Leica Lux ASPH 50/1.4 ..and compared to Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5
Here are a few examples with my most expensive Leica M mount lens, the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 (‘Lux’). I bought a used Lux on eBay really to see if all the Leica hype was justified. To be honest I had no real emotion or excitement in buying the lens or even holding it when it arrived. It had to impress me first with its capabilities. I have other nice lenses such as the Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AI-s on the Nikon D800 and the Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2 and Zeiss ZM Sonnar C 50mm f1.5 for the Leica M9. The Lux had to beat these at its high price tag to secure a price in my Leica camera bag. I am almost pro non-Leica glass as like anyone I like to back the underdog. I use Russian lenses such as the Jupiter 3 50/1.5 (Soviet clone of the 1930s design Zeiss Sonnar) and Voigtlander glass such as the great value for money CV Nokton 40mm f1.4.
Can the Leica Summilux really be that good?
I took 3 lenses to London for some model test shoot street photography. I tried to rotate the lens I was using through the day however there are no real side by side comparison shots as I still had the fashion shoots to do. The 3 lenses selected were the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4, the Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5 and for wider shots the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii.
Once I got back I selected some of my favourites from the thumbnails images to post. I did not check the EXIF data until afterwards. Of the 17 photos taken so far 10 of those were with the Leica Lux ASPH, 4 with the ZM Sonnar and 3 with the CV Nokton 35/1.2. I think I was hoping the Zeiss ZM Sonnar would win but no, it seem the LUX ASPH 50mm is as good as the rave reviews make out.
Leica Summilux ASPH vs Zeiss ZM Sonnar – why is the Lux good?
1) The Summilux will focus slightly closer than 0.7M whereas the minimum focus distance of the Zeiss ZM Sonnar is 0.9M. This gives a more shallow DOF and nice bokeh.
2) Edge to edge sharpness across the image
3) Very sharp at infinity
4) No focus shift issues so can be used at ease at any aperture and can be relied upon.
5) Leica lenses hold their value.
6) Built in hood.
Leica Summilux ASPH vs Zeiss ZM Sonnar – why is the Sonnar better?
1) The ZM Sonnar is 2.5x cheaper yet produces just as good a Lux photo at 0.9M when shot wide open. I found it very difficult to tell what lens I had used for most of the photos.
2) The Zeiss ZM Sonnar is smaller and lighter and does not block the bottom right hand corner of the viewfinder.
3) Zeiss ZM lenses give photos a sharp constrasty look with a 3D pop subject-background separation and nice rendering from the softer corners of the image.
Thoughts so far..
I need to conduct some more scientific tests with side-by-side examples but at the moment I am very happy with the results from both the ZM Sonnar and Leica Summilux ASPH 50. Both lenses are very capable but as I like shallow depth of field images the Leica is winning at the moment. The Lux bokeh reminds me of the bokeh from the Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AI-s where is can appear to swirl behind the subject and change shape at the image corners. The Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-s also produces this bokeh look.
Leica Wedding Photography
I feel I could rely on the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 lens for Leica wedding photography on my Leica M9. I would not need to worry about focus shift found on the Zeiss ZM Sonnar. For documentary style wedding photography edge to edge sharpness shot wide open is great as the subjects are often not in the centre of the photo. The fast f1.4 aperture makes the Lux great for low light photography when shooting by available light such as during a wedding ceremony. The Zeiss ZM Planar 50/2 has similiar sharpness wide open however in low light f2 is often not bright enough for UK Leica weddings and the CV Nokton 40mm f1.4 lens is not as sharp wide open.
Example images with the Leica Summilux ASPH 50/1.4 on the Leica M9
Environmental Portraits – Models Angelique and Valentine
MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.uk – Leica Wedding Photographer