Home L-Mount L-Mount Alliance transforms lens map for Leica SL and CL/TL

L-Mount Alliance transforms lens map for Leica SL and CL/TL

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The Sigma trio now available. They will be joined by another twelve lenses during the next few months.

Less than a year since the announcement of the Leica-Sigma-Panasonic L-Mount Alliance and the map of available lenses has expanded dramatically. Apart from Panasonic’s introductory trio of lenses, Sigma has now entered the fray with three initial offerings. They comprise two premium Art lenses and the very interesting “Contemporary” f/2.8 45mm which Thomas Berger reviewed here on Macfilos a couple of weeks ago.

The Sigma trio now available. They will be joined by another twelve lenses during the next few months.
The Sigma trio now available. They will be joined by another twelve lenses during the next few months.

The three Sigmas are now with UK dealers and our friends at Red Dot Cameras in London have taken their first deliveries. I called in this morning to buy the 45mm which, based on Thomas’s findings, appears to have the makings of an ideal general-purpose lens for all L-Mount cameras. it will find a home on both the CL and the Panasonic S1.

Bargain

This is the first really compact full-frame prime for use with the Leica SL. It's light and makes handling a pleasure.
This is the first really compact full-frame prime for use with the Leica SL. It’s light and makes handling a pleasure.

At £550 it is something of a bargain for both SL/S1/R owners as well as for CL and T/TL/2 users. On the APS-C camera has a useful 68mm angle of view and you still get your full 24MP image. It is, however, using the centre portion of the optic, which is fine. Full-frame SL lenses perform really well on the CL as you will have seen from Jonathan Slack’s review of the new Leica APO-Summicron-SL 50mm lens.

There are other reasons to prefer this lens to native TL or SL lenses. The first is size and weight. It is relatively small and very light at 230g. Used on the mighty Panasonic S1, this lightweight lens brings the rig down to manageable proportions.

But perhaps more useful is the aperture ring, something that is missing from all Leica’s SL and TL lenses. Some of us, old Luddites that we are, actually prefer a physical ring to adjust and to view for quickly checking the settings.

Autofocus on the f/2.8 45mm is extremely fast and accurate. Image Thomas Berger.
Autofocus on the f/2.8 45mm is extremely fast and accurate. Image Thomas Berger, Leica SL.

CL lockdown

This aperture ring comes into its own on the CL when in the camera is in lockdown mode, which I use most of the time to avoid inadvertent button presses. Unlike with TL lenses, you still have full control over aperture-priority exposure with the Sigma 45mm. It is a feature that will help sell the Sigma lenses and will be welcomed by many photographers who do not like having to rely on a screen to set aperture.

The 45mm is, therefore, a sensible buy even for CL and TL owners since it is of a similar size to native TL lenses, has that useful aperture ring and is under one-third of the price of the (admittedly much faster) 35mm Summilux-TL. Even the 23mm Summicron-TL (which, incidentally, is a similar size to the Sigma 45mm) costs over twice as much. Of course, price is not everything. But I am quietly confident that this lens will perform well enough.

If you are in London tomorrow, August 20, there is an open day at Red Dot Cameras. Take your M camera in for a free sensor clean
If you are in London tomorrow, August 20, there is an open day at Red Dot Cameras. Take your M camera in for a free sensor clean

The other two lenses in the current Sigma lineup, also available from Red Dot and other dealers, belong to the premium Art range. They have been around in other mount formats for some time and have had excellent reviews. They are not small, nor light. They compare more accurately with Leica and Panasonic’s fast primes.

The Art lenses - here the impressive wide-angle zoom - are all large and relatively heavy.
The Art lenses – here the impressive wide-angle zoom – are all large and relatively heavy.

Price-performance ratio

The attraction of these lenses lies in the price/performance ratio. Take the 35mm Sigma Art f/1.4, for instance. It is faster than the Leica APO-Summicron-SL 35mm but costs only £1,500 compared with the Leica’s £3,900. That’s a lot of dosh by any standards. Of course, the Leica lens is considered to be the best, but you are paying a significant premium for that extra nth image quality. I suspect many owners of L-Mount cameras will take the risk and give the Sigmas a whirl.

