In 2023, Leica Camera AG introduced two "low price" Summicron lenses for the Leica SL2 camera system: A 35mm Summicron-SL ASPH f/2.0 and a 50mm Summicron-SL ASPH f/2.0. This is a short review and proof of performance on these.
Buying cheap Leica never really worked. All that happens is that you (immediately and instantly) want the better and more expensive editions. It's been tried with Voigtlander lenses, Sigma lenses, and everything you can think of. It all ends with a dream of the better and more expensive editions.
In the 50mm range, the Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-SL ASPh f/2.0 is the optimum, and the Leica 50mm Summilux-SL f/1.4 is the more narrow depth of focus alternative. Both of them cost more than double. And as if that wasn't enough, there are also the Leica S lenses that will fit onto the Leica SL2 via an adapter.
The new "economical" editions will do, and I can say as many nice words about them as I want. It will still make you wonder and dream of the better editions. Because that is what I do as well.
The 50mm Summicron-SL f/2.0 is a leight-weight lens (402g) compared to any of the other 50mm SL lenses (704g) ; and the autofocus is faster than the previous models. And yet it is less expensive ($1,895.00 compared to $5,095.00 for the APO version).
If you are familiar with the ease of using the Leica Q that "is always ready", the Leica SL2 equipped with this lens is just as easy: Turn the camera on, point it and take the photo.
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stands for "apochromatically corrected" lenses. In most lenses, optical design concentrates the focus of blue light and green light into a single plane, but red light falls slightly into another plane of focus. Red subjects, therefore, would be ever so slightly out of focus compared to blue and green subjects in the same frame. In APO lenses, the design and expense has been put in to making red light focus on the same plane as blue and green. Under a microscope you would see that all light subject is now in focus, creating a sharper image overall. Many manufacturers offer APO designs, but in most of these only the very center of the lens is APO corrected. Leica prides itself on making most of the frame APO corrected.
… stands for "aspheric design".
Most lenses have a spherical design - that is, the radius
of curvature is constant. These are easy to manufacture by
grinding while "spinning" the glass. This design
however restricts the number of optical corrections that can
be made to the design to render the most realistic image possible.
ASPH lenses, however, involve usually 1 element that does
*not* have a constant radius of curvature. These elements
can be made by 1) expensive manual grinding, 2) molded plastic,
3) Leica's patented "press" process, where the element
is pressed into an aspherical ("non-spherical")
shape. This design allows the manufacturer to introduce corrections
into compact lens designs that weren't possible before. Practically,
the lens performs "better" (up to interpretation)
due to increased correction of the image, in a package not
significantly bigger than the spherical version.
ASPH is a method where the glass is pressed, and if you think about it for a little while, it means that you can make shapes that you can't possibly grind: With grinding you can make a curved shape. With pressing (ASPH) you can make the shape of circles in the water if that is what is required.
Normal speric lens (grinded)
ASPH (note the shape of the glass as result of pressing reather than grinding)
is another Aspherical lens manufacture technique: an uneven
coating layer is applied to a spherical lens. The coating
is thicker on the edges (or on the center, depending). Canon
"Lens Work II" calls these "simulated"
aspherical lenses. Simulated and Glass-Molded (GMo) asphericals
show up in non-L Canon lenses, while the L lenses have actual
ground aspheric elements.
the visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photographic image, especially as rendered by a particular lens : It's a matter of taste and usually photographers discuss a 'nice' or 'pleasant' bokeh (the out-of-focus area is always unsharp why the quality discussed is if one likes the way it renders or not by a particular lens).
ORIGIN from Japanese 'bo-ke' which mean 'fuzziness' or 'blur.'
Refers to the maximum lens aperture - here f2.0 . There are many guesses how this name came about, a popular one being that the "summi" came from "summit" (summit means the highest point of a hill or mountain; the highest attainable level of achievement) while the "cron" came from "chroma" (ie. for colour). Not so: The name (Summi)cron was used because the lens used Crown glass for the first time, which Leitz bought from Chance Brothers in England. The first batch of lenses were named Summikron (Crown = Krone in Deutsch). The Summi(cron) is a development from the original Summar (the 50mm f2.0 lens anno 1933)
Mandler, Dr. Walter (1922 - 2005)
Legendary Leica lens designer. Read more in Leica History.
Otto Geier, supervisor of the Optics Department of Ernst Leitz Canada (on the right), with the legendary lens designer Dr. Walter Mandler.
Other resources for the Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0
Erwin Puts'few precise words on the precision and technical accomplishments the new 50mm implies:
"I cannot repeat it often enough, but high-quality imagery with a lens of small dimensions is very difficult to achieve. The 50mm APO-Summicron-M needed to have a front lens diameter of 39 mm (the normal filter size for Leica Summicron standard lenses). The new 50mm APO-Summicron-M has eight elements that have to be fitted in a small-sized mount and there is indeed hardly room for air in this mount. This is a second problem: when lens elements are packed as closely as in the 50mm APO-SummicroniM the potential for aberration correction is restricted. It is a triumph of optical and mechanical design" - Erwin Puts
See his Page 1 and Page 2 of his article on the 50mm APO.
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