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50mm APO or 50mm Lux ASPH - specifically for someone that has a pre-ASPH 50mm Lux


Chazphoto
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I’ve got a 50 ASPH, and I’ve been using it as my primary lens for over 7 years.

I haven’t used the Apo, but if it does have the greater acuity/sharpness that others describe, I am not sure I’d want it.  The nice thing about 1.4 is that I can take portraits that are bitingly sharp at the eyes, with the subject’s skin rendered more naturally.  People generally don’t like seeing their blemishes, and I can always stop down when I do want that extra detail.

Bottom line, try renting each lens and see if you have any preference.  

 

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Me again.

I had the chance to use the 50mm APO-Summicron ASPH for a few days and took some pictures just with that lens and some in rotation with my E43 50mm Summilux pre-ASPH.  Here are the things I noticed.

  • The aperture ring on the 50AA is sharp, because it meets flush with the focus ring.  The aperture ring on my example was definitely uber-loose and I frequently wasn't shooting at the aperture I thought I had set.
  • The focusing tab is closer to the body of the M10 than I find entirely comfortable.  All of which reminded me of how tricky I find it to hold the camera well, when using a tabbed lens to focus.  (I haven't compared the experience with the Summicron 28mm and SEM 21mm, which are the other tabbed lenses I have.)  There must be a technique to this that I need to learn.  This re-enforced, however, the faint sense I had at the Leica Shop Mayfair, that the 50mm Summilux ASPH (traditional shape) was more comfortable, possibly because the tab is a little further from the body of the M10?
  • The 0.7m close focusing compared to the 1m of the E43 lens really makes a difference.  I used to find the 0.5m distance on an SLR 50mm lens limiting, but I've got used to the pre-ASPH and using the 50AA reminded me of the advantage in framing from being able to get closer.
  • Focused at 1m on something that needed central sharpness (such as a flower amongst foliage), the resolution differences on the M10 and a high quality Eizo monitor were negligible.  There was a difference in how the fall off in DoF was handled, but it is really difficult to explain or even recognise by sight without very careful comparison.  Totally irrelevant, therefore to real world use.
  • Focused on buildings with lots of brick detail at 15m-infinity and stopped down to f5.6,  the added quality in resolving power of the 50AA was clear.  I wouldn't say that the resolution of detail at default magnification was shockingly different, but by the time you zoomed in to 100% it was clear.  Therefore, and I really am not expert on this, I suspect that the difference would not be very apparent in print until you were printing larger than 12x8s.
  • What would be apparent in such prints is a difference in clarity rather than resolution.  This exercise does explain the occasions when I find my beloved pre-ASPH lens to be lacking, because there is a slightly hazy or fuzzy presentation of detail that is in focus at a distance.  May be this is resolution or acuity or micro-contrast - not sure what the correct term is.  Take my tile-hung cottage, where at a distance each tile and the joins between them are clearly resolved by both lenses, but the 50AA shows (or implies) more texture in each tile which is somewhat obscured in the pre-ASPH.  Interestingly, in the close-up 1m shot of the flower, I couldn't see this difference between the two lenses.
  • The quality of the bokeh between the two was a complete draw in everything I photographed.  The pre-ASPH has a fabulous 12-bladed aperture with complex blade shapes and I've always loved the blur it provides.  The 50AA did as it promised and produced smooth out of focus areas of a very similar type.  On one shot for each lens, of a dog in the grasses, I had "ugly" bokeh that I often associate with wet, shiny, grassy backgrounds - but both lenses did pretty much the same, although these two shots were not as controlled for distance and aperture as others.
  • On those two photos, the 50AA also showed its resolution chops with fine detail in the hair of the spaniel, which is something I am always striving for.  The pre-ASPH was a little softer on its equivalent shot, but I didn't have the two lenses set-up identically or the same distance - uncooperative models, my spaniels!  I have had equally well resolved detail from the pre-ASPH on similar photos.
  • One other photo comparison (verbal, which you may consider crazy), was of a vase in a window at a restaurant, which was one of the shots that convinced me that the bokeh was very similar between the lenses.  What I did notice on close examination was the level of detail retained in the vase with the 50AA.  Focus was on the same branch of a succulent plant in the vase, so very easy to confirm the focus was the same on both lenses.  The vase had a texture in a blue glaze that was revealed by the 50AA and not by the pre-ASPH.
  • That photo, the one of the buildings, some shots of a blue and white canopy and various other photos also revealed one other (and significant for me) difference, which was in the tonality of the photo in colour terms.  I don't see in B&W; I can't preconceive in monotone and rarely convert to B&W in post-processing.  I do notice colour variations quite a lot and the pre-ASPH was distinctly more yellow-toned and muted compared to the AA.  I don't know the exact age of my 50mm E43 lens, but either the age or the coatings difference or the glass itself transmit the spectrum differently.  (I have WB set to daylight and the photos were in virtually identical lighting conditions.)
  • I took a photo of an orange Vespa at a petrol station, one night some months ago with the pre-ASPH and I like the result.  I was lucky to find the same bike in the same spot when I had the 50AA attached to the M10.  Comparing them reveals the same stark colour variance, even though the conditions may not have been as identical as with the other paired photos.  It also illustrates the clarity which the 50AA brings to the party, similarly to the comment above about the bricks and tiles.

