Leica Summarit-S 70mm f/2,5 ASPH. CS
The normal lens for the Leica S system, setting the new norm for medium format.
18 Photos • 04 November 2020
The standard lens of the Leica S system
One could say the 70 is the 50 of the Leica S system, well not exactly: its actually more like a 56mm lens when converting to a small format (full frame) equivalent but close enough I guess.
The Summarit-S 70mm when it came out was one of the only medium format standard lenses with a modern optical design. The lens is suited, like a 50mm lens on a small format camera for allround image taking. Its great for environmental portraiture, or head and shoulder photos. Amazing for normal field of view landscape photography when stopped down a little. And with a close focussing range of a little below 50 centimeter it doubles as a 1:4,7 magnification ‘macro’ lens with outstanding performance across the frame due to the use of a floating lens element group that moves separate from the main group to keep quality high at all focussing distances.
Simply put the Leica Summarit-S 70mm lens is a great allrounder, and a must have when you use the Leica S system.
It is most frustrating to sit behind the K8 equipment and note that the measured numbers being displayed on the monitor are so consistently high at all apertures and image points. You cannot help thinking that such performance cannot exist and that there must be weak points. But I am afraid that frustration should be exchanged for admiration. Erwin Puts
Optical character of the Summarit-S 70mm f/2,5 ASPH.
The lens has a very neutral look, with quick falloff of sharpness in front and the back of the depth of field. The bokeh is so neutral it almost looks fake.
The lens is corrected really well and together with the Leica S (Typ 006) CCD sensor that I’ve used it on it renders very faithful to reality and pleasing. Little to no post processing is needed between image taking and printing. Even when stopped down the out of focus areas are very subtle and pleasing to the eye, but definitely there. If you want everything in focus you really have to stop down a lot, this is a downside to medium format photography, but even more pronounced when a lens has a very quick depth of field falloff like the Summarit-S lenses. The lens has a very high contrast look in the depth of field, and quickly falls off in the out of focus areas.
The lens like all Leica S lenses renders colours neither cold or warm. Compared to the Contax 645 Zeiss lenses however the Leica S lenses reproduce colours a bit warmer when used on the same camera with the same set white balance.
Like Erwin Puts stated its hard to find this lens’s flaws. In my opinion the lens is just equally good at any focussing distance or aperture chosen in practice. You don’t need to stop down to get the best performance, you don’t need to take into account the weakness of the lens at close distances. The lens simple performs at it’s best whatever setting you use do.
Many of its competitors like the “Hasselblad HC 2,8/80”, “Zeiss C645 Planar T* 2/80” or “smc PENTAX-FA645 75mmF2.8” are all based on designs from Zeiss from at least 50 years ago. Simple 6 element double gauss designs. It makes the above lenses sharp in center and much less in the corners wide open, with quite some spherical aberration. This improves when stopping down. Close focus performance lags behind because of the lack of floating elements and is usually limited to 0.7 or 0.6 meter and even at those distances they will perform significantly worse.
The Leica Summarit-S 70mm f/2,5 ASPH. doesn’t exhibit these aberration because of the added elements to counter this. It is simply the best standard “medium format” lens out there at the moment. I put that between quotation marks because one could argue that the 30mm x 45mm Leica Pro Format sensor size isn’t really medium format.
Of course recently there have appeared quite a few new mirrorless medium format systems with similarly sized sensors with new lenses to go with them with similar focal lengths to the Leica Summarit-S 70mm. Like the “XCD 2,8/65” or the “FUJIFILM GF 63mm f/2.8 R WR”. When looking at their optical designs, and MTF charts they are, like the Leica S lenses: modern designs with up to 10 elements and outstanding performance at infinity. They do not seem to have floating elements or aspherical elements however. But they both have a minimum focussing distance of 0.5 meter meaning the manufacturers are sufficiently pleased with their close focusing performance I would think. The MTF charts however show the Summarit-S 70mm still beats them both in speed wide open and performance at all focussing ranges.
If this is going to make a difference in practice I don’t think so.
Using the lens
There is not much to it, the lens has a bayonet on the front that can mount the lens hood both in working position or reverse for storage. The lens has no switches and no aperture ring.
The Leica S lenses all have manual focus override at all times. Its easy, grab the focus ring at any time and just turn it. The ring does not turn while autofocus is focussing, like on Nikon AF lenses for example. The focussing ring has a clear near and far limit but you can turn the ring further than that with a bit more pressure. The lens sadly focuses past infinity, this makes night time photography a pain, especially on the Leica S2 and Leica S (Typ 006) which have no live view.
Using the Central Shutter is done by putting the power switch of the camera from FPS to CS. When a shutter faster than 1/1000 of a second is selected the camera will revert back to the Focal Plane Shutter. When selecting CS but a non CS lens is mounted the camera will give a warning but will work fine.
I’ve set autofocus to only activate on the thumb joystick and not on the shutter release button. My camera is basically always in manual focus mode, unless I press the thumb joystick button on the back.
The lens focusses manually really easily with the default all matte focussing screen supplied with the Leica S cameras. But focusses even easier with the split screen and micro prism collar focussing screen which I had installed by Leica in my S-E (Typ 006) when it was in Solms for service. This also makes it easier to check if focus is correct when using the autofocus system.
Leica Summarit-S 70mm f/2,5 ASPH. CS
The lens is weather sealed, so can handle dust and splashes of water without a problem. I clean the front element with running water under the tap.
Central Shutter: CS in the name means Central Shutter, the lens has a built in leaf shutter giving you the freedom to sync your strobes as fast as 1/1000 of a second.
Optical design: The lens has 8 lenses in 6 groups, with 2 floating elements and 1 aspherical element.
Aperture Range: The aperture range goes from f/2,5 until f/22.
Filter size: The lens takes E82 filters like most Leica S lenses.
Weight: 740 grams without Central Shutter and 890 grams with Central Shutter.
Size: L93mm x W90mm without caps or lens hood.
Price: About €4000,00 for the lens without Central Shutter and €5200,00 for the lens with Central Shutter. This price is about the same as a Leica SL 50mm lens or a Leica M 50mm lens.
To conclude the article: I think the Leica Summarit-S 70mm f/2,5 ASPH. is a lens everyone who has a Leica S2, S (Typ 006), S (Typ 007) or S3 should own. It’s a very versatile lens that when pushed to the limits of what is optically possible just delivers.
Even on the Leica SL the lens should perform outstandingly as a short portrait lens when used with the autofocus adapter.
Buy one second hand with a Leica S2 or S (Typ 006) and you’ve got a fairly affordable medium format DSLR kit that can last you many years.
A must have, period.
Enjoy a few more photos from this lens below.
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