"Summilux" refers to the maximum lens aperture - in this case the f/1.4 lenses from Leica. "-lux" means light, and "Summi-" probably comes from Latin summum, meaning "highest."
The first Summilux lens introduced was the 1960-model of the 50mm Summilux f/1.4 which was a screw-mount lens (before then the most lightstrong lenses were the 1935-1950 Leica 50mm Xenon f/1.5 lenses), and not till six years later, in 1966, would the Leica marketing department (or whoever make up the names) discover that the "highest light lenses" was surpassed by the even higher light lens, the first Noctilux f/1.2 "Light of the Night" lens.
I recently did a video review of the Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 Black Chrome limited edition on my Magic of Light photography television channel:
One of the most beautiful Leica lenses, inside and outside
The Leica 50 mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 from Leica is an aspherical lens, and according to lens designer Peter Karbe it's even an APO lens. That means it's corrected greatly for the color light rays, red, green and blue.
If you look at APO-lenses generally, they have really bright and accurate colors. The funny thing is that I never really got a Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 when it came out in 2004.
I meet a lot of people who have it and it's really a beautiful lens. In my opinion, it's the one with the best Leica lenses in terms of industrial design, the one that fits the Leica M the best. It has great balance both ergonomically and in terms of design.
The lens itself is really great colors, contrast, sharpness, the bokeh – everything in that lens is top notch. For some reason I didn't feel it was my lens, so I never got one. Until now, that is.
My favorite lens is – if you have looked at my website you know – I shoot a lot with the Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95 and I often shoot it wide open. That's really a lens I like a lot.
I have also used the Leica 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0 Version II from the 60’s a lot, the one that's also called “Rigid”. It's not an expensive lens. It's a really good lens, but there's so many of them so they're not really expensive; it's not a collector's item. They're usually from $500 and up. They only go up to $2000 if they're perfect new condition.
Recently I had to send my Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0 away so I thought; maybe I get a Leica 50 Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 because I kind of need to use this lens. It doesn't make sense that I've never used this lens. It's one of the best Leica lenses. No more avoiding it; I decided to get one.
Limited edition 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 Black Chrome
I decided that as Leica made the Black Chrome version as a limited edition recently, I would get that version. It’s only made in a limited number of 500. What is unique about it is that the lens itself, the optics, is the modern optics that came out in 2004, but the barrel is the vintage 1959-design. It's solid brass and then it's painted black. I really like this classic look. It's kind of like, yeah, why not get this one? I found one, the Leica-dealer Ken Hansen in New York had one and he could sell it to me and he could ship it to me same day. So I got that version.
When I got it I knew what the optics was and I started shooting with it and I really like everything about the optics. Thought, I don't know if I'm so happy that I got the limited edition. It's a little bit heavy because it's brass. I can kind of live with that. The aperture ring is moving very soft and I like to shoot wide open so I don't want to have the aperture suddenly slide to something else. I thought that maybe I could put some tape on it so it stayed in place, but then I sent it in to Leica in Wetzlar and they actually adjusted it. After that adjustment the aperture ring is stiff and stays at f/1.4 as I want it to. It doesn’t move by itself or light touch.
A limited edition lens made of brass, with black paint
The focus ring is the vintage one. I'm totally fine with this type of focus that doesn't have the modern finger support like the normal 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4. The lens is overall a little bit bigger, but that's okay.
Then it also has a lens shade, and this lens shade is really heavy! It must be made of brass. Everything here is like the original 50mm Summilux lens, that was not aspherical, that they made in 1959. If you take the lens off the camera, you can see this brass very clearly. This is a piece of beauty, the whole design, and that's basically what everybody who gets this lens says. It’s the whole build of it, the feel of it is amazing. It is. The original 2004-version chrome lens is also made of brass, whereas the black version is lighter and made of aluminium.
However, I took the camera and lens over the shoulder. I always carry a camera, so when I traveled from Italy to New York I had the camera across my chest and I had a computer bag and a camera bag with me. I lined up to go through security and I have my lens shade on. This is a clip-on lens shade so it just goes onto the lens by pressing the buttons on the sides of it. But what I found out is every time my bag bumped into the camera, the shade said “Bang!” and fell off and rolled across the floor! That happened three times and I had to have people in the security line pick up my lens shade for me. So, I gave up on the lens shade! It’s in the box now and I don’t use it.
