More samples with the new Leica 35 Summilux ASPH 1.4

OK ok….lots of e-mails asking for more samples, so here are a few. No more until the review though 🙂 This lens is..well…magic. No focus shift that I have seen, AT ALL. Wide open it is just about perfect, stopped down it is just about perfect. I took a walk today with it and the M9 shooting some scenes to test for focus, bokeh, color, etc. Here are some of the results…

Wide open at 1.4, processed from RAW and converted to B&W with Silver Efex Pro – click image for larger version

once again, wide open at 1.4…you can click the image for a larger view OR click HERE for the full size file.

another converted to B&W…

at 1.4, this lens is gorgeous. Stopped down it is also gorgeous, but those samples will be in the review, which will be up in about a week.

cracks…this one had some PS work…

UPDATE – June 11th 2010

One more at 1.4 (it is possible it was at F2). I think the bokeh of this lens is gorgeous and have yet to see any other 35mm lens from any other company beat it in the bokeh dept. Also, the out of focus renderings of this version should be exactly the same as the old version as the optical formula is the same. Only the focus shift issue has been addressed and this allows the lens to perform spectacular at every aperture. More to come soon!

also, the 3D qualities of this lens are simply stunning…


  1. Hi, All,

    I’ve just sold my 24mm f2.8 and 90mm f4 macro lenses in order to buy a SINGLE, fast lens for my M7 0.85x. Plan A was to go for the new 50mm f1.4 ‘lux. Now I’m having second thoughts and wondering whether I should save up and go for the new 35 ‘lux instead…

    My main use is for travel (esp. Africa), street photography, B&W. I particularly like the artistic / boke effects of a f1.4.

    Which would you go for, Steve, having tried both? Others?


    PS: How easy is the 35mm to use with a 0.85x viewfinder?

  2. Agree with Steve about the Lux “look” The 50 f1.4 asph lives on my camera because it renders in this intangible way. The color, modeling, and bokeh are just special in a way that’s hard to describe. And I’m usually not a fan of normal lenses.

    Here’s what I want to know: Why is a 35mm f/2 lens referred to as “The Bokeh King”? Neither the range nor aperture are what you’d normally choose for bokeh.

    I can testify that King Cron doesn’t hold a blurred-specular candle to the 50mm Summilux asph in terms of bokeh, and I wouldn’t expect it to. But from the samples I’ve seen, neither does the new 35mm Summilux Asph. Most samples I’ve seen seem crunchy and harsh in the out-of-focus areas—sometimes even with blue ghosting and other aberrations. This is important because in an age of decent high ISO performance, one of the only reasons to spring for a faster lens is the way it renders bokeh. That plus the color and mid-contrast gradation, which to my eye the samples demonstrate with aplomb.

    So if the Summicron Asph is the Bokeh King, how does the new 35mm Summilux stack up? I’d love to see a comparison of the Cron and the Lux with similar subjects at wide apertures to see if it’s worth the upgrade. Anybody know of such comparisons?

    Thanks for the great site, Steve!

  3. Steve,

    Did you see any purple fringing with this lens? This has been an issue with the new 50mm Noctilux ASPH, 24mm Summilux ASPH, etc.

  4. +1 with that Dirk says

    Subject, and ‘seeing it’ can be what photography is all about.

    And of course ‘gear-heads’ like myself do enjoy the endless debate…

    Rarely are we making side by side comparisons of lenses, so the “if I had a Summicron…” or “if I had a Summilux…”, doesn’t comes into actual play unless its the speed thing and you use/need the f1.4 and happen to have an f2 or f2.8 or f5.6! lens on your camera…

    I once found myself apologizing at the age of 15 to a friend’s photographer father for bringing a Kodak Brownie for a trip we were on (he had a Rolleiflex like my dad). What he said still crosses my thoughts now and then, “some of my best photographs were with less expensive cameras, nothing wrong with a Brownie if you use it right”.

    No doubt the new 35 Summilux is a great lens, get one if that’s what you desire, ‘life is short’ as the saying goes.

    Get to know your lenses (even if its one) to the point its how you ‘see’. Some people have that ‘bond’ as mentioned above and it shows no matter if its the newest and greatest or a few decades in past design. I think it can be said, rarely do we photograph up to the potential of a modern lens – but it sure is fun to try – and I know that with a lens like this I’ll always be learning and working to make the photograph that I see in front of me or in my mind come to a final print/image.

