Thypoch Simera 35mm F1.4 M-Mount Review
January 29th, 2024
It’s always interesting to see new lens makers enter the picture. There’s probably a very good chance that you’ve never heard of Thypoch or their Simera line of lenses, so we’ll explore a little about the brand in the section below. The Simera lineup debuts with two lenses – a 28mm and a 35mm F1.4 – both of which are designed for Leica M-mount and its macular linkage. Anything with the name “Leica” attached to it tends to be ridiculously expensive, so these compact Thypoch lenses with their reasonable price tags are a breath of fresh air. Today’s review focuses on the Simera 35mm F1.4, which is the second of the two Simera lenses that I’ve reviewed after spending time with the 28mm. You can get my full thoughts by checking out my video review below…or just keep reading.
Thanks to Thypoch for sending me review loaners of these lenses. As always, this is a completely independent review. *The tests and most of the photos that I share as a part of my review cycle have been done with the Sony a7RV along with the Sony Alpha 1 that serve as my benchmark cameras for Sony lenses.
As noted, Thypoch is a new lensmaker, and their name is a combination of the word “Thy” (as in “you”) and the word “epoch”, which refers to the age, era, or time in a person’s life. It’s a bit of a mouthful to say, but the intent is that they want to project a brand that is about enabling a person’s creativity and ability to make art that suits their self-expression. The word “Simera” is similar, as it is actually a transliteration of a Greek word which means “today”.
I’ve got the silver editions of these lenses in for review (a look I’m very partial to, actually), but they are also available in a traditional black finish as well.
The Simera 35mm is really designed for Leica M-mount rangefinder style cameras, but as I don’t own an M-mount camera, I’m using the Techart LM-EA9 auto adapter that allows me to have autofocus (of a sort) on Sony E-mount. I’ve also used a much cheaper manual adapter from Neewer to evaluate using more typical manual focus as well.
The retail price for the Simera 35mm F1.4 will be $699 USD, and if that seems expensive for a manual focus lens, consider the competition. Leica makes a number of 35mm lenses with differing maximum apertures, but the most direct comparison is the Leica Summilux-M 35mm F1.4, which retails for a cool $5600 – about 8x as much! Even their Summicron 35mm F2 costs $4100, so obviously Thypoch has a serious pricing advantage. I am a fan of Voigtlander lenses, however, and I would say that the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm F1.4 II is probably the most direct inexpensive alternative on M-mount, though I haven’t personally tested that particular lens. Here’s a look at the specs and prices of these various alternative.
I was quite pleased with the overall feel and optical performance of the Simera 28mm F1.4, and while there is some give and take in a few areas with the Simera 35mm, it also stands up as a very nice little optic.
One caveat: I don’t own a Leica camera and I’m not familiar with the Leica platform and alternative lenses. Those are hardly fair comparison points because they are so incredibly expensive anyway. My points of comparison will be more on Sony, as that’s where I’m actually testing the lens. Here’s hoping that Thypoch can find some experienced Leica users to review the Simera lenses on their native platform.
Build and Handling
While for practical reasons I want everyone to be making autofocus lenses, I will confess to having a soft spot for nicely made manual focus lenses. There’s a bit of a “zen” quality to shooting manual focus under the right conditions, namely when you aren’t in a rush and can just enjoy the process of making art. I love watching focus come into existence as I pull it towards my spot.
Thypoch might be new to the game, but the Simera lenses are very nicely made and include a few upscale touches along with a few “Easter eggs” that I’ve discovered along the way. There’s excellent attention to detail in the build, with nice materials that go all the way to the premium looking and feel front and rear caps, which feel like lightweight aluminum rather than plastic and have nice detailed etched in them.
Leica users tend to like to travel light, and the Simera 35mm strikes a nice balance between quality of build and light weight. It is very similar in appearance to the Simera 28mm, but smaller and lighter in a way noticeable if you put them side by side.
The Simera 35mm (on the left) is obviously smaller. The lens is 54mm in diameter (2.1″) and utilizes a very compact 49mm front filter threading (in metal). The lens is 50.8mm (2″) in length and weighs in at 325.5g (11.5oz), making it slightly lighter than Leica Summilux-M, which weighs 338g.
There are two rings on the lens barrel with a middle section in between them that contains one of the clever touches. The first ring is the focus ring, which has knurled sections that provide excellent grip throughout the focus range of roughly 100°.
There is a unique locked section for infinity focus which you can easily move into with just a little extra force, but does require depressing a little pin to release it from the infinity lock.
A really close macro of the infinity lock shows the attention to detail that is everywhere in these designs. Everything seems finely crafted.
The focus action is nice and smooth. There’s a little extra drag at 0.7 meter by design, as Leica’s rangefinder bodies typically only focus to about that range, and any closer focus requires an LCD liveview style focus. That’s not an issue for me, obviously, since I’m not actually testing on a Leica body. Because this doesn’t apply to my application, I actually find this feature a bit of a negative, as I find that it prevents really smooth focus pulls in that range. The Simera 35mm is an internally focusing lens; there is no extension of the barrel during focus.
The aperture ring is located near the front of the lens, and it too has some nicely knurled portions along with some ribbing to help with grip. I discovered something unexpected on the ring, and that was that one of those raised sections is actually a switch to allow one to switch between a clicked aperture (signified by a “sun” symbol) and a declicked aperture (represented by a “moon” symbol). I’m not sure I understand the connection between those two things, but having this option is a nicely upscale feature.
In the clicked mode there are nicely defined one third stop detents between F1.4 and F8, and then full stop detents at F11 and F16. In the declicked mode you can very smoothly rack throughout the whole aperture range for cine work.
It’s also imperative to mention the aperture iris itself, which has 14 rounded blades and does a stunningly good job of maintaining a circular shape throughout the zoom range. It’s an extremely lovely aperture iris.
In between the two rings is one of the interesting “Easter eggs” of the design. Instead of a typical hyperfocal scale, there are interesting little pinholes that typically just have silver (or black) behind them. As you begin to close down the aperture, however, those pinholes begin to show red for each aperture stop, signifying a new point where you can put the infinity marker to achieve hyperfocal distances. It’s a stylish touch, particularly in the silver edition.
The front aspect of the lens has the lens designation of the lens, the filter thread, and then a bayonet style mount for the lens hood. Like the Leica lenses, the lens hood is rectangular rather than circular, though with 45° angles on each of the corners. It is made from a lightweight aluminum and has a retro style to it that should appeal to those who love the Leica aesthetic.
As an aside, the front cap is a slip over rather than pinch style, which means that it won’t fit on when the lens hood is mounted, so this is an either/or situation.
Since I used the lens on the Techart adapter for a lot of my review period, I did have autofocus of a sort. The Techart LM-EA9 works by moving a lens forwards or backwards (physically) to achieve focus. Getting optimal performance is sometimes dependent on setting the manual focus ring at the proper distance. Early one I did some false positives for infinity focus (landscapes), but the images weren’t sharp because the lens wasn’t allowed to focus to infinity. I just had to be more aware and accommodate for it in subsequent shots if I wanted to shoot at the extremes. That meant moving the manual focus ring closer to infinity for some shots but more towards to minimum if I wanted to shoot at very close focus distances.
The negative of using the Techart is that sometimes infinity shots aren’t perfectly focused. I preferred using a manual adapter for infinity work. The upside of using the Techart is on the other end of the spectrum. The adapter functions a bit like an extension tube; it allowed me to focus closer than the 45cm standard minimum focus distance. Here’s an example of the native amount of magnification (left) compared to what the Techart allows (right):
That’s clearly a huge difference, and it allows the bokeh from the lens to really shine!
Close focus is not typically a strength for Leica M-mount lenses. As noted previously, the bodies are not really optimized for that, so it doesn’t seem to be a priority in Leica lens design. The Summilux lens gets as close as a 40cm minimum focus distances, while the Summicron-M only focuses as closely as 70cm. Without the help of the adapter, the Simera 35mm achieves a fairly poor magnification figure in the roughly 0.10x.
The Thypoch Simera 35mm F1.4 is a beautifully built little lens that was generally a joy to use. I’m not quite sure that the lock at infinity is necessary, but it does add a bit of a retro charm to the lens at the same time, and I appreciate the attention to detail. I would say that Thypoch is mostly nailing the design here and has gauged their potential audience well.
Thypoch Simera 38mm F1.4 Image Quality
The Simera 35mm is a little simpler optically than the 28mm, with only 9 elements in 5 groups. That’s good news for those of you who believe that fewer elements produces nicer rendering. This includes a few more exotic elements like an Aspherical element and 3 HRI (High Refractive Index) elements. Also important is the fact that there is a floating element group which allows the lens to perform better at closer focus distances.
The MTF chart suggests a good (not great) center sharpness that is fairly consistent across the frame at wide apertures, while stopping down provides a consistent improvement everywhere and a nicely flat sharpness profile.
I’ve done my testing on both a 50MP Sony Alpha 1 and a 61MP Sony a7RV, and while I slightly preferred the performance of the 28mm, the 35mm lens also acquitted itself well.
The Leica audience is a little different from more mainstream brands with lower price points. People are looking for the “Leica look” more than just a purely technical performance. I’ll try to bear that in mind as a part of my assessment of the lens.
The first technical hurdle is easily overcome, however, as there is next to no distortion here and only an average amount of vignette for an F1.4 lens like this.
I used a +1 to correct a minimal amount of barrel distortion and a +76 to correct the vignette. That’s a fairly heavy amount of vignette (nearly 3 stops), but that’s pretty typical for a lens like this. This was fairly consistent with what I saw on the 28mm as well.
This is a lens without electronics, and while I can set the focal length in the adapter to report properly (35mm), Lightroom reports this as being the Canon EF 40mm F2.8, for some reason. Just disregard that.
Longitudinal chromatic aberrations (LoCA) are a little more pronounced on the Simera 35mm than what I saw on the 28mm. There is some fringing before and after the plane of focus, but most obviously in the form of green colored fringing after the plane of focus.
I found that this resulted in slightly lower wide open contrast levels for the Simera 35mm in real world results. Case in point is this comparison I shot between the two lenses using a pineapple as a subject. In the first result, you can see that I’ve worked to negate the framing difference by moving the 35mm back a bit to try to equalize the frame. Both images were shot at F1.4 and with the same camera settings (1/160th second shutter speed at ISO 100).
When looking at a pixel level we can see that there is more contrast for the 28mm result than for the 35mm result.
There is very little to distinguish the two images otherwise. Both look pretty similar in terms of color and bokeh.
There is also very slightly more Lateral Chromatic Aberrations (LaCA) near the edges of the frame, though it is still pretty well controlled. There’s not enough here to be an issue in real world results.
So how about resolution and contrast? My tests are done on a 61MP Sony a7RV, which is currently the highest resolution point on a full frame camera and is similar to that of the Leica M11. Here’s a look at the test chart:
And here are the F1.4 crops at roughly 180% from the center, mid-frame, and lower right corners:
The center of the frame detail and contrast look very good, though not what I would call pin-sharp. The mid-frame is softer but still acceptably sharp, while the corners look very soft at this level of examination.
I found that real world results at F1.4 looked better than what my chart tests show, however, and I was generally pleased with wide open results other than a few images where I wanted for a bit more contrast. Here’s an example along with a detailed crop, which we’ll break down after viewing.
You can see from the crop that there is a fairly good amount of detail at F1.4 even though contrast isn’t top notch (and remember that crop at a pixel level is from a 61MP sensor). But what isn’t there is spherical aberrations and a “bleeding” on the edges of the textures. But if you look at the image as a whole, you’ll probably notice the rendering and bokeh from the lens is really lovely. The transition to defocus is very nice, and it is that “drawing” that is most likely to appeal to Leica shooters who maybe don’t want to spend the thousands to get a Leica branded 35mm lens.
I found in some images I really needed to correct the vignette as it isn’t as linear some Zeiss lenses (where the vignette can be very intentional). The vignette is too concentrated in the corners, so if you have snow in the foreground of your images (as I often do this time of year), your eye can be drawn to the dark corners. In other situations it works. The image below has not received any vignette correction.
Just know that with an all-manual lens like this, you will be having to correct the vignette in images where you don’t like it. Fortunately the very low distortion means that it (at least) won’t be an issue.
By F2 the center levels of contrast and detail have received a nice bump.
Stopping down to F2.8 gives the mid-frame a bump to similar levels.
By F4 the corners are looking pretty good (F2.8 on the left, F4 on the right).
By F5.6 you have a very nice landscape lens, capable of delivering highly detailed results across the frame on my high resolution body.
The effects of diffraction will be felt after F8, with slightly less sharp results at F11 and then obviously softer results at F16 with the contrast significantly reduced from F11:
These Simera lenses clearly have nice optical glass, as the color saturation levels are both accurate and rich.
Contrast may not be as good as the 28mm, but there’s enough to produce credible results at a pixel level in most cases. This shot has the additional challenge of being backlit, and while you can see some fringing, the detail in the shallow area of focus is pretty nice.
So enough about sharpness (it’s enough to make most Leica shooters happy, I think), and let’s talk about the bokeh and rendering from the lens. At F1.4, there is certainly some geometric deformation of specular highlights (bokeh balls) near the edge of the frame, giving them a lemon shape. In the sequence below, however, you can see that by F2 the results are largely circular, and then at F2.8 they are definitely circular all across the frame. That beautifully circular aperture shape means that specular highlights remain very circular at smaller apertures.
The large maximum aperture means that you can create nicely creamy backgrounds, and the lens seems to handle complicated defocused areas nicely.
In a cleaner, less busy situation, the bokeh is amongst the nicest I’ve seen from a full frame 35mm lens:
The fall-off from focus to defocus is nice as well, and I didn’t see an issue with fringing around window frames (a pet peeve of mine!).
I would definitely consider the bokeh and overall drawing/rendering from the Simera 35mm a real strength for the lens. In general I found that I liked the overall “feel” of images from the lens. A lens like this should not be clinical and without personality, and I think that Thypoch has done a good job of creating a lens that has some character.
The 28mm was slightly better in the flare department, but the Simera 35mm is no slouch, either. It does quite well at large apertures with minimal ghosting and veiling (first and second images), though when stopped down to F11 (third image) you can definitely see more ghosting artifacts.
This is still an area of strength for the Simera 35mm relative to competitors, and the 14 bladed sunstar looks pretty nice, too.
I was generally happy with the images I got from the Simera 35mm F1.4. I don’t have any experience with the Leica competitors, but they would have to be a LOT better to justify the much, much higher price tags.
In summation, I found a whole lot more to be happy about than what I did to complain about. Colors looked nice, and I found that I didn’t need to do much processing to images. I generally liked the way that they looked right out of the camera. Check out the image gallery for more shots to help you get a feel for whether or not this lens will work for you.
It’s great to start 2024 with a brand new lensmaker who is off to a great start in evaluating a market and building a lens to fill it. Targeting the Leica M-mount market is a different strategy than I’ve often seen from new lensmakers, but it seems like Thypoch recognized an opportunity to built a slightly more upscale lens that is still going to seem a bargain in the Leica community. The market on Sony is pretty flooded, but I think that these Simera lenses might get more attention on the less populated Leica side of things.
There are obviously a number of 35mm lenses on Leica, but most of them tend to be very expensive, and few are more inexpensive than the Thypoch Simera 35mm F1.4. And yet nothing feels cheap about the Simera lenses. There’s a lot of attention to detail that makes them feel upscale, and they are capable optical performers as well.
The Leica platform is about the look, and I think that Thypoch has done a good job of providing a far less expensive alternative to Leica branded lenses while retaining a lot of the charm that makes people love Leica. For less than $700 you can land a lens in the Thypoch Simera 35mm F1.4 that captures a lot of the charm of much more expensive Leica lenses. The counterpart to that, however, is that no one is shooting Leica to save money, so the market will have to determine whether or not those willing to spend many thousands of dollars on a Leica camera are looking for a budget alternative to native Leica glass. Good luck, Thypoch!
- Beautifully made lens with attention to detail
- Declick option
- Love the silver finish
- Good performance of focus and aperture rings
- 14 bladed aperture iris is beautiful
- Compact and lightweight
- Good rule of thirds sharpness even at F1.4
- Nice bokeh
- Very low distortion
- Good flare resistance
- Nice rendering and drawing
- 8x cheaper than the Leica alternative
- Corners are soft at large apertures
- Low maximum magnification
- Fairly strong vignette
- A bit more fringing than the 28mm
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Keywords: Thypoch, Simera, 35mm, F1.4, Simera 35, 35mm, 28mm, M-mount, Rangefinder, Techart, LM-EA9, LMEA9, Techart LM-EA9 Review, LM-EA7, Leica M to E, Full Frame, Review, Sony Alpha 1, Sony a7RV, Review, Hands On, Dustin Abbott, Real World, Comparison, Sharpness, Bokeh, Flare Resistance, Autofocus, Image Quality, Sample Images, Video, Photography, let the light in, #letthelightin, DA
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