LEICA 35mm f/1.4
LEICA SUMMILUX 35mm f/1.4 (Series VII filters only in dedicated hood, 6.5 oz/184g). enlarge or about actual size. You can get this at this link to them at eBay; you also can get them from Adorama and OC Camera. It helps me keep reviewing these oldies when you get yours through these links, thanks! Ken.
Sample Images from California's Gold Country April 2010
See also: LEICA SUMMILUX-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH (1994-2010).
This LEICA SUMMILUX 35mm f/1.4 was the world's fastest ultra-speed wide-angle lens at its introduction in 1960.
This 35mm SUMMILUX is the lightest Leica 35mm lens I've ever measured. This is because this lens is mostly air and aluminum, with small, thin glass elements. Today's lenses use a lot more glass, while other older, slower 35mm lenses use more brass instead of aluminum.
Not only is it tiny and the world's first ultra-speed wide-angle lens, it is still the world's smallest professional f/1.4 lens of any focal length.
This classic 35mm SUMMILUX remains popular today due to its tiny size, ultra-high speed and complete freedom from geometric distortion and viewfinder blockage.
Although today's current LEICA SUMMILUX 35mm f/1.4 ASPH (1994-today) completely eclipses the performance of this classic lens at large apertures, this classic also remains popular because it has extreme sharpness at reasonable apertures, but has none of the minor distortion or finder blockage of today's ASPH lenses.With Leica, size and weight are everything. Price never matters.
This 35mm SUMMILUX was so popular that it reined as Leica's supreme ultra-speed wide lens for almost thirty years through 1990, when the greatly improved optically (but much bigger) 35mm f/1.4 Aspherical was introduced. That first aspherical version only lasted four years, and was replaced in 1994 with today's state-of-the-art LEICA SUMMILUX 35mm f/1.4 ASPH.
Even with aspherical versions being available from 1990, this classic lens was made up through 1995, and B&H were still selling new stock of this classic version through mid-1999. In 1992, the catalog price of this classic lens was $2,400 and the 35mm f/1.4 Aspherical was $4,500, thus not everyone saw fit to pay so much more for a bigger, fatter lens that did pretty much the same thing.
The biggest defect of this little lens is trying to use filters with it. No version of this classic takes normal filters, while the current LEICA SUMMILUX 35mm f/1.4 ASPH takes normal 46mm filters.
Front, Leica 35mm f/1.4 SUMMILUX. enlarge.
History and Versions top
The SUMMILUX 35mm was never made in screw mount.
All versions (1960-1995) use the same optics.
The mechanics in which these optics are placed came in these versions:
1960-1966: Chrome, E41 (through serial number 2,166,700)
This first version had a front external diameter of 46.5mm, used 41mm screw-in filters and had an infinity-focus lock.
The first version came with or without auxiliary finder optics, also called a viewfinder attachment, optical viewing unit, eyes or goggles, for use with the top-of-the-line M3. The goggled version also works on all Leica M, including today's newest M7, MP and M9.
Without the viewfinder attachment, you'd have to use an external 35mm finder with the M3, or use it on the lesser M2 or any other Leica M, including of course the M7, MP and M9.
This first version, either with or without goggles, came in chrome. There were a few made in black, for which collectors pay double.
The M3 version with extra finder optics, part number 11 871, stayed in the catalog until the mid-1970s. These came only in black from 1967-on. I'm unsure if the goggled M3 version from 1967-on was the newer version below; I doubt it.
1967-1995: Black, Series VII in 12 504 hood (serial number 2,166,701 and up)
In this version, the front was the usual 42mm (A42) external diameter, but had no filter thread.
To use filters, you had to use the 12 504 hood. The 12 504 hood could hold Series VII (S7) filters.
This second version (1966-), which is what I show on this page, came only in black. It has no infinity focus lock and never came in chrome.
Leica always reserves the right to make goofy special editions, and made a fake titanium version to go with the titanium LEICA M6 around 1992.
