Leica Updates the Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH. Lens


It’s difficult to improve upon a classic, but Leica has done it with the latest Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH. lens. This updated version of the fast wide-angle prime sees the lens move into a more contemporary field in which Leica acknowledges how its lenses are being used in the digital era and opens up the M lens evolution for more versatility. 

Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH. Lens

Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH. Lens

The key upgrades for this latest version of the Summilux 35mm f/1.4 include:

  • a closer minimum focusing distance of 40cm (1.3'), compared to the conventional minimum focusing distance of 70cm (2.3') of most M-mount lenses;

  • improved bokeh, thanks to a new 11-blade diaphragm; this is up from the usual 9 blades in M lenses and should result in more rounded out-of-focus highlights;

  • the lens now has an integrated pull-out hood, compared to a removable one that adds bulk in the camera bag and can potentially be lost.

The upgrades themselves aren’t the kind of revolutionary step forward you’d expect from a more electronics-infused lens, but for a Leica lens, these are pretty significant steps―especially the closer minimum focusing distance. By moving past the 70cm de facto minimum focusing distance of most M-mount rangefinder lenses, Leica is clearly acknowledging the use of its lenses in conjunction with cameras featuring an electronic viewfinder, a rear LCD monitor, remote live view on a mobile device, or via an external monitor for cine situations. The rangefinder system of M cameras is not capable of focusing past 70cm, but this limit doesn’t need to apply to the focusing range of the lens if it’s used on a camera that permits focusing in some other way besides the optical rangefinder. With this caveat in mind, Leica designed a new double cam gear unit that permits rotating the focusing ring a huge 176° to get to the 40cm close focusing. There is still a standard focusing cam for working from 70cm to infinity with the rangefinder, but after you push past some resistance on the dial, you can move into the 70-40cm range that opens up new close-up opportunities for an M-mount lens.

The increase in the number of aperture blades, from 9 to 11, is a more subtle update but feels like another nod to contemporary preference of making shallow-depth-of-field imagery. The increased number of blades means the diaphragm will be more circular at wider settings, so the blurred backgrounds will appear smoother and rounder.

And, finally, the integrated lens hood just feels like a more streamlined update that improves the usability and portability for a lens like this—you’ll always have the hood with you and the lens will retain its same svelte profile.

Beyond the updates, the lens remains virtually unchanged from the previous generation Summilux 35mm: the optical design is the same, the 46mm filter thread is the same, and the new lens is only 2mm wider in diameter and weighs just 18g more. It’s available in Silver or Black.

What are your thoughts on Leica’s updated fast 35mm? Are you a fan of adapting rangefinder lenses to other cameras or using them outside of the rangefinder camera system’s limits? Let us know your thoughts, in the Comments section, below.