The MONSTER Leica 50 Summilux ASPH f/1.4 SL Lens is Here.

The MONSTER Leica 50 Summilux ASPH f/1.4 SL Lens is Here.

By Steve Huff

Happy Friday! Once again, the weekend is here and this weekend Debby and I will be hitting the road for a road trip to test the Leica SL and Leica 50 Summilux ASPH f/1.4 SL lens. The Auto Focus version for the SL. Now this lens is quite the departure from the 50 Lux for M mount, as it is about 5X the size (Not scientific there, just a guesstimate). Sure, the size is huge, the weight is more but it is using the latest and greatest optics from Leica and Auto Focus. So for those who just can not do Manual Focus, and you want that Summilux look and feel, this is it right here.

What surprised me is the price. The little M 50 Summilux ASPH, as tiny as it is comes in at around $4k and this one is $5300. So not a ton more. Knowing Leica I expected this lens to come in at $7k. But I have it in hand, and it feels nice and is slightly shorter than the 24-90 Zoom, which is an amazing lens. It has the same stoutness of that 24-90 though, so it is not thinner, but appears to be exactly the same width.

THE SL AND THE 50 LUX ASPH 1.4 (review next week)

So before those chime in and say “I thought mirrorless was supposed to have smaller lenses”. Well, yes, you are correct! The promise of mirrorless was smaller body, and lenses. In the case of almost every mirrorless camera released, even the Sony A9, this is true. In the case of the Leica SL, not so much if you use the native AF lenses. In the case of the SL, the body itself is smaller and thinner and amazing in feel than any pro DSLR which are larger, fatter and bulkier. It also has a much better VF experience IMO with the worlds best EVF. But these Leica SL lenses with AF are large indeed. To me, that is a weakness but at the same time, depending on your needs and wants, it could be OK as the optics of these lenses are AMAZING and some of the best I have ever seen from any manufacturer. So if you desire the best quality and AF, you have to go large here with the SL. With a Sony A9 there are MANY tiny lens options.

But the huge beauty with mirrorless for me is the fact that I can use almost any lens on them. On the SL I can use any tiny M mount lens, from vintage to new. I can use Canon glass, Nikon glass and use whatever lens I desire with the right adapter. I can use the lenses from the T as well, natively and with AF and those are much smaller though meant for APS-C so using them on an SL will revert to a crop mode.

THE SL AND 50 F/3.5 HELIAR (more from this combo here)

But at the end of the day, it is about versatility with lenses. You do not have that with a DSLR. With a Nikon D850 I can not use my M lenses, or Canon lenses, or T lenses or SL lenses.

So for me, I prefer mirrorless even when it comes in just slightly smaller than a DSLR, as it has the versatility and the EVF of which I enjoy.

So with that out of the way, what do I think about this lens at 1st glance? Besides the size, it is extremely well made and built. Solid as a rock, and gorgeous. If I had the cash I would buy one just to have a 50 Lux AF for my SL but alas, no go in the budget but I do get to use this one for a while and use it I will!

A CRAZY COMPARISON! $530 vs $5300

My 1st curiosity was to test it against the little amazing Voigtlander Heliar 50 f/3.5 with both at f/3.5. The $5300 Leica using the latest and greatest and exotic optics and the little $530 voigtlander which funny enough comes in about exactly 10X cheaper, and is an old design. One would think that the little Voigtlander would be blown away in the dust in color, bokeh and sharpness. Well, I just ran out to my yard to a quick comparison on my old Rusty Can ; )

1st shot, both at f/3.5 so the DOF should be the same yet the Leica’s looks more shallow. There are color differences as well but slight. Bokeh? You decided..

You must click the image to see the crop at 100%

This one is the SL with Leica 50 Lux ASPH SL at f/3.5

Now one with the SL and Voigtlander 50 f/3.5 at f/3.5. Again you must click it to see the full crop.

And for kicks, the SL and Leica 50 Lux at 1.4, wide open

My review will be coming next week with a video and written review right here on these pages so stay tuned. But what are YOUR thoughts on this lens? From what I have seen around the internet, it produces GORGEOUS color and bokeh, and with AF and a fast 1.4 aperture it seems to be a great option for those with an SL who want a 50 Lux. Now we have two options, the small MF version and the larger AF version. Stay tuned!

Steve

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37 thoughts on “The MONSTER Leica 50 Summilux ASPH f/1.4 SL Lens is Here.

