35mm Comparison: Voigtlander VM 1.7, Zeiss Loxia 2.0 and ZM 1.4, Leica FLE 1.4

Introduction

Leica Summilux-M 35mm 1.4 Asph FLE | Zeiss Distagon ZM 35mm 1.4 T* | Voigtlander Ultron 35mm 1.7 Asph | Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0
Leica Summilux-M 35mm 1.4 Asph FLE | Zeiss Distagon ZM 35mm 1.4 T* | Voigtlander Ultron 35mm 1.7 Asph | Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0

We managed to gather the three most recent fast rangefinder 35mm wide angle lenses from Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander, threw in the Zeiss Loxia and put them up against each other on the 42mp A7rII.  So in case you are looking for a small modern high quality 35mm manual focus lens: read on!

Unlike my other reviews this is a pretty technical comparison without real world shots. So please also have a look at our in depth reviews of theses lenses: Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0, Voigtlander 35mm 1.7 Ultron, Zeiss ZM 35mm 1.4 Distagon.
I only got the chance to use the Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 FLE Asph for a short period of time, so I couldn’t include it in all of the comparisons, but a single review will also be released soon.

Thanks

to Stuttgart based wedding and portrait photographer Rocco, who allowed me to use his Leica Summilux-M 35mm 1.4 FLE Asph for this comparison!

Specifications

 Leica FLE 35mm 1.4Zeiss ZM 35mm 1.4Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0Voigtlander 35mm 1.7
Diameter:56.0 mm63.0 mm62.1 mm53.0 mm
Length*:64.0 mm*80.0 mm*59.0 mm67.0 mm*
Weight:328g + adapter381g + adapter340g238g + adapter
Filter diameter:46 mm49 mm52 mm46 mm
Aperture blades:9 (inwardly curved)10 (straight)10 (straight)10 (straight)
Focus throw:95°90°180°120°
Elements/Groups9/510/79/69/7
Close focusing distance:0.7 m0.7 m0.3 m0.5 m
Mount:Leica-MLeica-MSony-ELeica-M
*with adapter and focused @infinity*with adapter and focused @infinity*with adapter and focused @infinity

Prices:
Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 FLE Asph:
used starting at 4000$/4000€ on ebay.com/ebay.de*, new 4995$ on amazon.com*

Zeiss ZM 35mm 1.4 T* Distagon:
used starting at 1600$/1600€ on ebay.com/ebay.de*, new 1999$/1999€ on amazon.com/amazon.de*

Voigtlander 35mm 1.7 Ultron
:
new 650$/770€ on ebay.com/ebay.de* or amazon.com*

Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0:
used starting at 950$/900€ on ebay.com/ebay.de*, new $1300/1150€ on amazon.com/amazon.de*

Adapter I have used for the Leica-M lenses:
Voigtlander VM-E close focus adapter: 309$/269€ on ebay.com/ebay.de* or 309$ on Amazon.com*
*affiliate links

Handling / Build Quality

Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 FLE Asph (FLE):
The Leica is the shortest of the rangefinder lenses in this comparison but has quite some heft to it and feels very solid. It features an all metal casing, half stop click stops and a focus ring with perfect resistance even after years of usage. What I did not really like: this lens features a focus tab but apart from it the focus ring isn’t structured but completely even instead (apart from the paintings which are engraved). This contributes to the small size of the lens so one can’t really complain here.
This lens features a floating elements design but unlike the Zeiss ZM not an interfal focusing mechanism, so the lens extends on focusing closer.

rangefinder leica m lenses focus field curvature thick sensor stack leica summilux summilux-m 35mm 1.4 asph fle 35 mm 1,4 1/1.4 sony a7 series a7rii a7rmk2 a7rm2
Leica Summilux-M 35mm 1.4 Asph FLE

Zeiss ZM 35mm 1.4 Distagon (ZM):
Build quality is very nice, as is to be expected from a lens with such a high price tag. It feels very solid as it seems to be an all metal construction, which of course also adds to the substantial weight of the lens. The aperture ring has distinct 1/3 of a stop click stops and travels ~120° from f/1.4 to f/16. Personally I would prefer full or at least half stop click stops, but that might just be me. The focus ring feels very nice and from the minimum focus distance of 70 cm to infinity it travels 90°.
Unlike most of the other rangefinder lenses (and also the VM and Loxia in this comparison) this one features an internal focusing mechanism, meaning nothing moves externally when focusing. It is also the only lens in this comparison where no hood is included in the package, which is a bit ridiculous considering the price of the lens.

zeiss distagon 35mm 1.5 zm t* adapter leica m a7rII a7r a7s a7 sony review

 

Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 Ultron (VM):
Build quality is very nice as well and this lens also seems to feaure an all metal construction. The focusing ring travels 120° degrees from infinity to 0.5 m and has a distinctive, unusual shape – which didn’t bother me – but I think its resistance could be a little higher. Unlike the aperture rings of the Zeiss lenses this one features half-of-a-stop click-stops, which I prefer over the third-of-a-stop click-stops.
A very short screw-in type lens hood is part of the package.

 

Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 Biogon (Loxia):
The build quality of the Loxia is also very nice and the most part of the lens is made of metal. There is also a blue rubber gasket at the rear of the lens for weather sealing (albeit there is no E-mount camera body with weather/dust resistance available to date).
The focus ring has just the right resistance and it takes ~180° from infinity to 0.3 m. The aperture ring has third-of-a-stop click-stops and turns about 120° which is a little more than I prefer as it takes quite some time to go from f/2.0 to f/11. One can also “de-click” the aperture ring to make it stepless which I think is mostly interesting for filming purposes.
The included hood is mostly made of metal, but sits not very tight.
As this is a native E-mount lens with electronic contacts there is also another feature: when turning the focus ring the camera automatically zooms in but to be honest I found this behaviour to be slowing down my shooting (as I prefer to move the box first and then zoom in), so I turned it off in the camera menu.

 

In comparison to each other:
One really has to be splitting hairs here, as the build quality of all of these lenses is on a very high level.
As being a native lens the Loxia offers a little more comfort with the transfer of EXIF data and focal length (nice), the declick mechanism (I don’t need) and the auto magnify (I don’t like). The design also fits the A7 cameras very very well.
Despite being half a stop faster the Voigtlander Ultron is smaller in diameter, only marginally longer and even lighter (with most adapters) than the Loxia. I like the half-of-a-stop click stops of the aperture ring but I would have preferred the focusing ring to be just a little bit tighter.
The Leica 35mm 1.4 FLE is interestingly the shortest lens in this comparison and significantly smaller and a bit lighter than the ZM 35mm 1.4 Distagon which features the same parameters. Because of the long minimum focus distance I would really recommend getting a helicoid adapter like the VM-E close focus adapter for these two lenses which will unfortunately further increase the weight of the packages. Many Leica users think the Zeiss ZM is too big and also too heavy, but compared to the native Sony/Zeiss FE 35mm 1.4 ZA Distagon it is still a significantly smaller and lighter lens.

Vignetting

loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements

If you read our reviews of these lenses you already know the M-mount lenses in this comparison have huge vignetting wide open – the minituarization certainly takes its toll here.
Wide open the Leica FLE 35mm 1.4 vignettes the most with ~3.4 EV followed by the  ZM 35 1.4 with ~3.1 EV in the extreme corners, the half a stop slower VM 35mm 1.7 lags not far behind with ~2.8 EV and even the Loxia 35mm 2.0 shows 2.3 stops darker corners compared to the center.
Keep in mind though: these lenses have all different maximum apertures and if you check my review of the ZM 35mm 1.4 you can see stopped down to f/2.0 it is pretty much the same as the Loxia at f/2.0.
And stopped down f/8.0 they are all also pretty much the same with ~1.2 EV in the extreme corners, only the Leica still shows ~1.6 EV.

