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I made a minor transgression. The 35mm summicron ASPH generally falls outside the LLFNP price range of $2000.  I justify my transgression because this lens was the first rangefinder lens I owned and it came with my Leica M. Therefore, it is difficult to say what I really paid for it. In my defense, you can sometimes find them for less than $2000 from private sellers and they are routinely found for just over $2000. Either way, I did what I did and I apologize because this lens doesn’t quite fit the criteria I set forth for LLFNP. 

If you are 35mm pig, like I am, you will likely forgive me and we can all live happily ever after.   If, on the other hand, an ASPH summicron is not in your future because you can’t or don’t want to spend that much, all is not lost. There are several iterations of the 35mm summicron that warrant your consideration. I haven’t used them so we need to turn to the internet. The following should at least save you some time with your research and possibly help you forgive me for my transgression. 

There are six versions of the Leica summicron 35mm. References: Leicaphilia,Overgaard

  1. Version 1: 1958-1969. Three versions including a screw mount +/- goggles.  
  2. Version 2: 1969-1971: Made in Germany
  3. Version 3: 1971-1979: Same optics as #2. Made in Canada. 
  4. Version 4: 1979-1997. “The King of Bokeh.”  Clip on plastic hood. 
  5. Version 5 (ASPH 1) 1996-2016 . Clip on square hood.  Thicker and heavier than previous versions. This is the lens I am reviewing.  
  6. Version 6 (ASPH 2): 2016- present.  Square metal screw on hood. 

As I mentioned before, I haven’t tested these lenses so I refer you to two websites that will offer some more flavor on the differences between the different versions. Remarkably, they did side by sides with all of the different versions.

  1. Street Sillhouettes:
  2. Ken Rockwell.

Building on that knowledge, I went ahead and did you a favor by spending an inordinate amount of time in the forums trying to tease out any differences between the different versions. Truth be told, this was personal because if I happen to trash my ASPH Summicron by accident in the future, I will be right there with you deciding which version to get.  What I learned was that the consensus of the internet is that all of the versions are good but 1) wide open sharpness is better with the more modern versions 2) the more modern versions are sharper across the frame and 3) older versions have more character. Shocker. Right? Don’t waste your time in the forums on this one. As of June, 2020 that is largely all there is to learn. 

Based on all of that, it seems that you don’t NEED to get the newest version. Knowing what I know now, if I had to do it over, I would probably get a Summicron 35mm Version 4 or a 35mm Summarit 2.4 and 1) save a few bucks and 2) get a better lens hood. The clip on lens hood on my version 5 is a bit janky but I am jumping the gun by talking about the lens hood. 

On garden gnomes and parked cars

Nothing to see here folks. Just a perfect little rangefinder lens with a sweet focusing tab. I have nothing meaningful nor intelligent to offer regarding usability so I won’t waste your time. 

Beware of the lens hood. I tried to pick up the lens by the hood once but the little clips weren’t clipped in all the way so I almost dropped the lens. Yes that was user error but if it happened to me it is possible I am not the only klutz. I don’t understand why Leica would try to reinvent the lens hood given that bayonet and screw mounts worked fine for 50 years. It appears that they agree with this assessment because this annoying clip-in system was abandoned on newer models. 

Does it have SOUL

Yes, but don’t take it from me. Not yet anyway. Take it from my wife who is a graphic designer(1) who is painfully critical with imagery. Of late, she sounds like a broken record when she says  commands  “you are bringing the Leica right?” The real world translation is “are you brining the Summicron 35mm?” She knows images. She doesn’t know gear.  She doesn’t differentiate lenses from camera bodies.  I know what she means because she can pick out images from the Summicron 35mm ASPH in a lineup. 

You can also take it from about 100 dog owners and countless other people looking at pictures of the aforementioned dog owners feet and their dogs.  A few years ago, I did a book project for a local brewery. Some of the images are at the end of this post.  The pet owners and people looking at those images are just regular old people so take their opinion with a grain of salt. However, if there is any wisdom of crowds the reaction to those images is in excess of what any pictures of a dog and human feet (at least one that I took) should garner. That reaction wasn’t just “Awwww. Look at the cute dogs.” I know this because I frequent the brewery and go creepy stealth missions to eavesdrop when people are looking at the book. The people looking at the book don’t seem to own the vocabulary to describe what they like about the images but they routinely talk about things like “depth” and “richness.” I am not 100% certain what they mean because asking them after I stalked them would be even more creepy but I choose to believe that there is something special about those images that grabbed them; and that something special comes, in part, from the soul of this camera lens. 

