The sharpest lenses are from Leica?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by benjamin_kim|2, Dec 23, 2016.

  1. Some people told me that Leica Summicron 50mm F2 is the most sharpest lens in the world compare to Zeiss Otus 50mm f1.4. But is it true or not?
  2. Center or corner sharpness? Which aperture?

    True or not? Only you know if someone told you or not.
  3. SCL


    I think it all depends on how you define sharpness....Leica for years defined it as an intersecting graph between resolution and contrast. And then the quesion arises, sharp where and at what to the frame edges at certain spectral frequencies, achromatic or apochromatic. It also depends on your medium and how the lens focuses to that medium. So take what others say with a grain of salt and do your own research into the technical details, and how the lens in used. Irwin Puts has a long writeup on the 50 Summicrons (many versions) and their technical development which you might want to read to get a sense of how engineers design and produce a "sharp" lens and then improve on it in a variety of ways as different glass compositions and manufacturing techniques become available.
  4. It does not matter at all.
    It doesn't matter if you prefer to use a wide angle lens. It doesn't matter if you prefer to use a telephoto lens. It doesn't matter if you haven't got a camera to mount the lens on. It doesn't matter if you only put photos on the internet, because you need a really, really large print to see the difference between two sharp lenses.
    It is irrelevant if you prefer to hand hold your camera, because you will only achieve maximum sharpness from any lens with the camera mounted on a very good quality tripod.
    Sharpness is not an overall quality of a lens anyway. A lens might be very sharp as some focus distances and not so sharp at other focus distances. A lens might be sharp at one aperture and less sharp at other apertures. A lens might be sharper for some wavelengths of light and not so sharp at other wavelengths of light, so the colour of what you photograph can be relevant.
    Discussion about how sharp a lens is compared with other lenses is just a waste of time, unless you get very, very specific about EXACTLY how you plan to use the lens and how big you intent to enlarge the photograph.
  5. At F1.4 I am sure that the Otus is sharper. If your application needs AF, than neither lens will work for you. If
    you don't have $4k for the Otus and $7.8K for the Leica (ASPH version of course), and the applicable high end
    camera bodies to utilize these lenses, then perhaps you should look elsewhere.
  6. Agree with Ross, the lab does not determine which is the better lens. Ultimately, it's the image (reflective on photographer) that does the talking. I've seen many fine images that were done with cheapo least in comparison to Leica/Zeiss/Schneider stratosphere.
  7. Do you want to test lenses or take photographs?
  8. A better term would probably be clarity, the feeling of dimensionality in a lens. This is usually determined by microcontrast, i.e. how much contrast the lens shows in the finest details. In film days Leica was the best followed by Contax (Zeiss). But today Zeiss has gone all out to be the best and so has improve markedly.
    I no longer keep up with Leica as it is way out of my price range, and if you want to shoot digitally are useable only on Leica bodies which always seem to me to be several generations behind the other manufactures. But Zeiss makes lenses for all major manufacturers, so if you can afford it, I doubt you'd be disappointed in the modern Zeiss glass.
  9. I'm with John Farrell. And to quote Ansel Adams, "There's nothing worse than a sharp photo of a fuzzy concept."
  10. When I had a darkroom, I regularly enlarged prints to 8" x 10", from negatives from a wide variety of cameras. There was no lack of sharpness at that size, caused by the lens. More recently, I have a 9.5" x 15" print made from a image taken on a Canon 60D, using a Canon 55mm - 250mm kit zoom. There is no lack of sharpness with that, either.
  11. There are many lenses with a higher MTF score than the Leica 50 mm Summicron. There are, in fact, about 5 versions of that lens, each with its own virtues and faults. My version 2, c1964, is very sharp but has less contrast than subsequent versions. It's great for B&W, but perhaps not so nice for color.
    Possibly more important in practical terms is how the lens looks when out of focus. Rendering of details and highlights in front of and behind the focal plane have a lot to do with the results produced by a given lens. On thing that distinguishes Leica lenses in general is that they do especially well when used wide open compared to most other lenses. Some, like the Summitar, have a certain following for their peculiar out-of-focus characteristics.
    The Otus is the epitome of design overkill. Clinically perfect, it also has as many elements as three classic Leica lenses combined, and weighs more than those lenses and camera together.
  12. "It is irrelevant if you prefer to hand hold your camera…"
    Yeah, I don't think this is true, especially at high shutter speeds.
  13. SCL


