This review is only possible with the kind loan of the Light Lens Lab 35mm ƒ2 Collapsible from Riceball Photography.
Introduction – the 35mm Collapsible lens for LTM/M
While there are a lot of third-party makers for Leica M-mount, there are only 3 brands that get me excited due to the quality of the build or the lengths they go to ‘replicate’ the famed Leica M lenses, and Light Lens Lab is one of them.
*The 3 are Voigtlander, Zeiss, and Light Lens Labs. TTArtisan is pretty decent, but I will not spend money on a 7Artisan.
In fact, if I am not wrong, Leica has made 50mm and 90mm optics in a collapsible design but never the 35mm focal length. Thus, the Light Lens Lab 35mm ƒ2 Collapsible holds the honor of the 1st ever 35mm with a Collapsible design.
*Update 5 Jan 2023, I was proven wrong, and Leica had released a Leitz Elmar 3.5cm in 1930, while MS-Optics had released a 35mm ƒ1.3 collapsible for M mount before this. Thank you to the readers who kindly shared this knowledge.
I first took notice of Light Lens Lab with their 35mm ƒ2 eight elements, whose design was based on the ‘legendary‘ Leitz 35mm Summicron V1 8 elements (my review of it on the Fujifilm X-Pro3 is here). While there will always be room for improvement, it was clear that Light Lens Lab wasn’t fooling around and was serious about carving out its niche in the market.
The optical design of the Light Lens Lab’s 35mm ƒ2 Collapsible is similar to their 35mm ƒ2 eight elements ( review here). This will give an idea to users on what to expect optical output wise.
I ultimately bought the Light Lens Lab 35mm ƒ2 8-elements from Riceball Photography after reviewing and appreciating the lengths that Light Lens Lab has gone into this reproduction of the original 8-elements.
Technicalities of the Light Lens Lab 35mm ƒ2 Collapsible
- LTM mount (the box includes an LTM-M Mount Adapter)
- Aperture: F2 to F16
- Double-Gauss design, 8 elements in 6 groups
- 10-Blade Aperture Diaphragm with Uniform Half-Stop Clicks
- Focus Distance: 0.7 meters to Infinity (it actually goes close to 0.5 meters, but you probably will need Live-view)
- Built-In UV Filter (yes, you can actually feel it as a layer of glass over the front element)
- Available in Silver Chrome, Black paint, and Nickel Chrome version (estimated end of 2022)
Two noteworthy characteristics are that the Light Lens Lab 35mm ƒ2 Collapsible’s lens barrel is entirely made of brass and that the lens engineers have directly built the UV filter into the lens itself this time round. (The 8 elements version had single-coated and multi-coated versions and could flare spectacularly, and I can see how the built-in UV is helpful in this case)
Build, handling and samples.
Like the previous releases, Light Lens Lab does not scrimp on the packaging, including a well-made Rear and Front lens cap, LTM-M mount adapter, and a Lens case in the standard packaging.
I was pleasantly surprised by the heft of the lens despite its extremely compact size. With the lens barrel made of brass, this is a lens that will stand the test of time and use. The sum of all parts easily adds together to make the build quality one of the better ones among third-party M-mount lenses, comparable with the recent Voigtlander builds.
An infinity lock is built-in on the lens, and distance markers (in meters) are all extremely legible and easy to manage. ‘Collapsing’ and ‘releasing’ the lens requires some practice, especially the steps on ‘locking’ the lens barrel in position. It took me a while to build the confidence to do so.
The lens’s minimum focusing distance is 0.5m, closer than Leica’s 0.7m for its rangefinders. One can take advantage of the use of Live-view or Visoflex. With Leica’s move into 0.3m for its 35 Summicron APO and 0.4m for its 35mm Summilux ASPH (2022), this trend is moving forward.
Using the Light Lens Lab 35mm ƒ2 Collapsible requires a bit of getting used to, especially when adjusting the aperture values.
A little snag with using the Light Lens Lab 35mm ƒ2 Collapsible is that I realized that since the whole barrel (basically the whole lens) turns together with the focusing ring, every time I needed to change the aperture size, I would need to actually shift the focusing ring position back to the infinity lock position, adjust aperture setting before returning to shooting. A little inconvenient, but it was something I got used to after 10 minutes.
The most attractive part of the Light Lens Lab 35mm ƒ2 Collapsible would be its tiny size. The size of the collapsed lens on my M10-P for an F2 lens is unbelievable, even though I know I have mentioned this.
This way, it fulfills the Leica M mount’s design DNA of an unobtrusive street photographer’s camera. I was only stopped once by someone who thought I was using a vintage lens on my M10-P.
The price of the Light Lens Lab 35mm ƒ2 Collapsible is USD1050 (Chrome) and USD1150 (Black Paint), and personally, other than the draw of a classical vintage collapsible design, there are other good reasons to recommend this lens.
