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Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M Lens

by Charles Barcellona, December, 2002 (updated March 2011)


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.

Some History

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 focal length.

Here's what Leica says about its latest greatest 28mm lens (quoted from their sales brochure):

"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 « ounce.

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 « 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 with me.

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 department.

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.

In conclusion

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 lens.

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 way.

Images

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. Slightly cropped.

Charles' Bio.

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 south Florida.

Where to Buy

Search Photo.net's Classified Ads Section or other used gear resources for the Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M lens.

Text and pictures copyright 2002 Charles Barcellona

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Michael Weick , December 05, 2002; 06:28 P.M.

Hi, I don't see the fuzz about this lens. The pictures look very average to me, sorry when I put it too bluntly. Especially when compared to some digital grain-free pictures taken with Canon's G 1,2,3 cameras I begin to wonder how to justify the investment in Leica gear nowadays. At the end of the day it is the results that count. If you're pleased from what you get it will be alright, but the myth is way overrated. No one says, wow this picture is taken with a Leica lens. If you look very hard you can sense a sort of 3 D image which I like. On the other hand, you have to pay more if you want to feel special. It is the same with other luxuary articles. Leica is now owned to 51% by 'Hermes' as far as I am informed. This no good sign of the times. Yours Michael Weick a Leica M user.

John Collier , December 05, 2002; 06:39 P.M.

Just a couple of minor points:

1) The first version of the 28/2.8 does indeed have an optical design that protrudes deep into the body of the M camera. It will mount on any of the M cameras except the M5 and the CL. On the M5, the metering arm will hit against the lens and break off if you attempt to mount an unmodified lens. Leica can easily and inexpensively modify the lens mount so that the metering arm stays out of harm's way. According to Leica, the lens will not physically fit on a CL even with the meter arm retracted. The deep rear element also means that you will be unable to use the internal meter of the M6, M6TTL and M7 cameras.

2) I assume you have had the six frameline mask set put into your M4-2. Otherwise there is no way it can bring up the 28mm frameline as the camera did not come with one.

Charles Barcellona , December 05, 2002; 08:00 P.M.

John, I stand totally corrected. This is my first 28mm Leica lens, and I knew there was difficulty there in the past with the M5 and CL. The online research I could do was a little spotty on which lens series ok for those cameras.

And... DOH, you're right again, my M4-2 DOES have M4-P frames in it, and thus brings up the 28. You know... I know this, but I'm so used to MY M4-2 working that way, I totally forgot that its an oddball.

Thanks for the input, and corrections!

David Manzi , December 06, 2002; 12:18 P.M.

Michael,

While I agree that the pix are nothing special, it is impossible to present any photos on the web that can illustrate the results of a lens test. You need transparencies, prints, or something "hard" that can show more detail than a 72dpi monitor. Too much depends on factors that are out of your control. Besides, Leica lenses are critic proof, aren't they?

Also, how about a format other than Photoshop for your attachment?

Phil Marcus , December 07, 2002; 12:04 A.M.

I bought my first Leica about a year ago. In the deal I bought a .72 M6 classic, a new 50mm Summicron and a type II 28mm Elmarit. I've compared the Elmarit to many of the other wide angle lenses I've shot for years - all of them SLR glass - and it is so much better, I was amazed. There's no curvature of field or distortion. From what I've been able to ascertain, wide angle lenses built for rangefinders are a superior breed, regardless of max aperture. I wonder how the 28 Summicron is on flare? Cool lens, but then, so are its ancestors.

Barry Fisher , December 07, 2002; 10:39 P.M.

To Michael: I agree that maybe the myth is a bit over blown, but to my experience, the fact is especially in B & W, if you look at prints off of last or current generation M lenses compared to other 35mm B& W prints, and I don't mean web scans, you can often tell a big difference in clarity and tonality, just the way they snap, and that's pretty much a fact given from my experience in a college photolab where you see large amounts of prints made from all kinds of stuff.. Maybe its not worth the extra bucks you have to pay for it, maybe it is:) Regards Barry Fisher

Howard Weiss , December 08, 2002; 12:52 A.M.

