The Leica 75mm Summarit f/2.5.

[Disclaimer:  Similar to my Konica Hexanon 60mm f/1.2, and Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f/1.4 & 35mm f/1.2 write-ups, this is a only user report and is not intended to be a complete lens review.]



____________________________

Introduction.

The Leica 75mm Summarit f/2.5 is an optically excellent lens.

THE END.

:)

That’s really the bottom line, and if that’s all you wanted to know, you can stop reading here.

However, for those of you interested in learning more…

The 75mm Summarit was introduced by Leica in 2007, and — like the rest of the Leica Summarit “budget” line of lenses — was greeted by many Leicaphiles with a great deal of skepticism.  Some viewed it as a somewhat mechanically inferior fashioning from Solms, while others questioned whether its optical performance was commensurate with the highly revered Leica brand.

Were the criticisms fair?  Was it, in fact, a “dumbed-down” Leica lens?

Well… yes and no… or, maybe.

The answer, like most things in photography, is dependent upon whom you ask, and what their particular needs and wants are.

____________________________

Pride and prejudice.

I have this penchant for writing about underdog lenses, like the 75mm Summarit.

It seems strange to label any Leica lens an “underdog”, but as I wrote in my Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f/1.4 report, there’s a bit of “snobbery” at play when it comes to M mount optics.  Most Leica lens connoisseurs (Note: not necessarily Leica shooters) want nothing less than a Leica lens – of any focal length – that is a Summilux f/1.4 (or faster) with the latest optics.  For those individuals, any lens that is less than this sort of a fast, state-of-the-art lens, is an optic that has been built around a price point and not perfection.

On some level this is, of course, true.  On the other hand, my 75mm Summarit is small, weights 345 grams, balances nicely on my M9, and uses 46mm filters, while my 75mm Summilux is large, weighs 625 grams, tips my M9 forward, and uses 60mm filters.  You see, there’s always a price – beyond the monetary kind – to be paid when choosing a lens… there are multiple trade-offs for every choice made.

As a shooter, I know I prefer the portability and handling of my 75mm Summarit, while of course acknowledging my 75mm Summilux is the better choice for dark environments or for achieving maximum subject isolation.  The “perfect” lens, therefore, is a relative concept, depending on the task at hand.

____________________________

Before continuing…

As I wrote in my Hexanon 60/1.2 review, I’m always careful to represent my lens write-ups as brief user impressions (as opposed to comprehensive reviews) because I want to limit the discussion to issues with which I’ve had direct experience, or which interest me.  To do a proper review would require engaging in all sorts of tedious tests in which I have no interest.

In light of the above, you should be aware that I almost always shoot lenses at their widest aperture and normally photograph people, so bokeh, performance at close-to-mid distances, and central sharpness are important considerations.  On the other hand, I’m rarely concerned with lens performance at infinity or in the corners because I don’t often shoot landscapes.

The rest of this write-up, then, will concentrate on how the 75mm Summarit behaves within these very strict parameters.  In this way, I hope to reliably convey why I appreciate this lens.

____________________________

75mm frame lines, and Leica.

This is a bit of a diversion, but it’s an important one.

The 75mm focal length is an odd one for M rangefinders, because proper viewfinder frame lines for it don’t exist.  In fact, when you connect a 75mm lens to the camera, you get a partial connect-the-lines outline of a small box that sits inside the larger and much more visible 50mm frame line box.  In the image below, I’ve schematically overlaid the 50mm and 75mm “boxes” onto a sample image, to illustrate the point:

(please click on the image to view)

↑Schematic of viewfinder: 75mm (red) + 50mm (black) frame lines.

In this image, the lines which I’ve arbitrarily coloured red represent the 75mm “box” and the black lines correspond to the 50mm “box”.  Both of these “boxes” are seen in the viewfinder when you connect either a 50mm or 75mm lens to a Leica rangefinder.  The idea is to compose your photo with the correct frame lines and then press the shutter.

You can therefore see how easily it would be to unintentionally crop while photographing with a 75mm lens because your eye is more readily drawn to the outer, more solid 50mm box, and not the inner, more fragmented 75mm box.  For example, if I mounted a 75mm lens onto my M9 and took the shot above, as framed, I would end up cutting off the heads and feet of several people in the scene.

