LEICA 75MM F2 SUMMICRON-M APO
Updated July 8, 2017
|Leica Product Number||11637 Black|
|Production History||2005 to present|
|Lens Composition||7 Elements / 5 Groups, 1 Aspherical Element|
|Angular Field of View||27º|
|Minimum Focus||.7 Meter / 27 Inches|
|Aperture||9 Blades (non circular)|
|F-Stop Scale||F2 to F16 in 1/2 Stop Increments|
|Filter Size||49mm (E49), Non-rotating front element|
|Lens Cap||Leica #14001 E49 Plastic Lens Cap|
|Lens Hood||Built-In, Slides Out, Twist to Lock|
|Weight||427 Grams / 15 Ounces (without lens caps)|
|Lens Size||58.0mm (W) x 66.6mm (L) when mounted|
I have always liked the Leica 75mm F2 Summicron-M APO from an optical and handling standpoint, but in terms of in focus keeper-rates, it has been difficult. Over the years I have bought and sold the 75mm APO several times, each time ending with me feeling frustrated and happy to be rid of the 75mm APO. Then a couple years ago I decided to use the 35-75-135 lens spacing as my standard Leica M kit. The 35mm Summilux-M ASPH FLE and 135mm Telyt-M APO were already among my most used lenses, so the only real change was forcing the 75mm APO into the kit - and sticking with it.
In terms of weight and size, the Leica 75mm F2 Summicron-M APO is a goldilocks lens - a bit bigger than a Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH and a bit smaller than the Leica 90mm F2 Summicron-M APO. Compared to its big brother, the 75mm Summilux, the 75mm APO feels compact and balances well on a Leica M body. I often use a Thumbs-Up, and that helps when using larger lenses.
Leica M lenses tend to vary a bit from lens to lens. With that said, my 75mm APO has a very light focus action and it does not bind or bite with small focus adjustments. The focus throw is 90º of rotation, which is fairly common among Leica M lenses. There are exceptions like the 90mm APO, whose 165º focus throw seems to go on and on. The aperture ring also has a very light touch. The built-in lens pulls out and with a small twist, it can be locked in the extended position. Like most Leica lenses, the 75mm APO feels precise and well made.
One niggle is not with the lens, but with the Leica M and the frame lines employed for 75mm lenses. The 50mm and 75mm are shown as a pair, with 50mm having frame lines, and the 75mm having corner hash marks (inside the 50mm frame lines). Sometimes when shooting quickly, I do not pay enough attention and either assume 50mm frame lines are the 75mm frame lines, or I misjudge and something gets cropped out of the picture. It is not a big deal now, but it did take me awhile to adjust. Of course, if using an EVF, this is a total non-issue.
Leica's own product description is a fascinating read (PDF available at Leica's website). Seldom does Leica go into such detail, explaining the role of each lens element in the design and the element's glass composition. What caught my eye in their description was their reference to the of the double Gauss optical formula - which means it is a Planar-like formula. Incidentally, Leica acknowledges the similarity of the Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH and 75mm Summicron designs - both double Gauss. Over the years I have done several comparisons, illustrating that the 75mm F2 Summicron-M APO is essentially a mini Contax (Zeiss) 100mm F2 Planar in terms of its draw.
The Zeiss Planar optical design is the grand-daddy of double Gauss lenses. The Zeiss Planar design dates back to 1896 with the first symmetric lens design by Dr. Paul Rudolph. Subsequent Planars retain their doublets, though they typically are not 100% symmetric (see Wikipedia for more info) - as is the case with the Leica 75mm F2 Summicron-M APO. So I like to think of the 75mm APO as my mini Contax 100mm F2 Planar. Obviously there are differences since the Contax (or Zeiss 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE) is 100mm and the Leica 75mm F2 Summicron-M APO is 75mm, but the "look" or rendition is similar. Other 75mm APO performance aspects worthy of mention -
- Sharpness: The floating lens element (FLE) improves near-field performance and reduces focus shift. The 75mm APO's sharpness and resolution are outstanding. By F4-5.6 the 75mm APO could be described as "just another sharp Leica lens", but it really does have a high resolving power. Sharpness appears even across the frame and I have not observed any mid-range dips or blurriness.
- Chromatic Aberrations: In the focus plane the 75mm APO has no chromatic aberrations (CA) and its wide open sharpness is stunningly good. While the focus plane is generally free of CA, the blurred areas (bokeh) tend to have some secondary CA which is par for just about every lens. This secondary CA can be more noticeable with busy background (like tree branches).
