LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW

LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW

Introduction

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens sounds sweet to any Leica camera enthusiast’s ears. It is fast, it is a Leica lens, and it carries the quality that has long been associated with the brand. There is no reason to state the price tag; you already know that it is going to be at least twice the price of a comparable Canon or Nikon; when it comes to “price” that is always secondary considerations.

LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

I hold a LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens and stare long and hard at it. I am knee deep in the Stygian, the underworld of the Greeks, Tantalus, looking down at the lens in my hand tormented by the questions unanswered. Why in the world is this lens a “focus by wire” design? Why is it built so heavy when comparable lenses from other companies are more compact and lighter? And, what is the plastic shell that wraps the precious optics on the inside? Questions go on and on. I am meditating on releasing each “question” like a monk, trying to not to dwell on one which is followed by another. Here, I am writing to find the answers. Here, I am sharing the observations.

LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Leica Lenses

My love for Leica lenses is undeniable. I love them for their optics. I love them for their design. Yet, I look at my Leica S lenses, they are not made in Germany but are made in Japan. I wonder who made them for Leica Camera. Certainly, Leica Camera does not have production facilities in Japan.

LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

I remember using Zeiss Otus lenses, among some of the best in the World. LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens is among one. Yet, I would challenge anyone to say they could tell the difference not only from a Zeiss Otus lens but more reasonably priced ones from manufacturers like Voigtlander or Meyer-Görlitz.

LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

The truth is the LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens is a niche lens for a niche “mount” for a niche camera. There are no SL or L mount lenses produced by any other company other than Leica Camera. Should there be? Perhaps, yes. But, the question is the LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens is designed to be in the ecosystem of Leica SL camera which is already several years old in design.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Most important consideration is that it is not an M mount lens. There is a little history behind Leica SL camera, and we are considering to invest in an ecosystem that is expensive in the hopes that it will deliver results that we would not find elsewhere in other ecosystems from other manufacturers of cameras and lenses.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens Review

Autofocus

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens is designed to be used in autofocus mode. Don’t believe the illusion that you can focus manually accurately if you are in a rush. No, you won’t, even after years of practice, you can’t. Why? Because it is a focus by wire design…

Most important consideration is that it is not an M mount lens. There is a little history behind Leica SL camera, and we are considering to invest in an ecosystem that is expensive in the hopes that it will deliver results that we would not find elsewhere in other ecosystems from other manufacturers of cameras and lenses.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

For those who don’t know, focus by wire design was invented for autofocus lenses without a hard stop at either end of the focus dial. This means when you are trying to focus the focus ring manually will keep on spinning till eternity without an end because there is no hard stop to it.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

This means there is no focus scale for you to judge the distance by looking at the lens. To make the matters even more complicated, there is no mechanical connection between the focusing ring and the actual focusing mechanism of the camera. Say what?

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Yes, you heard it right. If you want to repeat the action of dialing the focus ring of your LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens, it will depend on your focusing speed; you focus fast, the focus throw is shorter if you do a slower focusing action to nail more accurate focus, the focus throw is now longer. You can’t repeat the same action twice to get the focus right. Your only guide is your eyes if you choose to go the manual focusing route.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

This means no videographer can ever, ever, ever and never use a LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens for proper focus pulling because it is never constant. Yet, you will find that Leica SL camera offers video capabilities built into the camera. It is like saying you can cook anything in an over but can’t control the temperature.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

On the other hand, I am thinking of all the photographers who would be delighted to own a LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens. There is a certain degree of prestige attached to owning Leica gear, and I think why not, just use it in autofocus, why even think of using it manually. I think of Biblical stories, Judgement of Solomon, cut it in half but wait the solution is to see it as an autofocus lens ONLY. Ta ttaaaa… Lights, camera, action. We are rolling in auto.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Speed

In addition, there was also a noticeable amount of focus hunting under lower light. This also meant that focus tracking was less accurate when the light conditions worsened. But to be fair, this is more of a camera issue than a lens issue.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

If you are into autofocus speed, Canon and Nikon even Sony has a long history. They have perfected the art of autofocus to a fine degree. Leica, on the other hand, did not fare so well with other reviewers on the autofocus speed. For such a large lens, I thought Leica Camera engineers must have thought about putting in a state of the art autofocusing mechanism.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

The truth is a LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens will hunt focus. The reason is simple; the optics are very heavy, exotic glass, the autofocus system will need to shift these elements to attain focus; hence the time it takes for the lens to catch up. The aim is to make accurate autofocus possible, even if that means the speed is sacrificed to a degree. Fair enough. We are exchanging speed for accuracy. I would want the Leica Camera engineers to explain that to me again. But I won’t recite my experience with Leica Camera’s customer service. Oh, no. Never… Ever… Where is my high blood pressure medicine?

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Low Light

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens is a fast lens. It is excellent for low light photography. You can capture amazing photographs with a considerable amount of detail at night. There is only one issue, Leica SL camera autofocus system does not like low light. The focus hunting will drive you insane then you will be tempted to try manual focusing. Well, I think we have made the point about manual focusing.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Distortion

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens has some barrel distortion. This distortion is very evident if you are photographing straight lines, like a doorway, modern architectural buildings, etc. But you don’t need to worry about any of this distortion. Why? Because Leica Camera engineers were smart to include baked-in lens correction that automatically corrects for these distortions based on the lens mounted.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Edge to Edge

There is sharpness in the center of the frame then the limitations of optical design imposes the laws of physics which means the corners will not be as sharp as the center. This is true for all lenses. On LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens, the corners are soft wide open. Not a worry for anyone who understands lens design and a definite plus for bokeh if you are shooting portraits.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

The best results are attained at the f/5.9 aperture where the optimum sharpness and resolving power is attained. Personally, I like using the LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens at wide open aperture due to the beautifully render bokeh that reminiscence of Nikon’s early lens designs that render a soft, swirly background when the objects or light sources are small.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Vignetting

There is vignetting, but that is always expected at lenses that are fast, in the case of LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens, there is noticeable vignetting at f/1.4, but by f/2.8 – f/4, it is gone. Vignetting is a non-issue as photo editing programs like Adobe Lightroom can quickly remove them. On LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens, I find it to be very reasonable and acceptable.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Flare

Modern lenses have very high-quality coatings to improve flare and fringing. LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens has excellent optical coatings to control the flare and provide a beautiful rendition in sunlight. It is vital to know how any lens including LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens reacts to intense light sources which will open doors to creative interpretation.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Chromatic Aberration

When it comes to Leica lenses, APO, the chromatic aberration is non-existent. In the case of LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens, the issue commonly referred to as purple fringing is very well controlled providing beautiful images.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Contrast

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens has excellent resolving power evidenced by the MTF charts. This means the lens can deliver excellent contrast and sharpness throughout the aperture range. However, the software that records the image data renders the images somewhat more neutral a la Leica camera style which can always be readjusted in the post.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

How to get better results with Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux SL lens?

Remember, LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens is a great lens optically, if you know how to use it well you will get excellent results. Your images will be sharp, contrasty and offer beautiful color rendition.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Shoot wide open

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens is excellent at resolving, so use it to photograph at a wide open aperture which will give you great bokeh with a shallow depth of field. This is what makes LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens shine among other lenses. It delivers high-quality images even at the wide open aperture and improves considerably at f/5.6 for landscape and architecture photography.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Use only Autofocus

Take your time, the autofocus may be slow, but there is a good reason why it is, excellent optics. This means you need to be patient for the camera to pull focus, once it does, you can release the shutter for a captivating photograph.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Photograph Landscape

What LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens does best is “resolve” to a high degree which is most evident when used for landscape photography. You will capture amazing sunsets, and landscapes if you dial in your aperture to values such as f/5.6 or f/8 and wait for the right moment to take that beautiful photograph.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Understand Portraits

Portraits are important for anyone who uses a 50mm focal length as a professional. For this, LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens will give you beautiful skin tones and a high degree of detail. This is why this lens costs more than other lenses in the market, and you will benefit from capturing clear, beautiful portraits.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Learn about Leica SL Camera

Leica SL camera is a relatively new camera that offers a lot of functionality, especially when combined with a native Leica SL lens. LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens delivers the best performance when used with a Leica SL camera even though Leica TL camera can also accept this lens.

LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Verdict

The LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens is a superb lens although it has limitations in autofocus, “focus by wire” design and even plastic exterior shelling. It is the optics that separates LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens from other lenses in the market. The premium it demands is well served due to its speed and resolving power.

LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

As the Leica SL camera continues to evolve and offer higher pixel count in the future, LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens will be well positioned to deliver incredible image quality for years to come.

The best lenses in Leica SL ecosystem are prime lenses. For me investing in prime lenses begins with LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens than a 90mm and 35mm focal length. This way I can have choices in my photography. The new Leica 35mm SL lens will also feature incredible quality. Therefore, placing image quality before all else, I feel owning a LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens is a prudent investment.

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH LENS REVIEW by Master Photographer OZ YILMAZ examines features, specs and image quality of the LEICA SUMMILUX-SL 50mm

Where to buy your LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens

LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens is best bought online from an authorized dealer and often the online retailers have better prices due to low stocking fees. Here are the links to the best prices on  LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens and other lenses mentioned in this article.

Leica APO-Summicron-SL 75mm f/2 ASPH. Lens

Leica APO-Summicron-SL 90mm f/2 ASPH. Lens

Leica APO-Vario-Elmar-T 55-135mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH Lens

Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH. Lens

Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH. Lens

Leica APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90-280mm f/2.8-4 Lens

 

Other 50mm Lenses (Recommended *)

ZEISS Planar T* 50mm f/2 ZM Lens *

Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.1 lens *

7artisans Photoelectric 50mm f/1.1 Lens

Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 Aspherical Lens *

ZEISS C Sonnar T* 50mm f/1.5 ZM Lens *

Meyer-Optik Gorlitz Nocturnus 50mm f/0.95 III Lens

Recommended Leica 50mm Focal Length Lenses:

Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH. Lens

Leica APO-Summicron-M 50mm f/2 ASPH. Lens

Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. Lens

Leica Summicron-M 50mm f/2 Lens

Leica Accessories for LEICA SUMMILUX SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens

Leica R-Adapter L for SL Camera

Leica SF 60 Flash

For my upcoming 2018 photography workshops, here are the links

Barcelona April 19 – 22

Rome April 26 – 29

London May 3 – 6

Paris May 10 – 13

Vancouver June 7 – 10

San Francisco May 24 – 27

Tokyo November 8 – 11

Hong Kong November 22 – 25

I hope you have enjoyed this article.

Thank you

OZ YILMAZ

Camera Review Team

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