Leica 90mm APO Summicron-SL f/2 ASPH. review

While 90mm might seem an odd focal length the 90mm APO SUmmicron-SL f/2 ASPH. shines in any photography genre

Leica 90mm APO Summicron-SL f/2 ASPH.
(Image: © Future)

Digital Camera World Verdict

While I have always thought the 90mm focal length was the oddball of lenses, this 50mm sinic absolutely fell in love with this lens. Its clinical Leica APO characteristics and great balance in the hand make this the perfect lens to always have on your camera and to always get the shots you have in mind. Its construction is beyond anything thing else on the market, and while its maximum aperture is "only" f/2 it produces some beautiful images shot wide-open, and if stepping down between f/5 to f/8 you will have razor-sharp images that anyone can be proud to display or show off, in all I'd say if you don't have a 90mm in your collection... you might just be missing out on a gem!

Pros

  • +

    Outstanding image quality

  • +

    Perfect balance

  • +

    super-smooth manual focus

Cons

  • -

    Too sharp on occasions

  • -

    Very expensive

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The Leica 90mm APO Summicron-SL f/2 ASPH, and the whole 90mm focal length, in general, I have always seen as an oddball of all focal lengths - not wide enough to be useful and not telephoto enough to get the best reach - How wrong I was!

Specs

Mount: Leica L-mount
Lens design:  11 Elements in 9 Groups
Maximum aperture: f/2
Minimum aperture: f/22
Angle of view:  27.3°
Minimum focusing distance: 1.97' / 60 cm
Maximum reproduction ratio:  0.2x
Filter size:  67mm
Dimensions: 2.87 x 4.02" / 73 x 102 mm
Weight: 1.54 lb / 700 g

This really did take me by surprise, I found that this 50mm fanatic absolutely loved the 90mm focal length to cover a wide range of photography applications that I never thought was possible before, if you said I'd love using a 90mm for landscapes or fixing to my camera for that "ideal" walk-about lens I would have laughed - but that's just what I do, and loved it! 

This short telephoto is equipped with a fast maximum aperture of f/2 and can be stopped down to f/22. With a minimum focus distance of 1.97' / 60 cm, this 90mm for the SL-System can certainly be used to cover many photography genres such as portraits, street, reportage, and even landscapes.

(Image credit: Future)

Leica 90mm APO Summicron-SL f/2 ASPH. Build and Handling

While the Leica 90mm APO Summicron-SL f/2 ASPH. might not be at the top of everyone's list, this lens is considered the creme-de-la-creme of the short telephoto focal range in the SL prime lens lineup.

As soon as you mount this lens to your camera you can feel how well Leica has constructed this lens, on the Leica SL2-S it feels perfectly balanced. Its focus ring is super smooth to operate making this lens a dream if you still love manual focusing or are coming from using some of the best Leica-M lenses.

Its optical design contains a total of 11 elements in 9 groups, one of these being an aspherical element which helps to reduce any spherical aberrations for overall improved sharpness. The 90mm APO is also equipped with multi-layer coatings which have also been applied to limit flare and ghosting for increased contrast when working in strong lighting conditions, I shot all the sample images within this review without it and saw no aberrations when pixel-peeping - so the coatings certainly work.

(Image credit: Future)

As you would expect it feels phenomenal in the hands, it's built with only the finest materials and is the principal of lens design that lives up to Leica's German engineering.  Its front filter thread of 67mm is a handy size and gives everyone a lot of options if using the lens for street or landscape photography.

I found its overall weight of 1.54 lb / 700g to be the perfect balance while on the Leica SL2-S, and found it to be the ideal sized package while out and about, I did use the lens without its lens hood for the whole review and thought it produced some fantastic images without any ghosting or aberrations - but then that should be expected as this lens holds the legendary APO recognition from Leica, and while that comes with outstanding image quality with build quality to match, it also means that there is a heft cost investment if you want to purchase one for yourself - a soul-leveling $5,795 in the US or £4,610 in the UK.

