A brief history of Leica Summicron
The Leitz Summicron 35/2 became available in 1958, and across time there are many updates to this exceptional piece of glass. During the earlier days, a f2 aperture was considered to be a fast lens, and in all fairness, it is still a very decent speed even by today’s expectations. Its compact size, low distortion and sharpness and among many others, are what made the Summicron 35 one of the most successful lens in the history.
The first generation Summicron has 8 element and a build-in external goggles which was made for the Leica M3. The goggle-free 8 element Summicron was launched when Leica started to offer 35mm frame for their cameras.
The lens slowly evolved to a 6 element construction, then a 7 element which many users claimed it to be the “bokeh king”. Leica’s latest offering is the 35/2 Summicron which uses aspherical element. While your personal preference may vary as to which version you like, there’s no denying all versions of the Summicron 35 are truly a remarkable piece of photographic tool.
Nostalgia in 2021
Fast forward to 2021, the photographic community has been brewing a taste for nostalgia: Leica has reissued the Summaron 28mm f5.6 and they will soon launch the highly sought after Noctilux 50mm f1.2. While on the other end of the spectrum, major camera manufacturers are packing trillions of Pixels to their latest cameras. It would be interesting to see what the outcomes are when two ends of the spectrum meet.
The search for imperfections in lenses
I have been an user of old lenses, you must be aware by now my regular setup is the vintage Summaron 35/3.5 mounted onto the Monochrom CCD.
I find the Summaron renders an organic look which is pleasing to my eyes. To put it in a different perspective, the search for an ideal imperfection is what makes these vintage lenses so charming. While new lenses give perfect rendering, the perfection to record an imperfect world is too revealing for me.
Bluntly speaking, having one or two “perfect” lenses are all I need in my arsenal of lenses. Unless perfection can be perfected ?? To infinity and beyond ? Does this make any sense ?
Collectors vs. Users
In the earlier days, I was using the Summicron 35/2 6 element, but when the price of a 6 element started to pick up rather sharply, I began to shy away from further abusing the lens.
The new inflated price did momentarily shift me from being an user to a collector, but fortunately I never took the path of being a lens trader nor a lens collector, I would rather use and abuse the lenses as they are intended to be.
Truth to be told, I am still skittish whenever I’m using a fancy expensive lens, it blocks my creative juice (if you may). My wife Carmen is now abusing the 6 element. So the question is, wouldn’t it be great if a new lens has all the characteristics of a vintage lens ? And offer the lens at a price most users would find it acceptable or even comfortable !!
Enters the Light Lens Lab, a new lens company founded in China. They make, or more accurately, faithfully replicate the classic Summicron 35/2 8 Element. According to Japancamerahunter , this replica has caused quite a stir among the Leica community.
Did I mention the China-made Summicron 35 is faithfully crafted to the original mighty Leitz Summicron 35 ? It’s true ! Check out the video where I have two copies of the Light Lens Lab:
one brass and one titanium, and they are parked next to the formidable Leitz 35 Summicron 8 Element in tip top condition. I’m sure you’d agree they are identical triplets, and in some deluded, misguided and very opinionated POV, holding the brass and the titanium give a greater sense of satisfaction than the real thing !!
You would need to blindfold yourself in order to understand where my biases came from. Technical Specifications:
- 8 elements in 6 groups symmetrical double-gauss design
- 10 blades 0.7m minimum focusing distance 39mm filter size
- aperture f2 – f16 Leica M mount
Does it matter ?
Does the technical specifications tell how a lens perform ? It’s a start, but it’s also a total gibberish when you are out in the real world. It’s a good lens if it becomes your daily lens, that pretty much says it all.
This titanium Light Lens Lab 35/2 is now permanently attached onto my old Monochrom CCD, replacing my old Summaron 35/3.5 which is in the shop as we speak now. It’s also a good lens if you’ve bought it using your hard earned money and not a sponsor, this also happens to be true in my case ! Need I say more how much I enjoy using this lens ?
More photo samples:
Please join our Facebook Group if you wish to see more photos using by this lens. Because this is now my regular lens, I’ll be uploading shots taken with this lens on a regular basis.
Does the clone render identical to its original brethren ?
My immediate respond to this question is “do two Summicron 8 element fare the same?” Age and the level of tender loving care received by each lens may vary, so I’m guessing renderings may differ ever so slightly even among the true blood.
To give my biased opinion, this China made Summicron does render, especially the bokeh, like the Leitz Summicron you see in the video. Unless Leica decides to reproduce the Summicron 8 element today, it’s difficult to accurately benchmark the Light Lens Lab against the legend.
Having said that, I do see the resemblance between the China-made version against the mighty Leica, maybe it’s even a tad sharper than the real thing. The only thing I can confidently say is, both the Brass and the Titanium have identical rendering. I like this kind of consistency, it spells good engineering !!
I see the Light Lens Lab as a separate standalone lens eased from the burden of being under the Leica’s shadow. Do I like its rendering? Do I enjoy using it ? Was I stress free during my street walking? Yes, yes and yes !! My carelessness destroys lenses, and damaging a Leica lens is heartbreaking and would also break my wallet. But with this inexpensive China-made Summicron, I could continue my care free clumsiness.
Who is this made for ?
Anyone, especially those who have been curious about Leica but have yet to obtain one. The lens is a Leica M mount, so adapters are widely available for your favourite Nikon, Sony, Canon and Fujifilm camera.
The overall build quality and operation of the lens is identical to a Leica Summicron, but the price of a Light Lens Lab is homie, mind you though, it’s not a cheap lens but you won’t have to sell a kidney. And who knows ? You might eventually embrace the world of Leica after trying this clone. This Chinacron is that good.
Quality alone is not enough !!
Is Leica a photographic tool ? or is it a collectible ? It’s both !! It’s a collectible disguised as a photographic tool !!
The historical Leica pieces are highly sought after among the collectors, and new cameras demand a high price in order to get the Yin and the Yang rolling. This unique situation is really what makes Leica so special, a mere “excellent quality” does no justice to the name, not by a long shot ! This Chinacron has image and build quality, but it’s not a Leica. What makes Leica a Leica is her story: both tangible and historical.
Light Lens Lab has shown us they are capable of making a quality product, but only time will tell if it will become a legend. The art of marketing and branding is a complex subject, a simple buy and sell just won’t cut it.
In my humble opinion, duplication is a start, but creation is what makes a brand.
As of writing the blog, Light Lens Lab has yet to release an official retail price and a list of authorised dealers. Take note this is a small new company from China, lenses are made in small quantity and are sold directly to the domestic market only. If you live outside of China and want to grab one, I would recommend getting this lens only through your favourite reputable camera shops. Expect a long wait.