The Leica 35 Summilux ASPH 1.4 II Lens Review
By Steve Huff
Lately I have been doing some lens swapping trying to find that ONE lens that I can grow old with for my Leica M cameras. I am narrowing my Leica M kit down to only TWO lenses and have tried and lived with every 35mm available. Leica, Zeiss, Voigtlander…I have tried them all. The only two that stuck with me and really excited me were the Leica 35 Summicron ASPH and the Leica 35 Summilux ASPH. The Summicron is super crazy fantastic! It’s small, built well, and is perfection in a 35mm lens. It has a fast F2 aperture and delivers in almost any circumstance. If you are a 35mm kind of photographer, I always say the 35 cron is hard to beat.
The Leica 35 Summilux ASPH (old version) was also a lens I have owned more than once because I love the way it renders an image. It has gobs of character and has an even faster 1.4 aperture. As much as I loved the Summilux, I always ended up going back to the Summicron. Why? Mainly due to the focus shift that has plagued the 35 Lux ASPH ever since the M8 and M9 hit the market. I needed a 35 that I could use for EVERYTHING. Portraits, landscape, architectural, etc. The problem was when I tried to take a shot of a barn or old abandoned house, the 35 Lux would give me that damn shift and my images would be out of focus. So while I loved the character of the Lux when it was “on”, I hated it when it was “off”.
I was all ready to just stick with the Summicron for life, even though there were occasions when I truly could have used the faster 1.4 aperture of the Summilux. So after buying a 35 Summicron for the last time I realized Leica was releasing a brand new version of the 35 Summilux that supposedly cured it of its focus shift problems. WOW, that would be AMAZING if Leica could pull it off huh? This could and would be the best 35mm lens in the world for 35mm photography if this were true. It would be the one lens I could own for life! Finally! A no compromise fast 35 that I could take to my grave! One that would give me EVERYTHING! Speed, sharpness and Leica performance at ANY aperture!
“The $1 Fire Breathing Show” – The Leica 35 Summilux ASPH 1.4 II on the Leica M9 – F2.8 or F4 – 1/500th second
The only thing really bugging me about Leica announcing a new version was the price. Just how much would it take to buy that ONE lens that you can be buried with for your Leica M system? Well, after the announcement, Leica said it would be $4995. Yep, that is the cost of the newest version of Leica’s legendary 35mm lens, damn, guess it’s time to REALLY consider selling a kidney. I have been shooting with this lens for a week or so now and I will refer to it as “II” in this review meaning, 2nd version.
At just under $5 grand, this little lens costs as much as a used 1990’s Toyota…. or a down payment on a small house…or a brand new 70″ LED HDTV…or a complete Nikon D700 setup with two good lenses. Wow, how could Leica justify the price of this lens? I have heard many complaints about it but the fact of the matter is that Leica is a small company and they do not mass produce their cameras or lenses. Each lens is hand assembled from exotic glass and parts and each lens is personally tested by a tech in the Leica factory in Germany to insure perfection. They are the smallest, best made, and best performing lenses for the 35mm format. No contest. I have shot with and owned Canon L and Nikon pro lenses. None of them ever gave me the look I can get from Leica glass and they are always HUGE! So while Leica lenses are expensive, there will always be a Leica nut ready to shell out the big bucks for one. Especially if it’s REALLY REALLY special. The question: Is this new 35 Lux ASPH REALLY special?
Let’s Find Out!
Yep, this is the new and improved version of the modern lens and after shooting it extensively on the Leica M9 I feel I am ready to sit down and write this review. I will try to keep it short and to the point as well as load it up with some real world photo samples, which is the #1 thing I look at in lens reviews when deciding on buying a new lens. I always say that it’s all about the photos, and it really is. A really nice lens can not only give you beautiful results but it can also help boost your confidence and motivation. When you know you have a lens that delivers time and time again, and you know what to expect from it then it becomes easier and more natural to find those photo opportunities.
“Accordion Man” – The Leica 35 Summilux ASPH II at 1.4 on my fave digital camera ever, the Leica M9
What was wrong with the old version?
For those of us who have been shooting Leica for a while, we know all about this lens. Before this new version, the “old” version which was introduced in 1994 started to show it’s weakness when the Leica M8 was released. That weakness was a big deal to some and a not so big deal to others. The problem with that lens is that it had focus shift. What does this mean? Well, you can read my review of the old version HERE which explains it better with samples, or I can give you the short version here. Basically, at some apertures (usually F2-F5.6) the old version of this lens would back or front focus. For example, if you stopped down to F2.8 (to get more depth of field) and needed critical focus, chances are what you focused on would not be in focus. I went through several copies of the old version once I bought the M9 as the problem seemed to be worse on the full frame M9.
Leica admitted the lens had a focus shift and stated it was just part of that design. What started to happen was that hundreds of people started sending in their lenses to Leica for calibration, but the lens could never be 100% perfect and would always have some sort of shift. Some lenses were perfect wide open at 1.4, while other were not good until F2 or F2.8. After realizing that this lens was causing so much grief Leica decided to fix the problem by adding a floating element to the lens. Much like they did with the 50 Summilux ASPH, this floating element improves close focus performance as well as minimizes focus shift to where it is pretty much non existent (in real photos anyway).
“Napoleon Dynamite” – The Leica 35 Summilux ASPH II at 1.4 on the Leica M9
The New Version Arrives!
The Un-boxing of the new Leica 35 Summilux ASPH 1.4 II
I had the pleasure of taking delivery of a new in box 35 Lux ASPH II recently (Leica sent me one for review) and as soon as it arrived I attached it to my M9 and left it there. I told the wife we needed a weekend road trip so we packed up the car and drove to Las Vegas. As you can see in the above pics, you can find some real characters in Las Vegas so I knew it would be a great place to test the lens with street photography, night shots, and all around general use. On the camera this lens feels really nice, but I did not expect anything less. Its weight, balance, and feel is superb and while it looks similar to the old version, it feels different. I suspect it is due to the much improved metal hood which is much smaller. It also feels better because it’s solid and it’s metal (the hood).
So the look, feel and build of the lens is pure Leica quality, but again, this lens is $4,995.00 so it better be! The old version of this lens is priced at $4500, so the new one ups the ante a bit with a $500 price increase. So is the new version $500 better? I am here to say YES it is $500 better than the old version. After shooting hundreds of images at all apertures I can say that I did not see any focus shift in even one of my photos. None. From what I have heard, this lens may still have a teeny bit of shift but supposedly it is only visible if you take pictures of rulers and are looking for a centimeter or so of shift. In real photos, there is no visible shift that I noticed during my time with the lens.
How about the magical 35 Summilux ASPH character? Did it change?
Many of you have e-mailed me with concerns that the look of the new version would change. Leica did this with the 50 Noctilux f0.95 and the look of the new version was much more “modern” and perfect than the old one. With the 35 Summilux ASPH, I am happy to say that the character of the lens has stayed the same but your photos will look much more crisp due to the focus shift not being there. Also, to me it appears the lens is throwing out a nicer looking image than the old in regards to color and overall sharpness across the frame, but it could just be that it’s focus is so dead on at all apertures that it appears to be better…which I guess makes it better!
The Leica 35 Summilux ASPH II at 1.4 on the Leica M9 – The color and detail is astounding.
At F2.8, the sharpness and detail is still there! No shift here!
Is It Sharp Wide Open?
