December 26, 2013

Summicron-C Primes: Leica's Smaller, Lighter Cinema Lenses Are Coming Soon

Leica 1Earlier in the year, we covered the announcement of a brand-spanking new set of high-end cinema lenses from Leica. Most of us know about, or have at least heard about Leica's Summilux-C primes, which might very well be the finest cinema lenses known to man. The only caveat to the Summilux line is that you would have to sell a kidney (and maybe some other vital organs) in order to afford a set of your own. Leica's new line of cinema lenses, the Summicron-C Primes, look to offer the same unmatched optical quality of their bigger brothers in a much smaller and slightly more affordable package. Oh, and they're going to start shipping any day now.

[Update: The Summicron-C Primes are now available and shipping from Band Pro.]

For some of the best information available on this new set of lenses, here's the lens wizard himself, Matthew Duclos, from an excellent write-up on his blog. First, Duclos explains what sets the Summicron-C line apart from the Summilux-C's:

The Summicron name from Leica has always implied a maximum aperture of f/2.0. Similarly, in the case of their cinema line of lenses, it refers to a max aperture of T2.0 [the Summilux line is T1.4]. Unlike the Summilux-C primes, the new Summicron-C lenses are strictly spherical elements and lack any of Leica’s superb aspherical, aberration inhibiting designs. Despite the lack of aspherical elements, the Summicron-C primes still hold their own against the likes of other high-end cinema lenses.

Leica Lens Set

In the past year, one of the most pertinent questions on everyone's mind -- especially with the growing size of digital cinema sensors -- is about whether or not our existing s35 lenses will be able to adequately cover these new sensors. RED's new DRAGON sensor has been responsible for a good portion of this questioning. Here's what Duclos had to say about the coverage that the Summicron-C's will provide for larger sensors.

Leica is claiming an image circle of 34mm+. Hah -- That’s modest. As I tested each focal length I found that they’ll cover upwards of 35-36mm even on the wide focal lengths. With a minimum image circle requirement of 34.5mm, the Summicron-C primes will absolutely cover the Dragon sensor without any issues.

One of the best characteristics of the Leica Summicron-C's is their size. Relative to most other high-end cinema lenses, the Summicrons are considerably lighter and more compact, which will make them an ideal choice in certain shooting situations. In any situation where the weight of the camera needs to be kept at a minimum, such as extended handheld shooting, the Leica Summicrons will do just that, all while providing an image quality that you'd expect from much larger cinema lenses.

Leica size-compare

Now let's talk a little bit about price. The Summicron-C line of cinema lenses, like their big brothers, are not something you're ever likely to own. At roughly $100k for the entire set of six (nearly $17k per lens), these are a rental option for nearly everybody. However, as a cinematographer, it's extremely important to know your options when it comes to optics, because they can make a world of difference in terms of the logistics of the shoot, as well as the aesthetic and of your film.

If you'd like to read more about this fantastic set of cinema lenses, make sure you head on over to the Duclos blog to get the full rundown. The Leica Summicron-C's are to begin shipping by the end of the year.

What do you guys think of these lenses? Have you ever used the Summilux-C's, and if so, are these more compact lenses going to make a splash in the cinematography world for their stellar performance and relatively small form factor? Let us know down in the comments!

Link: Leica's Summicron-C Primes Are Coming! -- Matthew Duclos' Circle of Confusion

Your Comment

32 Comments

Nice lens! also looking forward to the Schneider Xenon FF primes

December 26, 2013 at 2:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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t. calico

I wish they'd make a full set of the ff's. The idea behind them seem promising.

December 26, 2013 at 6:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Chris

Not worth it, dont get me wrong they are decent lens, but even leica admitted that they are lower grade lens.

Shane hurblot did a shootout with CANON, LEICA, NIKON, and Zeiss lens. Interesting the Leica lens were just okay and these were top notch lens, not c grades like these. The Leica lens were not even the third most contrasty lens, did not resolve more detail than some of the other budget lens, and sharpness was not that amazing over other lens.

The place were the Leica's really shined was in the bokeh, they produce a creamy nice depth of field , but in the end even as a rental option i would not rush to get these.

If you are using the black magic camera, one of the crazy things about the camera is that images look amazing in RAW no matter what lens you slap on it. I would go with the ROKINONS due to the moire and aliasing when using a sharp lens. The rokinons paired with the Sigma 18-35 (sharpness) for when you are not shooting patterns or brick walls makes a great budget option.

December 26, 2013 at 2:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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JAYE

Do you have any idea what you are talking about? Hurlbut tested the still lines of Leica's; and why you consider them top-notch in the sense that the cine counterparts are C-grade is beyond me. Well then Canon L lenses must be the worst because L is pretty far downward the alphabets lol.

