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LEICA 24mm f/1.4
SUMMILUX-M ASPH (2008-)

© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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Leica 24mm f/1.4 SUMMILUX-M ASPH

LEICA SUMMILUX-M 24mm f/1.4 ASPH, bigger than actual size (series VII filters, 16.505 oz./468.0g, $4,600). Vergrößern. This one came from OC Camera; you also can get them from Adorama. It helps me keep reviewing these when you get yours through these, links, thanks! Ken.

 

March 2010         Leica Camera Reviews        Leica Lens Reviews

 

Introduction       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

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I personally buy from Adorama, Amazon, Ritz, B&H, Calumet and J&R. I can't vouch for ads below.

 

This LEICA SUMMILUX-M 24mm f/1.4 ASPH is the fastest 24mm lens ever made for any rangefinder camera.

24mm is a queer focal length for LEICA. LEICA has only been making 24mm lenses since 1998.

Most LEICA cameras made since 1980 have built-in finders for 28mm lenses.

On the other hand, no LEICA camera (except the old half-frame M8) has ever had a 24mm finder, so every camera requires a separate viewfinder slipped into the hot shoe. Now you have to focus looking through the camera's finder, then move your eye to the external finder to compose. You can use either a dedicated 24mm finder, or the 21-24-28mm zoom finder, and of course the LEICA Universal Wide Finder.

The whole reason there's an M in "LEICA M" is for "Messsucher," meaning "measuring viewfinder." This was an incredible innovation in 1954, which lets you focus and compose in the same window. This greatly improves the speed with which you can handle the camera. With this 24mm lens, you're back to the two-peephole process of LEICA back in 1932.

If you have to go through the time and trouble of using an external finder, then LEICA photographers usually go straight to a 21mm lens, which has been the standard ultrawide for the LEICA since 1958.

If you're still with me, the 24mm f/1.4 ASPH is sharp and contrasty, even at f/1.4 in the center. At f/1.4, it's softer at the sides, but not by much. It has curvature of field, so the plane of optimum focus isn't a plane, but a curved surface with best focus occurring closer to you towards the sides. This is is ideal for many landscape and interior shots, but not for shooting flat test targets, or boring photos where everything is at the same distance.

Be forewarned: on the M9, the 24/1.4 looks poor (by LEICA standards) at the sides at f/1.4 if you go off and shoot the horizon at infinity. Look instead at things about 50 feet (15 meters) away at the sides, and you'll find them much sharper. This will drive nerds nuts, but Leica's SUMMILUX have usually been designed this way, since that's the way interiors and streetscapes curve.

 

Compatibility       top

The LEICA 24mm f/1.4 SUMMILUX-M ASPH works perfectly on every LEICA M camera, from the M3 of 1954, Minolta's CLE, and of course today's LEICA M7, LEICA MP and LEICA M9.

The LEICA 24/1.4 SUMMILUX-M ASPH couples to the rangefinder of every LEICA M camera.

 

History       top

24mm lenses have no history with LEICA. They are a foreign focal length.

 

1998-

LEICA's first 24mm lens is the LEICA ELMARIT-M 24mm f/2.8 ASPH of 1998.

 

2008-

At Photokina in September 2008, LEICA announced two new 24mm lenses: the LEICA ELMAR-M 24mm f/3.8 ASPH and this SUMMILUX-M 24mm f/1.4 ASPH.

As of March 2010, this f/1.4 SUMMILUX is still very difficult to find in stock.

 

 

Price       top

At introduction in 2008, MAP (minimum allowed advertised and selling price) was $6,000 USD.

LEICA raised the MAP in January 2010 to $6,500.

LEICA enforces its prices by monitoring the price you say you paid during warranty registration. If you fill in anything less than $6,495, the dealer you listed gets a phone call, or worse.

 

Specifications       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

 

Name

Leica calls this the LEICA SUMMILUX-M 24mm f/1.4 ASPH.

 

Optics        top

Cross section, LEICA SUMMILUX-M ASPH 24mm f/1.4

Cross-section. Vergrößern.

Actual (design) focal length: 24.3mm.

10 elements in 8 groups. Retrofocus design.

One aspherical surface (the first surface of the last group).

Two floating elements: the last two single elements.

Five elements made of glass with anomalous color (partial) dispersion.

Coated mostly in blue.

 

Diaphragm       top

LEICA SUMMILUX-M ASPH 24mm f/1.4

LEICA SUMMILUX-M 24mm f/1.4 ASPH at f/5.6. Vergrößern.

11 straight blades.

Straight edges from f/1.7 through f/13, except slightly inwardly-curved at f/5.6 and f/8.

