I might just be attuned to the theme, but I hear and read a lot about storytelling in photography. This, of course, is what photo essays are about - the narrative form perfected by Life magazine among...
Leica's M series lens lineup has been around for a long time, since 1953 in
fact. Over the years they've brought to market a varied and evolving lens
selection, and to the Leicaphile, each new lens is keenly and anxiously awaited.
One of the latest offerings is the 28mm f/2.0 Summicron-M Aspherical, a wide
angle lens using a completely new optical formula. Previously, Leica only had the
28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M as its medium wide- angle lens, and the new faster Summicron
lens now offers low light shooters that extra stop of low light capability that
has been long sought after. Not only is it faster by a full stop, but its
aspherical lens surfaces provide better edge sharpness and improved overall
contrast, especially when its used at its widest aperture. All of these features
have been given to us by Leica in a package that is not much larger than its
older, slower, and slightly lower performing sibling, which makes this new lens
very interesting indeed.
Where to Buy
Search Photo.net's Classified Ads Section or
other used gear resources for the Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M lens.
You really can't start to discuss things Leica without including a bit of
history. After all, history is Leica's middle name, simply because it's the
oldest successful line of 35mm cameras ever produced. Lets fast forward the clock
through the early years of the 20's and 30's, and stop at 1966. It only took
Leica thirteen years, after the introduction of the M3 camera, in 1953, to
develop a 28mm lens for the M system. This was the first version of the 28mm
Elmarit-M. This lens was designed with a very deep rear element that makes it
unusable on the M5 and later camera bodies. Later, Leica developed three more
versions of the Elmarit-M. These later versions are all compatible with the M5
and later cameras, but there were still some imperfections. I suppose people can
argue about which is best and which is worse, but in general terms, the older
28mm Elmarit designs are not considered as good as the newer ones, and the newest
on is considered the best. The fourth and latest incarnation 28mm Elmarit was
introduced in 1993, when the optical formula was again redesigned, and
performance was dramatically improved. The current 28mm Elmarit-M is a fine
performing lens. To wrap up this little abbreviated history lesson: From 1965 to
2002, there was only one 28mm lens available for the Leica M series: The 28mm
f/2.8 Elmarit, in one of four versions, the newest being the best of the lot.
Behold! The Summicron-M Aspherical
Believe it or not, Leica has not always been thought of in terms of high speed
lenses. Just take a look at the LTM (Leica Thread Mount) 28mm f/6.3 Hektor, last
offered in the mid 50's, and you'd be thankful to get any sort of faster
wide-angle! The capability to design, and manufacture lenses has changed with
time. Improved optical glasses, and other modern materials, are also newly
available. Leica, in recent decades, has developed a fine line of high speed
lenses, most of them with aspherical elements. Many photographers agree that the
high speed Leica lenses seem to be optimized for shooting at or near maximum
aperture, with little or no advantage in stopping down, except to control depth
of field. According to Leica, the new 28mm f/2.0 Summicron-M Aspherical offers
significantly improved performance over the current Elmarit design of the same
Here's what Leica says about its latest greatest 28mm lens (quoted from their
"It was possible to create a lens with outstanding performance that
is in no way below that of the excellent performance of the Leica Elmarit-M 28mm
f/2.8. As a matter of fact, it even surpasses it."
They go on to say "Outstanding imaging performance across the entire field,
with uniformly high resolving power and brilliance."
My experience with this lens suggests they are not stretching the truth. Leica
users ought to find this much to their delight, especially us "never use a flash"
types who love to shoot wide open by available darkness.
Not only is the new lens faster by a full stop, but the size of the 28mm f/2.0
Summicron- M Aspherical lens remains very close to that of the Elmarit. Size is
very important. The obvious reason is to make the lens easier to carry and use.
Another reason is to make the lens more discrete. However, many Leica
photographers overlook the simple fact that as the lens size increases, it will
block more of the viewfinder. With the supplied rigid lens hood in place, the new
28mm Summicron blocks not quite one quarter of the viewfinder. There is a window
in the back of the hood that allows the photographer to see a bit of what
otherwise would be blocked, while in the meantime keeping the front of the lens
adequately shaded. I find the window sort of nice too, because it instantly tells
me if the lens cap is on! With the lens hood removed, the lens blocks about one
eighth of the viewfinder, which is not too bad at all. For that reason, it is
doubtful we'll see a faster 28mm lens in the Leica lineup. Those holding their
breath waiting for a 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M Aspherical lens ought to start
inhaling again, lest they keel over and damage their equipment.
While discussing the blocking of the viewfinder image, it ought to be noted
that my description is for a .72 magnification viewfinder, and that results will
be different when using the .58 magnification bodies. Both the .72 and .58
magnification viewfinders support the 28mm lenses with frames for composition.
The higher .85 magnification body can also be used with a 28mm lens, however a
separate viewfinder must be used for accurate framing.
Worth mentioning too, is the weight of the new 28mm Summicron. It's only 10
grams more than that of the Elmarit design, and not much more than the 35mm f/2.0
Summicron-M Aspherical, or the 50mm f/2.0 Summicron-M lenses. For those of us not
accustomed to thinking in grams, 10 grams is someplace between 1/3 and
A dream come true?
