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Tuesday, 13 December 2016


I just can't get over the size and weight of these new-fangled super-primes. I mean, a 50mm lens at a kilo, and as long as a table tripod... WTH? Leica's lenses for film, same size format, were famous for being *compact* as well as being top-notch.

... I can never remember which one the SL is. Is it me or have they made a lot of models in later years?

Oh how far Leica has strayed. From the gritty street fighter M, outfitted with a 50 mm/1.4 lens taking a 43 mm filter to behemoth needing an 85 mm size filter!!!!! weighing in at 1,065 grams!!! Obviously the SL was made for RAW wrestlers, I guess.

That has to be, by far, the largest, heaviest Summilux 50 Leica has ever made.

Camera and this fixed focal length normal lens together weigh four pounds.

Is Leica losing its design chops?

I don't know whether to laugh or cry about this lens. It's big, heavy and the antithesis of everything Leica has traditionally stood for. I don't mean to upset the Leica lovers among us - and I'm sure the SL works well. But the red-dot brand seems completely irrelevant in the age of digital photography. And the price of this lens? I just have to shake my head and walk away.

I am not sure I need a $5000.00 50mm normal lens for cat pictures or even pictures of my new grandson. I wonder who are those folks that buy that.

Summilux-M 50mm

Length: 52.5 mm
Largest diameter: 53.5 mm
Weight: approx. 335 g
Filter: 44mm

I've played with the SL - impressive, ugly and expensive. A large EVF but I'm afraid still like taking photos with CCTV

Hard choice between a Sony A7RII with any top quality 50mm lens (FE 55 f1.8, FE 50 f1.4G, just to mention native options - one can also mount many other great 50's via adapters...), and this "SL plus huge 50" thing? Not really...

If it is already hard to justify the cost difference when considering the traditional RF Leica (but hey, it's a RF, so its different), when migrating to normal systems, it gets really out of this world...

This lens is dethroned really fast based on these findings..

The 50mm for the SL includes - besides glass - motors for aperture and for autofocus. The SL is an autofocus camera. So the lens needs connectors, circuitry, wiring, motors, sensors, etc, etc.. Hence its size.

[No, that's not it. There are many much smaller, lighter 50mm lenses that cover FF and also autofocus. The weight of the Summilux-SL is due mainly to the Epicurean level of optical engineering that uses 11 glass elements more or less unlimited by size constraints, and secondarily to the heavy-duty mechanical barrel assembly. Autofocus generally actually works better if lenses are smaller and lighter, which is why so many makers changed to polycarbonate from metal for so many parts when autofocus became an expected feature. --Mike]

I am with you Eolake: "... I can never remember which one the SL is. Is it me or have they made a lot of models in later years?

The SL is a pretty interesting camera and lens system, but after having played with one, I can't help but feel that the sole purpose is to help separate fools from their money as quickly and repeatedly as possible. The shape and texture of the camera (and the lenses, frankly) is seemingly deliberately designed to make it as easy as possible to slip from your hands. So it seems that the idea here is to produce something you really like that you're going to destroy and then re-buy. I don't know how else you can explain the staggeringly poor ergonomics in this century.

For obvious health reasons I refuse to contemplate bringing the price of this lens up in conversation with my financial advisor. Bank manager maybe, but not her.

I'm sure that it is a wonderful lens (it better be for just over $5,000), but does a 50mm 1.4 really need an 88mm filter thread? My father just gave me his old mechanical Nikkormat with its 50 1.4 non-AI lens. I'm going to have it converted for $25. Is this fifty-year-old lens the quality of this Leica, most assuredly not. Is it $5,000 worth of difference? Most assuredly not.

That SL finder is great, and it works beautifully with the 50mm M Summilux. But the camera, this lens, and the 24-90 lens are too big for anything I would want to do.

Leica SL? I realize that Leica has a tradition of incomprehensible names, FIKUS vs ADFIK anyone? enough to give you AGITA ( an electric motor to agitate film, remarkably sensible name as it turns out ). Reusing the name of their original SLR for their mirrorless, or is it rangefinderless, seems perplexing.
Is the SL an attempt to make the S look like a bargain?
For about the same price I'd much rather have the S.