While wide open sharpness is very good; though, it usually requires using an electronic viewfinder (EVF) to consistently nail focus. I have reasonably good success focusing with my Leica M Typ 240 and Leica M Typ 246 via the rangefinder, but there are plenty of mis-focused shots too. If testing the 75mm APO for sharpness, I highly suggesting using an EVF or live view to ensure accurate focus.
- Bokeh: The 75mm APO bokeh at F2 to F2.8 can be very pleasing, especially if focusing at near distances. Being an aspherical lens, its bokeh can be harsh when the lens is stopped down and there are busy patterns in background, such as - bushes, chain-link fences, tree branches, etc.
The 75mm APO's aperture blades are not rounded like some of the contemporary lens from Canon, Sony, etc. Thus, at F4, F5.6 and so on, the bokeh orbs have an obvious octagonal shape. If there are lots specular highlights, this can be distracting. Also, the bokeh orbs do exhibit the "onion" rings effect (this is normal for aspherical lenses).
- Central Veiling: The 75mm APO is generally well known for its central veiling when shot into the sun or when a bright light source just outside of the frame. The first Leica 50mm F2 Summicron-M APO's were infamous for central veiling, but many Leica lenses actually can show central veiling - and the 75mm APO is one of them.
I would term the lens as somewhat prone to flare, or at least some degree of veiling (or reduced contrast) when bright light sources are at the side of the frame (or just outside). If shooting under normal circumstance with the light at your back, the central veiling is a non-issue.
In my experience with Leica M's, I would say the system is categorically sensitive to a bright light source just outside the field of view. I bump into this situation quite often when taking pictures at night - such as street lights, parking lot lights, etc. It really does not matter what lens I use. The work around is often to reposition the camera, or just a find a different spot to shoot from.
- 3D Effect: The 75mm APO has a 3D feel from time to time, not always, but if the light is right, the 3D feel or look can be very obvious (in my opinion). Generally, I would say the 3D look is more so at F2 to F2.8, so if going for that look, an EVF based camera might be the better choice versus a traditional M rangefinder focusing system.
I briefly owned a Leica 75mm F2.5 Summarit-M. There are some difference in build quality, like the rubber grip on the focus ring (instead of metal) and no built-in lens hood. Optically the 75mm Summarit was quite capable, but the Leica 75mm Summicron-M APO seem slightly sharper with more resolution (compared F4 through F8). The difference was not profound, but the 75mm APO did seem slightly better. Also, the 75mm APO did have smoother bokeh at F2 - not much surprise there.
Over the years I have called the 75mm APO a one-trick-pony - mostly for F2-F2.8 portrait shots, and typically center-composed. No longer can I malign the 75mm Summicron as a one-trick-pony. The images here speak for themselves - landscapes out number portraits. It is hard for me to fault the 75mm APO - give it good content and good light, and it rewards with good pictures. And it probably goes without saying, the 75mm APO is one very sharp lens. But my issue with the 75mm APO was never its optical performance, the issue has been focus accuracy - namely the lack of it!
Over time I have adjusted my shooting style to improve the keeper-rate. Stopping down helps considerably of course, but that also neuters the 75mm APO - much the 75mm APO's wow-factor is its F2 bokeh. Fortunately technology has progressed, and now we have many EVF based full-frame cameras to choose from, such as the Leica SL, Sony A7rII and the new Leica M10. Using an EVF helps to unlock some of the 75mm APO's potential.
That said, I still enjoy the 75mm APO on a Leica M, especially the Leica M Monochrom Typ 246. The 75mm APO's contrast can really "pop" with the Monochrom, especially when using a red filter (on day time landscapes). And sometimes I stack a polarizer on top as well. That set-up can heaven on a nice sunny afternoon. It is not a point and shoot set-up, but the results are well worth the added effort.
Looking ahead to the coming years, the Leica 75mm F2 Summicron-M APO is likely to see more and more use. I like it for landscapes with the Leica M Monochrom Typ 246, and when shooting portraits and wanting to use wide apertures and/or off-center compositions, the Leica M10's live view and EVF will help immensely. As with all my favorite Leica M lenses, it is the size-performance ratio that wins me over. The Leica 75mm APO always had that advantage going for it, and now with a workable EVF solution on the Leica M10, I can finally unlock all the 75mm APO's value.