    Puts' tests over the years showed visually discernable camera shake in all handheld shots below 1/500 sec, and he suggested that elimination of this issue probably began to occur at around 1/2000. So what, few of us shoot at 1/2000 or enlarge our shots to sizes where barely discernable camera shake is noticeable. About 2 years ago I had the opportunity to examine some of Vivian Maier's 35mm shots taken handheld with a Leica, and enlarged by a master printer to about 3x4 ft. What little camera shake there may have been was irrelevant...the images themselves was what counted, and they were incredible even at that size.
  15. Sharpness is just one factor that influences my choice of lenses for photography. I have been using the (old) Rigid Summicron 50/2 for many years, and I like the resulting images from this lens. The (very old) Zeiss Sonnar 50/1.5 is equally beautiful, and with a different look. Again, it is not just sharpness by itself that is the main factor for me.In the end, it is the photography that makes the difference and not the specific choice of 50mm lens based on sharpness. I know that Leica lenses are designed from the strat to be used wide open almost always. The top Leica optics designer told us this fact last summer in Wetzlar.
  16. Here is Lensrentals test of high quality 50mm lenses.
  17. "sharpest lenses are from Leica" Benjamin K.
    Regardless of pricing, the obvious answer for "sharpest" choice is the "State of the Art" Leica 50mm ASPH Summicron.
    The achievement to perform at such high levels in such a small package is simply amazing; just check out what Zeiss had
    to go through with their Zeiss 55mm Otus, in order to achieve similar performance but with the resulting dimensions & weight!
    Thank you Michael & Marc for those excellent links to interesting articles.
  18. Leica has two current Summicron 50 mm f2 optics, one of which is a very very expensive (the aspherical lens elements version), the other quite expensive (maybe half the price of the Otus) but without aspherical elements.
    As mentioned by others, sharpness is just one attribute of optical quality and it often varies measurably over the lens field of most optics and at different openings. The non aspherical Summicron is recognised widely for its combination of resolution, contrast and minimum aberrations and is a lens one cannot go wrong with. I haven't had the privilege of using the Otus so do not know it.
    As mentioned, why worry about some ultimate point of resolution at some part of the field of capture of the lens? Most high end lenses are likely to offer more than you will ever need, even if you are making moderately large photos (say, up to 16 x 20 print size) or making images under difficult light conditions.
    There are cheaper lenses than the two you mention that do great jobs at rendition or image quality. I use a Zeiss Loxia lens for the Sony FE mount that is less than half the price of the cheapest of the two you mention, is also non AF and yields very fine results. There are probably other even less expensive optics out there that are first rate.
    If you think more image creation and less image definition I tend to believe that you will have more pleasure.
  19. "Some people told me that Leica Summicron 50mm F2 is the most sharpest lens in the world compare to Zeiss Otus 50mm f1.4. But is it true or not?"
    Who cares? Seriously. If you have one or the other and enjoy using it - great. If you have neither but are happy with what you have - perfect. If you have one or both, or some other good lens, and yet keep lusting after something better? Then we have a problem.​
  20. My favourite lens, the uncoated 3.5/5cm Elmar, is plenty sharp enough for me. It's really sharp wide open too. I like it better than my latest version 50mm Elmar, because it's a neater, lighter package.
    In fact, with modern emulsions the old Elmar is perfectly capable of producing results as sharp as a good quality TLR.
  21. I analyzed to death my choice of lens for my new (to me) Leica M2. I chose a used 35mm Summarit f/2.5 complete with a rating of "good" from KEH. I actually tried to save money for once in my life as my first choice was a Summilux 35mm f/1.4 ASPH . Scanned images from North Coast are more than I expected with this lens. There is magic not because of it's MTF but because it's just a joy to use. I'm learning this lesson the hard way after many years in many different hobbies.
  22. Sometimes your best pictures aren't always your sharpest pictures.
  23. I love how answers become lectures essentially dismissing the legitimacy of the question.