Great news! This new Summilux is VERY sharp wide open and scary sharp when stopped down. It has the brilliance, color, and contrast of a top notch Leica lens and if there is anything to worry about with this lens, sharpness is not one of them. This lens delivers.
Leica 35 Summilux ASPH II at 1.4 with 100% crop – Was testing out a filter preset in Lightroom 3 here as well so the color is not from the camera 🙂
Not enough? How about some full size out of camera untouched samples?
“Sin City Brew” – Click image below for larger version or CLICK HERE for full size out of camera shot. Keep in mind this was at F1.4, and focus was on the hot pink “Sin City” badges on the handles. You can see the creamy shallow depth of field when this lens is shot wide open but also notice the gorgeous contrast and color. Wow. Also, this was shot indoors and the lens seemed to make its own light.
Here is one shot at F4 in full direct mid-day sun which is always harsh. You can CLICK HERE for full size shot to see the detail.
Here is a test shot at F5.6 – CLICK HERE for full size shot! Crazy sharp!
and one more to show the detail of this lens when shooting subjects far away. This one was at F4. Shift? What shift?
This lens is amazing at ALL apertures. When wide open it has some slight vignetting on the M9, but this is NOT a problem for me at all. In fact, when shooting wide open like that I like a little vignetting. For sharpness you get it at 1.4 and then it gets better as you stop the lens down. The detail this lens can pull off of an M9 sensor is ridiculous and what I am seeing is that this lens meets or exceeds the performance of the 35 Summicron from F2 down. At F2 there is no vignetting and the lens is as sharp as you could ask it to be.
My Generic Focus Shift Tests
With so many owners of the old 35 Summilux frustrated with the focus shift, I wanted to make sure that this new version was cured of this problem when taking real photos. The old one showed the shift in real photos of mine which is why I could not live with it on the M9. If this new and improved version still showed the focus shift then I was ready to be VERY upset! I did not do fancy ruler tests as I guarantee you I will never shoot a ruler in real life and if this lens had focus shift bad enough to ruin an image, then I would see it in an image. I did a quick test in my backyard using an ugly brick wall.
I shot a brick wall at apertures F1.4 through F5.6. I wanted to see if the focus shift would show its ugly head so below you will see a crop taken from every aperture.
CLICK ON THE CROP BELOW TO SEE IT AS A 100% CROP – HOW IT IS MEANT TO BE SEEN
I saw no shift at all in this test shot. Each shot was done on a tripod and the focus was set once before the first shot. If there is shift here, it’s not visible to my eyes. The 1.4 shot is sharp as is the F5.6 shot. Remember, these are 100% crops of a full image. The only thing I see here is a DOF change from 1.4 to F2-F2.8.
I did one more test using a tree and precisely focused on a piece of bark…
CLICK IMAGE BELOW TO SEE FULL SIZE 100% CROPS FROM F1.4 to F4
Again, if this was taken with my old 35 Lux, the F2.8 image would be visibly out of focus. This new lens starts out incredible at 1.4 and gets better as you stop it down.
So my conclusion is that this lens will not give any focus shift issues in real world images as I have not seen it at all. I was told by another Leica shooter who is also testing this lens that there is a teeny bit of shift still present in this lens if you shoot a ruler but honestly, I I only care if it shows up in real images. Bottom line? When taking real photos there will be no visible focus shift with this lens. If shooting rulers or newspapers, then maybe there will be some microscopic shift but if so, it would be MILES better than the old version.
Is It Worth The Upgrade From The Old Version?
I have already been getting asked this question like crazy so I will just answer it with a YES and a NO!
If you have the old version and are affected by the focus shift, and it bothers you, then I would sell and upgrade to this new version. It is well worth the peace of mind knowing that the lens will deliver every time you compose, focus and snap.
If you have the old version and do not see any shift, or it doesn’t bother you, then I would NOT buy this version. The old version is also a beautiful lens and if you do not notice any focus shift, then stick with it and save yourself some cash.
If you do not own an old version and want a 35 Summilux ASPH, I would go for it and buy this one. It’s a pretty amazing lens and yea, $5,000 is CRAZY expensive for a lens but if you are a pro, or a serious hobbyist AND can afford it, then go for it. You only live once and this is about as good as it gets for a 35mm lens. I could EASILY be happy with this as my ONLY lens for my M, and probably will be. No, I can not afford it but I am finding a way to fund it because I know I can be 100% happy with this lens on digital AND film.
The Bottom Line Conclusion
So, what is my final word on this new Leica 35 Summilux ASPH II? Here you go….I feel it is the BEST 35mm lens made today for ANY 35mm camera system. Yes, I now prefer this lens over the legendary 35 Summicron in almost every way. The only area I do not prefer it is the size but with the new hood design, this lens is not really that much bigger looking than the cron. With it’s surreal performance from 1.4 and down this lens delivers with sharpness, detail, bokeh, color, and has a unique 3 dimensional character when shot wide open that is hard to resist and impossible to beat. Feed it a nice body like a Leica M9 or M7/MP and you will be rewarded with a 35mm lens that has no compromises.Dark, light…it can shoot in almost any situation and reward you with splendid results. As a matter of fact, I think this is now my favorite Leica lens ever.
$4995 is loads of cash but again, this is a 35mm you can be buried with. If the focus shift of the old one has got you down then this is the solution. If you don’t mind a little bit of a slower lens and a more perfect/clinical character then the 35 Summicron is also one hell of a lens. Either way, you cant go wrong. But if you have the “Lux Fever” then the only cure is this new 35 Summilux ASPH 1.4 II lens. It’s a winner. Hell, this may be the reason to go out and buy an M9. The only problem with that is it is so hard to find an M9 in stock. Leica tells me they are working day and night making cameras to fill the orders, so hopefully the M9 supply will get better soon. As for me, I am trying to find a way to buy this lens for myself. I may need to beg, borrow, or sell but I WILL find a way! It’s that good!
You may see the tech head sites saying this lens still has some focus shift, and they may be right but no one in their right mind will ever see it in a real photograph. At any aperture I shot this lens at the focus was always spot on, so I had zero issues with focus but then again, I do not do the technical stuff like shoot rulers and charts. If you like to see that sort of thing I am sure there will be other reviews of this lens coming very soon. So for me, the lens is a 100% winner and if you are a crazy passionate photo nut like me, you probably already want one.
Where To Buy
Amazon is taking pre-orders now for the new 35 Summilux ASPH II. They will not charge you until the lens ships and they are doing a first come first serve kind of deal. If you want this lens, you can get your place in line at Amazon by clicking HERE. If you use that link and pre-order I will get a small credit that will help me keep this web site going, and man, I need all the help I can get to pay for all of these site related bills like hosting, travel, shipping, etc. This site is my passion and I plan on continuing it for many years to come but can only do so with your help.
I thank you for reading this review of the new Leica 35 Summilux ASPH 1.4 II lens. I am going to shed a tear when I have to send it back to Leica in the next few days but as I already mentioned, I may be selling a thing or two to buy one of my own. Yes, I really want this lens…bad. I even asked Leica if I could buy this one but no luck. Looks like I will be right there with you guys come July, waiting for my new 35 Summilux!
I will leave you with more photos from this lens, and soon will post samples with this lens shot on film! Enjoy!
UPDATE: Photographer Jonathan Slack has posted his samples from this new 35 as well. You can check them out HERE.
UPDATE: More images added 06/20/10…
CA is there but it’s much more controlled than even the 50 0.95 Noctilux. I had a very hard time getting it to show up, and this shot was done as a test as I figured if it was going to show up, it would in the chrome details of this vintage VW.