Michael,

For what it's worth, my friend and I went walking through our local park earlier this fall. He with his Nikon, I with my Leica. We shot the same subjects on what was an overcast day. The day and time of day required that the lenses be wide open. Today we were looking at the photos and HE pointed out the difference in the sharpness, contrast and color. That's what you pay for - the flexibility and the quality of the image under all circumstances.

Howard Weiss

El Fang , December 08, 2002; 10:49 P.M.

"That's what you pay for - the flexibility and the quality of the image under all circumstances." -Howard Weiss

I have been using an M6 system alongside an identical Nikon FM2N system (28/2.8. 35/2, 50/1.4) side by side for a few years now. The reason I have both is the M6 is for enjoyment, while the Nikon's superior reliability brings the bread home. After all this time, I'm still hard pressed to tell which system I used to shoot which slide. If anything, my Nikon 50/1.4 AF-D bests the 50/1.4-M Summilux, especially wide open. Not bad for a $250 lens vs $1300 (what I paid), and $1050 buys a lot of film and processing.

The Leica myth is just that: a myth.

Randall Shafer , December 09, 2002; 08:22 A.M.

Funny, I have both the Nikon 50mm 1.4 AFD and the Summilux-M and my results are just the opposite. I find the Nikon has particularly ugly bokeh-- the ugliest I've ever seen, in fact, and the sharpness and contrast is no better at any aperture. It also has a problem with coma.

Al doesn't tell us which lens formulations he uses, but only the 50mm f1.4 Summilux is current product. I'm glad he can't see the difference, but that should generally translate into a refusal to spend money for performance he can't use, rather than buying a parallel camera system that doesn't expand one's capabilities.

Alas, not everyone is Leica material.

B. D. Colen , December 09, 2002; 09:44 A.M.

The 28 Summicron is indeed an amazing lens. I use Leica Ms and Nikon AF gear, and am not a believer in any of the Leica mythology. That said, however, this 28 is one of the best lenses I have ever used, in terms of its lack of distortion and flare suppresion. However, while I appreciate this review, I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would post images on the web with a lens review - even images taken with a Kodak Brownie can look good at 72 dpi.

Marty Lyons , December 09, 2002; 02:31 P.M.

> Alas, not everyone is Leica material.
> -- Randall Shafer, December 9, 2002

If there was any doubt as to why so many people are tired of the whole Leica "we're superior" argument, it's because of comments like this.

Really, get over yourself.

If you want to insult someone for an honest opinion, you've got some odd attachment to a bunch of metal and glass. If people would stop talking about mystical concepts like "bokeh" and spend more time doing rational comparative analysis of quantitative data like MTF charts, the results would be much more interesting. Instead, opinions are devalued to pointless debates at best, or personal attacks at worst.

Tim Mashburn , December 09, 2002; 05:46 P.M.

Uh, yeah. Not everything meaningful is measurable. The eye and mind can detect nuances of continuity and discontinuity that cannot be easily measured. I know this because it is true of freeform surfaces used in computer-aided design. Also, if you care to read a discourse on the value of the objective versus the subjective, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainence comes to mind.

Of course, I agree with you about the dumb insults.

Will Chapman , December 11, 2002; 11:05 A.M.

It would certainly be difficult to 'evaluate' bokeh objectively. But look at the difference in out-of-focus background (particularly highlights) between a good SLR lens and eg. a 6-bladed TV camera lens. Certainly not 'mystical'.

Kevin Mayo , December 12, 2002; 07:33 A.M.

Remember the human mind is a powerful instrument. It will see what it expects to see. If you have spent a large portion of your disposable income on a lens your mind will expect to see differences. The argument for scientific testing is that the testing eliminates this bias. A better test would be a double blind side by side test. The tester and testee do not know which photo is shot with which lens. I have not ever seen this type of test done in the old my lens is better than your lens argument. We all have an emotional attachement to our decision to purchase a specific camera system. We all are looking for proof that we are smarter than the next guy for making that purchase. The human mind will supply that proof regardless of the truth.

Roger Urban , December 14, 2002; 08:01 P.M.

Interesting thread.

