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Leica service followup-followup

Well, I must give Leica an “A” for effort (see yesterday’s entry for background). Yesterday,they pulled my 90/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH from the pending shipment to Germany, and early this morning I received an email regarding the lens. They had conferred with their staff about the need to send it back, and held the shipment to Germany until this morning, waiting for my answer on what to do with the lens.

I telephoned, and it was explained that to eliminate the accumulated internal dust (one of my requests), the lens would have to be opened on the factory line, which was involved enough due to the lens construction to require special equipment. I was also quoted a worst-case estimate of$200-$300, along with an implied best effort to turn it around in a shorter time frame. That’s hardly cheap, but given the effort and labor involved in working with such a tight-tolerance lens, the cost must be kept in perspective. When restored to factory-fresh specifications, the 90/2 APO ASPH is about as close to the limits of performance as has ever been built for a 90mm f/2. It quite probably was already optically at specifications, but the internal dust was enough that it concerned me for some strongly backlit shooting I have in mind, especially in infrared. That is one weakness of the 90/2: it could be sealed better against the ingress of dust.

So the 90/2 is headed back to Germany, and I look forward to shooting it upon its return. I had previously shot it (see review), and it shows enough potential that it’s worth the effort. For an example image, see Wash and Dry on the Experiments page. What I don’t know for sure is whether the performance will be maintained if converted to Nikon mount (so that I could exploit it on both Nikon and Canon).

Why so much effort for a lens that requires an adapter to shoot on Canon EOS? First, the 21MP Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III demands such lenses to exploit its full-frame sensor, especially if one plans to shoot in the f/2 - f/4 range, as I do. Second, the 90/2 offers some unique qualities in the way it renders out of focus areas, particularly specular highlights and bright lights. Third, it should offer high performance in infrared. Fourth, “they” just don’t build ’em like this anymore. With the exception of the Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 APO macro, lenses that perform to this level are few and far between. Nikon and Canon don’t offer a single apochromatic lens, though some designs are well-corrected for color.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III + Leica 90/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH
(click for details to see what’s for breakfast)

Without A/B testing, I cannot say that the Zeiss ZF 100/2 Makro-Planar (or even 85/1.4 Planar) might not offer very similar performance, speaking strictly in terms of resolution and contrast; I already know that I prefer the color balance of the Zeiss ZF 85/1.4 Planar. However, the Leica 90/2 APO is apochromatic, and so out-of-focus areas render in some very interesting ways by comparison, a trait I noticed when shooting at night. Lenses are artistic tools, and I’ve grown to appreciate the nuances of individual lenses. Never assume your preferences are those of others, though.

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