Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH II + Leica Workshops Rotterdam
This month I was invited to The Netherlands to run a 2 day Leica workshop in Rotterdam. One of my students lent me the new Leica Summilux-M 50mm f1.4 ASPH II lens to review. I was excited to try it out and do a 50mm Leica Summilux comparison – ASPH I vs ASPH II. Coming up are photos after 48hrs of using the new 50mm ASPH II lens plus behind the scenes shots of what we get up to during a Leica workshop. (YouTube review also linked below).
Leica workshop in The Netherlands
Two Dutch photographers (and both Patreons) asked me to meet them in Rotterdam to run 1:1 private Leica workshops. Being as awesome as my Patreons are, they both decided to invite each other to each others workshop. Thomas and Hidde had never met yet both enjoy using Leica cameras and both film and digital. Me going to The Netherlands allowed them to meet each other and it worked out really nicely.
Plan for each model photography workshop day
My standard full day Leica workshops (models or not) are 8 hours in duration. For some sessions we focus on mastering your Leica camera but for Rotterdam it was how to photograph a model. We arranged two models for each day so 4 in total. Each model had their own style, personality and varying degrees of experience. I then helped pose and direct the models and suggest where to shoot for the best light. Thomas kindly short listed some photoshoot location ideas ahead of the trip so I then looked for opportunities/ areas to use at each location.
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New Leica Summilux-M 50mm f1.4 ASPH v2
If you’ve seen my YouTube videos you’ll know I love testing lenses. When Hidde offered to let me try the new M mount Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH v2 or ASPH II I jumped at the opportunity. As a long term user of the previous Leica Summilux-M 50mm f1.4 ASPH I lens I was interested to see how the 2 lenses compare. The new lens now focuses to 0.45m which is a big deal for Leica M users but that’s not all.
Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH II vs ASPH I comparison
Here are the biggest differences between the 50mm ASPH II vs ASPH I. Watch the video linked below to see the full comparison review, Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 v2 vs v1.
- MFD – ASPH II is now 0.45m, ASPH I is 0.7m
- Flare – ASPH II lens flare is more controlled and less distracting
- Bokeh – ASPH II bokeh seems slightly smoother and rounder
- Aperture blades – ASPH II now has 11 aperture blades not 9
- Resolution – ASPH II lens sharpness is similar in the centre to ASPH I
- Corner sharpness – ASPH II lens is much sharper at the edges of the frame
- Contrast – ASPH II has slightly increased contrast = more pop
Sample photos – Leica Summilux 50mm ASPH II in Rotterdam
Before we get into the main photos, here are a few Leica Summilux 50mm ASPH II sample photos taken in Rotterdam.
New Summilux lenses from Leica – 50mm f1.4 ASPH II and 35mm f1.4 ASPH II
Get closer with the 50mm Summilux ASPH II
The new generation of Leica Summilux lenses now let photographers get closer to their subjects. Historically we have been limited by the 0.7m minimum focus distance of the Leica rangefinder design. New Leica lenses let you get closer but you will need to focus via a Visoflex/ EVF or LiveView (using the rear LCD). This is only a limitation if you are using Leica M rangefinder camera. If you are using the Leica SL or Leica CL mirrorless cameras it’s all very easy. Here is me taking close up detail photos of Thomas’s cameras to try out the feature.
Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH II – Lens flare
As mentioned briefly above, the new 50mm Summilux ASPH II flare is better controlled than the previous ASPH 50mm Leica lens. Less of a spray pattern and less distracting. That said you can still get the lens to flare when shooting towards the sun. Here are some 50mm f1.4 Leica Summilux ASPH II lens flare photos –
Improved lens bokeh – 50mm Summilux ASPH II
The topic of lens bokeh is probably more subjective than lens flare. I’m not sure if my eyes were deceiving me but I thought that the bokeh looked slightly better with the version 2 50mm Summilux ASPH compared to version 1. This would make sense now that the lens has 11 aperture blades instead of 9.
Leica Summilux 50mm 1.4 ASPH II lens sharpness
From my testing, the lens sharpness looked similar when comparing Leica Summilux-M 50mm f1.4 ASPH I vs ASPH II in the centre at infinity. At at a close focus distance of 0.7m both lenses were similar but the ASPH II was perhaps very slightly sharper. In the mid zone at infinity the new ASPH II lens is sharper than the ASPH v1. At the edges of the frame the new 50mm Summilux ASPH v2 is much improved from f1.4 onward until around f8.
Leica portrait workshop – 50mm Leica Summilux ASPH II
For day one shoot one with Tessey, I was in my usual B&W shooting mode. That being, the Leica SL set to B&W JPEG mode, seeing black and white in the viewfinder and just adding a B&W MrLeica preset to the RAW files in post. Being the first shoot it was more me helping everyone, getting them relaxed and suggesting poses for Tessey. Here are a few portrait images using both the Summilux 50mm ASPH I and ASPH II.