Sharpness

loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements
Sharpness Overview

You might have already come across this article, explaining how to get better corner performance with rangefinder wideangle lenses by the use of a front end filter. As I now possess two 5m PCX filters which drastically improve the performance of these 35mm lenses I decided to include these here.
Furthermore the Zeiss ZM 35mm 1.4 and the Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 FLE Asph have been factory calibrated respectively replaced (in case of the Leica) by the manufacturer after purchase.

infinity

loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements

Wide open the faster lenses show some purple fringing and the Leica without filter looks the softest, but I would consider all of them usable to good (at least). By f/2.8 they all look very good, the Loxia might show a little less contrast. By f/8.0 diffraction already starts to reduce the image quality.

loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements

Unfortunately wide open the 5m filter has a negative influence on the midframe of the VM and even more so on the ZM, but interestingly leads to better results on the FLE. The VM without filter looks best to me, followed by ZM without and FLE with filter.
The Loxia looks pretty bad because of the spherical aberrations inherent in the optical formula of the lens.
At f/2.8 things even out and there are only subtle differences except for the Loxia which still has some issues with spherical aberrations.
By f/8.0 they all look very good in the midframe.

loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements

The rangefinder lenses wide open without filter look awful by comparison which was to be expected. With a 5m filter things look very different and the ZM and VM might have actually the highest resolution in the corners, but are somewhat spoiled by the very high vignetting, therefore the Loxia looks best at first sight.
At f/2.8 the ZM +5m filter actually resolves finer details in the corners than the others, followed by VM +5m filter and Loxia.
At f/8.0 the ZM +5m filter still looks best to me, showing the highest contrast and resolving most fine details, but the Loxia, Leica and VM +5m filter all follow very close.

close focus @ 0.5 m
loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements

Only the VM and the Loxia where used at distances they were designed for, for ZM and FLE the VM-E close focus adapter was necessary to reduce the minimum focus distance from 0.7 to 0.5 m.
Two things are very apparent: wide open at 50 cm focusing distance the ZM is clearly in a league of its own, despite the fact one has to use a helicoid adapter to actually be able to even focus down to 50 cm.
Furthermore the ZM is the only lens which does not show a significant focus shift at this distance. The FLE and VM show a massive focus shift and one should keep this in mind when critical sharpness stopped down (from f/2.0 to f/5.6) is required. I found this to be also true for shots at infinity with the VM.

Bokeh

I have shot 5 different scenes with various focusing distances (0.5 m, 0.6m, 1.2 m, 2.5 m and 6.0 m). I have also uploaded all shots in full resolution to my flickr account so you can download the ones you are interested in.
The bokeh comparisons have been shot with the same configuration as the sharpness infinity charts: rangefinder lenses with and without 5m filter in front + Loxia, so a total of 7 shots for each scene (unless stated otherwise).
Electronic first curtain shutter – which can have a negative influence on bokeh as described in this articlewas turned off, as was IBIS.
I only took shots wide open as with 35mm lenses you want to shoot wide open to get some bokeh in your shots anyway, unless you are near the minimum focus distance, but here the differences are rather subtle (as you will see).

loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements
35mm Bokeh comparison – focusing distance 0.5 m

The full resolution shots can be found in this flickr album.

Personally I think the differences are rather small here and there isn’t a lens that stands out as looking particularly good or bad.

loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements
35mm Bokeh comparison – focusing distance 0.6 m

The full resolution shots can be found in this flickr album.

At these distances the influence of the correction filter is negligible, so you only get 4 shots (1 per lens).
The Loxia clearly looks worst with its distinct outlining and unevenly lit light circles. The ZM looks best to me as the light circles are evenly lit with almost no outlining. On closer examination you will notice the onion ring structure in the FLE’s light circles and towards the borders there is also increased outlining which is why I would prefer the VM over the FLE.
The cat’s eye effect is quite pronounced to pretty much the same degree by all lenses except for the Loxia.
So my rating here is: ZM > VM > FLE > Loxia.

loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements
35mm Bokeh comparison – focusing distance 1.2 m

The full resolution shots can be found in this flickr album.