For many Leica rangefinder photographers then, the 75mm focal length is entirely avoided, in favour of either 50mm or 90mm (which brings up its own set of frame lines).

Why, then, am I interested in shooting with a 75mm lens?

I like to shoot portraits.  I sometimes find the 50mm focal length to be too short for individual head-and-shoulder shots, and the 90mm focal length to be a little long – even though longer lenses tend to flatter faces.  When shooting at 90mm, I need to be relatively far from my subjects to get the composition I desire, and this inhibits me from closely interacting with them (close interaction, I believe, is vital for coaxing a person’s personality into an image).  The 75mm focal length, then, serves as my “just right” perspective for shooting intimate portraits.

Also, a pairing of the 35/75mm focal lengths makes for a diminutive and very versatile lens travel kit, so a light-weight 75mm lens like the Summarit is a welcomed member of any travel lens arsenal.

____________________________

Central sharpness and bokeh.

I find 100% crop image comparisons to have little relevance to good photography.  Ultimately, I know that inspired shooting has less to do with lens sharpness, bokeh, or any of the other lens characteristics people obsess over (and yes, I’ve been guilty of obsessing over these too), and more to do with harnessing good light, capturing a special event, or evoking an emotional response.

However, I realize that lens comparisons are necessary when entering into an earnest discussion about, well… lenses.   To that end, I’ve included a small sample of 100% crops in this write-up.

Seeing as a 75mm lens should ideally be measured up against another 75mm lens, I have chosen to compare my 75mm Summarit (f/2.5) with my 75mm Summilux (f/1.4).  I don’t own, or have ever used, or have access to, the 75mm Summicron (f/2), so I haven’t included it here.

Since this is a big-budget website, I’ve spared no expense in setting up this demonstration.  I’ve hired a professional model, Rapunzel, and draped her over an exotic Subaru. ;)

Not very politically correct, I’m afraid.  All joking aside, here are the images…

_

DISCLAIMERThis is not intended to be an exhaustive analysis of these two lenses. Not even close!  I shot this small comparison for my own purposes and I’m simply posting the results for your viewing pleasure and/or interest.  You may choose to draw you own conclusions, but please don’t write to me that “this is not a valid comparison, because…“.  

I know it’s not a valid comparison.

_

In the images below, the 75mm Summarit and 75mm Summilux were shot on an M9 @ f/2.5 and f/2.4, respectively.  I also shot the 75mm Summilux wide open @ f/1.4.  No sharpening or post-processing was performed, other than converting the original file from DNG to JPG .  The M9 was shot fully in manual mode.  The focus was on my “model”, Rapunzel, and focus bracketing was employed to ensure that the sharpest image from each lens was used for the comparison.

So here is the overall scene:

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

_

Now, here are are the 100% centre crops:

(please click on the image to view LARGE)

↑75mm Summarit @ f/2.5 + Summilux @ f/2.4 and f/1.4 (centre 100% crop, no sharpening)

When you click on the panel above, the one thing that strikes you immediately is that both lenses are extremely sharp (remember, these are unsharpened 100% crops — astounding, when you think about it).  And even @ f/1.4, the 75mm Summilux is almost maximally sharp, which is incredible, when you consider the advanced age of this optic.

The second thing to notice, which is more difficult to see and perhaps not visible at all unless you’re viewing these on a large screen, is that the 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5 is a tiny bit sharper than the 75mm Summilux @ f/2.4 (and @ f/1.4).  It’s a subtle but real finding.

The third, and perhaps most subtle finding, is that the background immediately behind the model’s head  — which in actuality represents the beginning of the bokeh — appears sharper (or some would say harsher) in the 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5 vs. the 75mm Summilux @ f/2.4.  Of course, the smoothest background is seen with the 75mm Summilux @ f/1.4.

Does this observation about bokeh hold up, the further back we go? 

Let’s look at a crop from the candle holder, on the right side of the frame.

Here are the right 100% crops:

(please click on the image to view LARGE)

↑75mm Summarit @ f/2.5 + Summilux @ f/2.4 and f/1.4 (right 100% crop, no sharpening)

Once more, the bokeh of the Summarit @ f/2.5 appears slightly sharper (harsher) than the Summilux @ f/2.4.  I’m splitting hairs here, but that’s what one does when viewing 100% crops.

Finally, let’s go back further and look at the bokeh where the spot of light is, near the top of the frame.

Here are the top 100% crops:

(please click on the image to view LARGE)

↑75mm Summarit @ f/2.5 + Summilux @ f/2.4 and f/1.4 (top 100% crop, no sharpening)

Yet again, the 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5 renders its bokeh in a slightly sharper/harsher fashion, as compared to the 75mm Summilux @ f/2.4. 

What’s  interesting in this shot, however, is that the shape of the out-of-focus light source is more pleasingly round in the 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5 as compared to the 10-sided  shape (decagon) we get with the 75mm Summilux @ f/2.4.  In contrast, the 75mm Summilux @ f/1.4 has a pleasing oval shape (and you will also note that the frame is a little darker because this lens vignettes @ f/1.4).

____________________________

Portraits.

So, there you have it.

Does the above matter for actual photography?  No, not at all.

For example, I’ve found the 75mm Summarit to be an excellent portrait lens:

(please click on the images to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

Occasionally, when the background is distracting, the bokeh can seem less than perfect (see the fence below), but this would be true of any lens at f/2.5 (meaning, you’d have to use an f/1.4 or wider aperture lens to overcome this sort of a background — and even then it would be a challenge):

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

If there’s any criticism I have for the 75mm Summarit is that it is perhaps too sharp for certain kinds of portraits, where you don’t necessarily wish to see every wrinkle or skin blemish!

____________________________

Ergonomics and handling.

One of the most useful things about this lens is its short focus throw.  What this means, in practical terms, is that I can focus between the extremes of near and far with a short turn of the focus ring.  The “price” you pay for this is a loss of focus precision, but this is less of a problem when focusing a 75mm lens @ f/2.5  (the maximum aperture of the 75mm Summarit) vs. focusing @ f/1.4 (the maximum aperture of the 75mm Summilux — which, quite appropriately, has a long focus throw).

The 75mm Summarit’s short focus throw allowed me to easily photograph my kids’ soccer games last year, because I could manually focus near and far quickly, as the action developed both on and off the field:

(please click on the images to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

As for weight and size, I’ve already mentioned that this lens is very portable.  It doesn’t come with a built-in hood, however, which is a shame.

Another strike against the 75 Summarit is its minimum focus limit of 0.9 m, which is short of the 0.75 m limit of the 75mm Summilux (or the 0.7 m limit of the 75mm Summicron).  A difference of 15 or 20 cm may not seem like much, but it feels substantial when trying to get close to your subject.   As I mentioned earlier, the ability to get close when shooting portraits is of vital importance to me, so this is probably the biggest issue I have against the 75mm Summarit.  However, I also realize that the relatively long minimum focus limit was likely one of the compromises Leica made when designing this lens…so, once again, every decision represents a trade-off.

And what about build quality?

The two Summarit lenses I own (the 75mm and the 35mm) do not feel quite as substantial in the hand as their Summicron or Summilux brethren.  Now, I don’t know how much of that is secondary to the relative paucity of glass required for an f/2.5 optic vs. an f/2 or f/1.4, and how much of that is secondary to a difference in build quality, but that’s the impression.  That’s not to say that the Summarits feel cheap – far from it, they are of excellent build quality with precise aperture clicks and very smooth focusing rings.  And remember, having a lighter lens that is capable of top-notch optical performance is not such a bad thing.  In fact, one could say that it is very much in line with the original Leica philosophy :) .

____________________________

Conclusion.

The Leica 75mm Summarit (f/2.5) is capable of rendering with impressive sharpness and very pleasing bokeh.  It’s perhaps too sharp for some types of portraiture and it’s bokeh may be marginally less smooth as compared to some of Leica’s finest   A major shortcoming is its minimum focus limit of 0.9 m.  The only other limitation is its maximum f/2.5 aperture, which is only a problem if you require wider apertures — in which case, you shouldn’t be looking at an f/2.5 lens.  In the final analysis, however, the 75mm Summarit is an excellent optic in a small package that, in most applications, simply excels.

____________________________

If you would like to see more of my images taken with the Leica 75mm Summarit f/2.5, please click here.

_____________________________

Please donate to this site!

Please show your appreciation for this article!

