The Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH lens will only be suitable for owners of Leica M-mount rangefinder cameras.
The moderate wide angle of the 35mm focal length is well suited to landscape and architectural photography, largely due to its relatively low inherent distortions. Its small size makes it usable for street photography as well as general shooting and travel.
Leica has been manufacturing 35mm manual focus lenses for its rangefinder cameras since the late 1930s, announcing the last (the APO-Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH.) in February 2021. However, the Summicron -M 35mm f/2 ASPH. The lens we received for review with the Leica M11 camera was an earlier update released in 2016 when the company replaced the clip-on plastic hood with a stronger metal hood that screws on, while increasing the number of blades in the iris diaphragm. from eight to eleven.
Angled view of the Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH. lens with the supplied lens hood attached. (Source: Leica Camera.)
Like many Leica lenses, this lens is available in two colors: black and silver. The black version is made of anodized aluminum and is 88 grams lighter and AU$300 cheaper than the silver version, which is made of chrome-plated brass.
The optical design of both versions is simple by modern standards, comprising seven elements in five groups with a single aspherical element. The arrangement of elements largely eliminates distortion and spherical aberrations throughout the focusing range to ensure a high degree of sharpness, contrast and clarity.
The lens is normally supplied with front and end caps as well as a relatively large screw-on metal lens hood together with a screw-on protective ring to protect the filter thread when the lens hood is not in use. The rear part of the hood is cylindrical, while the front part is rectangular in shape with squared corners and matte black on its inner surface.
Front view of the Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH. lens with the supplied lens hood mounted showing the cutout in the upper corner of the lens hood. (Source: Leica Camera.)
A cutout in the upper left corner of this section reduces sight interference in the field of view when the optical sight is in use. However, that part of the hood remains visible in frame, so you’ll likely need to check the monitor when framing many shots.
The lens cap is black rubber, which is folded over at the top to form lips on the corners to secure it and has a tab at the base – which lays flat – for easy removal and reassembly. It’s beautiful and light but, unfortunately, easy to misplace.
Who is it for ?
This lens will only suit owners of Leica’s M-mount rangefinder cameras, which means its target market is small. The 35mm focal length is one of the most popular choices for these photographers, which is why Leica offers three choices for M-mount photographers: the fastest is the Summilux 35 f/1.4, while the newer and the most expensive is the APO-Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH., which also offers the closest focusing distance (30cm). The Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH. has the lowest price and was the first design to incorporate an aspherical element.
The moderate wide angle of the 35mm focal length is well suited to landscape and architectural photography, largely due to its relatively low inherent distortions. Its small size makes it usable for street photography as well as general shooting and travel. The minimum focus of 70cm will make it a poor choice for close-ups – unless the subjects themselves are relatively tall. It’s also not suitable for photographing distant wildlife and sporting action – and it’s not weatherproof.
Construction and ergonomics
As you’d expect from a lens at its price, the Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH. the lens is almost entirely made of metal; in the case of the revision lens, chrome-plated brass. As a result, it’s surprisingly heavy for its size, although very compact, especially when the bonnet – which adds 25mm to its length – is not fitted. This makes it an ideal partner for the M11 camera and useful for everyday shooting.
The build quality is excellent – again, as expected. The front of the lens has an internal thread for 39mm diameter filters, as well as an external thread for the supplied lens hood. A stop point places the cover in the correct alignment when screwed down.
The aperture ring starts 6mm behind the front of the lens when the lens hood is not installed. It carries settings from f/2 to f/16 marked in one-stop increments, with half-stop click stops in between. There is no slack, so switching between stops is positive and detectable by touch. The 11-blade iris diaphragm helps smooth out out-of-focus areas in shots involving selective focus and shallow depth of field.
About a millimeter behind the aperture ring is the focusing ring, which bears a distance scale in feet and meters and rotates very smoothly through an angle of around 50 degrees. The manual focus design uses metal helicoids for focus adjustments and provides a minimum focusing distance of 70cm with a maximum magnification ratio of 1:17.5.
A black plastic focus tab is attached to the ring about 50mm beyond the infinity mark to aid manual focusing. It has a curved profile that provides a natural fit for the user’s fingertip.
This illustration shows the black focus tab of the Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH. lens that was photographed without the supplied lens hood. (Source: Leica Camera.)