[Me too, but de gustibus. —Mike]

Over a kg! The Noctilux is 0.7kg and that is at the absolute limit of what I would want to carry around. Is the size difference due to the autofocus mechanism? Canon's 50mm f/1.2 is lighter than the Noctilux at 590g and 2.58" long. Admittedly, the Leica probably has better optical performance than the Canon, but what optical formula are they using that makes the lenses so very big in the SL case?

And I thought the Sigma Art primes were on the large side...

Why are so many of these new lenses so fast? With ISOs in the thousands, it would make more sense to me to make slower, super wonderful lenses.

The ZEISS 55mm f1.4 is bigger but a tad lighter than this Leica, probably due to AF in the latter.

Considering the implosion of the camera market perhaps making high end and expensive gear may be, for the foreseeable future, one of the few ways of generating profit. It seems to work for Leica.

To those who are bemoaning the trend towards ever larger lenses for FF cameras, I would point out that Cosina/Voigtlander is making some splendid lenses that are quite compact (e.g. Nokton 50/1.5 VM and Ultron 35/1.7 VM.) The quality of these lenses is not far behind Leica and Zeiss, and I would argue that the Nokton 50/1.5 is right up there with the best of them for a fraction of the price.

Its clear that Leica has moved from the realm of practicality to marketing vleben goods (witness also their recent release of a M covered in red ping pong paddle rubber).

What I would *love* to see is a Leica M with the SL viewfinder. Throw away the optical complexity on top. Deal with the manual focus M-mount lenses and give us the SL viewfinder in a compact package.

Regarding the M as an oddball...absolutely, and in more than one sense. As others have pointed out here, Leica seems to be increasingly out of touch with the modern world. They remind me of British motorcycle companies in the 60s and 70s when Honda came in and absolutely slaughtered them.

Contrast the Leica to to Fuji's elegant and impressively capable X-Pro2 and X100T models. As Bill Palmer (aka Lightmancer on many forums) so eloquently said, Fuji is the Leica of the new millennium

How odd that you should bring up the BMW 3-series and compare it to Pontiac. I test drove a 330i back in 2003 or so and thought it had too much Buick in it--two whole generations ago! I'm pretty sure the only way to get a lightweight car any more is to buy a kit.

As DSLR (and smaller format) form factors are enhanced by ultra hi-res sensors in the range of 36-50 MP, these new ginormous lens designs capable of keeping IQ on par with those sensors have simply catapulted a photographer's 'kit' weight back up to the days of medium format. I have both a Mamiya RZII system and a Contax 645AF system gathering dust in my studio lockup, where these new 'elephant gun' lenses would be perfectly in scale with those best lenses of yore. BTW, the Fuji X fast primes in my kit today are fabulous!

Doesn't seem too impressive compared to the Canon 35/1.4L Mark 2 - probably the state of the art in fast primes at the moment.


Mike, is the link to the SL roadmap broken, or is just me?

Speaking of BMW, it's not the only small sporty car to grow over the years....see Corvette, Thunderbird, Porsche 911, etc. Some of this is technology based, but most I think is just some wrong-headed notion that bigger is better. Fortunately some companies eventually right their wrongs...see Boxster/Cayman.

Had a chance to play with one last week. Yes it's big. Yes, it's expensive. But since I couldn't find anything else I didn't like about it I put in my pre-order. Delivery in January.

The size and cost of the SL and lenses seems to be the only thing people have to say about the system. That's a shame because the SL really does bring something different to the table. I've spent some time looking at the raw files I shot with the new SL 'lux and I don't think there's any autofocus 50mm quite like it.


I have an SL and love it for what it is good at. It seems to just do effortlessly what the S was supposed to do but without a lot of small bugs and complaints that litter the S-related columns of the Leica User Forum. I use a bunch of Leica R or M lenses with an adapter and get striking results. It doesn't replace the M for 28 to 50 mm lenses, but outside that range it really sings.

