LEICA 90mm f/2.8 Lenses
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.
2008 - Today: Summarit-M f/2.5 top
LEICA's newest, and curent inexpensive 90mm is the LEICA 90mm f/2.5 Summarit-M. It has 5 elements in 4 groups.
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
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
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'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
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.
LEICA has made faster f/2 90mm lenses since 1958.
LEICA made slower 90mm lenses for its rangefinder cameras since 1931. I'm ignoring these for now.
Comparison Table top
* 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.
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.
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