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APO lenses are they really too sharp


Well-Known Member
Dear All,

I am a Contax user but recently was given a M6TTL which I now adore. I used to have an M3 a while back but never really got on with it. I have a 50mm f2 and want to buy some more lenses. As a portrait photographer I am considering the 90mm f2 and for general landscape stuff I would really like a 28 or 35. I would like to buy these second hand as I have been told that the APO lenses are TOO sharp, this would not be a good thing for portraits as they would probably pick out every detail in the sitters face (spots, pimples etc).

Is this correct, does anyone have experience of comparing APO and non-APO lenses?

Many thanks,

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Dear Vishal,

For people shots, I always use pre-APO lenses.

The 1:2/90 Summicron-R is a superb portrait lens, and at f/2 has a softness that will be appreciated by the ladies.

Have fun.



Dear Vishal,

Yes, any Leica lens with the suffix "R" is for the reflex range. "M" indicates for the bayonet mount range-finder cameras.

Again with the M lenses, any pre-APO is good for portraiture. The current 1:2.8/90 Elmarit-M is superb.

At 50Kb the quality is not that apparent, however here is an ex&le with a mid-sixties M 1:2/35 Summicron on an M2:



<....the APO lenses are TOO sharp, this would not be a good thing for portraits as they would probably pick out every detail in the sitters face (spots, pimples etc).>

Vishal yes you are correct, the 90 'cron APO M is a sharp lens with a capital S. You can use it in documentary mode and show people as they really are spots and all, or put some sort of filter on it to give softer portrait effects.



Well-Known Member
Vishal, You can always make a "sharp" lens soft, but you can't make a "soft" lens sharp.
For the purpose of landscape photography, I highly recommend the apos and asphericals.


BTW Vishal, consider also the M Summilux (f1.4) 75mm lens for portrait work. It is a rather nice piece of glass of earlier pre aspherical design.

To follow up on Collin's post the 28mm Summicron ASPH and 35mm f1.4 aspherical are superb lenses that give a clarity that has to be seen to be believed, and will certainly do a very decent job at landscape work.

The 35 1.4 is the lens I have so I cannot comment with any authority about the current 35mm f2 but I do understand it is also a super lens.

Any leica M lens will give you good results however. It will be quite hard to find a particularly bad one.




I am using the APO - ASPH summicron 90, and I am very pleased with its results, even as a portrait lens. Honestly, I do not understand wath "too sharp "means, as to me, you can not be sharper as what you see. So I use it extensively, even for portraits.

The ASPH quality gives you outstanding results at f2 and f2.8, and here you have a very limited depth of field, so you will have sharp and unsharp zones in your picture. I am using the 1.25 magnifier on my classic M6, and this helps me a lot to set the distance correctly. To me the ideal F stop is 4 or 5.6. The sharpness is evenly spread on the whole field, and that is also very impressive. I did recently a full film at F2, of dance and I coul take full groups of danceress tack sharp at f2. This is not possible with another lens.

The APO quality is also something unique to this lens. You will get colours with a finesse not seen before, and this at all apertures. This is alo very nice for portraits.

The contrast of this lens is also ideal, as it gives you all the subtle colour and contrast variances in the high lights and in the shadow.

Conclusion: With the 90 mm F2 AA, you have a lens that will give you the possibility to do pictures difficult to obtain with other lenses:

At f2, with 400 ASA films, to take pictures on stage, while sitting with the public. But also for all general pictures, including landscape and portraits, with low speed films, between f2 and F5.6, where you will be able to play with sharp and unsharp (via the diaphragma) knowing that you will never loose in quality, as the sharp zone will be really sharp and the unsharp Zones will be pleasing, the colours will be very well rendered and the lens will give you nice shadows and nice high lights.

Note: I have used nearly all 90 mms up to now, including the elmarit, tele-elmarit, summicron, M and R and I am still using the 80mm f1.4 on the R8.

The 80mm 1.4 is a very fine lens and gives you very sharp pictures from 2.8, but it is relatively softer (still very good) at 1.4 and 2 where you loose both in contrast and in sharpness. The 90 mm AA is a real step forward.
To me it is ahead of all other lenses between f2 and f4 where the other ones come closer (Elmarit 90, summilux 75/80).

Best regards and have a lot of fun with Leica.


Active Member
I used to have a non-asph 90mm summnicron and traded in for the current Elmarit. I'm very happy with it, it is smaller and lighter (great for travel), and for portraits I can live without the F2. It is very sharp so if I want to soften I use a Carl Zeiss version of the Softar. This is my personal ideal. I haven't seen a situation where I felt the F2 would be worth the wheight and price.


Active Member
While on the topic of links, this is the best I've seen on Leica M lenses:

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This is a good way to get a chance at comparing most of the current models.


