Thumb Prints & Signatures: The 75mm f1.4 Summilux - Leica's "Goldilocks" Focal Length

Thumb Prints & Signatures: The 75mm f1.4 Summilux - Leica's "Goldilocks" Focal Length

The Leica 75mm lens has always been a unique focal length for a rangefinder camera. It could be considered the “Goldilocks” focal length, not too short but not too far, just somewhere in between. This focal length teeters a fine line as many photographers embrace it just as much as shy away from it in favor of other focal lengths. The 75mm f1.4 Summilux lens paved a new path for many photographers that embrace this focal length as well as piquing the interest of many other photographers who found it interesting.

Production began in 1980 until 2007, originally by Leitz in Midland Canada. The Leica 75mm f1.4 Summilux lens truly holds a unique place in the Leica lens development as it was the team of Dr. Walter Mandler who created this lens in conjunction with the then-new Leica M4-P which introduced the 75mm frame lines in the rangefinder. Prior to this, the only visible telephoto frame lines were the 90mm and 135mm. Most notable is the fact that the creation of this lens followed the legendary 50mm f/1.0 Noctilux and therefore shares some similarities.

Like the f/1.0 Noctilux, Dr. Mandler’s team engineered and incorporated many of the aspects and performance attributes learned from the development of the 50mm f/1.0 into the 75mm Summilux to create the “dreamy” signature, in the out-of-focus background areas, that this lens is so well known for. The combination of the focal length and large maximum aperture made for an extremely high-performance short telephoto lens that is perfect for portraiture that isolates your subjects from the background, ie; non-distracting, and for landscapes that create a sense of scale and depth. As it has been stated by Dr. Mandler; the 75mm Summilux lens was his favorite lens and one he was most proud of.

I headed out to the Sunset district to make some photos!

My thoughts during my use of this lens:

  • - For me, the focal length was a bit odd to get used to as I would either be too far away or too close at first. I normally gravitate towards a 90mm.
  • - At times I found I would confuse the 50mm frame line for the 75mm.
  • - I found precise critical focus through the rangefinder was a challenge at maximum aperture, although continued use would mitigate this.
  • - The focus throw is long but controlled and would make for better fine focusing.
  • - I found I had to prefocus and step into the frame as a workaround.
  • - When I did stop down I found that it was extremely sharp and performed similar to modern lenses.
  • - At its maximum wide open aperture, it provides its dreamy signature look somewhat similar to vintage Summilux lenses but with the telephoto look. Combined with the focal length you achieve great spatial depth in landscapes or environmental portraits.
  • - The caveat is that when using this lens at night it was amazing, the way it rendered images with fog was dreamy and beautiful.

For much of what I did with the 50mm f1.0 Noctilux, I did make minor contrast, exposure, and white balance edits but left the colors relatively untouched. The colors are similar in tone to the 50mm f1.0 Noctilux but with a slight bit more saturation to them. The images show some ghosting, coma, chromatic aberrations, and vignetting when wide open and things start to sharpen up when you stop it down.


  • - Amazing rendering and signature
  • - Versatile for portraits and landscapes
  • - Performs well in low light conditions
  • - Dreamlike signature


  • - Can be difficult to nail precise focus with a rangefinder
  • - Coma, chromatic aberrations, fall off/vignetting are strong.
  • - Size and weight.
  • - Felt not wide enough or too close at times for certain shots.

This Lens is widely overshadowed by its successors the 75 APO and the 75 Noctilux. As both those lenses improved on the original design of the 75 Summilux. But that’s not to say that this lens is poor in performance. Much like the 50mm f/1.0 Noctilux, this lens is in a tier of its own that bridges the gap between vintage and modern lenses. The technological advancements and engineering feats that Dr. Mandler and his team achieved for Leica is truly something special and is what keep the Leica 75mm f/1.4 Summilux lens in such high regard for many photographers and one that is destined for their camera bags.

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