It's been more than a year since the Summilux-SL 50mm ƒ/1.4 was announced at the same time as the Leica SL, and now it's available for pre-order...just in time for Christmas. The SL has earned fans among those who use it—people speak especially highly of its state-of-the-art electronic viewfinder—and now those shooters have a prime lens worthy of their camera.
The Summilux-SL 50mm features 11 elements in 9 groups, takes 88mm filters, is 125mm (4.9") long, weighs 1,065 grams (37.5 oz.), and costs $5,295 (about €5,000).
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Featured Comments from:
Geoffrey Heard: "A prime lens about as big as an elephant's trunk and not nearly as versatile or good looking. 88mm filters, by gob! Taking into account where Leica started from and where it gained its reputation—small, compact camera, small sensor (film) size, photojournalism and documentary photography—I have to say, sorry, it's a joke."
Graphic courtesy Camerasize.com
On the left, the new Summilux-SL 50mm ƒ/1.4 mounted on an SL. On the right, the Summilux-M ASPH. mounted on an M9. While it would seem that Leica has rather lost the thread, actually it pays a lot of attention to its heritage—qua the replicam digital M's very existence. And the SL is deliberately named for the Leicaflex, which were (for the time) brawny metal beasts built like Tiger II tanks.
...Which, if you'll pardon a digression, had 88mm cannons! If my memory all the way back to young teenagerhood, building Tamiya models of Tiger tanks in my friend Mark's basement, is still any good. I'm sure it's just coincidental that that's the filter size of the new lens; but watch to see if Leica ever names a new camera the Königstiger(!!). Heh. Germans, if readers will forgive an overbroad stereotype, do seem to like things to be overbuilt.
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.
(Speaking of what I was speaking of, the M is increasingly sticking out, in my mind, as the oddball in the Leica lineup, a contrived contraption which does not quite fit in with thoroughly thought-out and well-designed beauties like the SL and S. It never made terribly much sense as a digital camera, and makes less sense as new designs fill in around it. But the faithful love it and that's all that matters.)
Winwalloe: "Leica heard about Otus lenses and took it as a challenge. Or maybe they saw their national counterpart BMW making their products larger over the years and got inspired."
Mike replies: ...Exactly. My feeling is that BMW's ultimate aspiration is to be the German Pontiac. One of the saddest sights I ever saw as an amateur wannabee car guy was an advertisement showing the 3-Series cars over the years all lined up side-by-side. Made me want to weep. :-O
[A different] mike: "Seems all of the new lens designs for FF cameras are super sized! Over the weekend a local camera store had a mini expo and I got to see the Tamron 85mm ƒ/1.8, and it's much bigger than I expected. It took me by surprise as my old Canon EF 85mm ƒ/1.8 was pretty small.
"The new lenses by Sigma are also gigantic, much larger than they appear in pictures. Yes they are fast and good, but wow, the thought of carrying them makes my back and feet hurt just thinking about it.
"I sometimes pull out my old Nikon F and F2 bodies with their plain unmetered prisms and marvel at how small they are compared to any FF digital body. The lenses too are tiny in comparison.
"I'm so glad I switched to Micro 4/3 a few years ago and left behind the megapixel and sensor size wars for a more reasonable system that more than satisfies all of my professional needs. A plethora of amazing lens choices that are all reasonably sized.
"When I compare them to my old Nikons, the size of the bodies is comparable, yet the lenses of matching apertures are even smaller, more like my old Leica M pre-aspherical lenses from the '90s. And the quality that I get from my miniature sensor blows away any film format smaller than 4x5. Nice."
Jeff: "And more to come...the Leica SL Lens Roadmap."
Dave I.: "I'll stick with the Pentax 43mm ƒ/1.9. Three-quarters of a pound and the filter size is the same as my old Super Takumar screw-mount lenses. How's that for backwards compatibility!"
Mike replies: A great lens. Maybe a little too sharp, but.... :-)
Bernard: "This is the size of lens manufacturers make when most people buy their lenses only on the basis of reviews which in turn are done solely by photographing test charts."
Goff: "I found the M 240 too small for my (big) hands and too fiddly for my (aging) eyes. The SL is perfect for both hands and eyes. I have been using it with my M lenses. Beautiful results. The focus assist works well in the EVF. Yes, I would like autofocus. But I am not going to buy the SL 50mm ƒ/1.4 because it is too big and heavy. Maybe the SL ƒ/2 lenses will work for me. Autofocus becomes more valuable on longer lenses. So I'm looking to the 90mm. Finally, the SL video is spectacular in 4K. The Leica SL will be my camera for both still and video for the next decade to so. Initially with M lenses, then with SL lenses."