As I make ventilated lens shades for most Leica lenses, I had one made for this one also, and you can buy it in Black Paint, Silver and RED from my website. That’s a screw-on that stays on the lens and protects it from bumps and bangs. And flare as well, of course.
You can get very rare thin filters that fits, but they are expensive to get on eBay. All new 43mm filters that fits the lens, doesn’t fit the shade! There's no space for it.
Of course that makes me wonder why didn't Leica Camera AG not just redesign the lens so it was a little bit more up to date and looked like 1959? Why did they just go through all that work to make it to totally like 1959 when not all of it was that great?
I think what I will be happy about is that this lens was $3,900 when it came out and it's going to go up in value. It's already up in $4,300 just for currency adjustment. Actually, some years back Leica Historical Society of America (LHSA) made a limited edition for themselves; 500 silver ones and 500 Black Chrome ones. Those were sold for $3,500 back then and they go for $7,000 - $8,000 on eBay today.
The Black Chrome limited edition or the normal ASPH..?
I really like this lens. The optical quality is really good. As said, I kind of regret that I didn't just go with the normal one because it is such an amazing design. Then again, I think I'll just hold on to this one. I can't wait to see when I start using it a lot and it gets brassed. I can start seeing the brass underneath and then it's going to look like a real old lens from 1959.
In 2005 Leica made a limited run of the then newle designed 50mm Simmilux-M ASPH f/1.4 designed by Peter Karbe. This was the LHSA edition in black paint (glossy) and silver for the and was sold with and without the M3 camera. The price on release was around $3,000 and dropped a bit in the following years, then sky-rocketed towards $7,000 - $8,000 in 2015-2016.
Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 LHSA-edition in black paint.Hood is part no 12 586.
These lenses were sold with and separately from the MP3 bodies manufactured for the LHSA in 2005.
Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 LHSA-edition in silver and black. Current optical design in 1959 barrel.
In 2015 Leica Camera AG then released a very limited series of this lens in black paint, but intentionally brassed. A set of one black Leiac M-P 240 camera and two lenses (35, 50) in a suitcase, designed and named after Lenny Kravitz.
The series of 125 numbered sets of sold out about 9-12 months after it's release.
Lenny Kravitz "Reporter" limited edition of 125 sets in suitcase. Leica M-P 240 with Leica Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0 and Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 Black Paint.
Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 BC (Black Chrome) 2016
Few months after the release of the Lenny Kravitz model, Leica released another series of 500 the the same lens, but in matt black (Black Chrome) and not brassed.
A Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 lens, but in old-school brass design and barrels. Initially the retail price was $3,900 and then rose to $4,350 in autumn 2016.
How to mount a filter
on the Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 Black Chrome
or any other 1959 non-ASPH version
You will notice that whereas the normal 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 has a 46mm filter size, the limit editions has a filter size of 43mm. Not a big problem as 43mm ND filters and UV filters are also available. Just a surprise as no other current Leica lenses has a 43mm filter size (but all the 50/1.4 lenses had in the old days).
But you will see that when the filter is mounted, the classic shade (art no 12 586) doesn't fit onto the lens anymore! There exist a vintage UV filter that goes with the lens. I don't use UV-filter, so I haven't tried to get one.
But I do use ND (Neutral Density) filters, so I acquired a 43mm ND filter (3-stop or 0.9ND) and then fumbled with it for a bit.
Put on the lens shade.
Drop the ND filter into the shade.
1) Lock filter first with the bayonet locks.
2) Then press it down with a finger and turn the whole shade with filter till it sits as tight as it can.
In actual fact, if you mount the shade first, and then drop the ND filter down into the bayonet locking mechanism (press the silver buttons to open the "reverse locks" for attaching the shade upside-down when traveling). Then you will see that it almost locks. If you then turn the shade aroune the filter will actually screw onto the lens to some degree. Enought to make it stay there.
Obviously, when you want to take off the ND filter, you will have to turn the shade counter-clockwise till the filter screw let go of the screw on the lens.
You will see that the filter and shade sits tight together and you can't turn the shade futher clock-wise around. Now, if the filter turns counter-clockwise as you move around, be aware that the filter will work it's way out of the screw again and eventually drop. If you drop one, it's not the end of the world. It's only a $45 filter and not a lens.