Over the next few months, more L-Mount Sigma lenses will become available. The f/2.8 45mm is the only lens from the Contemporary range, however. The panel to the right shows the full road map for the initial programme of 13 lenses.

The price factor is important when it comes to the popularity of used cameras, such as the SL. Prices have dropped, bringing them into a price range that could attract new converts to Leica. But if you buy a cheaper camera, SL lenses are still a major additional cost — certainly any SL lens, even used, would cost more than the camera body. So the Sigma lenses fill a gap and, I think, will help popularise the entire L-Mount system.

As Jonathan Slack mentioned in his 50mm APO-Summicron review, at one time he did fear for the future of the L-Mount. But the coming of the Alliance and the injection of this large range of new lenses changes all that.

It is now a system to be reckoned with, not just at Leica prices but as a genuine alternative to other full-frame camera systems on the market.

23 COMMENTS

  1. I agree fully with your observations. I had the SL and sold it for a number of reasons but one was the limited number of glass options. I recently purchased the Panasonic S1R with a Panasonic 50/1.4 lens and love the rendering of both. I have some m-mount glass to use on it for compactness and rendering. I plan to buy some SL summicrons and will certainly have no problem considering Sigma lenses as well as they are turning out nice glass at prices that cannot be ignored. The L alliance makes the system viable with a great range of products that a single manufacturer could not fill to make a transition from another system possible.

  2. 45 mm is a sweet spot for portrait on a full frame sensor for me, Better then the traditional 50. The planar 45mm or the 35mm cron on the m8 are to “blame” in my case though I must admit Jono’s review of the 50mm summicron triggered some king of GAS.
    Jean

    • I also quite like the in-between nature of 45mm. The 68mm focal length on the CL is also very useful. More to the point, as I mention in the article, it is as small and light as a native TL lens and it has an aperture ring to boot. I’m looking forward to using it on the CL as much as on the S1.

  3. I’m looking forward to learning how the 14-24mm behaves on the SL as it will compliment my SL24-90 at a much more reasonable price than the Leica offering and provide a very useful range for a two lens day trip.
    Although quite big and heavy the full frame equivalent of 21-36mm on the CL would be an added bonus

    • I think you are right. SL owners may have, say, the SL 24-90 – a magnificent lens – but could have occasional use for more specialised lenses such as the 14-24 Sigma. At the price it is more an impulse buy rather than a major decision. In short, we now have a lot more choice.

  4. I think the 45/2.8 is a very logical emergence from the development of the Sigma FP. Almost a requirement, actually. It happens to benefit the larger L mount bodies as well. Hopefully Sigma continue this line of thinking and produce a few more primes with an emphasis on smaller size. A 28/35 and an 85 would give L mount users a very useful, small kit. 2.8 isn’t overly fast, but in Full Frame it still allows fairly shallow depth of field for those who like it.

  5. I should also note that I own a Sigma 30/1.4 DN in micro four Thirds mount. It’s a very good lens, the Sigma contemporary line is still excellent quality optically.

  6. Oh the frustration! Just wish that 45mm lens would still be 45mm on the CL! Which of course it isn’t.
    Will wait for the other lenses from Sigma.

    • Stef, I share your frustration. I’ve had the 45mm for less than 24 hours and have taken around a dozen shots, but it matches the CL perfectly. I can’t stress enough the benefit of that aperture ring (even though it is the “wrong” way round, with f/22 on the left next to the Auto click). A wide angle Contemporary of 21 or 24mm would be great for the CL and I hope Sigma will listen.

      • I am happy to say that I am no longer interested in the “L mount”, having sold my CL… Finally.

        Whilst the camera employs superb technology and has reasonably uncomplicated software, Leica style, the output is of a very high standard.

        I always find that when I pick up the CL that it feels like a new camera to me. How do I choose this, how do I change that??? I also found that I was always using my favourite M lenses, which of course compromises them, it dims them and slows them down, which is not really the point of an M lens.

        Anyway, I tried to like it.

