Ze Razor – A Leica Summicron-M 90mm f/2 review

Them Germans! They sure know how to craft some decent quality glass. And by decent I mean “holy sh** this glass is nice!”

As I’m sure most of you know this german quality of craft from the hands of Leica doesn’t exactly come cheap, but every once in a while you luck out, and something presents itself at a fraction of the regular pricing. A bargain.

That is how I got my pristine 1983 Summicron-M 90mm f/2.



The Summicron-M 90mm f/2 was replaced in 1998 by the APO-Summicron-M 90mm f/2. By many considered as one of the best lenses ever produced, it will set you back a kidney and a half. But the version I have is the one designed just before the mighty APO.

Produced between 1980-1998 in a couple different mechanical iterations, these “version II” all share the same optics as well as the same 11 blade aperture diaphragm. There are differences in weight and filtersize. Mine is the 55mm filtersize, weighing in at 485g. The lens was manufactured in Canada.

On the APS-C Fujifilm X-series this lens correlates to a 135mm FOV. So a very tight crop, well-suited for headshots. On the full-frame sensors, it will behave more like a shoulder-headshot lens.

Build



Leica. Need I say more. Their build is in an entirely different league. Take a look at all the other vintage lenses that I have reviewed on this website over the years, Take note of all the times I said something was “built like a tank”, “has great aperture clicks”, “has smooth focussing”. No matter how great all these lenses have felt in hand, none has ever come close to the feeling of this lens. It’s as close to perfection as it gets. Focus throw is long since its a tele, but it really is buttery smooth. The aperture blades are curved in a such a way that you get almost perfectly smooth specular highlights at any f-stop. The heft is just right, and the glas coating is spot on.

It has a slide out hood, that even after 31 years still folds out buttery smooth, and is tight and not wiggly or loose by any measure. Extraordinary!

There really isn’t anything bad to say about the build of this. It’s a true A+

Optics and Image Quality

Its a 5 element in 4 groups classic tele design. Designed by Walter Mandler, its a true classic design. You can get all the dirty technical details at all the Leica aficionado websites around the web.

Image quality. Yeah, lets talk about that for a bit……

HOLY SH**BALLS!

Yeah, its that good. I have never used a lens with a 30+ year old design that can deliver this kind of sharpness and detail. Its is incredible. The micro detail is amazing. It is pin sharp at f/2, and at f/5.6 you get maximum sharpness. Even though you have sharpness it tends to render the smaller specks and wrinkles in the skin in a very flattering and minute way. It looks really great! It has a crazy narrow DOF with a relative of 45 (90/2). You will notice focus jump if the subject inhales deeply if photographed at minimum focusdistance.


Fujifilm X-T1 - f/2
Fujifilm X-T1 – f/2 – Note the flattering yet very sharp look. Also note the bokeh falloff in the hair.
100% crop f/2
100% crop f/2 – sharp yet soft. It really has a very unique rendering.

What really makes this lens sing is the fall off into blurry background. It does this in a way that mostly reminds me of medium format portrait setups. It looks great. It has the warm color cast characteristic of the Leica lenses, unlike the cooler color cast of the typical Zeiss lenses. This is something I like since the Fujifilm has this warmer cast as well.

I could go on for days about how great the IQ is from this lens. It really is some of the best in class. I guess you can partly justify the price tag.

Samples

Shot using the Sony A7 and the Fujifilm X-T1 the files have been processed using LR 5.7. These are by no means straight out of cam jpegs. Well, actually a couple of the Fujifilm ones are. I will note this in the image captions.

They reflect the shooting conditions under which I have used this lens over the last couple of weeks. Not just a portrait lens, it’s surprisingly diverse, gives great reach, and it can even be used for indoor sports 😀



Conclusion

The Leica Summicron-M 90mm f/2 is a relatively expensive lens, but unlike the newest APO iteration, the lens can be found used at reasonable prices, usually selling for around $1000-1200. But if you completely luck out like me and find an absolute bargain at just $500 I can wholeheartedly advise you to buy this gem of a lens. Its build is unmatched, and the image quality delivers very flattering yet sharp portraits. On APS-C you get the great 135mm FOV look for head shots, and it might just hold you over until you can buy Fujifilms own XF 90mm f/2. It looks right at home on the rangefinder styled X-Pro1.

This lens has quickly found its way into my small 3 prime carry-round setup. It’s among the best money can buy!