Comparisons with the Light Lens Lab 35mm ƒ2 8-elements would be the Collapsible version really has significantly better flare control. Optically both give excellent value for their cost, especially with how well-built the lenses are. While there are no threads or way for one to mount a hood on the Collapsible version, I do not think one actually needs to use one.
Bokeh-character wise, the lens tends towards a more busy/distracting drawing. I would love to test it more in a portrait shoot.
As I had to return the lens within 2 days; I only had a very short time with the lens, so I could not do a proper portrait shoot with it, but I will still say that some may find the bokeh-drawing tending toward the busy/distracting side. Still, I see this as catering to a different way of presenting bokeh, where different photographers will have their own preferences.
I use the 35mm Summicron ASPH for 85% of my shots. Still, I am attracted to this Light Lens Lab offering simply because of its difference as a lens that stands out from the typical offering and its excellent cost-value performance. The black paint version is especially attractive, though it is only a dream for me to own the M10-R black paint one day.
What do you think?
The Light Lens Lab 35mm ƒ2 Collapsible is already available at RiceBall photography (an authorized distributor) located at 3 Coleman Street, Peninsula Plaza, Singapore.
Thank you for reading.
- All product photos and samples here were photographed by me. I believe any reviewer with pride should produce their own product photos.
2. All images were shot with the Leica M10-P and edited in LR CC Classic to my preferences. Product photos were shot with the Leica Q.
3. This review is not sponsored, and I only had access to the lens for approx 1+ days before returning it to Riceball Photography, the local authorized distributor for Light Lens Lab equipment.
4. I do not do affiliate purchase links to keep myself neutral. I write as a passion and a hobby, and I appreciate that photography brands are kind enough to respect and work with me.
5. The best way to support me is to share the review, or you can always help support me by contributing to my fees to WordPress for the domain using the Paypal button at the bottom of the page.
17 Replies to “Light Lens Lab 35mm F2 Collapsible on the Leica M10-P – a first impressions review”
Excellent photos shared Keith, this lens is indeed interesting. May I ask if one can add a hood to it?
Hi! Thank you. Unfortunately there is no way to add a hood for the lens at this moment, but I hardly think there is a need as this lens is pretty resistant to flaring.
Lovely shots from the museum, this is so far the best review I have come across for the lens. Well done!
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Hi Martin, thank you!
Very nice and interesting review. Thank you!
Just out of interest:
“TTArtisan is pretty decent, but I will not spend money on a 7Artisan.”
Hi! Hmm, the main reason is that the variation in 7Artisan samples is still too big for my liking. Moreover, like TTArtisan, the lenses do not come rangefinder calibrated hence there is additional work to be done. Lastly, I do see TTArtisan & 7Artisan at a similar price band, and will pick the former if given a choice.
hi, how safe is it to collapse on a digital M? I know the older collapsible lenses are not recommended to be collapsed on digital cameras. thanks
Hi Mihai, when collapsed and on my M body the lens parts do not protude much and I had used this safely on my M10-P which should be similar across M10 variants and M11. For M9 and M8 maybe good to check with LLL but I don’t think this is an issue 🙂
The title of the first collapsible 35mm lens belongs to Leica for the Leitz Elmar 3.5cm 35mm f/3.5 Lens, presented in 1930 and produced until 1949.
Thank you for sharing this, I’ll update this too.
Hi Keith ! Could you get your hands on a light lens lab prototype lens for a review ? I’m sure they would be happy to send one to you for a review. This lens appears intriguing. I refer to the impending light lens lab 50mm speed panchro 2
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Hi Baladino, Yeap I’m also pretty curious about this lens too. Especially how it renders. Let me check with them but to be honest I think pretty much a nobody yet for them to send one over
I would buy one based on your review. There is also an emerging market of M Mount users around you who are keen to use other lenses on their camera. It would be to their advantage introducing the lens to a market ready to embrace them. I did not purchase the elcan. Bought a version 5 summicron 50mm instead. The elcan does not resolve well at 5 metres at the centre when I tried it out. Enjoy your weekend.
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You have always come across as someone who knows your needs and stuff 🙂 I’m sure you already are quite clear about to purchase or not haha. I’ve just wrote to LLL and I hope for a favorable reply too.
Baladino, I managed to request a sample to test 🙂 It won’t be immediate due to the low numbers available but it will be with me for 2 weeks, decent good time for a proper test. Looking forward!
Great news eh ? Hope it will lead your readers to another lens purchase ! Though I hope you yourself would refrain from buying it. My results using a combination of Tri X 400 and 35/50mm summicrons have been encouraging. Hope your MP will give you similar joy. https://imgur.com/a/fCcPxrq
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