With more and more identikit glass pushing its way into the market, things like the new Leitz Hugos offer boldness and character to those who can afford them.
Huge demand for cinema lenses has been raising eyebrows worldwide for the past few years, as manufacturers demonstrate how much PL-mount glass the planet can use. A careful organization not Leitz has jumped on the small-price, big-market bandwagon. Like other big names in cinema lenses, the company continues to do well with things like the Leica M 0.8 series, a set of low-cost cinema lenses derived from the company’s mid-range methods. Twentieth century.
Leitz HUGO lenses take their name from engineer Hugo Wehrenfenning, whose work for Leica Camera (then Ernst Leitz GmbH, Wetzlar) included creating the iconic Leica M bayonet mount and early M series lenses still in use today.
The M 0.8 set has always looked like a set of stills lenses with cinema-style additions, as it more or less is. They are small and very portable, but getting a PL mount means going for C-suffixed Summilux or Summicron lenses. Anyone who prefers the old-world charms of the Leica M, but can’t fit an M mount to a rental camera, has thus far been out of luck.
HUGO lenses use the LPL mount, which seems tailor-made for this type of situation. This is actually slightly less depth than conventional PL, but the difference is enough to facilitate a large improvement in potential lens performance. Removing the rotating mirror from cameras made them smaller and lighter, which also enabled better lenses; Fitting the M mount to the Alexa always requires some internal modifications.
Featuring the same 21, 24, 35, 50, 75, and 90mm lenses as the HUGO M 0.8 range, including the jet-powered T1.0 50mm Noctilux, designed to haunt focus pullers’ nightmares. All but the latter are T1.5, which somehow manage to match the Zeiss Supreme Prime and weigh a little more than half (the Fast 50 is, understandably, thicker). The HUGO range doesn’t go much beyond 90, while the Zeiss goes from 15mm to 200mm (dropping to T2.2), though Leitz has said it intends to release 18 and 135mm focal lengths.
Leitz has shown no interest as a budget option. Anyone wanting a set of reasonably-fast full-frame primes could start with Sigma’s Cine FF series and pay perhaps £30,000 for a set of seven lenses, all of which are compatible with Leitz’s T1.5, except for the long and short ones, which are, in any case, not from the HUGO range. More ambitious buyers can covet the core set of seven Supreme Primes, which push £90,000 including VAT. The Leitz Hugo series come in only a few thousand. The intent is different – the Supremes aim for precision, but the Leitz promotes a less primitive look that recalls the M series’ mid-century origins.
So, in a world drowning in affordable, identikit glass, the Hugo series helps secure the company’s hold on the high end, especially for people looking for a slightly more well-judged character.