The fence should give you an impression regarding the transition zone, the area just barely out of focus. And the tree in the upper left corner is good for showing how “difficult” backgrounds are rendered.
My rating regarding the background is as this: ZM > VM > Loxia > FLE. The ZM shows least outlining and compared to the slower VM and Loxia also bigger light discs. The FLE shows very strong outlining combined with loCA, not my cup of tea.
My rating regarding the fence (between the leaf and the pole in the center of the image) is as this: VM (by a hair) > ZM > FLE > Loxia. If you stop down the ZM to f/1.8 (f/1.7 is not easily possible) it looks very similar to the VM, but there is just a very small area where the VM still looks smoother. The FLE is a little harsher to my eyes than the other two and the Loxia is a bit lacking because of its slower maximum aperture.

loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements
35mm Bokeh comparison – focusing distance 2.5 m

The full resolution shots can be found in this flickr album.

This is the distance one would mostly use for environmental portraits. But as no one can (or wants to) hold still long enough this statue had to suffice. Focus is on the lions nose.
Again very subtle differences regarding bokeh.

loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements
35mm Bokeh comparison – focusing distance 6.0 m

The full resolution shots can be found in this flickr album.

At these distances background blur is rather limited, but one can see the differences the 5m filters make regarding the background bokeh, for further information on this topic see this article.

Honestly I think the differences aren’t that groundbreaking here. I like the ZM and the VM a little more than the Loxia and FLE, but these are personal preferences and you may come to a completely different conclusion.

further observations from this comparison:

If you take a closer look at the bokeh comparison shots in the flickr albums you will notice the VM is a very good performer when it comes to off center sharpness in the midframe wide open at distances ranging from ~0.9 to 3.0 m. The ZM catches up at f/2.4.
In pretty much every scenario the ZM will yield the highest contrast.
You can check that by looking at the lion or the fence samples from ZM and VM side by side.
Looked at 100% you will notice the VM shows more details wide open, but look at the shot as a whole and the ZM will look “sharper” because of its higher contrast.
Even on the A7rII’s BSI sensor the Leica FLE still shows some greenish colorshift which I didn’t correct here but would for real shots. Check out the lion sample and compare FLE and ZM.

Flare Resistance

With these shots I tried to make every lens look the worst, this is the reason for the different framing.

loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements
Sony A7rII | Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 Asph FLE | f/11
loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements
Sony A7rII | Zeiss ZM 35mm 1.4 | f/11
loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.7 Ultron | f/11
loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements
Sony A7rII | Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 | f/11

The Leica 35mm 1.4 FLE clearly looks worst to me: rainbow artifacts and very obstrusive purple ghosts, you can see many more of these in my upcoming review of this lens.
The Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 looks best to me, it is very difficult to produce ghosts no matter what you do.
This leaves us with the two Zeiss lenses in between. Both produce some artifacts but the contrast stays on a much higher level with the ZM.
So my rating here is: VM > ZM > Loxia > FLE.

Coma

loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements
Coma Overview

So far all rangefinder lenses I have used were a bit (or more than a bit) lacking when it comes to the coma correction. I just think this is not something particularly high on the priority list when designing such lenses. Nevertheless you will be looking at only a very small portion of the whole frame (see the red rectangle in the lower left corner above) in the following crops.

loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements

Wide open they all look pretty bad. If I had to choose the least worse it would be ZM +5m, as the artifacts are the smallest here.
Same goes for f/2.8, second best being the FLE.
Even stopped down to f/4.0 there are still obvious differences: ZM and FLE are the best here and very close, whether VM or Loxia is on place 3 depends on your preference (triangle or oval).
My rating here is: ZM > FLE > Loxia = VM.

