The Leica Summicron 35mm ASPH. is a legendary street photography lens but it’s nearly four times the price of similar lenses from Voigtlander or Zeiss. Why would anyone pay that much for a Cron? Hit the jump for my unboxing and first impressions video!
Leica Summicron 35mm ASPH. II Video
I’m starting a one year film photography project where I limit myself to one lens, one camera, and one film type for one year. The idea is to eliminate distractions so I can focus on the creative side of shooting with film. I already splurged on a camera and picked up a Leica MP in glorious black paint finish.
But we still need to talk about what lens and film type I’m going to use for the next year. Let’s start with the lens…
This Is My Dream Lens For Street Photography
Let’s be honest here. The Leica 35mm Summicron is my dream lens for street photography.
But I just spent all my money on the MP and the budget monster reared its ugly head and hit me with a level 5 guilt trip! It wouldn’t hurt to save a wee bit of money with the lens.
So I checked out a couple lenses from Zeiss and Voigtlander to see what’s what. And there are some good choices out there…
The Voigtlander 35mm f2 Ultron is getting a ton of buzz for its compact size and solid image quality. It’s the kind of lens that has modern sharpness with a more vintage feel in the oof areas. Tons of character and definitely interesting.
But the lens’s minimum focus distance is 0.58m which is closer than the .7m minimum of the MP’s rangefinder. This means there’s no way to verify close focus by looking through the viewfinder. And that would just drive me crazy.
So I crossed the Ultron off my list.
Voigtlander also makes the tiny 35mm f2.5 Color Skopar that is super well respected especially considering the price. But this lens was just a little too small and fiddly for me so I took a pass on it as well.
Then I looked at the Zeiss C Biogon 35mm f2.8. It’s super compact and sharp as a tack with enough image character and 3D pop to stand up to the big boys.
But it’s only f2.8 and I’m going to be doing a lot of indoor shooting over the winter so that extra stop makes a difference.
Zeiss does make a 35mm f2 lens for Leica. But for some reason I never really connected with that lens. I don’t know if it’s the size or how it balances on the camera but it’s just not for me
The truth is that any of these lenses would work but I couldn’t stop thinking about the Summicron.
I Couldn’t Stop Thinking About The Summicron
No doubt this is an iconic piece of glass but it’s nearly 4X the price of the Voigtlander or Zeiss lenses! How can I possibly justify spending that much money on a lens?
You see, I know what I’m like.
If I bought the Ultron or the Zeiss or whatever other lens I was looking at then I’d be thinking about the Summicron the whole time. Is this as good as a Cron? What would this look like if I shot it on a Cron? Why didn’t I just get the Cron?
I wouldn’t be able to let it go and eventually I’d end up selling the cheaper lens for probably half of what I paid for it just to buy the damn Summicron anyway.
Now I’d be spending the cost of the Summicron PLUS the money I LOST buying and selling the cheaper lens. So if you think about it? I’m ACTUALLY SAVING MONEY by getting the more expensive lens to start with.
So I cut out the middleman and got a brand new Leica Summicron-M 35mm ASPH. II.
And it’s a heck of a lens.
It’s compact and well balanced on the MP body And of course it has that legendary Leica build quality that makes my downstairs tingle every time I use it.
The aperture clicks confidently in half stop increments and it has a proper focus tab! This is great for adjusting focus but also as a physical reminder of your focus distance.
Super-handy for zone focus shooting!
It’s A Whole New Cron
This is version 2 of the 35mm Summicron Aspherical that Leica released in 2016.
As near as I can tell it’s the same optical formula as Version 1 but they added one extra aperture blade for better bokeh (if that’s your deal). They also changed the plastic clip-on hood to a metal version that’s ventilated so you can see through it when using the optical viewfinder.
Those are both nice additions but the important thing for me is that this lens still has the classic Leica Summicron rendering as the previous version.
I know there’s LUX people out there who will think that Cron images look boring. And I’m not going to take a side in that battle. But when you consider price, size and weight the Cron was the right choice for me. Especially for shooting on the street.
So there it is. And there it’s gonna stay. For the next year anyway…
Let’s Talk About My Film Choice
I’m going to shoot black and white for this year-long project so I can develop and scan everything myself at home. Partly to save money but mostly for the control it will give me to fine tune the processing and get things looking exactly the way I like.
Now, there are lots of choices for film but for me it came down to HP5+ or TRI-X and I ended up going with HP5 this time around.
Right off the bat, it’s WAY CHEAPER THAN TRI-X.
At the time of making this video a 100 foot roll of HP5 Plus is 109.99 at B&H. You have to bulk load your own film cartridges, but you’ll get around 18 rolls of 36 exposures out of that 100 foot roll. That’s about $6 bucks a roll!
The same amount of TRI-X will cost you a whopping 149.95! That’s 36% more!
So cost is a big factor but I also just like the way HP5 looks.
Grain is there but it’s not overwhelming. It’s got a bit more shadow detail than TRI-X and the long silvery midtones are a feast for the eyes. This film definitely has its own character but it doesn’t clobber you over the head with an over-the-top “look”.
Throw in the fact that HP5 can be pushed 2 or even 3 stops with excellent results and you’ve got a film that will see me through to the end of this project no sweat.
1 Camera, 1 Lens, 1 Film, 1 Year
So that’s my camera, lens and film for my year long film photography project. I’m super excited to shoot with this amazing kit and will be posting regular updates as the year unfolds.
Will I find the photographic truth I’m looking for? Let’s hope so!!
You can get the Leica 35mm Summicron ASPH. II online at your favorite retailer:
Leica 35mm Summicron ASPH. II at B&H.
And HP5 Plus:
HP5+ 36 Exposures at B&H.
HP5+ 100 Foot Roll at B&H.
Who’s shooting with film and what film are you shooting with? What’s your go-to film camera? Tell me all about it in the comments down below and let’s keep the conversation going!