And where+when did Leica admit their lenses were lower grade? If you can even give some implications I'd be surprise. Do you go out and sell your admittedly lower grade lenses for several times the prices of other better lenses? Please have show some common sense here. Do you even have a T2i?

December 27, 2013 at 10:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Anh Dang

I could be wrong but I imagine it's kinda tough for NFS contributors sometimes. Like in this case, they try to inform about high end cinema glass that comes in smaller and a little bit less expensive than the highest end cinema glass Leica offers. People immediately start comparing them to Canon L glass and Rokinon's as if they're in the same class, built for the same market and to the same tolerances. I'm not trying to justify cost here. It's about the quality. Regardless of cost, some people are confused as to what they're reading about and how it fits into the full spectrum of cinematography.

December 27, 2013 at 10:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Brian

I found Canon lenses to not render skin as good as Leica. I slowly built up nice Leica R lens collection off of eBay and Craigslist. The lenses have a creamy quality to them and more filmic look, in my opinion. Not as contrasty, agreed, but definitely sharp as hell…most of them, at least. A 50mm Summilux Leica R lens ranges from $1000-upwards of $4000. You can de-click and adapt them with follow focus gears for pretty cheap also.

Now with Blackmagic cameras, the MFT mount BM cameras will have a new speed booster that has Leica R mount designed only for the BM MFT cameras, similar to the Nikon one which just released (Metabones to release that product late this month according to an email correspondence). So, with that combo pack, it seems like a huge bargain…Leica glass, super 35mm frame size, and an extra f-stop+

December 26, 2013 at 3:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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John

Only problem with most canon lens is that they do not resolve enough lines suitable for big screens , canon glass is terrible for hd or higher, with maybe the exception of cine lens 24 -70, and 85mm

December 26, 2013 at 8:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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jaye

I don't understand this notion that Canon can't resolve more than HD... Honestly, they can easily resolve 18+ megapixel, you can see this in stills. Pretty much all the L series that aren't distorted glass to begin with (8-15, 16-35 etc) are super sharp. In my experience Leica glass is rubbish in terms of resolution... but for them its never been about that.

For these cameras, even with the line skipping the resolving power remains the same... it doesn't get softer... its just the shitty codec... Shooting RAW on your Mark 3 proves this.

5D Mark 2 w/ 24-105mm lens... Obligatory bum shot.

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3814/10220019564_09eb6f9a6e_o.jpg

December 26, 2013 at 11:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jeff

The 16-35 is one of the worst resolving lenses I ever used... Leica's are much better than either Canon or Nikon glass anf have a much more pleasing look than the Canon's. If you want good wide resolving power and contrast the 14-24 is very good, I bought that one when I was using a 5D and it was the best WA I had!
No matter what, leica is unbelievably sharp for nearly all lenses. I also took some pictures with the 50 0,95 leica and even wide open that lens was tacksharp (on the tiny spot it was in focus ;)).
I really thought these would be more budget-oriented :( (under 5k). Oh well, 14-24, 35 1.4, 50 1.4, 55 2.8, 85 1.8, 105 2.8, 70-200 2.8 makes a very good kit for a filmmaker on a budget. Would really like some more light 'normal' lenses for use with 'the Ghost' (cheaper Mövi).

December 27, 2013 at 3:40AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Henri De Vreese

Leica glass is much sharper than Canon virtually across the board in all primes lenses.

December 28, 2013 at 1:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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John

Not true. You're thinking of Canon's line-skipping dslr sensors. Their still glass will resolve fine with a high-mp bayer sensor.

December 27, 2013 at 9:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jon

Not sure if I can afford these guys but everyday I'm leaning more towards the lens than the camera itself. I mean thank God camera prices are coming down, but I think in 2014 I'll concentrate more on acquiring good lenses than the latest camera tech. I'm realizing for the price of my fs700 kit, I'd rather have my investment tied up in glass than the camera since it looks like camera prices are falling big time. The money I have on reserve for the Odyssey I think may go towards glass, hell I'm even thinking about selling the fs700. Get a blackmagic "something" or even a DB and buy more glass. Even if it's a couple lenses, it's better than money tied up in the latest technology. I wonder what we can expect this year? What could be better than a "Blackmagic" announcment? Haha, duh...probably nothing. Happy New year.

December 26, 2013 at 3:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Anthony Marino

Quality glass is always a good idea. The cameras change every 15 minutes but I use 30 year old glass and it's glorious.

Good thinking

December 27, 2013 at 12:00AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jonathan

Take my kidneys. Give me these lenses.

