Sunday, December 21, 2008

Leica 90mm f2 Summicron VS Canon 85mm f1.2 L

It is often an infallable trap for any photographers to entre the realm of measurebation. In other words, it refers to activities of pixel peeping exercises, looking at arbitary numbers of MTF, calculation of distorsion, so-called objective flare intensity and all other technical parameters that seem to be a great range of subjects to discuss regarding a lens.
As a photographer, I think it is helpful to get to know one's equipment. The knowledge I would like to acquire from my own gear needs to specific to myself. Hence, I would look at the matters differently. However, I do not need the objective method of testing to discern the unique properties of various lenses I own. The image quality usually speaks for itself when I am so fussy with my own images...

Here is a test comparison that I want to do upon the request of my friend Voe. There will be intermittent testings of other lenses according to my spare time.
Leica 90mm f2 summicron is a legendary lens as one of the trios (35mm f2, 50mm f2, 90mm f2). 90mm f2 is known to have most even graduated bokeh oosing in and out of focus plane. Smooth as cream. Smooth as butter. It is reputed to have the best centre and corner sharpness in its class.

Speaking of Canon 85mm f1.2L, there is an updated version as mark II where the contrast is quoted to improve wide open while the average autofocus speed is increased by about 1 second. It is the holy grail of many canon shooters and quoted as the best lens for protrait (Sigh ... Success of Canon Marketing)
Today, I will only show you the simple test chart comparison at f2 from both lenses. The background bokeh against cluttering leaves and branches from both lenses will be compared as well. (I have plenty of field experience to reveal at a later day). I use Canon 5D Body and mount a Leica R adaptor to allow Leica 90mm to be used in the test.

Canon 85mm Centre Crop

Leica 90mm Centre Crop

Centre sharpness looks identical to me. The leica shot is picked out of 10 images I took with split focus manual focusing.

Canon 85mm Corner Crop

Leica 90mm Corner Crop

The corner sharpness are not that much different from each other. However, more paper texture are observed from the Leica shot.
Sharpness is never really the concern for me but these two lenses really has little difference from each other.

Canon background bokeh

Leica background bokeh

Leica background bokeh against cluttering leaves seem to be more swirly. Now Canon shooters gonna hate me here.

Yet ...

I had done another test comparison regardomg flare and bokeh quality.

Canon at f2

Leica at f2

These two shots were all unprocessed and converted from Raw files as they are. Canon renders lower contrast in the background bokeh department and its specular highlights are of more harsh along individual edges. On the other hand, Leica renders more swirly and contrasty background blurr where specular highlights are equally harsh edged like canon counterparts.
What really stands out is the ability of Leica to take on the flare situation, rendering more shadow details and produce blurr a lot more effectively.

I will perform more testing regarding these two lenses in the future. Speaking of practicality, Leica has wowed me so much. I only owned this lens for 2 weeks so far and it has shown me what a "slow" lens could offer me comparing to Canon 85L. Leica renders texture and colours so well that even hidden details could be brought back by post processing.

Leica 90mm f2 summicron at Grampians with Joel


Look at background swirly bokeh of 90mm f2 summicron

Then this amazing colour being sucked in by this Leica gem

Yes, I am subjective but I am not going to ditch my Canon 85L. I use it at f1.2 all the time. The autofocus is often accurate and spot on. The lens has been my work horse for some time and very reliable. When time is essence, Leica needs a lot more patience and trial + error to get focus right.

Here is my take on these two legendary lenses!


Nature Nut /JJ Loch December 23, 2008 at 1:27 PM  

What an AMAZING post!!! I am going to check this blog more often. :D

What telephoto lens do you suggest? I have a Canon Rebel XTi.

Happy Holidays, JJ

roentarre December 25, 2008 at 10:28 PM  

Thanks for popping in!

There are medium telephotos and super guns. The telephoto choice depends on the nature of the photography you want to use. So it really depends.

I think Canon is really professional in the are of autofocus speed. Not necessarily accuracy in focusing though.

This is a conclusion after being a fanboy with canon for 10 years or so...