With the viewfinder adapter (eyes), the SUMMILUX works on every Leica M, from the M3 of 1954 through today's M9, M7 and MP. That's right: the googly-eyed versions work perfectly even with the newest digital cameras; the eyes reduce the wide 35mm field-of-view so that it fits inside the 50mm framelines of every Leica, which are selected automatically.
The SUMMILUX without any viewfinder attachments, as shown in this review, works on every Leica M, however you'll need to use an external 35mm finder with the only M3.
Leica cautions that some of these SUMMILUX may have rear protuberances which may interfere with an internal obstruction unique to the M9. If there is this problem, the lens might not mount on the M9, or might not focus to infinity. In this case, Leica can modify the lens to work properly on the M9.
The version shown here works great on the M9.
Rear, Leica 35mm f/1.4 SUMMILUX. enlarge.
In 2009, all versions sell used for about $1,300 - $2,000. Black models of the first version (1960-1966) are unusual and sell for around $2,000 - $4,000 to collectors.
As you'll see, even as the decades pass, all these lenses hold their value, even if bought brand-new.
These are catalog prices. Actual selling prices were probably lower by about 10%.
Two prices separated with a slash refer to versions with/without the viewfinder attachment for the M3. A single number means without the attachment.
* retail prices at B&H Photo Video in NYC, which are less than catalog prices.
Leica calls this the LEICA SUMMILUX 35mm f/1.4. This is sufficient.
It is differentiated from the current LEICA SUMMILUX 35mm f/1.4 ASPH (1994-today) and intermediate LEICA SUMMILUX 35mm f/1.4 Aspherical (1990-1994) by the absence of the "ASPH" or "Aspherical" designation.
Laypeople will occasionally — and incorrectly — refer to this SUMMILUX a "non-ASPH," but that is not necessary. Simply saying "35mm SUMMILUX" will suffice; the absence of ASPH or Aspherical uniquely identifies it.
ASPH means aspherical, which means not spherical. Saying non-ASPH is a double negative; about as crude as saying "ain't not." If one wishes to be more specific in referring to this lens, "Spherical" is the correct appellation.
7 elements in 5 groups.
Single-coated in blue and amber.
Front, LEICA 35mm f/1.4 SUMMILUX at f/5.6. enlarge.
Stops down to f/16.
1m (39"), without viewfinder optics for the M3.
With viewfinder adapter for M3 (11 871, not shown here): 0.65m (2.1 feet or 26 inches).
The first version used 41mm screw-in filters, called E41 by Leica.
Depending on where you read it, Leica specifies both 0.75mm and 0.5mm thread pitch. If I get to measure one, I'll let you know.
The second version takes a Serie VII filter inside the 12 504 hood. Without the included 13 504 hood, there is no filter thread.
You unscrew the front of the hood from the rear section, and pop in the filter.
Leica part numbers for Series VII filters:
*When using the circular polarizer, the yellow dot must face the lens. Hint: the yellow dot usually points towards the sun for strongest results.
Leica also made Series VII adapters for E54 (14 161) and E55 (14 255) threads.
First version 1960-1966 (through serial number 2,166,700)
14 078 plastic front cap, fits lens flange, not its hood.
Catalog price for a replacement in 1966 was $11.00 ($1.65 before correction for inflation in 2009).
Second Version 1967-1995 (serial number 2,166,701 and up)
14 143 plastic cap.
Catalog price for a replacement in 1967 also was $11.00 ($1.65 before correction for inflation in 2009).
Any other A42 slip-on cap, like the chrome brass ones from the 1950s, work great.
Hint: use a Nikon 58mm snap-in cap to fit perfectly inside the front of the 12 504 hood, and forget the Leica caps!
Any standard shallow M cap is fine for any version, like today's 14 269, or yesterday's shallower standard 14 051 cap.
All versions came supplied with a hood. The fact that so few are sold used today with their hoods shows you how few people actually use hoods.
