After the first shots yesterday I was not sure, whether I should keep this lens or return it. In some situations it is clearly better than the Summilux.
The question is, how often do I really need the ultra high performance in theses situations. Typically I shoot landscapes stopped down to f/5.6 – f/11 or people/portraits wide open but with the main subjects in the centre area of the image. Compositions where I shoot wide open and really need sharp corners or edges are very seldom especially with a 50mm lens.
Therefore I decided that some additional tests are necessary.
I took my two 50mm lenses (Summilux 50 and Apo-Summicron 50) and went to a city park with some historical buildings and the obligatory brick walls. With overcast sky and constant light I had ideal test conditions.
Theses images of a sculpture give some impression of the bokeh, rendering, colors and 3D capabilities of the two 50mm lenses.
I would say, there is not a big difference between the two lenses. This is also true for larger image sizes.
The colors of the AA images are slightly more intense.
You can also see that the vignetting of the 50AA at f/2.0 is significantly stronger compared to the Summilux, which is not unexpected since the Summilux is already stopped down at f/2.
To test the (lateral) CA behavior shooting a tree with the sky in the background is revealing.
This is the test image, followed by some 100% crops:
As expected the 50 AA has significantly less CA, but the difference is often only visible at the edges of the image.
Of course I did the obligatory brick wall shots. With perfect focus (which was often not the case with the 50AA, see below) there was no big difference between the two lenses in the centre area. But in the extreme corners the 50AA is clearly better at all apertures. Vignetting at f/2.0 is again stronger with the 50AA.
The Summilux images have often a slightly higher global contrast. Fine details are often better resolved by the 50AA, but with less contrast of the low frequency details. Altogether I prefer the contrast of the Summilux, but could live with the behavior of the AA. Here are some examples:
50 AA @ f/8:
50 Summilux @ f/8:
Looking at the 100% crops it is less obvious, but the difference is still there:
50 AA @ f/8:
50 Summilux @ f/8:
After viewing about 200 test images, I got more and more the impression that the focus with the 50AA was often not 100% correct. After doing some more focus tests, I’m quite sure that there is a problem, limited to a certain range between infinity and MFD. At the extreme points (infinity and MFD) the focus was mostly at the right point but most of the brick wall shots showed some kind of front focus. I did a quick test with some screws (1 cm apart, focus on the middle silver crew, test repeated three times) at a focus distance of about 1.5 m which confirmed my assumption:
Will I keep the 50AA? At the moment I’m not 100% sure, but tend to return it. It has some advantages over the Summilux like much better CA control, better corner sharpness, slightly better colors, slightly better resolving of fine details, but it has also some disadvantages like lower contrast of low frequency details. My 50AA (in combination with my M9) also has some significant front-focus at certain distances between infinity and MFD and I know how difficult it is to correct this. It would probably need at least three trips to Solms until the focus is perfect at all distances. Considering the extremely high price of this lens (for a 50mm lens), I tend to return it and just keep and use my Summilux.
But if money doesn’t matter or CA and wide open corner performance are extremely important for you this is the perfect 50mm lens.