IN USE: The Leica T and the new 35 1.4 Summilux T Lens!

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IN USE: The Leica T and the new 35 1.4 Summilux T Lens!

THIS IS AN “IN-USE” REPORT – Giving my thoughts after a week or so of use. Shorter than a full review, with plenty of image samples. Click ’em for larger! 

Hello to all of you here! It’s another beautiful day (90 degrees in sunny Phx AZ in mid April) and here I am looking at one hell of a gorgeous lens today. Now, I will admit up front that the Leica T camera is lagging today when it is compared to its competition, it just is and this is a fact. Yep, it is slower than most, not good for moving subjects as its C-AF is sluggo, it has a lag after every shot and will not give you cutting edge low light or high ISO shots that can compete with the newer cameras today (that are less expensive than the T), but then again, neither does a Leica M but it still has its charms and has many buying it at $6-7k, it’s the Leica way after all. We buy with our heart, at least I always have.

As for the Leica T, I expect that a new T model would be in the works by now, but who knows. Maybe, maybe not.

EVEN with that bit of info, and even though the T is not great at high speed, high ISO, or 2016 functionality (no built in EVF, no tilt LCD) when compared to newer APS-C offerings, it does one thing better than all of those other APS-C competitors and with this lens, even more so.

IMAGE QUALITY!

With the new 35 1.4 Summilux T lens, the T has some new life breathed into it as this lens is a stunner, even outperforming the M version (if it were to be used on the T) and that is saying A LOT. This new lens for the T system is gorgeous, and can also be used on the new Leica SL in crop mode. THIS IS an APS-C lens as is the T itself but it has the traditional Leica build, feel and performance.

YOU MUST CLICK ON ALL IMAGES HERE to see them the way they were meant to be seen! The 35 1.4 for the T has a beautiful way of rendering. 

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I was actually VERY curious about this lens and wondered if it would be worth a look so when Leica asked if I wanted to give it a try, I could not resist! I am glad I did as I really enjoyed using it, and it had me, at times, wondering if it was worth it for me to own just to use on the SL as I do not own a T and have no plans to buy one at this point in time. With a price tag of $2395 new, this lens is NOT cheap. It’s more expensive than the full frame top tier professional new Sony G master lenses, and those are some mighty fine pieces of glass (of course, they will not work on a T, was just comparing cost) though much larger and heavier, and again, for Sony not Leica.

For most, a crop sensor prime lens for $2350 is tough to swallow but then again, all of Leica’s cameras and lenses are on the pricey side. That is no secret or mystery as it has been like this forever. Just look at the 35 Summilux M lens for a REAL expensive but oh so gorgeous 35 1.4 lens that is small, built like a tank and delivers that Leica look and glow we all love 🙂 Just under $5k. Makes this one look affordable 😉

If you own a Leica T though, and If you have the money to spend, you could do worse than buying this lens. Believe me when I say that this lens is a stunner in every way. Sharpness, Bokeh, Color, Contrast, Build, Feel, AF accuracy and speed (limited only by the T itself) is as good as it gets in a 35 1.4 APS-C lens.

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I am not sure how many of you that are reading this own a T but if you do, and love fast prime lenses, this is one you WILL want to take a look at.

While being a 35mm lens, the equivalent focal length of this lens will be more like 52mm so many will see it as a 50mm lens. Due to the APS-C crop factor of 1.5, 35mm is not the field of view you will get, so keep that in mind. But hey, 52mm may be even better for most as 50mm is usually a goto for most prime shooters.

The Leica 50 Summilux has always been their most popular lens for the M mount, and this lens will give you a 50mm reach (though not a 50mm character) when used with the T or SL, so what is NOT to like?

The struggle for some will be the price. Many have been wondering what is going to happen with the Leica T line as it has been sort of slow out of the gate and talk about the T is quiet sparse on the forums, even the Leica forums.  It never seemed to take off even though it has a slick interface, is created from a solid block of aluminum and hand polished for hours in Germany 🙂 My full review from when it was launched can be seen here. It is like a camera that APPLE would create in so many ways.

Even so, many have been harsh critics of the T. When I originally reviewed the T, I enjoyed it and thought it was great for the time. The IQ stood out with the Leica X style of IQ and color, and the only issue at launch was the two lenses you had to choose from. One a slow expensive zoom and one a 23mm Summicron f/2 prime that stopped down to a slower aperture if you focused closely.

These days there are a few more lenses to choose from with the T but jumping into the T system could cost you more than jumping into other possibly more attractive systems. $4100 is what it would cost you for a T camera and this one lens. Around the same cost as a Q and $1000 more than an RX1RII. More than an A7II or Fuji X-T1.

Is the T worth buying just for this lens? For some, it just may be. For others, no. For those who own a T, it is a MUST to at least look at it, rent it or give it a try.