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Hi steve,have you compare voigtlander ultron 35mm f1.7 and lux fle?
Why my ultron is sharper than my fle?
Do i hev a bad copy? Can you see it at my flickr please.
Thank you cheers
There are variances in all lenses and I have had issues like this with most Leica lenses. Some are AMAZING and some are GREAT. That Ultron though, is a WOW lens. I reviewed it here and it is gorgeous. I want to test it on my SL because what I saw was one of the best 35 renderings around for color and 3D effect. The Zeiss ZM is also a great 35 that I feel beats the FLE.
Have you tried it on the Olympus Em1? Results should be crazy good too!
Very impressed Steve ! and a great report.Am saving up nowJohn P
FYI Leica has just increased the price of this lens from $4995 to $5150.
And it is backordered at most places.
I bought this a year ago after reading your review.
And now would like to share my Fashion/test Photography blog with you guys.
check it out, all the last many photos are Leica m8 + Summilux 35mm asph combo.
I know my work is not typical Leica work, but that’s how I like it.
Have you maybe noticed this http://tashley1.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/4/leica-m-240-with-35mm-f1-4-fle—some-observations on your lens?
Could you do some test to confirm whether this was a bad copy or this is common for new 35 lux, please?
I do not have a spare two hours to read over awfully boring technical jargon that has nothing to do with taking real photos. I can tell you that the 35 Lux FLE is one of the best Leica lenses made. It is gorgeous and with over 5000 photos shot with it, never have I had an issue or problem. I also own the RX1 and prefer my Lux shots on an M9 or M or MM. Beautiful lens and when you use it and get a nice shot and print it…you will be in awe. 🙂
I shot the 35 Lux extensively on the M9, MM and now more on the M. No issues for me but again, I do not do silly microscopic surgical detailed studies of the files. I look at the “image” it produces and they have always been pleasant. The lens has never given me focus issues on any camera and is just as easy to use on the M9, M and MM.
If he had major issues (again, I glazed over it quickly) he has a defect somewhere in the chain.
PS – Just looked at his 1st image example. He has a defect. Mine 35 Lux does not have this issue. Look at the image I posted from the Monochrom and Lux and tell me it isnt the most detailed 35mm format image you have seen. It has none of what he has in his sample.
Is the aperture ring on your 35mm f/1.4 ‘loose’ – mine clicks into two separate points at f/1.4 – on one of these points the lens is not wide open. Seems unsatisfactory for such an expensive lens.
That is normal and on every single 35 1.4 II. Nothing to worry about.
Marvelous, what a weblog it is! This blog presents helpful data to us, keep it up.
with new leica m and his Live View and focus peacking, buy summilux 35 mm asph. 2 it doesn’t make sense.
Steve (or Oleg),
I have the same question as Peter. Have you verified that Leica (or any other) filters work with this lens and hood? My lens is on order.
just a short question Steve. Pictures presented on this post are straight JPG from the M9 or DNG + postprocessing? I really like some of them which look really analog…
9 elements in 5 groups with 2 Aspherical surfaces, had been patented.
The aspherical surfaces were ground and polished on the same device that had been used for the Noctilux 1.2/50mm
This is elaborate and time consuming process, that needs constant attention of the craft-people.
New Lenshood, made by a modern injection moulding technique.
Idedtification : A production batch of 3000 had been reserved, according to the original information from Leica, a limited series of only 2,000 was made.
Really enjoy your posts. This is my first comment. In this piece, you mentioned ponderering what two lenses you’d want with your M9. I’m guessing one would be this 35 Lux. The other? Thanks!
Steve, I have been on your site for two solid days and nights now. I have been doing research on the Leica M9 and looking at lenses trying to decide if I want to invest that much $$ when I am just a stay at home mom that is trying to move on as my last child is going away to college this Fall and my husband told me to do something for me now. He may end up eating those words, LOL! After watching all your videos and reading your reviews I have to say that I am sold on this lens and the M9 camera.
I have decided to get a job when my daughter starts college and save my money to buy this dream camera and lens no matter how long it takes to save enough money. I would never ask my husband to spend this much money on a camera as he really wouldn’t understand the passion that I have to own one. I am so excited to have a goal which will allow me to move forward and “let go” of my girl so that we can both continue to grow. Thank you for spending so much time helping others understand all there is to know about the Leica brand. How long is the wait for the camera and lens after placing a order? I’m thinking it will take about 18 months to 2 years to save the money so I don’t want to wait another year to get the camera. So excited!!! Thanks again. Blessings…..Joyce
I enjoy reading this review time and again. I have been thinking about selling my old 50mm Summilux Pre-ASPH lens to fund a 35mm Summilux ASPH lens. I am still not sure whether it is a good idea. If I do get the 35mm lens, I would mainly shot it with B&W films. Should I go for it?
Good question. I thinking about the same dilemma. Steve, what can you recommend;)?
there’s no question in my mind that this is the best 35mm lens there is! bar none!
Peter, try Leica filters. Cheers Oleg
Excellent article. I have purchased a 35mm f1.4 and have a question…is there a series of fiters that fit with the leica hood on. Every filter I have tried UV,or Polarizing when put on the lense directly will not allow the hood to be srewed back on. Is there a solution? Or do you just shoot without the hood/
Steve, I’m a HUGE Leica fan and am crazy about your blog — you do such an amazing job. However, I must say that I’m pretty disappointed in Leica being perpetually out of stock of everything. I’m in marketing — and so I understand that desire is intensified when supply is lower, and it also makes things more exclusive. But this is ridiculous … I mean, when you click on your B&H link it seems like 80-90% of the items (especially the lenses) are out of stock. That’s insane, especially since Leica recently became profitable again and I know they could be producing more. No other camera company has this problem. It’s almost like the food place that intentionally creates a situation where there’s a long line outside the restaurant — so people see that and then become eager to try it. But in this case it’s silly because we already know Leica is great and their prices are so expensive, why deprive people with the money and ability to pay (like me.)
And you know who gets screwed the worst in all this??? YOU! Because you work your ass off (having a blast obviously, but still work your ass off) reviewing and promoting Leica products — only to have them perpetually unavailable from the places where you have affiliate deals from. Thus, people are forced to purchase elsewhere — like Hong Kong sellers on Ebay, etc — and you get nothing. It would be sad to see your site die because there’s never any stock to support your efforts.
Thank goodness you review other camera products besides Leica!!!
Anyway, as much as you love Leica, I’m sure this is frustrating to you as well. Maybe you can send this email and others to Leica so they know that even their biggest fans are getting sick of having to wait forever and search endlessly just to pay a huge premium on their products. I don’t have to do that at Tiffany’s, Cartier, or Bentley. They will sell me whatever I want — because I’m paying a fortune for it. Leica should be no different. They need to take a seriously look at their business model and production processes, because there’s no reason a Summilux-M 50mm should be out of stock for years at a time — that means they are not making enough.
As mentioned before, their lenses are so in demand — make a line especially designed for Canon or Nikon. I know so many DSLR filmmakers who scramble searching for Leica R lenses to use on their Canon cameras because the glass is so amazing. And likewise, Red is coming out with several new models this year and having a Leica R Summilux series of NEW lenses that are readily available would sell like crazy — because they give the IQ of Panavision or Cooke glass but for a small fraction of the price compared to those Cine lens brands.
Again, I know Leica just returned to profitability and are doing a lot of things better than before — but it’s time for them to take another big step forward. They have tons of potential customers just DYING to give them money, and they are essentially ignoring them by not producing enough product.
