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Gear Review: the Leica Summicron-C Series of Lenses

Tanner Shinnick

Take an in-depth look at the lenses used on hit shows like Stranger Things — and why you should consider using them on your next shoot.

Cover image via Leica.

The Leica Summicron-C series of lenses are a constant staple for cinematographers on a variety of productions. The Summicrons’ superb image performance, compact design, and crisp image production make them an ideal choice for most productions. Let’s take a closer look.


First, let’s take a brief look at the manufacturer, Leica. Leica is a German manufacturer of high-end street photography-style cameras. Many of the world’s top photographers love and adore Leica for their attention to detail and devotion to quality. The photography version of the Summicron series of photography lenses appeared on the market in 1956, after WWII. In 2013, Leica decided to convert their Summicron series of lenses to a cinema format and markings. Here are some of their top features to consider when deciding on gear for your next shoot.


Size

Gear Review: the Leica Summicron-C Series of Lenses — Size

The Summicron series of lenses are built smaller than their bigger brothers, the Summilux. Given this, the Summicron series of lenses are ideal for gimbal work and overall smaller rigs or budgets. They feature an aperture of t2.0 across the entire line of lenses and also a constant 95mm diameter, which will keep lens swaps quick and efficient on set.


Optical Performance/ Image Quality

Gear Review: the Leica Summicron-C Series of Lenses — Optical Performance
Image via Film and Digital Times.

The Leica Summicrons are top performers in terms of image quality and resolution. Even their wider focal lengths, like the 18mm, feature virtually no image distortion. Check out this quote from Matt Duclos about the Leica Summicrons:

One of the big questions everyone has been asking pertains to their coverage. Leica is claiming an image circle of 34mm+. Hah… That’s modest. As I tested each focal length I found that they’ll cover upwards of 35-36mm even on the wide focal lengths.

If you’re looking to capture a beautifully crisp and clean cinematic image, much like we see in Stranger Things, then definitely take a long look at the Summicrons.


Design/Build

These lenses are built with the quality we’ve come to expect from Leica. They feature an 8-blade iris that is slightly atypical. This by no means affects image quality; it just means that your bokeh won’t be as circular as other lens offerings on the market. One interesting thing to note is that these lenses are manufactured in Japan as opposed to Germany, as one would expect. However, the quality is still very high.

These lenses are also 30% shorter and 20% lighter than Leica premium Summilux series.

The Leica Summicrons are a superb choice for any production. If you’re deciding whether to use Summicrons, or something comparable like ARRI Ultra Primes, definitely take some time and compare your options. Either way, you can’t go wrong renting a set of Summicrons on your next production.


Looking for more information on lenses? Check out these articles.

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