Leica Summilux 50mm ASPH I portraits
Note the lens flare from the version 1 Leica Summilux ASPH lens. After this quick test, I shot the rest of the 2 day workshop using the new 50mm ASPH II lens.
As you can see, the version 1 50mm ASPH lens is still a fantastic performer for portraits.
Portraits with the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH II lens
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Leica + Godox light portraits
For the evening photoshoot we met Veena. We were lucky to have a nice sunset so I was teaching how to use a bi-colour Godox LED light as a fill light. You can change the colour temperature ofa bi-colour or RGB LED light to suit your ambient light. I use Sirui, Boling and other LED light brands. You can find my preferred lighting on the KitList tab, both LED lights and flash lights. For these photos I was shooting the Leica SL at ISO 800 with the Leica Summilux ASPH II 50mm lens wide open at f1.4. The Godox LED light was set to the minimum power and was still sufficiently bright for our needs.
*Watch the explanation video of how we lit these images (all photos shared) on Patreon
Day 2 – 50mm Leica Summilux 50mm ASPH v2 portraits
For the second workshop day we had more hot sunny weather. We kept it very simple and I was showing how to capture available light portraits with no additional reflectors or modifiers. Once you learn to see light, that makes it much easier to find light to use for flattering portraits. For these portraits, again I took the photos with the Leica SL (in RAW) using the new 50mm Leica Summilux ASPH v2 lens at f1.4 and edited with a quick MrLeica preset applied in Lightroom.
Download Leica presets
Learn how to work a location for portraits
Once you’ve shot portraits for a few years you’ll probably realise that you can get lots of different photos all from one location just be change the angles. New photographers will look for a specific location (you often see this with wedding photographers) whereas experienced photographers look for nice light. I am much happier with good or interesting light in a very simple boring location.
Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH II colours
As you probably know, I normally shoot in black and white but our models asked me to shoot colour on day 2. At first I wasn’t really feeling it but once I got into a flow I was loving the colours. The Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH II colours are really vibrant and I think the lens added to the photos in that regard. As above, all photos are just RAW plus MrLeica preset applied in Lightroom.
Perfect Leica portrait lens – 50mm f1.4 ASPH II
Many photographers would consider 50mm being too wide for portraits. Personally I think 50mm is near perfect. The new Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH II lens is a stellar portrait lens for Leica cameras. Zero complaints from me. If you want one do-everything lens for your Leica camera this might be that lens.
What is the best Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 version?
As you may know their are multiple versions of the famous Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 lens. If you love lenses with more character you’ll probably appreciate the Pre-ASPH Summilux 50mm lenses. You can see me test the version 2 Summilux 50mm Pre-ASPH lens in the video below.
If you prefer better controlled lenses you now have 2 ASPH lenses to chose from . The original Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH that I own or the new ASPH II.
Verdict – Do you need the new 50mm Summilux ASPH II?
I think it depends what’s important to you in an image. Let’s ignore the close focus possibility of the new lens and only look at optical performance. If you want the best performing 50mm lens for Leica M mount at f1.4 I think there is no question that the ASPH II lens now sets the new benchmark. If edge detail is important to you the v2 Summilux ASPH lens is a big improvement over the v1 ASPH lens. If like me, you shoot mostly portraits I would argue that the previous 50mm Summilux ASPH lens is good enough. Both the v1 and v2 are great in the centre at f1.4 as seen is some of the portraits shared above.
If you are happy to shoot at f2 then you can also consider the Leica Summicron 50mm f2 APO and the Voigtlander 50mm f2 APO-Lanthar.
Price of the best 50mm f1.4 lens for Leica M mount?
Good things don’t come cheap, especially if they have a Leica logo on them! Check B&H for stock and the current prices. (Available in silver or black).
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Can’t afford a Leica Summilux 50mm v2 lens?
No problem. There are near endless awesome 50mm lenses available, new and old. Check my list of 50mm lens reviews!
Best Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH II alternative lens?
If your primary interest is absolute image quality, I would strongly consider the Voigtlander APO-Lanthar 50mm f2 VM lens. From my testing, the Voigtlander 50mm APO lens easily out performs the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH at f2. The APO bokeh is also much nicer too from f2 onward.
Affordable vintage 50mm lens
If you need something cheaper than the Voigtlander 50mm f2 APO my top choice is my Zeiss Opton Sonnar 50mm f1.5. From f2 this lens is excellent. I actually had the Zeiss Sonnar lens with my in Rotterdam so here are a few sample photos.
Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f1.5 portraits
Looking to buy or sell a 50mm lens?
You can now check out the new BUY/SELL LEICA page –