Well-Known Member
I don't know if the problem is about the sharp benefit of the apo-lense that is good or not for portraiture. I think that it is your eye that do the best view. But if the sharp side is not good for you, say me if you use a 400asa film, how is your sharp view? and how is your portrait? I think nice, but you don't see the bad side that you don't want to accentuate. I think that portrait photography is not to do with film that have less than 100asa, and for me, the best is more than 400asa.
What is important for me, it is the quality of the lense. I have the 75mm/1.4 and it is very nice to use it. If you have a direct light on the lense, and sometimes it is good to have it, with the 75mm you don't have trace of light, or the sign of the diaphragm. The 90mm is not build for this.
And in the portraiture 1.4 vs 2.0 is a difference.
Good choice.


Well-Known Member
Dear all,

Many many thanks for all your help and info. Just one more questions, is there a difference between APO and Asph? These terms seem to be used in most posts, I feel they are the same but I have seen adverts selling APO lenses and True ASPH lenses. What is the difference if any.




Dear Vishal,

APO is short for apochromatic, and means in simple terms the lens is corrected for all wave-lengths of light.

ASPH is short for aspherical, and means that certain elements within the lens have been ground with an aspehrical surface.

The terms are not mutually exclusive.

To follow-up on my earlier posts, I prefer the pre-ASPH lenses, even though I do have three of them. They are superb technically, but to my eye lack the indefinable "smoothness" of the earlier, not so well corrected, lenses. One of my favourites is the 1:3.4/180 Apo-Telyt-R which is, as the designation signifies, and APO lens but does not have any aspherical lens surfaces.

Trust this is all as clear as mud.



Dear Vishal,
APO/ASPH differences might be read at Erwin Puts/LEICAs pages about lenses (in short: ASPH is "only" a special form of lens and APO means without any legal restrictions, that three basic colors are send to the right place on the film, not only two as in the usual fotografic world).
But in practice I would say that in direct comparison between SUMMILUX 75mm, CL 4/90mm and SUMMICRON 2,0/90 APO ASPH the last one had problems only in strong light situations: Sun from the side or the front. I wouldn't have thought that that could be possible. If that is important for You (supporting Laurents argument), older lenses could be fine.
B.t.w. Leica glass 75mm "classic" and 90 APO/ASPH seems to have the same "imagery" (Erwins words..) at 5,6 or smaller - astonishing that these high performance lenses from Canada or Germany show difference only in low light situations (or with darkening filters).
I think it could be a long (own!) discussion about Pros and Cons of aspherical LEICA constructions against the "older" lenses. Anyway
Try to compare the lenses, may be from the shop to outside. It is worth to see which type is good for You. There is no "too sharp", i think, there could be "too much contrast" in the modern constructions, when used open? What is better than to see the details of life on the wall on a fine grain slide, including a hair of the person You portrait? Even the grainy films are "sharper" with the sharper lens.
I write this because today was a absolutely clear air in my town, and i mixed some pix: 24mm ASPH (i think the M-lens with the highest contrast) and C4/90.
Have fun & good n/light!


Vishal and others

In relation to the smoothness Justin eludes to sometimes referred to as “Leica creaminess†by the oldies. The new Aspheric lens and even some of the new (non APO and Asph) lenses have very harsh looking out of focus areas (which the Japanese call Bokeh). The older lenses had a smoother almost creamy transition into the OoF part of the image. The newer Leica lenses are very harsh in comparison.



Well-Known Member
Ok..another dumb question from the Leica newbie. I got a brand new M6 TTL last year (a LHSA model) and at the same time bought an older, never used Summicron 2/35. It was sealed in the box, never used. The serial number is 3579xxx. I think this is a non I right?
Justin, I AM confused!!
Jeff in Texas


Dear Geoff,

Yes, that 1991 lens does not have any aspheric elements.

Don't be too enthusiastic about ASPH lenses. It is an economical way of achieving pretty good correction. I am told that some years ago the EU imposed strict pollution requirements on the makers of optical glass containing lead. This meant in compliance the cost of manufacture of the glass types used by Leica and others became very expensive and the designers were put to work to find similar optical performance with more prosaic glass types. Hence the change in optical character. One of the "big wheels" at Leica said to me a few years ago, that in his opinion the last of the pre ASPH lenses will be the Leica lenses to have!

Jeff, what confuses you?



I am a European and I have never heard this argument before.

The main reason for using aspherical lenses is not ecconomic, since aspherical lenses are more expensive. The main reason for aspherical lenses is the fact that you can reduce the number of elements of a lens. Thus those lenses are smaller and therefore lighter. Because M-lenses of a given focal length should be lighter than the corresponding R-lenses, you find more current M-lenses with aspherical aurfaces than R-lenses.

Regards Jochen