Leica 90mm APO Summicron-SL f/2 ASPH. Performance

While I thought the 90mm lens would be a weird lens to test and not suit my photographic style, I must say I fell in love with the 90mm focal length and had it attached to the camera for a rather long time, I found that paired with the Leica SL2-S this lens is unbeatable.

(Image credit: Future)

(Image credit: Future)

For every image I saw, this lens managed to take it, just how I envisioned it, also if you rely on autofocus for all your images, in AF-C mode on the Leica SL2-S it was extremely fast to focus, while this is mostly down to the SL2-Ss tracking system - every image I took across this review was sharp and it never disappointed, if manual focus is your bread and butter then I can only say this lens will be a dream to use, although there is no distance scale marking on the lens, so if you want to "zone focus" you will have to preset that before taking any images - but if you use manual focus all the time to get your images razor sharp then you will love using this lens.

Obviously, this lens is able to shoot wide open at f/2  which lets in heaps of light and makes shooting in the most dimly-lit surroundings a total walk in the park - perfect for those who like to shoot images in all locations and at all times of the day, even at night. Overall I'd say this lens produces amazing images with rich tonalites and high clarity I have ever seen in a mirrorless system, and I am sure anyone who buys one will not be disappointed.

(Image credit: Future)

Leica 90mm APO Summicron-SL f/2 ASPH. lab results

We run a range of lab tests under controlled conditions, using the Imatest Master testing suite. Photos of test charts are taken across the range of apertures and zooms (where available), then analyzed for sharpness, distortion and chromatic aberrations.

We use Imatest SFR (spatial frequency response) charts and analysis software to plot lens resolution at the center of the image frame, corners and mid-point distances, across the range of aperture settings and, with zoom lenses, at four different focal lengths. The tests also measure distortion and color fringing (chromatic aberration).

Sharpness:

(Image credit: Future)

Center and mid-frame sharpness are spectacular, even wide open, and remains so through to f/11. It's a pity corner sharpness is more mediocre at larger apertures, though it picks up well at f/8.

Fringing:

(Image credit: Future)

Fringing is very well controlled across the entire image frame and at all apertures - you shouldn't see any aberrations in day-to-day shooting.

Distortion: -0.21

There's a mere hint of barrel distortion, but you'll be highly unlikely to notice it in typical shooting.

Leica 90mm APO Summicron-SL f/2 ASPH. Verdict

While I have always thought the 90mm focal length was the oddball of lenses, this 50mm sinic absolutely fell in love with this lens. Its clinical Leica APO characteristics and great balance in the hand make this the perfect lens to always have on your camera and to always get the shots you have in mind.

Its construction is beyond anything thing else on the market, and while its maximum aperture is "only" f/2 it produces some beautiful images shot wide-open, and if stepping down between f/5 to f/8 you will have razor-sharp images that anyone can be proud to display or show off, in all I'd say if you don't have a 90mm in your collection... you might just be missing out on a real gem!

(Image credit: Future)

If you enjoyed this, you might also like our best Leica SL lenses guide, you might also be interested in our top picks for the best Leica cameras.

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Sebastian Oakley
Ecommerce Editor

For nearly two decades Sebastian's work has been published internationally. Originally specializing in Equestrianism, his visuals have been used by the leading names in the equestrian industry such as The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), The Jockey Club, Horse & Hound, and many more for various advertising campaigns, books, and pre/post-event highlights.


He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, holds a Foundation Degree in Equitation Science, and is a Master of Arts in Publishing.  He is a member of Nikon NPS and has been a Nikon user since the film days using a Nikon F5 and saw the digital transition with Nikon's D series cameras and is still to this day the youngest member to be elected into BEWA, The British Equestrian Writers' Association. 


He is familiar with and shows great interest in street, medium, and large format photography with products by Leica, Phase One, Hasselblad, Alpa, and Sinar. Sebastian has also used many cinema cameras from the likes of Sony, RED, ARRI, and everything in between. He now spends his spare time using his trusted Leica M-E shooting Street photography or general life as he sees it, usually in Black and White.