Leica Lens Buying Guide

Why did I get into Leica Lenses?

You’ll see this is a very personal journey for me. If this is your first time to the site, you’ll see I only actually review stuff that I use on a regular basis. Life’s too short, otherwise. So you won’t see hundreds of different Leica lenses here, so the mega Leica nerds will be sad… You’ll just see what I consider the best (with several pricing options).

I got into Leica lenses because I bought one of the Sony A7 cameras. The Sony A7 series of cameras offer a full-frame sensor which can be coupled with lenses from most any manufacturer. Leica has a long tradition of quality — EXTREME quality. Leica lenses come in many flavors, and many of them are nice and small to fit with your new (or potential new?) mirrorless lifestyle. To read more about this particular camera, see my Sony A7r Review!

The purpose of this Leica Lens Buying Guide

I put together this guide to help people figure out how to get started with this powerful combination and to give advice on which lenses to get. Leica lenses have recently been a whole new world for me, and as I go through the process of figuring all this out, I wanted to share it with you!

I’m the first to admit that I am relatively new to Leica lenses, and others have much more knowledge than me. So, if you have advice or ideas (or maybe see where I am wrong!!), please leave your thoughts down in the comments. I’ll do my best to work them into this guide. I see this as a “living” document, which will grow and change as I continue to experiment.

Quick Sample Photos to get you in the mood

This photo of the Berber man might be worth clicking on and zooming into… The sweet sweet Leica M 50mm at f/1.4. Remember that you can click on these photos to zoom in and see all the details. It’s recommended on this one in particular!

 

HDR Photo

Leica M 24mm f/1.4. Perfect for night shots, and, well many other things! More photos from this lens and many others below!

 

Across the Crystal Lake

This was taken here near my home in Queenstown, New Zealand. I used the Sony A7r and the Leica 35mm f/1.4 lens (but shot this at f/8)

 

A small collection of my favorite Leica Lens shots

Leica Lenses – a Primer

Leica Lenses have many mount types, but I am going to keep it simple for my recommendations:

  • M Mount – These full-frame lenses are small and amazing. These tend to be more expensive of the two.
  • R Mount – Also full-frame, these lenses tend to be a bit bigger but are also more inexpensive.

Adapter

One of the great things about the Sony A7 is you get to use adapters to fit any kind of lens. I’ll keep this simple for these two Leica Mounts.

  • M Mount Adapter – Get this Novoflex M Leica Adaptor (Amazon | B&H Photo) – Fantastic for attaching any lens that uses the M Leica lens mount. This is what I use.
  • R Mount Adapter – Get this Novoflex R Leica Adaptor (Amazon | B&H Photo) – If you choose to get some of the R Mount lenses too.

How much to spend?

For Leica lenses, you can plan on spending from $400 to $12,000. Actually I should not have said $12,000. That was kind of a random number because these Leica lenses can get a heck of a lot more expensive. But, if buying something something new, then that more or less defines the upper limit. This is all just to give you a general idea that you don’t HAVE to spend $10,000+ to get Leica lenses!

Remember that the “R Mount” lenses can be much cheaper, even though there are more expensive and rare variants. You can see more below.

Top 4 Leica M lenses

I hate to mention specific F-stops here because the price varies so much! The lower the F-Stop, the higher the price. Often, a lot higher! So, if you’re trying to save money, there’s no reason to get the f/1.4. There are many places to buy Leica Lenses, but I’ve chosen to link to Amazon and B&H below.

For cheaper prices, check the eBay listings for Leica M lenses. Leica owners tend to really take good care of these lenses, so you’ll probably have a great experience.

1) Leica 50mm f/0.95 and beyond – Check prices in AmazonCheck Prices on B&H – $1,600 to $11,000
2) Leica 35mm f/1.4 and beyond — Check prices on AmazonCheck Prices on B&H — $2000 to $7000
3) Leica 75mm f/2.0 and beyond — Check prices on AmazonCheck prices on B&H — $2,000 to $4,000.
4) Leica 24mm f/1.4 and beyond — Check prices on AmazonCheck Prices on B&H — $2,500 to $7,500

Top 5 Leica R lenses

All of the Leica R Lenses are a bit older, but still perfectly good. As I said above, Leica owners typically take very good care of their lenses.