Mr. Jupitersnake spent a month or two boasting about how he and only he had a pre-production SL 50 on loan from someone very highly placed at Leica before he finally wrote up his review. In the mean time he had decided he didn't like the camera or the lens. The pictures were boring, the problems he identified were actually kinda minor, and better reviews have appeared since. There are now at least a half-dozen purchased 50s in circulation posting pictures. I worked over the .DNG file from one of them, shot at f/1.4 outdoors, and was impressed with how clearly it rendered the image at all distances, not just the focal plane.


Who buys this camera? How about people who can afford it. Rich amateurs, Leica collectors and some professional shooters. BTW when I say professional, I'm talking about people who get paid to have a camera in their hand all day every day. The weekend warriors who do weddings, events, etc are another class of people.

I've never handled a SL, but I have a S with it's normal lens. A well designed camera, that fit my hand better than any pro-bodied CaNikon I've used.

The Leica R line included cameras like the SL/SL2 and the R8/9—not what I'd call miniature cameras.

Who in this day and age would use a non-autofocus camera? Not me!

Not a subtle street shooter then. Can anyone provide a comparison photo of this monster vs a Barnack with collapsible Summicron? The latter fits comfortably in the palm of one's hand, or a large pocket. Oskar would turn in his grave.

"..Reusing the name of their original SLR for their mirrorless, or is it rangefinderless, seems perplexing.."

But SL is also an abbreviation, say Leica, for "Spiegel-Los" ..which, translated into English, means "Mirror-Less".

Surely it's a big lens, but it's unfair to compare it to a Leica M.

Leica will gladly sell you an M, if that's what you want. The SL is designed to compete with behemoths like the Canon 1Dx and Nikon D5. Compared to those two, it's refreshingly compact and light, and not that expensive.

Perhaps we need to add a corollary to the old "if you need to ask the price, you can't afford it" chestnut: if you think it's too big, you don't need it.

Back in February of 1986 I went to the camera store to buy my well-researched and highly recommended Canon A1 with a 35/2.8, 50/1.4 and 100/2.8 set of lenses. Instead, I walked out with an equivalent Olympus kit with the OM-2S.

The size and weight of the Olympus kit was a fraction of the Canon. I not only have zero regrets about that decision, but I'm still using that kit (with a couple of replacements) yet today.

Some of us actually took that "you marry your lenses" bit more seriously.

If I were to be that 20 year old today, walking into the camera store to buy a long-term system, it would still come down to a Canon vs. Olympus decision. This Leica SL system is the direct equivalent to what was then a Hasselblad kit. The size, quality and market differention was the same. Just as medium format gear was larger, heavier and ergonomically challenges, so is much of this over-the-top gear today.

But, if I was a wedding photographer working the carriage trade, or a commercial photographer trying to create distance from the rest of the herd, this would be highly recommended, just as the Hasselbad was all those years ago. Size, weight and ergonomics are secondary to image and the image.

I have this theory that as each new camera format reaches maturity, ir inevitably converges on the length and weight of a fully equipped Speed Graphic, with appropriate normal lenses.
Agfa Isolette -> Fuji 6x9 -> Mamiya 7
Rollei TLR -> Bronica -> RZ67
Kodak Retina -> Nikon F -> Nikon F5 -> Nikon D5

Why? That's about as much mass and volume as a paid photographer is willing to shlep around on a daily basis. The critical cutoff is when even well heeled amateurs are unwilling to do so - you need both groups to buy in to make the market work.

Well, at least they are carrying forward the Leica tradition of unique, and therefore more expensive, filter sizes and threads. I well remember paying more for 39mm filters for my M's than for much larger (but common) sizes for my other cameras. But do digital photographers use filters any more?

My camera has an industry leading 42 megapixel sensor and my walkaround primes have a combined weight equaling the weight of the new Leica 50/1.4. Those primes all have the Z-brand logo on them and they are solid performers.

The biggest issue is not that the SL system is the antithesis of compact, it\s that it does not have any distinguishing performance feature such as class leading image quality or focus capabilities. Why carry such a big and heavy system when there is no advantage? And I haven't even mentioned the expense.

Last year at Photo Plus I had a chance to play with the SL. This is a camera I will never own, but I'd love to see the viewfinder move to the other mirrorless cameras. It's a great viewfinder.

