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90mm Summicron vs Elmarit M


Well-Known Member
I'm currently in the market for a 90mm lens. I've been looking at the f2 Summicron and the f2.8 Elmarit-M.

I'm only considering the last (current) Elmarit, or a previous generation Summicron (the version before the Apo Aspheric).

Does anyone have any opinions as to which lens would be best? It will be used for a general work (not exclusively portraits).

Ultimately, I would go with the sharpest lens, or one with the best overall image quality (speed is less important, and the difference in speed doesn't seem that great between the two - half a stop?).

Also, how much bigger is the Summicron in real terms? I hear a lot of talk about size, but is it really THAT much bigger?

Thanks in advance,
In general, lenses with bigger maximal aperture do not perform as well as those with smaller ones. This rule applies well to the pre-aspheric lenses.

So, M90 2.8 ( no matter which version as they are optically identical ) performs better than M90 2 in particular at f2.8.

Exception to this rule is apo M90 2 ASPH. It is more contrasty and sharper at f 2.8 than M 90 2.8, so are the other apertures.
As is so often the case when one answers questions regarding the performance of various Leica lenses it is difficult to give a simple answer. I have used both lenses, but not as extensively as others on this thread. The Asph version of the 90/2.0 is very sharp-and portraits taken with the lens can be very unforgiving. The lens is also heavier-and bulkier- then the 2.8 version. The 2.8 version has a pleasing ability to render portraits "softer", is more compact, and is the easier lens to take when traveling. Both will yield excellent results which will reflect the ability and vision of the photographer. Of course, the Asph version is likely to be more costly both new and used.

Thanks for that, guys.

Just to avoid confusion, I was asking about the pre-Apo-Aspheric 90 Summicron.

I find myself still in a bit of a quandary. I read Erwin Puts' guide to these lenses and it appears you are absolutely right - the Elmarit-M is very sharp even at 2.8. This makes it great for a long landscape lens when needed, but does it make it too sharp for portraits?

I can see a case for saying that the extra 'softness' of the pre-AA summicron at full aperture, or 2.8 might actually be useful for portraiture. In theory one could make sure to stop down for landscape/reportage type of work (one probably would anyway, due to the desire for increased depth of field in this type of shot). Since, as I understand it, once past 2.8, the lenses would perform very similarly at comparable apertures, this would make the Summicron the most flexible of the two - since by selecting the aperture, one could 'soften' for portraits, or 'sharpen' for other shots, whereas the Elmarit is sharp at all apertures...

Is that good thinking, or am I off on one?

Many people prefers the pre-ASPH M90 2 to aspheric version as they prefer the softness at f2 and f2.8. They find it to be quite pleasing.

On the other hand, I prefers contrasty and sharp images, this is why I sold my pre ASPH 90 2 to get the Elmarit. If the model has flawless skin, you will wish to use a sharp and contrasty lens to show it to full extent.

To me, no matter what happen to other parts of the face in the print, it is of paramount importance to get the eyes sharp and contrasty. This is why I found the pre-ASPH 90 2 not quite doing the job I want.
Joseph and Elliot,

Many thanks for your knowledgeable responses. I have decided to go with the Elmarit. I tend, like Joseph, to generally prefer sharp and contrasty images, and for the sacrifice of half a stop in speed, the size, weight and apparently much easier handling (focusing ease) of the 2.8 lens seems preferable in this case.

I may well at some point purchase a very cheap older elmarit with a 'softer' quality in case I am ever faced by a model with flawed skin or older models, as I would think this to be much more flattering. Although this would be a good point to ask whether there exist any very mild softening filters for leica lenses, to save carrying around another lens...

Many thanks again,
I rarely use softening filters, but I know there are plenty of them around.

I use the lenses

apoM90 f2 ASPH at f2
90 f2.8 at f2.8
apoM75 f2 at f2.4

At these f. nos, I find they are just right to get sharp and contrasty eyes and good out of focus effects to other parts of the face.

For apoM75 2, I find f2 of this lens a bit too soft to use, but f2.8 is too sharp, in between is just right for sharp eyes and a touch of softness.

For Leica lenses, altering the fno is a very good control of softness.