This is a minimalist lens to match the Leica T (Typ 701) system bodies. If you are looking for an 'old-school' feel with an aperture ring, you won't find that here. This T-Mount lens, which also fits the SL (Typ 601) though with an APS-C crop, is an example of the direction Leica seem to be moving in for their T-Mount mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Clean uncluttered bodies and lenses which look and feel a good deal more modern than anything their mirrorless and DSLR competitors are coming up with. And considering that Leica, bucking the trend, are selling more than ever and have seen a 12% increase in revenue in 2015-2016, it seems that despite their prices, they are connecting with their target buyers market a good deal more successfully than the rest of the camera manufacturers. Interesting that with declining demand for stand alone cameras, a company that stands for quality and the photographic values of the past, with their combination of a retro sensibility, modern, stylish designs and a no compromise policy in terms of production, is doing so well. Class will out, I guess and it seems that for many people, if they are going to buy a camera, then they might as well get something special.
Unlike the other lenses for the Leica T, this one is made in Germany, which probably explains the extra £300 on the price for the 35mm. And the construction and feel is something to behold, which is as it should be, for £1650. It is also the first T-Mount lens to be made in black and silver. It is stunning up close and matches the body of the T (Typ 701) perfectly. You can't see it from the pictures, but the whole outfit has a metallic sheen and feel, but while it isn't particularly light, isn't heavy either. It is somewhat different to old metal film SLR bodies and lenses. Needless to say, the hood fits perfectly and the focusing ring, which takes up most of the barrel, is perfectly weighted. The lens gives the impression that it will outlast it's buyer. It's solid, engineered with a precision that up close defies belief and is without doubt the classiest lens I've ever used. It's a cross between a precision optical instrument and a work of art and Leica have certainly pulled out all of the stops with this one. There's the old cliche that cameras and particularly Leica's are 'male jewellery' and to be honest, picking this camera / lens combination up does actually give some truth to that.
When looking at photographs, something like the Panasonic GX8 plus a m4/3 lens seems to be similar, but in reality it's chalk and cheese. The GX8, which is an excellent camera in it's own right, feels cheap by comparison. And yes, whats on the inside is more important than how it looks and feels, but if you like beautifully made and aesthetically pleasing gear, then this camera and lens won't disappoint.
Now you may be wondering when I'm going to get round to the optical performance, but I'm going to work with the lens for a little while longer before I come to a conclusion on that. Leica make some serious claims about this lens. This is what they write on their website - 'The newly developed Leica Summilux-TL is the new reference lens for APS-C format and has performance characteristics that are unequaled in all respects by comparable lenses and permit the exploitation of the full potential of modern camera systems.' So I figured that I wouldn't dash off some hurried impressions and a few samples in typical internet review style and get to know the lens and how it performs under all the situations I will require of it. However, as a teaser I would say my current feeling is that Leica's hyperbole is (mostly) justified.
Finally, there is the interesting question of why have Leica made and released this lens? Common internet consent, while subject to all of the warnings that should be heeded about that, had the Leica T (Typ 701) down as a failure and many predicted that Leica would dump it. I never believed that for a minute, because that's not how Leica operate, but even a Leica rep admitted to me that it hadn't been a huge commercial success. So is this throwing good money after bad?
Well firstly the announcement of the SL (Typ 601) has 'legitimised' the T mount. And while the T APS-S lenses only give a 10MP cropped image on the SL, the 4K output on the SL is 'super 35mm' which isn't that different in size from APS-C, which of course means that the existing range of lenses for the T (Typ 701) will be very useful for that. And secondly it seems obvious to me that Leica haven't given up on APS-C T-mount cameras. This lens and the upcoming 60mm macro surely testify to that. I suspect that Leica might ease back on the modernity of the T (Typ 701) with any upcoming model, but then the SL (Typ 601) does owe a lot to the T in terms of design.
However, whichever way they choose to go, I strongly believe that we will get another APS-C T-Mount camera, though with Leica's 'difficulties' in getting all of their rapidly expanding range actually manufactured and out the door with their limited factory space (they are a pretty small company compared to the Sony's and Panasonics after all), I'm not anticipating that anytime soon. This lens was in short supply and I ended with a demo model (at a slightly reduced price).
So that's my 'first impressions' post about the LEICA 35mm F/1.4 Summilux TL Lens At F/1.4. Apologies if you were hoping for more on the image quality, but I do need more time on that as the lens produces a unique look, which I'll explain more about later. However, I can say that it's obvious this is no lightweight in terms of optical quality and if you are anticipating a 'shock horror!! Leica have produced a duffer' verdict then you will be disappointed. It's a great lens optically by any standards but 'new reference lens for APS-C format' is a statement that needs some justifying and so I'm taking my time.
More to come.