Anyway, that’s my rant. Great blog and thanks for everything you do.
Love the article.
just think of all the sales that could have been made this year if only the products had been available.
I have am sticking with my old 35mm F1.4 ASPH until the new one is available – who know when this may be…
I’m NOT selling this lens. I want to make that very clear. But if there’s anyone in the Los Angeles area who would like to acquire one of these new 35 Lux’s, (for the list price plus CA sales tax) I think I can make that happen. Drop a line to…
jammerbirdi AT “gee” male.
I am a great fan of yours. great pix and articles on the new 1.4/35mm. But what is a point of a great lens when it is not available so I stick with my 1.4/35mm even though it might not be as good.
Anyone know what is the average wait time for this lens these days?
Are there any “purple fringing” issues with this new lens? I’ve notice that the new 50mm Noctilux 0.95 ASPH and 21 and 24 Summilux ASPH all have some degree of purple fringing.
Po Doco. The 35 1.4 ASPH is not as sharp as the F2.0 Summicron, period. If you do not need the speed go with the F2.0.. Years ago, in the time of M7s, before Leica digital. I used both lens and looked at the charts. I even used both, I wanted the speed and the 50mm F1.4 was far behind the 50 Sum.back when. I personally see no shift in my F1.4 with film. Just did a test. But the bottom line is that the Summicron 35 and the Summicron F2.0 90mm ASPH are the two sharpest lens Leica ever made. Look at the test charts created by Leica. If I were to do it over again, I would go with the 35mm Summicron. I would then by an F1.4 50mm, the new one
. Why the focus shift?. I would say that anytime you go with faster lens the more problems you will have. I am sure even leica can only measure costs vs quailty. This focus shift was never part of Leica reviews of there own lens it was/is called “Leica M-Lens,thier soul and secrets”. You can down load it from the Leica web site.
Thanks Karl. Is focus shift something you can work around? eg: I understand the focus plane can shift when stopping a lens down after focusing. However, if you were to stop the lens down first and then focus (ie: you only change the aperture BEFORE focusing), will this mitigate the focus shift problem?
Po Doc, you got me there, not sure. That was true when I was working with my enlarge and creating prints. If you changed the F stop it was time to re focus, with the grain focuser. Would do this because it would shift it’s focus and I was using top German lens. The bottom line on this focus shifting from all I have heard is that if don’t see it and/or you can live with it, why worry be happy. I do not have nor have used a M8 nor M9. If you have the old 35mm F1.4 ASPH, well my above statement. If you do not have a 35mm and have a M8-9 to be safe and to have the sharper of the two lens By the F2.0 Sum.. A closing throught, we photograph 3D world to a 2D format. If photograph a lake view from the top of hill with an old 35mm F1.4 ASPH, which tree is out focus, is it the sky, the lake or is the whole pictue out of focus?
Thank you, Karl!
You helped me a lot to decide for one Leica Summicron-M 35/f2 in the newest 2016 version.
It is not an easy decision, but I prefer sharp than bokeh.
Steve, great review and awesome pictures.
Quick question: why did the Summikux suffer from focus shift but the Summicron has not? (or has it?)
The new 35/1.4 ASPH lens is a jewel, for sure, and probably doesn’t have much focus shift.
Too bad you don’t shot a diagonal ruler, as you stated you don’t several times, because you could then actually quantify the shift. Short of that, you don’t really help the reader in the description, and we are left with your opinion, which is worth little value in the area of focus shift.
I have one thoses old shifty 35mm F1.4 from Lieca. First of all if you read the tests put out by Lieca, one will find out that the F2.0 cron is sharper the then 1.4 lux. So the new F3.8 Elmar 24mm is sharper then F2.8 Elmairt and the F1.4 lux is in last place. I have owned the F2 cron, but I like to have an F1.4 for low light. I have the 24mm Elmairt, the 35mm F1.4 and 90mm F2.0 cron all are ASPH. I use them on my trusty M7.
The introduction of this lens comes after the introduction of the M8-9s.Can it be that the shift is made more then it is by the design of the CCD chip. Can the abbscence of an anti-alasing filter be part of it. If you live with Moire rings, well….I had a Nikkor F2.8 24mm lens with a “floating rear element on my F2s. The improvement was well noted over older lens. But on a 35mm lens this is not really needed. It no doubt helps with minor effect. Who is say a subject will not move, the camera will move. If so what as out correct focus is now in. Is the range finder correct? My other concern is out of focus at say F4.0. What about depth of field? If I am shooting a 6 feet or 20 feet. I do not take pictures of rulers from tripiods, maybe for tests.
I have a silver 35mm lux asph and I know they are likely not to make them any more. $5,000.00, no way. When I get my M9 and if there is a shift? If that shift is so bad, well I’ll get a nice used F2.0 ASPH cron, but I well keep my old friend. Lieca stuff is hard to part with.
The 35mm F1.4 mark 1 as it will now be called. For years this lens was rated one of the sharpest in the world. I tested mine, found no shift. I have a M7. I have used it for some 10 years now. Any wide angle lens will have this kind of shift. I had a Nikkor 24mm F2.8, it had a ‘floating’ rear element vintage 1980s. I am sure this must have helped. I must admint I do not own an M9, so maybe I am missing something. I feel a moving rear element on any lens 24mm on down is a good idea, but not any thing longer. May the strange lens design in the CCD used on the M9, why did not use a CMOS I’ll never know.Just maybe the mark 2 is an improvement. No the question it is, but just for the frist generation of Lieca digitals or is it something the M10 will really need Mark 2. It may have to do with the fact that M9 has no anti-aliasing filter. If you can live with Moire rings…….Also if you stop down do not get depth of field, word hyper focusing comes to mind.
The next main question is. If you do get the shift is it that bad that you need sell prefectly good lens, to buy $5k lens. To have to take bath on the used lens. Buy cameras to create photographs, prehaps even art. All I known is after taking pictures of my friends dogs with my 35mm F1.4 as a new lens test. When the Motion Picture director looked at the photos. He said did you use the “leica” ( he liked the pictures).
I did state I may have had something to do with the photos coming out so well. My lens is chrome.
I feel we have seen the last of these handsome creations. Even if I do buy the mark 2, I will keep lens with it’s looks and heavy feel.
This might sound dumb… but is this a wide angle lense?
and what is the difference between the new 35 and the new 24mm, the 24 is more.
and what is the best wide angle lense for the m9 or is the new 35mm a pretty good wide angle, and how does that work with the m9 being almost medium format?
Wow…. I just got my new M9 black + new lux 35
It is great!
Lucky you! Enjoy it!
thanks Steve, I already have one on order, it will take a while. In this tiny country known as NZ there are already 11 people on back order. To me it’s has nothing to do with money, I love Leica, I have the M9 which replaced my M8. I have owned other brands for the street photography I love, nothing comes close to the Leica, so I have no problem being poor and owing the best. The quality of the image is it, period.
Hi Steve, do u think it is necessary to protect the front len with a filter (eq. E46) for new lux 35?
hmmm I do not like the bokeh of this lens new 35mm summilux. IMO most 35mm has funky harsh bokeh. One of the reason I stay away from 35mm Leica’s. I also checked Jono Slacks images. Many of his images has very ugly bokeh. I would actually prefer the summarit over this one.
