LENS LUST: The Leica 50 Summilux ASPH on the Olympus E-M5 and NEX cameras

LENS LUST: The Leica 50 Summilux ASPH on the Olympus E-M5 and NEX cameras

Lots of people wonder if spending the bucks for a Leica lens is worth the crazy cost when shooting with a NON Leica camera. We all know how insane the prices on these lenses are these days and the legendary and drool worthy Leica 50 Summilux ASPH is no exception. Coming in at around $4000 these days, this 50 Summilux ASPH is one of Leica hottest selling lenses right above the new 35 Summilux ASPH FLE. With rumors of a new 28 Summilux 1.4 for September coming one can only imagine how much these lenses will be going up in price (and value) in the next year or two. Leica raises prices every single year and I do not see them stopping this practice anytime soon.

My now 16 year old Son Brandon – OM-D with the Lux at 1.4

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One good thing we can say about these prices is that those who have owned the best Leica lenses for a long time have seen their lenses appreciate like mad. Those who are buying new TODAY…well, that is a different story. With the cost of the lenses so high, many have been asking me if it is worth it to buy them for use with a Micro 4/3 or even NEX camera. I have shot the 50 Summilux ASPH on the Sony NEX-5n with gorgeous results.

On a NEX, the 50 becomes more like a 75mm equivalent making it nice for portraits (though you still get the characteristics of a 50mm).

The Leica 50 Summilux on the NEX-5n wide open, where it is meant to be used 🙂

On an OM-D E-M5 this lens becomes a 100mm equivalent, which is quite long. You still have the light gathering of an f 1.4 lens so in reality it is like shooting a 100mm f/1.4 though your DOF will be different due to the smaller sensor. With the new Olympus 75 1.8 out any moment now at $800 buying a $4000 Leica lens may not be the smartest decision financially but if you want to feel that Leica quality in your hand and see  that quality in your photos then it is worth it. Plus, if you hold on to the lens for a few years you may not lose any money when you sell, and you may in fact make money on it when Leica releases the snazzy new M13 🙂

What a gorgeous lens. Well worth lusting after 🙂 Wide open again at 1.4 on the OM-D E-M5

A lens like this is WELL WORTH it when shooting in a Leica M camera as you will see the full beauty of it. It is well worth it when using them how they were intended to be used and in my opinion they become a little crippled on other smaller sensor formats like Micro 4/3. Using them on the NEX or Fuji X-Pro 1 may be a different story though because you have an APS-C sized sensor which gives us more of the lens goodness to work with. The more of the lens surface we can use the more beautiful the results.

With that said, shooting a 50 Lux ASPH on an OM-D is quite nice and it will give you beautiful results that prove that it is all about the lenses. Even on the E-M5 you can see the Lens character shine through and it looks “Leica”-ish. This shows that the lenses are what makes the Leica magic, not the cameras (though the full frame M9 rocks because it uses all of the lens like an M7 or MP or M3 would).

Using a legendary Leica lens like the 50 Summilux ASPH even on the new Olympus OM-D or the established NEX-7 can be quite magical. This goes to show that it is indeed all about the glass when it comes to photo image quality, and in my opinion, Leica M lenses are the best in the world and well worth their high cost if photography is your lifetime passion.

So should you be one of those who are wondering if a Leica lens is worth it to own for your Micro 4/3 or NEX cameras or even Ricoh GXR..I would say…yes and no. Yes if you desire quality in build, feel, and want that Leica look to your images (and yes, there is such a thing as the Leica look) and you have some cash in your wallet. Leica glass is always a good investment though I can not say the same for buying a brand spanking new M9P as the value will drop on the cameras every time. Lenses though, they will eventually appreciate. On a NEX system this lens really shines due to the larger sensor. It may not be full frame but still, it is great on the NEX cameras.

I said NO because I think that with a system like Micro 4/3 there are so many great lenses already available for much much less that you could buy the full set of 12mm f2, 25 1.4, 45 1.8 and 75 1.8 for MUCH less than this one 50 Summilux 1.4 ASPH. $2700 vs $4000. You will not get the same look as this 50 Lux with any of those but you can get close (with the new 75 it appears). I found the combo of the OM-D with 50 Lux to be a pretty damn impressive combo and I had zero issues focusing. None were OOF.

Brandon at 1.4

I guess what I am trying to say is that this lens on the mirrorless cameras is gorgeous and you would NOT be disappointed. At the same time, it is not needed to get gorgeous photos with these systems. Again, like I said about the Monochrom, it comes down to what you WANT more than need 🙂 I love the combo and when this lens is attached to the OM-D it feel amazingly solid. I used the EVF for all of the shots here and it was a joy to use.