The trend now for high quality primes seems to be to make them big and heavy as this is the only road still left open to ever better levels of performance. (My most recent lens purchase, the 50mm equivalent Olympus 25mm f/1.2 is an excellent example of this (and an excellent lens), although being for a smaller format it is well short of the SL 50mm.) I assume that this is to distinguish them from the high quality zooms that are available now, and that most people use.

I confess to an irrational lust for very good primes (I also use a Leica M system), but for me however there is a line in terms of size and weight I am not willing to cross, and lenses like the Zeiss Otus, Summilux SL, and recent Nikon 105mm are on the wrong side of it. However much I would like to own them, I know myself well enough to know that in practice I would never actually use them, preferring instead to take something inconspicuous that I can carry for long periods, so I will need to take a pass on the SL system. (My wallet is deeply grateful.)

Dumb dumb dumb. The 50/2 Summicron, not even the ASPH version, combined with ISO 6400 (I have the 50/1.4 ASPH, but that's different story when I can only go up to ISO 1000), is more lens than most anyone would ever need. This lens is just stupid.

Just wait until Dpreview gets a chance to test one. Regardless of its qualities, the standard gang of Leica-haters there will have a field day. But this time, they may be right about price. But at least they won't be able to go orgasmic over the equivalency arguments regarding anything that is not "full frame."

...young teenagerhood, building Tamiya models of Tiger tanks in my friend Mark's basement...

You sure about that, Mike? Tamiya, not Revell, back in the day?

[Absolutely sure. The Internet says "German Tiger I" was No. 11 in the Tamiya 1:25 Identical Scale Series, originally released in 1965. http://www.tamiya.com/english/products/30611tiger1/ --Mike]

With digital sensors being able to shoot at 800iso or 1600iso prime lens like Sigma Art, Zeiss Otus and this Leica Summilux should be a compact F/2.8.

AF lenses are large not because the electric motors, but due to a problem with design.

AF lenses employ one lens element inside the objective for focusing. Aberrations correction is calculated with all distances between lens elements constant, so when you change the focus distance you should move the whole lens assembly. But this is not true with AF lenses.

Therefore, you have to correct all aberrations before that moving (for focusing) element. That is the fundamental reason all AF lenses are so large.

This is the general principle, and the specifics are more complicated.


The Leica fans, collectors will buy this lens just because it is a Leica, do the math folks, if they sell 500 of these lenses worldwide or a thousand or even more? Nice profit margin for sure.
Really, all that money for a lens, how can anyone justify the purchase price and at the end of the day who gives a hoot that the print or the ad campaign was shot on this lens.

"The reason for the lens's size and cost is simply that Zeiss and Sigma have built extremely fine ~50mm lenses recently, and Leica is in a bind because it must be the best. That's the reputation it trades on and which keeps its legions loyal. So it is obligated to outdo Zeiss and especially(!) Sigma."

Well, that's the "legend" it trades on, but I have to say that over the years, I've been less than impressed with Leica lens offerings vs. the best of Canikon. Even my beloved Zeiss glass has shown to be less than the "nth" degree in a lot of cases (especially wide angles) regardless of if I like the "look" or not. I'm sure you can find many old pros like myself who like the mechanicals of the Leica rangefinder system and the old SL's and SL2's, but always thought the lenses were highly over-rated. They always traded on their nebulous "look" as well, but when they actually get tested, it's "meh"(having a "look", btw, is a great way of playing the "emperors new clothes", i.e. if you don't see it, and you can't test it to show perfection, maybe it's just over your head).

Now the new Hasselblad, is quite another story...

I'm sure whatever Leica is doing here, will be fine for all the people that adore Leica, but there are a lot of working pro's that just don't see it for the price.

Why in the world does a 50mm f1.4 need an 88 mm filter size? The effective aperture is 50/1.4 mm (36mm or so). If you really make the case thin, the outer barrel can be 39 or 42 mm, and something like 49 or 52 mm gives plenty of room for ring motors and such. I wonder if that lens has absurdly large coverage, which Leica has masked down to 24x36mm to use only the center "sweet spot"? 50mm medium format lenses use larger front elements, and wide view camera lenses often had very large front elements. Even the Otus 55, which is huge, and probably a masked-down medium format lens, uses a 77 mm filter size.

