Light Lens Lab Cooke Speed Panchro II 50mm f2 (for Leica)
If you saw one of my recent videos on YouTube (I’ll link it in this post) I just bought the new Light Lens Lab Cooke Speed Panchro II 50mm f2 for Leica. This is a brand new old lens so for anyone like me that has a preference for using classic lenses you’re going to love it!
Who are Light Lens Lab?
The first question you may have is who are Light Lens Lab? It’s not a brand I’ve ever spoken about, and if I’m completely honest I thought they were just another cheap lens brand from China. It wasn’t until I watched the Ted Forbes videos (Art of Photography) that I realised they were different.
Taken directly from the Light Lens Lab website they describe themselves as “Founded in 2018 by Mr. Zhou in Shangrao, China, Light Lens Lab is dedicated to optical research, development, and manufacturing of high-quality photographic equipment. We develop new methods to recreate legendary optics and reveal their otherwise cost-prohibitive performance and look”.
Multiple amazing lenses
If you have heard of Light Lens Lab already you’ll know that they’ve released a series of exciting lenses. When I placed my order I decided to purchase 3 lenses. The Cooke Speed Panchro replica was my main interest. I then decided to order their ELCAN replica as it was being discontinued and finally I saw the size of the collapsible 35mm 8 Element so I had to get that for my LTM cameras. Small size is really important to me and I value smaller lenses over larger lenses.
3 Light Lens Lab lenses
The full descriptions are: (and I will link videos and articles once published) –
- LLL Speed Panchro II 50mm f2 (M Mount) – Video 1 | Video 2 | Video 3 | Blog
- LLL ELCAN 50mm f2 (M Mount) – Video 1 | Video 2 | Blog
- LLL 35mm f2 8-Element Collapsible (LTM Mount) – Video 1 | Video 2 | Blog
Rangefinder coupled for Leica M cameras
The great news for fellow Leica shooters is that Light Lens Lab lenses are rangefinder coupled to work seamlessly with Leica M mount cameras. This isn’t true for all brands that make replica vintage lenses in M mount. Thanks LLL! I don’t mind buying lenses if I can use them for film too so this aspect is valuable for me.
Are you a Leica User?
What are Cooke lenses?
If you Google What are Cooke lenses? you will get answers like “A Cooke lens is a photographic lens made by Cooke Optics Limited of England. It has the best quality among cinema lenses and can be recognized because the “C” logo is engraved in each lens. Cooke Optics Ltd began making cine lenses in 1916 and is a camera lens manufacturing company based in Leicester. Cooke Optics is a spin-off of the company Taylor-Hobson”.
Cooke Speed Panchro II 50mm f2
You may know that some of the original Cooke lenses were adapted to Leica M mount but they are both expensive and difficult to find in clean condition. Luckily for us the talented guys at Light Lens Lab have recreated the famous 1940s cine lens in Leica M mount. The lens is priced in line with other current production Leica M mount lenses yet it has all the character of a classic lens.
LLL Speed Panchro II
If you follow this blog you’ll know I have quite a few vintage lenses for Leica M mount but I’ve never owned a Cooke lens. Some of my old lenses have developed fungus since buying them so it’s nice to have the ability to purchase a new old lens that’s clean, smooth and ready to go.
I’m fortunate to own multiple 50mm lenses for Leica M mount so it’s very easy for me to compare lenses. The new Light Lens Lab Cooke Speed Panchro II 50mm f2 is longer than most 50mm lenses that I own for Leica M mount. It’s a longer thinner design with a solid feel being made of brass. Very smooth to focus and very Leica like in the build quality.
With most modern lenses, say all of those from Voigtlander, I don’t use lens hoods. This keeps my camera setup more compact when packing for my overseas model shoots. With the LLL Speed Panchro 50mm lens you will need the hood if shooting in bright conditions. This lens flares easily so I only really use the lens with the hood attached. The LLL hood is a Reid-design, all metal and vented for use on rangefinder cameras.