The Leica 50 Summilux ASPH is still a tough lens to find in stock but you can always try Dale Photo, PopFlash or email Mr. Ken Hansen for availability. This is one lens that will always be a great investment as it is Leicas top selling lens and most desired lens as well. If you want to try it out on your camera you can also rent it at lensrentals.com (which I have been using quite a but lately BTW, they are great)!

One thing this lens has is amazing micro contrast as well as contrast, sharpness and color. It gives photos an almost “glassy” look. 

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this little snippet of Leica lens lust. The 50 Summilux ASPH is a legend and the best 50mm in the world, well, until that new 50 Summicron APO hits. 🙂 This was not meant to be a review of the lens as I wrote one LONG ago and you can see that review HERE. This was just a piece to say that I still love this lens and is my 2nd fave Leica lens ever. My 1st? The new 35 Summilux FLE.

Steve

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52 Comments

  1. Steve, there isn’t any any information on the adaptor used between camera and lens. Whose adaptor do recommend using for a OM-D E-M1 and 50 mm Summilux F1.4 combo?

  2. Hi Steve,

    I enjoy reading your blog and occasionally, contributing my 2 cents’ worth. I’m happy to buy stuff from B&H or Amazon, if it helps you. However, how would I buy an item that is not covered in your blog? I searched for a couple of items that I’m considering buying, but when I did a search, they didn’t show up on your site. So how would I do a search for an item here that refers me to Amazon.com or BandH.com?

    Roy

  3. I agree, I keep reading similar comments on the net that the DOF will be different but can’t really see how an optical property can change with the sensor. What it really is DOF out 100mm lens on FF sensor will be different from the DOF of out 50mm lens on MFT sensor and that the DOF of a lens doesn’t change no matter where you mount it.

    • Exactly. With a 50mm yu will get the characteristics of that 50 but an equiv focal length of 100mm. The light gathering will stay the same. It is like taking a pic with the 50mm on a full frame camera and then cropping it to 100mm. You still get the benefit of the 1.4 aperture for light gathering so you will in effect have a 100mm f/1.4 but with the characteristics of a 50 1.4.

  4. Hi all,

    This article is very interesting especially in my situation.I have a few Leica lenses (50mm f/2 and other) from my grand-father and I getted a NEX-5N body a few months ago. Just wondering which adpater you (Steve or other contributors) are using to adapt those two. I found a long list of discussions about this over the internet but would like to have a trusted source of advices ;o)

  5. :-S

    How does putting the EXACT same lens on a different body all of a sudden change it’s optical physics like the depth of field?

    I crop my images all the time (645 scans) and apart from the image area shrinking – funnily enough the sharpness, DOF and other attributes remain the same.

  6. so many talks about leica-style picture…. 35mm film style pictures… etc. etc.

    what about a challenge ? show couple of pictures and the people have vote waht kind lens or camera was used ! and we see how import the hardware is..
    just a idea, it would be funny….

  7. I have no doubt that the Summilux is king, but here’s an idea for a future “Crazy Comparison” – A nifty-fifty digital-adapted shootout. I’ve got a feeling that a Zuiko/Rokkor/Canon/Pentax etc f1.8 (or f1.4) will deliver pretty stiff competition, and the build quality and feel are still excellent.

  8. When I had an EP2 I adapted the 28 Summicron and it had the Leica color that I love. The sharpness compared to the Pany 20mm was amazing. And the Pany was dam good… but very clear the Leica was in a different League. Don’t own a m43 body now but I think a great idea if you own Leica glass.

  9. I have both the Summilux 50 and the 35 FLE for a few months now after a six month wait. They sit in cold storage waiting for Papa to get the funds for a M9-P or perhaps the M10 when released. Sometimes, late at night I pull them out of the safe and fondle them until I hear a voice “hey whats going on in there?” and, I say “nothing dear” and then put them back to bed and dream of one day mounting them….You know what I mean!! I have the silver chrome 50 lux, which is brass instead of the alloy version. She is heavy, but in a big boned voluptuous way, and I feel I will still be able to use her in all the familiar positions that are pleasing to us both. Great site Steve and keep up the great job you are doing for us to help stimulate the economy and our frontal lobes!

    • “..I would be curious to see how it compares to a Summilux-R. They sell for about $1K..”

      This lens is the more recent aspherical-element version of the f1.4. The difference between this and the R (Leica SLR) version is that this one has very softly-melting, smoothly-spread, out-of-focus blur, with no hard edges to out-of-focus highlights.

  10. May I ask why?

    1k omd with 4k lux… That lens need to be on the Leica either a digital M or film M preferably. It makes it 100mm focal length. Seems kind of odd. I would keep that lens to your M9.

    And all that Monochrom talk I mean come on you can get a more solidly build MP, M7, M6, and maybe M3 all for the price of one Monochrom and those film bodies will give you better tonality to your B&W film.