I think that's everything I observed and obsessed about.  For what it is worth, I didn't bond with the APO-Summicron 50mm.  That may sound really odd (or may be not so much to some of this crowd) but neither the handling experience nor the results made me want to keep the lens and figure out how to sell a body-part to do so.  I've been truly impressed by some of the photographs I've seen made with this lens and think that even some of the paired test snaps I took, were decent.  I don't need to be blown away by every photograph I take with every lens (good thing too, given my overall standard of photograph), so it wasn't that I'd set the expectation level overly high for the APO-Summicron.  Just a touchy-feely thing.

I re-read some of the very thoughtful and helpful posts in this thread, thank you.  Having seen some of the contributors' work elsewhere on this website, I'd note that each of us use the lenses we have to create images that we want to create with those lenses.  Sometimes, the same photographer can create different styles of image equally well with two different types of lens;  may be you can do that any day, switching lenses and styles at will, may be you need to be in the right mood for the right lens (and subject).  For me, I think the feel of the lens in the hand (and in the mind) makes a difference and I gel with the pre-ASPH Summilux in a way I didn't with the APO-Summicron.  However, the clarity of image, the vibrancy of the colour palette and the 0.7m option, are making me consider whether finding a good Summilux-ASPH may be worth it.

May the light be above and behind you.  Unless you're shooting contra-jour, of course.

Regards

Chazphoto

 

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I’ve told this story before, but might resonate with the OP. After owning the 50 Summilux ASPH for years, I wondered about the 50 APO Summicron and what the fuss was all about. Actual use, and making prints, is the only way for me to judge such matters, not forum surveys, so I rented the APO for a week.
 

Both are superb lenses. But I didn’t like the ergonomics of the APO… loose aperture ring (3 samples ultimately the same), nor the focus/aperture ring configuration, largely resulting from the compact design. And the rendering of the Summilux often pleased me as much or more, or showed minor differences. And of course there’s no real substitute for f/1.4.  I knew that DAG could fix a loose aperture ring, but still.  I ended up just keeping the Summilux.

Later on, against better judgment, I bought the black chrome version of the APO, as it solved the ergonomic issues of the standard version. The lack of a built-in hood was, however, a disadvantage.  But after months of use, I returned to my Summilux and sold the APO, fortunately not losing much financially in the process.

Often less is more for me, but that sometimes requires reinforcement. 

Jeff
 

 

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Hi Jeff,

Your comments on the ergonomics of the 50mm APO were in my mind when I noted that amongst the non-resolution characteristics in post #11.  Having experienced that for myself, I happen to agree with you - although handling is clearly a personal matter.  I suspect that all Leica users, M series in particular, take pleasure from the physical interface of the kit we use and use it for that reason amongst others, so the fact that I started my notes to self on my few days with the lens from a tactile perspective won't surprise anyone and was definitely one reason for my lack of "bonding" with the lens.

