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Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH: Update on the Flare Issue

In April, I reported on a flare issue with the Leica 50mm f/2 APO ASPH. As I noted then: “The results are jaw-dropping, in a bad way”. In my initial review of the Leica 50/2 APO ASPH, I cautioned my subscribers:

Veiling flare is very poorly controlled. This is not a special example; every image I made towards the sun exhibited this pronounced veiling flare.

This level of ghosting flare might be considered disappointing in a $300 DSLR lens, but in a US$7200 ultra premium lens it becomes a major design defect.

Equipped with different samples of the 50/2 APO ASPH and M240 (my own) in June, I then shot extensively in the field under typical conditions in which I wished to make real images (not “test shots”), and documented real field examples showing the 50/2 APO ASPH flare problem (shielded and unshielded), along with with circular ring flare as well as making a comparative study of flare with 9 other lenses. And assessment with the M9P and M240, to rule out a camera issue.

Flare shielded and unshielded
Leica M240 + 50/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH

The field results showed that flare was so intrusive that it could not be used in the field for any type of contre-jour image, or even images much more sedate that would not trouble many lenses (see the Glacial erratic with chockstones example). Taking care to shield the lens was found to be mandatory, and that is very difficult to do under many conditions, and still not always adequate. I noted that Leica ought to issue a lens hood that exerts strict control over stray light, because the built-in circular lens hood seemed to be an elegant but ineffective decoration.

A few relevant blog entries:

Direct links to the two most relevant 50/2 APO ASPH review pages in Guide to Leica:

“Four Minor Issues”

Leica M is a legend and rightly so. Accordingly, it projects a reality distortion field inducing such strong cognitive commitments that the possibility of a defect is inadmissable to some M users. But the actual visual facts were accessible in my coverage to anyone willing to use their eyes objectively, which many of my subscribers did. And eventually reality wins out.

I would not characterize the flare behaviors of the 50/2 APO as “minor” issues: in the context of a $7300 lens the flare behavior is unacceptable. Unless one has low standards for flare control and scrupulously avoids all contre-jour lighting or anything close to it. And there is a certain other less costly and very high performance normal lens by a certain other respected company whose flare control stands head and shoulders above what I found with the 50/2 APO ASPH.

My perspective as a customer and professional

My 50mm f/2 APO ASPH and M240 are currently in Solms (no loaners offered so I am “down” for Leica shooting at the moment, try that on for size as a professional!). I hope they both return with exemplary behavior. A replacement or loaner 50/2 APO ASPH and M240 would be appropriate for a company selling premium goods. I am aware of the availability issues, but that is a planning issue. Then again, it’s not clear that Leica has a fix for the M240 system crashes as yet.

Between the flare issues, the M240 rangefinder maladjustment (brand new), the M240 reliability issues, the camera lug repairs for the M240, Leica’s pronounced delay in acknowledging of the 50/2 APO ASPH issues leave me uneasy with their commitment to quality.

That Leica does not use field testers capable of finding bugs up front in lenses and cameras before putting them out for sale undermines the value proposition. That is, coming from my perspective of having a rigorous commitment to quality in any field or any endeavour. To remain relevant, my view is that Leica needs to raise their game in all these areas.

Every current and prospective Leica M user should read my comparative essay on the Sony RX1R vs Leica M Typ 240 as well as Sony RX1R: Essay on Its Gestalt Especially vs the Leica M Typ 240. See also Leica M Typ 240.

Veiling flare
Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH @ f/2.8
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