I've seen digital prints made by expensive digital cameras ($6,000+)and printers that cost almost $41,000 and you know what? It was only approaching what the Leica already did for much less money and by using film. The Leica prints simply looked better. If the Leica photography wanted to, he could have his slides drum scanned and printed digitally too. So he has the best of both worlds: not only can he can shoot with film and capture the equivalent of probably 48meg of data on film and have his prints made in the darkroom, but he can have them made digitally as well for additional cost.

So, here's an innocent guy who's excited about his new lens and posts some pictures for our benefit. And wouldn't you know it: it doesn't take very long before someone comes out of the woodwork to slash and burn Leica and/or his pictures. I'll bet he doesn't feel to excited about posting anything else here.

No, I don't own Leica (I chose Contax instead), but if I had the extra cash I would own Leica M7 with a number of Leica lenses. The M7 just feels good in the hand. It's a whole different style of photography and I can see how it would hook you.

Leica cameras don't get obsolete every 18months like digital cameras do. Sure, there's all kinds of trade-offs between types of cameras. Price vs functionality vs lens vs accessories vs whatever.

There is no perfect camera that pleases everyone all the time.

James . , December 14, 2002; 09:29 P.M.

For a fast wide angle, this is the Leica M lens to get. I'd have to agree with the above poster regarding the purpose of a Leica M system. For me, it does most of what I want to accomplish with photography in a high quality, high performing compact package. To me, some of the pro SLRs are the Ford Excursions of the photo world- good if you need them, but I don't. That's a reason I switched from that to my current set-up of M6 and 35/75 luxes. No need to justify to anyone now, I'm happy with my choice.

gareth harper , December 15, 2002; 06:27 A.M.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love a Leica M6 and two or three lenses to go with it but unfortunately there is that matter of value for money. I simply can't afford Leica. As to the matter of superior lens performance, I rather doubt if it's that much better than canon or nikon, and being able to take a good shot in the first place is of much more importance anyway. Also if lens performance is really that important to you, just dump your canon or leica gear and step out with a lubitel or seagul. You may laugth but at the end of the day for loose change, a lubitel or seagul with a standard lens will record much more detail and distort less when printed compared to a Leica simply due to it's larger format. Camera snobbery anybody? I also wonder if painters sit around spending hours discussing their brushes.

James . , December 15, 2002; 06:00 P.M.

I'd dislike hanging a Seagull around my neck. :P I do see a difference in saturation, "pop" and crispness between slides with my Leica and my previous slides with my Canon 1N and 50/1.4 or 28-70L. Definitely not an A/B double blind test, but enough for me.

Gus M , December 16, 2002; 01:56 P.M.

Leica cameras don't get obsolete every 18months like digital cameras do.

I've always hated this attitude. Is a Leica M6 or M3 "obsolete" because of the availabilty of the "superior" M7? Of course not, they can still take pictures. Similarly, is a Canon D30 digital camera obsolete because of the "superior" D60? No. A D30 still takes pictures in the same format as the "new and improved" model. The D60 may have more resolution and be otherwise superior, but it doesn't make the D30 a lesser camera in absolute terms.

Dan Brown , December 17, 2002; 05:45 P.M.

Well, if you don't think digital cameras become obsolete, try to sell a two year old Sony Mavica and see what'll bring. That's obsolete!

I have now printed by first roll of film shot through a used 28/2.0 Summicron I obtained recently. Wide open, this lens is crisp, sharp and contrasty all the way out to the far corners. Simply stunning performance every bit as good as the superlative 35 Summicron ASPH. I am now increasing my print sizes up to 16x20 from Summicron negs shot with ISO 100 B&W film (and Delta 400 too) because these lenses can deliver (provided you get the rest of the process right!!). Not even my Contax Zeiss 28/2.8 can compare with this lovely Summicron. I'd have to print a Mamiya 7 neg to better the perfomance of the Leica.

tony dale , December 19, 2002; 04:41 A.M.