        • I can understand, Stephen. I have a similar love/hate relationship with it. I’m about to go away for a week’s holiday and eventually decided to take the CL and the Sony. In reality, the RX100 alone would be fine, but I think I need to get some Leica pictures. I did contemplate the Q2 but, since I’m travelling light — with an iPad instead of a Mac — the file size is a nuisance. I’m also ambivalent about the Q2 because of that damned silly decision to put the video option as part of the display toggle. More than a few times I’ve ended up starting a video when I intended to take a picture. And it just runs unless you notice. Again, no way to turn off video. No doubt that will come in a future firmware update. But they never seem to learn from past mistakes.

        • Oh how I agree. I likewise have tried to like it for almost two years now but failed. Am keeping mine though partly because I would like to stay with Leica but mostly to be honest because I would lose a small fortune if I sold my CL and its three zoom lenses if I did so.

          • I have the same misgivings, Don, but where to go then if we want to keep a Leica presence? The SL is too big and heavy for general carrying around, the CL is a good performer but the UI is strange, to say the least (that sledgehammer lockdown feature being the final – almost – straw).

            I have always felt that Fuji make the APS-C camera that Leica should have made and, perhaps, I rather regret selling up my Fuji system about five years ago. Straightforward, old-fashioned physical controls, lenses with aperture rings.

            The X1/2 and X models were sensible interpretations of what Leica should be doing. The M10 is also perfectly in the Leica tradition with its physical controls, despite the minimalist buttons. The Q2 is spoiled by the idiotic decision to put the movie option on the display-button toggle. Das Wesentlich it may be, but sometimes a bit more logic would help.

        • I’ve just returned from a long weekend in Shropshire accompanied by the CL, Elmarit TL 2.8/18 and a couple of M lenses, oh and wifey.
          The CL was a joy to use and I didn’t attach anything other than the 18mm for a variety of subjects ranging from aircraft at the Cosford Museum, architecture in Shrewsbury and general landscapes.
          It is my latest Leica and I wouldn’t be without it, particularly when travelling light. My tiny Voigtlander (M) 35/1.4 and Zeiss (M) 50/1.5 are ideal companions for the 18mm.
          Nevertheless I’m still looking forward to see what Sigma have to offer in the coming months.

          • I think I know where you are comming from Mike but at least for MY own use it seems daft buying a auto focus camera to then only use manual focus lenses on.

          • Sorry Don, are you referring to the Sigma 45mm? It is autofocus, although others (such as that inexpensive 55mm 7Artisans) are manual only. The Sigma is about the same size as the 23mm Summicron-TL and works well on the CL, despite the rather long 68mm effective focal length. Sometimes I quite like 75mm for general photography, so I think I will get good use out of it.

  7. I think these are going to be great – especially on the CL – I’ll be taking the 14-28 with me to Crete for our September trip (for use on the SL rather than the CL).
    The future for the L mount looks good!
    All the best

    • I hope the taxi from Chania to Chora Sfakion has strong springs. All those lenses….. I’m travelling light. Just the Q2, thanks to your influence!

  8. No Mike, I was referring to Mike Bareham’s use of manual focus Voigtlander and or Leica M lenses on his CL. Not such as the 45mm sigma which I know is a auto focus lens

    • Ah, sorry, I was probably looking at the comment out of context of the thread and assumed Mike meant me. At the last minute I decided to bring the Q2 on holiday. I swapped out the CL and various lenses just before getting in the taxi. Fortunately I managed to bring the right batteries and chargers!

  9. I struggle to understand why most manufacurers (other than Leica) don’t make reasonable sized AF prime lenses with top notch performance (as the APO-summicron-SL series). Sigma and Cosina could very well do it, because they have lenses with suberb performance, like the 40mm f/1.4 Art, the Otus 55mm, the Voigtlander 65mm APO, but either they are too big or MF only or both. Others are smaller, with moderate max. apertures, but these are too “worried” about size and weight and went too far on that direction, so they don’t achieve the same level of performance of their giant cousins. That’s the case of the Batis 40mm and espcially of this new Sigma 45mm (which is basically a pancake design added to the necessary flange back distance). Well, I think I will have to sell almost all of my gear to buy the only “wider-than-50mm” in the market that was made the way I always wanted: the APO-summicron-SL 35mm f/2.0 ASPH.

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