Sunstars

loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements
Sony A7rII | Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 Asph FLE | f/4.0
loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements
Sony A7rII | Zeiss ZM 35mm 1.4 | f/4.0
loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.7 Ultron | f/4.0
loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 leica summilux fle asph floating elements
Sony A7rII | Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 | f/4.0

The FLE uses 9 curved aperture blades while the other 3 use 10 straight ones and look pretty much exactly the same.
This is a question of personal preference, you may want to have a look at this article.

Chromatic Aberrations

loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2

loxia zeiss zm 35mm 1.4 2.0 voigtländer 1.7 a7r sony a7rii a7rm2 loca ca chromatic abberation abberations

Wide open the differences are rather small, I tend to say the biggest difference is the loCA on the Loxia have slighty different colors. At f/2.8 the differences are even smaller but you might see the effect of a slight focus shift on the Loxia and the VM.
I couldn’t include the FLE here, but it behaves similar to the ZM.

Conclusion

Let me first say: without the ability to improve the corner performance of rangefinder lenses with front end filters (see this article) I would be writing a very different conclusion right now, so as a fan of rangefinder lenses I must once more direct a huge “Thank you!” to HaruhikoT, who originally came up with this idea.

I will give you my opinion on every lens, its strengths, its weaknesses and what I think it is best used for:

Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 Biogon (Loxia):
I have used this lens quite a lot last year and took many great shots with it. I think it is not nearly as bad as its reputation suggests, but one should definetly be aware of its limitations: until stopping down to f/4.0 the corners and even the midframe will look rather bad due to spherical aberrations. So in case you are looking for a lens for astrophotography, for handheld shots of cityscapes at dawn or architecture shots wide open: this lens is not for you.
But in case you are looking for a highly portable lens for mostly stopped down shooting where you need high contrast and clarity or you just happen to like the look that comes with the spherical aberrations I would take this one any day over the other native 35mm lenses. Especially if you can make use of the comfort features that come with native lenses with electronic contacts.

used starting at 950$/900€ on ebay.com/ebay.de*, new $1300/1150€ on amazon.com/amazon.de* *affiliate links

Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 Ultron (VM):
This is probably the best allrounder in this comparison as it is lightweight, compact, decently priced and offers great image quality. Regarding some aspects it even supersedes the more expensive f/1.4 lenses (flare resistance and midframe sharpness wide open come to mind here).
The question I will get asked most will probably be: what are you giving up compared to the ZM?
Obviously half a stop of speed, which might matter for some and not for others. Corners at infinity are not as good. Performance wide open at closer distances is visibly worse. Focus shift is much more apparent. Coma correction is worse.
But the most obvious difference might be contrast, and it depends on your taste and your subjects what is “better” here: the ZM is very contrasty in general while the VM is a little more subtle.
For architecture and landscape I prefer the ZM for portraiture one might prefer the VM.
Still, especially paired with a 5m PCX front filter, this is a very capable, highly likable lens.

new 650$/770€ on ebay.com/ebay.de* or amazon.com* *affiliate links

Zeiss ZM 35mm 1.4 Distagon (ZM):
This is the most complex and also the biggest and heaviest lens in this comparison. I often got the impression, Zeiss threw everything in here they have learned over decades to design the best 35mm 1.4  while still keeping it portable. And the last part is the important one here: compared to other high end 35mm 1.4 lenses (Canon EF 35mm 1.4 L II, Sigma 35mm 1.4 HSM Art, Sony SEL35F14Z, Samyang 35mm 1.4) this is actually a small and lightweight lens (only Leica users will disagree, but we will get to that).
This is not to say we are dealing with a lens without flaws, the most obvious being a visible midzone dip until f/2.8, which is slightly exaggerated by a 5m filter, and the not-as-good-as-VM flare resistance.
But apart from these two issues I see it in many categories as the best lens in this comparison: contrast, across frame sharpness at infinity (with 5m PCX filter very good at f/2.8 already), sharpness close range, bokeh and coma correction.
This makes it the ideal architecture and landscape 35mm for me (except for flare resistance where the VM excels) while also being able to use it for some environmental portraits at f/1.4 if necessary (which is also the real benefit I see for myself over the Loxia).

