Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Part of the joy of shooting with a Leica is to discover vintage lenses or unique lenses and see how they perform on their cameras. Usually, vintage lenses, especially 35mm and 50mm variants, will come at a premium. But what if you could get that vintage Summilux look for around US$400? Say hello to the 7 Artisans 35mm 1.4 Leica M Mount lens. This well-built homage to the vintage 35 Summilux renders extremely well for being a fraction of the cost of a Leica, plus it looks great on an M body.
Let’s talk about this lens on the Leica MP à la carte film camera, it looks beautiful. This is a stunning looking lens, 7 Artisans did a fantastic job in terms of design. It matches this camera, but the build quality on this lens is really impressive. The build quality in this is really good, it’s all metal and weighs in at 404 grams, so it has some weight to it. It feels like it has a very Leica-esque feel to it.
Now, it’s not the same exact build quality as a Summilux, but to be frank, every person that’s picked up this lens has been impressed. In terms of the aperture ring, there is a slight click but I think 7 Artisans could have given it a little bit more click, a little bit more tension would be fantastic. As for the lens hood, it’s built-in, which is nice. It has this look that’s very reminiscent of the Summilux that I’ve used before, however, it’s not a turn and lock.
Let’s talk about optical performance now. Inside of this lens, you have 10 elements, nine groups, with various different types of glass in there. Your minimal focusing distance is 0.7 meters, and the filter diameter is 49 millimetres, so keep that in mind if you want to use any ND filters because if you’re going to shoot with film, you better get an ND filter for this because, at f1.4, you’re going to need it.
The one thing about the image quality from this lens is that it has a really interesting character to it. It reminds me of the pre-aspherical 50mm Summilux, 35mm Summilux lenses out there; it has that look to it where the bokeh is a little busy and has a little swirl to it. Some people like this, some people don’t. I personally love it, that is what people call the Leica look, that is what we used to get out of those old lenses and that’s what you’re seeing out of the 7 Artisans 35mm f1.4. And what’s also great is that you don’t have to put onto a Leica camera, you can adapt it. I have a Panasonic Lumix S1R I’ve been testing, I’ve adapted the lens to that, as well as the Fujifilm XS10 which looks great as well.
We tested the lens with the Lumix S1R to see how this lens rendered 47 megapixels and we were very very impressed. Image quality wide open at f1.4 is incredibly sharp, and you’ve got some fall off of course, and when you get into the fall off you’re going to see a little bit of aberration, some purple fringing, a little bit of green fringing and such. That is the nature of this lens and you’ll see it through various different images.
It renders like a vintage 35mm Summilux from Leica, at a price point that is far below a vintage 35mm Summilux lens. You’re gonna get that type of rendering, so if you don’t like a very busy bokeh, if you don’t like an image that has a lot of green and purple fringing, this might not be the lens for you. But if you like a little bit of character, or you like something different to your images from all these modern lenses out there, you might find yourself really enjoying this lens.
The lens has this 3D pop to it that I really, really like. This isn’t a perfect lens, but it’s a US$400 lens and I am very happy with what it is and how it’s rendering. The images that you get out of it are very impressive, especially at f1.4.
Final thoughts on the lens, the image quality is actually pretty good. It’s not the sharpest lens out there, but it’s sharp enough, especially at f1.4. Of course, when you stop it down, it does get sharper but I love the bokeh, I love the character to this lens. It’s just different from all the great, perfect lens that we’re seeing out there in the mirrorless market these days. It resolves well on a 47-megapixel camera, as well as a 24-megapixel camera, so whatever mirrorless camera system you have, you can use this lens on it if you want. It’s a fun lens, it doesn’t break the bank, and best of all, it looks great on a Leica camera.
Content by Bobby Tonelli