I am in a fortunate postion to be able to use both the Leica 28 mm and the Contax Zeiss 28mm for the G system. I have produced a set of 12 x 16 inch prints from both, really there isn't any noticable difference between them. OK there might be with Tec pan file and a microscope to analise the results, but really we are in the business of making images. I would be happy to do any work with either lens.

Roger Urban , December 19, 2002; 10:49 A.M.

"Leica cameras don't get obsolete every 18months like digital cameras do. "

Within the last 2 months, the local Nikon representative recently told a co-worker of mine that "the life cycle of a digital camera is 18 months before it is rendered obsolete".

Gus, you may protest when hearing or reading it, but the manufacturers themselves push the new models to sell, and it's all too convenient for them to declare the previous models "obsolete".

René Sanabria , December 19, 2002; 01:41 P.M.

"I also wonder if painters sit around spending hours discussing their brushes."

Hehe nah. Well im sure some do but among painters and other artists sometimes finding the cheapest (but effective) way of doing something is a good thing.

There is an movement called Povera or someting among those lines, which is based on doing art out of garbage or rags or other stuff you can find around.

I won't even bother to comment on the quest for sharpness as I find it so stupid (in most cases) that I simply will offend someone.

James . , December 20, 2002; 01:53 A.M.

Well, if that's your objective, have at it, and also how can you compare medium format to 35mm. You're going to attract a lot of attention in certain environments, where the Leica is going to be stealthy. And, the speed of Leica lenses are exceptional. If you're strapped for cash, the Nikon FM is a nice alternative it seems, among others.

As far as the sharpness issue goes, I don't think a lot of Leica shooters are all about sharpness. Sure they're sharp, and is that a bad thing? If there's a notion that only Leica users are preoccupied with this, why are digicams getting higher and higher resolutions? Most Leica lenses have a character that looks different than a lot of other makes. You're not looking at the whole system as well, the rangefinder is compact and affords minimal vibration compared to SLRs.

gareth harper , December 20, 2002; 11:31 A.M.

Bottom line. You can worry about the quality of camera gear till the cows come home. I'm not going to try and argue that Leica is not top quality gear. It does however cost a fortune. If you are really concerned about quality, and you have next to no money, for some loose change like I said before you can pick up a Russian or Chinese TLR and blow the camera snobs away with your super sharp, fine grained prints.

gareth harper , December 20, 2002; 11:41 A.M.

Oops didn't realise that correcting my grammer would change the order of the post. Sorry. Comparing 35mm to medium format is cruel. It could also be said that comparing a 100 pound camera to a 1 thousand pound camera is cruel. Unless that is it is a 100 pound medium format camera compared to a thousand pound 35mm camera, then it's quite fun. Also peole don't notice waist level finders so much, plus many will wonder if your dodgey looking camera actually works.

Hey Leicas are lovely, they are small, silent and beautifully made. But they also have a price to match.

Tony Rowlett , December 20, 2002; 02:37 P.M.

Comparisons between MF and SF (35mm) simply make no sense. It's like comparing a flat-bed pickup truck to a Toyota Camry. It makes ZERO sense. It's like saying, "If you want to blow away the Toyota Camry, then you'll need a flat-bed pickup. There are contexts where the 35mm is the best tool for the job. There are contexts where the MF is the best tool for the job. There are contexts where BOTH are useless for the job, and the Minox 8x11 is the only way to go.

Gus M , December 29, 2002; 09:18 P.M.

Comparisons between MF and SF (35mm) simply make no sense. It's like comparing a flat-bed pickup truck to a Toyota Camry. It makes ZERO sense. It's like saying, "If you want to blow away the Toyota Camry, then you'll need a flat-bed pickup. There are contexts where the 35mm is the best tool for the job. There are contexts where the MF is the best tool for the job. There are contexts where BOTH are useless for the job, and the Minox 8x11 is the only way to go.

True. But the most common anti-Leica argument I see is this: "why pay so much money to extract the last bit of quality from a 35 mm negative when, for less money, you can buy a new 6x4.5 system." That argument ignores various advantages of the Leica (silence, portability, inherent qualities of range-finder systems, etc.) and only addresses those who argue in favor of Leica solely because of its higher quality lenses.