It’s difficult to link to specific lenses with prices because the market is always in flux, but check this link on eBay to get the search started!

Prices are around $400 and up, depending on many factors! :)

First video on Leica Lenses

Here’s the first video I made when I was Leica-curious. It features Leica shooter Stu Robertson!

More Sample Photos!

HDR Photo

On this road to my home in New Zealand, I took this with the 24mm f/1.4 lens.

HDR Photo

Great for low-light photography, here is a fisherman from Southern China. Also shot with the 24mm at f/1.4.

The Lupins at F/1.4

This was shot with the Leica 24mm f/1.4 lens.

 

HDR Photo

This was taken with the Leica 50mm f/1.4. When you point it into the sun, you get the most amazing lens flares through the glass element. So fun! And it’s nice to see exactly what you are going to get. The actual scene was so bright, that I think an optical system would have blinded me! Since I was able to see a digital version, it made it much easier on the eye so I could actually compose the shot.

 

Saint Bathans Adventure (1045 of 2146)

Here is a rather unusual photo of my friend Stu with my new friend Bob.

 

HDR Photo

This 35mm at f/1.4 is amazing for night photography. No flash needed to get clean shots!

 

Speaking of Peace in 10,000 Hands, here I am back at Stu’s studio, taking a photo of some of his work in his gallery for the project. We also filmed a little video about how to use the Sony A7r with Leica lenses.

 

Here’s a lovely little schoolhouse in St. Bathans under stormy skies in the evening.

 

Saint Bathans Adventure (516 of 2146)

Here’s a good example of the Leica 24mm lens at f/1.4. I’m very excited to play with all these new lenses with this amazing body (the camera, not mine haha).

 

The shallow depth of field at f/1.4 really is amazing.. and the background is so buttery!

 

Saint Bathans Adventure (798 of 2146)

The focus-peaking on the Sony A7r allowed me to use the 50mm lens to find the exact spot where I wanted to focus.

 

Here’s a photo of Stu below with the Leica 24mm f/1.4.

And here’s my mate Stu with the 24mm f/1.4 talking to Management to check on the progress of Peace in 10,000 Hands.

 

Here is the Leica 50mm lens in its full f/1.4 glory.

 

Here’s a shot of my son on his first day of high school. I love the depth of field that a full-frame sensor provides.

 

Say Hello to my Little Friend

I went for a walk along this fence in the late afternoon as a store was coming in. I had a little friend with me. Say hello to my little friend. :)

 

Walking on Water

Here’s a wonderfully bizarre photo I took at St. Bathans with the Leica 24mm lens.

 

HDR Photo

Here’s one from Tokyo. I love how the out-of-focus area feels so soft, and, well, full-framey!

 

A Sunset Over Central Otago

I stepped out from behind a small Bed & Breakfast I was staying at in Central Otago called Coombs cottage and saw this painted sky scene unfolding before me. This was shot at ISO100, shutter 1/500, 24mm. Actually, I’m not going to list out all the EXIF info in the future because you can just click through to my SmugMug Site to see all the details. If you click the little “i” it will tell you everything. :)

 

  • http://www.fredbeaupre.com Frédérick Beaupré

    Well, thanks for that buying guide. It really make me want to ditch my Canon 5d Mk II and hop in this Sony – Leica bandwagon. I noticed that your widest Leica lens is a 24mm (from your suggestions), do you use other brands to get wider dramatic shots? I just bought the cheap and crispy Samyang 14mm F2.8 and would love an equivalent on the Sony mount. Was wondering if Leica did a lens like that.