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11 114 Bayonet mount
Summilux-M ASPH (APO)
11 891 Bayonet
Shade 12 586
Shade 12 586
Shade 12 586
0,7 m - infinity
x lenses in x groups
This lens is an APO construction.
xx xxx front cap
Screw-thread lenses are for Leica II, 250FF, III, 250GG, IIIa, IIIb, IIIc, IIc, Ic, IIIf, If, IIf, If, IIIg, Ig but can be mounted on Leica M bayonet cameras with an adapter. Everything works as if the lens had a M bayonet mount when the adapter is applied.
The Leica M9 and Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 in the hands of Birgit Krippner who used to shoot exclusively with this lens.
Interview with lens designer Peter Karbe
on the Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4
Sitting with Peter you really get the feeling that these lenses are his children. Talk of certain lenses puts a small smile on his face and a glint in his eye. Then, he’ll go on about why it is special and unique. For instance, many know of his many years of work on the 50mm Summilux ASPH.
He is extremely proud of this lens, pointing to the MTF-chart and exclaiming that wide open at f/1.4 it resolves 40lp at above 50%.
He went into how he came up with the modified special double gauss design and how the back half of the lens is identical to the 35mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4, while the front half is identical to the Leica 50 Summicron. This was the secret to achieving such performance in a fast 50.
Then, he said that one Saturday morning over his first cup of coffee in his kitchen he thought about [Dr. Walter] Mandler. Apparently, after Mandler designed the Noctilux, he used the same design to build the 75 Summiux.
And while Peter doesn't like the 75 Lux, he decided that he needed to design a 75 based on the 50 ASPH design.
Shortly thereafter, keeping everything the same, except for removing one lens element in the first doublet behind the central ASPH element used to correct for aberrations caused at 1.4, he minted the design for the Leica 75 APO Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0.
Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 on Leica M 240 and the Globetrotter limited edition camera bag made for the Leiac Store Ginza in Tokyo.
Why the Leica 50mm Summilux is an APO lens
I asked if the design was the same why the 75 was an APO lens and the 50 wasn’t. Here is a bit of a shocker… the 50 lux ASPH is an APO lens, containing an APO-correction element. But, he thought the idea of an APO 50 was a bit silly so they never put it on the lens or in any marketing materials.
He really believes in revisiting the past for inspirations on the future. Peter said that he often thinks about what his predecessors from decades ago would do with today’s technology.
This was his inspiration with the Summarits. Classic designs with a modern twist. He studies and claims (who would doubt him) that he is familiar with the designs of almost all of the Leica lenses made to date. He has his favorites as well as examples that were not so successful.
According to Peter, the great leaps in lens design were brought about by technological advances. The first was with new types of glass, then with coatings, followed by computer modeling, and now just recently, advances in mechanical design and manufacturing.
This is why the S lenses and the new 21 Lux are as lightweight as they are. A lot of attention is now being paid by the design team to the manufacturing process. Karbe has organized small design teams in his fast-growing department to be more efficient and productive. An optics designer is paired with a mechanical designer and a production manager to develop the entire product, not just the optical path. Handling, feel, ease of manufacture, and consistency in quality control are equally important to imaging performance.
Also, by using more shared designs and more common components, more lenses can be brought to market faster. The 35 and 50 Summarit. The 75 and the 90 Summarit. The new 21 Lux and 24 Lux are all examples of this. With the 21 and the 24, one designer did both lenses simultaneously as they are fundamentally the same optical formula.
Another interesting thing I learned was that Leica started using computer-aided modeling back in the 1960’s before anyone else. Since that time, they have had their own proprietary software (kept up to date, of course) based on calculations made at Leica over the last 100 years. He says this is one of Leica’s real advantages that no one can copy.
The foundation of knowledge and expertise is handed down from each generation of lens designers to the next. The Leitz Glass Works has also been invaluable in learning about new formulations and the handling of exotic glass elements. These latest exotic glasses require a great deal of care in handling. Much like a piece of raw steel, this glass reacts adversely and rapidly with gasses in the air. They use a wet to wet to wet process in Solms, whereby the glass moves through the grinding, polishing and coating steps in one go, not spaced or binned. This is crucial to maintain the performance of these expensive elements which can cost more per ounce than pure silver.