used starting at 1600$/1600€ on ebay.com/ebay.de*, new 1999$/1999€ on amazon.com/amazon.de* *affiliate links

Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 FLE Asph (FLE):
It is often said when it comes to “high end” devices (regardless if we talk about phones, cars, notebooks or anything else) the last 10% of performance are very expensive, meaning you can often get 90% of the performance of the most expensive product for much less money with another product. But with this Leica lens I still wonder where that 10% of performance are.
Except for its size and weight I failed to find anything which is better about this lens than the ZM.
And to be totally honest with you: I would also rather want to use the Voigtlander than this lens even if they were priced the same.
Of course this lens was never meant to be used on E-mount cameras with a thick filter stack, but this is also true for the other two rangefinder lenses in this comparison, so this is not an excuse for me.
This is not to say its performance is bad, it definetly isn’t, but I just don’t see any category where it really excels except size.

used starting at 4000$/4000€ on ebay.com/ebay.de*, new 4995$ on amazon.com* *affiliate links

These comparisons take a lot of time, so in case you find this one helpful please consider using one of my affiliate links when making any purchase, won’t cost you a dime! Thanks in advance!

Further Reading

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My name is Bastian and for many years I have been mostly shooting Nikon DSLRs. As of today I have made my transition from Nikon to Sony and I am mainly using small but capable manual lenses. My passion is landscape photography but I also like to delve into other subjects from time to time.

Latest posts by BastianK (see all)

35 thoughts on “35mm Comparison: Voigtlander VM 1.7, Zeiss Loxia 2.0 and ZM 1.4, Leica FLE 1.4”

  1. Hi!
    Thank you very much for the detailed review!
    Actually, I was considering to buy another 35mm lens and this review had compared the two lenses I was considering (Loxia and voigtlander 1.7). However I am also considering the voigtlander 35mm 1.2, (someone is offering it for 500GBP, 2nd hand) what do you think about it?

    1. I only used it (35mm 1.2) very shortly, so I can’t make any useful comments on it.
      But as far as I know there are two versions, so you might want to check which one is better for your needs.

  2. Thanks Bastian for the amazing comparison. I used the Loxia 35, VM 1.7 and the FE 35 1.4. The VM was the sharpest wide open, but it looked a bit funny on my Sony A7rii (I had the silver version). I ended up keeping the Loxia because of its size, colors, contrast stopped down. It also looks gorgeous and feels great. I’m keeping the Loxia until Zeiss or Sony releases as 35mm f1.8. I also hope that CV releases a native E mount version of the 35mm Ultron. It came as a surprise to me that they made an E mount version of the 35mm 1.4 classic and not the Ultron. Sad! 🙂

    1. Thank you!
      Regarding the 35mm 1.4 classic for E-mount I feel the same way.
      That is not a lens I can see a particular demand for, while a modified 35mm 1.7 would have appealed to the many people that don’t like the Loxia rendering.

      1. Yasser, BastianK,

        could you write a bit more about why you’d have preferred the 1.7 to the 1.4? I was actually looking forward to the native E version, but I’ve never used one of these lenses. (I have the 3.5 and 1.8 rangefinder Nikkors, and a 1.4/35 AI Nikkor. None of these works really well for me on the a7).

          1. Thanks! I’m a bit more concerned with edge sharpness than with bokeh, but for an expected 900-1000€ I had hoped for a lens with “better than loxia”-performance. I guess that’s too much to hope for in an 1.4, but we’ll just have to wait a bit and see.

          2. The only lens with better edge sharpness stopped down compared to the Loxia I can see is the ZM +5m filter which is more like 1800€

  3. Thanks Bastian!
    Very interesting; especially how the Emperor from Wetzlar appears to have no clothes (or rather, an OK suit but overpriced).

    The other thing which is interesting is that the flare resistance and general contrast even stopped down of the 1.4ZM seems to be higher than Loxia, because those features are what I most like about the Lox. I think I’ll stick with the Lox for portable landscape use (I use ZA for environmental portraits) – but I think if there’s ever a Loxia version of the ZM I might now be very very tempted….