    I've done the same, and it's been that way since I first encountered this site over a decade ago. Sometimes it's reasonable, sometimes not.
  24. Some people told me that Leica Summicron 50mm F2 is the most sharpest lens in the world compare to Zeiss Otus 50mm f1.4. But is it true or not?​
    Good point Ray doesn't look like one answer was to the original question. My answer is I don't know.
    There should be lens tests on the net. Isn't there something like DxO or other sites that do that sort of testing? That's where I would look if I was actually interested. I suppose the OP can do that for himself.
  25. Ray - I'm assuming you're referring to my one sentence post. I didn't mean to offend or upset anybody. I certainly wasn't trying to dismiss the OP. I was simply making a point about "sharpness". Whatever that is. I am more interested in the content of a photograph and am not offended or upset if the picture isn't sharp. I would like to wish everybody a happy new year and hope that you take many interesting photographs.
  26. I doubt anybody was offended. Also happy new year.
  27. And to quote Ansel Adams, "There's nothing worse than a sharp photo of a fuzzy concept."​
    Happy New Years 2017 everyone.
    I am with Beth, there are a million more things more essential to photography than "sharpness", like composition, color, subject...ect. I think it is an age old debate. Also to counter the question especially with portraits most people do NOT want sharpness, but soft portrait lenses/filters. In fact vintage soft lenses are used to take the edge off "harsh digital". That said if you stop down almost any lens to the "sweet spot" and that can be different for every lens you will be good!
    My favorite is the Leica R 90mm f2.
  28. I have always found that all system lenses are sharp enough. As far as digital chipped lenses and consumer digital camera's I would not buy one anyway. That era has passed on.
  29. As far as digital chipped lenses and consumer digital camera's I would not buy one anyway. That era has passed on.​
    I'm afraid that I don't understand your comment. That era has been replaced by....? My question may not be directly related to the OP, but your remark is very surprising as most new optics these days are centred on enhanced performance for and compatability with the physics of digital sensors.
    As one using both digital and 35 mm film cameras, I think there is a limit to the image quality of the small 35mm negative or positive and the fact that most optics designed for that are more than sufficient within the limits of enlargement quality. Rather than purchasing an Otus or Apo Summicron 50mm, the best option in film usage is often to go to larger film formats to improve quality.
    Digital sensors of 35mm format keep improving and allow potentially higher image quality. Therefore, any lens improvements are probably best geared to that medium. Unless you are always pushing the 35mm frame to larger and larger print sizes (20 x 30 inches and greater), the Otus or Apo Summicron are probably overkill, uneconomic for the objective at hand.
  30. I hear what your saying Arthur. I shoot film myself but the era has passed and the young consumer photographer wants a different type of camera now. All that wonderful equipment your talking about is just going to vanish with the wind.
    Take your super expensive camera and lens and take a picture and then send it to a family member on Snapchat. After you spent all that money it will not accomplish a simple basic function in the modern world.
    The new camera going forward will have USB charging, WiFi, Apps etc. Basically it's the cell phone. I do not know if Leica can put all that in a digital camera for multi thousands of dollars or if anyone would buy it if they did. That's for them to figure out.
  31. I published a comparison between 50 mm lenses used on a Sony A7ii with the proper adapters - Zeiss Loxia 50/2, Nikon AIS 50/1.4 and Leica Summicron 50/2 (v2). Titles for the Nikon and Leica lenses were accidentally reversed. The differences between lenses are obvious in these examples. Whether they are important is a matter of opinion. Sharpness is obviously important to the OP.
    (Should be "Nikon 50/1.4)
    (Should be Summicron 50/2)
  32. Here is the overview with boxes showing the sampled areas. The small panels are pixel=pixel with the original image.
  33. That's a good test. Thanks.
  34. Edward, I don't remember if the Sony has the 5-axis stabilisation like its most recent version, or whether you shot either at very high shutter speeds or used a good tripod in your test. Thanks for the test. Perhaps the resolution of the Summicron at f2 and f5.6 will be all the OP needs to decide whether to prefer it or the heavyweight Otus.
    Ross, deviating from the OP I agree with you that many and perhaps most amateur photographers will gravitate to the smartphone cameras with the advantages of miniaturization and a take everywhere device. For those who want high image quality for large prints or other demanding applications, the relatively expensive optics and cameras will remain their choice for some time, unless something of a future breakthrough in smartphone quality eventually becomes possible.
    But for high quality large photographic prints it is not here yet, as far as I can tell. But if anyone has a comparison of best smartphone rendition and high quality 35mm FF camera/lens rendition for large prints, that might clarify that issue.
  35. Your right Arthur. For large prints the smart phone is not the right tool. I guess my point is that young people do not even want prints. They will look at a picture on facebook and then forget about it.
    So the way I see it which is just an opinion is that the Olympics will always have large telephoto lenses with big DSLR camera's. Enthusiasts will shoot whatever they are enthused about and the regular consumer is going to use the smart phone for the many things it can do.
