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Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH, first impressions

Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH

I’ll be taking the new Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH with me to Yosemite this weekend where I’ll be shooting it for landscape purposes along with some other Leica and Nikon gear (too bad that new Canon 8-15mm is not yet available!).

Among other things, I’ll be comparing the 35/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH to the Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon in various ways; all lenses have design compromises and so

My initial impressions based on a few shots at dusk last night—

  • Very compact, an elegant match for the M9.
  • Wide open, very high sharpness and contrast (for f/1.4) along with excellent color saturation over the central 1/2 of the frame, declining gracefully outside that area.
  • I am not a fan of the “tabbed” focusing on Leica M lenses; it’s hard to make fine focus adjustments with the tab. I wish Leica would add a ribbed focusing collar instead, as found on the Zeiss ZM lenses.
  • The lens shade design keeps the lens elegantly compact, but makes using filters a headache.
  • Very noticeable magenta/green color bokeh for out-of-focus areas.
  • Bokeh (blur) is very attractive over most of the frame, but becomes somewhat distracting near the corners.
  • Use of the 1.25X viewfinder magnifier is beneficial for ease of focus accuracy, with the frame lines still visible and usable without difficulty.

The 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH is a must-have lens for M shooters; it is the most ergonomic focal length for the Leica M9 (viewfinder size), and a well-proven and now improved design. Anyone committed to the Leica M9 should be looking to get the 35/1.4, as well as the Noctilux, the 75/2 APO-Summicron-M and my wide-angle favorite for its low distortion and flat field, the 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH. See my handy wish list of Leica M lenses.

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