If you’re a Leica cultist, then you’re probably smitten with their Apochromatic lenses and hoped that maybe a new 28mm f2 Summicron-APO was being announced today. I’m sorry to let you down; there’s still something cool though! Instead, the Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux-M is being updated. No, it’s not an FLE variant; instead, it’s an update adding in a few things that you didn’t know you needed.
The new changes on this variant aren’t all that huge on paper, but are massive in the hand–and not literally. According to our Leica reps, the new Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux has:
- Closer focusing up to 40 cm (15.7 inches)
- Features 11 aperture blades
- An integrated pull-out round lens hood
If you’re a Leica photographer, then you understand how these are some deluxe changes. But if you’re not a Leica user, let me open your eyes.
Why is This Important?
Rangefinder lenses traditionally could never focus closer than three feet. But this new lens has a rework to make it focus as close as just a little over a foot away. Some of you might not think that that’s a big deal, but it surely is when you consider how close the back element is getting to the sensor/film plane. Seriously, this is a feat of engineering also because the rangefinder viewfinder will only let you focus so closely. So after a while, you’re going to need to switch to either the Visioflex EVF or use the LCD screen.
With more of Leica’s lenses starting to focus even closer, I really start to wonder if the next M camera will have an integrated EVF. And if it doesn’t, then I hope that they have a brand new high-resolution LCD screen.
Of course, I don’t see people buying the Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux for close focus photos exclusively, this is a lens for candid street photography.
If you think about 11 aperture blades, you’re probably thinking mostly about the Sony G Master series of lenses. And if you’re newer to photography, you probably thought that was revolutionary. But the honest truth is that that’s not the case. Zeiss Biotar lenses for years had somewhere around 17 aperture blades depending on the lens copy that you got. Leica lenses have always had a lot of aperture blades and so their bokeh has always been very creamy. With this new Leica 35mm f1.4 having 11 aperture blades, the bokeh will be that much more silken. Combine this with the beauty that Leica’s sensors have and you’re in for photos that will tug at your heart like a butter croissant with extra butter. We’re pretty sure this thing will be gorgeous on the Leica M11.
Those 11 aperture blades mean that you’ll get some beautiful portraits. And in the streets, you’ll also get some wonderful candid shots with your subjects in focus and little to nothing more. Of course, not having a big ass lens hood also helps to ensure that the viewfinder window doesn’t get blocked.
Oh right! Then there’s the collapsible lens hood. If you shot with the previous variant, then you’ll know how large that lens got when you put the hood on. Instead, you’d often opt for a lens filter into to protect the front element. This just makes marrying the lens to your camera that much more tempting.
At this point, we also recommend you check out our guide to Leica M-mount lenses, as we’ve reviewed every lens they have.
The Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux M Could’ve Gone Further
All these new changes to the Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux-M are quite welcome. But I also wonder why Leica hasn’t gone even further. The company always says that their products are very weather resistant and that the tolerances are built for that. However, they don’t have rubber gaskets like the SL system does. Leica’s engineers and VPs have often said that if they do that, then they’d need to update all their lenses. But I think that nonsense; if we all thought that way, then the Leica M5 would’ve never been made.
The most recent great example of this is with Fujifilm: who created a 33mm f1.4 R WR and left their 35mm f1.4 R in their lineup. Everyone knew that the 35mm f1.4 R was a Sonnar design that has character, and so they bought the older lens for the character. But when you need something for performance, you reach for the 33mm lens instead.
Obviously, Leica isn’t going to copy Fujifilm as they tend to cultivate their own garden quite well. However, I sincerely feel like there’s room for more change.
The new Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux-M will cost $5395 for the black variant and $5595 for the Silver. We’re actively working on getting a review unit.