I would really like to see how this lens performs with BW film stopped down to f4 – f 16
Hey Steve, thanks for a review. How much do you think will this lens block of 0.85 WF on my MP with it’s new smaller hood? Cheers Oleg
Thanks Oleg. I cannot say with 100% certainty as i do not have a 0.85 camera here but I can not see it as being a problem. The new hood is much smaller than the old bulky one.
Yeah, that hood looks good to me and I like it metal as well. I’m looking forward to your MP shots with this lens.. Cheers Oleg
Larry, the new 35 is packed up already to go back to Leica tomorrow. I do not have the old one on hand so there is no way to do a side by side but as I said in this review, it is pretty much the same lens. It has just been enhanced for focus shift, and close focus performance. Due to this, the images have more pop but I can say that I think this lens has better color as well. Not sure if Leica changed the coatings or anything but this lens seems to be the master of 3D along with deep rich color. I still say this is my favorite Leica lens I have ever shot with.
Would you please show the same photograph taken with the new II lens and the old I (35 mm Lux) so we can see what differences there may be.
Also, does focus shift only occur if you keep the original focus (say on a tripod) and the only alter the f-stops? I normally set the f-stop that I want first and then focus. There’s no shift, so no focus shift. Is this style of operating the camera the reason why some people never seem to encounter a focus shift?
love the 35lux + M9
@Waruna: barrel distortion? Oh no, now I have to go and do the honourable thing… 🙂
Fantastic lens, love the shot of your son under the tree the light is awesome!
Not much chance of me getting one yet as short supply plus cost for now, still waiting for stock of M9 in UK! Already have Leica 35 Summicron ASPH so bit hard to justify more money on another lens with the other half.
Do I see barrel Distortion.
That is true for the most part but the top Bordeaux still manage to sell well to the elite for $100-3000 per bottle and I put Leica in that camp. Shrewd “consumers” know well that there is better value elsewhere, just like me and you know that a cheap camera and lens can give out award winning images in capable hands.
Well the French messed up! The Aussie wines are creaming them in the export percentage business as well as the top awards. 😉
Sometimes things can be above excellent -super nice – super desired and still cheap….. 😉
I am sure, Richard. I’m in a biz where the French masterfully control supply to make their market for their best wines and I’m sure we can find lots more examples. Leica has NO CHANCE of competing with Nikon and Canon and it found its niche. They’re probably better off catering to 1,000 clients willing and able to dish out $5K for a lens than trying to market a $1,000 lens to 5,000 people and outsourcing labour, recreate their brand, image etc.
Seems to remind me of another certain “industry” that liks to control supply and caused problems for the world in the 1970’s… 😉
Yes, Leica’s existence is due to their “exclusive” image. Exporting their labour to China would make the goods cheaper but it would make them just another camera/lens brand, mass producing. I can guarantee you that 99% of photographers out there would not be able to distinguish pictures taken with the new 35 ‘Lux and a Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35. The Leica lens is obviously built better but that hardly justifies the 4,500 price difference. There is no denying that the Made in Germany has an impact on buyers and Leica can certainly back it up with quality product. The lens could be just as good or better but I don’t think people would line up to pay even $2,000 for a Made in China 35mm ‘Lux. It is all about marketing and perception and people tend to forget that buyers control markets and the laws of supply and demand always apply. Price too high? Don’t buy, demand goes down, price goes down. If Leica priced the new lens @ $5K and people buy it, it means it was priced correctly and I am sure they are good at keeping supply tight to create their market.
@ David S
I get the price point idea.. that is fine. What I don’t get is the hiring and paying of western people to do common manual labour that can and should be exported… it is not in their country’s or company’s best interest to do that. That is money wasted that could be spent on R&D or increasing supply to meet the market demand.
Common manual labor can and should be automated (why exported ? It is more expensive, less reliable and transportation increases pollution).
I don’t think labor costs have a big impact on the price you pay for a Leica lens. Leica is a luxury brand, like Coach or Gucci. Leica is known as an “aspirational” brand. Price points are set first as a marketing strategy and they work back from that price to determine the limits for their manufacturing costs. In other words, the 35 lux costs $5,000 because Leica has decided that that is a good price to keep an aura of exclusivity around their products, not because that is what a 35 Lux costs to manufacture.
A good example of this approach comes from a story I heard about BMW (another great German brand). Apparently, when BMW first introduced the 3-series, they decided that the price of the car should be just out of reach of a first-year associate at Skadden, Arps, a big law firm at the time. I repeat: “just out of reach”. This was genius marketing. They wanted the product to be aspirational. If it was accessible to too many people it would lose its aura of exclusivity.
The worst thing Leica could ever do is cut their prices. There is a reason the Leica brand has such an aura about it, and that is that it carries with it an aura of exclusivity. Zeiss Ikon has the same lineage, if not better, than Leica, and the same quality, if not better (in some ways) than Leica, but it doesn’t have the same brand or cult about it. Leica has been a lot smarter in marketing the exclusivity of their brand than Zeiss.
So for anyone to suggest that Leica should make its lenses in China so people can buy them cheaper is to miss the point entirely. If people wanted cheap rangefinders, Voigtlander would be the biggest camera company in the world. No one wants Leicas to be cheaper (though I’m sure a lot of people would like to get one cheap for themselves). They want a Leica precisely because Leicas are expensive and exclusive.
In general, these companies, be they Leica or BMW or Mercedes, are not stupid. They know they could build in China for less. That it’s cheaper to use Chinese labor is not a big secret. They build in Germany for a reason, and those reasons are far more complex than labor costs.
@ David S
I agree on the marketing angle. I disagree on the cost cutting. People often frame off shoring as “Cost cutting” and refer to the hard costs – like packaging and materials.
Indeed it is about cost cutting – but with the soft prices. IE productivity. Western workers – especially blue collar and manual labourers are VERY inefficient dollar for dollar for the work they do or can be forced to do. Ever seen a road worker or plumber take his sweat time to do —- not much at all —-.
In general the productivity of Asian workers is higher – so that is where the cost savings comes in. If people would be happy to not sit around wasting an hour for lunch each day – or only working 35-40 hours a week – then the west could continue to produce things.
But as it is – people want all the benefits that come from being in a well paid, relaxed job – but without any of the risks that go with (years of study, years of entrepreneurialism, risk taking, inventions and creativity, etc) such a laid back and easy life style.
This can’t be changed until a few more financial crisis come about (which is a good thing IMHO). I watched the videos on the net of the Leica cameras being made. The workers were soooo slow. And the leica rep quoted something like 10 cameras a day? They should make each person have a quota to do 10 each a day. But then they would produce poorly – and that isn’t the problem of quota or speed – it is the selfish and sense of entitlement that comes with most western workers.
Anyway – I am sure they make a tidy profit on 5K. They could make the same contribution margin per unit and sell at a lower market rate and thus increase total company profits if they got rid of the German facotry. Just as Apple has done.
I have German clients that run large facotries here that we deployed ERP systems for them. They 5 German engineers that are always about run the local staff to the same quality as anyone – and they get much more work done without all the labour management headaches I am sure they get in Germany. Thus they make a quality product at a good price.
Anyway – I’d hate to see Leica go bust – but they are sorta doing it to themselves if they continue with the slow motion workers I saw in those You tube vids…..
I like rich environments. Camera made with fast (asian ?) workers exist. So do cameras made with slow (german ?) workers. You buy the one you like better and everyone gets to eat.
I would argue that while Chinese workers are every bit as capable as German workers, companies that outsource to china have a cost-cutting mentality that impacts the product in other ways. If this mentality were applied to Leica you would start seeing lenses in plastic a la Canon or Nikon. Leica bills itself as a company that spares no expense, be it on labor, materials or r&d.