The famous Cooke look
The Cooke look as it’s known can be described as a warmer colour tone, smooth transitions, heavy vignetting and barrel distortion. I add vignetting in some of my MrLeica presets and I photograph people so the warm tone is pleasing for the skin. As expected the Cooke look is fantastic for both recording my YouTube videos and photographing models.
Lens delivery and import tax
A common question I receive is did I have to pay import tax on receipt of the lens and was it a fast shipment. The days pass in a blur for me so I’m not sure exactly how long it took but it felt very fast and Light Lens Lab ship so you don’t have to pay import tax. I ordered directly from their website to do this. If you buy on eBay it’s likely you will pay duty and import fees.
I have no affiliation with Light Lens Lab but if you buy here you wont pay import tax – LLL Speed Panchro II
Probably like you when buying a lens I get very excited and can’t wait to test it. I don’t have a regular muse I can call on these days (hopefully it will be easier once I move close to London) so I went out on my bike looking for things to photograph. When you’ve ridden the same streets 100 times nothing seems exciting so I eventually settled on photographing my bike instead.
I’m loving the look of the lens, the bokeh and the artistic rendering. Now I need a model!
It was lucky timing that I’d booked a shoot day with a model friend just after the lens arrived. I used the Cooke Speed Panchro 50mm f2 on the Leica SL and the ELCAN 50mm f2 on my Leica M3. Here are a few samples! Big thanks to Molly for the shoot. Not a model, just a regular pretty person that I spotted when searching Instagram. Follow the blog and I’ll mention it in a newsletter once I’ve added more example photos here.
Flying to Italy to test the Speed Panchro II
Fortunately I had also timed my purchase so the lens(es) arrived before a scheduled trip to Italy. Tobi, one of my awesome long supporting Patreons had kindly invited me to Italy to help cover an International body painting event in Fermo. I thought the artistic (vintage) rendering would be perfect for the job. Here are some sample photos from non-body painted models in Italy and I will post more to this article once I process the files.
All Italy photos were shot with my Leica SL in RAW (DNG) and edited with my Leica M9 presets applied. (Yes I mix and match my MrLeica Lightroom presets).
Need Leica Presets?
YouTube videos showing the LLL Speed Panchro
If you missed it I shared a YouTube video showing the LLL Speed Panchro and I’ll make a full more detailed video after more testing.
Is the Speed Panchro II good shot wide open?
If, like me, you buy a 50mm f2 lens to shoot at f2 you’ll find the centre sharpness is pretty good and the bokeh is at its best. Sharpness and contrast improves at f2.8 and again by f4. When I will shoot the LLL Speed Panchro II 50mm on film I will likely trying some photos at f2.8-f4 for that added bite and clarity.
For digital use I prefer to shoot the lens wide open on the Leica SL / Leica M240 to get the full magic Cooke look. I just need to be careful with some of my off centre composed model photos as their eyes can be a little soft when towards the edge of the frame. As expected I know.
Would I recommend the lens (so far)?
Absolutely! I prefer the smaller size of the ELCAN (written review still to follow) but I find myself always picking up the Cooke lens over the ELCAN for digital images so far. It’s just more arty I think which suits my taste for model photography. That said, for film work with my Leica M3 and Leica M4-P (so far) I’ve used the ELCAN over the Cooke lens as it’s sharper at the same aperture.
I have another private 1:1 model photography Leica workshop coming up in London so I’ll be taking the Speed Panchro 50mm for more testing / example photos. If you’d like to try model photography get in touch to book a workshop day.
Leica M3 + LLL Speed Panchro II
I finally had the chance to shoot the Light Lens Lab SPII lens on film. My camera of choice was my favourite Leica M3 single stroke. You can see the lens on the camera in the cover photo of the second YouTube video.
LLL 50mm Speed Panchro on film – Portraits
Here are some of my favourite film scans from the roll of 35mm Fuji Acros 100 –
More Speed Panchro on film photos
Full video to follow on YouTube, so feel free to subscribe if not already done so. I’ll post some more BTS (behind the scenes) videos on Patreon soon. More from Italy and you can see all images shot with Molly too.
You may also like – LLL 35mm f2 8-Element
Here is my new tiny Light Lens Lab 35mm lens I mentioned –