The focus tab makes manual focusing relatively easy and reliable, although we would have liked to see a bit less ‘play’ in lens movement. In theory, you should be able to cover the full range with a short stroke and focus on touch. But we found it easy to accidentally hit the tab; resulting is a slight focus shift.
If the ring tension had been a little tighter, this might not have happened. We don’t know if the looseness was due to the lens’ age and amount of use or if it was an inherent quality of the lens’ design. With a tighter focus ring, the concept is great as it ensures that your finger will always be in the same place for the same focusing distance.
A depth of field scale is located between the focusing ring and the lens mount. It measures approximately 12mm wide and is marked with aperture settings in one-stop increments. The f/4 mark is unlabeled but the other stops are identified by labels and lines on either side of the center mark, resulting in a cluttered and difficult-to-use display.
The mounting plate is solid chrome-plated brass, surrounding the rear lens element, which extends several millimeters from its base, protruding a little into the camera body. All marks on the lens are etched and filled with paint; not stamped as they are on many cheaper lenses.
Our Imatest tests showed the exam lens to perform well, capable of delivering high resolution in the center of the frame at aperture settings of f/2 to f/6.8, where diffraction began to take effect . Measurements taken about halfway between the center and the edge of the frame showed softening at the widest apertures, which were largely processed by f/4.
A little more softening was found in measurements taken three-quarters of the way to the corner of the frame, which is normal and not necessarily undesirable as it can help direct the viewer’s attention when the subject is positioned centrally . The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Lateral chromatic aberration remained consistently within the negligible range, the upper edge of which is indicated by the red line in the graph of our test results below. No colored fringing was seen in any of our test shots.
The review lens was fairly resistant to glare. Backlit subjects retained their color and contrast, and we couldn’t see any hazy highlights in our test shots. However, the 22-pointed solar stars produced around the highlights were a bit more diffuse than we’d expect for a lens of this caliber.
The overhaul lens introduced a very slight pincushion distortion, which would be unnoticeable in regular shots taken on location. It is easily correctable when DNG.RAW files are converted to editable formats as well as JPEG files with normal lens settings.
Vignetting is automatically corrected in the latest M-series cameras, so we didn’t expect it to be problematic. A slight darkening of the corners is visible in f/2 shots, but disappeared at f/5.6. In older cameras without corrections, this problem can be solved when converting raw files.
Bokeh was what you’d expect from a wide-angle lens with limited close focusing capabilities. Bright background highlights were often emphasized – a problem that persisted when the lens was stopped down – but otherwise tonal transitions were reasonably smooth for a lens of this type.
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Picture angle: 63 degrees diagonal
Minimum opening: F 16
Lens design: 7 elements in 5 groups (including an aspherical element)
Lens Mounts: Leica M quick-change bayonet
Diaphragm blades:11 (round opening)
Weather resistance: Unspecified
Focus: Manual focus only
Minimum focus: 70cm
m maxameaning: 0.057x
Filter size: 39 millimeters
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 53 x 35.7 mm (without lens hood)
lesterweight: 252 grams (black version); 340 grams (silver version, as revised)
standard accessories: Front and end caps, sun visor
Distributer: Leica Camera Australia, (03) 9248 4444
Based on JPEG files taken with the Leica M11 camera.
Vignetting at f/2.
Straight line distortion.
ISO 64, 1/500 second at f/5.6.
Crop from above image at 100% magnification showing no colored fringing.
Close-up at f/2; ISO 64, 1/3200 second.
Close-up at f/2; ISO 64, 1/2000 second
Close-up shot in DNG.RAW format with white balance corrected in Adobe Camera Raw; ISO 500, 1/160 second at f/4.8.
Sunstar at f’16; ISO 200, 1/160 second
ISO 125, 1/160 second at f/8.
ISO 64, 1/640 second at f/5.6.
ISO 1250, 1/100 second at f/8.
ISO 64, 1/180 second at f/8
ISO 500, 1/100 second at f/5.6.
ISO 160, 1/180 second at f/4. Original JPEG; note the faint magenta cast in the shadowed wall.
ISO 160, 1/160 second at f/8. Original DNG.RAW file.
ISO 64, 1/160 second at f/6.7. Original DNG.RAW file.
Additional image samples can be found with our review of the Leica M11 camera.
MSRP: AU$5,490 (silver version) / $5,190 (black version); US$3895
- Version: 9.0
- Handling: 8.6
- Image quality: 8.9
- Versatility: 8.5