Flummoxed by Summilux SL

I recently visited Tuscany and spent a week with friends, unplugged; spending as much time eating, hiking and photographing the beautiful landscape. It has been a fun week, but I have struggled with photography. You see, in a rush to leave last week, I accidentally picked up my Leica Summilux 50mm SL lens to pair with my Leica SL. I usually carry the SL 24-90 lens which has served me well all across the planet. Even though I have owned the Summilux for nearly a year, I haven’t used it as much, and when I have it is mostly for taking portraits with the lens wide open. Even though I prefer the 50mm focal length, I don’t use this lens for landscapes or environmental photos. I much prefer the more versatile 24-90, which is actually is the only lens you need on an SL.

And perhaps that is why I was quite frustrated when trying to make landscapes with the Summilux 50mm lens. If 24-90 is fast and quick to focus, the Summilux-50 SL is slow and struggles to lock focus. I missed more shots with this that I have on any other lens from the Leica Family of lenses. I ended up resorting to manual focus, which makes no sense, as auto-focus mechanism adds so much weight to Leica lenses. For me Leica SL is everything I need in a camera and has been a champion for making long exposures. When shooting for 15-30 minutes using the 15-stop Super Stopper Lee filter, there is no noise and the digital negatives are pristine and sharp. I assume, the unique all metal body allows the camera to dissipate heat very effectively.

I have been trying to find words to describe why I dislike this lens as much as I do, and for once I can’t really put my feelings and experience with the lens into words. I suspect how we feel about tools is very subjective and individualistic. It is safe to say this is my least favorite lens and I see no reason to carry it around anymore. (If you want to buy a barely used version of the lens, get in touch.)

I am going to put this one for sale next week — and instead just use the M or R lenses for future 50mm needs. They are light and compact and for my style of photography — long exposures — they are perfect as they are all manual.

The best aspect of the photographic-part trip was hanging out with Duccio Nacci, a Tuscan photographer with immense knowledge of the local landscapes and a man with an artistic eye. Deliberations on photography, art and life with him made the trip more enjoyable, and helped me compensate for the lack of a lens that I liked.

I also brought along my Konica Hexar AF camera with a few rolls of film and am actually enjoying taking photos with this little beauty. It is quite an amazing little powerhouse and I can’t wait to see my 35mm film photos. Similarly, I have been really pleased with the new iPhone 8+ that Apple loaned for a review. I have been making photos using the ProCamera app and the resulting DNG files are so warm and gorgeous. I wonder what I could do with these in Photoshop. I am working on creating a set of photos to share from this trip.

October 7, 2017. Tuscany, Italy.

Featured photo: Val d’Orcia, Tuscany made with iPhone 8+ edited with Dark Room.

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