Charles Barcellona , December 30, 2002; 06:27 P.M.

".....why pay so much money to extract the last bit of quality from a 35 mm negative..... That argument ignores various advantages of the Leica...."

Very very true! In fact, I don't think one can say, anymore, that Leica is the premium de facto standard of image quality. There are some very fine optics out there, and camera systems that take full advantage of them. The one thing that is different with Leica, though, is that it only offers premium lenses, whereas Canon and Nikon offer many (very good) consumer grade lenses as well as premium lenses. Also, I think these days people ofthen choose to use Leica rangefinders because of what the camera will do, and how it handles, and the way it can be used to make photographs. For those folks, outstaning optical performance is more or less assumed.

Raffi Kirdi , January 01, 2003; 06:52 P.M.

I just bought the 28mm f/2 summicron lens, it is a true beauty, I normally carry the 24mm, but the 28mm is little sharper,I was in Paris last week and I had a photo shoot to do for a client,I used both lenses and had them print out 16X20 you could see the little difference the 28mm was sharper then the 24mm so I recommend the 28mm f/2 Summicron for those who are intrested in purchsing this wonderful lens

Dan Brown , January 01, 2003; 11:36 P.M.

I've just started printing 16x20 FB prints shot with the 28 'cron, on a tripod, with PanF 50. Make no mistake about it, that lens is razor sharp all the way to the corners at f2 and up. A serious contender for best lens in the world. So is the 35 'cron ASPH, but I think the 28 edges it out (more later as I get more big prints processed).

Jorn Ake , January 02, 2003; 10:09 A.M.

I have an M7 w/Summicron 28 ASPH I use for street photography in Europe - Czech Republic primarily. Auto-shutter speed & hyper-focus make for point & shoot ease with unequaled image quality. Two street photo things learned: 1.) get the old plastic Leica 28 mm ext. vf or a Voigtlander 28 mm vf as the new Leica multi-finder is like a big eyeball staring at people and attracts unwanted attention 2.) save the giant plastic lens hood for very rainy days and use a Contax GG-1 black metal hood instead - same thread, smaller, lighter and works well. A standard 55mm lens cap fits the Contax hood, if the camera ever gets to sit in the bag. During lunch or something.

Dan Brown , January 02, 2003; 10:42 P.M.

I totally agree about the GG-1 hood. Mine happens to be titanium, but it looks very cool on an black Summicron.

Tim Mashburn , January 06, 2003; 02:19 P.M.

Guitarists and their guitars:

Yes, guitarists are guitar nuts. However, a person's main guitar is most frequently seen as a stylistic choice, rather than an indication of superiority or inferiority. In fact, if someone can get a good sound out of a "cheap" guitar like a Danelectro, it is commonly viewed as a worthy achievement.

In general, photographers are far more judgemental and obsessive than musicians I have met.

Mark Smith , January 07, 2003; 10:24 A.M.

Excellent lens. Rented it, one of the best there is, loved it, will be buying it.

28mm f2 Summicron with Ilford Pan F 50, magnificant!!!

This thread took some tangents!!!

All I have to say is that Jealeousy is for the ignorant, and it historically started almost all wars.

Great images come from the idiot behind a lens, not the lens itself.

El Fang , January 14, 2003; 01:00 P.M.

Al doesn't tell us which lens formulations he uses, but only the 50mm f1.4 Summilux is current product.

All current/latest optical formulations - 28/2.8-M, 35/2-M ASPH, 50/1.4-M, and 28/2.8D, 35/2(non-D), 50/1.4D.

I'm glad he can't see the difference, but that should generally translate into a refusal to spend money for performance he can't use, rather than buying a parallel camera system that doesn't expand one's capabilities.

Read my comment again. I already have spent the money. I shoot my Nikons nearly every day and my Leicas every weekend and vacation, consistently for the past couple of years, so I've used both systems enough that the rosy tint in my glasses is long gone.

Alas, not everyone is Leica material. -- Randall Shafer

Just as not every emperor wears clothes.

El Fang , January 15, 2003; 09:55 P.M.

This thread took some tangents!!!

