Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4

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    35mm Summilux-M (classic)

    Posted by Alan Behr on Feb 7th 2024

    I keep reading about how this lens has retro charm for its 1960s aberrations and great bokeh . Back in the day, when I bought the original version (while I was still in college), photographers didn't choose the 35mm Summilux to add antique charm to their images; they bought and used this "blackboard lens" (designed without computers) because it was the fastest and best 35mm on the market. I traded mine for the aspheric version not long after Leica had introduced it, and it was indeed a compelling improvement optically; but just as you might marry a woman and love her dearly, yet sometimes miss the company of that old flame, I have just bought this update to the original version. My first impression is that the lens's much-discussed edge softness and propensity for flaring while at wide open have been tempered a bit, but as before, I don't shoot into strong light sources often enough for that to be a concern, and no one ever complained about any of my photographs because whatever was in the top right corner was not tack sharp. With digital cameras, I only shoot wide open on any fast lens when no better option presents itself. That is, f1.4 is available for emergencies, not as a lifestyle choice. Simply, it is just great to have back my old 35. I plan to use it as my standard lens when on assignment (I shoot travel for a major news service) in no small part because, whatever you bring for extended shoots overseas that is light and compact is usually the best piece to have on you. (I use my 28mm Summicron whenever I can, but when on assignment far away, I take my other reissued classic Leica lens, the ultra-compact 28mm Summaron.) As for the comments I have read about why you would use this or any other lens for the charming bokeh: when I bought the 35mm Summilux the first time, I had never heard the word, which derives from the Japanese (暈け/ボケ) and was coined much later. For a news and fine-art photographer such as myself, it means, "The rendering of the blurry parts of a successful photograph that you obligingly ignore." So everyone please stop judging lenses by the fuzzy bits; it's what you do with what you are aiming at that makes or breaks any good image. In summary: this is a real lens for real photographic needs, professional and amateur, just as it was when it was first released.

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