We talked more about how the type of glass for certain lens elements are chosen and how, based on his experience, he just knows what effect this will have on aberrations. We discussed the trade-offs lens designers have to make and how MTF only tells part of the story."
The Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0 lens
a) 50mm lens is a lens that has a viewing angle of view is 47° vertically, 40° horizontally and 27° vertically within a 35mm film frame.
b) 50mm lens is often compared to the human eye. Not because of viewing angle but because of size ratio. The 50mm lens is the lens that comes closest to the size that the human eye see things (whereas the human eye has a much wider angle of view [120-200°] than the 50mm lens [47°], thought a more narrow focus (your eyes may observe very wide but your focus is on a limited view within that angle of view).
stands for "apochromatically corrected". In most lenses, optical design concentrates the focus of blue light and green light into a single plane, but red light falls slightly into another plane of focus. Red subjects, therefore, would be ever so slightly out of focus compared to blue and green subjects in the same frame. Not sure you'd ever notice though, the difference is so slight. This is the same basic principle that requires you to shift the focus for infrared photography, related to the wave length of red light. In APO lenses, the design and expense has been put in to making red light focus on the same plane as blue and green. Under a microscope you would see that all light subject is now in focus, creating a sharper image overall. Many manufacturers offer APO designs, but in most of these only the very center of the lens is APO corrected. Leica prides itself on making most of the frame APO correct.
If one look at the images produced by the APO lenses (Leica 90mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0, the Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH, and the Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 that is in fact APO-corrected), one will notice that the colors are really bright and alive, almost more real than to the eye.
Apochromat; ORIGIN early 20th century, made of the two words;
apo: Greek origin, away from
chromatic (Latin origin, meaing relating to color.
ASPH = stands for "aspheric design".
Most lenses have a spherical design - that is, the radius
of curvature is constant. These are easy to manufacture by
grinding while "spinning" the glass. This design
however restricts the number of optical corrections that can
be made to the design to render the most realistic image possible.
ASPH lenses, however, involve usually 1 element that does
*not* have a constant radius of curvature. These elements
can be made by 1) expensive manual grinding, 2) molded plastic,
or 3) Leica's patented "press" process, where the element
is pressed into an aspherical ("non-spherical")
shape. This design allows Leica to introduce corrections
into compact lens designs that weren't possible before. Practically,
the lens performs "better" (up to interpretation)
due to increased correction of the image, in a package not
significantly bigger than the spherical version. The Leica Q 28mm lens has 3 aspherical elements out of 11 elements in the lens. Most Leica ASPH lenses from Leica has 1 or 2 aspherical elements.
There is another Aspherical lens manufacture technique: an uneven coating layer is applied to a spherical lens. The coating is thicker on the edges (or on the center, depending). Canon "Lens Work II" calls these "simulated" aspherical lenses. Simulated and Glass-Molded (GMo) asphericals show up in non-L Canon lenses, while the L lenses have actual ground aspheric elements.
Normal speric lens (grinded)
ASPH (note the shape of the glass as result of pressing rather than grinding)
Sphere: ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French espere, from late Latin sphera, earlier sphaera, from Greek sphaira "ball".
the visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photographic image, especially as rendered by a particular lens : It's a matter of taste and usually photographers discuss a 'nice' or 'pleasant' bokeh (the out-of-focus area is always unsharp why the quality discussed is if one likes the way it renders or not by a particular lens).
ORIGIN from Japanese 'bo-ke' which mean 'fuzzines' or 'blur.'.
A tube or ring attached to the front of a camera lens to prevent unwanted light from reaching the film.
ORIGIN Old English hod; related to Dutch hoed, German Hut 'hat,' also to hat.
Summarex - The lens was supposedly named after the dog Rex of lens designer Max Berek (1886-1949). Then again, Rex refers to "King" and Summar is "the sum of", or "highest".
Summilux - Refers to the maximum lens aperture - here f/1.4 , "-lux" added for "light".
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Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish writer and photographer, specializing in portrait photography and documentary photography, known for writings about photography and as an educator.
Some photos are available as signed editions via galleries or online. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via e-mail.
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