PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux


Leica 90mm Summarit-M Review

The 90mm Summarit-M is the only reasonable “long” lens for the unreasonable M system, that is both its claim to fame and explains why it doesn’t appear to be very successful in the marketplace.  This Summarit also serves as the replacement for the venerable and universally loved 90mm Elmarit-M, a lens that is difficult to replace in the minds and hearts of longtime Leica photographers.  As a result the 90mm Summarit-M is a lens that is appreciated in relative silence vis-à-vis the Internet.


Floating Elements Are Required

When I tested the Leica 90mm Summarit-M (review) I experienced what I consider to be severe focus issues. The lens back-focused at long distances (10 meters or more) and front-focused at short distances (less than 1.5 meters). This caused me to suspect my rangefinder, which I confirmed had grown a small error, but the lack of a true solution after a round of tweaks forced me to research the subject of focus a bit more.

Now I understand the overarching principles just well enough to convince myself that the behavior I observed in the 90mm Summarit-M is by design.  It's not because it is desirable behavior, but because correcting it is an expensive affair. This is what ultimately is going to prevent me from recommending the 90mm Summarit-M to all but mirrorless camera users.


Summicron Examples at f/5.6

A friend of mine asked out of honest curiosity what the difference was between different pieces of high-end equipment. He asked from the point of view of a photography outsider.  More precisely, his real question is what does equipement worth $11K do that equipement worth $3.5K doesn't do?


A few from the 28mm Summicron


The most-noteworthy new fifty

What is that I see? An asphere!

An aspherical fifty lens at the entry-level is a simple but important step for photography. This seemingly trivial modification to the design in this day and age is going to place this lens in a performance domain not normally associated with this kind of product. That is likely to go unnoticed by the target audience for the lens but that makes me excited about this lens which otherwise would be a complete yawner.

This is _excellent_ performance.

There are only three other such lenses in existence today that we can compare this lens against: the Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH, the Canon EOS 50mm f/1.2L and the Sigma EX 50mm f/1.4. While the Summilux is probably the best lens in the world, the other two offer underwhelming value in my opinion (now I'm sure I'll get some flaming comments). This new lens is slower than either of these, true, but is likely going to perform much better.

Where Nikon held back on performance is with the coatings – this lens looks to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors and avoids premium coatings that would permit it to compete with the all-spherical f/1.4G. That is something I am going to take a deeper look at when a copy of this lens makes it to my house. At the likely price point (say, half of the f/1.4G) I may just have to buy one as a toy.

Filed under: Lenses, Nikon 1 Comment

Carl Zeiss 2.8/25 Biogon T* Review

The 25mm Biogon is a wide-angle lens of a simple type that is currently specific to the M system. This imparts the lens its small size, simple distortions and excellent performance. In more ways than one this Biogon sits halfway between the 25mm Distagon ZF and 24mm Elmarit-M.


Biogon Preview

This is another lens that is short on flaws and sells for a pretty reasonable price.

Some say it's large for an M lens but, seriously, this size is nowhere near problematic.

Now I'm curious to see what the 21mm Biogon ZM can do.

Filed under: Lenses, Zeiss No Comments

Carl Zeiss 2/50 Planar T* Review


The 50mm Planar ZM is one of the simplest lenses ever made, yet performs more robustly and consistently than almost any other lens. It is very closely related to the more-storied 50mm Summicron-M, of nearly identical size and capabilities, that it challenges in the marketplace. This Planar is a fundamentally boring lens with its lack of buzzwords to rave about and also substantive flaws to gripe about.


Leica 24mm Elmarit ASPH Meta-Review

The 24mm Elmarit-M ASPH is an elegant lens emblematic of the M system. It bridges the vast chasm between journalism and architecture, in a form factor that defies all conventional wisdom borne by a DSLR world. How can so small a thing be so sharp, everywhere?


Data for the Distagon 1.4/35mm ZF

Carl Zeiss recently posted the charts for the new fast 35mm Distagon.

You can view the other charts here on the Carl Zeiss website.

I had seen these charts before but now it just hit me: 40% contrast at 40lppm @ f/1.4 across the entire frame is pretty freaking great.  I also note that the peripheral brightness of the new lens wide-open is the same as my lens wide-open, but at one stop larger aperture.

This is going to be a very nice lens: sharpness, speed and Zeiss color and contrast in spades.  Expect a review from me later this spring.

- Olivier