Leica Summilux-M 1.4/50 ASPH

I think the only thing I love more than this new Leica setup is my family. So today, I want to chat a little about the Lux 50. Many review sites out there have touted the Leica Summilux-M 1.4/50 ASPH as the most perfect lens ever made. I concur.  I've only had it about a month, but have used it in many conditions ranging from snow to bright light to low light in shady bars.  As I get more used to it, I find that it's slowly starting to eclipse anything I have previously owned.  As always, this won't be a very technical review - just some hands on examples of what I have been shooting with the 50 - allowing the photos to speak for themselves, more or less.

Cover work - The Folks Below
Cover work - The Folks Below

Build quality is something you first notice when you pick up the glass.  Heavy.  Solid.  Built with care.  Though I am a Zeiss fanatic, the edge in build goes to this Leica lens.  The focus ring is smooth and has a great tab for ease of use.  The aperture ring clicks into place well - you know for a fact it won't drift.  Here is a snapshot of the tech specs on this beast:

Technical Data

  • Angle of view (diagonal, horizontal, vertical) 47°, 40°, 27°
  • Number of elements / groups: 8 / 5
  • Focal length: 51.6 mm
  • Entrance pupil: 25.7 mm
  • Focusing range: 0.7 m to Infinity
  • Length: 52.5 mm
  • Largest diameter: 53.5 mm
  • Weight: approx. 335 g
  • Filter: 46 mm

I suggest getting the B+W 46mm Clear UV Haze with Multi-Resistant Coating filter to protect this lens. Along with protecting the glass, the main advantage of MRC coating is it's ability to combat flare and ghosting. 

Lux in the Snow
Lux in the Snow

It's the sharpness and bokeh 1-2 punch that makes this lens untouchable. For the most part, I have been shooting this lens wide open at f/1.4 and have seen no drop in IQ.  The distance drops into a creamy bokeh that looks like a painting.  The subject stays in perfect sharpness - edge-to-edge.  Just look at the distant trees in the photo directly above and my little girl at the top; that's the magic I love and what convinced me to purchase this lens.  One thing to notice - the falling snow in the foreground against that smooth bokeh back.  Larger version on my Flickr stream if you care. For most, $4,000 is a ton to drop on a single piece of glass - but if it's doing 90% of your work, isn't it worth having the best?

Lux Indoor @ 0.7m
Lux Indoor @ 0.7m

Look at the hairs on my dog above and whiskers on my cat below that are just tack-sharp. Again, handheld and wide open. Nothing like it.  (The glow to the right of the dog is a reflection on the wood floor from a window.  The glow to the bottom left of the cat is a burning candle).

Mad Max - Wide Open
Mad Max - Wide Open

I have been mostly messing around with the lens to learn the focus (it's 100% accurate).  The only shots I have had out of focus are all my fault.  The lens is perfectly calibrated to the ME body and gives me the exact results I picture in my head.  As long as you know how to control light, exposure is always perfect - no blown highlights, perfect shadows and crisp subject/focal point.

Slide in 3D - Lux @ f/1.4
Slide in 3D - Lux @ f/1.4

One thing that drew me to Zeiss was the "3D Quality" it has. I was nervous about jumping to a Leica lens as I had read the 3D isn't there - at least not to the degree of the Zeiss. But looking at the B&W above - I think it performs just fine when going for that look. The conversion to B&W was just a desaturation of color - no tricks.

Below are a few more examples in various light:

Lux in the Dark
Lux in the Dark
Concert Shooting - Low Light
Concert Shooting - Low Light