    Myself being an enthusiast I am going to shoot B/W 35mm and wish I had a Leica MP with a Zeiss 35mm lens. However what I am going to shoot is my FM2n with Nikon glasss. I have a phone and I will use it for pictures sometimes. Being an old guy I do not care about snapchat and instagram but I do participate in Facebook with my family. I upload B/W pictures in the old school ponderous method I am accustomed to. Sometimes a cellphone snap usually associated with cycling. I cannot carry a 35mm camera on the cycle. To big and heavy for that. I do carry it for hiking which I will be doing on Wednesday weather permitting.
    However back to the OP and without actual knowledge of Leica glass I believe that it is without a doubt very special.
  36. For an A7ii, all you need is the in-body image stabilization at any reasonable speed (e.g., using the inverse of the focal length). In this case, I used a tripod, as much for consistency as for vibration control. The image stabilization was turned off to avoid related artifacts. It was also a dull but nearly windless day.
    I think this kind of test is better than using resolution targets. Not as precise, perhaps, but better related to what we see.
  37. Well done.
    Ross, in regard to your interest in film, I miss shooting film more regularly and one New year resolution is to get back to it. Hiking and cycling are excellent paths to personal enjoyment, health maintenance and increasing visibility of both nature and manmade environments - they beat car touring by allowing more time to see.
  38. I have always enjoyed film. I shot film as we all did and then on to digital for a few years and now back to film. Since it's just a hobby I have no pressure to produce anything quickly so it turns out to be just a lot of fun. B/W only, process the film, scan and print. I am going to purchase a Canon IP8720 photo printer as soon as I find one. It has 6 colors so I figure it should print B/W well. BHPhoto is out of stock. My last printer was pretty good but it quit working recently after a good run.
    I'm pretty old these days but I cycled 4000 miles in 2016. For 2017 I was going to cycle 3500 miles and take one day a week for Hiking at Pinnacles National Park. Carry my Nikon around and find some shots. If I get where I can hike 15 to 20 miles then I thought maybe the John Muir Trail hike would be a lifetime adventure. We will see how it goes.
  39. Extreme sharpness is not usually desirable for portraits, but the eyes at least should be as sharp as possible. I was asked to take some photos for concert series publicity, which I did in the subjects home. I don't feel free to distribute recognizable images, but this is the eye detail from a 3/4 length portrait, taken with a Sony A7Rii and a Sony 24-70/2.8 lens at f/5.6. I was tempted to use medium format for these shots, but the A7 gave me more flexibility (and less weight to load in), with arguably better results. This clip is un-retouched at full resolution (pixel=pixel), equivalent to a 16"x24" print at 300 dpi.
  40. Testing lenses on any Sony A7 camera only tells you which one is best with it's very thick filter stack over the otherwise fine sensors (A7r not so fine, r2 great), not the actual potential of the lens. Without a thin filter mod it is a terrible lens testing platform. The v4 Cron is still great and the APO kills everything at F2 :)
    Lensrentals new optical bench:
    [​IMG]So yes the OP is well informed, the Leica 50 APO is the sharpest 50 in the world today, outside of the military.
    And the 50 Lux ASPH is no slouch:
    Full article:
    What the test does not show: Puts found the old v4 50 cron was sharper than the 50 Lux f/2 closeup. Like most lens curves these are at infinity.
  41. OMG sorry I did not realize the 10 min limit on editing. Yikes!
    Mods please help! delete any all you wish.
    My accidental 3 shots are with v4 and M9 but it's good on a modded Kolari A7 too :)
  42. Charlie, it would be interesting to see the results at other than f2 or widest aperture, as most shots made are likely at f2.8 or smaller. The OP did not specify his particular interest in f stop range (he was presumably referring to the whole range?) and has been absent to date from the discussion. The V4 Summicron does not surprise me at f2 as it is noted for a pretty good compromise between all apertures. I have a feeling that the Planar (Loxia?) does very well at smaller apertures than f2 and like the V4 it is a double Gauss design.
    I wonder if optical bench measurements are close to on camera performance, particularly with the specific cover glasses of various cameras, their analogue to digital conversions, etc? Does the Kolari modification help improve the corners of the wide angle non Sony lenses like the Leica 21, 24, 28 or 35? Of course, it might go the other way in regards to performance for Sony Zeiss wide angle optics made specifically for the same camera.
  43. LensRental uses a Zeiss analyzer to to produce MTF curves, and inserts a 2 mm filter when testing Sony A7 lenses,. DXO uses different test methods, often the camera sensor itself, so it's hard to compare results between lenses.
    There are sharper lenses than the Loxia 50/2, but the Loxia is very uniform across then entire field of view. It is also very compact and ruggedly built, not quite to Leica standards but very solid and smooth. Bokeh is very good, with little "soap bubble" effect on highlights, but forms cat's eyes toward the edges. This is perspective of the off-center diaphragm, not a particular defect.
    The Otus piles on elements to correct every aberration out to the 3rd or 4th degree, and weighs as much as an early Volkswagen. The entire Summicron ASPH would almost fit between the Otus and the sensor of a DSLR.
  44. Hi Guys,
    I think on a Stock A7x the Loxia and the other natives at around that FL will be the best across the frame at wide aperture, for sure. Not only are the lenses tuned for more "glass in the path", but the in camera processors knows them and helps. On the other hand, with my Kolari A7 the v4 cron will almost certainly beat them all. And more so with a newer mod on a A7r2.