  1. Not a fair comparison, but look how compact AND light the Digilux2 zoom was and optics for that what 12+ years old autofocus lens, sure small sensor permitted this so when will form factor (think size and weight ) get reconsidered from design perspective ? I wonder if sensor advances — think smaller and better will permit a new approach to lens design. I left Canon 5D2 for M240 not only about about RF and optics, but wanted something more discrete. I guess as the saying goes, different strokes for different folks

    1. The a7 series 2 with the 50mm f/1.4 is just as big and heavy. it is true that Sony also offer the 55mm f/1.8 which is almost as good and is small & light, but that’s a 55mm instead of 50, and f/1.8 instead of 1.4

      1. You can go small with the 50 1.8 and be much smaller than any DSLR with a 50. ; ) With mirrorless we can go small if we feel the IQ is “good enough” or if we want the best of the best IQ we can go large, just as DSLRS go with their best lenses. At the end of the day a Sony A9 or A7 is smaller than a DSLR, and more versatile with lens choice.

  2. This lens has been out for a while now, and users have reported poor AF performance, distortion that needs to be corrected with in camera software etc. That makes the size of it unacceptable. The Zeiss Otus is so massive because it is a ‘perfect’ lens – next to zero distortion and incredible sharpness. They needed to make it that big for those parameters.
    This Leica lens seems to be massive for the sake of being massive, to make SL owners feel they’ve got an awesome piece of hardware attached to their camera. To be that big and have optical flaws that need to be corrected for? No thanks.

    1. My review will be up tomorrow and all shots are from RAW and I see no distortion in my images. Not saying it has none, but if you are not shooting test screens you would never see it and what matters is the final output, at least for me. As for AF, its not poor at all. It’s slower than the 24-90 and 90-280 and other 2.8 zooms but it is as accurate as can be, and just as fast as the Sony A7RII with 50 1.4. With a lens this size, and f1/1.4 aperture I do not know of any lenses like this that focus lightning fast, it just doesn’t exist. The elements here are heavy and large, and this lens is about IQ, not speed. If you want speed, go 24-90. I shot it in near dark conditions with AF and MF, ISO 6400-12500 and the AF locked on, slower than something like a Sony A9 and 24-70 but it’s a 50 1.4 lens, and massive ; ) No way is it going to be lightning with razor. thin DOF, pinpoint AF accuracy and all out IQ. Leica made. the choice to go for max IQ over max speed, as Leica shooters prefer the IQ over speed anyway. It’s faster than the 50 APO would be on the camera ; ) The Canon 50 1.2 L is slow, the Sony 50 1.4 is slower than zooms, and the Nikon 58 1.4 is slower than average. It’s the nature of the beast, and while most know this, some seem to forget this fact. This lens is about one thing, the Leica IQ, fast aperture, and AF for those who shoot with an SL. It’s the only game in town for the SL natively and it’s probably the best lens for IQ Leica has made to date. They say it is, others test charts say it outresolves the slower to focus 50 APO at 1.4 with the APO at f/2. No small feat.

  3. Hi Steve. Would be nice to see comparison between the SL with this lens and the a9 with the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4, as both have the same basic specs, both are the best the systems offer, but the Sony set is much cheaper.

    1. Well, the big difference from what I am seeing is the color. The SL has a richer color with a smoother more medium format feel. The Sony has a Leica M and 50 Lux M feel to the photos. BOTH are awesome combos, but I will say the SL has better IQ than any Sony I have shot with, but maybe I should say “different” and not better. A smoother look, color is amazing with the right lenses, and it just ha something about the files. The A9 or A7 series is also amazingly good but different kind of feel. Either set would be amazing as both of these 50’s are great. The Leica SL 50 is like a Zeiss Otus with AF and IMO, a nicer color and a bit smaller. I do not have a Sony Zeiss 50 1.4 on hand but could get one, but by the time I could get one, I would have to send this Leica back.

  4. its big but its good. certainly sharper wide open than the M 50/1.4 asph or the 50/1.2 Canon.
    What is hard to understand if you see how good the M50/2.0 APO is why the SL 50 has to be soo big.
    On the other side it handles fine, it is not bigger than the fast standard zooms many people use.

  5. I am not competent to see and to enjoy the image quality that drives the size.

    You may use the SL as a sensor holder for manual lenses. Then you buy and pay features you don’t need.

    Digital image sensor and image processor have a limited economic life. I am ok with that. It is cheaper than film. But when the electronic innards are finished, I also have to dump the marvelous Leica body which should be good for the rest of my life and beyond. With the M, I in addition have to dump the rangefinder into the trash. This is hard to accept.

  6. The SL 50/1.4 is the lens that made me sell the SL system.

    Result were good? Yes, obviously.

    But for the mammuth size (more than the price) I was expecting an optically almost perfect lens.
    Instead I got a lens that, without software correction, has a quite big barrel distortion and vignetting.

    Remember: we are talking about Leica. We are talking about a $5’000+ lens. We are talking about a 1KG+ lens, we are talking about a big lens with big elements.
    I simply don’t accept less than optical perfection with this variables on the table, and I don’t like software correction to remedy.