This is too bad, since the 1967-1995 version can't use filters unless you have its 12 504 hood.
1960-1966 (through serial number 2,166,700)
The very first hood was the OLLUX, which was later renamed 12 522.
It was included with the first version of the 35mm SUMMILUX through 1966, and sold through 1969 as a replacement part.
1967-1995 (serial number 2,166,701 and up)
Any standard A42 clip-on hood will attach to the front of this second version, however many will vignette.
The correct hood is the 12 504, which unscrews into two pieces to hold Series VII filters. I use a current Nikon 58mm lens cap clipped directly into the front of this hood, which protects the edges of the hood, too.
LEICA 12 504 hood. expand.
Unscrewed LEICA 12 504 hood and LEICA SERIE VII 13 009 UVa Filter. expand.
The current 12 526 plastic rectangular hood, current with the 28/2.8 ASPH and 35/2 ASPH, work great. The gotcha is that the 35 SUMMILUX has no anti-rotation notch, so you need to be careful not to knock the rectangular hood out of whack. Also, the 12 526 hood gets pretty close to the SUMMILUX' aperture levers, making them harder to move.
As measured for the second mechanical version shown in this review:
Extension from flange, collapsed: 1.105 " (28.06mm), measured focused at infinity.
Overall length: 1.474" (37.44mm), regardless of focus distance.
Maximum diameter (focus ring base): 2.047" (51.99mm), measured.
Front push-on mount diameter: A42.
Actual measured weight, as shown (second version): 6.495 oz (184.1g).
As specified by Leica:
First version: 8.7 oz (245g) without viewfinder optics.
First version: 11.5 oz (325g) with viewfinder optics.
Second version as shown here: 7.05 oz (200g), as specified by Leica.
Made in Canada top
The SUMMILUX were made at Leica's plant in Midland, Ontario, Canada through about 1990, and then a small number in Germany from 1990, or from about serial nr. 3 550 000.
The German ones were mostly made as parts of whacky titanium sets with the M6, and use the superior squared LG1050 font.
Part Numbers top
The numbers stayed the same as versions and colors changed.
1960-1995, Canada: 11 870 (as shown here, and previously version).
Titanisiert (titanium plated), Germany: 11 860 (not shown, 1992-1995).
Lens mit Viewfinder Adapter (for M3), Canada: 11 871 (not shown).
Different caps are needed for different versions.
1960-1966: 14 078 plastic front cap, fits lens flange, not its hood.
1967-1995: 14 143 A42 slip-on plastic cap.
All rear caps work perfectly on all versions.
1960-1966: 14 051, shiny shallow black plastic cap.
1967-1995: 14 269, today's standard rear cap.
Scope of Delivery top
All versions came with the appropriate hood, front cap and rear cap.
Proof of Performance top
At f/8, this classic lens has performance indistinguishable from today's LEICA SUMMILUX 35mm f/1.4 ASPH, with less distortion.
This is a practical hand-held snap at 1/45 second of a blowing tree; you'll get sharper results with subjects that hold still and are flat so they are all in focus. For instance, the top right of the larger image looks soft, but that's because the palm frond was much closer than the focus distance.
This tiny lens is extraordinary when stopped-down. You've seen that in the sample photo above.
Not only is it at least as sharp stopped-down as the newest 35mm SUMMILUX ASPH, it has less distortion. For use in good light, this classic lens is spectacular.
Used wide-open, its images have a dreamy look from all the coma and spherical aberration. Leica users might call this the unique Leica glow, but others simply call these soft images.
At f/1,4 it's not for pixel counters, but it's great for subject isolation
The Dream. 35mm SUMMILUX at f/1.4, 1/1,500 on an M9 at ISO 80.
Of course the waterworks on the right isn't in focus, but you will see the dreamy look f/1.4 gives on the background of in-focus pepper trees.
