“Though she be but little, she is fierce!”― William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Around 8 years ago I brought a film Leica CL with the 40mm and 90mm lens. It was my entry to the world of Leica. The Leitz Summicron-C 1:2/40 is one of the most affordable Leica M-mount Summicron. It was the kit lens for the CL, a camera in partnership with Minolta. Leitz version is German manufactured. The lens is made in the 70s, and it performs similar to the pre-aspherical 35mm Summicron (v3). Short production run in the dark ages of Leica’s history at the height of SLR dominance.
Being a 40mm lens, it is in the middle of a 35mm and 50mm, a 2-in-1 kind of deal that is popular in the 70s. It works as a 60mm for APS-C cameras, and 80mm for Micro-Four Thirds cameras.
I haven’t had a workout with the Leica M Monochrom (CCD) for a little while, so I thought it is a good combo for some shutter therapy. I adore the MM for is smaller file size, and great picking up subtle tones off vintage lenses.
40mm Summicron-C on
Leica M Monochrom
Body Design and Built Quality
This is one of the lightest and smallest Leica M lens. 120g. Code #11542. Close focusing 0.8m. Series 5.5 filter (39mm x 0.75 non-standard). I advise not to use standard 39mm filter, risk to jam the filter or damage filter thread. 6 elements double-Glauss design with high refractive index glass. Single coated. The rubber collapsible lens 12518 hood is more rare than the lens. The material can dry out and crack over time. Not many good condition one left in the wild. My own copy cracked and slowly get worse and worse. I contacted Leica and see if it is possible to buy the hood new. They told me they can custom make it with the original mould for price a price that is higher than my whole CL camera and kit lenses set. I ended up being patient on eBay and spotted one out of a ‘lot of loose rings and hoods’ at a reasonable price.
Plastic cap 14191 is secured on hood only. While it is adequate, but will not work without the hood.
The focus tab is triangular and plastic, not the typical concave type knob. It is functional, and some people don’t like it. Doingphoto has an article about changing it to the more common shape, if you are determine to do it.
Aperture ring has half stop clicks from F2 to F16. 10 aperture blades. The build quality and feel is the good as Summicron/Summilux 35mm from the same period.
The body lens itself is in aluminium with a sloping focusing cam. Leica claims it is not compatible with other Leica M cameras for the accuracy of focusing, but I have no issue with it on my digital Ms.
On typical Leica M camera the lens brings up 50mm frameline. Just need to get use to the photo slightly wider than the frameline unless you are using the original CL, Minolta CL/CLE or Voigtlander Bessa R3 family that has the 40mm built-in. On the Leica M Monochrom I guess the frameline between the 50mm and the overall frame. No problems for newer digital cameras with direct liveview, EVF etc.
Classic image feel. It has slight chromatic aberration, but it is perfect for black and white photos, presented as a “glow”. My review this time is on my recent experience with Leica M Monochrom camera (first version). They are matching well.
Samples below are all at open aperture. Vignette at F2 but goes away at F4 and above.
Good amount of details but not clinically sharp.
In the shade at closest focusing distance, it is quite gentle, with good micro-contrast.
Bokeh can be a little busy with the scene below. Impressionist painting look.
I like the detail below. It is like a HB pencil. Not too hard, not too soft.
It has a romantic rendering in the out-of-focus area if the background is further away. I like it much better than modern lenses. Centre is plenty sharp, and the field is reasonable.
There is a slight barrel distortion. I am not even worry about it on architectural photos. It is there but it is insignificant.
It does flare a little, so hood is helpful to maintain contrast. Need to avoid direct highlights.
This is a high quality compact lens with a classic feel, a perfect street photography lens. I am bias as it is my first Leica. I like it on the Monochrom, especially for the subtle mid-tones.
Alternatives: early Minolta M-Rokkor is a very similar lens with a standard 40.5 filter, and Minolta glass ( Much like today’s certified by Leica Panasonic lenses. The later M-Rokkor that come with the CLE is multi-coated. I have not tried them, so I cannot comment on them. The M-Rokkor was produced for a a longer period of time, so it is easier to find in secondhand market.
- Compact and light for an F2 lens.
- Good for black and white (colour too, that is for a future review).
- Affordable compare to similar 35mm Summicron. Better value.
- Not as sharp as modern lenses.
- Single coated not as flare resistant.
- Odd frameline for M cameras, need to guess between 35-50mm.
- Sloping cam is claimed not as accurate.
40mm Summicron-C technical review at SLR Lens Review
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