A Look at the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH on the Sony A7RII by Steve Huff

A Look at the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH on the Sony A7RII

by Steve Huff

With all of the Leica M10 madness all over this website as well as the rangefinder world I decided to take a breather from that camera for a bit (The Leica M10). So much has been said about it lately and dealers have a wait list up to 200 deep (depending on dealer) so getting one anytime soon is gonna be tough for those who want one. Yes, it’s a success. Many want an M10 but it’s gonna be a wait, so let’s talk about something else in the Leica world that has been well loved for many years now. A lens. Not just any lens, but a lens I have written about so many  times now over 8 years. It’s just so good I have to write about it again but this time with using it on the Sony A7RII.

Yep, I still own and use my A7RII every week without fail. It has been the one camera that has lasted for the long haul for me. Meaning, I have never owned one model of camera for such a constant long stretch without selling it (or rebuying it). Being a reviewer, and seeing so many amazing cameras come and go, I often get to see the next big thing, and I get tempted and buy them, and I do which means I sell off the old. But the old A7RII has lasted me.

The A7RII has lasted this long with me due to how versatile it is. With video, photos, low light, ability to use almost any lens made, etc etc. My main gripe with it after long term use is the dreadful battery life, especially when shooting video but no camera has ever been perfect I guess.

50 1.4 Summilux on the Sony A7RII at f/1.4

Before going any further here, the Sony A7rII is not perfect when using Leica M glass. Wide angle lenses will have soft edges and sometimes they just do not have that WOW that they can have on a Leica SL or M. But this is a 50mm, and for a 50mm it does fantastic on the Sony, or the M or the SL. Each camera gives a different feel to the images which is odd but I love them all (Though my fave for this lens is the Leica SL)

The lens is a beauty to behold. All manual focus, built so solid it feels like it is made of solid brass and glass and so smooth in operation that one may be surprised when using one for the first time. This is no Zeiss ZM or Voigtlander. This lens is a Leica. It’s built to the Leica standard and for that WE PAY. This lens comes in anywhere from $3800 to $4400 depending on the version you get. Both versions made today are the same optically but there is a special Black Chrome Edition that mimics the old school design of the Summilux past uses a 43mm filter instead of 46 and that is the version I own. It’s lovely and the only lens I would give it up for is the Noctilux f/0.95.

Two versions are sold today as of Feb 2017 – Click them to see more.

This lens has been around for many years over different versions. This one is the latest ASPH version and to me, I have a sort of emotional tie to it as it was my ver 1st real Leica M lens that I ever purchased. When I bought it NEW many years ago, the ASPH version was $2495. Goes to show how much these lenses can appreciate over the years. Unusual for camera gear or lenses but Leica M lenses seem to do that if you hang on to them for a long long time. Buy them used and you are usually guaranteed to never lose money if you decided to sell.

Using this lens on the M10, I would often miss a few shots as focusing an RF when your eyes are starting to really fail you (As mine are) is TOUGH. When I had perfect vision just three years ago I could nail every shot with any lens, even the Noctilux when used on an M. Today, I see the effects of aging and me refusing to wear my glasses when I do shoot an M means missing some shots.

But for guys like me, who have failing vision (getting older) and do not like to wear glasses when shooting a rangefinder, the good news is that this lens can be used on other cameras such as the Sony A7 series and the beautiful Leica SL while still retaining the full frame character of the lens. When using an M lens on an APS-C or M 4/3 sensor camera you will lose character due to the crop. So I only use these lenses on full frame 35mm format sensors to retain the look, feel and beauty of what they were designed to do.

