The Leica 35mm Summarit f/2.4 ASPH Lens was the first Leica lens I purchased, and it was a decision filled with indecision. Do I get a 50mm lens? Should I have purchased a Summicron
Internet reviews tend to gloss over Leica's "discount" lineup of lenses - that would be the Elmarit and Summarit line - the modest prices of these lenses makes them less juicy to debate on a forum. But despite not having the aurora and prestige that a lens like the Noctilux might bring, the Elmarit and Summarit lines produce some great lenses.
I selected the 35mm Summarit as a first lens because of the versatility of the 35mm focal length, the size, and price. Coming from Nikon, I expected something more substantial when I was handed a $2,000 lens. The 35mm f/2.4 Summarit fits in the palm of my hand; the front glass element is about the size of a penny.... IE it's little! Which is awesome, because you don't notice it when carrying it around for a day.
Of all the ways to evaluate a lens, the optical quality and photographic results are obviously most important. The 35mm Summarit is impeccable in this regard - I have never seen any purple fringing (Chromatic Abberation) or distortion. There is no vignetting and the bokeh, while not Noctilux creamy, is still soft and smooth. Lens flaring is minimal and the focus throw is smooth. In many ways, it is the "routine beauty" of this lens and the fact that it's such a workhorse that make it so wonderful. It's not the fastest lens, sharpest lens, or the lens with the best bokeh that Leica makes, but it is an incredible performer for the price.
Until recently I shot all of my street photography in color, knowing I would convert it to black and white later. Since I've seen most of the images in color, I can be confident that no purple fringing exists. Now that I have the M Monochrom, I am shooting this lens 95% of the time on a Monochrom sensor. The examples below will give you a sense for the contrast, sharpness, distortion (or lack thereof), etc, but I would advise checking out some other reviews for color rendition examples.
With that all stated, it's time to look at some street examples: