If you asked me if Leica glass was worth the money, I’d say yes — each and every single time. If you asked me if other Leica owners would agree with me, I’d also say yes. If you asked me if it’s worth the money to you, I wouldn’t have an answer. And if you asked me if the Leica Extender L 1.4x is worth the money, I’d truly scratch my head. Teleconverters are a very important part of photography for many of us. But at the moment, the SL system lacks the lenses that would take the most advantage of a 1.4x teleconverter. Compared to the big three, which offer faster aperture lenses, the Leica SL system’s biggest issue is missing out on various telephoto prime lenses for sports and wildlife. And until the system brings those and more serious super telephoto zoom lenses, the Leica Extender L 1.4x might not be worth it.
I feel I further need to clarify those statements. The Leica Extender L 1.4x seems like a rebadge of a Sigma teleconverter. I can’t confirm or deny this fact, though. Leica has gotten into a big thing of rebadging some of Sigma’s lens optics and putting far superior build quality on them — and sometimes better motors. But quite honestly, Leica should stop this nonsense. For several years, the Leica R series of film cameras enjoyed many telephoto lenses that rendered stunning photos. It makes me wonder why Leica wouldn’t try to bring these back for L mount. What am I talking about?
- 250mm f4
- 280mm f2.8
- 350mm f4.8
- 400mm f6.8
- 400mm f5.6
- 400mm f4
- 400mm f2.8
- 500mm f8
- 560mm f6.8
- 560mm f5.6
- 800mm f6.3
- 800mm f5.6
These are just prime lenses. However, the Leica Extender L 1.4x would serve L mount variants of these. lenses incredibly well. Leica doesn’t need Sigma to do them. They could remake them with autofocus with similar optics from back in the day, and photographers would rave over the character and rebirth of a few classic lenses.
But I digress — as my emotions and passion for the Leica system are getting the better of me.
The Leica Extender L 1.4x still isn’t necessarily the best option you can go for. Leica’s SL system cameras have an APS-C crop option. Sure, it means that you’re using fewer megapixels, but you’re getting the same aperture that you would otherwise. The Leica 100-400mm f5-6.3 is otherwise already a pretty slow optic. With an 1.4x teleconverter, you might as well be shooting with Micro Four Thirds instead.
When it comes to build quality, it isn’t clear if the Leica Extender L 1.4x has weather resistance. But I’m pretty sure it’s the reason why my Leica SL2s sensor got dirty.
In terms of autofocus performance, I could notice a slight difference when it came to focusing on birds. However, that’s a problem that is negated when looking at the beautiful images that it’s capable of producing.
So which will it be? Will you sacrifice megapixels for extra light? Or will you sacrifice light for resolution? If you’re a fan of the latter, then you might want to consider the Leica Extender L 1.4x. If you’re not someone who wants to sacrifice the light (the way I am), then you’ll get a higher resolution camera and crop in as necessary.
But either way, the Leica Extender L 1.4x is a teleconverter designed for a system that isn’t ready for it yet. Until then, it’s not worth the near $1,000 it costs.