The trouble with all this thinking and experimenting is that it has led me to find a Summilux-ASPH Black Chrome... I picked it up yesterday for the first time and fell in love with the the way it feels, even before I took any snaps with it.  

Cheers

 

Chazphoto

 

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49 minutes ago, Chazphoto said:

Hi Jeff,

Your comments on the ergonomics of the 50mm APO were in my mind when I noted that amongst the non-resolution characteristics in post #11.  Having experienced that for myself, I happen to agree with you - although handling is clearly a personal matter.  I suspect that all Leica users, M series in particular, take pleasure from the physical interface of the kit we use and use it for that reason amongst others, so the fact that I started my notes to self on my few days with the lens from a tactile perspective won't surprise anyone and was definitely one reason for my lack of "bonding" with the lens.

The trouble with all this thinking and experimenting is that it has led me to find a Summilux-ASPH Black Chrome... I picked it up yesterday for the first time and fell in love with the the way it feels, even before I took any snaps with it.  

Cheers

 

Chazphoto

 

I’m sure you will. Be happy with the black chrome ASPH - it’s a lovely looking lens, and the ASPH is very versatile.

Late to this discussion, I have a silver chrome 50 Summilux ASPH (heavy brass body, but focusing smooth as butter, and lovely rendering) and the black chrome APO 50 Summicron ASPH (also brass, compact, also beautifully made, and as others have observed, smooth as butter bokeh).  I can’t see myself selling either.

In use, the lenses have quite different fingerprints.  I haven’t used the pre-asph.  I don’t get lost in the weeds over the marginal differences with my lenses; but I do tend to look for certain results when I chose one lens over the other (I have two other 50s to confuse that consideration 🫣).  The ASPH is definitely softer, particularly across the frame.  For landscapes and the like, the APO is first choice.  Where the subject is likely to be close to the centre of the frame, or I’m not so bothered by softness (portraits), the ASPH is my first choice.  For travel, the smaller APO is my first choice.

Day to day, the APO tends to sit on my M10-D, and the ASPH on my Monochrom - any other focal length in my pocket …

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Hi IkarusJohn and thanks for the input.   I’ve only used the BC for a few hours but am certainly loving the experience and the results.  

This thread has been a very useful place for me to do some thinking aloud and get some valuable advice.  Where it has left me is realising how much I like the f1.4 option and that I don’t need the extra resolution and flat field of the 50AA for what seem in a standard lens.  I do photograph flat things (!) and landscapes with the 50mm, particularly if that’s what’s on the camera in a one lens situation, but my reading up on field curvature and experience of real world usage with the 50mm APO, led me to conclude that I didn’t need that lens as well as a Summilux.  Those who commented that the Summilux-ASPH gives you the option of shooting wide open with a little softness and some less predicable effects or stopped down with the bite of a modern ASPH design, are right and that versatility, almost a duality, is what has won out for me in the end. 

The things I noticed with the APO lens that I did like, are what’s led me to buy the 50mm Summilux BC.  The greater clarity, less muted colours and closer focusing than my v2 pre-ASPH are all very welcome. The BC’s handling characteristics, in particular the non-tabbed wider focus ring and better damped aperture ring are a worthwhile step up for me compared to the traditional design.  The weight difference is about half way between the black and silver standard 50mm Summiluxes.  I think that the finder blockage is marginally less also, without the hood of course.   I never used a hood with the pre-ASPH, as it happens.  

The other corollary has been the acquisition of the v2 28mm Summicron, largely because of the flatter field and therefore improved corner resolution.   I reasoned that the wider focal length was where I’d benefit from those characteristics more than the standard lens.   Interestingly, the tab on the 28mm (either version) has never bothered me, contrary to my experience with the standard design 50mm AA.   The updated rectangular metal hood is also a welcome improvement.  

cheers

 

Chazphoto

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Hi Mikael

I’d be the last to claim this was an entirely rational decision.  I happen to prefer the Leica lenses from a handling and looks point of view.  I have nothing but admiration for the Voigtlander lenses and used to have a 35mm f1.4 of their early type.  But this Leica M thing is a luxury and an indulgence and I’m lucky enough that I don’t always have to justify the choices made on a cost:optical excellence ratio, even if the new CV lenses win on both sides of that equation.  

cheers

Chazphoto 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 6/8/2022 at 4:33 AM, Chazphoto said:

Me again.

