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The Best Leica Rangefinder Lenses for 2021


Leica M cameras are legendary in the photo industry. History plays a role—the series has been in production for the better part of six decades, and Leica’s legacy goes back farther, to the very first camera to use 35mm film more than a century ago. And, with a few exceptions here and there, a modern digital Leica M10-R supports both M-mount and its predecessor, Leica Thread Mount (LTM) lenses, without any sacrifices in functionality.

Leica M10 with Vintage Elmarit Lens

Leica M10 with Vintage Elmarit Lens

A lack of in-lens electronics plays a big part. Leica lenses are purely mechanical, and while you shouldn’t expect a lens from the 1950s to be as optically sublime as modern glass with exotic aspherical elements, you can expect the same experience when using them regardless of whether it’s with a 35mm Leica M-A or digital M10 camera.

Today’s Brands

Leica, Voigtlander, and Zeiss are the major brands making M lenses today. They all share German roots, though the Voigtlander imprint is now owned by a Japanese manufacturer, Cosina.

They’ve been joined in recent years by some very boutique brands. Some, like one-man shop MS Optics, concentrate on short production runs of lenses set apart by ultra-slim designs or extra-bright apertures, with pricing that’s competitive with Voigtlander and Zeiss.

Others are up-and-comers: 7artisans, Kipon, TTArtisan, and Venus Laowa are newer names to photographers, but have all released M lens designs in recent months. Their lenses tend to be less expensive than other brands. TTArtisan, for example, sells a 50mm F0.95 lens for $755—Leica’s Noctilux-M 50mm F0.95, for comparison, costs $12,495.

Rangefinder and Mirrorless EVF Cameras

You shouldn’t expect the same level of craftsmanship from a budget lens as a hand-built Leica lens, but not everyone shopping for M glass is pairing it with a rangefinder. Anyone with a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera can use M lenses with a simple adapter.

We’ve even seen some adapters that add autofocus to the purely manual lenses. The Techart Pro Leica M adapter is an interesting product, but is a little bit of a pain to use in practice, as well as expensive.

Leica Lens on Sony Camera

This vintage Leica Summicron lens works with modern mirrorless cameras via an adapter

Now, that’s true of pretty much any fully manual lens, but M lenses are typically smaller and lighter than those made for vintage SLRs, and adapters are shorter too. With an EVF camera, you’ll focus an M lens manually with a through-the-lens view, a bit different from an optical rangefinder.

Regardless of what type of camera you use, there are a wealth of M lenses to choose from, both new and old. We’ve highlighted some of our favorites that we’ve reviewed over the years here, along with some advice for shopping for vintage lenses.

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