    Am I right that you think the overall contrast of the CV is a touch more subdued than the Loxia? Wonderful though the CV seems to be, that would be a reason to stick with Loxia for the purposes I use it for.

    Thanks again! I know how much work is involved in all this. When I test lenses it eats up whole days; and that’s without the work of getting all the stuff ready for publication.

    1. Dear David,
      I am hard pressed to answer your question, as differences are really really small.
      So instead I decided to upload the nightly cityscape Raws at f/4.0 (I did not take shots further stopped down here) for VM, VM+5m Eksma and Loxia for you, so you can decide for yourself.
      Please also notice I slightly detached the Loxia from the mount, so there are no Exif in its raw as well, as the electronical communication between lens and body has a influence on metering and other aspects (this is also the reason for most of the bokeh comparison shots being darker with the Loxia)
      https://www.dropbox.com/sh/dvii7saz8a9qdk7/AADuM41mzPNhRRjoFw3vtdH2a?dl=0

  4. Thanks Bastian! Downloading now; but I’m sure if the differences are small enough for you to be hard pressed to answer, they are small enough not to be field relevant.

    Hmm. If the CV + Eksma has basically the same look as the Lox stopped down, with better flare control and better performance at wider apertures (and can be used on TAP) then I’m starting to think maybe when I’ve got the time to organise it, it might be worth the switch over rather than wait for the only faintly rumoured Loxia 1.4/35.

  5. Hi again Bastian.

    Just taken a good look at the files you sent down.
    In those particular circumstances, the Lox does seem just a tiny bit contrastier than the CV+Eksma (though perhaps it’s the uncoated Eksma?)
    If you look closely at the sunstar in the middle, the CV image has a lot of while haze between the rays, and a small blob artefact, the Lox doesn’t have. And a similar effect appears to apply to the other highlights. But whether that makes a difference that’s worth caring about at the level of looking at the whole image, I doubt. And, of course, with contrast, the exact angle at which light is striking lenses can make a big difference, or where in the frame is brightest, so it’s hard to generalise.

  6. continued….(maybe comments could be edited so as not to have so many!)
    Actually on reflection, the contrast difference if any is tiny (amazing how things like that seem to be change over time; when differences are small psychology can change how they look) though the artefact is still there with the VM+E

    But overall, at f4 and infinity, the Lox *might* be a touch ahead in the centre, the CV is noticeably better to the point I’m sure it’s not psychology in the mid frame, and the Lox oddly seems to get just a touch ahead again in the extreme corner (especially lower left).

    All fascinating. But I suspect not image making relevant, so I mustn’t be tempted to spend my precious free time selling and buying lenses rather than shooting them!

  7. Fantastic review BastianK! Was very infomrative to find a techanical review of all the fast rangefinder M-mount 35mm’s. I look very forward to reading future reviews from you.

  8. I was with this review until conclusions were made about the quality of each lens based on use with the A7. As you mentioned, the A7 sensor setup causes problems for M-mount wides – which I would conclude makes any comprehensive conclusions about each lens problematic.

    For example, Ming Thein says the 35mm Summilux FLE is the best 35mm lens he’s ever used (https://blog.mingthein.com/2013/02/28/leica-351-4-summilux-m-asph-fle-review/). I can’t verify that opinion (just like I can’t verify yours), but it’s strange to see such variance in opinion on quality. I’m curious if the A7’s sensor impact varies from lens to lens.

    So, yeah, a lens may or may not be great on the A7, but that’s by means representative of it’s performance on its native mount.

    1. I highly value Ming Thein’s opinion and it may have been the best 35mm lens he has ever used in 2013 (when he wrote that post) as the Zeiss ZM didn’t exist at that time and neither did the Voigtlander 35mm 1.7.

