Testing Out the World’s Smallest f/1.4 Lens, a 1990s $3,700 Vintage Leica

Photographer Mathieu Stern decided to test out a vintage Leica lens that retails for nearly $4,000 on eBay. He tested its capabilities in a series of photos, the results of which he says don’t justify the hefty price tag.

A keen YouTuber, Stern has posted a review video to his page. In evaluating the lens' capabilities, Stern notes the softness of the images often mean that although the subject’s skin looks great, the eyes are not entirely in focus. As far as depth of field, he says: “The background doesn’t really melt away [when] wide open. In portraits, it can distract from the subject.”

Playing to its strengths, the f/1.4 aperture helped create a nice “mood” when taking pictures under a bridge.

Always one for experimenting, Stern also adapted the lens using a macro stretcher adapter in order to take images of smaller details.

Stern says the biggest downfall of the lens is the positioning of the focus ring. “It’s hard to use the lens in a natural way with your fingers… I missed my focus a lot of the time.”

He concludes that some of the $20 lenses he’s used in his previous experiments are to his preference and that it may be the Leica name carrying weight for this particular piece of equipment.

All images used with permission of Mathieu Stern.

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9 Comments

That really looks like v2 preasph, if that's the case is not a 4k lens, they can even be found for 1.5k usd., (I am not sure about the version).

Matthias Dengler's picture

Finally someone who says it that Leica is not worth it. It's ridiculous!
Here in Germany, some hipster Instagrammers seem to have waaay too much money. The basically buy an expensive with an expensive lense that cannot even focus automatically. back to the stone age! And then those people call it a "raw / authentic" picture. Well, half of their pictures are anyway out of focus all the time. But then they add so much artifical grain on it, that it anyway doesn't matter, if it was in focus or not. But then, you tell everyone it was shot with a Leica and all the insta-fame bi***es run after those people, who take noisy out-of-focus pictures. Goodbye world!

I wanted to say that Profoto is comparable against for example Godox. But that comparison is flawed, as you really get something better with Profoto over other flashes. With Leica, you get something worse for more money. I'm sorry, but people have to be out of their mind to spend so much money on a lens.

I am not 100% sure but i think he is actually testing an old design of that lens, the new one which indeed cost that price has nothing to do with the outcome of what he showed. I have a similar lens to the one he reviewed and yes, its small, its sharp from 2.0 on, but below 2.0 is not what you will call a clean leans :) If indeed is like the one i have, yes they are not cheap, but the go for less than 1500 usd.

Ha ! Thanks ! At least someone saying it louds with facts and images to assert it !

Michael Jin's picture

This must have been from a batch where they had a shortage of crystallized unicorn tears and were forced to make lenses with glass. Just ignore because it's clearly not a "true" Leica lens.

Spy Black's picture

You really know you're old when you see "1990" and "vintage" being used together...

Kind of spooky in a way. 90s does not sound vintage to me, it feels like last week. I got my first SLR (no 'D') back in 1969... that's vintage.

BTW I still have that camera.

4k for blurry photos? Hipsters unite

Blake Aghili's picture

I dunno ! I just a few days ago got a Leica Q half price now that their Q2 is out :D It feels good ... makes you want to take it out without feeling like you are carrying a bag of potato with you everywhere ! I have took it effortlessly to places and took photos that I wouldn't bother hauling my D-850 or Hassy there ...