I feel the Leica SL is the best and easiest manual focus camera made today for full frame 35mm format. With that camera and this lens, you have a heavenly experience. With the Sony A7RII it is also a good experience but not as easy as shooting it on that SL (due to that huge clear SL EVF). Even so, for those with a Sony A7RII this lens is beautiful as it is SMALL, easy to focus and delivers unique Summilux rendering that no Sony lens can replicate. Though I will say the newer Sony Zeiss 50 1.4 gets very close..even though its like 6X the size of the little mighty Leica. (It’s also 3X cheaper)

50 Lux at 1.4 on the Sony A7rII

Click them for larger

While this lens is MADE for the Leica M series and fits perfectly with that system, it performs very well for most photography on the Sony. I mean unless you are shooting stopped down for high resolution landscapes, this lens will deliver the goods on the Sony, SL or M and IMO, it is meant to be shot wide open which is where Leica lenses are optimized. This lens is made to shoot at f/1.4 and it delivers the goods at this aperture. Shoot this lens for landscape perfection on a Sony though and you may be disappointed. It will not give you perfect sharpness on the Sony across the frame. But again, for shallow DOF work and shooting wide open it is lovely.

1st one is ISO 5000 in a dark restaurant. A7RII has this strength. It is great at higher ISO. No noise reduction here. Click ’em for larger!

B&W

A7RII, me and Debby  – 50 1.4

RUST – A7RII, 50 Lux 1.4

Shooting this lens on the A7rII is very easy. I use the Voigtlander M To E close focus adapter (see it here) and it also allows you to focus the 50 Lux much closer than its 0.7 meter limit (when shot on an M or SL) though I would not recommend that as the DOF gets crazy when shooting close up with this lens. Keep it at 0.7 Meters and beyond and you will be rewarded with gorgeous color, smooth Bokeh (though not Noctilux smooth) and that Summilux look.

But for me, I love shooting lenses like this on the Sony or SL because of the great EVF’s on these cameras, the small size of the lenses and the performance one can get from them.

The best performance I have gotten from this lens was with the Leica SL. I sold it to buy the M10 but I missed it so much I called Ken Hansen and ordered another. The Leica SL is FANTASTIC. I may soon test some Canon glass on it using the new Novoflex adapter. A 24 1.4 or 50 1.2 on the SL? Hmmm. WITH AF? Double Hmmmm.

These two from the SL with the 50 Lux. 

When shooting with the A7RII or SL you will never experience focus shift or mis focus due to a rangefinder being out of whack. What you see is what you get and that is HUGE. When shooting this lens on these EVF cameras I never have an out of focus image. When shooting on a M8, M9, M240 or even M10 I have had quite a few OOF images (again, either due to my eyes or an RF being out of whack). So these days, in my upper 40’s I think I will settle in with these nice EVF cameras for the long haul and next few years. WITH THAT SAID, Here are two using this lens on the M10, in color 😉

A couple from the M10

As for Sony, I expect them to have an update soon, as it seems like it has been a while (for Sony) and I smell an A7RIII coming, maybe even the long rumored A9 Pro. Who knows, but I can’t see them NOT answering the Leica SL (EVF, pro build) or Fuji GFX 50S. So I expect to see some new Sony stuff soon. It just seems like it is time.

A7RII with the 50 Lux, all 1.4

I have been using this lens for many many years now, on and off. I buy it, use it for a while, get tempted by a new lens, sell it and them miss it. I have bought and sold this lens around 8 times over 7-8 years but this time I am trying to hang on to this one. Not only is is a beautiful version (Black Chrome) it is a beautiful lens.

It CAN INDEED be matched and maybe beat by lenses like the new Sony 50 1.4 Zeiss (if using on a Sony A7 series body) but again, that lens is HUGE and still does not quite hit that Summilux vibe. But almost. It may be a more perfect lens (the Sony) but part of the Summilux charm, to me, are the slight imperfections, the less modern look, the slightly more dreamy rendering and of course that small jewel like build and the fact that we must work at getting the image using Manual Focus.