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LEICA = SIMPLICITY – PASSION – GORGEOUS BUILD AND IQ

Leica offers simplicity, solid build and gorgeous IQ and lenses. That’s what you can expect from them in todays world of whiz bang cameras that are really computers in disguise. Many buy into Leica just for that reason as many feel, myself included, that Leica IS photography. There has always been a mystique around the brand and while many cry they are only for the elite, I say this is NOT true. Leica is for the passionate photographer which is why I jumped in with an M7 many many years ago while my income at the time was below poverty level. I saved, and saved and sacrificed other things to own it and that camera was with me for a long time, and I adored it.

My 1st Leica was an M7, and I adored it and shot hundreds of rolls of film through it with my 50 Summicron

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I was not ever any kind of “elite” and never will be but I appreciated the design, the form, the way it worked and the small jewel like lenses that were just at times, GODLY. I enjoyed the history of the company and knew I had a product in my hand I could be proud  to own, happy to own. It’s a special thing when you own a Leica as it is the passion inside of us that attracts many of us to the brand.It truly is. So not all Leica users or owners are “Elite’ or “Rich’ or “Snobs”. Many are true working class photographers, others are hobbyists and enthusiasts and yes, some are collectors. But most of the friends I know that shoot Leica, are in no way rich. They just really enjoy the Leica experience, and contrary to what many may say, you do get a Leica experience with the T, as there is nothing else like the T from any other camera manufacturer. While not an M or an S or an SL or X, the T is like the red headed stepchild of the Leica family. The oddball in the bunch.

But odd as in good. Different. Unique.

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So in my opinion, this is who a lens and camera like this are made for, the passionate photographer who has always had a thing..a spark or a love for the Leica brand of cameras. It is expensive, sure, but gear like this always rewards you with gorgeous results and that pride of ownership that many cameras lack. To some, a camera is just a tool they use occasionally. For others, they bond with their cameras and make the most of owning that camera. They use it daily, learn its weaknesses and strengths and exploit those strengths.

The Leica 35 Summilux T is by all accounts a fantastic performer in the real world. While I have never done scientific chart testing, I am sure this lens will test out great as the real photos from it bring out the best of the T itself. FOR ME, it is the best T lens available to date. If you love your Leica T, this is where it’s at! I always say these days, buy ONCE and be done with it. Meaning, I quit buying cheap lenses as I never liked them or loved them, even though I knew I was saving money. Buy once, and you will not lose money as you will have something you love and can bond with. QUALITY.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can pre-order the Leica 35 Summilux T at the dealers below, all whom I recommend 100%

KEN HANSEN – Email him at [email protected] . Ken is a legendary Leica dealer.

POPFLASH.COM – PopFlash.com is a huge Leica dealer as well. Tony Rose is very well respected in the Leica world.

B&H PHOTO – Order the 35 1.4 at B&H HERE

A few more samples with the Leica 35 Summilux T on the T. CLICK the images for larger, better versions. EXIF is embedded on all of these shots. 

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36 thoughts on “IN USE: The Leica T and the new 35 1.4 Summilux T Lens!

  1. The T is polished in the Leica Production site in Portugal, as almost all standard parts for Leica manufactured cameras are. Only final assembly and specific items like the Noctilux are fully produced in Germany.
    Go there and have a look. If all were made in Germany and only the Leica R adapter in Portugal guess what they build the new factory for and kept all those years the many employees busy over there, while there wasn’t a proper factory for so many products in Wetzlar?

    “Made in Germany” is Marketing in most of their products and for that reason they purposefully design the assembly process to comply with the average grade demands for the “Made in Germany” engraving.

    1. So, whats your problem? The final assembly is still in Germany. Its not like the they make the item and produced them 100% in Portugal and claim they were all made in Germany…or the Wetzlar factory just a hoax-that never exist in a first place.

      Your comment does not related to this lens review at all and I wonder why you were here in a first place.

  2. “the red headed stepchild”????, “the oddball of the bunch”??? What’s all that about mate? You need to think a bit before you start insulting people with your narrow minded comments.

  3. I succumbed and purchased this 35mm TL Summilux lens. Wow!

    Incredibly sharp at all apertures and across the frame. Beautiful creamy bokeh when you want. Legendary Leica color rendering and microcontrast. The way it handles lighting transitions is as good as it gets. AF is quick on the T. I just wish it was a tad smaller & lighter.

    If you think the X Vario’s lens is special – you ain’t seen nothing yet. This lens is also every bit as good as the M Summilux.

    I am getting compliments from so many people about photos I take with this lens. It really is a special lens that can produce stunning photos. The bokeh control is just awesome. Bravo Leica!

