The 35mm Apo-Summicron-SL f/2 Asph. & the Other Apo-Summicron-SL Lenses

Jun 6, 2019  By Jonathan Slack

The first prototype of the 75mm APO-Summicron-SL arrived in January 2017. I had several copies of that lens over the next year whilst Leica refined the autofocus. I have to say that the image quality never really needed much work.

The lens was finally announced in January 2018. I tried to be sensible and resist, but after a couple of months (and some anguish as to whether to buy the 75 or the 90mm), I cracked and at the end of March I bought my own copy of the 75mm.

Since then I’ve used it for weddings, events, food, nature, street, and especially for portrait work. It’s never failed me and the results have always been splendid.

In my opinion it was technically the best lens I had ever tested (perhaps now exceeded by this 35mm APO SL?). More than that, it still manages to have real character.

I haven’t written about the 75mm as it somehow never seemed to be the right moment. My job here is to write about the newly announced 35mm APO-Summicron-SL, but everything I say here is also relevant to the previous 75 and 90mm, and I’m sure will also be relevant to the upcoming 50mm, as well as the 21, 24 and 28mm wide angles.

Apochromatic Lenses An Apochromat, or apochromatic lens (APO) is a photographic or other lens that has better correction for chromatic and spherical aberration.

Leica has been making APO lenses for some time. As far as I can gather, the first of these were the apochromatic Elcan-R series designed by Walter Mandler in 1965 for the US Military. Only 25 of each focal length were produced. The first publicly available APO lens was the 180mm APO-Telyt-R f/3.4 from 1975, which was in production until 1998.

There were various telephoto lenses in the 70s and 80s, culminating in the 180mm APO-Summicron-R f/2 in 1994 (with which Peter Karbe was involved) and the 90mm APO- Summicron-M f/2 in 1998.

Peter Karbe wanted to apply the technology to normal focal length lenses, and the first two of these were the 50mm Summilux-M ASPH (which actually has APO characteristics) in 2004 and the 75MM APO-Summicron-M in 2005.

A 16-year project to make a perfect 50mm lens came to fruition in 2012 when the 50mm APO-Summicron-M was produced. This lens was a Summicron (f/2) rather than a Summilux (f/1.4) because it’s easier to make slower lenses to a higher quality – and of course a smaller size as well.

Large Fast Lenses Since the maturity of digital imaging, and especially with the very high resolution modern sensors, lens sizes seem to have increased exponentially (One only has to think of the Zeiss Otus and the Leica 75mm Noctilux-M).

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