LEICA Lens Names
LEICA lenses are more than just lenses. They are the world's finest, and therefore have earned registered trademark status.
LEICA does not sell a 50mm f/2 "lens;" LEICA sells a 50mm f/2 "SUMMICRON." LEICA has been naming their lenses for as long as they have been selling lenses.
LEICA has been using some of its trademarks, like ELMAR, since the 1920s. LEICA's trademark simply establishes that lens as the finest in its class. The trademark never identifies any particular lens design, in fact, the same trademarks are used for all focal lengths, and even in different lens mounts.
Trademark names, like "SUMMICRON," are by themselves meaningless, like "Kleenex" or "Tang."
LEICA's trademarks usually correlate directly with the f/stop, thus "SUMMICRON" means the very best f/2 lens LEICA can make.
Present Day top
LEICA has been using today's trademarks in the same way since the 1960s. Since the 1970s, they are usually suffixed by "-M" for LEICA's immortal M-kameras, or "-R" for their dead SLR line:
The Trademarks top
Each trademark defines its own klasse; its own environment of excellence.
Here is each with its associated milieu, listed in order of descending popularity:
The SUMMICRON is the best lens made by LEICA — or anyone — in any particular era.
The SUMMICRON, at a fast f/2, is at least twice as fast as any professional zoom lens, and more than fast enough for any use in almost any light.
More important than high speed, the SUMMICRON offers the highest optical performance of any lens, and remains reasonably compact at the same time.
If you demand the sharpest lens for your LEICA, it is the SUMMICRON.
SUMMICRONs demand such high performance that these are the only focal lengths in which man can create them — today.
The SUMMICRON is LEICA's best lens for almost all photography: LEICA's highest optical performance with ample speed in a compact package. The SUMMICRON offers the best combination of performance factors. Every other LEICA lens give up something in return for a little more in just one area. For instance, the SUMMILUX offers more speed, but has to sacrifice size and weight and historically lower optical performance for that one rarely used stop of speed.
LEICA's f/1.4 SUMMILUX are ultra-speed lenses optimized for low-light photography. They are bigger, heavier and more expensive than the SUMMICRON, with slightly diminished optical performance.
The SUMMILUX are also very popular for general use, even though their optical performance laggs slightly behind the SUMMICRON.
The 35mm SUMMILUX was created in 1960, and remained unchanged until replaced by today's aspherical versions born in the 1990s.
SUMMILUX of extreme focal lengths (21mm, 24mm and 75mm) have been created more for the desiccated vaults of collectors than to be carried in the pockets of real photographers. These extreme SUMMILUX are too big and heavy for true LEICA photography.
The ELMARIT are popular lenses for the extreme focal lengths: 21mm, 24mm, 28mm and 90mm. The ELMARIT has also come in 135mm super-telephoto.
ELMAR are tiny, high-performance lenses that embody all that is LEICA: high performance in the smallest possible package.
The ELMAR has also been created in f/2.8 lenses, for instance, LEICA's superb 50mm f/2.8 ELMARs.
NOCTILUX are oversized, special-purpose ultra-speed lenses designed originally for use in extremely low-light. Today, with advances in modern emulsions and "digital" capture, the NOCTILUX is favored mostly by rich collectors. It is too big and blocks too much of the finder for it to be of interest to photographers, for whom the SUMMICRON and SUMMILUX offer more than enough speed, without the size, weight, finder bloockage and increased distortion of the NOCTILUX.
SUMMARIT: f/1.5 and f/2.5
The SUMMARIT was born as LEICA's fastest lens in 1949, at f/1.5. It was replaced by the SUMMILUX.
When LEICA decided to introduce a line of cheap lenses in 2007, it recycled the SUMMARIT name for these f/2.5 lenses. No one buys LEICA based on price; people who buy LEICA demand the best, and thus most of today's SUMMARIT-M lenses remain unsold. Duh.
HEKTOR was the name of The Prophet's dog, and was the name reserved for LEICA's lowest-performance lenses.
Previous Years top
Before the 1960s, these names could sometimes have more meaning because LEICA sometimes had different lenses with the same focal length and f/stop, but not today.
Meaningful Marks top
Some of LEICA's words are more meaningful, and few, if any of these, are trademarks:
* Because LEICA's M camera finders only work at a few fixed focal lengths, LEICA's zooms for their rangefinder cameras only stop at three click-stopped values corresponding to the few available frame lines of the M cameras. Since LEICA's zooms only stop at three settings, Leica calls them TRI-ELMAR to avoid using the word "zoom."
The Summer 1955 edition of "LEICA Photography" tells us how to pronounce the names popular in the 1950s:
ELMAR: ell' mar
HEKTOR: heck' tore
SUMMARON: soom' uh ron
SUMMICRON: soom' ih cron
SUMMITAR: soom' ih tar
SUMMAREX: soom' uh rex
STEMAR: stee' mar (2 x 3.3cm f/3.5 für stereo)
TELYT: tell' eat
Help me help you top
I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.
The biggest help is when you use any of these links to Adorama, Amazon, eBay, Ritz, Calumet and J&R and when you get anything. It costs you nothing, and is this site's, and thus my family's, biggest source of support. eBay is always a gamble, but all the other places always have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.
If you find this page as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.
As this page is copyrighted and formally registered, it is unlawful to make copies, especially in the form of printouts for personal use. If you wish to make a printout for personal use, you are granted one-time permission only if you PayPal me $5.00 per printout or part thereof. Thank you!
Thanks for reading!