  • treyratcliff

    I haven’t tried other brands yet, but will soon

  • Micky

    Trey, does the Summilux 35mm f/1.4 ASPH FLE (the new one) work on the A7r? I’d love to know before I blow like £3500 on what I’m terrified could end up a paperweight. Thanks.

  • treyratcliff

    Absolutely – that’s what I use! :) You do need that novoflex adapter I put above @Micky

  • Mikey

    Oh I really wish you hadn’t said that!

    AAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

  • Micky

    Frederick, you can use your Samyang 14mm on the A7r, no problem at all. You will need an adapter. Either a Novoflex or better yet Rayqual Kindai. Or just try a cheapy adapter and see if that works. I use Novoflex but recently ordered a Rayqual because they use baffles in their adapter design which improves light transmission and reduces internal flare/artifacts.

  • Raziar

    First of all ,thanks for this great guide , the images are amazing . Made me even more interested in buying a Leica lens.

    I really want to know , what do you think about the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 FE lens , and how it compares with some of the Leica 50 mm

  • http://www.bitchinlight.com Eric Thomson

    Great, great, great! Wonderful information about how to spend more on lenses…. Add tri elmar 16-18-21 to list. Also Trey, just got my Phigment Tech adapter! No vignetting on the 35 or wate and auto magnification works. Reads data in camera. Still have to manually switch aperture on lens then match with wheel. Way better than f– and focal length blank. Super excited all the time about this system and adding Leica!

  • Nate Wolfe

    This is a fairly random question but I’ve been following your page for months now. I also made the switch to Sony from Nikon, largely guided by yourself and couldn’t be happier. I have to ask though, you’re top photo, of the man with the blue turban(?), how did you get that so incredibly sharp? I have yet to get a portrait that sharp!

  • http://www.StuckInCustoms.com treyratcliff

    haha – well the Leica lens helped; but I also did a bit of sharpening using MacPhun Intensify – I have a review here on the site!

  • Nate Wolfe

    I just read your review and it seems like an amazing program! Sadly I have a PC haha. Maybe one day I’ll have to give it a shot. Even my sharpening in Lightroom doesn’t compare and I use the A6000 with a Contax G lens.

  • Bjarni

    Sharpening? Why in the world would you like to sharpen a photo taken with a Leica lens? I’m a full blooded Leica shooter myself, and have never felt any needs to sharpen images from my Summicrons.

  • namredlawt

    I am a big fan of Leica lenses and I have used them on my A7r. I have to say that no matter how wonderful m-mount lenses are on the A7r, it really is not a great use of these lenses. The vignetting and color smearing is just a shame. Yes the vignettes and soft edges do add character. Its just not reasonable to underuse the sensor and treat Leica glass like a toy lens. If you wish to post process extensively, might as well use a lens that is sharp across the frame. if you want to pick one lens to use with the A7r to replace as much of the workflow that a 36MP sensor in your palm represents, get a FE55.

    I actually prefer the Leica lenses on a crop sensor more than on sony FF. If you enjoy legacy lenses as I do, use a NEX 7, A6000 or an A7 or A7s.

    Also, the M-rokkor lenses do a great job and can compete with Leica legacy glass. There is no question that Leica lenses do a great job however I would not buy them just to use them on a A7. Voigtlander and M-Rokkors are great and can do a great job and don’t cost so much. the CV 40 f2.8 healer is wonderful. Compact and contrasty. the CV 40 Nokton SC or MC is a great buy too.

    The A7 series is really a small DSLR form factor. there are plenty of excellent legacy lenses that do a great job without the cost or artifacts. FD lenses, Minolta, EF, Nikkor… all do great with a solid adapter.

    My Leica glass is looking forward to a FF rangefinder form factor from Sony. Preferably with in camera IS and a curved sensor that doesn’t vignette or smear. Make it18MP with the A7s’s high ISO performance and I will sell my Leicas in a heartbeat. But I will keep the glass.

  • LightTraveler

    Samyang makes e-mount lenses hence no need for an adapter. Their cine lenses work great on a7x cams for both stills and video

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