  4. Forgot to mention an important point in my previous post.
    Namely thanks Steve for mentioning in your article that ordinary people often own and use Leica cameras.
    This is a fact that is seemingly lost on most commentators ?

  5. Hi Steve,

    The bokeh on that 35mm is beautiful. For some strange reason it reminds me of the Nocticron.

    Anyway on a completed unrelated note, will you be re-looking at the Leica SL with firmware 2.0 ?
    Firmware 2.0 is supposed to had lots of improvements
    http://leicarumors.com/2016/04/14/firmware-update-2-0-for-leica-sl-mirrorless-camera-system-released.aspx/
    Leica are claiming faster AF, better subject tracking, 1/16,000 shutter speed, 529 AF points (up from 49).
    Basically it’s like a Leica SL version 2.0 with this firmware. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks for all the work you’ve put into this article.

    Tom.

  6. So, what happened to getting a Fujifilm X-PRO 2 to review? Are you going to have to buy one and send it back? Will you have to do the same with the GX85?

  7. You are right that a Leica (especially an M) is not an elitist tool. The M is beautiful and understated – the T is also, but with a modern flavour. DSLRs are certainly vulgar, though.

    I would bet that a T with this lens provides sharper images, wide-open, right to the corners, than a Nikon 58/1.4 on an FX body. If I’m wrong, US$5 to your favourite charity. 😉

      1. It depends. For portraiture you don’t care about sharpness, you just want a nice rendering. If you’re ‘stuck’ with a sharp lens but don’t want the sharpness, there are simple ways to take the edge off without the cheesy Softar look.

        For most other things you probably do want maximal sharpness because it means you can either significantly crop or enlarge the image. An example of where sharpness actually can work in portraiture:

        https://prosophos.com/2016/04/17/the-giggles/

        There is also another point: full frame sensors don’t necessarily translate to better images. The example I gave, a Nikon DSLR with the 58/1.4, would cost about as much as the T with the native 35/1.4. And the T is a more desirable camera (for me). So if sharpness is about the same, and the T gives smaller file sizes, you have to wonder why you’d want the bigger camera. The T is also quite discrete (not that all DSLRs are very noisy).

  8. Wow. Your pictures are so sharp and the bokeh… Using iphone to look at the files… I will try to take some shots tom using the a7ii with 28f2 fe and see if i can at least have something or nearly as great.

  9. What Leica needs to do is produce another Q model, with a 50/2 Cron (or faster would be great but size/weight are a consideration still)

    The Q form factor and built in EVF are fantastic, and its a great blend of classic Leica RF styling and bare basics direct control, paired with fast AF, built in EVF etc.

    A FF 24meg Q with a 50mm lens could also provide a nice 75mm APS-C 15meg equiv in crop mode, just as the original Q gives a great 35mm FoV when you crop.

    T isn’t a bad camera, but its not a great camera either, and while this 35/1.4 looks to be a great lens, its a lot of money to pair up with a T, especially if you don’t love the T, and then your still shooting APS-C….. I can understand why not a ton of people have jumped on this one, while the Q is still next to impossible to find in stock.

    50mm Q….. huge sale hits for Leica, and a unique offering in the market. We’ve got a lot of 28 and 35mm equiv fixed lens compacts such as the GR, X100, X70, RX1 etc, but nobody makes a 50mm fixed lens compact.

  10. I enjoy the Leica T tremendously I agree completely with Steve – this camera is about image quality. The images are so sharp and crisp. The colors are spot on. The controls are simple and intuitive.
    And now the T is priced competitively. I bought a used mint example for $800. I got a new one for $1,100 (yes, I have two). The lenses are discounted heavily now as well if you shop around.
    I don’t need blazing fast AF. I don’t need a zillion frames per second. I don’t need to take shots at 100,000 ISO. So for me, this camera is perfect. I just stopped using everything else – Fuji XT-1, Sony A7r, Canon M3. and others.
    Since more T lenses are coming such as the 35 and 60 mm, I expect a new T within a year. Time will tell.
    So thanks Steve for your terrific review of the 35mm Summilux.

  11. The Leica lenses are crazy expensive but are well made and produce indisputablly great images.Leica cameras are a funny mix. Consider the SL and the Q which are up there in the game. The T was innovative but may be a bit dated now. The M is still a digital incarnation of a much loved film camera. Leica need to be in the game like it or not they need to update their cameras more often.
    It pains me to say this but people are in a consumerist mentality sadly.

    1. It’s as good as it is on the T, just tried it this morning. Basically the same with slightly different rendering due to the SL sensor being different, and better than the T sensor. At the end of the day though I would not buy it for the SL, as I would only keep full frame glass for a full frame camera.