Gosh that sounded cheesy. Spoiler alert. There is more cheese on the way. Grab some crackers

Now you know what my wife and what bar dwellers and 100 pet owners in San Diego think about the 35mm Summicron ASPH I guess it is my turn. I saved my opinion for last not because it is interesting but because I am having difficulty describing my impression. The best way I can describe this lens is by analogy so here goes. 

If you ever have the opportunity to surround yourself with parents that have body image disorders, you should take the opportunity.  If you cant find any in your neighborhood, you should move to North County San Diego. They are too numerous to count around here. 

One entertaining trend (2) is that parents with body image disorders proclaim (yes they make an actual proclamation) that their kid will never eat any sugar. NO SUGAR. They explain to any and all who will listen that they are going to deny their kid sugar in an effort to prevent them from developing a sweet tooth. Long term, this will somehow prevent them from developing their own body image disorder, help them avoid the Freshman 15 (3),  and they can live happily ever after eating beets and flax seeds with abandon. For the record, when they are making their proclamations they don’t really mention the body image stuff or the freshman 15 but, from experience, this is what it is really all about.

Anyway, what inevitably happens is that by the time the third birthday comes around mom is exhausted from fighting the sugar peddlers for 36 months and grandma is bored of the NO SUGAR game. So, grandma takes it upon herself to feign dementia and gives the kid some cake with pink frosting. The exhausted mom doesn’t have the energy to fight back, realizes it is too late, and the kid manages to swallow a mouthful of pink frosting, drip some on the table, and smear the rest on her face. 

You know what happens next.

What happens next is that the kid stops in their tracks, their eyes light up, and even though they don’t say anything you can tell they are thinking “What just happened in my mouth? This cant be real. Peppa Pig. Um Peppa. You didn’t tell me about this pink stuff.” 

There should be an instagram account for sugar deprived kids eating sugar for the first time. My bet is that the internet would invent a name for the emotion that a kid feels for the first time sugar lights up their brain. A new emotion is needed to describe the feeling because happiness, joy, etc. don’t really do that feeling justice. From what I can tell it is something along the lines of joy x 37. 

And there you have it. You made it through another long winded story so just I can tell you that the first time I saw images from the Leica Summicron 35mm ASPH, I was like a 3 year old sugar deprived little girl eating frosting for the first time. Joy x 37.  

If you came here looking for the standard camera lens review where I talk about bokeh, barrel distortion, and all of that, you know you are at the wrong place. That has been done before and, honestly, I dont think it is all that helpful. If however, you wont be satisfied until I say those things, it is sharp across the image, it is solid wide open, it flares like any modern lens (e.g. more than Zeiss but similar to everything else), there is no distortion, and the bokeh is not pig vomit. Does that help? I didn’t think so. 

So did I keep it? 

Stop it with the Leica fan boy nonsense. You think you are so smart now don’t you? You should know me better than that. I like Joy x 37 but I hate traveling with a $2000 lens because I am always nervous I am going to break it. Work insurance doesn’t cover damage during personal travel. 

So before you start hurling disparaging “Leica fanboy” remarks my way you should also remember that I started this project partly because I wanted to know for myself, once and for all, if I really do need to spend this much on a lens. When I started, all I owned was this 35mm lens and a less expensive 28mm which was only meh. If the less expensive route can be justified, I justify it. 

To learn whether or not I kept this lens and how it compares to it’s peers, I would really appreciate it if you check out my Leica Lenses for Normal People: Recommended List. If you are like me, I am 98% sure I can save you some time and money with your purchasing decisions. 

Notes: 

  1. You know those La Gear kicks you had in the 90’s she is on the patent on those
  2. The term “Freshman 15” is an expression commonly used in the United States that refers to an amount of weight gained during a student’s first year at college. In Australia and New Zealand it is sometimes referred to as First Year Fatties, Fresher Spread, or Fresher Five, the latter referring to a five-kilogram gain. Wikipedia
  3. Another proclamation is that they say their kids will never have an iPad, cell phone, or social media until they are older. That never works out either. The devices usually start before the diapers end. 

Sample Images

summicron 35mm ASPH sample image 2summicron 35mm ASPH sample image 4summicron 35mm ASPH sample image 6summicron 35mm ASPH sample image 7summicron 35mm ASPH sample image 8

summicron 35mm ASPH sample image 9