As for the 88 mm gun, the Nazis had a very famous and nasty one (which this lens DOES look kind of like the shells for). It was used on the Tiger 1 tank, but, more famously, it was a feared anti-aircraft gun (drawn by a truck or jeep). It was one of the few things that would shoot down a B-17 Flying Fortress with any reliability (the Flying Fortress would shrug off most attempts with more standard-sized 20 and 40mmm anti-aircraft guns).

Weight-wise the Leica SL compares to the Pentax 645z (a very different beast, I know. Pentax is slow, Leica is fast, etc). 645z with 55mm lens and SL with 50mm both weigh in at a bit under 2kg. Pentax set is 7.550 USD, Leica wants 5.200 USD more. Would be interesting to see what works better, the larger sensor with the simpler lens (or even use the lighter and cheaper old 75mm!) or the SL with the complex glass. I'd bet on the 645z.

I can't comment on Leica SL lenses or the system, nor even Leica digital M - all too rich for me.

But I think the car analogy is wrong. All cars have got bigger, not just Bavaria's finest. Compare the original Morris Mini-minor with the current BWM-designed version - they kind of look similar, but the new one is so much bigger. And I think that's unavoidable - people today simply demand more from their cars than they did, in terms of engineering, performance, safety, comfort, that the old form factors no longer work. The original Mini was sold as a family car! - and it was deeply unreliable, rusted quickly, and leaked. It would be interesting to drive an original condition car for an hour, but we'd all hate trying to use one as the daily vehicle.

Do photographers demand more from their cameras? And if so, is larger size the way to deliver it?

Tom Burke...

...I was living in Arlington Virginia when the "new" BMW mini came out, and the dealer had a display of multiple of the old "minis" from a Mini club in the area. I was really quite shocked at the difference in size! The new ones looked tremendously larger than the originals, it was so weird, I thought at the time: "...boy, they better not advertise this comparison around too much, it doesn't look like the new one owes the old one anything!"

@c.d.embry "Who in this day and age would use a non-autofocus camera? Not me!"

Perhaps you are not aware of the resurgence of interest in "legacy" manual focus lenses that has accompanied the development of mirrorless cameras. Virtually any lens ever made can be used on these cameras given the proper adapter. As a consequence, many mirrorless users have discovered (or rediscovered) the pleasures of focusing manually. What makes the process relatively quick and very precise are modern focusing aids, such as focus peaking and magnification, that are built into these cameras. As for myself, I have gone over completely to using superb MF lenses from Zeiss, Leica, Minolta and Voigtlander on my Sony A7ii. To my eyes, these lenses produce a more pleasing look than most of the modern uberlenses.

That said, I must admit to eyeing the TechArt Pro adapter that will autofocus any M mount lens on a Sony E mount camera. This is in recognition of the fact that there are situations where AF is the only way to get the job done.

@c.d.embry "Who in this day and age would use a non-autofocus camera? Not me!"

I'm sad for you. This sounds like the people who wonder why anyone would want to use a manual transmission with foot-operated clutch in a car. Well, there are thousands of methodical photographers and drivers who want control over what their device is doing. Neither focussing manually or changing gears manually is burdensome, and you retain control. And since we mentioned Bavaria's finest in some comments above, the lack of manual transmission in most models sure points to the type of driver these things are aimed at now.

Remember when people complained that Sony had basically 'no lenses' for FE? Even though they launched with the compact and wonderful 55 and 35mm duo? Well now Leica has two zooms nobody would ever ask for and one prime that's as big as a 24-70. Well at least there is a 35/2 coming at the next Photokina.

What a system! /sarcasm

The SL is a Goldilocks camera. I used the S, too big but awesome. Then I used the M, a little on the small side, but awesome. Now I have the SL - and it's just right (and awesome).

I think of it as a photographer's camera not a photography enthusiasts camera. If you really 'get' photography then a camera with no frills, bells or whistles appeals greatly. it does not get in the way of what you want to achieve and follows your instructions effortlessly.

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