Jörg Konrad reports

Leica through and through: say hello to the new Summarit-M lenses. They're a lot less expensive than usual, making the M-System more accessible than ever. They're also about as top of the range as it gets, merely a little slower on the lens speed. Leica employee Jörg Konrad seized the chance to introduce the newest additions to the Leica lens family to his own brood, and took them all for a walk in the woods.


Mr. Konrad, what's your involvement with Leica?

I'm in quality assurance. My colleagues and I are there to ensure that no Leica product leaves the factory anything short of the high standard that customers have come to expect from Leica.

And customers expect the ultimate in optical and mechanical excellence. How does this translate into the Summarit-M lenses?

The Summarit line is the product of an innovative manufacturing strategy which deals with far greater numbers than usual. In term of quality assurance I can only really say one thing: our engineers have outdone themselves once again. To be sure of consistent quality, we run the Summarit lenses through the exact same evaluation system as all other Leica lenses. This way, the buyer is assured of high-class products for his money. And the optical benchmarks of the Summarit lenses are superb. This is achieved by a less demanding starting aperture of f/2.5. The consequence is a price tag that is more than a little tempting.

So much for the figures - let the pictures speak for themselves!

Absolutely. I'm an avid M user myself who couldn't wait to put the Summarits through their paces. Early October brought us some gorgeous autumnal days out here in Weilburg. And if there's one thing I love, it's taking the family out for a nice long walk in the woods. I packed my M8, the four Summarits, and off we went.


So you like your family outings with lots of gear?

Well, usually all I take is the camera and one lens. My daughters don't exactly have much fun when I'm saying "hold on, girls, daddy has to change a focal length" the whole time. I enjoy the creative challenge of making the most of a single lens. Having said that, it's not like I get to test drive four brand spanking new lenses every day. This was a rare opportunity. And a highly enjoyable one, at that...

... which is evident from your pictures.

I couldn't agree more. The Summarits are easy companions for the great outdoors, wonderfully light and compact. I'm sure that that added to the playfulness of the occasion.

Most of your shots look as though they were taken at full aperture.

That's right, and the M8 was consistently set to ISO 160 for maximum quality. The experiment was to run the Summarits at full aperture and check the results for sharpness. After all, this is what our lenses are so famous for: lush photographs taken at the starting aperture. I also happen to be a big fan of the focus-blur effect, like when I'm taking portraits of my daughters. I was keen to discover what's possible when it's not a Summilux I'm using but a lens that has a starting aperture of f/2.5. The Summarits left a big impression on me.

Tell us more.

Hmm, where to begin? My favourite lens used to be the Summilux-M 75 mm f/1.4 because of its rendering characteristics - and it's still very dear to me. But the helical mount requires a long focusing movement, and you might just miss that decisive moment. The Summarit-M 75 mm f/2.5 is far more user friendly, thanks to a swift, smooth and precise focusing mechanism. The same goes for all Summarit lenses. The results show great plasticity - the focal plane is nice and distinct, without the smooth transition of the 75 mm Summilux, but the bokeh is just as creamy, just as harmonious.


A worthy representation of Leica?

Oh, yeah! M photographers have always known to put the good ol' blur effect to good use. That's why some of the older Leica lenses remain so popular, because of their special blur characteristics. Some actually find our asphere designs a little 'harsh' by comparison, but that's just a question of taste. The Summarits manage to marry the classic lens bokeh with awesome contrast performance throughout the focal plane, starting at full aperture. Even the 35 mm lens will put on a consistent show all the way into the periphery of the image. In this respect, the Summarits are easily up to the standard of our other state-of-the-art lens designs.

And your portraits are proof positive.

I'm extremely pleased with the detail and shades which the Summarits manage to reproduce. I also love how my daughters' faces escape into the surrounding sea of blur - very atmospheric. The Summarits open the photographer up to wonderful possibilities. This also shows in close focus. In the case of the 35, 50 and 75 mm Summarits, the limit is slightly more moderate than that of the asphere counterpart, but just look at the rich detail in the autumn vegetation. We're obviously not making any concessions here.

So is it a green light for the new Summarits?

My first impression from that beautiful afternoon is more than positive. I'm already itching to find out what else they're capable of. As I said earlier, they're easy to travel with, which means you'll want to take them everywhere you go.