LEICA 75MM F2 SUMMICRON-M APO
Updated February 26, 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|
In terms of size and handling, 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. Being a "35mm shooter", I like the 35-75-135 spacing; 75mm tends to be the "portrait lens". The 75mm focal length is wider compared to the more commonly used 85-100mm portrait lenses, so for newcomers to the 75mm focal length, there may be an adjustment period. From M users a common complaint are the 75mm crop lines. On the Leica M Typ 240 there are only corner hashes, so it is easy to mis-frame and crop-out critical elements if not paying close attention.
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.
Hardly surprising given that the Zeiss Planar is the grand-daddy of double Gauss lenses. The Zeiss Planar 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. Besides the Zeiss Planar-like optical rendition, there are other 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.
- 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 deemed the 75mm APO a one-trick-pony - mostly for F2-F2.8 portrait shots, and typically center-composed. When everything works (good subject, accurate focus, 3D effect), the results are stellar. However, those moments are far and few between. Take enough pictures with the 75mm APO, and eventually the keepers accumulate, but it can be a frustrating journey. If willing to go outside the Leica M domain, the Leica SL Typ 601 and Sony A7 cameras present new opportunities. The EVF based cameras unlock some of the 75mm APO's potential, and the same could be said for the Leica 90mm F2 Summicron-M APO and Leica 135mm F3.4 Telyt-M APO.
For M users, I have mixed feelings about the 75mm APO. The 75mm APO is a very good lens, but limited by the M's current technological state. Despite the focus limitations with a Leica M, I do prefer shooting the 75mm APO on the Leica M's. Since buying the Leica M Monochrom Typ 246, the 75mm APO is being used more often now. Likewise, the 75mm APO sees moderate use the Leica SL Typ 601. With the Leica SL, it is easy to get used to seeing focus at 100% via the EVF. After using the Leica SL for a couple days, going back to the Monochrom feels antiquated.
Overall I like the Leica 75mm F2 Summicron-M APO and it has its place as part of my 35-75-135 walk around kit. Also, when shooting landscapes it is pretty common to find 50mm too wide and 90mm too narrow. I would not describe the 75mm APO as a "must have" lens (for my kit), nor as one of my all-time favorite lenses, but it has its place in my kit and does get used. And I would definitely recommend the 75mm APO over the Zeiss 85mm F2 Sonnar ZM. The 75mm APO is one of those lenses where renting one for a week is probably money well spent because a big part of the decision will be whether or not 75mm fits your shooting style.