  5. It is a beautiful lens, so is the Cron. Some here almost sound surprised that photographers take good images with just one lens, and a lens that is just a Cron. If you want to tell a good story then 1.4 sometimes doesn’t matter. Recently I checked Flickr and looked at what people do with the Noctilux and I was surprised on how much weak photography was being displayed. I think a lot of people buy very expensive lenses and hope that with wide open everything will look good. A good photographer once said to me; “You want people to look at the subject, not the lens.” What he meant to me is that we often rely too much on the rendering qualities of a lens versus finding a really interesting subject. Ones you have a good subject you can almost shoot it with any lens.

  6. I have nothing to add to the “busy bokeh” or sharpness comments. Steve, don’t forget to shoot some film through this lens. I want to see some grain.


  7. Steve,

    Agreed. As it happens, I am also familiar with that photographer’s stuff and like it a lot.

    Hope I didn’t come off too snarky, BTW. I am just a bit of a partisan on behalf of the Summicrons (like Max) and always react when I sense that something is being presented as “better” just because it’s newer or more expensive, or even faster. As you say, people should use what suits their tastes and provides them with real enjoyment.

    I love your site, and am glad you’re out there spreading the word on behalf of all things Leica (and film!). And I love to see a guy doing what he’s truly passionate about.


  8. Hey David, those are great photographs from an exceptional photographer. As I already said, it is all down to the “look” one prefers. Those all have the look of the 35 cron, which is exceptional.

    For example, here is a quick link I found on flickr to a set with the old 35 Lux ASPH which shows the look of this lens.

    I always preferred the look of the Lux but hated the shift, so I was happy to own a cron. Now that the shift is no longer an issue, I am back to preferring the lux.

    All personal pref. Some will prefer the cron, some the lux. It’s been like that forever. As for the photos being “better” with a Lux, those photos would have looked great with a cheap Nikon 35 F2 attached to a D700 because when it comes down to the nitty gritty, it’s really the subject matter and photographer that makes the photo and creates the art. The cameras, the lenses…they help but they are not the most important link in the chain.

    As for busy bokeh, I think that is all BS anyway. I was scolded for liking the out of focus areas of the 50 cron, which most say is busy 🙂 In the end, like you say…it’s the photo that matters. BUT BUT BUT! For those who want that certain “look” that a 35 Lux gives, there is no other choice. I will say the 35 cron is a more “perfect” lens with virtually no distortion, but speed kills (our wallets).

    Thanks for the link.


  9. Some of the most beautiful photos I’ve ever seen were shot with the 35 Summicron.

    Here’s an example. This guy has probably over 1,000 shots on Flickr, shot in a dozen countries in every kind of lighting situation, and some of them are amazing:

    Here’s the catch: the guy owns only one one lens, the 35 Summicron. He has traveled the world and shot under every possible set of conditions with only that one lens.

    When you look at his photos, ask yourself if any of them would be even slightly better if they had been shot on the brand-new 35 Lux instead of a 35 Cron. (Or, for that matter, a 35mm Nikkor.)

    So I guess what I am saying is I don’t think the 35 Summilux will improve anybody’s photography. It’s just a luxury item — hence the “lux” in the name. I don’t think it’s worth it. Your $5000 would be better spent learning to become a better photographer, or by traveling somewhere to take photographs. And if you are focused on whether your “bokeh” is “busy” or “creamy” — well, you’re focused on the wrong thing. That’s just my opinion.

  10. @David – this is just as sharp as any 35 Summicron I have had through my hands, and to be honest, it appears to be a little sharper. Also, it’s all about the “look” a particular lens gives you. A 50 cron does not give the same look, or bokeh, as a 35 Lux. Not sure what you are trying to say?? Also, saying nobody needs a 35 1.4 lens is like saying nobody needs a 50f2 lens. Why not just get a 50 3.5 and call it a day?

    As for shallow DOF, if you want a 35mm focal length and desire shallow DOF, then the 1.4 of this lens or the 1.2 of the Voigtlander Nokton will be as shallow as you can get, for 35mm. Saying someone should just shoot a 50 cron instead is not any kind of solution because if someone wants a 35mm focal length, they want 35, not 50.