To get more speed, higher performance, the benefit of aspherical elements, the
same physical dimensions, and at a weight gain of only 10 grams sounds like a
dream come true! That would make the new 28mm f/2.0 Summicron-M Aspherical priced
way beyond reason, even for the already costly Leica lenses, right? WRONG!!!
Some sniffing on the web, at places like B&H Photo and Adorama show about
a $400 dollar premium for the USA version of the new 28mm Summicron-M Aspherical.
as compared to the Elmarit. I found the 28mm Summicron Aspherical priced at $2099
while the Elmarit version was $1699. In my way of thinking, that's not much of a
hit for quite measurable improvements. I suspect, but have no way of verifying,
that the 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M is soon to be, or already has been, discontinued. I
know that as I shopped for a 28mm lens for my Leicas, in the summer of 2002,
there was some trouble finding a 28mm Elmarit, while the 28mm Summicron
Aspherical was almost always in stock. Time will tell if my feeling on this is
correct, but Leica has not (as of November of 2002) said anything, yet. With the
28mm Summicron being everything the 28mm Elmarit is, and then some, I'd not be
too surprised if my hunch pans out. For the record, I purchased my 28mm Summicron
from Rich Pinto at Photo Village, in New York. I regularly buy from B&H (also
in N.Y.) for my daily photo needs, but in this case I had a complex trade as part
of the deal, and I felt better dealing with Rich, who is noted for his personal
service. I have nothing negative to say about any of the three vendors mentioned.
When buying a higher ticket item, I'm not driven by price alone, but try to weigh
the service I'll expect from the dealer, and the overall deal that is being made.
I always consider things like the trade in of unneeded items toward the new
purchase, or even special shipping arrangements, then make the purchase decision
that's best for me.
Shooting the 28mm Summicron-M Asph
The new 28mm f/2.0 Summicron-M Asph is a joy to handle. Because of the
focusing tab, for me at least, it's neither too large or too small. The rigid
hood, on the other hand, is a wee bit too large for my taste, but one can always
leave it off. Almost in anticipation of photographers leaving the hood
unattached, Leica provides a standard cap for the lens, and also a cap for the
lens hood. Both caps fit nicely in the leather case, also supplied as standard
equipment. As expected, the lens mounts and brings up the correct viewfinder
frames on my M6TTL and M4-2 without any problems. Infinity focus coincides with
my infinity test target (the moon). The aperture ring is sized adequately, even
for my fairly large hands. Its click stops, on every full and half aperture
setting, were smooth and crisp, with just the right amount of "click". All the
engravings are very readable and precise, as can be said of every Leica lens from
the last several decades.
The aforementioned viewfinder blocking, even with the lens hood in place, is
not really that much of a bother or hindrance to me. The window in the hood
helps, and with some little bit of practice, composition is quite easy. One thing
I have noticed though, is that the front ring on the lens (the one that holds the
hood in place) had a tendency to loosen on my particular lens. I'm not sure if
its loosening from vibration, or through some minor bump (I had a guy's elbow run
into the lens hard enough that he complained his elbow hurt!). In either case, I
was able to tighten the three fastening screws a little to solve the problem.
I've needed one additional re-tightening of the screws since the elbow incident,
but since then it's been fine even with moderate use.
On the camera, the 28mm Summicron does not seem overly heavy, and tends to
balance much better than its visual appearance (with the hood attached) would
seem to suggest. To me at least, it balances similarly to, and more or less feels
like, the 30 gram lighter 50mm Summicron. Focusing is the utmost of ease because
of the amply sized and perfectly positioned focusing tab. I wish the latest
version of the 50mm Summicron had the focusing tab too. The new 28mm Summicron
Asph lens I got had a wee bit of tightness in the focusing at about 7 feet
distance and closer. That sort of bothered me, so I took a trip to my local
repairman, who I've known for more or less twenty years. He put literally two
drops of lubricant on the focusing helical, accessible from the rear of the lens,
and worked it in. It took about 2 minutes total, and the price paid was having to
listen to one of his stories! The lens' focusing action is silky smooth now, and
a joy to use.
Ah, but the proof is in the results!
Normally, I don't "test" a lens, Leica or otherwise. When purchasing, I go
with what I feel would be best, based on features, and also rely on the
"non-technical" information available to help me make the best decision. And,
while some true Leicaphiles rely on "the test results numbers" to rate a lens, I
would rather rely on the images it produces, and my satisfaction with those
images, to rate a lens.
Take a look at the image of the construction crane. It was shot wide open at
f/2.0 @ 1/1000 sec in the late afternoon. There is some darkening of the sky on
the top left-hand side of the image, but this is the result of the sky actually
being darker! Similar shots taken at f/5.6 and f/8.0 show similar darkening. Any
vignetting as a result of the lens design alone is very slight. I don't have a
way to measure it, but it seems just barely perceptible, maybe at most
Â« stop, and probably less. I find this well within my tolerance
level for acceptable lens behavior!
Another interesting image is the one of the archway. Here, for the purposes of
this review, I specifically included about half of the disk of the sun above the
arch itself. If you try this yourself PLEASE BE CAREFUL, so that you don't burn a
hole in your shutter. The sky is very washed out, because of the sun, but the
amazing thing is the very low amount of veiling flare, and nearly no artifacts in
the image. Another image, the shot of my wife in the "playground bubble", also
included a reflection of the full disk of the sun, but this time with a very dark
background at the edge of the frame. Again there is almost no flare, and nearly
no artifacts in the image. What appear like specular artifacts are mostly
decorative bolts on the back of playground apparatus, appearing through the clear
bubble. In terms of flair resistance, the 28mm M-Summicron Asph wins major points
I tried to pick images for this review that also showed some out of focus
areas, so the readers could judge the bokeh of the lens. The wedding shot's
background, and the foreground of the playground bubble provide some reference in
this regard. With a wide angle lens, the out of focus area is often just barely
out of focus, so having the wide f/2.0 aperture helps when you're trying for an
out of focus effect in the background or foreground. To me, the bokeh pleasing
and smooth, not harsh and irritating. I'd say we have a winner in the bokeh
Overall, the color rendition seems neutral, and the contrast quite snappy, as
most Leica lenses seem to be. Sharpness, or the appearance thereof, is quite good
even to the edge of the frame, even wide open. I wish the readers of this review
could see the actual sharpness and "pop" of these images for themselves, rather
than through the medium of their computer's monitor. There is no way for me to
tell what the actual resolution of the 28mm Summicron is. Looking at the images
it makes, you get a feeling of "wow". Maybe it's the detail resolution, maybe
it's the contrast, maybe it's the Leica magic, but the images do appear to have
"that Leica look". I'm more than pleased in that regard.
Some photographers might be wary of distortion (barrel distortion) on a wide
angle lens. I thought about this a while as well, then came to the conclusion
that given the viewfinder of a Leica M series camera, the camera/lens combination
just doesn't lend itself easily to critical architectural photography. Not to say
it can't be done, just not done easily with the viewfinder available. I tend to
grab a wide angle lens for people pictures, when I want to include more of the
background, for snapshots, and for landscapes. For these purposes, the 28mm
Summicron is ideal. The shot of the young lad with his first fish is an example
of how a wide angle lens can help you grab a quick snapshot, for instances when
time is not on your side.
To summarize the review of the Leica 28mm M-Summicron Asph, you can think of
it as all you'd expect it to be: A Compact, easy to handle, fast, medium wide
angle lens, of first rate optical design, that yields outstandingly superior
image performance with few if any drawbacks. I'm clearly deeply in love with this
If the reader hasn't noticed by now, I try not to take myself too seriously.
Quite serious however, is the capability of the 28mm Summicron. The only
disappointment I can envision for a prospective purchaser of a 28mm Summicron is
that they waited so long to make the purchase. I am clearly, deeply in love with
this lens. Hmmm, I already said that. Try one and you'll probably feel the same
The Wedding Couple. Taken on Ilford Delta 3200,
rated at ISO 1600. Exposure f/2.0 @ 1/8th second. Camera M6-TTL, lens 28mm
M-Summicron Asph. Image slightly cropped.
Judy in the Bubble. Taken on Kodak E100VS, rated
at ISO 100. Exposure about f/5.6 @ 1/125th second. Camera M6-TTL, lens 28mm
M-Summicron Asph. Full frame.
Construction Crane. Taken on Kodak E100VS, rated
at ISO 100. Exposure f/2.0 @ 1/1000th second. Camera M6-TTL, lens 28mm
M-Summicron Asph. Full frame.
A beamish boy with his first fish. Taken on Kodak
E100VS rated at ISO 100. Exposure about f/8.0 @ 1/125th second. Camera M6-TTL,
lens 28mm M-Summicron Asph. Full frame.
The Arch. Taken on Kodak E100VS, rated at ISO
100. Exposure about f/5.6 @ 1/60th second. Camera M6-TTL, lens 28mm M-Summicron
Asph. Full frame.
A vulcan lass' greeting. Taken on Kodak TMax3200
rated at ISO 1600. Exposure about f/2.0 @ 1/60th second. Camera M6-TTL, lens 28mm
M-Summicron Asph. Slightly cropped.
Diane. Taken on Kodak T400CN, rated at ISO 400.
Exposure about f/2.8 @ 1/60th second. Camera M6-TTL, lens 28mm M-Summicron Asph.
I've been dabbling with photography since 1972. While I worked in your
not-so-everyday professional's camera store from 1976 to 1982, I had a chance to
play with a lot of uncommon, and downright oddball equipment, some of which was a
little more oddball when I got through with it. My personal photographic
interests include bird and nature photography, as well as portraiture. My
professional photographic interests currently involve wedding and event
photography. I acquired my first Leica, an M3, back in 1978, but only recently
have become a true Leica believer. Additionally, I regularly use my Canon EOS's,
Hasselblads and a trusty Cambo 4x5, depending on the needs of the shoot. Since
1982, my regular employment has been related to the golf irrigation industry in
Where to Buy
Search Photo.net's Classified Ads Section or
other used gear resources for the Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M lens.