When I ventured by the S stand at the Leica booth on my last day at the show, I said hello to Dietmar Stuible, who was working the demo table. He is one of the optics designers at Leica and was responsible for the design of the Vario-Elmar-S 30-90mm ASPH, which is one of the best zoom lenses ever made. The lens is amazingly good with almost no trade-offs versus the fixed primes, except for aperture. We talked for a few minutes about the new S and how the zoom will probably be the most popular lens for the camera, given its wide ISO range.
I asked if I could see the new Leica Summicron-S 100mm f/2 ASPH. It looks like a pretty awesome lens, as the 100 isn't much larger or heavier than the standard 70mm f/2.5 and offers the fastest aperture of any production medium format lens. According to Dietmar and my early discussion with Peter Karbe, the 100 also delivers where it really matters: performance. Peter even went so far to say it was like the Noctilux of the S-System.
Promising to be bitingly sharp wide-open with creamy smooth bokeh, everything was pointing to the 100 as great portrait lens with some fairly incredible rendering. So…. I asked if I could take a few test shots with it. Dietmar obliged and let me use one of their S 006 cameras. I popped my SD card in and took a few shots, all wide-open.
The pictures aren't prize-winning, but they certainly gave me a good idea of what the lens might offer under more ideal shooting conditions. The portrait of Dietmar was slightly back-focused, but is still pleasing, even under the harsh trade show lighting. I'm anxious to give the lens a proper test run as soon as I can get my hands on a production model.
Something interesting about the 100, and one of the reasons Leica was able to make is so compact, is that the lens is a total focusing design. This means that the front element and all the lenses extend as focus moves towards the close-focus range. I was assured that the lens is still completely weather sealed in spite of the exposed movement. And, the lens design also features a floating element in order to guarantee optimum quality from near focus to infinity.
The lens, just like the rest of the S lens line-up doesn't come cheap at $7,995, but it is the fastest glass available for medium format, and might just be an instant favorite among portrait photographers for its gorgeous rendering.
The 100 is due out within in the coming weeks. If you are interested in the lens, you can pre-order at Leica Store Miami.