    The fact is many will disagree with you and if I did a poll of Leica shooters asking what their favorite lens ever was I bet the 35 Lux would come in at #2, at least #3. There is a market for it no doubt.

    Also, bumping up ISO changes the quality of your files, so that is not always the best option for those looking for the ultimate quality file with digital, and usually those who shoot digital are looking for clean and smooth files.

    Some of the most beautiful photos I have seen with Leica have been with the 35 Summilux, and this version is as good as it gets in a 35, no doubt about it.

  11. I side with Max on this one.

    The 35 Summilux is bigger, heavier, and blocks the viewfinder more than the 35 Summicron. The Summiluxes are also historically optically inferior (i.e. less sharp) across the board than their Summicron counterparts. I have not tested this new lens, but it’s very unlikely that it’s sharper than the 35 Summicron ASPH.

    Nobody really needs a 35 f1.4 lens, unless you shoot slow film in low light. Anyone shooting digital can simply bump their ISO up a stop.

    Now, I hear you yelling “but what about the crazy shallow depth-of-field I can get with a 35 Lux?” Well, it’s not so shallow. It’s a wide-angle lens, after all. According to my depth-of-field tables, a 35mm lens at 1.4 from 4 feet away gives you .33 feet of DOF. The optically superior 50mm Summicron at 2.0 from 4 feet away gives you .22 feet of DOF. In other words, the 50mm Cron has 33% SHALLOWER DOF wide-open than the 35 Lux, even with the Lux open an extra stop. My advice: if you need shallow DOF, use the 50 Cron and take a half-step back.

    I can hear Steve saying that there are situations where he simply MUST have the 35mm perspective, and a 50mm Cron, even with its shallower DOF and sharper performance, simply will not do. But… what are these situations? It seems we are getting into ever more obscure applications of ultra-expensive lenses, where a lens (and therefore the photographer) must be superior simply because the lens is more expensive. It isn’t.

  12. Finally looked at the larger version of the last photo of the set, and that tree trunk is razor sharp! Actually, more like an authentic katana sword sharp!

  13. Rich, these have no PP. The only one that does is the one where it states there was some PP, the one called “cracks”. The others were converted from RAW using ACR, no PP besides the B&W conversions on the two B&W images. Thanks


  14. Steve, as always thanks for the info and pics. I always wonder how much post image processing you are doing? At times it is hard to tell if the IQ of a pic is the result of working on it with PS etc. Perhaps you can publish a JPEG right out of the camera with the setting listed or perhaps a DNG? Thanks.


  15. can’t wait to see your vegas pics! like you said, i think there are alot of leica users who are not super rich. for me, i’m definitely not but i would sell some old gear to afford new items. and that’s one thing which is so great about the leica community… there’s always a constant demand for used gear.

  16. Armanius, I agree. I also enjoy the cheap stuff 🙂 I got my 50 Summitar from Max and love it to death, I enjoy using it. These lenses go for $300+ on Ebay and are a bargain! I am not so sure i will be able to buy this 35 Lux or not, I did sell my 35 cron a few weeks ago to help fund it so we will see. Let me know how you like that 50!


  17. I believe the “enjoyment” factor is one of the key determining factors for whatever thing someone purchases – whether cheap or expensive. It’s more of a psychological thing, but there’s no point in buying anything if there’s no enjoyment (which then hopefully leads to usage). I often tell my GF that if she can afford XYZ and if she’s going to actually enjoy using the XYZ, then go for it! Of course, sometimes, for me, the enjoyment is derived from finding a good bargain. The UPS guy just dropped off an used Voigtlander 50/2.5 LTM. I got it to have a really tiny 50 to compliment my tiny 35 Cron (thus making a super compact kit). After taking a few shots with the VC 50/2.5, I am pretty impressed with it particularly at the $250 price range! So I am getting lots of enjoyment from yet another cheapo lens. Although I’m sure I’d probably get even more enjoyment if someone donated a 50 Lux to me! 🙂

    Does anyone know the real cost for Leica to make a lens? Or a camera? I’d love to find out.

  18. Steve,

    I know, but I am sure they could have re-used the parts from the old lenses and made a lot of friends with the move. Oh well…

    Never used the Bronica but heard good things about it. Should be fun!

