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90 Summicron Sharpness? or Bokeh?


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Some advice from the more seasoned users of the 90 crons. I have a "canada" 90, 281xxxx series lens. I just pulled it out again after sometime of non-use...and I am once again finding that it appears to be quite soft wide open, and remains soft until about f8. It never really becomes " tack sharp". Granted for portraiture this might be seen as desirable, but does this lens need to be adjusted or is it the "nature of the beast"? Your insights welcomed! also, where do I find the year it was made etc. based on the seriel no? Thanks. CH

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The 281xxx number was assigned in 1977, but that just marks the earliest date your lens could have been built. Leica, at least at that time, assigned blocks of numbers to a certain lens type (e.g. 90mm f/2 M-mount), and the numbers in that block could last several years depending on how popular a lens was, until they ran out.


That happens to be an especially tricky lens to nail down by number, because Leica redesigned the lens in the middle of a block of numbers. The redesign was actually introduced for sale in 1980 (more compact optics, shorter barrel, one-piece pull-out shade rather than the preceding two-part telescoping shade) - but a significant number of the early new lenses still used numbers from the block assigned to the previous design. The lens design took several years, from 1977 or until 1980, which also contributes to the dating headache.


I also have a 281xxxx lens, that is the newer design. 1977 number on a 1980 (or later) lens. Since both the old and new design were Canadian designs, and built in Canada at that time, even that bit of info does not help much.


Does it have a 1 or 2-part lens shade. Does the retracted lens shade cover the aperture ring? Those are the real keys to nailing down which 90 f/2 design it is.


My experience with the 1977 ("1980") redesigned 90 'cron, built until 1997, is that it is fairly sharp but low in contrast wide-open, and reaches very good contrast and resolution much sooner than f/8 - more like f/4. But it is quite different from the APO 90 in character, especially contrast at f/2, which makes it look less "snappy" than more modern lenses (75 f/2, 90 f/2.8, 90 APO f/2).

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Photophile has an EARLY version of the last non-ASPH 90 f/2. Was 49mm filter size until a cosmetic redesign to eliminate the lenshood covering the aperture ring when retracted, (fairly quickly after the 1980 introduction) - at which time filter size was bumped up to 55mm. Optically this is the lens I described.


Here's a link showing the lens in question and an image that is typical. http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-forum/customer-forum/45854-praise-mandler-lenses.html

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  • 13 years later...

I worked close to the largest dealer in the USA and visited twice weekly.  I ordered the lens at first sight, hood cover numbers.  the 55 mm version arrived in a few weeks and was purchased.  On film the image was fair and it was soon retired and replaced by the thin 90 2.8.

My M10R arrived and I tried it from retirement.   Fantastic.  So now I have a mint pre APO that was in storage 40 years from new.  


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