Of course the more cynical way of putting this is that Leica would not be able to charge $5000 for a lens if it were made in China. Presumably
their profit margins are huge on a $5000 lens,
even with German labor. So it’s more a matter of “Made in Germany” as a marketing tool that bolsters their price points, rather than the other way around.
The right business thing to do is to stop paying people in western countries to do manual labour. And for gods sake to stop having factories in western countries. Despite my 10 years in China – the global economics and demographies are kind of obvious and I wonder about the future of any company or country for that fact – that can’t engage in and embrace globalisation – otherwise called “reality”.
There is nothing different that a worker in China or Asia can do i a properly setup factory than a worker in Germany. In fact -t hey probably do it better – because they are not concerned with trying to bilk the company for all the benefits possible to make their “dull” and “boring” manual labour job – less boring. They would approach their job with a certain level of pride and satisfaction that comes from being happy to have a job and opportunity.
Again – WTF – is Leica doing paying Germans to make stuff in Germany? It makes zero sense and IMHO is self delusional.
Thank you for a great site and images. Yours and the Danish Overgaard site inspired me to get the M9 (sold my old cameras two months ago). Very hard to find though – even globally. In the end I found one in the neighbourhood and I really love it. Image quality improved dramatically, which also probably has a lot to do with getting more involved in shooting when using a rangefinder.
Anyway – got the Leica fever (thanks) and I’ve placed an order for this lens too. I heard though that only very few of them will make it into Scandinavia this year. I am on the list though 🙂
Thanks John, Ill be taking some low light indoor shots tonight, mainly in B&W, ISO 2500 though. Ill post them tomorrow.
Thanks for the review Steve. Do you have any more night shots you’d like to share?
I just bought a used 35 ‘Lux from Ken Hansen (which he had tested and shows no focus shift)… can’t wait to take it for a spin!
I appear to have forgotten to comment on the images presented, so here goes (IMHO…) .
Some of the images shot wide open:
– appear to have some really frightening bokeh;
– appear to have a 3d quality which presents the subject as if put before a backdrop.
Which only underlines my previously stated point of view that shooting wide open should not be an obsession.
Only my 2cts worth…
Steve, did you sneak into that Blue man picture. LOL. Nice shot, that guys eyes fly off the screen.
@Max – I totally agree with your comments. This applies same to Nikon/Canon camp as well. If something is broken a normal company would issue a recall. I guess same rules don’t apply to photo industry. I’m sure with time it will change as people start voting with their wallets instead of absorbing it. how long will it take :)? that’s a 64k question.
If the product is flawed from factory it should be repaired, replaced, recalled.
@Michiel Couldn’t agree more it’s all about the images. Steve you say your first photo of the banjo player was shot wide open? If so that is amazing sharpness wide open. Inzoomed in on the iPad on the left lens of his sunglasses and I can see what looks like you taking the photograph! Incredible detail from this lens. Once again many thanks for the site all your time effort and amazing images. It inspires newbies like myself no end.
Reading all these comments one thing sticks out (like a sore thumb): there’s more emotion than rationality here.
Put differently, some posters are (including OP of course 🙂 ) up on Leica’s defense tower, others are down on Mother Earth gazing up and attempting to throw arguments up so far they actually flip over the turret.
Leica’s pricing policy is blatantly aimed at well heeled travellers, the Louis Vuitton set, and who would blame them for that? Does the price difference justify the, sometimes noticeable, difference in IQ?
Who cares? You pay for the legend. It’s like becoming a member of an exclusive club.
Now let’s get back to discussing images.
I spent 2 grand on my tv, another 2 on my computer, and almost 2 on my lenses so far. One of those lenses will hopefully last me the rest of my life, my tv will die in a year or two, my computer is getting replaced by a even more expensive macbook in 2 months. Money is always relative.
Just out of curiosity – if the 35mm 1.4 II is one of the lenses in your kit, what is the second?
Mike, I think that if you shop carefully both camera setups with the 80mm lens are comparable in price. I’ve never owned Hasselblaad so I am not fit to compare but the 645 is an amazing camera and still very much in demand, as it is used by many studio photographers. It is SIMPLE, it has a great meter, the lenses are special and, for the digital nuts, a Phase One or Leaf back makes them even more desirable and current. I think you can get a clean piece with the 80mm Planar, a 120mm Makro, and a 45mm Distagon for less than the price of a new 35mm ‘Lux 🙂
Oooh, Max, looking forward to your 645 review. I’m considering going MF film, and am back and forth between the Contax and a Hassy 500/1/2/3. The Contax still commands a pretty hefty price, unfortunately (for me).
On a much lighter note, since I am still working on a Contax 645 article for Steve’s unbeatable site, I wanted to share a picture taken yesterday, with a lens with no focus shift whatsoever 🙂
Contax 645, 120mm Zeiss Makro Planar f4 (truly one of the greatest, sharpest lenses ever built), FILM, Efke 25 developed in Rodinal 1:100 + 1 tbsp of sodium sulfite, scanned on Epson V750M Pro. Wide open @ f4, I think 1/30 or 1/60 shutter speed, gloomy, crappy, rainy day so I was shining a flashlight on this guy. To all, peace and enjoy.
Yeah Steve but with Canon/Nikon we come to expect/accept crap so it’s okay 🙂
@Daniel – Thanks for the comments. Yea, $5k is a lot of cash but remember, there are tons of people out there (I am NOT one of them) who will spend $5k like me or you might spend $20. Plenty of people out there who want the best, and will gladly pay for it.
@Just to be fair, Leica admitted there was a focus shift issue with the old 35 when digital hit and everyone was sending in their lenses for calibration. It all started with the M8 and M9. Now they have redesigned the lens and it no longer has any issues with shift, so there is your no compromise lens for digital. Only problem is, it is $5,000 but I have known at least 30+ people who bought the $11k Noct! If someone has the money to buy one, and they want the best/most versatile 35mm lens available then why not? Sure, someone can go buy a 5DII and focus shifting 50L for less then this lens but those looking at this lens want a fast, no compromise, beautiful and fast 35mm lens for their Leica camera. I never see anyone complaining about paying $3700 for the 50 ASPH and even that is outrageous for a 50mm lens. How much is a Nikon 50 1.4? My point is, this lens will sell to those who love the 35 Lux and want a focus shift free version. The previous version flew off the shelves at $4000-$4500 and I am guessing this one will as well. It is what it is.
@Aizan – I believe I did a few side by sides while in Vegas, just have to wait for the film to be processed. Thanks!
@ S Sarkar – That is a first for me 🙂 Bushy Bokeh? Anyway, all of you “Bokeh” guys…show me a 35 1.4 that does it any better. You can’t! I think it looks wonderfully smooth and beautiful but then again, I have only seen one lens ever whose bokeh really distracted me and that was the Noktor 50. I am more into the image itself than the Bokeh. Thanks for the comments! BTW, I disagree on the 50 ASPH. Sure it is smooth, just as this lens is but in certain situations, such as trees you will see the same things.
@Wolfgang – I will see if I can add this today, Thanks!
@Horea – No, I believe that was the angle I shot it from. Lines look straight in that image. I have yet to notice any barrel distortion. Doesn’t mean it is not there as I have not shot any walls with straight lines but haven’t seen it in the images.
@Marcus – Well, all depends. Me, I would take the M9 body.