    (Plus, there is my subjective preference for the 50/1.4 M Asph rendering, with a bit more field curvature that makes the subject stand out more in my opinion.)

    Let’s hope for the good of the SL system that the 35/75/90 Summicrons will be good. Their size is correct.

  7. Steve, just received my Voigtlander 35mm f/3.5 Heliar and all I can say is WOW. Perfect? No, but for $529 on my Leica M240, it has made me question why I have paid the amount of money I’ve dished on so many Leica lenses. The “alternative” lenses being produced by the likes of Voigtlander and Zeiss definitely deserve more attention than they’re getting from the Leica faithful. In your photos I can see the slight advantage of the Lux over the Heliar, but only at the 100% magnification. When looking at the buckets on the regular photo, I see no real difference to justify the $3,000+ price difference. The new Heliar is definitely an eye opener, and a new regular on my M240.

  8. A 1065 gram f1,4 FF 50mm. Lighter, smaller, less costly combos with substantially superior MF sensors can be had these days. After M8, M9, X1 the red dot lost its competitive edge.

  9. Wow. The Canon 50mm f1.2L, a faster lens, with autofocus, looks to be about half the size or less. Why is this thing so big?

  10. Remember that this lens doesn’t just have AF. It has optical image stabilization, which means that it must be able to cover a larger image circle and give the same quality in the corners as in the centre. This also implies that it could cover the 45x30mm sensor that is currently in the S series. I predict that the SL and the S will merge, and you’ll have the choice of two sensor sizes.

    Remember that the Zeiss Otus 55 is not small – much bigger than the Contax Zeiss 50/1.4.

  11. Fairly comparable in weight and size to the Zeiss Otus prime (a little bit smaller but a little bit heavier) but with native AF and no potential adapter issues. If you want to spend less, don’t buy this camera and this lens. Or wait and buy them used.

  12. This is a joke! Not true, is it? What is this development about. Makes me laugh, It is bigger than my old mamiya medium format lenses, of course they were not f1,4, but come on. Again; this must be a joke…

    1. No joke, it has been out for months. Amazing IQ, yes as one would expect. But for an AF Leica of this quality, they had to go big. The Good news is we have M options like the 50 Lux M, 50 Cron, Zeiss 50 Sonnar and Planar, Voigtlander 50 Nokton, Heliar, etc. But if you own an SL and want the best optics with AF, this is it. Sony’s 50 1.4 is huge as well but also magical. I guess if you want that magic, AF and quality build…has to be big. Then again, the M mount is not! So is it the AF?

      1. That Canon 50 1.4 is not even near the performance of this Leica, not even CLOSE. I used to own that Canon, it’s a cheapie and this Leica is more like a Zeiss Otus with AF, but smaller. THat’s the fact. So if you want the best in quality like an Otus, this lens or a Sony 50 1.4, you have to go large. Sadly, Canon does not have a lens that competes with these lenses. But put one that can compete on that canon, a Zeiss Otus and then compare the size. You can also put a Zeiss Sonnar f/1.5 on the Leica and it will be smaller than the Canon, and still give just as good or better performance.

        1. 1) I was not commenting on the perceived quality, just the perceived “size advantage mirrorless” which is not there. Even if you take canon 50/1.2 (my second link in previous post with error in description), the size for leica SL is disadvantageous. …and Canon 50/1.2 is a very fine lens (well, not as good as Leica 50/1.4).
          2) Zeiss is a third party lens. Let’s compare apples to apples (same camera/lens combinations).
          3) It’s probably better to go with M series lens than the new monster.
          3a) …but M lenses are not native lenses for the SL body.
          3b)v…and you stated it yourself in your SL review. Here’s your quote: “Thrown on an M lens and it is compact, and feels perfect.” (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2015/11/30/leica-sl-camera-review-my-camera-of-the-year-2015/)
          4) …and here’s one more quote from your M9 review: “With a DSLR you have a bulky, somewhat large body and when a lens is attached, it is even bigger.” (from http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2010/08/04/my-updated-big-bad-ass-leica-m9-review/)
          Conclusion: size advantage of SL is gone with the 50/1.4 lens.
          Again, jens’ comment was about size (as was mine). I think you reacted somewhat emotionally and defended Leica quality (rightfully). Had we all met face to face we’d likely be on the same page. Keep up good work.

  13. Two observation: One; the Voigt is sharper than the Leica wide open. Two; the SL with the 50 Lux is a GIANT rig … you’ll be good and ready to to review the new D850 after shooting with that massive SL kit 😉

  14. I’d love you to point us in the direction of these ‘gorgeous images’ because I’ve looked and everything I’ve seen so far is complete garbage. Now that might be because the photographers tend to have far more money than talent but still, there should be something to see that justifies the price of this thing. Let’s fact it, the only thing it has to offer over an M 50 lux is the AF.

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