If you’ve been helped by this article, or any of my other articles, please consider making a contribution to help me run this site.  Whether it’s $5, $10, or $15… it all helps.

Donate to this site (button)

This site is a labour of love, but any help I receive will help me devote more time to running it.

Thanks,

—Peter.

33 thoughts on “The Leica 75mm Summarit f/2.5.

  1. Donal Wells says:

    Well done and very informative. I have a Tele-Elmarit 90, mostly for portraits and travel, that I am not entirely pleased with. Your review convinces me that the Summarit 75 offers a good alternative, one that I had not really considered before.
    I do shoot landscapes, so I will look into that application more before deciding whether to buy.

  2. Ross says:

    Great review, I recently purchased the Leica 75mm APO Summicron and like yourself was really pleased to find how good a focal length it is for portraiture.

    I previously had the Summarit 75 and used it for a while but found it wasn’t quite fast enough for me as most portraits I had done inside with available light .
    I certainly agree with you on the sharpness of the Summarit and yes the build quality with the summicron is very similar to the Summilux 50 ASPH I have.
    The built in hood with the summicron has been great.

    • Prosophos says:

      I’ve recently toyed with the idea of replacing my pair of 75 lenses with the 75 Summicron, but can’t help thinking I’d miss the f/1.4 of the ‘lux and the compactness of the ‘rit. No doubt about it though, the 75mm Summicron is quite nice.

      Thanks for the nice comments.

  3. Bob Yildiran says:

    It’s a great lens, the same great sharpness and smooth bokeh characteristics of the 35mm Summarit is known for.

    Even with the Leica AG MTF curves, @ 5.6, the Summarit is the same as the 75 Summicron Asph. and @f4 the Summarit is better than the Summicron @2.8. A tiny bit larger than the Summilux 50 Asph.and almost the same weight, not-even-a-stop slower than the 75 Summicron Asph. but far lighter and smaller. (BTW, it is nice to have a portrait lens not-so-harsh at wide open but amazingly sharp right after that.. I love my 90 Summicron II in that regard.. JMHO…)

    In my view, the 75mm Summarit is a well thought design compromise to offer Leica compactness however somewhat overlooked. But wait until Leica introduces the APS-C format new RF series… this lens will be a much sought-after item.

    Kind regards,

    Bob

    • Prosophos says:

      Nicely succinct, but comprehensive commentary Bob.

      Incidentally, I’ve always been curious about the 90/2,, but have never had the pleasure of using one.

      Peter.

  4. Godfrey says:

    Nicely done review, Peter!

    Seems a judgement call on what’s most important to you between the Summilux, Summicron and Summarit lenses. I had a ‘Lux years ago and it was marvelous, but the ultra thin DoF wide open occasionally made achieving precise focus a challenge or impossible so I often shot at f/4 anyway. The extra speed is handy now and then, but at a considerable price both in money and weight/bulk.

    I’d like a lens between 50 and 90 mm … really, I’d like about a 60-65 mm focal length which no-one makes … so I’ll have to think for a bit about which might work best for me.

    Thanks again for a well done review.

    • Prosophos says:

      Thanks Godfrey! I agree that it’s all a judgment call.

      And it’s true nobody still makes a 60-60mm lens, which is a shame, because I don’t think people appreciate the versatility of this focal length. But one can always search for a Konica Hexanon 60/1.2 ;) .

  5. Abel says:

    Thanks…
    Abel

  6. Guy Platt says:

    Well done here Peter. Your review style is great making for an enjoyable read.

    Having said that, I think I will be passing on this lens. I had a chance to use the 75 APO ‘cron and loved it. Your images from the 75 lux are all so great while these just seem to clean for my liking.

    Regards
    Guy

    • Prosophos says:

      Guy, thank you very much! The “clean” look of which you speak is from its technical excellence. It’s the same “affliction” (for lack of a better word) from which the 50 ‘lux ASPH suffers. Funny enough, one of the reasons I’ve resisted the 75 ‘cron is because, to my eye, its images also look too clean… remember the 75 ‘cron was also designed by Peter Karbe, the same man who designed the 50′ lux ASPH).

      The 75/1.4 is less corrected and of an older optical design (Walter Mandler), and this comes across in the look of the images it produces.

