Why the 50mm ?
The 50mm lens is, in my mind, the photographer’s lens. No tricks, no gimmicks, no surprises. A 50mm lens can show you how someone views the world around them. How they see, how they feel, and how they interact with their environment.
I have always been drawn to the 50mm on a full frame sensor. When working on my cinematography projects I prefer the 25-35mm range but that is calculated on a Super 35mm format, which is roughly equal to an ASP-C crop. All that means is a 35mm on a film camera is essentially a 50mm on a full frame stills camera.
One of the main reasons I chose to go the Leica M system for my stills work was because of the world renowned optics available. A quick google search reveals thousands of articles praising the precision and quality of the Leica glass. I wanted a 50mm that I could count on to give me the best quality images under the widest possible conditions.
The winner: The Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH.
5 Reasons the Leica 50mm Summilux was My Choice
Let’s go over the major selling points in my case.
1. Maximum Aperture: The Depth of Field is one of the few weapons a photographer/cinematographer has in their arsenal for controlling the aesthetics of an image. Often times a person has to give up quality in order to increase maximum aperture (the amount of light transmitted to the sensor by the lens) meaning as more light comes in, contrast & sharpness go out.
This just isn’t the case with the Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH.
Now you can show me all the charts in the world but after having used this lens for the past 3 months I can tell you that the image is perfect (to my critical eyes) at every aperture. I have never seen another 50mm perform like it and at f1.4 this lens gives you an incredible range of depth of field to control.
2. Size and Weight: 335g. Yes 335 grams is all it takes to make up what I believe is the best 50mm lens I have ever used.
Now that is slightly heavier than some of it’s DSLR lens competitors but it isn’t so much about the sheer weight as it is about it’s balance and size. As I have said on this blog before, the best part of the Leica M rangefinder system is the size and weight of it.
I love the Leica 50mm f0.95 Noctilux but I hate the size. For all the creative possibilities you get with a super fast lens I feel those are negated by the size and awkwardness of the lens itself.
The Leica 50mm Summilux on the other hand is all about balance. You get the creative power (and low light shooting ability) of a f1.4 coupled with a size and weight that is perfect for carrying around with you all day.
3. Build Quality: Is 335 grams of metal and glass something to get excited about? Well that depends on what type of person you are.
The build quality on all things Leica is both technically perfect and aesthetically pleasing to folks like me. This lens is no exception. The Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH is built like a tank but has buttery smooth mechanics and on first use the level of attention to detail on the lens is undeniable.
It is truly a work of art and it is comforting to know that my 50mm will be out there shooting long after I am gone.
4. Built In Hood: This may seem like a trivial one but it is the small details that take something from good to great. The built in lens hood is great for someone like me who struggles to remember where he put his keys and wallet let alone his lens hood.
It takes a simple twist and lock and you are good to go. I never use a lens cap (the reasons why you can read about here) and the built in hood goes a long way to ensuring that the front element and uv filter don’t get damaged when I have the camera on my shoulder.
I actually like flares so it is really all about functionality and the freedom not to have to worry about where I had the hood last that put this one on the list.
5. (The BIG One) Image Quality: This was far and away the main reason I chose the Summilux.
One look at the files and even the most skeptical of us can’t help but fall prey to the charms of the Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH. The image quality is a 10/10.
For me, there is none better and it is the lens that I now measure every other lens off of. There is the Summilux and then everything else. It is truly something that has to be seen. You can feel the difference in the files.
I wish I could explain it an insightful, more articulate manner but in the end I wouldn’t do it justice. Some things have to be experienced first hand and the Summilux is one of them.
Only One Lens?
So is this where the lens journey ends? After years and years of seeking out the perfect lens does the constant searching and testing suddenly end?
Well, no. I still love a great 35mm and I do have a soft spot for a 28mm but for now I am happy to be a single lens man.
To me, the joys of shooting stills with a Leica is that I can go out all day with a single lens and never feel like I missed a shot. I get into that frame of mind and I enjoy looking for moments rather than fumbling around in a gear bag looking for the wide angle lens. It is the limitation of a single lens that makes it so creatively freeing.
So even when I do get around to picking up a 35 or a 28 I will still carry just the one.
What about you? Are you a single lens type?