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Leica Summilux-M 50mm F1.4 ASPH Close Focus 2023 model: First impressions

The new Leica Summilux-M 50mm F1.4 ASPH Close Focus 2023 (11728) model follows the recent update to the Summilux-M 35mm F1.4 ASPH CF last year and adopts the built-in rangefinder decoupling or “double-cam” feature of the focus ring. The feature enables focusing down to 0.45m from the usual 0.7m – the former is the typical minimum focus of DSLR/mirrorless lenses of this focal length (50mm).

The double-cam feature was first introduced on the Leica Summilux 35mm F2.0 APO and was quite stiff on the model I tried. To disengage rangefinder focusing, you push the focus ring through some slight resistance at the minimum focus distance marked at 0.7m in orange-coloured paint – the shorter distance scale on the barrel is painted in grey to differentiate the two. The operation is much smoother on the new Summilux-M 50mm F1.4 ASPH CF, but that’s difficult to say if it’s down to the design without trying others. Barrel extension roughly doubles but that is to be expected.

If you’re not familiar with this feature it’s intended to be used with Live View only (which means the Leica M upwards, as the earlier M8 and M9 models used CCD which isn’t particularly suitable for LV). It will of course work on the Leica SL mirrorless models, which are a great option for M-lens users.

Test picture showing the common, and edited to taste in C1 Pro
One of the very first test pictures with the Leica M11 Monochrom and new Leica Summilux-M 50mm F1.4 ASPH Close Focus 2023 model and showing the local Common. Edited to lift (brighten) the mid-tones in C1 Pro. Resized to 1200px. ISO 125, 1/90s at F5.6 (from EXIF, but F5.6 is about right from memory).

I don’t have the previous version to conduct side-by-side testing although I reviewed it for a UK photo magazine and had one when I reviewed the Leica M11 so I’m familiar with it. The new lens feels a little chunkier, due to the double-cam feature, but it is well-balanced and perhaps even better to handle as a result. The ribbed focusing ring of the old model has gone – there is no grip to speak of now – but the resistance is low anyway and so smooth it doesn’t really need it. A focus tab is included, which I prefer anyway but this will likely be a contentious move for some.

Summilux-M 50mm F1.4 ASPH on a Leica M11 Monochrom
The new Summilux-M 50mm F1.4 ASPH CF 2023 model on a Leica M11 Monochrom

A built-in lens hood is featured on the original and this appears to be more or less the same push-pull design as on the new version complete with guide cams. Extending about 1 cm in total it’s not deep exactly but it locks softly in place and is always available (you can’t leave it behind in a drawer). As an aside, I don’t particularly like hoods (or straps for that matter as they get in the way) but the built-in hood option is welcome.

In terms of rendering, or drawing style, I don’t see a lot of difference between this and its predecessor which is a good thing. Perhaps, there’s some slight increase in acutance from better mitigation of flare but it’s difficult to tell without side-by-side comparison. I like it a lot, but then I also thought its predecessor was the best value proposition for this focal length anyway. If you have a Leica M11 this is one to go for.

Silver Birch trees at F2.0 on the Leica Summilux-M 50mm F1.4 ASPH and Leica M11 Monochrom
Silver Birch trees at F1.4* on the new Leica Summilux-M 50mm F1.4 ASPH Close Focus 2023 model and Leica M11 Monochrom. Mildly edited in Capture One Pro. Resized to 1200px. ISO 125, 1/500s at F2.0 (*From EXIF, but from memory I believe it was F1.4. Leica Ms approximate aperture values, as there’s no electronic data transfer between the lens and camera). 

Leica MTF charts for the new Leica Summilux-M 50mm F1.4 ASPH

The data sheet shows MTFs at three aperture settings. The lens has been changed optically from the last version, but only slightly with changes to the edges of some elements and new glass types.

The differences between the solid and broken lines reveal some astigmatic behaviour (which often imparts some interesting aesthetic), while the dips mid-field (at around 12mm) are likely the result of some field curvature.

Leica MTF charts for Leica Summilux-M 50mm F1.4 ASPH

More information can be found on the Leica UK site.

Recommended v90-rated SDXC II card 

Tough build and cheaper than the competition.

While Leica officially recommends SanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC cards (UHS-II – V90), these UHS-I V30 rated cards are perfectly fast enough for the Leica M11 and M11 Monochrom, and now at a crazy price: