Today, we have an exciting lens, or should I say LENSES, to share. Many of you might already be fully aware that Leica has released a Black version of the 35mm f1.4 Summilux Steel Rim reissue. Regrettably, the reissued black version is limited to just 200 pieces worldwide, making it extremely sought after and rare, but that won’t stop us from appreciating it, and moreover, taking a look at the past with a special lens from Leica’s rich history and really the golden era of these incredible tools.

Let’s delve into the background of the 35mm Summilux Steel Rim. This lens was the first Leica 35mm Summilux with a fast aperture. The Steel Rim significantly revolutionized the Leica M system during the M3 and M2 era, enabling photographers to capture images in challenging lighting conditions like never before. Today, we celebrate the Leica 35mm Summilux-M Steel Rim for its uniquely signature glow when used at a wide-open aperture. In 2023, alongside the reissue of the Leica M6, Leica thankfully re-released the 35mm Summilux-M Steel Rim, and we couldn’t be more excited about this reissue.

Alongside the reissue of the Black 35mm F1.4 Summilux-M Steel Rim, we have an even rarer find – the original Black 35mm f1.4 Summilux Steel Rim. These two lenses are nearly identical, with only minor differences. The new version features a larger filter thread and employs a modern single coating on the optics, which slightly improves color rendering on digital sensors.

The Estimated Production Numbers:

  • The Leica Original Steel Rim was manufactured from 1960 to 1963.
  • It’s estimated 440 Steel Rim lenses in Chrome with the Googles for the Leica M3 were produced
  • It is estimated only 3360 Steel Rim lenses were made in chrome without the googles for the Leica M2
  • The original Black Steel Rim is even rarer, with around 160 pieces produced with goggles and less than 200 units produced without them, as seen here in the photos below.

These ultra-rare pieces are captivating and enjoyable to admire. While many are unattainable for most of us, their value lies not in their rarity but in their unique narrative in Leica’s history. These original small production 35mm Steel Rim lenses weren’t initially made for collectors. Instead, they were crafted for a very specific purpose and need that Leica identified and met with a limited number of lenses. The originals were most likely designed to complement the Black Paint M cameras of the same era, providing photographers with a more discreet setup. These wonderful optics were tools, tools to tell time, and tools that we now celebrate and enjoy today.

While the rare black versions, both modern and vintage, are intriguing, the standard reissue 35mm f1.4 Summilux-M Steel Rim in Chrome is a stunning lens. Given its uniqueness, we’re fortunate that it’s more or less widely available today for use on both modern and vintage cameras at a rather reasonable price, considering how niche this lens is and how challenging it is to make. Many of us at Camera West stores have used and adored the new reissue Steel rim. If you haven’t tried one yet, we highly recommend it—it truly is a delight.

For More Reading on the 35mm Summilux Steel Rim We’d highly recommend the following Articles from our friends around the web and here on Tools of Time.

Thumbprints and Signatures with the 35mm F1.4 Summilux Steel Rim (Goggles Chrome)

Jono Slacks Wonderful Write up and Review of the 35mm Steel Rim Reissue