Lens Reviews

It was always my plan to build a small collection of SL primes, based around the focal lengths thatI consider most useful to me. In recent years I have preferred to keep my lens choice small, unlike around 20-30 years ago when I had a dozen or so for one system. Back then the number of lenses in my collection had grown out of trial and error as I experimented with different focal lengths and speeds. In retrospect I found it useful (if not a bit costly) to establish which angles of view I tended to operate with, as my personal taste has not really changed much since then. My core system comprised of 35, 50 and 100mm lenses, the latter occasionally being replaced with a 135, or even more occasionally a 180. It was these which saw most active use over many years, while others were used simply when I felt like a change (and to justify their existence).

My interest in 35mm lenses has remained unfettered since I first got into ‘serious’ photography more than four decades ago. I have written elsewhere of my fondness for this focal length and it’s ability to capture slightly wider angles with little in the way of distortion. It was a long time before I purchased my first 35mm, as before this I have used zooms and often composed images on or around this angle. Seeking a lighter alternative, I soon latched onto the fact that I could have a fast prime - much faster than a zoom - minus the heft. When I first discovered Leica Camera’s it was via the X1, as it had a 35mm equivalent lens built in, albeit not particularly fast. Not many years after this I was lured into purchasing the X Typ 113, thanks to its much faster 35mm prime. I still use that camera today and the results I can get from it are sublime.

Towards the end of last year, Ethan and myself attended an in-store day held at the Leica Camera Store, Manchester. The purpose of the visit was to get our hands on the newly announced Leica SL2 and see how it compared to the original SL. I have always been fond of the SL after trying one out at 2016’s camera show in Birmingham. However it was the T system that I brought into, comfortable with the fact that it shared the L mount with the SL. While slowly building my T system I kept an eye on the gradual evolution of the L system.

It has been many years since I owned a telephoto zoom lens of any kind. Burned by poor quality third party zooms of the 1980’s, I have consistently ducked getting another and always opted for primes when requiring telephoto focal lengths. This changed when researching a recent trip to the eastern region of Halkidiki in Greece. Part of the itinerary was to visit the town of Ouranoupoli which is close to the border of the Monks Republic of Athos.

This is the lens that captured my interest in the T system around a year ago. Tantalisingly exhibited at the 2016 Photography show but unavailable to the public at the time, it would be several months before I finally owned one. This was not as much to do with supply and demand but more my own prevarication when deciding on what new camera system to purchase. Once I had decided to buy into the T system, my commitment was bolstered by 35mm f1.4 ownership.

September 2016 saw the announcement and release of the sixth lens for Leica’s TL system. Forming the third in a trio of high quality primes, the 60mm lens finally gave the TL system a dedicated macro optic that also doubles as a reasonably fast short telephoto solution. I was keen to ‘round out’ my shooting options with something from the telephoto realm and this makes an interesting alternative to the 55-135 zoom. Of course, given the APSC size sensor, the focal length of the 60mm equates to 90mm which, for me, falls into my ideal focal length of between 85 and 135mm, albeit at the lower end of my requirements.

This is the first lens I purchased for my T camera and just the second zoom I have owned in 28 years. Before this, my experience of zooms was limited to budget third party models that often disappointed in both optical and build quality. These memories are probably the reason I rarely strayed into zoom territory, preferring instead high quality primes. A lot has changed over the decades and the performance gap between zooms and primes is now minimal.