Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH lens review

Pin It

I had the chance to try the new Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH lens and this is my hands-on report.

General

The 35mm is probably the most widely used focal length on rangefinder cameras. Leica currently offers three different 35mm lenses: Summilux (f/1.4), Summicron (f/2) and Summarit (f/2.5). The previous Summilux version had reportedly focus shift issues and few months after the release of the M9, Leica announced a new version "optimised for use on the digital Leica M cameras". At that point, the 35mm Lux has been the first and only M lens released by Leica since the M9 came to life on 09.09.09.

The changes in the new version are a floating element (similar to the latest 50mm Summilux) which improves accurate focusing and eliminates focus shift,  new full-metal rectangular screw-mount lens hood and of course the price - $4,995, which is $500 more than its predecessor.

The size of the new 35mm Summilux lens is a bit shorter and thicker than its 50mm counterpart. Here is the new Leica 35mm f/1.4 lens compared to the 28mm Elmarit, 50mm Summilux and the 90mm Summarit (with the hood on):

and without the hood:

The 35mm Summilux comes with a screw-on hood, lens cap (part# 14040) and a leather pouch:

The new metal lens hood design is more compact and robust than the old version. This is the lens+hood obstruction in the viewfinder of a Leica M9 - first with focus set at infinity:

and with focus set at 0.7m:

Lecia's recommendation is to always keep the lens hood on the lens.

Sharpness

The examples below were taken from the center of the test chart (100% crop, no post-processing, DNG to JPG converted in Lightroom at 100% quality) - you can see that maximum sharpness is achieved at around f/5.6 and then stays constant all the way up to f/16 (look at the small digits for better comparison):

@ f/1.4

@ f/2

@ f/4

@ f/5.6

@ f/8

@ f/11

@ f/16

Please note that there is a margin of error in those test chart comparisons. Here is a real world 100% crop - this lens can capture some incredible details (M9, ISO 160, f/5.6, no post-processing):

For further pixel-picking, the original uncompressed DNG file of the above image can be downloaded here.

Vignetting

Wide open, there is visible (and expected) vignetting that is almost completely gone at f/2.8:

In real life pictures, vignetting actually looks pretty good (shot at f/1.4):

Barrel Distortion

The 35mm Summilux has no visible barrel distortion - look at the top straight line:

Lens flare & ghosting

Minimal lens flare and ghosting is present in extreme situations when pointing the lens directly at an intense light source (in this case against the sun):

I did not see any flare or ghosting when shooting at night against bright lights (yes, that cop was watching the game inside the cruiser):

Bokeh/DOF

Bokeh is all a matter of taste - here are few examples from the new 35mm Summilux (first image is a crop, click on the remaining images for larger view):

Samples

Below are few color examples taken with the 35mm f/1.4 lens on a M9, no post-processing, straight conversion from DNG in Lightroom (click on image for larger view):

And finally some B&W samples - those are jpg files taken straight from the M9:

Technical specs

  • 9 lenses | 5 groups design | 1 aspherical element (five lenses are manufactured from glasses with a high refraction index)
  • Exact focal length: 35.6mm
  • Minimum focusing distance: 0.7m | 2.3 feet
  • 9 aperture blades
  • Aperture range: f/1.4 - f/16 (click-stopped half values available)
  • Horizontal angle of view: 54° on full frame | 42° on M8
  • Reproduction ratio: 1:17.5
  • Filter size: 46mm
  • Leica product number: 11663
  • Weight: 320g | 11.2 oz
  • Dimensions: 46x58mm | 1.8x2.3in
  • 6-bit coded (of course)
  • Produced in Germany (of course)
  • Price: $4,995 (currently $6000-$7000 on eBay)
  • Lens diagram:
Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 lens diagram

Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 lens diagram

  • Lens drawing:
Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 lens drawing

Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 lens drawing

  • MTF charts at f/1.4, f/2.8 and f/5.6:

  • Vignetting graph:

Conclusion

Overall, as with most Leica lenses, the new 35mm Summilux delivers excellent color and contrast reproduction, sharp details and that 3D rendering typical for Summilux line. During the short time I had the lens, I did not experience any focus shift issues. Having a fast aperture, combined with the versatile 35mm focal length makes the new 35mm Summilux a perfect "one lens solution" for Leica M rangefinders. Currently, the lens is back ordered everywhere and probably will be in the months to come.

Special thanks to Leica Camera USA for giving me the opportunity to try the new 35mm Summilux-M lens.