If you want perfect sharpness at f/1.4, then use the current 35mm SUMMILUX ASPH instead.
Don't use f/1.4 in good light as I did here as an example. In the poor light for which f/1.4 is intended, this isn't that much of an issue. In fact, back in the good old days of pushed negative film, the lower contrast caused by all the coma flare filling the shadows helped increase actual film speed exactly as pre-flashing does with the Zone System.
The reason you might want to use f/1.4 in daylight is to separate your subject from surrounding stuff if you aren't good enough to position yourself properly to get good composition.
Ryan at Legoland. M9, f/1.4 at 1/750, ISO 80.
And here's a crop:
Cropped image as published. bigger.
This looks fine at f/1.4 if it weren't for my crappy composition. Ryan is well separated from all the other surrounding junk. All the other stuff has blown way out of focus at f/1.4, and what little is in focus is plenty sharp.
Bokeh is decent enough. It's mediocre at f/1.4 and very nice at f/2.8. Bokeh is the the quality of out-of-focus areas, not how far out-of-focus they are.
Backgrounds don't usually distract, but don't completely melt away either. At f/1.4, background blur circles take on a slight dot in their middles along with a slight emphasis to their perimeters.
Upper center right background from shot above at f/1.4, crop from roughly 50x32" (120 x 85cm) print.
I haven't directly compared today's ASPH; but I suspect that the ASPH is worse than this classic SUMMILUX.
Here's another shot at f/1.4 with crummy bokeh, set off by specular highlights in the background. I dodged Ryan's face, and the SUMMILUX' natural falloff helped get rid of the crap on the sides that my sloppy composition didn't. Of course I cropped-off the left and right sides of this photo when I published it. That's the problem with the too-wide Barnack aspect ratio of 3:2. The Prophet was an engineer, not an artist.
Bokeh becomes superb at f/2.8:
At f/1.4 and f/2, this SUMMILUX is loaded with coma.
It's gone by f/2.8.
35 SUMMILUX at f/1.4, full image from M9.
Crop from lower right of roughly 50x32" (120 x 85cm) print.
35 SUMMILUX at f/2, full image from M9.
Crop from lower right of roughly 50x32" (120 x 85cm) print.
35 SUMMILUX at f/2.8, full image from M9.
Crop from lower right of roughly 50x32" (120 x 85cm) print.
Due to all the coma, contrast is low at f/1.4, much better at f/2, and up to Leica's usual standards by f/2.8.
I'd prefer to use a low-con filter when I needed it, but tough, this is the price you pay for the world's first ultra-speed wide-angle lens. Heck, this is still the world's smallest professional f/1.4 lens.
If you need high contrast at f/1.4, get the current SUMMILUX-ASPH instead, or stop down.
Depth of Field top
Because the SUMMILUX never gets as cuttingly sharp and contrasty at f/1.4 as the newest SUMMILUX-ASPH, it has more apparent depth-of-field at f/1.4.
This is because the newest lens is so sharp that even small amounts of misfocus are obvious compared to what is in focus.
With this classic SUMMILUX, its natural low contrast at f/1.4 makes a lack of perfect focus less obvious, thus the apparent depth of field is still small at f/1.4, but still somewhat deeper than with the newest lenses.
It's the same as the newest lenses when stopped down.
Diaphragm Calibration top
The calibration is right-on: the meter in my M9 tracks each half- and full-stop click perfectly.
The LEICA SUMMILUX 35mm f/1.4 has no visible distortion.
35mm SUMMILUX at f/11. bigger.
This classic 35mm SUMMILUX is straighter than the buildings themselves.
The 35mm f/1.4 ASPH SUMMILUX bulges out a little in the center, with flat sides.
The 35mm f/2 SUMMICRON ASPH is flat in the center, but the sides and corners pull-out a little.
LEICA SUMMILUX 35mm f/1.4. enlarge.
The 35mm SUMMILUX' ergonomics are perfect, if you can get over using it with filters.
