Leica Cruise gave me an opportunity to test some Leica-M Lenses I had not tried before. These were Summilux-M 21mm f/1.4 Asph, Summarit-M 90mm f/2.5 and Apo-Telyt-M 135mm f/3.4 Asph. I shot some images with both M9 and Olympus E-P2.
All these lenses are superbly made. Both focusing and aperture rings move firmly but smoothly and aperture clicks are easy to count and set. Intermediate values can be used. These lenses are smallish but heavier than many others because they have no cheap lightweight materials.
On Leica M9 21mm Summilux lens protrudes a long way into viewfinder image and makes composing less than intuitive. At least I needed to turn the camera all the time to the right to check where lower right hand corner might be and which objects fall into picture and which ones are cut out. Focusing is superbly easy. With 21mm lens you need lots of practise to learn to ”see” compostion already before you look into M9 viewfinder. As you can see from image above, 90mm Summarit is small and compact with M9. Also viewfinder image is still usable. But with 135mm Telyt viewfinder crop is way too small for me. If you are fancying a Leica M9, it should not be because of any subjects needing a 135mm focal length.
On Olympus E-P2 I had a Novoflex Leica-M to MFT adapter. With it I can use any Leica-M lens. Because of E-P2´s smaller sensor, focal lengths are effectively doubled. So, 21mm on E-P2 corresponds to a 42mm lens on M9 (or any FF DSLR), 90mm corresponds to 180mm and 135mm to 270mm. With E-P2 there are no viewfinder worries because electronic viewfinder VF-2 gives an unobstructed 100% view with every lens. I used aperture priority mode all the time with these lenses and manual focusing is quite easy with Summilux and Apo-Telyt. Summarit 90mm does not give an equally contrasty viewfinder image wide open and I had some problems with focusing correctly. One of E-P2 benefits with Leica-M lenses is that you see the real depth of field all the time. The other benefit is ease of setting correct exposure because you can see also that all the time.
To put it shortly, 135mm Apo-Telyt on M9 is an outstanding lens in this respect. Summarit is softer wide open but gets it´s act together from f/4 on. Summilux is very good except for corners. This I must say is kind of relative because M9´s resolution is so brilliant. You can see the difference between center and corners easier than with AA-filtered DSLRs. Even offset microlenses can´t fully compensate here for oblique light. Also a super wide-angle lens like 21mm tends to give images that have lots of small details. There was some moiré, which I find correctable in post processing.
On E-P2 Summilux 21mm becomes a mediocre 42mm lens. It proves again the maxim: 35mm is the widest M-lens you can use on MFT cameras. Their sensors are not designed for these lenses. Center is good but corners suffer big time. Summarit 90mm is on the soft side on MFT cameras. If it is not a top notch lens wide open on M9, it becomes an awkward lens on MFT. I had focusing problems because of soft image (2x crop!), and larger apertures give you all kinds of halos and high light fringing on E-P2. Halos can be even nice for some subjects, fringing... NOT. Which leaves us Apo-Telyt. It was a total enjoyment. A very, very handy 270mm (corresponding to FF) f/3.4 lens. Great quality in pictures, I simply loved using it. Too bad there was so little time.
E-P2 / Apo-Telyt-M 135mm. Rocking and moving platform and subject. Still quite nice sharpness. Crop is 100%.
E-P2 / Summarit-M 90mm. Halos can be beautiful. Crop is 100%.
Leica M9 / Summilux-M 21mm. Nice panoramic effect but slight softness creeps into edges and some moiré. Crop is 100%.