Cheap Autofocus Lenses for Leica
Here I cover some cheap autofocus lenses for Leica cameras. The plastic fantastic Panasonic Lumix 50mm f1.8 L mount lens is perhaps the ultimate budget option but there are other lenses to consider too. The compact and affordable Sigma 45mm f2.8 DG DN can be found used at great prices and what about the new economy line Leica L mount lenses. Read on to see my favourites plus sample photos.
Budget lens for Leica cameras?
Often when you’ve just bought a Leica camera you don’t have much money left to spend on lenses. Some Leica purists will say, what is the point of buying a nice Leica camera if you then put a cheap sub-par lens on it. Others like myself judge the equipment on the final image quality, not the badge. If I can get stunning results from a cheap plastic lens this can be a good first lens option until you have the cash to buy the expensive Leica lens you lust after.
Brands that make autofocus lenses for Leica
When we are talking about interchangeable autofocus lenses for Leica cameras there are 3 lens manufactures that make L mount lenses:
- Sigma DG DN and Sigma Art lenses are for full frame cameras like my Lumix S5 and Leica SL
- Sigma DC DN lenses are for APS-C cameras such as my Leica CL
- Panasonic Lumix S Lenses (Full frame)
- Leica SL lenses (designed for the Leica SL cameras)
- Leica TL lenses (designed for the APS-C Leica T, TL, CL type cameras)(now discontinued)
L mount alliance
The L-Mount Alliance is a partnership between Leica, Sigma and Panasonic (and more recently DJI), that started in 2018. The L mount is a universal mount being used by all three companies for their autofocus cameras and lenses. This is great news for Leica users as it gives us access to more affordable lenses from Sigma and Panasonic. The current line up of Sigma L mount lenses are highly regarded by many and equally many photographers value the Lumix S cameras as a cheaper Leica alternative.
Cheap autofocus lenses for Leica
The most affordable autofocus lens for Leica is the Panasonic Lumix S 50mm f1.8 and the second cheapest is the Sigma 45mm f2.8 DG DN lens. Both are full frame L mount lenses. If you are happy to buy lenses in used condition you can find some fantastic deals. Both of these lenses brings different benefits so lets cover each in turn.
Lumix S 50mm f1.8 kit lens
The Panasonic Lumix S 50mm f1.8 is sometimes sold as a kit lens option with the Panasonic Lumix S5 camera. This means you can often find almost new used lenses for very little money. I bought my copy of the lens on eBay and found a great deal. First impressions for me were “this is the cheapest feeling, most plastic lens I’ve picked up for years. What have I wasted my money on. It’s a joke. Give me a proper metal and glass lens any day”.
Before we talk about image quality here is this basic lens specs. See the slides in this video to see how the Lumix lens specs compares to the new Leica SL lenses –
- 9 Elements / 8 Groups
- 9 Aperture blades
- 67mm Filter size
- 0.45m MFD (Minimum focus)
- Weight 300g
Size Comparison – Lumix S 50mm f1.8 vs New Leica SL Lens
Panasonic Lumix 50mm f1.8 portraits
If you can get past the plastic feel, this Lumix lens can actually deliver some stunning photos. As a Leica portrait photographer here are some example photos using the Lumix 50mm f1.8 on my full frame Leica SL camera. I use a mist filter for some images to make the photos look less modern. (Find the filter listed in my KitList). Watch my YouTube video on the Lumix 50mm f1.8 vs new Leica SL lenses.
Here is a landscape photo shot with the lens wide open at f1.8 with the 50mm Lumix lens on the Leica SL camera. Impressive! (It was even featured on the “Explored” page on Flickr)
I’ve also use the Lumix 50mm f1.8 lens on my APS-C Leica CL camera. The lightweight plastic lens balances well on the little Leica CL body. With the 1.5x crop factor this lens equates to 75mm f2.5 (ish) equivalent (in terms of DOF*) which can still work well for portraits. Here is a sample image from one of my model photography workshops in London –
All photos shared in this post were captured in RAW and edited with MrLeica Lightroom presets.
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Bonus Tip! Cheap zoom lens for Leica SL
The cheapest zoom lens for Leica cameras that I am aware of is the Panasonic Lumix 20-60mm f3.5-f5.6 kit lens. If you buy this lens new it is not especially cheap however this lens is a common kit lens option when buying a Lumix S5 camera. This means that the used market is flooded with excellent almost new copies at great prices.
It’s rare to find a zoom lens offering the focal length of 20mm to 60mm so the wide end can be especially useful. This is a lightweight plastic lens like it’s 50mm cousin but it can still capture great images. Here is one example –
For wedding photography the 20-60mm zoom range can be really useful. (Normally I use manual focus lenses at weddings but sometimes I ask couples if I can use other equipment and most of the time they say yes) –
The used price of some L mount Sigma lenses can be similar to that of used Lumix lenses. The most affordable Sigma lens for Leica cameras is their Sigma 45mm f2.8 DG DN lens. This lens was sold as the kit lens for the full frame Sigma FP camera. As such you can find amazing deals on this lenses if you buy used. First impressions of the Sigma 45mm lens is it is a nice compact size with a solid metal design. It feels much better than the aforementioned Lumix 50mm f1.8 but the maximum aperture of f2.8 can be both limiting and lacklustre.
