 but both these lenses only focus as close as 1M. My closest focusing lenses are the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 and Leica Summicron 50mm f2 both of which focus as 0.7M but that is still not near enough for say detail shots at a wedding.
Why is the 75mm focal length (“FL”) so unpopular?
The 75mm FL is one of the least popular focal lengths as it is too close to both a 50mm and a 90mm. In theory it would make sense to own a 35mm, 50mm, and 90mm say. I think that is how the majority of the population think anyway and at first glance that makes perfect sense. It does until you approach the same question differently..
What can the Summicron 75mm f2 APO lens give me that none of my other lenses can?
Firstly it gives me a brand new string in my Leica bow. What do I mean by this? I mean I can now do super sharp detail photos at a higher magnification than with any of my other Leica M lenses. That alone that fills a void in my Leica camera bag capabilities.
Can it do anything else to add value?
Yes. It gives me apparent image sharpness and resolution that is comparable with my 36MP Nikon D800 (I think). This means if I am doing freelance wedding photography with high end DSLR cameras the images from the M9 + Cron 75f2 now look more similar to a CMOS sensor than say the dreamy looking images from the Noctilux or older Cron 90f2. I love the latter look for my own wedding photography but when shooting for other photographers most people appreciate lens sharpness and clean crisp images.
Is the Leica Summicron 75mm f2 too clinical?
The term ‘clinical’ seems to be everywhere when you read up on this lens on the internet. It is said in a negative tense describing images from this lens as characterless. Yes it is crazy sharp, edge to edge, and even more so stoppped down and yes it has little or no vignetting (which I miss!) but that doesn’t mean it creates a bad image. How long does it take to add vignetting in post processing if desired? Seconds. If I want to use the Cron 75mm f2 lens in the studio for clean crisp images perhaps for a magazine it is better to have a lens that can give me this option. I love my Noctilux lens but shot wide open but it has heavy vignetting and famous Leica glow do not suit every occasion. (Yes I could stop down the Noctilux but have tended to use the Lux ASPH 50 to date for sharp studio images).
Is there a cheaper Leica M mount 75mm alternative?
Yes two popular and cheaper alternative 75mm lenses are the Voigtlander 75mm f1.8 Heliar Classic and the Leica Summarit 75mm f2.5. The Voigtlander Classic 75f1.8 offers fantastic value for money at around 1/5 of the price of the Summicron 75f2 APO. I own some Voigtlander lenses and some of them are real gems. I have no bias towards the Leica branded lenses. A second cheaper option at around half the cost of the Cron f2 is the smaller lighter and very slightly slower Summarit 75mm f2.5.
So why did I pay more to get the Summicron?
Simple answer. I only had interest in a 75mm as I wanted a longer lens to focus at 0.7M. Both the other 75mm lenses only focus as close as 0.9M. I would not buy a 75mm FL lens otherwise as have 50mm and 90mm lenses already.
First thoughts of the Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO?
Pleasantly surprised I think. There is not a huge amount of positive information attached to this lens but for the sole reason it focuses at 0.7M I thought I would get one to try. Leica equipment tends to hold it’s value well so I thought worst case I could just sell it again.
Lens build quality – very similar to the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 just slightly bigger
Lens Size – Around the same bulk and weight as my Noctilux and has a 49mm filter thread
Lens contrast – less contrasty that Zeiss ZM T* lenses such as the Sonnar and Planar
Apparent sharpness – Sharp wide open. Not as harsh as expected for female portraits
Bokeh – Pleasing round bokeh balls shot wide open
Resolution – I think it is now my sharpest lens. Zeiss lenses tend to appear sharp due to the higher micro contrast. The Cron 75 is more like the Lux ASPH or newer Noctilux 50mm f0.95. (Yes I was not keen on the Nocti f0.95 for looking too modern but for close up detail shots I see the ‘clinical’ sharpness of the Summicron 75 f2 as a positive).
Potential uses for this lens for my style of photography?
> Studio portraiture needing maximum resolution
> Tighter crop portraits (head shots)
> Street photography at a comfortable distance
> Detail photos for Leica wedding photography
> Product photography
> Macro photography with my Raynox 250 macro lens attached
Example images using the Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO:
(Photos have been edited so not a great use to see the SOOC look from this lens, sorry)
I will as always be sharing new images to my Flickr stream as I take them. I am interested to try the 75mm f2 Cron on my Leica M2 to see how it looks with film loaded! 🙂