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mxmlitvinov

Which prime as a first lens?

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Hi All,

 

I bought a Leica T last month together with the 18-56mm lens. Got both together new for $1900. I don't actually take many photos and don't aspire to be a professional. I justed wanted a solid and stylish camera that wasn't P&S. About half my photos are inside, often in poorish lighting, mainly portraits and family photos and the other half would be when travelling or outdoors in all conditions.

 

I had the intention of buying the 23mm f/2 lens after a while and this was confirmed when I realised that the 18-56 lens seems rather too slow for me inside. Plus, the 18-56 seems comparatively hefty (even without the hood). From all reports, the 23mm lens has been the most practical one around.

 

Now the TL 35mm f/1.4 is out though, I am torn between the two lenses and my thinking's getting nowhere, so consequently I'm posting here.

 

My descent into madness goes something like this:

  • 23mm f/2 will get the job done well - look at the great reviews!
  • But your main reason for buying it is because of the aperture and the f/1.4 is a fair bit faster! Go with the best!
  • But $1250 for the f/2 vs. $2250 for the f/1.4 is quite a premium!
  • But do it once and get it right - you can more easily justify $2250 than ending up having/wanting to buy both!
  • Look - the 50mm equivalent will also restrict you a bit more than 35mm equiv in terms of what's in the shot...
  • But everyone says they are both really versatile and great choices as a first lens!
  • And I thought you wanted something smaller than the 18-56mm...
  • But the TL 35mm comes in silver as well!

Any thoughts or help?

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Thanks. I'm in Australia, so was converting according to the prices I can get back into USD. I can find f/2 for $1250 new from Hong Kong but with zero customs, while cheapest f/1.4 for the moment is from Australia at $2250.

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I thought the 35 1.4 lens will be a little bigger more like the size of the 18-56mm....... I like very much the 23mm lens and use it a lot when I go out with camera and one lens.

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Guest Alxndr

The 35 mm is bigger and substantially heavier than the 18-56 mm. I you don't really want the perspective of a 35 mm lens in stead of that of a 23 mm, go for the 23 mm. In terms of image and build quality the 35 mm is the better lens, but considering your aims the quality of the 23 mm will suit you fine; it's worth it's money. And the difference between f/1.4 and f/2 is not that big.

 

Regards,

 

Alexander

Edited by Alxndr

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I would suggest that you consider which focal length will best serve your needs.  While in theory you can take 2 steps forward or back to compensate for either lens' field of view, that may not always be practical.  

 

Size is also an important consideration, at least for me.  I have enjoyed the 23mm Cron because it performs well in low light and I can carry the T/23 combo in my coat pocket when we are out (without looking too much like that camera guy).  The 35mm FOV it provides is useful for group shots and grabbing street scenes.

 

I am really looking forward to the 35mm Lux, for more intimate portraits.  I am not really looking forward to its size, although it's by no means huge.

 

Maybe you can try to fix your zoom on 35mm for a few days and see if it's too limiting a perspective for your style of photography.  You can do the same with 23mm.  Hopefully the more limited aperture on the zoom won't get too much in the way for this exercise.  Or you can go through your files and see what focal length you gravitate towards, to help you decide.

 

For me, I suspect I will end up using the 35mm Lux more, despite its larger size.  I have been yearning for a tighter field of view myself.  It's nice to know, however, that I can also mount the 23mm and toss it in my coat pocket when I want to travel light and have something better than my iPhone on me.

 

Every person has different needs.  I'm sure you will enjoy your T indoors quite a lot more with a faster prime lens, whichever one you choose.  The AF speed and lock on the 18-56 zoom doesn't cut it for me in low light, even though it's otherwise usable up to 6400 ISO.

 

Best wishes on whatever you decide.  Cheers.

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Had the T for almost a year now plus a long time M user with lots of M lenses, plus R lenses.  Just acquired the 23mm T lens.  I would say, if need autofocus, the 23mm is great plus is nicely light and compact.  Am liking it.  However, still my opinion an M lens on the T with a converter is best choice for best optics but with a lot of disadvantages too.  For certain, running out and buying new M lenses would make no reasonable sense unless you have or plan to have a full frame camera in the future that accepts them.  You can pick some up used for about the price of a new T lens, like a 28mm Summicron.  But for ease of use and lightweight, I am liking the 23.

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I would definitely say that the question is not entirely clear cut.

