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LEICA 90mm f/2.8 Lenses
© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro     Comparison Table     Recommendations     More LEICA Reviews

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April 2010      LEICA Camera Reviews   Lens Reviews   Recommended Lenses

How to Afford Anything   LEICA Lens Names

 

Introduction         top

Intro     Comparison Table     Recommendations

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LEICA has made 90mm lenses since 1931.

Click the links or pictures to get to detailed reviews of each lens.

Here I'm covering all 90mm f/2.8 and f/2.5 LEICA lenses.

I have a separate page about the history of the 90mm f/2 lenses.

 

History         introduction         top

2008 - Today: Summarit-M f/2.5              top

Leica 90mm f/2.5 Summarit-M

LEICA 90mm f/2.5 Summarit-M (actual size at 106 DPI). enlarge.
(46mm filter, 12.140oz./344.2g, model Nr. 11 646)

LEICA's newest, and curent inexpensive 90mm is the LEICA 90mm f/2.5 Summarit-M. It has 5 elements in 4 groups.

This 90/2.5 Summarit-M is a smaller, cheaper replacement for the classic 90mm f/2.8 ELMARIT-M (1990-2008).

Optically this cheaper f/2.5 is as good as the 1990-2008 f/2.8 version, but still bigger, heavier and optically superior to the 1974-1990 TELE version.

This f/2.5 lens is built to a much lower mechanical standard than any other LEICA lenses that came before it. You can't tell from pictures, but hold one in your own hands and it's obvious. It brings tears to the eyes of the LEICA faithful, but the LEICA Man simply regards it as "not LEICA."

I bought one of thee Summarit-M 90mm f/2.5s and returned it. I prefer any other 90mm lens to this dinky Summarit-M. I prefer older used lenses, which cost far less than a dinky new f/2.5 Summarit-M.

Superficially, the focus feel of the f/2.5 Summarit-M I bought and returned was a bit uneven and scratchy. It wasn't anything like any of the other 90mm lenses, which have the same excellent smooth feel, whether they are new or 50 years old.

 

1990 - 2008: 90mm ELMARIT-M f/2.8         top

Leica 90mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M

LEICA 90mm f/2.8 ELMARIT-M (actual size at 106 DPI). enlarge.
(46mm filter, 13.940 oz./395.15g, model Nr. 11 807)

The recently discontinued LEICA 90mm f/2.8 ELMARIT-M has 4 elements in 4 groups.

This ELMARIT-M is a much better lens mechanically than the new Summarirt-M. Optically I find this older lens has the same performance as the new Summarit-M, and LEICA claims it's even a bit better than the newest Summarit-M.

This ELMARIT-M is much better optically at f/2.8 and f/4 than the previous 90mm f/2.8 TELE-ELMARIT-M lens it replaced in 1990, but it weighs almost twice as much.This classic lens is the 90mm lens you'll see most often today, along with the 90mm f/2 APO ASPH.

 

1974-1990: 90mm TELE-ELMARIT-M f/2.8            top

Leica 90mm f/2.8 Tele-Elmarit-M

LEICA 90mm f/2.8 TELE-ELMARIT-M (actual size at 106 DPI). enlarge.
(39mm filter, 7.957 oz./225.6g, model Nr. 11 800)

This LEICA 90mm f/2.8 TELE-ELMARIT-M is my favorite small LEICA 90mm. It has 4 elements in 4 groups.

At first it was made in Canada, and for just the last couple of years it was made in Germany. The two versions are identical except for the words CANADA or GERMANY inscribed on them.

It's small, compact, light weight, sharp, and therefore my favorite LEICA 90mm lens for traveling light.

LEICA uses the phrase "TELE" in its formal sense, which means a lens which is shorter than its own focal length. LEICA's TELE lenses are shorter than LEICA's non-TELE lenses.

This TELE-ELMARIT-M is LEICA's smallest and lightest 90mm, even lighter than the 90m f/4 Elmar-C of the 1970s.Optically this TELE-ELMARIT-M is superb, being only slightly softer in the corners than newer lenses at f/4 and f/2.8. By f/5.6, its the same as the newest 90m lenses.

This TELE-ELMARIT-M replaced the earlier (1964-1974) TELE-ELMARIT.

 

1964-1974: 90mm TELE-ELMARIT f/2.8         top

Leica 90mm f/2.8 Tele-Elmarit

LEICA 90mm f/2.8 TELE-ELMARIT (actual size at 106 DPI). enlarge.
(39mm filter, 11.977 oz./339.55g, model Nr. 11 800)

LEICA's first 90mm TELE was this TELE-ELMARIT.

It had 5 elements in 5 groups.

It was introduced as a smaller version of 1959's ELMARIT, alongside of which it was sold until 1974.

These were LEICA's good days: LEICA understood the value of making things smaller and more practical.

It was chrome in 1964 and 1965, then black from 1966-1974.

 

1959-1974: 90mm ELMARIT f/2.8         top

Leica 90mm f/2.8 Elmarit

LEICA 90mm f/2.8 ELMARIT (actual size at 106 DPI). enlarge.
(39mm filter, 11.742 oz./332.9g, model Nr. 11 129 bayonet, 11 029 screw)

The first LEICA 90mm f/2.8 ELMARIT had 5 elements in 3 groups.

This first 90mm f/2.8 lens went through many cosmetic changes, all with the same glass. Here I'm showing a sample of the first version from 1960. Later versions went black.

 

1958

LEICA has made faster f/2 90mm lenses since 1958.

 

1931

LEICA made slower 90mm lenses for its rangefinder cameras since 1931. I'm ignoring these for now.

 

Comparison Table         top

Intro     Comparison Table     Recommendations

 
Produced
2008 -
1990-2008
1974-1990
1959-1974
1998 -
Optics
5/4
4/4
4/4
5/3
5/5 ASPH
Filter thread
46mm
46mm
39mm
39mm
55mm
Length
66.5mm
75.9mm
61.3mm
87.00mm
77.3mm
Weight (actual)
345g
395g
226g
335g
475g
Diaphragm Blades
11
9
10
12
11
Minimum Aperture
f/16
f/22
f/16
f/22
f/16
Made in
Germany
Germany
Canada, later Germany
Germany
Germany
Sharpness*
Fantastic
Fantastic
Very Good
Very Good
Extraordinary
Contrast
High
High
High
High
High
Price (5/09, USA)
$2,000 ($700 used)
$400 used
$250 used

* Your camera's rangefinder calibration is going to make more of a difference in sharpness than the difference among these lenses. If, and only if, you got a perfectly adjusted system will you be able to notice any differences.

 

Recommendations         top

Intro     Comparison Table     Recommendations

I shoot a 90/2.8 TELE-ELMARIT-M from 1986 when I want compact, or the current 90mm f/2 APO ASPH when size and weight isn't as important as the potential for needing f/2 in dim light.

Stopped down to f/5.6, both of these lenses perform the same. Only at f/4 and f/2.8 is there any visible difference, and only then if you know what you're doing and have a perfectly calibrated rangefinder system.

Your most important concern should be getting a 90mm lens with a filter size that matches the other lenses you'll be shooting at the same time.

 

Help me help you         top

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Thanks for reading!

Ken

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