Leica 35mm Summicron Version I, II + III, IV, V, VI + 35mm Summilux Version I, II, IV
Have you ever wondered which 35mm Summicron is right for you? For many, it has always been the newest version. But for some, that might not be the case, for various reasons. The reality is, Leica has made five versions of the venerable 35 Cron, that there really isn't a necessity to get the latest one. To prove this point, I've decided to do a simple test comparing all five versions at once. And in case you're not aware what those lenses are, it's the following:
Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron Version I (1958 - 1969)
Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron Version II + III (1969 - 1979)
Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron Version IV (1979 - 1996)
Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH I (Version V 1996 - 2015)
Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH II (Version VI 2015 - present)
For the test, I wanted to do something a little different. I have always felt that 35mm was the optimal focal length for doing group shots. So for this comparison, I asked Anna to enlist two friends to give us a hand.
For longtime readers of this blog, you're wondering if I've turned my back against the 28mm focal length? I haven't. I still prefer it. But the 35mm focal length has some advantages too. For one thing, 35mm has less distortion than 28mm near the edges and corners - since it's not as wide. As such, it is easier to use for most, when capturing a group shot. This is not to say that there is no distortion. There is. You still have to be mindful of it. But the difference is the distortion at 35mm is easier to manage in composition.
Set 1 - ISO 1600, f/8
Set 2 - ISO 400, f/2 (at 2 meters)
I should also mention during the course of shooting, I suddenly remembered I had brought along the three lenses from my previous article.
Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux Pre-Asph (Version I)
Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux (Version II)
Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH II (Version IV)
Then a thought occurred to me. What if I compared not just the five 35 Crons, but also included three of the four 35 Luxes? Since it was here already, it only made sense to expand the comparison.
In doing so, I decided to redo the wide open shot comparison again at f/2. In addition, I also included a wide open shot comparison at f/1.4 for the three 35 Luxes. I thought it would be interesting to see what an extra stop of speed can do. And since I will be shooting at f/1.4, I decided to shoot closer, for more bokeh. But since I'm doing a group shot, I decided against shooting at the minimum focusing distance, since it would have reduced the depth of field.
Set 3 - Wide Open - ISO 400, f/1.4 (at 1.5 meters)
Set 4 - ISO 400, f/2 (at 1.5 meters)
You might have noticed I did the first part of the comparison with the Leica SL. That's because I didn't have the Visoflex 020 for the Leica M10, in shooting wide open. I didn't want to fiddle with focus on a rangefinder, given my time constraint. Plus there was a glare on the rear screen making it difficult to focus on live view.
Anyway, the next set is done with the Leica M10.
Set 5 - ISO 1600, f/5.6 (+ compensation in post for backlighting)
Set 6 - ISO 800, f/8
Overall, there are differences. But for the most part, the five versions of the 35mm Summicron are more similar than different. In general, the more updated versions are sharper across the aperture range than the version before. Though what that means is each newer version is optically better than each previous version.
As for the three version of the 35mm Summilux, I am of the opinion that there are noticeable differences. The first version is very soft wide open. The second version has more of that Leica character to it. The fourth version seems to render like a Summicron with the benefit of an extra stop of speed. I think most would want the second version. But the current version Summilux is more than sufficient for most.
Deciding between the Summicron and the Summilux is a matter of price, size, and the need for that extra stop of speed.
As for which version is right for you, only you would know. Personally, I prefer the current version 35mm Summicron. But between 28mm or 35mm, my pick will always be the 28mm focal length.
All images in this comparison are out of camera RAW, unless otherwise stated. All the images have not been cropped.
Special thanks to Anna's friends Anisia and Maria.
Also thanks to Don and Brian for alerting me of my oversight on the numbering convention of the version IV Summicron.
Last, you might have noticed that this article has changed dramatically since the first day of posting. That is because the original article included an April Fool's narrative. For the sake of archiving, I didn't want it to be saved in that form, which is why I've changed it back to it's original version. To me, it just makes more sense.