Focus is a fingertip-set tab.
Aperture sets even more easily.
Since the aperture ring isn't so much a ring as two tabs, it is trivial to set the aperture by feel in the dark. If the tab is up, the lens is opened-up, if it's down, the lens is stopped down, and if it's in the middle, so is the aperture setting. Heck, on a DSLR, you have to hold down one button while turning another knob while looking at an LCD to do the same thing you can do with a blind fingertip on the LEICA.
The close-focus distance of 3 feet (1m) isn't really close enough for what you use a 35mm lens. I find myself having to move back and forth to find focus with the lens set to the close focus stop, unlike newer lenses that focus close enough. The M3 version focuses to 2.1 feet (0.65m), which would be fine.
Finder Blockage top
This tiny LEICA SUMMILUX 35mm is so small enough that there is no finder blockage.
By comparison, the current 35 SUMMILUX ASPH is so big that it blocks the lower right of the finder.
Flare and Ghosts top
This classic SUMMILUX has more ghosts and flare than the newest ASPH lenses.
I have gotten some wild flare from the sun shining into the SUMMILUX from outside the picture area, even with the extremely efficient 12 526 rectangular plastic hood (shipped with the 28/2.8 ASPH and 35/2 ASPH). Use your hat in sunlight.
Any ghosts from in-image points of light are insignificant. If you push it, in-frame ultra-bright sources of light can lead to some minor ghosts.
Slight ghosts from blinding sun shining inside image. M9, SUMMILUX at f/11.
If you do something really stupid, like give enough exposure for the shadows and then put the camera right in the direct path of the noonday sun, this is as bad as it gets, which isn't bad at all.
Hammered in Madagascar. LEICA M9 at ISO 80, f/5.6 at 1/350.
I have not tried it with a filter, with which I suspect it will be worse.
I get perfect focus all the time.
The Leica rangefinder offers more precision than the large depth of field of this lens at f/1.4. Focus is always right-on.
Falloff (darker corners) top
There is potentially strong falloff at f/1.4, less at f/2. and nothing important from f/2.8.
If shooting brick walls, shoot at f/2.8 or smaller, but for actual photography, the falloff isn't a problem.
The falloff is nice and smooth, and works perfectly at f/1.4 for highlighting the same subject you're trying to differentiate in your shot.
The examples below greatly exaggerate the effect of this falloff. I bet you never noticed it in the f/1.4 shots above.
Lateral Color Fringes top
There no color fringes anywhere.
Also very good for a fast lens, I see no spherochromatism. If the SUMMILUX had any, it would lead to colored halos on out-of-focus bright spots.
Materials and Construction top
The SUMMILUX is made as it should be. This is why it is a Leica. It will be taking great pictures long after you and I are long dead. 100 years from now, all it might need is a cleaning to be ready shoot for another 100 years through 2209. It may be the lens to document Man's first contact with other intelligent races on other planets after Man has conquered space. We can only dream.
Forebarrel, aperture and focus rings: black anodized aluminum.
Focus tab: plastic.
Focus helicoids: brass.
Markings: Engraved and filled with paint.
Mount and mounting grip: chromed brass.
Red index dot: plastic.
The more you know about photography, the more you know that lens sharpness doesn't matter.
As shown at the sample, it is extremely sharp stopped down. It's softer wide-open.
f/8 and f/11 are optimum, especially shooting the M9.
f/1.4: Sharp core surrounded by a contrast-reducing veil. Corners softer, smeared from coma.
f/2: Greatly improved contrast; the veil is gone. Center very sharp, sides lower contrast, and corners are softer from coma.
f/2.8: Sharper all over. Very sharp in the center (to image radius = 12mm), softer in the sides and corners (r > 12mm), corners still much softer but no longer smeary since the coma is gone.
f/4: Even sharper out to about r = 15mm, softer in the band from r = 15mm to r=18mm.
f/5.6: Now it's sharp all over, with the band from r = 15mm to r=18mm still slightly softer. Even the corners are nice.
f/8: f/8 is optimum, with the image very sharp all over, even out to the corners.
f/11: f/11 is slightly less sharp in the center due to diffraction, but the farthest corners might be a hair sharper than at f/8.
f/16: f/16 is less sharp everywhere due to diffraction.