@Danny – I touched on this in the review. If the shift of the old version doesn’t bother you or you do not see it then no, I would not upgrade. Keep the one you have as its a super lens. Would not be worth the upgrade IMO.
@Richard – Great place to visit and on weekends it is loaded with people. Pretty cool to walk the strip and just take photographs. It was a 4 hour drive from me so I will be heading back there regularly for photo trips. Thx..
@Max – You are correct! No one NEEDS this lens but no one NEEDS anything besides food, shelter and water but we all buy plenty of “toys” because we enjoy them. Sure, one can shoot a Holga or Diana and get very good results (I am shooting a Diana this week) and those are $60 but it’s a totally different experience.
As for updating the lens, they did so because so many people were always bitching and moaning on forums asking them to update the 35 Lux and fix the shift. So they finally did and now we have those who are very happy about it, and those who are bitching and moaning about the price. How was the price a shock? I wrote months ago before anything was ever announced that if they ever did update the lens it would come in at $5k. This was to be expected as this is Leica and their 35mm lenses are NOT cheap.
Sure, I wish the lens was $1500 so I could go out and buy one without too much worry but for me, I have to give up other things so I can buy this lens, and I plan to buy it. Why? Because A: The M9 is my favorite digital ever and B: 35mm is my fave FL on the M9 and C: This is the best and most versatile 35mm I have ever shot with on any M camera, oh and D: I am a huge fan of fast lenses and much prefer 1.4 to F2 due to being in situations with an F2 where I really could have used an F1.4.
So, for me to be truly happy with my M9 I WANT this lens. I may not NEED it but I do WANT it. If I bought a cheap 40 year old 35 2.8 I would not enjoy shooting nearly as much and I would miss quite a few shots at night with something like that as well.
One time the 35 1.4 came in handy was when I shot a wedding. Low light, no flash. An F2 or slower would not have worked as I already had my ISO maxed out with slow shutter speeds. The lens did great and I ended up making some nice $$$ from prints afterwards. So there are times when a 1.4 lens comes in handy, though the old one had to be shot wide open all the time to avoid the shift.
Your argument about Leica taking back the old lens and letting you pay the difference is a good one but borderline ridiculous. Did Canon, who is a gazillion times larger than Leica take back the old 24L version one for credit towards the new and improved Version II which was much improved and fixed the soft corners? Did Nikon take back the 70-200VR which had performance issues on the full frame digitals for credit towards the 70-200VRII? Nope. Did Leica take back M8’s for credit towards an M9? Of course not! It’s a new updated version of a lens and if Canon ever comes out with a 50L that does not focus shift do you think they will take back the old version? No way. No camera manufacturer has or ever will do that.
These fast lenses pretty much ALL shift in one way or another so I am just happy that Leica fixed the problem for digital users and that we have this option available. Sure its expensive but so was the old one! Id sure as hell pay $500 more for the new one over the old one and I would buy this lens over the $11k Noct as well.
Again, just my opinions, everyone else’s will differ of course.
Bottom line – Buy it if you WANT a Lux and the old ones shift bugs you. DO NOT buy it if you do not need or want a 1.4 lens or the shift of the old one does not bug you. Third option, go buy a Voigtlander 35 1.4 classic for $500 and call it a day 🙂
I will stop now before I ramble on and end up writing 4000 words here. Sorry 🙂
forget how great the new ‘Lux is, the core problem is that the previous incarnation had the well known issues and yet Leica marketed it, sold it, people bought it (me included) for $3,500-$4000. In other circles, companies issue recalls, rebates, to keep customers happy. Leica seems to be okay by simply revamping the lens to fix the issue and get another $5K out of people. I think is BS and people should vote with their wallets. The fact that they are a small company is not an excuse and, at these prices, owners should not have to be bothered with sending lenses and bodies for calibration on new equipment that is supposed to work flawlessly out of the box.
Can’t have your cake and eat it too…Leica wants to portray this image of unbeatable quality and charge a pretty penny for it and that’s okay BUT, when shit does happen, come out clean and offer some kind of solution to the people that keep you in business. If my 35 has focus shift, I should be able to send it back to Leica and get close to my cost and I would happily pay the up-charge to get the new “trouble-free” 35. That would be the right thing to do at the business level.
Thanks for explanation Steve. your explanation makes sense but doesn’t provide an excuse. you said that all lenses have focus shifts but if u also notice that price of all those lenses adds up to one 35mm summilux lens 🙂
Problem that I have is that if Leica has the balls to charge $4500 for a lens by stating that their lenses are “state of the art, magical, blah blah” but at the same time they have same flaws as less than $1k nokton and 50mm 1.1. Again I’m not complaining about the huge price of these, I’m simply asking the question of what makes them any different? 🙂 Yes i know they are small and make everything by hand which makes it even harder to understand these flaws.
@Max – totally agree with u.
Guys, it’s all about “wants” and “needs”. Does anyone NEED this lens? Hell no. I’ve seen GREAT pictures taken with medium format film and a $60 Holga and absolute crap shots on Contax 645 with Phase One P65 backs (a mere $45K investment). If anyone wants this lens and has $5K to spend, ABSOLUTELY buy it. Does anyone need it to take better pictures with an M9 or any other M camera? I think you know the answer. I’m in the wine biz and fine Bordeaux has become a luxury item, just like a Leica lens. It’s about demand, that special aura of exclusivity and refinement. Just like a bottle of Petrus or a Chanel bag, Leica has its devoted followers who are mostly wealthy amateurs who want the best (or perceived best) and they cater to that crowd. From a business standpoint, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that and I applaud their approach if it keeps them in business. $5K is a LOT of money for a lens and, if you find yourself trying to justify the purchase, don’t buy it. It is very simple.
Hmmm like the vegas review. For the 5K of this lens – I think I could get a nice trip to there with the missus and capture some moments. 😉
Nice article and pics. I own the 35lux ASPH for quite some time
I had some shift problems which were not that noticed, just got it calibrated at Leica Solms and i must say i dont see the shift anymore, i love this lense.
My question to you is- if the shift problem was no issue would you still change it to the new lense ?
So now the next investment dilemma – from an M8 user – M9 body or Lux 35 II?
The “Sin City” shot displays to my eyes barrel distortion or am I wrong?
Hello Steve ,
nice lens review. Maybe you have a picture “view through the viewfinder” from this lens?
To add: Having seen the samples here, I think the 50mm Summilux ASPH produces much better Bokeh and a smooth finish to the photos than this lens.
Everything is good about this lens (may be not the price:P), but the BOKEH – frankly – is NOT that great. It’s quite bushy and rough, whenever there are some specular highlights or challenging back-light, the bokeh becomes unpleasing. What do you think?
ooooh, how about doing a few side-by-side comparison shots between the fuji gf670 and the leica m9 with the new 35mm summilux asph while you still have them?
As much of a Leica fan as I am, I kind of have to side with Alex on this one. This article didn’t make me want to buy a new 35 lux. Not in the least. It did impress on me the balls that Leica had to produce a $4500 lens (hand assembled and tested, and dusted with L-magic) that had apparently significant focus shift problems. Film does tend to hide focusing problems to some degree (partly because it’s a 3-dimensional medium, and thus a little back/front focus still hits some part of the emulsion), but surely Leica noticed the shift problems when they did their tests. I thought Leica was the no-compromises brand.
That being said, I just bought a used 50mm Sonnar, a design which is also known to focus shift. However, Zeiss comes right out and says that the lens has focus shift due to its old-school design, and doesn’t really apologize for it. On the other hand, the Sonnar is a quarter of the cost of the old 35mm lux and has incredible rendering that is all its own. Sounds like a bargain to me.