  19. Max, I hear you on that. A trade in would have been pretty cool but probably unrealistic for a small company like Leica. Besides, they know the crazy people like us will “sock it up”! Thanks again for your words of wisdom, they are always welcome here 🙂

    BTW, onto another subject but I have another MF camera on the way to test out. An older Bronica 645. Should be fun!

  20. Hey Steve, it’s perfectly fine to disagree, you know that 🙂 It’s all in a loving way.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love f1.4 and I do own the previous version so I am a crazy bastard just like others out there (no issues with focus, thankfully). What I think Leica should do, if there was indeed a problem with focus shifts on the previous model, is establish a trade-in program for those affected. For this kind of money, it just irks me when I see something new coming out that fixes previous issues (improvements and fixing problems are two different things) and expect people to just sock it up.

  21. Hey Max, thanks for your comments, I always enjoy them but I have to disagree with you here. Yes, this lens is CRAZY expensive and those who buy it will be called insane by many but to be fair and honest, this lens is technically better than any other 35mm I have laid my hands on and I have only had it for a day.

    The 35 Summicron is freaking FANTASTIC, no doubts at all on that, but there are many photographers who really dig the LOOK of a photo shot at 1.4. It’s not necessarily that they NEED 1.4, but the look it gives at 1.4 cannot be replicated by even the Summicron. Also, 1.4 does come in handy in low light and I have been in situations like that quite a few times.

    If given a choice I would take this lens in a heartbeat over a Summicron (and I LOVE the cron to death), and BTW, a 35 Cron, NEW is $2995 these days which is also insane. There are many fans of the 35 Lux ASPH and the lens has a huge, almost cult like following. This new version is improved over the old one due to the floating element, so it is not just a selling ploy. It’s real, and it did in fact improve this already near perfect lens.

    If someone has the old one and does not have focus shift issues then there would be no real reason to upgrade. But for those like me who DID have focus shift issues (and I did with 5-6 samples of the old version while trying to find the best one) with it, then this is the solution.

    Yes, it is $5000 and I can’t really afford it but I may find a way to swing it because this is THE one lens solution for an M camera IMO. If it came down to me owning this lens and this lens only or a 35 and 50 cron, I would take this lens. It’s compact, has an amazing but still sort of classical rendering, has no real focus shift that I have seen in photos, and works like it should. By that I mean it is sharp at 1.4 but gets sharper as it is stopped down. $5k, yep. But it’s Leica and we already know to expect that and they know it too. I am not one who can easily buy these things but there are tons of people out there who spend $5000 like I spend $20 which leads me into something else, the Leica user base.

    Many think that the people who shoot Leica are all rich, but this is not true. Many are, but then there are guys like me who give up other things to afford something like this lens. Why would we do that when there are much cheaper options out there? For me it is all due to the enjoyment and results I get from shooting Leica cameras and lenses. Sure, I could go buy and old 35 Summaron but it’s A: Not 1.4 and B: Not going to give me the same results. and C: not going to give me the enjoyment that the Lux would. So for me, if I decide to buy this lens I will have to sell, or give up something else to get it. I would not do that if I did not feel the lens was worth it. The old version was great but the shift always got me when trying to shoot old houses. The cron was fantastic but I occasionally missed the 1.4 “look”. The old pre-asph summilux is a totally different look and more of a specialty lens. For those who shoot M’s, the only choice in a 35 1.4 that is pretty damn close to perfect is this new 35 Lux. It sucks that it is $5,000 but Leica will sell tons of them.

    Leica did not re-invent the wheel but they surely improved on a legendary classic lens, and I am glad to see that they did it.

    As for sharpness, I agree that sharpness is a non issue as long as the lens is working correctly. Any lens can give you an image with plenty of sharpness except when there is focus shift! Ha ha…

    Anyway, thanks for the comments.


  22. This is when it gets a little silly. Bokeh, $5K, focus shifts, whatever. Let’s be realistic, one would really have to dig deep to justify the purchase of this “newest, better, greatest”. Throwing around terms like “Aspherical”, “floating elements” is all a selling ploy, nothing new. The Planar is still the most copied lens design…introduced by Zeiss, when? 1896, yes, the year 1896. The first “aspherical” lens? Zeiss again, the year, 1901. Nothing new or different here. If you need f1.4, great (although from I see I am not that excited, and I own the previous version), but otherwise a Summicron is still the lens to buy. Not only that, but my 1962 Summicron (the one with the goggles, or Nookies), still runs circles around this one if you ask me. Maybe not as contrasty but who cares? You can add that later. Sharpness? Please, give me a break! Any issues with sharpness are due to the photographer, not the lens.
    I love my Leicas more than my wife (just kidding honey!) but let’s not kid ourselves. Like I always say, you can’t re-invent the wheel. There are mounds of GREAT lenses out there that you can buy for a fraction of this OR even entire camera systems. Sorry to be so cynical, but I always call it as I see it.