Here are the basic lens specs –
- 8 Elements / 7 Groups
- 7 Aperture blades
- 0.24m MFD (Minimum focus)
- 55mm Filter thread
- Weight – 215g
Sample photos with Sigma 45mm f2.8 on the Leica SL and Leica CL
First I share example photos with the Sigma 45mm f2.8 DG DN lens on the full frame Leica SL camera –
Next, here is the Sigma 45mm f2.8 lens on my APS-C Leica CL camera during a Leica workshop. The small size and low weight makes it a great pairing on the Leica CL but this setup will give you a 67.5mm f4 equivalent which is less exciting than using a faster lens –
YouTube video on the Sigma 45mm f2.8 lens
Other Sigma lenses for Leica
I’ve written a Sigma lenses for Leica article in the past but some of my other favourite Sigma lenses are the following. Prices for these lenses are more expensive than the Sigma 45mm lens but if you buy used you can still find some good offers –
- Sigma 24mm f2 DG DN – Watch on YouTube
- Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN – Watch on YouTube
- Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN – Watch on YouTube
- Sigma 90mm f2.8 DG DN – Watch on YouTube
Check used prices on eBay:
- eBay COM: https://ebay.to/2F0HoxY
- eBay UK: https://ebay.to/3ijzle2
Cheap autofocus Leica SL lenses – Economy line
If you know anything about Leica lens you’ll know they are not cheap. But what if Leica made some cheap-er lenses for photographers on a budget. Well the good news is they now do. There are now 3 more affordable Leica badged lenses available for the Leica SL lens line. Two recent additions new for 2023 and one slightly older. The lenses are as follows:
Are you a Leica User?
Leica Vario-Elmar-SL 24-70mm f2.8 ASPH
The Vario-Elmar-SL lens is a Sigma-Leica collaboration, similar to their partnership in the past with one of the Leica R lenses. The 24-70mm zoom lens can also be bought with a Sigma badge on for a lower price tag. The Leica version has a more premium feel and matches the other Leica SL lenses but optically both lenses have been shown to capture near identical results. (I’ll try to get this lens to review so follow me and/ or subscribe to the YouTube channel).
New! Leica Summicron-SL 50mm f2 ASPH
New for 2023, Leica released the lightweight economy version of their popular Leica APO-Summicron-SL 50mm f2 lens. This new non-APO lens is around 50% lighter than the APO yet still retains the same Leica SL lens metal body design. The new lens is more compact than the APO and is the cheaper of the 2 new Leica lenses. This lens and the new 35mm Summicron-SL lens are now being offered as kit lenses when you purchase a new Leica SL2-S camera.
New! Leica Summicron-SL 35mm f2 ASPH
Leica also introduced the lightweight and budget friendly version of their Leica APO-Summicron-SL 35mm f2 lens. The new non-APO lens weighs only 400g and focuses down to a mere 0.24m which is impressive. This is how close it will focus on my Leica SL –
Both new lenses have the same 67mm filter size and cost under £2000. This is cheap for a Leica SL lens but it’s 4-5x more expensive than the mentioned Sigma 45mm and Panasonic Lumix 50mm lenses. Some people suggest that these new Leica SL lenses are rebadged Lumix lenses but Leica have not confirmed this. The optical formula is the same, the dimensions are almost identical but there are a few small differences. Often in these instances there is some sort of collaboration behind the scenes to allow Leica to offer the new lenses at a lower price point.
YouTube – Lumix vs New Leica vs Leica APO
Watch this video below to see how the new Leica Summicron-SL ASPH lenses compare to the more affordable Lumix S 35mm and 50mm lenses (and how they compare to the existing Leica SL APO lenses).
Why buy autofocus lenses?
If you follow me on socials etc you know that I mostly use manual focus lenses on my Leica cameras via a Leica M-L adapter. So why buy autofocus lenses? For me autofocus lenses offer two benefits over manual focus. First, if I need to work one handed (so I can hold a reflector or light for taking portraits) autofocus lets me do so. Second, if like me you don’t have 20:20 vision, autofocus lets you nail focus even with fast lenses. I carry the Lumix 50mm f1.8 lens in my bag for these occasions (mostly for the one-handed shots).
With some non-Leica cameras autofocus is great as the viewfinder might not be good enough for manual focus. With the Leica SL and Leica CL cameras it’s very easy to manual focus lenses which is why I own 95% manual lenses. I also prefer Leica M /LTM lenses as I can use them on film cameras too.
Cheap autofocus lens for Leica – Summary
Despite me owning better lenses than some of those mentioned in this post I’ve been happy with the results I achieved. I feel the two new Leica Summicron lenses offer a fantastic starter kit for anyone looking to get into the Leica SL ecosystem. That said, if you don’t mind a cheap plastic feel the Lumix lenses offer unbeatable value.
Leica vs Sigma vs Lumix lenses
What if we consider Sigma lenses too. Sigma DG DN autofocus lenses perhaps offer the best middle ground of the 3 brands with great optics in a metal body at a fair price (and quite compact). Better built that Lumix lenses and with manual aperture controls. Less expensive than Leica SL lenses. If you are a 35mm lens user definitely consider the Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN lens. That would be my value choice of the 3 brands for 35mm. Sigma don’t make a small fast 50mm lens so the cheap plastic Lumix S 50mm f1.8 wins for value.
> Buy the Lumix S 50mm f1.8 – Here
Buying affordable lenses for your Leica camera
If you need money to buy your next lens check out ways to make money with your existing camera kit with my eBook below –