December 26, 2013 at 4:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Pat

I doubt you have enough kidneys at hand :-)

December 29, 2013 at 3:41AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Thyl Engelhardt

Sorry, but I need these lenses in a t2i vs. Eos-m shoot out test before I can pass judgement

December 26, 2013 at 6:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Lol

December 27, 2013 at 10:37AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Agent55

December 26, 2013 at 7:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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carlos

"You would have to sell a kidney (and maybe some other vital organs) in order to afford a set of your own."

You're exaggerating, there aren't enough organs to sell from your body to afford a set.

December 26, 2013 at 8:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Kevin

The digital camera revolution is in full swing. There are so many quality offerings at great prices, even from the major players who are slow to change. But it seems the lens makes of the world still think its 1999. I understand that the craft of lens making is completely different then making electronics.. but come on 100k. I'm sure they look amazing, but the arrogance of it all. I'd love to see one of these emerging "off brands" knock it out of the park with a great set of primes at a competitive price just to shake things up a bit. kind of the way Red camera and Blackmagic has done in the camera market. Love'em or hate'em the camera market will never be the same again.

December 26, 2013 at 11:26PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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John W.

The high prices for these sort of lenses have nothing to do with arrogance. High end cine lenses are at the pinnacle of optical design. They use exotic glass (read expensive), are produced to extremely high tolerances by hand and in relatively small quantities. These lenses are expected to be in service for decades, offer the reliability of a hockey puck and perform at an exceptionally high level under all circumstances. There is also no economy of scale with this sort of undertaking. We're not talking about a still lens from Canon/Nikon etc that is turned out by the tens of thousands in an automated factory, with what is deemed an acceptable amount of assembly accuracy, to allow them to be sold to the mass market at a price that Joe blow can afford.

December 27, 2013 at 1:41AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Marc

I think all of your points are on the mark, but they are also points that could have been made about high end film cameras 10 years ago, "produced to extremely high tolerances by hand and in relatively small quantities." I'd bet money that in the next decade we will see cinema quality lenses at consumer prices. They won't be hand made or from a company with a high end pedigree but the image will always win out in the end. dslr's don't look great but for a lot of people and productions they where good enough and in a very short amount of time the price of cameras from the low end to the hight end have came down drastically. The lens industry is ripe for the same kind of revolution. There are already a few offerings (i.e. rokinon) most pros won't touch them with a ten foot poll. First because there no where near as good yet and second because there not a known brand. But these off brand lenses will get better and better and slowly work there way into shoots because of there low price and improving image quality and one day people will realize that the engenering and production cost of these lenses don't equal the same as a Porche 911.

December 27, 2013 at 3:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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John W.

*Porsche is a better way to spell that.

December 27, 2013 at 3:55AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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John W.

Why should things be "just good enough"? Why can't they be really GREAT?

The answer is money and expectation.

You can always RENT the lenses.

December 30, 2013 at 9:13AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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You mean extremely low tolerances?

December 27, 2013 at 10:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Anh Dang

They aren't mass market lenses. These are top-end cinema lenses for top-end cinema productions.

December 27, 2013 at 8:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Pat

IMO, what is happening is that quality glass for the lower end pro cams - let's say, something under $10K - is getting much better in terms of the overall value. In that sense, your camera+lens combo will cost less and will deliver the image quality of items costing 5-10 times only two-three years ago. (If you go back a little more than half a decade, a 4K camera may have run as much as $250K and now you can have reasonable facsimile thereof for about $5K) The top of the top will still run a fortune but this does mean you can't get a fairly similar performance from cheaper lens.

December 28, 2013 at 3:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

Envy ,Lust and covet - I'm going to hell.
I have a robust set of Lieca R all cinemod conversion done by Duclose.

If I had the bank for these I would be in heaven on earth.

December 26, 2013 at 11:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jonathan

I don't understand why so many complaints about price. You will never ever have to buy that glass, you rent it! 100k is too much? Who cares, the rental house is gonna buy them for me. Just like Zeiss, Canon, Cooke and Angenieux glass, for which you don't need to sell a kidney to rent (especially if is the client who is paying for them).

December 27, 2013 at 4:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Ska

Good point. It's easy though for hobbyists like me though to get some gear lust now that the price point allows for so much more accessibility hehe :] I bet ten years ago hobbyists wouldn't ever dream of owning cameras that could do certain things; now that price is so much lower it's like "well... why SHOULDN't I be able to afford these" lol

December 27, 2013 at 4:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Lenes?

December 27, 2013 at 10:50AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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ronn

January 22, 2014 at 5:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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eli