      1. I’m not arguing whether one lens is better than another. I’m just suggesting that evaluating the inherent quality of any lens on a camera that it’s not designed for is highly problematic if the evaluation isn’t specifically contextualized to the camera it’s being used with.

        1. I think Bastian made it very clear that all the rangefinder lenses suffer from filter stack induced field curvature. But this has no affect on aspects in which the Leica lags behind the competition like flare resistance or vignetting and only a minor affect on bokeh where the FLE performed significantly worse as well. It also lags behind the Zeiss in sharpness but this is proven by the MTF charts, not this test.

    2. Have a look at Leica’s own MTF curve for the FLE and compare it to Zeiss’ MTF Curve for the ZM. Even if you don’t consider that Leica’s MTF-curves are usually a bit optimistic the Zeiss is obviously the sharper lens by some margin. All the other aspect’s aren’t really affected by the sensor.

  9. In the context of using a 35mm rangefinder lens on a Sony camera, the Leica lens does indeed not make a lot of sense. So where is the missing 10% of performance that costs at least double the ZM? It’s in the ‘Leica user experience’ on a Leica camera. Given its speed, it’s smaller than the ZM and blocks less of the optical viewfinder, thus allowing better framing with the frame lines. The often contentious focusing tab is consistent with the majority of Leica M lenses and provides the ability to prefocus by feel based on the location of the tab in anticipation of how a situation is developing as the camera is brought up to the eye to frame the scene. As a Leica camera user, and having experience with the ZM and owning the VM (currently my primary go-to 35mm lens), the ergonomic differences these lenses present compared to Leica’s designs are quite annoying and IMO degrade the user experience, particularly the VM’s scalloped, narrow focusing ring. It also make orientation of the lens for quick mounting on the camera impossible to do by feel alone and therefore is not a nearly subconscious process. You’ll note none of these points concern optical performance, rather how the specific equipment works within the Leica M system. Unfortunately I have had limited experience with the FLE on Leica so can’t really say how much its optical performance differs from the results here. But I suspect the ZM still betters it optically. I keep the VM because of the price/performance ratio despite its ergonomic annoyances and is a reason I don’t own the ZM despite mostly liking the results from it.

    Owning several Leica Luxes and having used others I would also offer that many of them have optical challenges that may not align with their high price tags (IMO the Sigma 20/1.4 outclasses the 21 Lux in sheer optical performance at a fraction of the price). There are issues such as considerable mid-zone drop in sharpness (apparently the 35 FLE has quite wavy field curvature according to reviews I’ve read). Of those I own, a couple I would not classify as exceptionally sharp wide open. Rather, they have a pleasing draw within the focus plane. Sometimes this is referred to as ‘Leica glow’, AKA residual spherical aberration.

    The 35 FLE has been criticized before for its bokeh quality. Based on comparisons I’ve seen, it would seem its predecessor is the better option for pleasing background rendering, though then one has to deal with greater focus shift problems due to the lack of floating element design. In those comparisons, the FLE’s foreground bokeh is the equivalent of the pre-FLE’s background rendering, and its background rendering is the equivalent of the pre-FLE’s foreground. I guess something happened during the redesign to reverse these qualities…

  10. Hi Bastian, loved the review as much as the discussion above. I ll keep it short, watching my budget but also in the market for a lens in this focal length segment. But also very keen to go wider.

    Sony FE 16-35 vs FE 35mm f2.8 vs Voigtlander Ultron 1.7 , which would you recommend a enthusiast non professional photographer? My cameras are A7ii & A7Rii.

    1. If the lens you are looking for s a single wide angle lens solution I would recommend going for the zoom, it will vastly increase your possibilities.

  11. Most interesting post, many thanks for this analysis =) Zeiss 1.4 seems to perfectly match my wishes, except for the close focus capacities of the Loxia.
    Fantastic job !

  12. This was a damn fine comparison and is exactly the process I go through in choosing my lenses. Each one I chose is a compromise but the very best of compromises. Zeiss has basically become my default lens brand of choice for my A7ii, A7Rii and A6000. Thank you for sharing.

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