Fast prime lenses are all the rage with manufacturers of both mirrorless and flippy mirror cameras. (Look for a video podcast on this subject in an upcoming post at Mirrorless Photo Tips) It seems to me that these lenses have been designed to lure unsuspecting photographers into parting with vast quantities of their money.
One entry in these sweepstakes is the impressive Leica DG 12mm Summilux f/1.4 ASPH lens and, yes it should be with a price tag of $1,297.99. While the lens produces an equivalent field-of-view of a 24mm lens the depth-of-field and aperture is still that of any f/1.4 lens, so it should be really good in low light. When shooting for shallow depth-of-field, a rounded nine-blade diaphragm should produce a pleasing bokeh. A nicely made metal lens hood is included and it appears to do an acceptable job and is useful for protecting the front element if you eschew mounting a UV filter. As befits a megabucks lens, fit and finish are impressive no matter how you measure build quality.
The lens’s optical design uses a pair of aspherical elements, two ultra extra-low dispersion elements and one extra-low dispersion element to control spherical and chromatic aberrations for edge-to-edge sharpness. A manual aperture ring gives control over exposure settings and a dedicated AF/MF switch lets you switch between focusing modes. It has an all-metal construction and is weather-resistant. By Micro Four-thirds standards it’s a hefty lens at 11.82 oz, yet it’s 3.17 oz lighter than the Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2, which still felt balanced on the Olympus E-M10 Mark I it was attached to.
I kept coming back to my experience with Voigtlander’s Nokton 10.5mm f/0.95 lens and the similarities/dissimilarities between it and the 12mm Summilux. The thing I like most about the Leica is the size. OK, I know the Nokton has an 0.95 aperture, so it’s going to be bigger. The Voigty is manual focus; the Summilux is AF.
The Voigtlander weighs 1.29 lbs and uses a 72mm filter, the Leica is 11.82 oz. with a 62mm filter size. Both feel expensive, the Leica more so but, to me, the handling of the Voigtlander was hampered by it’s bulk. I didn’t like using it with any of my Olympus or Panasonic bodies and it wasn’t conducive to my way of shooting. Maybe I’m in the minority but I will trade size for maximum aperture any day of the week.