CW Sonderoptic, Leica’s sister company, which manages the brand’s cinema products, announced that five classic Leica M rangefinder lenses will receive the cinema treatment. Known for their high quality optics and compact size, M lenses offer unique creative capabilities that will now be available to filmmakers in a familiar body style.
“The character of the Leica M 0.8 lenses is truly unlike anything else in the cinema world at this time,” said Gerhard Baier, managing director of CW Sonderoptic, in a related statement. “The way they render light and the way they treat skin tones and highlights and focus roll off — they have an emotional tone that is almost impossible to put into words.”
Called the Leica M 0.8 series, the new lenses look very similar to the standard M models, but feature integrated focus and iris gears with the industry-standard 0.8 pitch. The aperture diaphragm has also been “de-clicked” for stepless operation that permits a smooth transition between exposure settings, as is common with cinema lenses. Each lens is purpose-built at the Leica M factory in Wetzlar, Germany, and modifying existing M lenses will not be an option.
In order to maintain the compactness the M system is known for, the 0.8 series lenses will maintain the standard M mount and will not be available in PL mount, the preferred mount of Hollywood-level cinema cameras. They will, however, be compatible with Red cinema cameras that use an interchangeable mount design, such as the Epic, Scarlet, Weapon, and Helium, as well as many mirrorless cameras via adapters.
One other advantage besides size is that the M 0.8 lenses are designed for 35mm (full frame) cameras, which makes them compatible with the smaller Super35 cinema format as well as larger sensors like the one found in Red’s Dragon 8K camera. The lenses will also be a perfect match for Sony’s video-focused, full frame mirrorless cameras, such as the 4K a7S II.
The five models receiving the 0.8 update include the 21mm f/1.4, 24mm f/1.4, 28mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, and the legendary 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux, one of the fastest lenses in existence. They will be available in early 2017 with prices ranging from $5,975 for the 35mm to $13,550 for the 50mm. While not cheap, these prices are in line with cinema primes from Canon and Zeiss, and considerably less expensive than Leica’s PL mount cinema lenses.