  12. As a Leica shooter I never understood the T and the idea behind it. For $4k Leica offers a 35 f.4 and a body with a quirky UI, external EVF wart, seriously outdated 16MP sensor and electronics. The same amount can buy a lot of competitive gear with 2-3 excellent lenses included X Pro2, Sony a 6300, Sony a 7II.

    1. “[…] a quirky UI […]”

      Sorry, for the T’s intended target audience this ‘quirky’ UI will offer a very intuitive and awesome experience and a great proposition to take a first step into the Leica brand.

      I have used both M, T and X extensively and I loved the T’s UI and design from the start, but echo Steve’s comment about sluggish performance and lens line-up at launch.

      Now with latest firmware and a really great lens line-up coming together the T has grabbed my interest again

      I for one also love the Visoflex EVF add-on (and take-off 😉 … just wish they half-ed the price on that one, or even better run a promotion a give it away for free when buying a T + lens 😉

  13. What I will say is that just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

    Fast lenses provide the option to shoot really unnecessary and quite tasteless brokeh in any situation and the ‘all the gear and no idea’ starts to really show – and it’s a crime because it’s a gear lead eye and it’s not very attractive!

    I know it’s a gear site but please – promote some books too x

    1. That would be like me saying slow aperture lenses provide a way for all photos to look like they were shot on a cel phone and point and shoots. That would be a crime as all photos look the same when shot at f/8. 😉

    2. I’m with you all the way with your somewhat unpopular statement, Alex.
      In my opinion, DOF has nothing to do with aesthetics, nor with the semiotic of an image, even less with the expression of an idea. Nowadays, considering the gear and software available, It’s no better than the sheer adolescent bragging about the sportcar daddy bought.
      And yes, more books (and less gear) should be promoted.

    3. I agree as well. Shallow depth of field definitely has its aesthetic merits in many cases, but take a look at HCB prints: He shot most of them with a ton of DOF, perhaps an f8.0. Also, some of them aren’t very sharp… So do they look like they were shot on a cell phone? Perhaps. But the composition and light is what matters. “There’s nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept” -Ansel Adams.

      1. George: I agree. It’s the way that compositional elements communicate with one another that makes a good photo for me. The photograph is more organic, and complete. That’s the main reason to shoot with a narrower aperture.

        When the lens is wide open, there is a sense that the image is only about the relationship of the photographer to the in-focus element. In Steve’s samples above, it’s why it works with the portrait of his wife, and not so much with the picture of the rooster.

        Getting everything in the image to relate to one another is one of the challenges for a good image.

      2. That’s exactly what Joel Meyerowitz says. “There are people who simply “collect” and make copies of objects through their pictures. I prefer to tell stories putting unrelated things together in ephemeral ways”. The obsession of shooting at f0.00001 to isolate subjects that look copy pasted in a blurred background is a little over use now and says nothing about the quality of the camera, lenses or photographers. that is why the Leica X Vario users appreciate so much in their cameras, for example.

    1. No…because it’s a propietary Leica mount and as far as I know there is no adapter to mount this on a Sony (it’s not a Leica M mount).

  14. Not to do with this review specifically but it’s a symptom of how crazy the camera market has become when a product that is exactly 2 years old and cost $3,500 is described as ‘lagging today’ and ‘can’t compete with newer cameras’. Still, at least it was hewn from a solid block of aluminium and polished for 3 weeks by a man in a lab coat…

    1. The product that is “lagging today” is $1500 or so, or $1299 refurb and it is the T camera, NOT the lens this article is about. The lens is just as good, if not better than any modern lens. It is the camera that is lagging behind other cameras made in 2016.

      1. The images from this lens do look very nice – no argument there. My point was a broader one about the speed of obsolescence these days in the camera world. I find it depressing that a camera that people paid $3,500 for 24 months ago is now seen as unable to keep up and that this way of thinking seems to have become the norm.

        Maybe my comments belong more in your thought provoking article on why you prefer mirrorless to DSLRs. One of the reasons I’m still primarily a DSLR shooter is that they don’t seem to have yet fallen into the relentless ‘upgrade’ cycle that Sony etc. have embraced, with new models coming along every 6 months. I like the fact that the D750 I bought last year will be good for at least another 5 years because Nikon’s cameras evolve slowly, adding features in a considered way rather than feeling the need to keep consumers ‘excited’ by the next upgrade. Personally, my photography is what excites me – I don’t need to change my camera every 6 months to keep that excitement going. Each to their own anyway.

        And by the way, I’m not anti-mirrorless. Tucked away in my bag is the excellent Nikon V1 and a handful of lenses, which I bought thanks to your championing of this misunderstood little gem (!)

  15. Great photos as always. I would love to see something in this vein from Leica a little more upgraded and competitive with the Sony’s, Olympus’ and others while keeping the phenomenal image quality. Thanks for a great site Steve!

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