Leica Summilux 35mm f1.4 Pre-a V1 Steel Rim – The Signature Glow

Leica Summilux 35mm f1.4 V1 Steel Rim - The Signature Glow

Lens Review

Leica Summilux 35mm f1.4 Pre-a V1 Steel Rim – The Signature Glow

Do you still remember the first Leica lens that you saw online or in the camera shops? And what makes them attractive to you? I still remember when I first browsed Leica lenses in different forums, people showing their lenses and cameras, the appearance of the Steel Rim and the hood was such a beautiful design and nothing else is similar to that from Leica. It immediately got my attention but after looking at the price tag and the minimum focusing distance, I closed the browser but the story was just the beginning.

Steel Rim and Unique OLLUX Hood design

Leica Summilux 35mm f1.4 I or version 1 is the 1st Leica wide angle lens produced with an aperture of f1.4 which is the fastest lens at that time, with a short production time from 1961 to 1966. It takes size 41mm filters, so far only this Summilux 35mm and Summarit 50mm f1.5 share the same size filter. Everything is kind of not-the-usual Leica practice, in terms of the hood, cap size, filter size.

Well, the extraordinary hood design and that beautifully crafted silver steel rim mounted in front of the lens is not something that is common in Leica’s line up. It is uncommon to see Leica designed a hood without a clip-on function but with the mechanism that it takes is actually quite weird. Aesthetically well constructed, the hood looks special in an oval shape with flat top and bottom.

Why is it so Expensive - Rare?

There are mainly 4 different variants produced by Leica, total production of 7,500 units (source from l-camera-forum) with Goggled version for M3 cameras because of only 50mm frame line available in M3 and Non-goggled version for M2 both came in silver chrome and black paint options. I think the silver chrome is actually the best looking silver lens ever made by Leica. I don’t quite like the black paint version because it does look like a Voigtlander 35/1.4 Nokton and the deep black paint just makes this lens not quite right aesthetically but because of rarity, the price is super expensive for black paint version. Overall, steel rim is so expensive because of its look and rarity not because of its optical performance, but I do want to point out that it is a lens with so many characters.

Focusing difference:

Goggled version minimum focusing distance at 0.65 meters

Non-goggled version minimum focusing distance at 1 meter

Leica Holy Glow

What I like the most about this lens is the ability to turn shots to be so moody and cinematic. To be honest, this lens has so many imperfections that add character to photographs. So many flaws, for example the serious lens flare, softness at largest aperture and coma, some people really don’t like it. However, if you know how to use it well, this lens can do magic like the infinity lock in my previous review. The only kind of glow I cannot withstand is the glow from Summilux 35/1.4 pre-asph Canada, the lens is like putting on a layer of vaseline in front of the first lens element when you shoot at wide open and when you shoot at f8, the focal plane of Steel Rim and Infinity lock has more 3 dimension sense than Canada made and Germany Made Summilux pre-asph V2, to describe it in a simple term “flat”.

Identical to Summilux 35mm infinity lock

I have spoken about my love for this early batch Summilux pre-asph lens in another blog post. After spending years with Steel Rim and pre-asph Infinity lock, both lenses are identical at least 90% the same except the infinity lock version might be slightly sharper because there are two types of the coating being used in Steel Rim, Leica collectors call it “soft” coat and “hard” coating both in deep blue with magenta.

Rating of Leica Glow (5 Highest; 1 Lowest)

Summilux 35/1.4 pre-a I Steel Rim -> 1

Summilux 35/1.4 pre-a II infinity lock -> 1

Summilux 35/1.4 pre-a II titanium -> 2

Summilux 35/1.4 pre-a II Germany -> 3

Summilux 35/1.4 pre-a II Canada -> 5

Great Lens for Black and White Film

Sharpness is fairly good when you shoot at f5.6 to f8. I especially love to use it for black and white and same as infinity lock, it has different characters at f1.4, f2, f2.8 to f8. It’s superb details in shadows and the fish scale kind of bokeh makes people addicted to using it. Both this and Summicron 35mm f2 I (aka 8 Element) both render beautiful black and white images.

Suitable to use in both Leica Digital and Film

Not all lenses I like to shoot with Leica digital except some of them, as Leica released M10 and the resolution and sharpness increased, these vintage lenses lose its character in these machines. But Steel Rim and Infinity lock both perform pretty well on digital leica and exceptional in M9.


Leica M9-P

Almost 10 years later, I owned two Goggled M3 of this Summilux 35mm f1.4 1st version and now I have one with the goggle removed steel rim and had a specialist recalibrated the focusing range from its previous owner. I think I will stick to this copy and make more shots out of it!

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