This is the first post of “My Favourite Lenses” series, which I will write from time to time.
A lot of people dismiss the Leica lenses because they are expensive, that one would hardly notice the difference from results produced by them and other cheaper lenses. I tend to regard people with this kinds of remark as someone who has not yet used some of Leica’s beloved lenses, before drawing this conclusion. It’s true that not all Leica lenses are great. Case in point, I just found the Leica-R Elmarit 28mm f2.8 not to my liking, and eventually sold it. But, the 90mm f2 Summicron-R is something else. I can say that it’s on top of my very short list of favourite lenses.
I have owned and used quite a few lenses in the 85mm-100mm focal lengths, but NONE produces pictures like the Summicron-R 90mm f2. The lens is sharp wide open, with excellent microcontrast, but not overly contrasty that makes the pictures look “dry” or lacking tonality. The amazing amount of details this lens captures on high resolution sensors is staggering. No lens I own can blend sharpness, detail, contrast and tonal transition into such perfection like this Summicron does. Dr. Mandler must have seen the light that god himself shone on him when he conceived this magnificent lens. It’s a vessel that captures the ordinary light and makes it divine! I am sometimes reduced to my knees looking at some of the pictures formed by this lens.
The build quality is second to none; one of the reasons Leica lenses are more expensive because they are superbly made, using some of the best materials available. In handling this lens you can feel the precision and care that went into making it. If you have never used a manual focus lens before, you maybe shocked by how smooth and beautiful a well made lens can be, and the joy you can derive from using one.
And, this wasn’t even expensive when I bought it used, on par with the Canon EF 85mm f1.8’s used price. Most R lenses are much, much cheaper than the M equivalent. The current price has gone up quite a bit since I bought mine few years ago, but I think it’s still reasonable for a lens that will last you pretty much a life time, and will pay you richly in dividends.