Well done Steve. Great review & excellent snaps! But when it’s all said & done I sure as hell won’t be queuing up to drop $5K on this lens. For that kind of coin one could feed a small village in Africa for half a year, take an amazing 2 month adventure to South America to shot some cool fotos. I have a 35mm Voigtlander 1.4 classic & for my budget, it does a fine job. I think Leica are getting way too elitist. Think about; FIVE THOUSANDS DOLLAR$!
Again, great review Steve. Thanks.
The 50 ASPH will not have any issues and the 50 pre-asph I had, well, I cant say for 100% because at the time I had that my M9 was a little off. This new 35 does not have any issues with focus shift.
Steve or anyone, do you guys know if 50 lux asph or pre-asph has focus shift as well? More than 35mm? Thanks.
@Frank – Thanks! Enjoy it…
@Tim A – The pre-asph is a great lens as well, just a more classic look. Thanks for reading!
@Elaine – shooting some film now…
@Stephen B – Yes, this and the 50 Lux ASPH are pretty much the top of the top of the heap for Leica glass – 35 and 50 are the most used focal lengths.
@pixelmixture – The Fuji review should be up this weekend. Had to get some more rolls of film through it before I wrote the review.
@Dan, the 50 is a legend. You will love it!
@Ashwin – Thanks for the kind words.
@Lucy – Thanks so much. As for the comparison between this and the 24 Lux, I would say they are pretty similar. The 24 has that classic but modern signature much like this lens. I would buy a 35 personally as I think it is a more useful FL for everyday use.
@Franz – Thanks!
@Ran – Coming soon…
@Eric – Thanks!
@Alex – Most fast lenses made today have some sort of focus shift. The Zeiss Sonnar, The Canon 50L, Voigtlander 50 1.1, Original Noctilux…the list goes on. It’s just part of the design and it was never noticed until digital. The original version was made during a time when Leica did not have an M8 or M9, so no one really knew about the shift, or did not notice it enough to care.
I applaud Leica for updating the lens for Digital. Much better to do that instead of doing nothing. $500 price increase sucks but thats life. I have a feeling they will sell very well though, even at that price.
Thanks for the review Steve. Even though I will never be able to own this lens, it’s nice reading a detailed review, and seeing some great photos.
BTW, the reviews on your site need to be read Safari 5 using the “Reader” feature. amazing 🙂
So I have to ask. how can a single focal length lens with years of expertise behind it have such a flaw as focus shift at $4500? and Leica instead of addressing the issue decides to release “new and improved” version and nail u for another $5k. Thats pretty cool, we come out with flawed design and if u want it fixed please send us another $5k.
Cool review as always. Useful no dout for leica owners, and great for others when bored. The perfect blog.
Thanks For the Review Would Have loved to have seen some sample photos with a Film M and the Lux II
… sometimes it´s a very expensive idea to have an eye on Steve´s homepage 🙂 But after working with the “old” 35mm for so many years until the M8 arrived, selling this lens to a nice man from Hong Kong who is still producing perfect images with it, I think it´s now the time to start again with it 🙂 The only question: selling the 28mm after falling in love with it on the M9 … ?! … what a dilemma!
Thanks for this test, Steve!
Hi Steve. I have the mark 1 version and i’m very pleased with it but wish i’d waited a bit and saved my pennies for this new version. Your shots are wonderful.
How do you think the signature of this lens compares to the 24 Lux asph??
Wow, outstanding images. What I see is that the lens very much maintains its character while losing the focus shift issue all together. I agree that its the ultimate 35 mmm lens, but I believe that I will keep mine, as I have never detected focus shift that matters to my photography, though I suspect that there may be some there….who knows, but your images, Steve, are even better…so lovely. hopefully, Leica sends you a copy at a good rate….you have just sold them a lot of lenses…
Isn’t it annoying when new stuff comes out after you already bought yourself something?
I just bought the 50mm Summilux and am waiting for it’s arrival. I’m not sure if the 35mm is the better FL for me but I didn’t get the ASPH v.1 because of the focus shift problems and wanted the f1.4 so went for the 50mm…
Although, by the looks of it, it will be a while till this lens will be in stock anywhere – not that the 50 lux and M9 are so scarce..
Amazing rendition … almost feel that is was shot with a medium format.
M9+35II = 10 000 $ …. hard to justify for a hobbyist.
Can’t wait to see your review of the folding Fuji.
M9+35II=12 000 $ is it?
Napoleon is the king
Thanks Steve. The reason I ask is although I use a M7 and am a ‘anti-crop’ kind of person, these lenses are extremely pricey and as you say, when you buy something like this, it better be good enough to take with to the next life 😉 and in my future I can certainly see myself picking up a M9/M10 to go with my film M and I really don’t want to have a lens that can’t make that jump from film to digital the way it should. I bought the new 50mm summilux because of it’s flawless reputation on film and digital so I think if I get a 35 lux, this will be the one.
Steve, I love the pictures and the new 35 lux. Ouch on the price though. It’s a beautiful lens. Have you tried it on the MP yet?
Nice review and great photos as always. As a new rangefinder shooter (have the Bessa R2M) I’m discovering the Leica “magic” every day and I have to say, I am happy to have read your article a while ago about the best lenses to get where you suggested the 35mm. After reading up on the various incarnations of the 35mm, I picked up the 35mm lux but the pre-ASPH version in Tokyo. That gave the images shot at wide open a soft “glow” that I really really like (and some people really really hate). And I’m glad to see that the new version here still has that “feel” though without the glow. The 35 lux is definitely a gorgeous lens and this might go up very high on my wish list. But I guess in the meantime the one I have will get a full workout on both my R2M and on my GF1 with the M-mount adaptor 🙂
Thanks for the review Steve, some really nice photo in your review, I had the 35mm Lux ASPH MKI, at f1.4 it was tac sharp but by f1.8 focus shift had really started to kick-in, by f4 it was totally unuseable, I’m pretty sure my copy was a really bad one so I sent it back, after that I picked up a Canon 35L for my 5DMKII and I’ve been very happy with it but I think I’m going to get my name down on the waiting list for this new 35mm Lux.
@Stephen B – Hi, thanks for reading the review. The focus shift is in the old lens, even with film. BUT with film you just do not notice it. With digital and the new age of hyper details, and instant feedback more people started seeing this focus shift. With film you still see it but usually its a few days between when you shot the image and when you get your film back so you might see it a little and say “maybe I mis-focused”? Also, its not as noticeable with film because we don’t look at 100% crops when we look at our film shots (well, not usually). There are supposedly other more valid reasons but the bottom line is the old Lux does have focus shift but it is more noticeable with digital.
Looks amazing! Am I right in thinking that this ‘focus shift’ does not apply to film (at least with the previous version 35 lux?). You say that with the M8 introduction the ‘flaw’ in the old lens came to light so can we safely assume the old one is as good as this if one is shooting film? Thanks.
Thank you for your great post! You made me place the order!
Armanius, that was Mini-Elvis’s manager 🙂
I want that lens. Not that I needed any extra persuasion… But it is good to hear it delivers like they say.
Nice! I like the photo of the “Sin City brew” the best. Good combo of sharpness, color rendition, and bokeh.
I also like the photo with the Mini-Elvis. BTW, is that Kenny G standing behind Min-Elvis?
Gorgeous – Thank you for posting!