From Leica: another decisive moment. Leica Summilux-C and Summicron-C lenses were the result of repeated requests from cinematographers for legendary Leica optics in dedicated Super35 format cine lenses. Now CW Sonderoptic, sister company to Leica Camera, is bringing the iconic characteristics of Leica M Full Frame lenses back to the cinema world with new Leica M 0.8 lenses.
In 1913, Oskar Barnack built a prototype still camera in Wetzlar. It was introduced in 1925 as the Leica I, a full frame still camera using 35mm motion picture turned sideways. Instead of cinema’s 18x24mm gate, the new “small negative, big picture” was 24x36mm and known as Leica Format or Full Frame.
Over the next century, Full Frame essentially became the global still photography standard—recording history, capturing countless decisive moments, inspiring street photography, influencing fashion, enabling advertising, and introducing photography as an art form that defined the human experience. Leica lenses interpreted light, shadow and skin tones with glorious clarity, color and charisma.
In 1954, 62 years ago, Leica launched the M3 camera and M lenses for still photographers. Envious cinematographers have been trying to figure out ways to stick M lenses onto motion picture cameras ever since. Alas, most of these cine cameras had mounts that were too far away from the image plane. Any attempt to dissect the camera mount would result in a disastrous collision of expensive Leica optics (27.8mm flange depth) with an even more expensive spinning mirror shutter.
Suddenly, things changed with the latest Full Frame digital still and motion picture cameras, made possible by the absence of a spinning shutter and short flange distances. Now it is easier than ever to bring the iconic character of Leica M lenses to the world of moving pictures.
CW Sonderoptic heard the requests of users and agreed that the small size and light weight of Leica M lenses could be an advantage. They reworked the mechanical design of the lenses to improve the ergonomics of the focus and iris rings.
Leica M 0.8 lenses will be purpose-built and assembled on the regular Leica M line at Leica Camera in Wetzlar. They will have smooth, stepless iris rotation. Industry-standard 0.8 module / 32 pitch gear rings for focus and iris will allow the M 0.8 lenses to work seamlessly with familiar cine accessories, lens motors and follow focus systems.
CW Sonderoptic selected 5 lenses for this series, choosing the fastest in each focal length. They include: 21mm f/1.4, 24mm f/1.4, 28mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4 Summilux lenses and 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux. The lenses will be available individually or as a set.
Leica M 0.8 lenses are designed for Full Frame (24x36mm) digital still and motion picture cameras. They cover the RED 8K VistaVision sensor, Sony a7 series and the Leica SL. Smaller Super35 and S35+ sensor cameras can also use Leica M 0.8 lenses: focal length remains the same—only the crop factor is different (tighter). With weights ranging from 320g (.7 lb) to 700g (1.5 lb) and short lengths from 5.8cm (2.3 inches) to 7.7cm (3 inches), they are excellent choices for drones and gimbals.
DPs are excited by M 0.8 concept because of the classic look they provide on all cameras, regardless of sensor size. Gerhard Baier, Managing Director of CW Sonderoptic, said, “The character of the Leica M 0.8 lenses is truly unlike anything else in the cinema world at this time. The way they render light, the way they treat skin tones, highlights and focus roll off—they have an emotional tone that is almost impossible to put into words. We are delighted to bring this new opportunity for creativity with the new M 0.8 lenses.”
M 0.8 lenses will keep their existing Leica M mount, which was necessary to maintain the compact size. RED’s DSMC2 design allows the use of their Leica M Mount on all RED cameras with interchangeable mounts, including Scarlet, Epic, W6K, W8K VV and Helium 8K. A modified, shallower OLPF is required for RED cameras and will be available directly from CW Sonderoptic.
M Adapters are also widely available for Sony FZ and E-mount cameras, including the Sony a7 series, FS5, FS7, F5 and F55. Of course, M 0.8 lenses work well on Leica SL cameras, which shoot high quality 4K and HD video.
Leica M 0.8 lenses are expected to start delivering in Q1 2017 and will be available through CW Sonderoptic’s global reseller network. Current estimated prices per lens range from €5300 for the 35mm to €12,000 for the 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux.