Is there a more universal focal length than 50mm? I love being able to throw a 50mm lens onto my camera because I can use it for almost everything. When I first started photographing in the digital age, it’s the only focal length I owned for several years. It also seems to be one of Leica’s favorite focal lengths as well. The Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux lens is a moderately priced offering amongst their lineup. So how does it stack up?
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Too Long Didn’t Read
The compact Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux lens is a standard lens with a moderate price tag in the Leica lineup. Images are sharp with plenty of bokeh and beautiful tones. The lens has plenty of character, including a naturally occurring vignette. Although, it doesn’t have quite as much of the pop Leica lenses are known for.
Pros and Cons
- Compact and versatile
- Beautiful tones
- Plenty of bokeh
- Great in low light
- It doesn’t have as much pop as the Summicron-APO
- Not fully weather-sealed
We tested the Leica Summilux 50mm lens with a Leica M10-R from LensRentals. We also used the Broncolor Siros L 800ws and a Broncolor Para 88.
All tech specs are from the LensRentals listing.
- Angle of view : 47 degrees
- Aperture: f1.4-16
- Autofocus: Manual Focus Ony
- Brand: Leica
- Diameter: 2.1″
- Dimensions: Length – 2.1″
- Filter Size: 46.0mm (non rotating)
- Filter Style: nonrotating
- Focal Length: 50.0-50.0
- Groups/Elements: 5/8
- Hood Included: No
- Image Stabilization: No
- Item Tye: Lens
- Lens Type: Normal Range
- Max Aperture: 1.4
- Maximum Magnification: .09x
- Minimum Aperture: 22.0
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 2.3 feet
- Mount: Leica M
- Weight: 11.8 oz.
The Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 lens isn’t very innovative. It’s a standard 50mm lens and follows the renowned design that is synonymous with Leica. If anything, it’s one of the few lenses with a built-in lens hood.
The compact Summilux 50mm f1.4 lens measures slightly over two inches in length and weighs under 12 ounces. Like other Leica lenses, it is cute and fits comfortably in the palm of your hand.
The design is reminiscent of other lenses in the Leica family. The depth of field scale is at the bottom of the lens and closest to the lens mount.
The focusing ring is a smooth metal with a U-shaped finger rest. It is very comfortable and glides effortlessly.
A click-style aperture ring is next and situated before the built-in lens hood. It is a combination of smooth and textured metal. The various textures allow you to feel the lens and make adjustments without having to look away from the viewfinder.
The Summilux 50mm f1.4 lens is a compact workhorse. It looks and feels solid. The lens is made of quality metal, and everything glides smoothly. Although Leica has told us that their lenses are built with weather sealing in mind, the lens is not weather-sealed. The Summilux survived the cooler temperatures of late autumn and a light coating of sleet without any issues.
The Leica 50mm Summilux lens is a manual focus lens. Like the other 50mm lenses in the family, it can also focus at .7 meters. This is ideal for portraits and closer crops. The depth of field scale is great when zone focusing and is quick to achieve focus. I also enjoy getting lost in the scene and slowly focusing on my subject. It’s nice to be an integral part of the image-making process instead of relying on automation.
Ease of Use
This is not a lens for beginners. If you speak autofocus as a primary language, the manual focusing of the Leica 50mm Summilux lens will take some getting used to. The slower tempo is foreign at first, but refreshing. It does not take long to adapt and see images slide into the center of the viewfinder. Shifting focus between a subject close-up and then focusing at infinity becomes familiar quickly. And with practice, the process becomes second nature.
The Leica Summilux 50mm lens creates beautifully sharp images with plenty of bokeh. The colors are gorgeous and creamy. It can provide punchy contrast in ideal situations, making fantastic monochrome images. The contrast isn’t overbearing, especially in soft light. I found myself editing portraits a bit more than I did with the 50mm Summicron APO lens. It took me back to my darkroom days where I was always pushing the contrast. In a sense, the black and white images created with this lens remind me of those film days.
“Smokey bokeh” is a term that I’ve heard used to describe bokeh created by this lens. I’d say that’s entirely accurate when creating black and white images. This lens provides velvety smooth bokeh that separates the subject and melts into the background. The Bokeh isn’t perfectly round, and it can create impactful portraits.
This lens is very sharp, even when shooting subjects wide open. When shooting portraits, the details are lovely. When shooting landscapes at f1.4, the center is sharp while the edges of the frame are soft. The sharpness extends to the corners when stopping down. I often found myself shooting landscapes and cityscapes between f2.8 and f4.
I really appreciate that the character hasn’t been sucked out of this lens. The Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 lens provides images with beautiful color saturation. Bokeh and sharpness are pleasantly balanced. The contrast can be punchy and make incredible black and white images in harsh light. Although, I often found myself bumping the contrast slightly in post. Color fringing is minimal, and it is possible to create sun flare. Distortion is minimal while the vignetting hasn’t been stripped away and retains a more timeless feel. Any imperfections that aren’t wanted are easily corrected in post-processing.
Leica colors are beautiful, and this lens is no exception. The pairing of the 50mm Summilux and the Leica M10-R creates true-to-life colors with a little pop. Color fringing within the highlights is minimal and only noticeable when zooming in. The skin tones are excellent for capturing portraits.
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 that show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
Conclusions of the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 Lens Review
- Lightweight and compact
- Versatile for a variety of applications
- Perfect focal length to leave attached to your camera most of the time
- Plenty of character
- It doesn’t quite have the punch that other Leica 50mm lenses do
- Not fully weather-sealed
The Summilux 50mm lens is ideal for portraits, street photography, and landscapes. Its price makes it a desirable lens for anyone wanting to invest in the system. The images it produces are sharp with plenty of bokeh and gorgeous colors. At the end of the day, I would choose to invest in either of the two Summicron versions if I had the choice. The rendering matches my shooting and minimal editing style a bit better. I also appreciate the extra sharpness for my line of work where the clothing details matter.
That isn’t to say that the Summilux is a lower quality lens because it’s not. It’s a personal choice. The Summilux is a beautiful lens and compliments the M10-R quite well. It’s an ideal focal length to leave affixed to your camera body for long periods of time. The moderate price by Leica standards and wide aperture are desirable for most applications. I always enjoy shooting with the Leica-M system, and this lens does not disappoint.
We are giving the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 lens five out of five stars. Want one? Check it out on Amazon, or rent it from LensRentals if you want to give it a test drive.