Leica Lenses and their names. ELMAR – ELMARIT – SUMMARIT – SUMMICRON – SUMMILUX – NOCTILUX – What do they mean?
I see many Leica newbies to this site and I get asked quite often what those funky names mean. You know the ones. Those odd sounding names Leica gives to its lenses? Summarit? Elmar? Summilux? Summicron? What the hell kind of names are those? Canon lenses are just “Canon EF 24L”. Nikon is just “Nikon 35F2” or whatever. But Leica is different. For newcomers to Leica these names can sound sort of weird and many are left wondering what is what. With the M9 being such a huge success I am seeing quite a few new Leica shooters out there and many have no idea what these lens names mean.
In the Leica world, these names do indeed have meaning and that meaning is mainly SPEED. Once you know how fast of a lens you are looking for, you can easily figure out if you are an Elmarit guy/gal or a Summilux guy/gal! Me, I like them all but I lean more to the Summilux lenses as I am a fast glass kind of guy:) One thing is for sure, they are all fantastic as Leica does not seem to know how to make a bad lens.
On to the meanings and the MAGIC ratings! 1 M = NO MAGIC. 5 M = MOST MAGIC!
Elmar – F3.8-F4 – These lenses are the slowest of the bunch. Having apertures usually starting at F3.8 or F4 these lenses are known for their amazing sharpness and clarity, even wide open. The 24 Elmar for example is a somewhat new lens and has a 3.8 maximum Aperture (review in Feb 10). The other lenses in this group are the 18 Super Elmar, the Wide Angle Tri-Elmar and the 90 Elmar F4. If outdoor daylight shooting is your claim to fame, the Elmar line will thrill you. Magic Scale “MMM 1/2”
Elmarit – F2.8 – This is the 2.8 line of lenses so they are a little faster than the ones in the Elmar line. The 21, 24 and 28 Elmarit are all lenses I have owned at one time or another and they are all superb. The prices seem to take a jump over the Elmars in most cases except for the 28 Elmarit ASPH which is a semi affordable $1795! Well, affordable for Leica. The shining star in this group is the 24 Elmarit and the discontinued 90 Elmarit. Both are beautiful lenses! Magic Scale “MMMM”
Summarit – F2.5 – The newest line of lenses for Leica M mount, these are actually the most affordable (Leica) lenses you can buy. The 35, 50, 75 and 90 Summarits are all coming in at a 2.5 Aperture and while they are a bit faster than the Elmarits, they are less expensive. Mainly due to the focal lengths. Usually, wider lenses are more expensive and the Summarit line start out at 35. Also, the 35 and 75 Summarit are FANTASTIC lenses. I owned the 75 and it was one of the best performing lenses I have owned. At $1595 its a virtual steal in Leica glass. Magic Scale “MMM 1/2”
Summicron – F2 – This is where many say the magic starts. These F2 lenses are pretty much masterpieces. The 28, 35, 50, 75 and 90 Summicrons are all lenses that are drool worthy. I wish I could buy the whole set. It is all you would ever need. Imagine the whole set of “crons” and an M9. Forget about it! The only problem here is that the prices are now starting to get really high. The full Summicron set will set you back about $15,000! But they would last you a lifetime. Magic Scale “MMMM”
Summilux – F1.4 – Ahhhh, the lineup that has some of the hottest selling lenses for Leica. The 21, 24, 35, and 50 Summilux are all lenses that have that special something about them. I also can not forget the discontinued 75 Summilux which I am told is breathtaking. These are lenses you want if you like shooting in low light and still want sharp images. You can shoot any of the Summilux lenses wide open at 1.4 and still get super sharp results. The 50 1.4 is the hot one in this group as it is the best 50mm lens IN THE FREAKING WORLD! Well, next to the new $10,000 Noctilux. If you could only have one lens with an M9 it should be either a 35 Summicron/Summilux ASPH or the 50 Summilux ASPH. Magic Scale “MMMMM”
Noctilux – F0.95-F1 – For those nocturnal tendencies within us all Leica gives us the NOCTILUX. The legendary lens that will bring light to your photo when you have no light available. Open it up to F1 and get ready for some fun. The new 0.95 version is scary sharp wide open and had that 3D look in spades. Still, the old F1 version has a little more of that classical magic. These are unique lenses and in some cases they can render in a painterly way. Magic scale “MMMMM”
So there you have it! The current lineup of Leica lenses and their names explained. Most of you know this stuff already but this was written for the ones who are new to Leica and was scratching their head and the names when looking at the lenses. One thing to remember is that all of these lenses are great but the magic ones that stick out are the 24 Elmarit, 28 Summicron, 35 Cron/Lux APSH, and 50 Lux ASPH. I also love the Noctilux but it is not a lens for everybody.
I thanks you for reading and hope this was enjoyable and informative!
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