Compared to LEICA
LEICA 35mm SUMMILUX (1967-1995) and SUMMILUX-M ASPH (1994-today).
Now you can see why this classic SUMMILUX remains popular. The current lens weighs almost twice as much as the classic.
All of these have come in both silver and black, if you look hard enough. All also focus with a tab and have a minimum aperture of f/16.
It's funny comparing the focus tabs. The second SUMMILUX and the first Aspherical use the same thin plastic tab with a wider base. The current ASPH uses a plastic tab the same shape as the original 1950s metal focus tab.
Compared to Nikon top
Instead, SLR shooters today almost unanimously haul around the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 AF-S zoom, which weighs crushing two pounds (902g)!
Not only does the zoom weigh five times as much as the SUMMILUX, the zoom has far more distortion, and allows only one-quarter the effective ISO sensitivity, since it's a slow f/2.8, two full stops slower than any of the f/1.4 lenses.
The SUMMILUX reviewed here sells for less than the Nikon 24-70mm AF-S.
Leica used to be expensive, but not anymore.
Since it's so tiny, this classic SUMMILUX is great for throwing over your shoulder when just running around. It has superb performance in daylight, and still packs the low-light power you need in the dark, like for the shot above made through a dirty windshield. The smears are from windshield streaks, but the coma blobs on the lower left are from strong coma at f/2.
If you can get over use with filters, this tiny classic SUMMILUX is better for use in daylight and for travel than today's SUMMILUX-M ASPH. It is smaller and lighter, it has has less distortion and probably better bokeh, and it doesn't block the viewfinder as does Leica's newest SUMMILUX-M ASPH.
The newest ASPH lens has superior sharpness at f/1.4 and takes normal 46mm filters, but that's about it. If you're buying this primarily to shoot at f/1.4, then get the new lens.
The classic SUMMILUX excels at all-around use, and still goes to f/1.4 when you need it.
Which do I prefer? Well, I use filters with film, so until I figure out the Series VII fiasco, the SUMMILUX-M ASPH is the ticket. I often use f/1.4 on film, thus the ASPH is also preferred.
For digital, I usually don't need filters, and with ISO 1,600 or more on tap, I see little need for the ASPH. This classic SUMMILUX works great if you're not counting every pixel at f/1.4.
The choice is simple: if you're buying one of these to shoot at f/1.4 and to get the sharpest results from f/1.4 through f/4, get the ASPH. If you're buying it for general photography from f/5.6 and up and rarely use filters, get this classic SUMMILUX. From f/8, the classic has better optics than the ASPH since they are equally as sharp, and this classic has less distortion.
Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Eduardo Catalan of Córdoba, Spain for loaning me this lens to review.
You'll want a hood to protect the front of this expensive lens, as well as because it's susceptible to flare and ghosts from stray sunlight.
For the 1967-1995 version of this lens,you'll have to spend $150 for the 12 504 hood, which unscrews into two pieces to hold Series VII filters. I use a current Nikon 58mm lens cap directly on the front of this hood.
If you can't locate the correct hood for your lens, today's modern 12 526 plastic rectangular hood works great, but you won't be able to attach filters. For digital, this is no problem. (The old M8 needed a LEICA UV IR filter, part number 13 421.)
For use with color transparency film outdoors, I'd use an 81A filter. I suspect Schneider can custom make these at reasonable prices if you can't find them elsewhere (ask your B+W filter dealer to ask Schneider).
For B&W outdoors, use a yellow filter.
More Information top
Leica's data (see pages 34-36, and specifically page 37 for performance graphs.)
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