Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5
The Summaron 3.5cm 3.5 was introduced in 1945. It was manufactured both for Leica screwmount cameras and Leica M cameras. It was manufactured until the 1960ies and over 100 000 units were produced, making it one of the common Leica wide-angle lenses.
Overall the Summaron 35mm is a very intriguing lens that is well suited for black and white and artistic photography. It combines many aspects such as vignetting, softness and contrast to create some very unique looking images.
This is the review of the Summaron 35mm 3.5 – the 2.8 version is not being discussed here.
- Built quality
- Size & weight
- Artistic lens
- Lots of character
- Good for Black & White photography
As most Leica lenses the Summaron 35 is very well manufactured. Both the craftsmanship and the materials used are top notch. The lens is rather compact and light, comparable to most other Leica wide-angle lenses manufactured in screwmount and Leica M. The ergonomics are beautiful and you get accustomed to the lens very quickly. The compact size and good ergonomics feel very balanced on any camera body. I used this lens on a Sony A7 and it was a very good match.
I like and dislike the Summaron. It is the kind of lens that will either have fans or haters. The images the Summaron produces are rather unique. They are sharp in the center yet pretty soft in the corners. This is true for most lenses but what sets the Summaron apart is the rather heavy vignetting and the chromatic aberrations. This combination makes for some really unique looking pictures. It’s almost as if you are using an Instagram like filter.
The images glow. Some people will absolutely adore these results. If you like artistic lenses and want to capture moods instead of details – this lens is for you! An experimental photographer will have tons of fun with the Summaron 35mm 3.5. There are so many “imperfections” that you can play with. The Summaron never creates boring images – it’s always a bit psychedelic, over the top, saturated, colourful yet gloomy. As if a mask is put over the lens. In many ways the Summaron 35 3.5 reminds me a lot of the Leica Summarit 50mm 1.5. You obtain the same kind of playful, arty feel to the images.
The Summaron comes from an era when Black & White photography was still the main type of photography. The lens excels at Black and White photography. All the “flaws” come together to create really nice images. The vignetting ads some punch, the contrast really comes into play and the “softness” creates a very pleasing bokeh.
The Summaron 35 3.5 is certainly not the best 35mm lens of Leica. It cannot compete with a “more modern” Summilux or Summicron. I would even argue that the 35mm Elmar is more forgiving. Compared to the Summaron 35 3.5, other lenses are much more sharp and crisp and most people would argue “better” than the Summaron. If you want edge to edge sharpness look elsewhere. If you want a lens to trigger your creativity the Summaron 35 might be worth trying (although cheaper, non-Leica alternatives exist).
- Chromatic aberration
- A bit soft
It is always totally subjective to review a lens. I merely try to share my personal impressions and feelings. People have different tastes and that is great. The beauty of lenses is that you have so many types that everyone can find a perfect match for their personal style.
If you like a bit of softness, vignetting and old style charm, a Summaron type lens could be a perfect match. If you are after a more modern, “sharp” look the Summaron will most likely disappoint you.
Vignetting and falloff in the corner are very noticeable – even when stopped down. There is a constant glow and the Summaron struggles a lot with direct light source or lights coming from the sides. You can prevent this slightly by using a lens shade, thus accentuating the vignetting even more.
Overall the sharpness is decent but not mind blowing. This lens was not made to capture details. It comes from a different era – coating and glass elements are not up to the same notch as later lenses. Thus, the Summaron 35 is not the easiest lens to use. You need some experience with old lenses to take really good shots. The Summaron is not that forgiving. Having even a slightest of light sources or reflection on the side of your framing will completely change the end result.
Personally I would not use this lens if I absolutely need to achieve great results. If I shoot under difficult conditions, have to be fast and require good output I wouldn’t opt of the Summaron 35mm 3.5 at all. If does not constantly produce good enough images. Light sources and contrast affect it too much making it a bit unreliable. Nonetheless if I shoot for myself, at my own pace without any pressure – the Summaron 35mm is great. If you want a bit of excitement and X-factor, the Summaron delivers a lot of surprises. Shooting with the Summaron can be similar to developing your film – you can never be totally sure what you get.
Summaron 35mm 3.5 Versions
The Leica Summaron 35 was introduced for the screwmount Leicas in 1946. Screw-thread lenses were manufactured until 1960. Leica M versions were produced from 1955 until 1959. In total around 122 000 lenses were manufactured.
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 100 cm
- Made in Germany
- Aperture: 3.5 – 22
- 6 elements in 4 groups
- Weight: 200 gr
The Leica M version was also manufactured with goggles (since the flagship Leica M3 does not have 35mm framelines).