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In 2007, Leica launched modern Summarit lenses. The 90mm f/2.5 was a member of this group. Inexplicably and annoyingly, it was sold without a lens hood. The annoyingness (yes that is apparently a real word) persists today because most Summarit 90mm f/2.5 lenses on eBay are sold without the hood. Listings with the hood are expensive and the added expense is in excess of what a lens hood should cost. This is annoying. This lens hood business was corrected with the second coming of the Summarits in 2014 when the Summarit 90mm f/2.4 version was released. It is not clear if the updated version had exactly the same optics as the predecessor but the close focusing distance was reduced to 0.9m. The entire Summarit line was discontinued in 2020.
On garden gnomes and parked cars
The 90mm Summarit f/2.5 is another chubby pickle like it’s cousin the Elmarit 90mm f/2.8. Therefore, what I wrote about the Elmarit’s chub and osmium like heft also applies to the Summarit. That, however, is where the comparisons with the Elmarit stop. It is almost as if Leica read my review, went back in time, and fixed all of the issues I had with the telescoping lens hood and the sticky-outy lens filter. They got rid of all of the external design flaws of the Elmarit and added a gorgeous and sexy (1) screw-in lens hood and a lens cap that fits over the hood whether the lens hood is mounted on the lens or reversed and put on the body for transport.
Because I know you might be here comparing the usability of the Elmarit and the Summarit, as an analogy to help you decide, think of them like identical twins. They both get good grades in school. They are both good at athletics. They are the same size and build. As we all know, however, identical twins are generally not exactly identical. There is always one of them that is just a little bit prettier and one just a little bit uglier in the face. One of them always gets the guy or girl and one is left at the end of the party looking for crumbs. It must be difficult being the sibling of the better looking identical twin. In this case, the Elmarit is the ugly sibling.
Keeping with our analogy, however, there are some situations where the ugly twin will get the girl or guy. It appears that some guys or girls just like a little ugly in the face. And so it goes with our Elmarit and Summarit siblings in this analogy. Film shooters who might be removing filters from time to time will enjoy the sticky-outy filter of the Elmarit rather than the screw in hood on the Summarit if speed of changing filters is valued over a robust and protective hood. Unscrewing and screwing that lend hood might be an issue for you if you are constantly changing lens filters.
There are scattered complaints online about the short focusing throw of the Summarit 90mm. I didn’t find that it was an issue. That might be because all 90mm lenses are next to impossible to focus at close range on a rangefinder (discussion here) so even if you made the focusing throw longer it wouldn’t change how impossible it is to focus on a rangefinder. You cant fix physics with a long focusing throw. Conversely, when used on an adapted mirrorless camera, the focusing throw is just fine. Please don’t ask about focusing digitally on the M10 or with the Visoflex.
Does it have SOUL
This is a bit of a mini-review because I rented this lens from Lens Rentals. My time with it was limited to a full day in the studio and a few days walking around town. Nonetheless, you don’t need to own the lens for a lifetime to learn that this lens is not a soul generating machine. If you are looking for vintage soul you are in the wrong place.
This lens is modern through and through It is sharp but creamy. Contrasty but not punchy. The bokeh is beautiful. What else is there to say other than the images are exquisite? Again, the images are exquisite but weren’t the images from the Elmarit, Voigtlander, and Minolta also exquisite? Can a lens be more exquisite than another one that is also exquisite? Is “more exquisite” even a thing? Is there a point of no return with exquisiteness with these 90mm lenses?
As I mentioned on an Instagram post, someone smarter than me once said that it is easy to make a 90mm lens. Judging from the 90mm options in this roundup they must be correct since there is so much exquisiteness in the group. I am sitting here looking at images trying to find an exquisiteness differentiation metric without resorting to something like a picture of a wall or LPMM test pattern because everything in front of me looks so damn exquisite. Finding a point of differentiation between this lens and the other in my testing is my first issue with this lens.
The second issue is that this lens makes me feel like the hive mind is a hoax, The Internet has gone insane, I am a genius, I am an idiot, or some combination of the above. After posting this, I fear that this website might be rebranded as thesummaritlovers.com, thesummaritapoligists.com, thecontrariansummarit.com, or something similar. I still don’t understand why these Summarit lenses are as maligned as they are? This is not a rhetorical question. Is everyone really so afraid of some (real world) build quality issues that I am not seeing or hearing about? Is everyone else making images for billboards, or high-end advertisements, or something where some sort of better image quality is needed? Is there a place where everyone with the broken Summarits goes to complain and I missed the invite? Is everyone really worrying about the Summarit lenses falling apart in the future while another lens might be alive and kicking? Should we be collectively shunning the Summarit lenses so in 20 years when we can’t see the viewfinder patch and in 30 years when we die, our offspring are going to complain to their families that we were cheap and we only got the Summarit so now they don’t work right and/or they cant make bank selling our old stuff on eBay? Am I the only person on the planet not worried about a build quality issue that might not manifest until I am dead and gone?
So did I keep it?
Seems like an easy decision to keep the exquisite lens with the fancy lens hood right? Unfortunately not, the main issue you will encounter if you go to buy one is that the 90mm Summarits are not inexpensive like some of the others in the Summarit line. This complicates things. In fact, in 2020 the 90mm Summarit is heads and shoulders the most expensive lens of our 90mm roundup. Is the external package on the Summarit enough to get me to spend the extra dough to fix the sticky-outy filter annoyance and janky telescoping hood of the Elmarit? Are all of the Leica lenses just too overbuilt, chubby, and expensive to justify themselves vs the capable Rokkor or Voigtländer? How important is that f/2.8 f-stop in the scheme of things? To learn how the decision shook out for me, and see my recommendations if you are a film, digital rangefinder, or adapted mirrorless shooter (they are different) it would be great if you join me over at my Recommended List where I break it down for you as if you were my best friend or family member. Joining would go a long way to supporting this site and there is a 100% satisfaction guarantee so you really have nothing to lose and lots to gain.
1. Nothing upsets me more than when people say electronics are sexy and gorgeous. Will someone please invent better language that does not anthropomorphize metal and glass.