Leica is renowned for its exceptional camera lenses, which are highly regarded among photographers. When at first confronted with the Leica lens names, like Summicron or Summilux, it may be a bit intimidating. So, what do they all mean?
The thing to remember is that the iconic names of the Leica lenses are referring to their maximum aperture. As such the name of the lens actually refers to a whole family of lenses, which are available in different focal lengths.
For instance, a Summicron lens is available in both 35mm as well 50mm focal lengths. Both lenses have a maximum aperture of f/2.0, which is what the Summicron family of lenses stands for.
Leica lens names explained
So, here are the names of the most commonly used Leica lenses and what they stand for:
- Leica Summicron: The Summicron series is known for its compact size and superb optical performance. These lenses have a maximum aperture of f/2 and are available in different focal lengths.
- Leica Summilux: The Summilux lenses are renowned for their exceptional image quality and wide maximum aperture of f/1.4. These lenses allow photographers to capture low-light images with beautiful bokeh.
- Leica Elmarit: Elmarit lenses are known for their high-quality optics, compact size, and wider maximum aperture. These lenses typically have a maximum aperture of f/2.8, making them suitable for various photographic genres.
- Leica Noctilux: The Noctilux series is famous for its incredibly wide maximum aperture of f/0.95. These lenses offer extraordinary low-light capabilities, allowing photographers to capture images with exceptional sharpness and shallow depth of field.
- Leica Summarit: The Summarit series is designed to offer high-quality optics at a more affordable price point. These lenses generally have a maximum aperture of f/2.4 and are known for their compact and lightweight design. Although the first Summarit lenses were produced in 1949, the modern versions were taken into production in 2007. Their success was limited though and Leica stopped production in 2020.
Leica lenses have a reputation of being extremely expensive and that is actually true. The cheapest Leica lens currently costs around € 2.300 when purchased new in the box. Even the Summarit lenses that were supposed to have a more ‘affordable’ price point, started at around
€ 2.000. The most expensive Noctilux lens is currently on sale for more than € 12.000!
So, why are they so expensive?
First of all, their build quality is exceptional and they are for the most part built by hand in the factory in Wetzlar, Germany. The quality of even the cheapest Leica lens is exceptional.
Second, you pay for the brand name. You become part of the family and that will cost you. This has obviously nothing to do with the quality of the product, but it is the same reason why a Versace dress will cost you a small fortune.
Lastly, the lenses are produced in limited quantities mainly due to the fact that they take a lot of time to produce. Economies of scale then works against them. It is not uncommon that a particular lens has a waiting list of interested buyers.
The upside of this is that there is a thriving second hand market in Leica gear and therefore in Leica lenses. Admitted, on the second hand market they are still not cheap. But, remember that Leica lenses tend to hold their value and lend themselves to be repaired or get a CLA. They will last you a lifetime. And as the Leica M system exists since the 1950s you can depend on the fact that your newly acquired lens can be used on any future M camera as well. This makes it a very good investment.