This entry was posted in (LR) reviews, Leica Lenses and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • http://www.truphotos.com gnohz

    Wonderful review! Thanks :)

  • ST

    Excellent review indeed, there is not a lot information available online for that lens. I wish I could afford it… one day.

  • http://www.seeingsubjects.org chris

    thanks for the writeup. it is useful to get some info on a lens which is scarce in the wild, so to speak. since the 35 is my main lens, i may want to upgrade when it is possible to find one.

    thanks for the side-by-side size comparisons to other lenses, and the well-done vf shots. i wish you could show side-by-side comparisons for the three leica 35mm’s though–i haven’t seen a good straightforward size comparison online (maybe i am missing one somewhere) and i would like to see how they stack up. esp the summarit and the cron; i have been wondering if the rit is enough smaller to justify getting it instead of the cron for daylight street use.

    one more thing, it kind of looks like peak detail in your sample series is coming in at f/8, not f/5.6. hard to tell, and these sorts of test shots are always a bit of a crapshoot.

    thanks again–

    • http://leicarumors.com LR admin

      I do not have access to old 35mm lenses, I can check with Leica if they still have any for reviews.

      • http://www.seeingsubjects.org chris

        not talking about any old lenses. just the three current 35mm designs being sold.

        35/1.4–i find the fast aperture essential for low light shooting, but it is large (and pricy)

        35/2–near faultless lens, but maybe neither small enough nor fast enough to be compelling; lowest distortion, though

        35/2.5–very small, and possibly handles flare better than the two more expensive lenses; very intriguing balance of old and new style rendering.

        i know i will keep my 35/1.4, as it is my do-everything, take anywhere for however long lens. but… i am playing with the idea of expanding my options to get something smaller for daytime street walkaround. the summarit seems like it could be good for that, between the flare control, controlled rendering, and most of all the size. but i’d love to be able to see the size comparison side-by-side, so i could have a better idea of whether the advantage would be worthwhile. (probably would–considering i always use the hood on the summilux, but would plan to not use a hood with the summarit–partly down to the handling of flare, partly the less exposed front element.

        leica used to (maybe still does) promote the idea that one should own all of their lenses in the same fl, choosing the most appropriate based on contrast, and rendering as well as size and speed. practically speaking, since i am usually carrying the camera during the course of long days doing other things, i have to choose one lens in the morning and assume it will carry me through the evening. so i might never really choose a slower lens, even during the day, given i may want to use it later after dark.

  • http://www.bophoto.typepad.com BO

    Agree, the lens rocks.

    Here is a set of images from Hong Kong Oct 2010 with the new 35lux
    http://bophoto.zenfolio.com/p556031620

    • http://www.istockphoto.com/huntedduck David

      Great sample of shots Bo. Question: I see some fairly noticeable purple fringing in instances where you are shooting against direct light (for instance, the photo where two men are facing each other playing a board game, there is noticeable purple fringing on top of their heads); I assume you shot those photos wide open at f/1.4? I don’t recall whether this was as much of an issue with the previous Lux 35mm (which I used to have but no longer own it).

      • http://leicarumors.com LR admin

        I thought the purple fringing was caused by the sensor and not the lens.

        • http://www.bearmoments.smugmug.com nate

          both contribute.

  • Mike

    Great review!
    But the price of this new Summilux is just crazy!
    I’m lucky I’m more of a 50mm guy :D

    • http://leicarumors.com LR admin

      yes, me too – for the price of the 35 Lux you can “almost” get a new 50 Lux and 28 Elmarit. this is what I did (before the last price increase)

  • http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/ Adam Marelli

    Nice review Peter,

    I enjoyed the nice range of real world examples and lower light images. The flare suppression is fantastic. The tiny dots I did see are way easier to remove than the floating hexagons I encountered while testing an older 35mm Cron. Not that they should be compared, the new Lux is a different creature.

    And thanks for including the size comparison photos, they are very helpful. When I handled it at PDN its stubby shape felt very balanced on the camera body.

    Great pics BO, thanks for adding them!

    • http://leicarumors.com LR admin

      Thanks Adam!

  • http://LeicaGlow.com Axel

    Yes, very nice review. Succinct, and lacking the pompous rhetoric of most Leica reviews. This is one of my favorite lenses ever.

    • http://leicarumors.com LR admin

      thanks Axel, this was my first Leica lens review – I may try again with another lens

    • Chip

      I agree, this review doesn’t have superlatives like the “greatest lens on earth” :)

  • Back to top