Perfectly round at f/16.

Stops down to f/16.

Half-stop clicks.

 

Close Focus       top

0.7 meters (27" or 2.3 feet).

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio       top

1:25.

 

Size        top

61.0 millimeters (2.40") diameter.

75.6 millimeters (2.98") extension from flange, with standard hood as shown.

58.5 millimeters (2.30") extension from flange, bare naked.

 

Filters

Series 7 (Serie VII), held inside hood.

With optional 14 479 adapter in place of hood: 72mm.

 

Attachments

Patented keyed, threaded male fitting on front of lens.

 

Weight        top

Lens: 16.505 oz. (468.0g), measured with hood, but without caps or filters.

Bare Naked Lens: 15.405 oz. (436.7g), lens only, no hood or caps.

Carry weight: 17.125 oz. (485.5g) lens, caps and hood.

Hood alone: 1.105 oz. (31.2g).

Leica specifies 17.6 oz. (500g).

 

Hood        top

The 12 462 hood is included.

It is a magnificently precise metal hood which screws into the front of the lens.

It has a hole to block the camera's finder less, but you won't be using the camera's finder unless you're using this lens on one of those nasty little wide-angle Voigtländers.

The hood uses patented keying system so it screws in, and stops at exactly the correct orientation. This hood will never fall off, is always perfectly aligned, and comes on and off easily.

This is „Deutsche Gruendlichkeit“ (German thoroughness) at its best. This is LEICA.

 

Caps        top

The front cap is a flimsy piece of flexible plastic (14 480, made of TPE-V) which flops over the hood. It works great; it's not going to break when you sit on it in your pocket.

The rear cap is the current standard 14 269 cap.

 

Part Numbers        top

Lens: 11 601 (includes lens, caps, hood, leather case and paperwerke).

Hood: 12 462 ($240 if lost).

Hood cap: 14 480 ($35 if lost).

Rear cap: 14 269 ($27 if lost).

 

Finders (choose one):

Fixed 24mm finder: 12 027 (silver), 12 026 (black), $760 each.

21-24-28mm zoom finder: 12 013 (black), 12 014 (chrome-and-black), $460.

Universal Wide Finder: 12 011, $900.

 

Optional 72mm filter adapter: 14 479. (replaces hood; $95.)

 

Quality        top

Made in Germany.

 

LEICA SUMMILUX-M ASPH 24mm f/1.4

LEICA SUMMILUX-M 24mm f/1.4 ASPH. Vergrößern.

 

Performance       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

The LEICA SUMMILUX-M ASPH 24/1.4 is a big, expensive lens that offers unheard of speed for a 24mm lens for rangefinder cameras.

If you're genuinely in the market for one of these, you're not likely to be disappointed.

 

Bokeh        top

Bokeh, the quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to the degree of defocus, is surprisingly wonderful in the center.

In the center, backgrounds fade away smoothly, although with a 24mm lens, not much gets much out of focus.

In these examples, a vertically polarized phase lattice was set up at 3 meters (10 feet) on which the SUMMILUX-M was focused, and the synthetic reference vegetation seen out of focus in the background was at 15 meters (50 feet).

These are crops from huge prints, about 32 x 48" (85 x 125cm), or equivalent to crops from M9 images at 100%.

 

Bokeh on the sides is another story. It's nasty, although because of all the falloff at larger apertures and the large depth-of-field, not likely to be a problem.

 

Diaphragm Calibration        top

The calibration is perfect.

The meter in my M9 tracks each half-stop click perfectly, except of course at full aperture.

 

Curvature of Field           top

The plane of best focus is not a plane.

The plane of best focus curves-in at the sides, meaning that the focus is on closer subjects as you approach the sides.

This is ideal for most indoor shooting, but makes this SUMMILUX look bad if you're shooting tests at infinity, or of flat charts.

At the sides, it can't focus to infinity. Instead, when the center is focused at infinity, the sides are focused at about 50 feet (15 meters).

The curvature seems to remain about the same shape at different distances.

Remember, these lenses are made for shooting, not testing. For testing, use the 50mm f/2 SUMMICRON-M.

 

Distortion           top

As expected, the LEICA SUMMILUX-M 24mm f/1.4 ASPH has some complex distortion if brick walls are your thing. If they are, choose the LEICA ELMAR-M 24mm f/3.8, the LEICA SUPER-ANGULON 21mm f/4 or the ZEISS 21mm f/4.5 instead.

This SUMMILUX-M's distortion is too complex for correction in Photoshop's lens distortion filter.

I measured it at distances from 1 to 5 meters (3 to 15 feet), and it's the same.

If you shoot brick walls, the center is a little bit bloated, and the corners are pulled out.

Lines along the top or bottom are relatively straight along most of the longer edge, but pull out with strong pincushion distortion in the last tenth of the image in each corner.

distortion

Lockers at Musée d'Orsay, 1.5 meters. Vergrößern.

 

Vertical lines along the left or right edge bend-in in the middle (or pull-out at the top and bottom). Don't put lines along the left and right edges.

distortion

Lockers at Musée d'Orsay, 1.4 meters. Vergrößern.

 

Ergonomics        top

Hand

The LEICA SUMMILUX-M 24mm f/1.4 ASPH feels like a larger version of most of LEICA's current line of black-anodized aluminum lenses.

 

Focus

Focus is a large ribbed ring. There is no tab.

It can focus with one stiff finger, but unlike most other LEICA lenses, two fingers works better.

As expected for wide lenses, focus is fast and sure. It's geared a little on the fast side.

 

Aperture Setting       top

Setting apertures is as easy as usual. A fingertip suffices.

The aperture ring sticks out less than on most LEICA lenses, and it's still easy to feel and move in the dark.

Why can't everything work this well? Why does the Nikon 24mm f/1.4 AF-S require using two fingers on two electronic controls and taking my eye off my subject watching an LCD to do the same thing I can do with one finger and my eyes closed on this LEICA lens?

 

Filters, use with         top

Simply unscrew the hood, drop in a Serie VII filter, and replace the hood. Easy. For film shooters, you're all set with no need for any extra adapters, and you can still use the hood.

Series 7 filters are uncommon to find new, but most LEICA shooters already have a handful of them. They are the same filters that work in the 12 504 hood of the 35mm f/1.4 SUMMILUX (1967-1995) and the hood of the LEICA 21mm f/3.4 SUPER-ANGULON (1963-1980).

Much less elegant is to buy the 14 479 adapter ($95). You remove the brilliant dedicated hood, replace it with this adapter, and then use 72mm filters without the hood.

Leica part numbers for Series VII filters:

Serie VII Filter
Part Nr.
UVa
13 009
Yellow
13 006
Yellow-Green
13 007
Orange
13 008
Red
not made
   
Linear Polarizer
13 352
Circular Polarizer*
13 370

*When using the circular polarizer, the yellow dot must face the lens.

My LEICA, Kodak and Spiralite Series 7 filters fit perfectly.

There's a design flaw in the 24mm f/1.4 ASPH that prevents some Serie VII filters from fitting.

If the hood won't screw in all the way, reverse the filter. You need to have the side with a thinner inside diameter of the filter's mounting ring face the lens.

My Hoya and Tiffen Photar Series VII filters only fit one way.

I had only one unresolved disappointment. My LEICA 13 370 circular polarizer is a tight fit into the hood. You have to use two fingers gently to push it in.

This is good, because you have to line-up the yellow dot to the correct orientation, and it needs to stay in that orientation as you screw the hood into the lens.

Sadly, this polarizer is slightly too thick to allow the hood to screw down all the way, thus you get a crooked hood, vignetting and the wrong polarizer orientation. It won't work.

Looking at the exact design of the retaining ring of the 13 370 polarizer, the mounting ring has a thinner inside dimension on the face which should point away from the lens. If you reverse it, with the yellow dot away from the lens, it will fit, but as a circular polarizer, will have no polarizing effect.

Unfortunately this prevents using this polarizer. If it worked the other way, it would have been brilliant because it would have prevented you from using it backwards, but in this case, it prevents you from using it, period.

Of course LEICA is smarter than the sum of all of its customers, and we all know that polarizers don't work well on wide lenses anyway, so this ensures that no one will get any black bands across the skies of Chamonix, since the only way the polarizer fits, it won't polarize.

Filters with outside mount diameters of 50.75mm and less flop right in. The circular polarizer, with a measured maximum OD of 50.90mm, is a tight fit that requires careful pushing to jam it in.

The polarizer is only 5.27mm thick, but its design won't clear the raised ridge on the front of the 24mm SUMMILUX-M. The Tiffen Photar is 5.57mm thick, but it's thin mounting ring clears the raised ridge easily if inserted that way.

 

Finder Blockage and Accuracy         top

This big 24mm f/1.4 blocks most of the lower right of the camera's finder, but so what, you can't use the camera's finder to compose.

With the Universal Wide Finder there is no blockage at infinity, and progressively more at closer distances. At infinity, the lens hood lies on the bottom edge of the finder. The Universal Wide Finder is accurate at 1 meter. At infinity, the image includes more than seen in the frame of the finder.

The lens intrudes a little into the bottom of the 21-24-28mm zoom finder. The 21-24-28mm zoom finder is accurate at infinity. It tends to show more than in the image at 1 meter, which means you can miss things. You never really know with the zoom finder because it's pretty wishy-washy. Its image also moves as you move your eye.

I have not tried it with a fixed 24mm finder.

Since Serie VII filters drop inside the hood, they have no effect on the outer dimensions lf the lens assembly.

The 14 479 72mm filter adapter will block more of the finder.

 

Focus        top

Focus is always perfect.

Rangefinder cameras have a huge advantage over SLRs with ultrawide lenses.

Shoot this at f/1.4 in the dark at any distance, the the center of the image is always dead-on sharp at f/1.4.

 

Falloff    (darker corners)         top

The LEICA 24mm f/1.4 SUMMILUX-M ASPH has has lots of falloff at f/1.4, even with the lens profile selected.

It's still strong at f/2, and gone by f/2.8.

I've greatly emphasized it below by shooting a gray field and presenting it against another gray field

 

LEICA SUMMILUX-M 21mm f/1.4 falloff on full-frame M9 at infinity, AUTO lens profile:

f/1.4
f/2
f/2.8
f/4

© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

Flare and Ghosts          top

I can get a few small dots of ghosts with the LEICA 24mm f/1.4 SUMMILUX-M ASPH if I do something stupid, otherwise, I only see them if I'm trying to cause them.

 

Lateral Color Fringes        top

There no color fringes anywhere, on film or on the LEICA M9, when the subject is in focus.

There is some oblique spherochromatism, meaning that out-of-focus objects on the sides may have some slight color fringes.

 

Materials and Construction        top

This SUMMILUX-M ASPH is built as are all current LEICA-M lenses.

Filter Threads: Black anodized aluminum.

Identity: Engraved and filled with paint on outer barrel.

Serial Number: Engraved and filled with paint on outer barrel.

Barrel: Black anodized aluminum.

Focus and Aperture Rings: Black anodized aluminum.

Focus Scale: Engraved and filled with paint.

Model Number: Engraved, but not painted, on bottom of barrel.

Focus Ring Rotation: about 100º to 0.7m.

Focus Helicoids: Aluminum and brass.

Other Internals: Metal.

Mount: Dull chromed brass.

Mounting Index: Red plastic dot.

Quality: Made in Germany.

 

Sharpness         top

The LEICA 24mm f/1.4 SUMMILUX-M ASPH is sharp, if you have it in focus.

It has a huge depth-of-field, but remember, only things in one infinitesimally thin plane are in optimum focus to give optimum sharpness, and that plane is curved.

This SUMMILUX-M is a very special-purpose lens. It is designed for use in very low light. In daylight, and if you're counting pixels on an M9, it is among LEICA's softest current lenses. (see comparisons.) Of course having the softest LEICA lens is like having the slowest Ferrari.

If shooting a landscape all at infinity, the sides are soft on the M9, getting best only by f/11!

This shows us something about LEICA's published MTF curves, which look great at f/1.4.

As everyone qualified to read an MTF curve knows, MTF curves published by camera lens makers are meaningless because of how much they don't tell you. For instance, are they monochromatic, polychromatic, or integrated over some sort of white or colored light? Are they guaranteed minimum, or just typical? Are they actually measured on actual production samples, or just calculated? And here's the clunker for us: are they measured in a fixed plane, or measured along the surface of optimum definition?

Obviously LEICA's curves are stated for the surface of optimum definition. In other words, these curves are just dreaming. In the case of this lens, LEICA's cures are showing MTF for wherever the lens' curvature-of-field happens to find the sharpest image, not in your expected plane of focus. Heh heh, LEICA's busted!

If the MTF was plotted at infinity and for a flat plane, the curves drop like a rock as we approach the sides.

So? You don't use this lens for shots outdoors at infinity, for which the LEICA SUMMICRON 28mm f/2 ASPH is worlds sharper at large apertures.

 

On film all should be quite sharp. The M9 allows us to see things that usually go unseen on film.

 

As shot on the LEICA M9:

f/1.4

Even wide open at f/1.4, this SUMMILUX-M is sharp and contrasty in the center.

The sides are softer, but you never really know where focus is with the curved field, and falloff makes the sides darker anyway.

Don't worry, used properly, there shouldn't be anything in focus in your corners at f/1.4 unless you're photographing walls.

 

f/2

The center gets even sharper and slightly more contrasty. Wow. This is as sharp as the center gets; stopping down gets the center no sharper. This is excellent.

The sides are still softer, and the plane of best focus is closer to you than in the center.

 

f/2.8

The center was already optimum at f/2.

The corners are now also very sharp and contrasty, but only if they are in focus. In fact, they are now sharp enough to excite aliases in the M9 if your subject fits the lens' curvature-of-field. The corners are now as sharp as they are going to get, if you're in focus.

Depth-of-field still isn't deep enough to hide the curvature of field on test targets.

 

f/4 and f/5.6

Depth-of-field still isn't deep enough to hide the curvature of field on test targets.

 

f/8

By f/8, depth-of-field still is deep enough to hide the curvature of field on test targets and bring the sides at the same distance into good enough focus to be as sharp as the center.

 

f/11

The corners are optimum at f/11, for test targets at infinity.

 

f/16

Diffraction softens everything.

 

Rear, LEICA SUMMILUX-M ASPH 24mm f/1.4

Rear, LEICA SUMMILUX-M 24mm f/1.4 ASPH. Vergrößern.

 

Sunstars         top

The 11-bladed diaphragm should beget very faint 22-pointed sunstars.

 

Compared       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

This is LEICA's biggest, fastest and most expensive 24mm lens.

All LEICA's 24mm lenses are modern aspherical (ASPH) designs in black aluminum barrels. There are no older 24mm LEICA lenses.

LECIA 24mm Lenses
SUMMILUX-M
f/max
f/1.4
f/2.8
f/3.8
Anno
2008-
1998-
2008-
Filters
Ser. VII
55mm
46mm
Optional filter holder
72mm
not needed
not needed
Weight
468g
290g
260g
Distortion, Max.
-2.2%
-2.0%
-1.0%
Part Number
11 601
11 878
11 648
Other colors
just black
Silver, 388g
just black
Price, 3/2010
$6,500

 

Recommendations       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

I wouldn't buy one of these. I'd get the 21mm version instead.

I have no idea why anyone would want a 24mm lens on a LEICA, since you have to use a separate viewfinder, and you don't with a 28mm lens.

The SUMMILUX-M is a very special purpose lens, designed for a purpose different from my own.

I'm an outdoor, nature and landscape shooter. Even if I wanted a 24mm lens, I cannot accept the optical, mechanical and logistical compromises made in this lens to get to f/1.4 with this wider angle-of-view. I shoot a lot of things with straight lines, and the distortion of this SUMMILUX-M will drive me up a wall. It will not correct without very special software tools.

If I wanted 24mm on a LEICA, which I don't, I'd choose the less distorting LEICA ELMAR-M 24mm f/3.8 ASPH instead, which is also sharper and smaller.

If I wanted to shoot at 24mm and f/1.4, I'd use a camera which can support simultaneous focus and composition through one finder (the M, or Messsucher, system), like the Nikon 24/1.4 or the Canon 24/1.4 SLR lenses.

Price is not relevant to the man who owns LEICA, but if it was, a Nikon or Canon 24/1.4 and a full-frame body combined costs less than this SUMMILUX-M alone.

This SUMMILUX-M 24mm f/1.4 ASPH is for when you absolutely, positively need f/1.4 at 24mm. If you don't absolutely, positively need f/1.4 and need 24mm at the same time, there are much better choices.

The SUMMILUX-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH is much sharper for landscapes at infinity on an M9 at every aperture, and it is much smaller, quicker and more fun to use.

The LEICA SUMMICRON 28mm f/2 is much sharper, if you're looking closely, than either of these 24mm or 35mm SUMMILUX-M lenses for landscape use.

The original 35mm SUMMILUX is much softer at large apertures than any of these lenses, but has less distortion, and takes the same Serie VII filters as this 24mm SUMMILUX-M.

The only possible reason this 24mm SUMMILUX-M ASPH makes any sense is if you have an old M8, which has a 24mm finder. Otherwise, the only people who need these are journalists, but journalists have not the time to deal with a two-window process just to focus and shoot.

LEICA today is not about making sense. The LEICA Man chooses as he does because he is who he is. The LEICA Man explains himself to no one.

 

Acknowledgements       top

Many thanks to OC Camera for loaning me this lens to review.

 

Help me help you         top

I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.

If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.

If you've gotten your gear through one of my links or helped otherwise, you're family. It's great people like you who allow me to keep adding to this site full-time. Thanks!

If you haven't helped yet, please do, and consider helping me with a gift of $5.00.

The biggest help is to use these links to Adorama, Amazon, Calumet, Ritz, J&R and when you get your goodies. It costs you nothing and is a huge help to me. eBay is always a gamble, but all the other places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.

Thanks for reading!

Ken

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