It sure did - sorry about that. My only point, as a longtime user of Leica M alongside other quality systems, is to warn potential newbies that the optical difference between (or so-called "superiority" of) Leica optics and those of other major manufacturers is not as blow-up-in-your-face apparent as some might have you believe. I'm sure the 28/2-M ASPH is a fine lens. I have the latest 28/2.8 Elmarit-M, and I know it's a fine lens. But I can also tell you from experience that my $120 (mint used) Nikon 28/2.8D holds it own just as well. Nobody can tell the difference, even when projected 6 by 9 feet onto a flat matte wall (specifically finished and reserved for slide projection) through a Kodak Ektagraphic III E Plus with a Kodak Select 93mm/2.5 FF lens. Both produce stunning results, and I can't say with any honesty that one is better than the other. The only difference is that I paid a LOT less for the Nikkor.

But I like using Leicas too, and I will continue to do so as long as I can afford it. The Leica M is a nice tool, with its share of quirks like any other. Appreciate it for what it is, without letting your emotions get the better of you.

Francois Herrera , January 27, 2003; 03:55 P.M.

Hi guys,

I´ve read the comments about the lenses just for fun (I do not expect to learn much from those vain discusions). I like to look at posted pictures just after reading the comments and I found out that only 10 out of about 30 persons that contribute to this discusion have posted at least one picture!!!. Another interesting discovery is that in most of the cases the pictures doesn't match the "excelent charateristics" of the described gear. Go out, have fun and take pictures, no mater the brand and price of your gear... Comments to the pictures in my portfolio are welcome, at least half of them where taken with a lousy, old and cheap 28-70 mm zoom from minolta ; )

El Fang , February 18, 2003; 12:39 P.M.

in most of the cases the pictures doesn't match the "excelent charateristics" of the described gear.

Exactly, and here's a classic example:

What makes this M stuff so special?

There's absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about the posted picture, yet some of the comments show just how emotional and fanatical that some people can get over a camera brand, to the point where any shred of objectivity or common sense has long taken a hike. Frankly, it makes me a little embarrassed to be a Leica user, although that's more my problem than anyone else's.

Luis Miguel Castañeda , February 22, 2003; 08:08 A.M.

Well, i use several cameras, from Minox to Leica M passing tru digital. The matter, as far as I understand is not as good can be a lens or a body than how much joy it can give it to you. Anyway Leica M outfits are a good way to enjoy (the money can be recovered easily due to nice reselling prices, thing hard to get with other cameras, and not to mention digicams) specially if u shoot at full aperture and low shutter speed (as me) without having to carry a trupod everywhere.

Really there are no technical reasons to spend this amount of money in a very good 28mm lens, but it deserves the effort if you enjoy RF photo.

LEONARD NEUMANN , April 23, 2004; 07:08 P.M.

I totally agree with Francois Herrera comment about most of the folks talking and comparing lenses and not posting images on the site, most modern lenses and some not so modern lenses will do the job very well and what is more important is the image subject, composition. printing and if in fact the image makes you think.

It reminds me of the old story about a photographer was invited to a dinner and took along a few photos. The hostess looked at his work and said, "These are very good. You must have an excellent camera." After the meal, the man said to the hostess, "That was delicious. You must have some excellent pots."

Luis Miguel Castañeda , July 31, 2004; 12:46 P.M.

Most photographers are quite odd in this matters.

Really I dont see most of them using cheap lens with their cheap bodies; but it seems that arguing endlessly about how odd and expensive is the neighbourg equipment seems to be a good way to spend an evening.

I with the excellence of leica, but if you dont, why bothering people telling them that you take wondeful pictures with xxxx stuff? Of course you do it, but whats the matter in this case?

Sanyi Deme , October 16, 2004; 12:20 A.M.

How is it even conceivable that some people are criticising the quality of posted photos attached to submissions when the instructions are to keep the scans small.

I have posted a couple of pics but the scans are limited to 50-100kb in size. So they look as good as those taken with a 300,000 pixel digital camera I used for 2 months. They do not do justice to any skill or equipment.