  11. Thanks for giving us a look at this lens on the OM-D. Your images with this lens have a great look. No, I won’t be spending 4k for it – maybe the Pany/Leica 25mm.

    Please tell us how we can support your site with direct cash contributions (Paypal maybe) as well as through click-through purchases. We want to keep your site going.

    • “..How does the OM-D’s in-body stabilization do with this lens?..”

      Perfectly, of course. Gives excellent stabilisation in low light at f1.4 – when you might otherwise expect shake at low ISOs.

  12. Putting a lens like a 50 Lux that you already own on a m4/3 or NEX camera that you picked up as an alternative/backup system for a M camera makes good sense and opens new shooting options

    Buying a $4000+ lens to use on a NEX or m4/3 camera if you don’t even own a M camera seems a bit crazy to me.

    If your in the position to be able to afford $4000 lenses though, I’d hope dropping $2k or so for at least a M8 to get a bit of a better idea of how your new $4000 lens is supported to work probably is quite doable.

    • I’m pretty sure spending 4000$ on a lens is equally crazy whether or not you’re buying a Leica as well 😉

  13. Dear Sir, I envy You!
    (I meant it in a good way…)
    I have the Olympus 45mm and love it at no end, and being a 50mm equivalent the lens I use the most right now, I’m saving to get the PanaLeica 25mm.
    And, even I reckon I’ll never be able to afford the Leica 50mm, I’m very glad to read about it from a guy (you)
    that uses the lens in the real world, and give us his feelings instead of a bunch of test charts.
    Keep on with the great work!

  14. Great post Steve.

    I’ve tried the Summilux on the EM5 and I find it a little too contrasty. Maybe I need to fiddle with the JPG settings? The feeling of the focus tab is like nothing else though–out of this world.

    Another quirk: the Summilux feels much better balanced on the EM5 than on the X-Pro1, even though the Fuji is closer to the size of the M9.

  15. Thanks for the images Steve and the quick rundown. I have to say though, and this is just my opinion, I really think M lenses lose their mojo when adapted to other bodies. First I used them on a Nex7 and after the initial “wow, neat-o” I was slowly let down by the implementation and then the images themselves. Now I have the X Pro and again it is very cool to be able to use these lenses with the Fuji but when I look at the pictures I don’t see the same dimensional qualities as using it on the M8. Great color and sharpness but also very clinical.

    I don’t know maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about but thats just the feeling I get.

    • I had exactly the same experience when trying M-lenses on a Nex7 and brought this camera back to the store. My conclusion was not to expect too much of this cross-mating: I stick to my M9 and that’s it!

      • Totally agree. I looked at the NEX 7 with aspirations to move towards Leica. However, every comparison shot I looked at (including those on Steve’s site) the M9 blew away the NEX with the same Leica lens. Guess I’ll just have to keep saving.

  16. One day (?) Sigma gonna release a mirror apsc.

    Putting a Lux 1.4 on a Foveon gonna make photos sing like M8/M9 never could
    … making a hoohaaa of its the lens not the sensor 😉

    • Sigma is taking so long even just to release DP1 Merrill. I would say, by the time Sigma Marketing dept. finally clicks, Sony will come up with Full Frame NEX and change the game.

  17. I’d save a ton of money and get a Zeiss Sonnar f/1.5!

    I’ve used both on my M9P and prefer the Zeiss + cash. The retro Zeiss hood looks awesome too.

  18. Hey Steve,

    I really like your blog and read it a lot, but please don’t post false stuff like “The more of the lens surface we can use the more beautiful the results”. It really might misinform novices!
    Besides that, keep up the good work!

  19. Love the article Steve, makes me wonder what a “Leica look” really is and I guess that question can’t be answered without a side by side comparison. If you have a chance perhaps do a side by side comparison of two images of the same subject but with the two lenses (50 Summilux ASPH & another 50mm lens, perhaps the 12-50mm at 50mm or the 45mm which is close enough) with similar aperture settings? I’m sure a lot of people would be interested in taking a look at that!

  20. Nice article Steve, I sometimes use the 50 Lux on my OMD but I have to say, after getting the Olympus 45mm f1.8, it actually produces sharper images and the bokeh (on MFT sensors) is just as nice! Add in the benefits of fast AF and the only downside is the slightly smaller aperture and slightly shorter focal length. Only trouble is, I love the PL 25mm 1.4 so much the 45 rarely gets a look-in!

    • I have the 45 as well and yes, it is much easier to use on the OM-D but I have to disagree on the sharpness. At 1.8 the Oly is not as sharp as the Leica, and has less micro contrast. You can see the difference. By f/2-f/2.5 the 45 is insanely good though. Well well well worth the $400!

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