I had the chance to use the 50mm APO-Summicron ASPH for a few days and took some pictures just with that lens and some in rotation with my E43 50mm Summilux pre-ASPH.  Here are the things I noticed.

  • The aperture ring on the 50AA is sharp, because it meets flush with the focus ring.  The aperture ring on my example was definitely uber-loose and I frequently wasn't shooting at the aperture I thought I had set.
  • The focusing tab is closer to the body of the M10 than I find entirely comfortable.  All of which reminded me of how tricky I find it to hold the camera well, when using a tabbed lens to focus.  (I haven't compared the experience with the Summicron 28mm and SEM 21mm, which are the other tabbed lenses I have.)  There must be a technique to this that I need to learn.  This re-enforced, however, the faint sense I had at the Leica Shop Mayfair, that the 50mm Summilux ASPH (traditional shape) was more comfortable, possibly because the tab is a little further from the body of the M10?
  • The 0.7m close focusing compared to the 1m of the E43 lens really makes a difference.  I used to find the 0.5m distance on an SLR 50mm lens limiting, but I've got used to the pre-ASPH and using the 50AA reminded me of the advantage in framing from being able to get closer.
  • Focused at 1m on something that needed central sharpness (such as a flower amongst foliage), the resolution differences on the M10 and a high quality Eizo monitor were negligible.  There was a difference in how the fall off in DoF was handled, but it is really difficult to explain or even recognise by sight without very careful comparison.  Totally irrelevant, therefore to real world use.
  • Focused on buildings with lots of brick detail at 15m-infinity and stopped down to f5.6,  the added quality in resolving power of the 50AA was clear.  I wouldn't say that the resolution of detail at default magnification was shockingly different, but by the time you zoomed in to 100% it was clear.  Therefore, and I really am not expert on this, I suspect that the difference would not be very apparent in print until you were printing larger than 12x8s.
  • What would be apparent in such prints is a difference in clarity rather than resolution.  This exercise does explain the occasions when I find my beloved pre-ASPH lens to be lacking, because there is a slightly hazy or fuzzy presentation of detail that is in focus at a distance.  May be this is resolution or acuity or micro-contrast - not sure what the correct term is.  Take my tile-hung cottage, where at a distance each tile and the joins between them are clearly resolved by both lenses, but the 50AA shows (or implies) more texture in each tile which is somewhat obscured in the pre-ASPH.  Interestingly, in the close-up 1m shot of the flower, I couldn't see this difference between the two lenses.
  • The quality of the bokeh between the two was a complete draw in everything I photographed.  The pre-ASPH has a fabulous 12-bladed aperture with complex blade shapes and I've always loved the blur it provides.  The 50AA did as it promised and produced smooth out of focus areas of a very similar type.  On one shot for each lens, of a dog in the grasses, I had "ugly" bokeh that I often associate with wet, shiny, grassy backgrounds - but both lenses did pretty much the same, although these two shots were not as controlled for distance and aperture as others.
  • On those two photos, the 50AA also showed its resolution chops with fine detail in the hair of the spaniel, which is something I am always striving for.  The pre-ASPH was a little softer on its equivalent shot, but I didn't have the two lenses set-up identically or the same distance - uncooperative models, my spaniels!  I have had equally well resolved detail from the pre-ASPH on similar photos.
  • One other photo comparison (verbal, which you may consider crazy), was of a vase in a window at a restaurant, which was one of the shots that convinced me that the bokeh was very similar between the lenses.  What I did notice on close examination was the level of detail retained in the vase with the 50AA.  Focus was on the same branch of a succulent plant in the vase, so very easy to confirm the focus was the same on both lenses.  The vase had a texture in a blue glaze that was revealed by the 50AA and not by the pre-ASPH.
  • That photo, the one of the buildings, some shots of a blue and white canopy and various other photos also revealed one other (and significant for me) difference, which was in the tonality of the photo in colour terms.  I don't see in B&W; I can't preconceive in monotone and rarely convert to B&W in post-processing.  I do notice colour variations quite a lot and the pre-ASPH was distinctly more yellow-toned and muted compared to the AA.  I don't know the exact age of my 50mm E43 lens, but either the age or the coatings difference or the glass itself transmit the spectrum differently.  (I have WB set to daylight and the photos were in virtually identical lighting conditions.)
  • I took a photo of an orange Vespa at a petrol station, one night some months ago with the pre-ASPH and I like the result.  I was lucky to find the same bike in the same spot when I had the 50AA attached to the M10.  Comparing them reveals the same stark colour variance, even though the conditions may not have been as identical as with the other paired photos.  It also illustrates the clarity which the 50AA brings to the party, similarly to the comment above about the bricks and tiles.