I dig it my friends, just as I always have. This one came from PopFlash.com (and they have a deal on the Black Chrome version right now) but you can also buy it at B&H Photo HERE or you can email Ken Hansen at [email protected] 

YES IT IS EXPENSIVE, but again, these Leica lenses, especially this 50 Summilux ASPH has stood the test of time. Many memories have been made using this lens, many moments in time frozen and captured, many smiles have been created from this lens and many who own it call it their most used lens. Keep it for 10 years and you will never lose money on it. With a lens that brings this much joy, some would call it priceless. While it performs best on an M and SL, it does pretty good on an A7RII or even A7SII or A7II. So if you want a change of pace from those huge AF lenses, and have been curious about Leica this is one you may want to slap on your Sony and go out and make some memories. 😉

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46 thoughts on “A Look at the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH on the Sony A7RII by Steve Huff

  1. Helll Steve

    Is the noct the one you never sold?
    Im wanting to buy a Leica 50. Held the noct and its really heavy. Confused so I thought lux is it. Now the lux black chrome or silver. The silver is also brass right?

    Again the noct keeps on tempting me only because the planar zm 50 makes me so happy and 1.4 to f2 is meaningless I think unless it is 0.95 vs the 2.

    If I go for the lux Im sure to.have a 28 lux which I want to upgrade my 28 Elmarit. Damn confusing.

  2. Steve, I notice that the SL is being discounted on eBay, even new ones. Might this be the M 10 affect? I am considering the SL for the eye sight reasons you mention. I have both the MM 246 and the MP 240 currently and find my Sony A7s self focusing a real pleasure to use. Love the M experience but am wondering if I ought to move to the SL rather than the M10 I have on order with Ken Hansen and sell my 240 to finance. I have the 50 1.4 LE and the 35 FLE and would love to be able to use them with an electronic focus camera (and not the Sony). I have 82 year old eyes and am still shooting regularly. I realize that I would be trading the smaller size for aid in focusing. What do you think?

    1. All I can say is that the SL is, for me, the best Manual Focus Digital camera available today in regards to ease of manual focus. It’s one heck of a camera in every way and surpasses the Sony in all areas except megapixel count (A7RII). It will cost you but it can be had for less than an M10, and has more useful features. Of course, if you are after the rangefinder experience, there will never be a substitute. The M10 is smaller, slimmer, and beautiful. But overall, IMO, the SL is a better camera really, and more versatile. I am back with the SL and pleased as can be. Will be testing the Zeiss 35 1.4 ZM on it this weekend. If you can, maybe try finding a local shop that has one so you can try it with a 50 Lux. I only use mine with M glass but may soon also try a Canon 50 Dream lens on it as well 😉

      1. Thanks for your response Steve. I do need to try the SL before deciding to commit to it. The big pull toward the SL for me is what I read about how excellent the EVF is. The size is a worry however. Really wish that the M 10 included a better viewfinder. Thanks again.
        George

  3. In parallel to my Leica Cameras (ex M240 and now M10) I also use the Sony A7II with my M lenses with a Techartpro adapter for those cases when I know that I need a fast focus.
    The combo Sony-TechartPro-M lens is fantastic.
    AF is fast and precise, even with a Noctilux 1.0 (Version 4)
    But the fun factor with the M camera is significant higher that with the Sony A7II!

  4. Steve,
    No camparison with Voigtlander 50mm f1.5 VM? I remember you said it’s better for a7 series than the summilux. I bought the lens and never regret it. I haven’t found a good reason to part with it.

    1. I do not own that lens right now 😉 But the main difference between those two comes down to distortion. There is barrel distortion with the VM and none with the Leica. Other than that they are almost identical, and you save a ton with the VM, and I love the VM as well. Great lens.

  5. Thanks, Steve. I am most thankful that you, several times, pointed out the brilliance of the Sony Zeiss 50 1.4 Planar as the Summilux is one of the five lens I most lust after… I can more easily remind myself that I ALREADY have an exceptional lens with the Planar! 😉 And it does prove this statement every time I shoot with it. Still, it’s fun to dream.