      In the end, our preferences dictate what our lens collections look like – it’s all a matter of personal taste – and we’re spoiled for choices anyway, because any of these can be used to produce great images.

  7. benny says:

    good review on this attractive lens. start to think of buying one.
    currently i have a full frame m9 and 50luxASPH, 28elmaritASPH and 90elmarit-M. considering whether trying to get a 75 or get a 1.5 crop APSC and mount 50 to get a 75 equally

    • Prosophos says:

      Thank you Benny. As I wrote to Guy above, you’ll find the look of this lens is very similar to the 50 ‘lux ASPH that you already own. Creating a 75 focal length by placing a 50 on a 1.5 crop sensor is an option, as long as you don’t mind using a different camera platform (unless of course, you opt for an M8, which has a 1.3 crop and which will give you 65-67mm).

  8. hughf says:

    Hello Peter,

    Again Thank you very much for your another great review !!! And also for taking of YOUR time to do this….Always a true pleasure to read your BLOG mon Ami .

    My Best .

    Hugues.

  9. Len M. Photography says:

    Thanks for this write up….I’m building a Leica M system and this lens has been on my ‘final selection’ list for some time now. Good to see a practical review on it!

  10. Jason Howe says:

    Very informative, I don’t want to be overloaded with technical data and analysis which i’m sure is why I find the writing style of your “user reports” such a pleasure to read. I know I’ll end up referring back to this two or three times in future as I continue to juggle lens combinations.

    I would have really loved to hear your thoughts on the 75mm VC Heliar f/1.8, which I think is great but I’ve not had the benefit of the 75mm Summarit or Lux.

    Thanks again for taking the time to give us the benefit of your knowledge and experience with this lens.

    All the best

    Jason

    • Prosophos says:

      Thanks Jason, I forgot to respond to your kind (as always) comments. My apologies for not being able to include the 75mm VC Heliar f/1.8 in the comparison – I just don’t have the lens. Thanks again.

  11. Michael says:

    A very nice & informative read – thanks for preparing this.

  12. [...] Ideally, it’s best to just view images taken with it (however, when I wrote my report on the Leica 75mm Summarit f/2.5, I did include some comparison crops between the two [...]

  13. [...] the years, I’ve read quite a bit about this lens and how it compares quite favourably to the Leica 75mm Summarit (a wonderful lens in its own right — please see my user report [...]

  14. [...] Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Color Heliar lacks the ability to render micro-contrast as well as the Leica 75mm Summarit (f/2.5), for example.  Whether this ultimately matters in determining the success of an image is [...]

  15. Joshua says:

    Hey Peter. Could you comment on the magnification you get with this 75mm at .9m vs a 50mm at .7?

    I am looking at getting a 75 to complement my 35 but I can’t afford the
    Lux or cron and am wondering if I would really get more magnification out of a 75mm lens that focus to .9m vs a 50mm at .7m

    Thanks

    Joshua

    • Prosophos says:

      Hi Joshua, the magnification — under those parameters — would not be significantly different. However, the perspective would be. The 75mm perspective for portraits, for example, is noticeably different… at least to my eye.

  16. Jon Streeter says:

    Thanks so much for your posting of your lens tests. They’re exactly the kind of tests I’ve been looking for. Elsewhere on your site I wondered about what lenses you were using, and only later did I find this section. I have it on good authority from any number of “working professionals” that bokeh is so not important. I just can’t fathom that. A photograph is something made to look at, right? The look of photographs taken with Leica lenses is something that appealed to me decades before the term “bokeh” came into common usage. And such marvelous photos with which to demonstrate these lenses’ qualities.

  17. Chris says:

    Hi Peter:

    I have the lens, the first M lens in my system. Sharp, well-enough build and as Leica glass goes, a bargain! I’ll need a 90 soon and would consider the 90 Summarit without hesitation.

    Thanks Peter.

  18. Hendrik Mintarno says:

    Love the intro! LOL
    Bought this lens before i read your review. Have to say, its truly an amazing lens despite the rubberized focus ring (i bought mine used). My go to lens for head n shoulder portrait, love the bokeh and build (my first leica lens) is better than zeiss 35.

  19. […] This was taken using one of the best lenses in the current Leica line-up:  The 75mm Summarit (f/2.5). […]

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 551 other followers

%d bloggers like this: