5 frames with... Lenses

5 Frames with a Leica Summarit 35mm f/2.4 lens – by Adam Laws

A couple of years ago I expressed my views on my rather ostentatious Contax T2… Well, guess what, these things are now worth more than my vital organs, so when I was offered a farcical sum for the device, I was already contemplating what to spend the gold coins on.

It transpires a limited edition Contaxt T2 with all its paraphernalia is the equivalent of a practically new Summarit-M 35mm f/2.4, a Yashica Matt 124g, and a pub lunch. I for one can’t refuse a good pub lunch, especially if it involves pie. Though for clarity, I don’t mean one of those evil rogue imposter pies that laugh at you from their non-edible ramekin suit and puff pastry hat.

Back to the non-pie related photographic endeavours. The Summarit, is one of the least expensive (cheapest) Leica offerings. This variant now comes with the typical leather pouch and metal lens hood as standard. It’s a light lens at just under 200g but it doesn’t feel cheap in its construction, which you would hope considering its £1400 if purchased new. The apertures click just as nicely as my 50mm Summilux yet the focus is less dampened, lending to a faster focus throw without it being inaccurate. My only real criticism of the lens is that the focus distance is 80cm rather than the typical 70cm.

The latest Summarit renders very clinically with no visible aberrations or distortion. You won’t get anything magical but nor will you have something overly characterful imposing itself on each of your images. This is very much a lens for those wanting clean and consistent results.

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The five images here are from my first outing with the lens at one of the last “Banner Racing” events at the soon-to-be-demolished Arena Essex. A few more random images can be found in my Leica MP review along with my social media. All images here are shot on Portra 400 with minimal post production.

All in all I quite like the Leica 35mm f/2.4 Summarit, but it doesn’t feel that “special” in use, or in rendering. With other lenses I own the little person inside my head can equate the price with the feel or the qualities associated with fast glass – but with this you don’t have either, and although the lens is cheap for a Leica it’s still comparatively expensive compared to the Zeiss Biogon or the Voigtlander Color Skopar. If you did decide to buy the Leica however I don’t think you would be disappointed at all, and as the sale of the Contax covered the costs for me, I’m quite pleased I took the plunge with this very consistent and practical lens.

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13 Comments

  • Daniel Castelli
    Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    February 3, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    Great shots of the races. I must claim cultural ignorance – I didn’t know such things existed in the UK. I thought we only had it in the US. Now, if you could expand upon the pie comments…
    I agree with your assessment of the lens in one important area – that “You won’t get anything magical but nor will you have something overly characterful imposing itself on each of your images. This is very much a lens for those wanting clean and consistent results.” The lens does it’s job. You’re free to shoot in your style. The strength or weakness of a final shot is up to you, not a special glow or fuzziness of the background or any special characteristic of the optical formula.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Adam Laws
      February 3, 2019 at 9:20 pm

      It’s not very popular this side of the pond compared to the various other forms of Motorsport, which has the led to the demise of the arena now earmarked for affordable housing (quite an issue in the south of the UK). Pie – well there has been a tendency to put casseroles in ramekins and cover them in a puff pastry hat. This has not gone down well as we tend to believe a pie should be encrusted in pastry all over.

      Thanks for your comments Daniel I share your sentiments totally.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Gerardo Guillen
    February 3, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    Because of its price, it’s the only Leica lens I have purchased NEW. It’s a great lens but for the price, I keep thinking I could have bought a good, used Summicron instead.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Adam Laws
      February 3, 2019 at 9:23 pm

      That is a conundrum I shared. I mainly decided on this due to its small form factor for travel.

  • Daniel Castelli
    Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    February 4, 2019 at 1:23 am

    Thanks Adam. Whew, I’m glad you cleared up the pie issue. Our daughter was taking summer classes in bookmaking/letterpress printing in London during the summer of 2017. We flew over to spend some time with her. We just loved trying out different pubs around London and I’m glad to say we did have authentic pies…and Cumberland sausages, etc. We didn’t want to be ugly Americans…I even refrained from asking for ice.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Adam Laws
      February 4, 2019 at 7:40 am

      I’m glad I could elaborate and hope the imposter pies don’t find their way to your shores.

      I hope you all enjoyed your experience in London. I know a few book/paper conservators who started their careers in very much the same way (I work at the Natural History Museum in London) if that’s an avenue she is considering.

