The Light Lens Lab 35mm f2.0 Eight elements, a China-made replica of the legendary Leitz 35mm Summicron V1 8 elements has captured the attention of many in the past few months, with some praising it as a value-for-money alternative to the collectors level Leitz 35mm Summicron V1 8 elements. In this review, let us take a closer look at how this lens performs.
*I am sure most if not all reviews of this lens will be on a Leica M body, hence I am taking a different tack, and reviewing the Light Lens Lab 35mm f2.0 on the Fujifilm X-Pro3 instead, I have been asked to test how Fujifilm film simulations (Classic Neg specifically) can lend an extra layer to the image output and am keen to find out too.
The Leitz 35mm Summicron V1 8 elements is coveted for its supposed ‘Leica glow’ and lack of distortion & in this sense the Light Lens Lab 35mm f2.0 8 elements does have big shoes to fill.
Before we proceed, for those in a rush, here are 2 samples of portraits done at f2.0 on the Light Lens Lab 35mm f2.
and let’s go on!
True to being a faithful replica of the Leitz 35mm Summicron 8 elements, Light Lens Labs has gone to the extreme in even sourcing out flint glass for the production just like the glass used in the Leitz 35mm Summicron 8 elements. Light Lens Lab also says it as it is, directly referencing the Leitz 35mm Summicron V1 on Page 6 of the included manual booklet.
The lens used in this review is a “V6LC”, where V6 is the lot number of the glass material, L is the abbreviation for Lead, and C is the abbreviation for single-layer coating. This lens is made in batches due to the issue of sourcing for the very limited in quantities flint glass. For example, this V6 batch comes in 998 copies, and this is the #576 out of 998.
- Classic Symmetrical Double-Gauss Design of 8 elements in 6 groups
- 10 aperture blades with a minimum aperture of f16
- Minimum focusing distance: 0.7m
- Filter size: 39mm
- Lens body crafted in brass, with front and rear caps made in brass too.
- Weight: 230 g
- It seems that upon request there are also options for lens coatings between single coated and multi coated but I have not seen a multi-coated copy before.
Build, Handling and Samples
Packaging-wise, Light Lens Labs is keen to impress on you that this lens is not like the other run-of-the-mill cheap clones. One even finds a leather pouch with color-printed manuals highlighting the MTF charts and specifications of the lens.
(click on the images to expand)
I was very impressed by the build of the lens, and this is not something I easily say. Made of brass, the lens has a very good heft to it and this lens will not feel out of place on any well-made camera body. In fact, the build of this lens, especially in how the sum of well-built parts come together easily ranks among the best among most third-party lenses manufacturers.
Another part that shows the attention to detail is that Light Lens Lab has also incorporated the infinity lock onto the focusing ring, this might need some getting used to but it was one of the unique design features of the older Leica Leitz lenses, including the Leitz 35mm Summicron 8 elements.
Now let us take a look at some samples.
- As mentioned, all samples here were photographed on the Fujifilm X-Pro3.
- As a matter of personal pride and respect to readers, all images here are photographed by me, I do not use stock or company provided images and if so, I will make sure I declare it.
- All images were post-processed in LR CC Classic and in the Fujifilm Classic Neg simulation (except the three monochrome shots)
- Both the Fujifilm X-Pro3, Light Lens Lab 35mm f2 are my personal copies, for some reasons my set did not come with the included hood but well, it is what it is.
- This review is not sponsored and by now you would have realised I don’t do affliate purchase links. I prefer to keep the reviews free from any potential biaseness.
Using the Light Lens Lab 35mm f2 on the X-Pro3 requires an M to X mount adapter (I had bad experiences with Metabones and most other brands will work well) and from there, the process was a breeze. The clicks on the aperture ring were sound and well pronounced. Some might prefer more ‘tension’ in the focusing ring but ‘buttery smooth’ in this case works well for me.
Usage-wise, one part I loved immensely was how tiny this lens was without sacrificing any usability. I shot across the full range of aperture values but mostly between f2.8 and f5.6 since on the APSC sized X-Pro3 sensor, this would translate to an f4 and f8 depth of field.
The rendering of the Light Lens Lab 35mm f2 tries to and does a good job in staying ‘faithful’ to the original Leitz equivalent though I am pretty sure there are differences if we start to nit-pick. For example, some reviewers who stare at 100% crops have mentioned the presence of rings in the bokeh balls.
In my opinion, what we are looking for here is not the modern clinical sharpness like an extreme number of lines pair per millimeter (lp/mm) but a classical rendering with minimal distortion, aka, one should probably pay lesser focus on the charts.
With the EVF of the X-Pro3, which allows one a magnified view of the focusing, manual focusing is even easier. One can also choose to use focus-peaking or Fujifilm’s own version of the rangefinder focusing patch but in my experience, I rather trust my eyes more and I always go with good-old magnified view.
The minimum focusing distance (MFD) of 0.7 meters is a characteristic one does need to get used to, but if you come from Leica M lenses which can go up to an MFD of 0.9 meters, this is probably not a big issue for you.
The lens does not flare easily but try enough and of course, one will be able to do so. After all, this is a single coated lens. Knowing me, I will not use the hood even if I have one as I really appreciate how tiny this piece of optics is.
This is a pretty tough call. I am sure the Leica purists would label this Light Lens Lab 35mm f2 an abomination and frankly, this is another reason why I decided not to do this review on a Leica M body. What I feel is more important is to recognize that what Light Lens Lab has here is a product they can be proud of. The fact is this Light Lens Lab 35mm f2 will never be exactly the same as a Leitz 35mm Summicron V1 but if this is what you are after, there is nothing else in the market that comes close to the Leitz.
*personally I am not for blatant copies of lenses currently in production, for example like what TTArtisan has done with their knockoff of the Leica 28mm f5.6 but as I age, I have learned to not force my opinions on others and prefer to listen more and be more acceptive.
For the price of this lens, this is an extremely formidable contender, especially for photographers keen on the classic vintage draw and there are many good reasons to recommend this lens. Those willing to splurge will go for the Leitz version while on the other end, photographers are starting to call this an upcoming cult classic and this lens is in fact, still pretty tough to procure without paying a premium in some markets.
In all, I am pretty excited to see what Light Lens lab can do next and if it is about remaking an out-of-production 1950s legendary lens to make it available for the masses, I am supportive.
Thank you for reading.