    Edward, I take your point on the Loxia. Arthur, oh yes, that's the point of the Kolari mod. Better RF wide performance.

    Roger has been working with Sony to get the right "glass in the path" on the optical bench so we can see really get a true comparison of Sony natives with the Otus and the APO, etc. The new zeiss 50/1.4 E-mount is really good:
    But it's huge and expensive.

    For a complete analysis of mod possibilities on the A7r2:
    Anyway, my point is: never judge a non-native lens overall by how it works on a Sony A7x But, you can certainly see how the thick sony filter stack likes it. And, the Leica 50 APO is the sharpest 50, at least at infinity. Those who tell the OP, sharpness doesn't matter or is silly, of course they have points about how various lenses render in certain situations. I think we all have more than one 50, right?
    Sometimes I wish I had only one, LOL
    And the 50 APO or 50 LUX asph I would certainly prefer to any Sony or Zeiss lens. Even if I have to mod my A7r2 to use it :)
    The techart pro adapter means these can auto focus quite well also, on the Sony bodies:
  45. It depends on how you defined the sharpness. Just like the debate of contrast sharpness in the photo is individual. Sometimes I like my photos sharp and not very sharp depending on the content of the image.Some non-Leica can produce excellent photos just non-comparable to a sharp photo done through a Leica lens.
    But it is not the real different aspect of the Leica and the other brands to my personal experience. It is the difference of the luminosity of contrast of a print that gives the first impression. I found this on my own experience in darkroom prints I did. I have found a less luminosity on other lenses but on Leica it was more beautiful and a higher quality that adds to the contrast as the sharpness. So I had invested on few Leica lenses I use on my Leica M cameras.
  46. Leica's criteria for lens design is contrast not resolution

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