The Lust Is Real. Leica 35mm F1.4 Summilux ASPH Review

The Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH lens will appeal to the person who loves the 35mm field of view.

They’re pricey, but they’re often worth it. That’s how I often describe Leica lenses often. The Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH fits the bill in many ways. There’s beautiful image quality, nice colors, it’s small, well built, and there’s a justified sense of prideful ownership. I’ve used the lens many times over the years, but I never completed a full review. Time and time again, I always found myself blissfully content with the Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH. If you were to ever get just one lens for the Leica M mount, this is the one to go for. Alternatively, you could buy the lens and adapt it to any mount you want.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Small
  • Well built
  • Sharp image quality
  • Beautiful colors
  • Nice bokeh
  • It’s almost impossible to make someone look bad with this lens.

Cons

Too Long, Didn’t Read

Hands down, the Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH is the only lens you need for the Leica M mount. Any other lens you get will only be the cherry on top of the sundae. This lens has it all.

Innovations

The Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH has been out for several years. It’s not doing anything new, but there aren’t many 35mm lenses for the M mount. As far as pricing goes, this sits at the top.

Gear Used

We tested the Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH on the Leica SL2s and the Leica M6.

Tech Specs

Specs are taken from the LensRentals listing. Rent one to give it a try!

The Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux M ASPH II is an ultra high-speed wide-angle lens. Key features include:

  • Great for landscape photography
  • Outstanding image quality across the aperture range
  • Floating element design to ensure high resolution
  • “6-bit” coding stores lens information in image metadata

Advanced Optical Design. The Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux M ASPH II is characterized by exceptionally brilliant contrast, superb resolution and detail rendition, and virtually coma-free images. The complex optical design—which includes an aspherical lens surface—produces an image quality that’s unsurpassed in compact 35mm lenses, even at full aperture.

High-Quality Build. This updated version of the 35mm features a floating element, meaning that the lenses behind the aperture blades are constructed as a floating group that changes its position relative to the front lens group during focusing to achieve high-quality performance at closer focusing distances. The new full-metal, rectangular, screw-mount lens hood contributes significantly to this lens’s compact dimensions.

Automatic Lens Identification. This lens features “6-bit” coding, which allows the digital M camera to read this information optically and to identify which lens is being used. The camera can then apply optional “final-stage” software-based vignetting correction.

Ergonomics

The Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH is a beautiful lens. Overall, it’s also very minimal, depending on who you ask. Of course, it isn’t minimal when you compare it to autofocus lenses. But those are a different beast.

Here are the only main controls on this lens. There is an aperture ring and a focusing scale. Behind that, you can see the zone focusing scale. This will help you get focus pretty easily.

Build Quality

The Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH is built like most other Leica M mount lenses. It’s made of metal. There’s an aperture ring, a smooth focusing ring, and a metal lens hood that you can get. Ultimately, these lenses are built very solidly. However, no M mount lens that I know of has been weather sealed. I think it can be done: if we kept thinking it can’t be done, the M5 and the M9 would’ve never been made.

Ease of Use

The Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH isn’t a lens for a beginner. People who have never manually focused before will probably become annoyed with it unless they change the way they shoot. But if you’ve been manually focusing for years, this will be a breeze to use.

Focusing

Focusing is done manually. The Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH has a distance scale, depth of field scale, and a focusing scale. You can focus a distance away with zone focus if you wish. You can also sit there and slowly, manually focus on a subject. It’s nice to do that and feel like you’re a part of the image-taking process vs. having a machine do everything for you.

Here’s a video on how to focus on a rangefinder that you’ll enjoy.

Image Quality

The Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH is beautiful in so many ways. The contrast isn’t that high, but the colors are very saturated, so it might seem otherwise. The lens is sharp overall. Plus, there’s nice bokeh. It’s hard to find a flaw with the image quality from this lens.

Bokeh

I really like the bokeh from this lens. It focuses as close as a meter away. So, of course, this isn’t the closest focusing lens, but the bokeh from this image is positively beautiful. You can see the flower stand out clearly from the rest of the scene. There isn’t that 3D pop that you get with some newer, more contrasty lenses. But that’s where you see the balance here. You’ll see how smooth the bokeh gradation is here from the flower to the stem, the flowers below, the ones behind it, to the park and the building. It’s tough to not like it.

Color Rendition

The colors from this lens are wonderful. When I look at the image quality, this lens delivers something about how it renders certain tones that remind me of the Leica M9. So if you want something close to that look, consider this lens. Again, we tested the Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH on the Leica SL2s.

Below, I’m going to post images that I shot with the Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH and the Leica M9 years ago. You’ll see a bit of those same tones in the photo above.

Lens Character

As far as flare and fringing go, I didn’t find anything that would’ve been problematic, so to speak. Leica controls it. Believe it or not, I really wish that there were more lens flare.

Sharpness

The sharpness from this lens is superb.

Extra Image Samples

From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing, and they’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a whole section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.

These images are unedited.

Conclusions

Likes

  • Image quality
  • Build Quality
  • Small size

Dislikes

  • It’s kind of pricey, but understandable if it’s the only Leica lens you’ll own.

I’ve used the Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH on and off over the years for various reviews. Each time I’ve used it, I’ve had a great experience. Granted, Leica lenses are a nice way to step back from all the other stuff out there. This one has exceptional image and build quality, and a small size. It’s been around for a long time, but it’s aged well. That’s the truly amazing part of all this. Most lenses these days may only last a few years because of the megapixel count. But the Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH continues to impress no matter what. And if you’re looking for those classic colors, this is hard to beat.

The Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH wins five out of five stars. Want one? Check out Amazon for the latest prices.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.