Leica 35mm Summicron ASPH vers. 2
Do I like Leica's new 35mm Summicron, ASPH version 2? Let me first get this out of the way. I love the 35mm focal length, and I love small Leica lenses. So what's there not to like. End of review. Simple right? Not that simple. What if you already have the previous version 35mm Summicron ASPH, version 1? Then what? Should you upgrade to the newer one?
To provide some context to this review, I think we need to backtrack a little, and take a quick look at the previous version 35 Cron. To me, the previous 35 Cron was the lens to end all lens - it was the lens to replace all my previous loves - ranging from the 35 Lux all the way up to the 50 Noct. I loved the 35 Cron, because to me, it represented everything that Leica's suppose to be - light, compact, and sharp. It was fast enough, if need be. I also like the range of it's depth of field. And to satisfy my obsessive compulsive behavior, the previous version 35 Cron is 6 bit encoded, and uses 39mm filters - not that it matters anymore, unless you shoot film.
But the previous version 35 Cron does have it's share of "handling characteristics" - to borrow an euphemism from automotive connoisseurs. For starters, the rubber lens hood can be difficult to attach. And if you're not careful with attaching the metal clips of the rubber hood on the lens, it can scratch the paint off your lens. For me, being a particular laissez faire Leica shooter, that has already happened to me.
Another problem with this rubber lens hood is that it pops out from time to time, if not fitted on properly. And I have heard from a Hong Kong Leica dealer that this lens hood have been known to loosen the filters off the lens - though this I cannot imagine happening.
To solve the problem of the hood used on the previous generation Summicron, this new version has a screw in metallic one, like the hood on the current versions 35mm Summilux ASPH and the 21mm Super Angulon. It's a bigger lens hood, compared to the previous version's rubber clip on hood. As a result, the new hood would not pop out by accident, nor would it scratch the paint on the surface of the lens. However, this new metallic lens hood does make the new 35 Cron noticeably bigger (with the hood on), although it's only slightly bigger without the hood.
As a look, I do like the new lens hood, for the superficial reasons of it being new and looking new and contemporary. However, it should be known that I don't like the new lens hood for street photography. Why?
1. It attracts more attention, because it looks better and more substantial than the previous version
2. It can hurt when the hood bangs onto you or onto someone else in a crowd
3. The black paint on the metal lens hood can scratch off if it bangs into something abrasive
In addition, the new lens hood blocks more of the viewfinder the the previous rubber lens hood - but this has never been a big deal to me.
Okay... so I've talked endlessly about this lens hood! What about the optics, then?
The new 35mm Summicron is slightly sharper wide open with better bokeh. Stopped down, the difference appear less perceptible - if at all. Even when I conducted a side by side comparison of sample images between the updated version and the previous version, finding any difference was like splitting hair - I really didn't see much of a difference.
For sample comparison between the current version 35mm Summicron ASPH vers. 2, previous version Summicron ASPH, and for good measure, the pre-aspherical 35mm Summicron version IV, please click here.
In conclusion, depending on how one looks at the differences between the new 35mm Summicron and the previous version 35mm Summicron, you can either say that the improvements are optically significant, or that the improvements are incremental and not evolutionary. However, I have a feeling that this updated version is probably designed for future higher megapixel M bodies in mind.
At 24 megapixel, the new and previous version 35mm Summicron may appear similar, but I suspect the similarity changes at 36 or more megapixels, where the newer version would render sharpness with more effective megapixels. But for now, I really don't see much of a difference at 24 megapixels!
Gee - how very anticlimactic. If the big difference between the new version and the previous version aspherical 35mm Summicron is dependent on future hypothetical higher resolution M bodies, then this whole review has been a wash! I guess we'll have to wait and see if Leica's going to announce a higher resolution M body this year at Photokina.
If you're on a budget, then the previous generation 35mm Summicron, or for that matter, even the 35mm Summicron before this previous one, the pre-aspherical 35mm Summicron vers. IV is worth considering too. I mean, why not? It's also very sharp when stopped down, albeit with a noticeable loss in contrast. But then again, it's much less expensive, abundant in the used market, and so much smaller and lighter to carry, making it a joy to use.
Update July 1, 2016 - Below are some additional images taken with this lens.