The prevailing wisdom is that amateur pics are equal to 6Mp, best kodachrome equals 12Mp, best Velvia equals 22Mp and best Black and White equals 35Mp.

How on earth do the above critics expect to see the quality of film or lens in a small 100k file.

This is like saying that Yehudi Menuhin sounds lousy through a transistor mini-radio. The speakers kill the sound.

In fact it seems that highly distorted music styles grew in parallel with the proliferation of poor quality speakers in portable transistor radios.

In the same way lousy lenses look as good as the best lenses in pics shown as miniscule scans on this site. So what? Everyone should know this and not even comment on the obvious.

harvey thomison , February 09, 2007; 03:44 A.M.

Wow. So much emotion surrounding people's choice of equipment!! Some rather agressive opinions out there.... yikes! I rented the 28mm, I loved it to bits, but I think I would go with the VC... I already have a VC 25mm, and the 35mm is plenty wide for me, if i need w i d e , I throw the 25mm on a screw mount body, and chuck it in my bag... voila. My 2 cents, if you like something, and can afford it, and want it, and must have it, buy it!! I don't hate diamonds because I can't afford them,I am just not 'into' them! I have a contax slr, 2 nikons, 2 medium formats, various point and shoots, 2 leica m's, and 1 ltm. I invariably shoot with the leicas! Why? I like 'em! And Horror of Horrors, I actually (regularly) throw canon, and nikkor glass on the M's!!! Because I like 'em!! Sometimes I even shoot with a Great Wall!!!! I know, it's crazy! please forgive me!!! maybe my IQ is too low to even post here!! Let me check and see if my MTF charts and spot meter say i can....... Oh yeah, what was the original post about? Ahh, the leica 28mm 'cron!! Sorry! For the record: rented one - shot with it - great little lens - can't afford it - but that's okay....... I can live without it, and if i must have it one day, I will save money, sell gear, and buy the damn thing!!! Did I miss anything??

richard tritton , July 04, 2008; 05:27 A.M.


By Constantine Manos

True, the pictures included in this piece are ordinary in the extreme and do not do any justice to the capabilities of the Leica 28mm Lens. But put that same lens and camera in the hands of someone like Constantine Manos or any other photographer of his caliber and you will see how good these lenses are. But at the end of the day it is always the photographer, not the equipment, that takes a great image.

tood daymadi , July 26, 2011; 07:07 P.M.

HI everybody,

Sometime, comparison is a wrong affair!

In term of practice, a $100 Casio watch is as precise as a $10.000 Rolex watch !

So! A Leica is not only for photography, it's also for Pleasure, and it's among things to obtain (if possible) before ... die ! Then you can understand the price of M9 Titanium...?

Lisa Davidson , January 21, 2012; 03:24 A.M.

I just got the 28mm Summicron-M and boy, is it amazing.  There is absolutely, absolutely nothing wrong with part of it obscuring the finder.  I mean, it makes no difference at all.  You know what's out there from looking at the top right hand corner.  It just takes the tiniest bit of imagination to fill in the gap.  It is absolutely not a problem at all.  And the lens is so beautiful and takes such beautiful pictures!  I've never seen anything like it.  The focal length is sort of like 35mm come true.  I mean, 35 was the in thing, and 21 was wide-angle, but 28 is better than 35 for my money.  It gives a spacious feeling, a noncompressed feeling of freedom that 35 doesn't.  And it's wide-angle without being overdone, like the way realtors photograph 700-square-foot houses to make them look like mansions with infinite front lawns.  The 28 has a hint of this, but it's not ridiculous.  Looking at a photo taken with a 35mm lens one sometimes gets the feeling of being at a party but not being comfortable enough to really join in, you know, keeping one's distance a little bit.  The feeling of 28 is entirely different.  It's like you're farther away, but there is no  feeling of separation.  It's kind of hard to explain.  Maybe you're far enough away to be objective and see the beauty of the party, and at 35 you're still on the edge of it, neither in it nor out of it. 

Kai Lynn , March 25, 2013; 01:45 A.M.

This is a modern Leica lens. Outstanding performance in all aspects. I use this lens more often than 35 mm. Of course it's my preference.


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