  6. This article was an unexpected pleasure. I’ve been thinking of shooting with my 50mm Summilux ASPH on my A7Rii, since it doesn’t look like I’ll get my M10 body before my upcoming vacation. I also have the Voigtlander close focus adapter. I’ve used it with the 50mm Zeiss Planar on the A7Rii with great results, but not with the Summilux, so far.

    I’ll probably take the A7Rii with the Summilux and a 35mm Summicron ASPH on my trip. It should be a great compact kit for the road.

    The images look great, btw. Thanks for doing this!

    1. Thanks Doug! Yea, I have had the Summilux here for a while, and my adapter and my A7RII. Then I thought “why not go shoot with it”! Was fun, easy and results were great! Let me know how it goes.

      1. I have two questions. Will I be able to stop down to, say, f/4 with the Summilux on the A7Rii and still get good results, or is wide open the only way to go? Also, is the 35mm Summicron ASPH not a good choice with that camera? I’m also lucky enough to own the Sony Zeiss 35mm FE, which is a fabulous lens, but it’s huge and I’m trying to cut down on size and weight where I can.

  7. Steve

    Number one Photo is fantastic.

    Sad to hear Your eyes is failing on You for the M, miss Your entuastic followup reviews on the M…

    But maybe Leica will come with a high resulotion EVF for the M10, or You just must start using glasses 🙂

    And yes the 50 Summilux ASPH is also my fave.. fantastic character on this Lens!

    Best
    Hugo

  8. Hi Steve, i know it’s talked often and you have said too about wide angle lens issues on sony. Do you have any experience of 35 lux on sony? I tried it briefly and it seemed good apart from vignetting at the corners in real life pictures.
    50 lux while great , i have kept 50 sonnar for the weight and price of it.

      1. Thanks…looks like I’ll have to get an m10 when I feel brave enough to spend for that (never bought anything as expensive), as I love all leica lenses 🙂

  9. Man…you’re teasing me, Steve! I’ve been looking at this lens for quite some time now, but I just haven’t had the nerve to pull the trigger on it yet. This article is tempting me to finally do it. I currently own a 50mm Summicron and I love it, but the Summilux is the one I really want. Your camera setup is exactly the same as what I have (A7RII, Voigtlander close-focus adapter). I checked out this lens last week when I was at the Leica store in Las Vegas (along with the M10 body) and I loved how small this lens is, about the same size as my 50mm Summicron. I won’t even consider buying any of the new Sony lenses because they’re just too darn massive. I think the size of the 50mm Leica lens is the perfect size for the A7RII. With the small size and the stellar optics of the 50mm Summilux, I can’t see myself ever needing any other 50mm lens. Now I just need to sell some of my old camera gear that I no longer use in order to afford to buy this lens!

    1. I was just in the Vegas Leica shop on Wednesday! Was admiring the special edition M’s that were way out of my price range, lol. But yea, this lens is fantastic. Different rendering from the cron (though I also love the cron) – more dreamy.

  10. Have recently sold my entire a7rii system, including 35/50 1.4’s and all loxia for an m10, 28/90 cribs and 50 lux. I’ve never been happier. The Sony is an incredible piece of engineering. And the Sony 1.4’s are amazing. But I travel 200+ days a year, and have craved the minimalist size of the Leica. I have old eyes to (I am 56), and I thought I’d hate giving up my evf (although I liked the Fuji x-t2 over nthe Sony). But instead, I’m loving photography again. Having ISO, shutter, aperature dials that are adjustable, even with the camera off, is so perfect. Even focus is set able with the camera off.

    I’ve lived with GAS for years, owning most of the mirrorless offerings Steve has reviewed well. All have their place. I’ve toyed with previous digital leicas. But the m10 is my holy grail. They Finally got it right. To me, it is the 911 turbo, the red Bordeaux, mom’s meatloaf, and dad’s pecan pie. All timeless, and things I can never tire of.

    1. I told you the M10 was it! They did get it right. But me, my eyes are failing me as many of my M10 shots were OOF, so for me it’s EVF (Though the SL is my preference). Enjoy that M10 it is amazing.