 

On the M my general go-to lens for almost everything is the 50mm f/1.4. This would be roughly equivalent to the 35mm on the T I can use that for basically anything. You can do portraits without worrying too much about perspective distortion. You can do landscape, or street, you can back up and get context or go up close for intimacy. It might not be the best lens for any given job but if you have one prime lens and you have no idea what you are going to shoot, then it is probably the most versatile. The big downside is that people like photos which look fresh and interesting. For decades 50mm was THE standard lens and many cameras had lenses with that field of view. So now if you want to take pictures which look new and fresh you have to push creativity harder with a 50mm or in your case 35mm. The other downside is when shooting nearly wide open with that field of view you will have a narrower depth of field and also need a shorter shutter speed so it is a bit trickier to nail it. However a narrower DOF is also a useful photographic tool to isolate your subject.

 

The 23mm has about the field of view of the 35mm which has become the new standard lens almost replacing the 50mm. With that field of view you have a wider depth of field and can use a slower shutter speed without blurring your shot thus in low light the 23mm 2.0 will behave more like the 35mm 1.4 than one would expect. Furthermore the 23mm on the T is MUCH smaller than the 35mm making it a much better walking around lens when size or weight matter. Also many cell phone cameras have lenses which are wider give a field of view more like the 18mm on the 18-56mm. Since so many cell phone picks are being taken the public's people have come to feel more comfortable for a that wide of an angle shot. They don't seem to care as much about issues like perspective distortion as someone like I do. Historically, to do good portraits with a wide angle lens you sort of had to think "include context" so that you didn't get that perspective distortion. This meant that even though you were close to your subject you weren't quite as intimate. People don't seem to care about that as much anymore.  

 

Also it takes some knowledge of composition practice to get into people's space to take good shots with wider angle lenses. If you don't take a lot of photos you may not have this or maintain it. It is kind of an art and finesse thing which is part of the reason Leica shooters like wider angle lenses. It is arguably more of an art form to step into that emotional space around people where a wide angle lens shines.

 

One last thing to keep in mind is in relation to your 18-56

The 18-56 is about f/4 at 23mm this is two slower than 23mm

However the 18-56 at 35mm is f/5 which is 3.5 stops slower than 35mm.  This is highly debatable but I'd argue that the 35mm fills a bigger hole in the 18-56mm than the 23mm does. If you only had one lens I would say the 23mm is probably the right one but adding the 35mm gives you a bigger increase in capability in relation to what you have now than the 23mm does. It will give you more shallow DOF and bokeh than you will be able to get from the 23mm

 

If I were buying now, I think that I would be strongly leaning toward the 35mm because it is a more versatile lens (maybe -- I know highly debatable), and it fills a bigger hole in the 18-56 zoom range allowing you to make use of bokeh more than you can with the 23mm. However, if portability is the most important thing, then the 23mm wins hands down.

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For my part I prefer the 23mm. First of all it is a more flexible focal length for me.

Also I find the 35/1.4 too big and too expensive for a dx-normal lens.

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I would have bought the Summilux 35 as first lens if it had been available right at the start. Currently I'm running the 11-23, 35 Lux and 55-135 and skipped on the standard vario and 23mm prime. It was my first lens, but with the lux available I don't feel the need for f/2.0 at 23mm

Edited by SirPiet

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Thank you, all! Really great summary of everything that might and should sway me one way or the other and a lot of things I hadn't considered.

 

I found prices to keep the TL 35mm within $500 of the 23mm, so will probably plump for the f/1.4 as I don't anticipate portability as a huge factor going forward. If I end up planning a nice holiday, I'll revisit the prospect of the 23mm then!

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Great choice. I am chomping at the bit for that lens to arrive at my dealer.

 

You can also always rent lenses (like the 23mm) when you have a special need. I have the M-T adapter and have rented M lenses when I have had such a special need.

 

Best wishes with that lens. It looks like it will be a stunner. Cheers!

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I think going with the 35mm Summilux was a good choice. 

 

I did this during lunch for my own purposes just because I was curious. Posting here for reference:

 

Leica T 23mm f/2 @ 2m DOF = 70cm

Leica T 35mm f/2 @ 2m DOF = 30cm

Leica T 35mm f/1.4 @ 2m DOF = 21cm

Leica T 35mm f/4.6 @ 2m DOF = 70mm <- somewhere between f/4.5 and f/4.8 you get about the same DOF as with the 23mm wide open.

