PetaPixel

The New Leica APO-Summicron-M 50mm f/2.0 ASPH Lens

Hidden in-between all of the camera announcements from Leica at their May 10th event, was a lens that made quite a stir. At 50mm and f/2.0 the new Leica APO-Summicron-M ASPH lens doesn’t seem like anything to write home about; and with a price tag of almost $8,700 it falls a bit outside most consumers’ price range.

Leica’s justification of the price, however, has to do with the craftsmanship that goes into each of these lenses, and the quality that this leads to. Like all of Leica’s lenses, each one is hand-made: the optics are inspected and assembled by hand, the casing is put together by hand, even the numbers on the lens are painted by hand; and the catch phrase for the lens on Leica’s website, “Anything but a standard lens,” isn’t off the mark.

All of that craftsmanship seems to have paid off. The few people who got to try the lens, such as photographer Pedro Ferreira, call it “a lens for the future.” The lens is extremely sharp, it’s well-built, it prevents fringe colors, and the addition of a floating element in the construction allows the lens to obtain very sharp images throughout it’s entire focusing range.

Unfortunately, all of these features and this technology still leave you wondering: can a 50mm standard lens — even one crafted as carefully as this — really be worth every penny of that $8,700 MSRP? We’ll let you decide that. But if you want to see what Leica means by hand-made, here’s a video of their lens making process from start to finish:


 
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  • wickerprints

    Not everything that is hand-made is inherently more reliable or more valuable.  It has to actually *perform* better.  Nobody suggests that photolithography of a modern CPU die is something that a human could do by hand better than a precision machine, for example.

    And even if it performs better because it’s hand-assembled and painted (as if the hand-painting of engraved numbers really matters), the price premium really isn’t worth it, given that there exist other 50mm f/2 lenses on the market that are extremely sharp and aberration-free, yet don’t cost anywhere near as much as $8700.

  • John

    Uh, every single one of their lenses is assembled, painted, etc by hand, bit just the new Cron.

  • http://twitter.com/dlcade DL Cade

    Thanks for pointing out that we didn’t mention that. It’s been corrected :)

  • Bob

    But the sides of the elements are painted black by hand! The lens would sure perform a lot worse if a machine did that…

  • Osmosisstudios

    Still not worth $7200.

  • Zachary

    This lens is obviously something special, there is no other reason that it is priced higher than their 50mm F/1.4. Let’s wait to see some reviews before we rip it to shreds. 

  • Zachary

    This lens is obviously something special, there is no other reason that it is priced higher than their 50mm F/1.4. Let’s wait to see some reviews before we rip it to shreds. 

  • Markci

    All that, yet a nearly new Leica lens is the only one I’ve ever had simply seize up and be unable to focus. What a joke.

  • Markci

    This was a 28mm aspheric I paid close to 2 grand for ten years or so ago. Back when their prices were merely ridiculous.

  • Guest

    Considering that even Leica themselves are supposed to have said that a 50mm Summicron ASPH was not likely to happen as it would mean a significantly higher price and not much improvement in performance/IQ, I’m curios to see what this lens might actually deliver. In what respect have things changed to make it worth it?

  • wickerprints

    I should also add that the way Leica implies hand-made = quality is not only misleading, but also the fact that they don’t mention that virtually ALL camera lenses are assembled by hand makes the whole issue moot.  They have to be, not because a machine can’t be built to do it, but because it’s actually cheaper for a trained technician to assemble and inspect the lens as it’s being put together.  This is how optical lenses have always been made.  Canon does it, Nikon does it.

    But you might say, “but Leica hand polishes their glass!”  Yes and no.  The actual grinding to the correct curvature is mechanized; and where the surface is aspherical, it is necessarily controlled by computer, because there’s absolutely NO way a human could hand grind an aspherical surface to sub-micron precision.  The polishing is done only partly by hand.  And again, Canon and Nikon do the same.  Indeed, those lenses by Canon containing large-diameter fluorite elements must have those polished entirely by hand–fluorite is too soft and the method relies on individual attention.

    Leica likes to make a big deal about the quality and precision of their lenses, purely to justify their asking price.  It has very little to do with actual performance.  It’s like any other luxury brand.  At the end of the day, no matter how refined the leather Louis Vuitton uses in their handbags, the material costs and workmanship simply cannot be brought up to a level that would justify the retail price.  You’re paying for the branding.  Leica is the same.  $8700 for a 50/2 aspherical manual focus lens is at least $5000-6000 pure profit.  Otherwise, they couldn’t survive off a smaller margin on such low production volume.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/3ZV452XCQPKR3PAZ3JZYUIPNFI Kozmo Nauta

    in 2012 very obsolate bring up a new lens with APO name.And yes hand made because they have a very little production volume ;)

  • Knur

    You’re paying for the branding and some well paid german
    labourers

  • http://twitter.com/ralphhightower Ralph Hightower

    First my disclaimer: I haven’t used rangefinders; I’ve only used SLRs. $8,000 for a camera and another $8,000 for a lens!? From what I understand rangefinders and TLRs have parallax error. Leica is to cell phones as Apple is to iPhones. Both sell “crack cocaine”.  I’m interested in getting into medium format photography; Hasselblad is the “gold standard”. Used bodies are affordable, but used lenses are pretty pricey! I’m leaning to a Mamiya 645, RB67, or RZ67.

  • The Midnight Barber

    You were probably just doing it wrong.

  • jdm8

    Nice troll.  Apple doesn’t sell $8000 phones.

  • wickerprints

    You meant to say, “Leica is to CAMERAS as Apple is to cell phones.”  But even after this correction, it’s still a false statement, because an iPhone isn’t orders of magnitude more expensive than, say, a comparable Android phone.  And Apple, with its numerous retail stores and massive market share, clearly is not interested in giving off an air of exclusivity, as Leica obviously does with its ridiculous “Hermes limited editions.”

    In fact, a more fitting analogy would be “Leica is to cameras as Vertu is to cell phones.”  Never heard of Vertu?  It’s a division of Nokia that makes jewel-encrusted luxury phones.  Prices start around $5600 and range up to $83000.

    Leica is a luxury camera brand.  I don’t have a problem with that.  What I have a problem with are the people who seem to believe that the price they paid for their tools justifies the content of the work they produce with it, and who make up all kinds of reasons (e.g., “the Leica look”) to prove that their work is special because it was taken with a Leica.  And it’s not.

  • Seta

    No matter how sharp this lens is there are also very sharp 50mm lenses for 40x less money. 
     Carl zeiss C/Y mount 50/1.7 (one of the sharpest 50′s ever)or 45/2.8 pancake are as sharp as a lens can get and cost around 100-300$ second hand (easy to adapt them to canon cameras)

    Leica has for sure a collectors price tag and only welthy or famous photographers can afford it

    still I would love to have one of this monocrome cameras but it is well out of my reach
    Regards
    Javier

  • Mindconcious

    too expensive…may be about they have plan to built new factory.

  • http://macbug.de Takeo

    No offense, but have you ever touched/used a Leica lens? Doesn’t seem like you have.

  • http://macbug.de Takeo

    To the author of this article: The guys name is not Peter Ferreira, but Pedro Ferreira.

  • http://www.petapixel.com Michael Zhang

    Thanks :)

  • Varoshiotis

    To all the Nikon and Canon fanboys who feel piqued about Leica lenses: have you seen a comparison of a 1961 Leica 50/1.4 with with the same lens Nikon and Canon give you today?

  • http://www.korioi.net/ Korios

    If it went up to f/0.75 it might have been worth it, the f/2.0 at this price is outrageous.