Updated: Sep 16
'Bokeh' - 'the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in out-of-focus parts of an image; caused by Circles of Confusion. Differences in lens aberrations and aperture shape cause very different bokeh effects.'
The last time I quoted this definition was when I wrote about the Meyer-Optik Primoplan 75mm f1.9 - a real bokeh gem of a lens...
Casting around at what we have in stock - and with an eye on our own favourite lenses, we thought it was about time we took a look at some offerings from Leica. We don't subscribe to testing lenses with lines per mm and all that stuff - this can be found elsewhere on the internet; we would rather take a more 'casual' - or 'real life' approach.
William swears by his Version 4 Summicron 35mm f2 (1995) - which is known as the 'King of Bokeh', I love my version 2 Summicron 35mm f2 (circa1969) and in stock we have a version 2 Summilux 35mm f1.4 lens - a very rare 'infinity lock' version from 1968 and a Version 3 Aspherical Summilux 35mm f1.4 - from 1995.
...Josh kindly stood in to offer a bit of foreground interest. He also put up the fairy lights so that we could see the bokeh effect of each lens on pinpoints of light. And then he patiently stood by as each lens was tried on the works Monochrom. Poor chap - his long-suffering expression says it all!
Version 2 35mm Summicron
Let's look at those pinpoints of light - as drawn by each lens... All shot at f4
Version 2 Summicron
Version 4 Summicron - note the greater 'bloom'/'starburst' in the pinpoints of light; it's a small difference to the version 2 but, I guess, significant enough for the version 4 to deserve its 'King of Bokeh' moniker... But the trade - off is perhaps just a tiny (really tiny) loss of sharpness in the version 4 lens.
And now the two summilux lenses -
Version 2 Summilux 'infinity lock' - beautiful glow
Version 3 Summilux - a wee bit sharper but not so glowing!
...And now let's take a look at how the bokeh comes over in colour - with the lenses all shot wide open. Check out the level of sharpness on the objects on the window frame - and at the colour rendering and bokeh of the flowers outside.
The V2 summicron is sharp - but with a very slightly harder edged bokeh than the V4 summicron seen below
The V4 summicron is maybe not quite as sharp as the V2 summicron but the trade-off is that lovely glow
The V2 Summilux is a little soft at full aperture but offers that glorious glow that has made this lens so popular.
The V3 Summilux is more 'controlled' than the V2 - and offers a very similar glow to the summicron V2
Well, I guess you won't be surprised that, having scrutinised the results, we conclude that these four lenses are all pretty wonderful in their own particular ways... Beauty, as always, is in the eye of the beholder!
Blog copyright Matthew Whiteman 2023
Camera images copyright The Latent Image 2023
Historic images copyright various