Leica T 35mm f/5 @ 2m DOF = 77cm  <- 18-56mm @ 35mm

Leica M 50mm f/1.4 @ 2m DOF = 13cm

Leica M 50mm f/2.4 @ 2m DOF = 21cm <- so the 35mm T Summilux is not going to give you quite as much bokeh as a 50mm Summicron it is more like a Summarit

Leica T 55mm f/3.5 @ 2m DOF = 20.5cm <- so the APO-Vario-Elmar-T 55-135mm is still probably the bokeh king on the T system.

 

On the other side when you want DOF to make focusing easier

Min shutter speed 23mm 1/30s 70cm DOF @ 2m with f/2 if ISO = 100

Min shutter speed 35mm 1/60s 70cm DOF @ 2m needs f/4.6 ISO = 1200 that is 3.5 stops slower 1 stop from the shutter, and 2.5 stops due to the aperture.

However, honestly a 70cm DOF is HUGE and you really don't need that much when working in low light.

Plus when you are focusing with a 23mm you tend to be closer than with a 35mm and since closer means that you will have a narrower DOF. So this isn't exactly a fair comparison. 

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Guest Alxndr

I think going with the 35mm Summilux was a good choice. 

 

I did this during lunch for my own purposes just because I was curious. Posting here for reference:

 

Leica T 23mm f/2 @ 2m DOF = 70cm

Leica T 35mm f/2 @ 2m DOF = 30cm

Leica T 35mm f/1.4 @ 2m DOF = 21cm

Leica T 35mm f/4.6 @ 2m DOF = 70mm <- somewhere between f/4.5 and f/4.8 you get about the same DOF as with the 23mm wide open.

Leica T 35mm f/5 @ 2m DOF = 77cm  <- 18-56mm @ 35mm

Leica M 50mm f/1.4 @ 2m DOF = 13cm

Leica M 50mm f/2.4 @ 2m DOF = 21cm <- so the 35mm T Summilux is not going to give you quite as much bokeh as a 50mm Summicron it is more like a Summarit

Leica T 55mm f/3.5 @ 2m DOF = 20.5cm <- so the APO-Vario-Elmar-T 55-135mm is still probably the bokeh king on the T system.

 

On the other side when you want DOF to make focusing easier

Min shutter speed 23mm 1/30s 70cm DOF @ 2m with f/2 if ISO = 100

Min shutter speed 35mm 1/60s 70cm DOF @ 2m needs f/4.6 ISO = 1200 that is 3.5 stops slower 1 stop from the shutter, and 2.5 stops due to the aperture.

However, honestly a 70cm DOF is HUGE and you really don't need that much when working in low light.

Plus when you are focusing with a 23mm you tend to be closer than with a 35mm and since closer means that you will have a narrower DOF. So this isn't exactly a fair comparison. 

 

And for people with a less extensive lunch break... 

 

http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html

 

(You can't select the Leica T. Choose the Leica X2 instead.)

 

Regards,

 

Alexander

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I recommend the 23 mm Summicron. It is the least expensive, large enough aperture for most situations, is lightest weight of all compatible primes except for manual M mount primes which require adapter and is autofocus and manual focus. The focal length @ 35mm FF equivalence is ideal for most shooting with a good DOF. The IQ is brilliant. It is the lens I chose when purchasing my T. I am now purchasing the 18-56mm zoom for more lazy shooting situations, but my go-to lens for IQ will still be the 23mm prime. 

Edited by jevidon

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Thanks, jevidon.

 

I ordered the 35mm a few weeks ago now for a total of about $1700USD including shipping and duties, which is what in part drove me to get it.

 

I love the lens and because I'm not travelling much I don't really care about the heft. 23mm might have been the better choice though - particularly the DOF on the 25mm is a bit of a concern, but certainly no problems with light as with the 18-56mm.

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Wow. $1700 is a great price for the 35mm Summilux-TL. Where did you find that? That's quite a bargain for what you're getting.

 

It's a fantastic lens. Extremely sharp across the frame and at all apertures, great colors and microcontrast, beautiful bokeh when needed.

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Just for options, if you like shooting manually......which I prefer, consider picking up a used M lens and using a M to T converter.  I would recommend almost any version of the 28 or 35 M Summicron.  Shooting manually with the T with M lenses and with the EVF a must, very easy.  Not as easy with the T lenses.  The results are as good or better, IMHO.

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