  11. Try the 50mm f1.4 with a Techart adaptor on the A7RII. That turns the little 50 f1.4 into an autofocus lens ..using the focusing tech within the A7RII plus the teeny motor within the Techart to move the lens out and in. (It’s slower to focus on the A7S or A7SII, as that has only contrast-detect autofocus, not both the contrast- and phase-detection of the A7RII.)

    The combination of A7RII, Techart and 50 f1.4 is just perfect – for me – along with the extra benefit, of course, of in-built stabilisation within the A7RII body.

    Trying the M10 the other day – maybe I should dig out the pictures and attach them here – I hit almost-perfect focus with the 50 f1.4, but then using it – just to compare, as you do – on the A7RII with the Techart auto-focusing I could see texture in the pix which was completely missing in the M10 photos because of a very slight mis-focus.

    I find that the A7RII plus Techart plus 50mm f1.4 gives results almost identical to the Sony FE 55mm f1.8 ..the slightly longer focal length of 55mm delivers just the same soft bokeh at f1.8 as the Leica 50mm ASPH at f1.4 does. But the advantage of the Techart adaptor is that you can use (..as I have used..) just about any wide to medium Leica-fit lens with perfect results: Leica 16-18-21mm f4, Kobalux 21mm f2.8, Leica 24mm f1.4 ..all these and many more give perfect focus, instantly, repeatably, quietly, accurately (..and beat the M10 at its own game).

    At very low ISO 100, the M10’s complete lack of any noise, ‘grain’ or any ‘blotchiness’ at all beats the A7RII, but at higher ISOs in dim-ish light – as I often shoot – I’d take the swift auto-focus (and stabilised) capability of the A7RII with the 50mm f1.4 ASPH and Techart adaptor any time over the M10 ..for clearer, sharper, more detailed results which do better justice to that great lens than the M10 can do!

    1. I have, I wrote about the techart here before it was available for sale (though the 1st version). For me it was great just not good in low light. Also, yes any very slight mis-focus (even as I have some here) will not show you the true potential of the lens, any lens. I have to 100% disagree on the Sony 55 1.8. Never was a fan of that lens. I own it and have since it was released but it is sterile, and somewhat flat IMO. Does not offer the depth or character of a Lux 😉 I’ll check out the latest version of the Techart. Thanks!

  12. Steve: You spoke of your issues with eyesight while focusing the M. This is a concern of mine, too. As I was reading I was hoping for a discussion of your focussing on the A7RII using focus peaking. I’m also interested in using manual focus on the Sony’s (A7 and A6500). Thanks.

    1. Hello,

      I don’t know if that would help you, but here are my 2 pences…

      I had an A7R I since it came on the market. Got tired not to be able to use the wide angle lenses I had, and from heavy vignetting with the Noctilux f1. Focussing though was easy.

      Had M9 and got same problem for focussing coming with ageing… and was awaiting M10 to be able to compare side by side M10 and SL…

      Focussing wise there is no comparison !… the SL is way easier to use for manual focussing, takes all the Leica lenses and is a joy to shoot with. The main advantage of the range finder being to give you out of frame view for better composition…

      Best regards

      J. Grosmann

      PS was funny to read that Steeve bought an SL back for that same reason… And thanks for the site !

    1. Well, yes and no. I’d take a 50APO in addition, but if I were to sell or trade this up, it would only be for the Noct. I’ve owned the APO twice and after using that and this lens in many scenarios, I would not pay the extra $4k for the APO over this today. I’d love to own one but for 90% of day to day shooting this lens would be my preferred choice. If I wanted all out resolution the APO would be it. I usually prefer character over perfection.

  13. I’ve been enjoying shooting my 50 lux on the a7rii for a while now. I’ve been using a techart adapter, too, which is pretty fun (if not as reliable as manual focus). I do want an m10, but the results on the Sony may be good enough for now.

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