Leica Summicron 35mm f2 IV pre-a – King of Bokeh

Lens Review

Leica Summicron 35mm f2 IV pre-a (King of Bokeh)

Leica Summicron 35mm f2 IV pre-a – King of Bokeh

Most Popular 35mm in Leica Family

I guess everyone who is within the Leica group or about to join this bottomless black hole must have heard about different keywords describing it as King of Bokeh or 7 elements or “ 七枚/七妹” in Chinese and the word creamy. And I think since 35mm is a focal length that is very close to what we see from our human eyes, it is relatively easy to handle and compose. As a standard wide-angle lens that can serve different purposes, especially suitable for documentary or travel photography.

Summicron 35mm f2 IV was my first Leica lens when I first joined the Leica family in 2010. At first, I was attracted to its rich colour performance and the square hood that looks so sexy on it. Before I purchased this lens I had limited exposure on manual focus lenses such as Carl Zeiss Tessar or Jena using M42 mount but when I received this lens it is much smaller than I thought!

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Leica MP with Summicron 35/2 v4 7-elements
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Front ring, Summicron 35/2 IV pre-a

7 Elements

This lens has a long production period of 20 years between 1979 to 1996, it was designed in 7 elements in 5 groups. This is the reason why they all have a different nickname for example 6 or 7 and 8 elements from the number of lens elements used in a lens to label each of these 35mm produced during a different era. Some said the fewer elements you have the higher contrast it will render.

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Agfa CT100, Hong Kong
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Fujifilm Provia RDPIII, Trinidad

The Bokeh King

It has a fish scale type of bokeh some might describe it like oil painting’s brush strokes. When shooting at minimum focusing distance, out of focus area might be a little bit squirl if you are taking pictures with repeating backgrounds, for example, Christmas lights or tree leaves and it is quite pleasant to look at the bokeh not too distracting while other 35mm pre-asph lenses are all with less uniformed bokeh and often a little bit messy. But it is a personal preference to pick which one you prefer. 

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Agfa Vista 400, Havana
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Agfa Vista 400, Cienfuegos
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Kodak Supergold 400, Hanoi

A Well-Rounded Performer for Street Photography

The colour of Summicron 35mm version 4 is well saturated, not too much but good enough to recreate those moments that you see on the streets if you are a fan of street photography especially doing layering with different kinds of elements. Alex Webb from Magnum photo agency had used this lovely lens to create so many street photography shots in his collections. Due to its weight and overall stable performance at all aperture stops, it became a popular lens in the street photographer’s world.

Leica-summicron-35mm-f2-35-iv-v4-pre-a-pre-asph-canada-made-e39-lens-review-gear-street-photography-7-elements-king-of-bokeh-kob-dof-agfa-vista-400-cat-man-plastic-bag
Agfa Vista 400, Trinidad
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Agfa Vista 400, Havana

Which version? Germany or Canada made

I have owned both Canada and Germany made Summicron 35mm v4. But seriously, it is hard to tell the difference between both of them. But Germany made it more appealing to me mainly because it has a warmer tone. But one thing for sure is the earlier Summicron 35mm IV has more glow than the later ones due to improvements on coating. I think either version can produce wonderful images.

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Fuji Superia Premium 400, Hong Kong

Thoughts

If you are interested in colour photography and you would like to have a certain consistency in your photographs and looking for a reliable lens with stable performance, Summicron 35mm IV can do the job for you. It performs really well on both digital and film and especially the colour reversal film. The colour rendition is true to what we see and not overly saturated. Most importantly it is a very good investment too!

As I am a more black and white person that’s why I prefer the tonality on Summicron 35mm V1 (8 Elements) more than this lens but if you mainly shoot colour and use both digital and film, this is a lens for you.

Leica-summicron-35mm-f2-35-iv-v4-pre-a-pre-asph-canada-made-e39-lens-review-gear-street-photography-7-elements-king-of-bokeh-kob-dof-agfa-ct100-victoria-harbour-blue-sky
Agfa CT100, Hong Kong
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Fujifilm Provia RDPIII, Hong Kong
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Agfa CT100, Hong Kong
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