      By the way the comments on the ice made me laugh.

  • Daniel Castelli
    Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    February 4, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    Thanks for your reply…it’s sad that this type of racing is dying out…but, my keen American eye noticed the drivers racing clock-wise. We drive counter-clockwise on our oval tracks. We love London and never tire of it’s charms, quirks and tea (my wife’s favorite!)
    I’ve never encountered any problem taking candid photos in London and the UK…if anything, the process has always led to a nice conversation.
    Our daughter is a university prof. in Cambridge MA. She teaches illustration & design, but her personal work involves making artist books with handmade papers and traditional techniques. Art professors don’t need to ‘publish or perish,’ but they need to continually take workshops & internships, as well as exhibit. Not a bad way to earn a living. BTW, you sound like you work in a very cool place – it must be fascinating to go to your job there every day (I’m retired.)

  • Avatar
    Reply
    francois karm
    February 8, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    I am using the summarit as my only lens, initialy on my M-d and M240 and now on my M-a. I disagree with your analysis as I had all the summicron from version 2 to the last one, and prefere this summarit on digital and now film.
    it is ulra sharp , has enough 3d and micro contrast and is for me a better than the new summicron.
    I compare it to the excellent 35mm voigtlander 1.5 nokton witch is one of the best lens for digital M on the market but a bit pain to operate with no focuse tab….( soon come a new 35 mm f2 nokton).
    Having both the initial summarit and the new one I can tell you that despite it is the same formula the new one was 5 time better than he old one.
    On triX film it is sharp and punchy ….
    the design is ultra modern and it is very well build . this is the new summicron for digital in the 1990 sens….
    the lens you should get with your m240/ M10.
    on film, of course we don’t need this last generation wich are micro calculate for digital sensor.
    so an old summicron is a good alternative, but only if it is far cheaper.
    because nothing is as best as a new lens.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Adam Laws
      February 9, 2019 at 6:25 pm

      Thanks Francois, I’m not to sure what specifically you disagree about my musings as I wasn’t negative about the lens at all but I’m glad you’re getting on well with it. For travel and general use I don’t think you can ask or want for more.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    stephen edmunds
    July 27, 2019 at 1:27 am

    You flippantly say “you wont get anything magical” with the lens but dont make any attempt to qualify the premise or statement?
    I have the lens and find its beautiful rendition of images both in people and landscape photography very “magical” .
    For me its a lazy review.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 30, 2019 at 9:15 am

      It’s subjective, Stephen, so just an opinion. Additionally, it’s only intended as a mini-review, if that, and the comment about it not being magical was indeed qualified by the sentence “The latest Summarit renders very clinically with no visible aberrations or distortion.”

      • Avatar
        Reply
        stephen edmunds
        August 8, 2019 at 1:38 am

        Designers aim for no visible aberrations or distortion though surely?
        Must admit i find the reviews on here a bit snobbish and biased.
        If the summarit was a weird old fashioned shape and suffered from focus shift at certain apertures it would suddenly become a magical lens of great character.
        Bert hardy would have loved the 35mm f2.4 summarit in my view.

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Adam Laws
          August 9, 2019 at 10:17 pm

          This is not a review but a “5 frames with”. It’s a subjective piece highlighting my initial impression with the lens.

          I’ve written in-depth opinions on various Leica cameras, Contax T2 & G2, Makina 67, Nikon’s, Polaroids and even a GameBoy camera.

          I’m no gear snob – I shoot commercial work with a vast array of equipment (Even the GameBoy camera) with my most loved cameras being Polaroid 690 and Land Cameras.

          I think this specific lens is a marvelous piece of kit however personally I find the rendering very clinical. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, which I do state.

          It sounds like you’ve made the assumption I prefer “weird old fashioned” lenses and in some instances I do however I still use plenty of modern glass. In comparison I find the Sony 35mm 2.8 to be superior in everything but use and construction. In my opinion that lens whilst being just as clinical has more 3d pop and more pleasant bokeh and renders images to my eye more pleasing.

          But again this is all subjective as is your statement about Bert.

          It sounds like you have taken personal offense from a viewpoint. Feel free to disagree and make a counterargument but calling myself or fellow contributers snobbish and biased is a little infantile. Let’s keep the internet fun and leave the stone throwing to the digital camera community and DP Review forums.

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