  23. Thanks for all of the comments guys!

    To those who say the bokeh is busy? What exactly are you looking at to determine this because I do not see it at all. If it is shot #2, that is the tree that is “busy” not the bokeh 🙂 I have never seen another 1.4 35mm lens with smoother bokeh than the 35 Summilux. Also, the bokeh of this version should be exactly the same as the old version. That would not have changed, and the bokeh and drawing of this lens is legendary.

    Basically, this version will give you consistent results across the aperture range for sharpness unlike the old version which had a focus shift anywhere between F2 and F5.6 depending on the copy of the lens.

    But busy bokeh? I just do not see it. If you want to see some busy bokeh take a look at my Noktor review on the E-P2, ha ha.

    Anyway, I have shot more with it today and have been testing for focus shift. I have more testing to do and want to see if the shift is 100% gone or not. I have heard that there still may be some slight shift but I have yet to see any, so there will be more testing for sure.

    The one thing I am noticing with this lens is that it is amazingly 3D, more so than the old version. It’s beautiful. I guess if you were someone who loved the old one, you will love the new one even more. If you disliked the old one then nothing can change that.

    More to come soon including tons of shots from Las Vegas and some landscape stuff.

    @Jorgen – The tree is what is busy in this photo, not the lens. The leaf shapes and the angle I shot it at all contribute to this. The bokeh itself is smooth considering the circumstances. No other 1.4 lens could have done any better in this situation except MAYBE the 50 Lux ASPH, but then again, that one can get busy as well with subjects like this tree. Thanks for the comment!

    @Alex – Thanks, it appears you see what I see. Goes to show that this kind of thing is all about personal preference. You either like it or you don’t. Thanks!

    @Dirk – Thanks for commenting. I do not have the Old lux. This lens is the same formula so results should be the same besides the focus shift.

    @Efix – Thanks! Yea, I agree. This lens throws some serious 3D in the right situation.

    @Anthony – Thanks for the comments, and your thoughts!

    @Armanius – The bokeh of the trees is due to the trees themselves, the light and the fact this is at a 1.4 aperture. If this was shot with the Canon 35 1.4 you would really have a headache.

    @NYC – Thanks for your thoughts but these results, to me, are the definition of “creamy”. Goes to show we all see things differently. But thanks for reading, and sharing your thoughts.

  24. Well for 5k, it has(better) to be magical…. but frankly, bokeh is rather busy for my taste, definitely can’t call it pleasing

  25. I actually think the bokeh seems a bit ‘nervous’ and ‘busy’ with it’s outlining. Not creamy at all

  26. I wonder if the busy bokeh on the tree photos is more of a function of the lighting than the lens itself. I’d like to see some comparison shots with the bokeh of a 35 Cron or the Zeiss Biogon. I think Steve owns a 35 Cron.

  27. Absolutely amazing! Such a 3D rendering, the creamy smooth bokeh and those colors, oh, those colors … Really a dream lens, and it will probably stay that for most of us. But at least we can have the joy of looking at its pictures!

  28. At $5k this lens has to be magical. 😉 Steve, will you directly compare this lens to the old 35 Lux?

  29. I think the bokeh in the second picture is absolutely magical. That narrow depth of field in such a relatively wide lens is incredible. I’m already in the queue. Nice one Steve.

  30. The bokeh in the tree picture (#2) is kinda busy. Almost makes me feel a bit nauseous 😉

    I’d take it, though. If someone gave it to me, I could never afford it.

  31. Great looking samples. If I had $5000, my money would probably be out the door for one of these….or a Noctilux, but it would be a tough choice for sure.

  32. Lovely. To my eyes, it retains the creamy signature of the original 35 lux, which is awesome, as it is my fav lens! Can’t wait to see more, Steve!!!!

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