I think that's everything I observed and obsessed about.  For what it is worth, I didn't bond with the APO-Summicron 50mm.  That may sound really odd (or may be not so much to some of this crowd) but neither the handling experience nor the results made me want to keep the lens and figure out how to sell a body-part to do so.  I've been truly impressed by some of the photographs I've seen made with this lens and think that even some of the paired test snaps I took, were decent.  I don't need to be blown away by every photograph I take with every lens (good thing too, given my overall standard of photograph), so it wasn't that I'd set the expectation level overly high for the APO-Summicron.  Just a touchy-feely thing.

I re-read some of the very thoughtful and helpful posts in this thread, thank you.  Having seen some of the contributors' work elsewhere on this website, I'd note that each of us use the lenses we have to create images that we want to create with those lenses.  Sometimes, the same photographer can create different styles of image equally well with two different types of lens;  may be you can do that any day, switching lenses and styles at will, may be you need to be in the right mood for the right lens (and subject).  For me, I think the feel of the lens in the hand (and in the mind) makes a difference and I gel with the pre-ASPH Summilux in a way I didn't with the APO-Summicron.  However, the clarity of image, the vibrancy of the colour palette and the 0.7m option, are making me consider whether finding a good Summilux-ASPH may be worth it.

May the light be above and behind you.  Unless you're shooting contra-jour, of course.

Regards

Chazphoto

 

Hi chaz, quite a thorough observation, you started the thread asking and i tried to give my overview, but in the end, you explained to me why i bonded more in a lens among other lenses, thanks greatly! 
 

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On 6/10/2022 at 3:13 AM, IkarusJohn said:

I’m sure you will. Be happy with the black chrome ASPH - it’s a lovely looking lens, and the ASPH is very versatile.

Late to this discussion, I have a silver chrome 50 Summilux ASPH (heavy brass body, but focusing smooth as butter, and lovely rendering) and the black chrome APO 50 Summicron ASPH (also brass, compact, also beautifully made, and as others have observed, smooth as butter bokeh).  I can’t see myself selling either.

In use, the lenses have quite different fingerprints.  I haven’t used the pre-asph.  I don’t get lost in the weeds over the marginal differences with my lenses; but I do tend to look for certain results when I chose one lens over the other (I have two other 50s to confuse that consideration 🫣).  The ASPH is definitely softer, particularly across the frame.  For landscapes and the like, the APO is first choice.  Where the subject is likely to be close to the centre of the frame, or I’m not so bothered by softness (portraits), the ASPH is my first choice.  For travel, the smaller APO is my first choice.

Day to day, the APO tends to sit on my M10-D, and the ASPH on my Monochrom - any other focal length in my pocket …

Hi ikarus, your situation is exactly the same like im always in everyday, while i tend to let the apo black chrome lives its entire life on a BW film and lux for other’s 

and can’t see myself to part with any of this too.. And yeah for travel, the apo has always been the preferred 

it’s easy to pick it over my daily noct 1.2 for its 0.7 mfd

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HI Jakontil,

Thanks for the feedback.  That sort of detailed over-thinking tends to grab me from time to time.  Net result is that I took the 50mm 'Lux BC to Venice and had a fantastic time... hopefully obtaining some passable photos in the process.  Definitely an expensive decision, but it is always good to know you made the right one in the end.

Cheers

Chazphoto

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