LEICA 28mm f/2.8 ASPH
LEICA ELMARIT-M 1:2,8 28mm f/2.8 ASPH (39mm filters, 6.107 oz./173.18g), shown triple life-size. enlarge more. I got this one at Adorama, and you also can get it at Amazon. It helps me keep adding to this site when you use these links to get yours. Thanks! Ken.
October 2011, May 2009
Yosemite in Springtime May 2011
Death Valley January 2009
The LEICA 28mm f/2.8 ASPH is LEICA's newest 28mm lens for its timeless M series of rangefinder cameras. It started shipping in October 2006.
The reasons I bought this lens new are simple:
1.) It's the smallest M lens LEICA has ever made. It's their first 28mm which doesn't get in the way of the viewfinder. It uses standard 39mm filters, which are the same size as LEICA's other compact lenses. Other 28mm lenses are bigger, and therefore block the lower right portion of your viewfinder!
Whiners always moan that "they don't make them like they used to," but this LEICA lens looks and feels at least as well made as every other LEICA lens I've used, made since 1954. It's certainly nicer than the budget Summarit-M series.
LEICA 28/2.8 ELMARIT-M, three times larger than life. enlarge more.
Specifications with commentary top
LEICA 28mm/2.8 ASPH set to f/5.6. enlarge.
LEICA calls this the LEICA ELMARIT-M 1:2,8/28 ASPH.
-M was added to ELMARITs for LEICA M in the 1970s to differentiate them from the LEICA R SLR lenses.
8 elements in 6 groups.
One aspheric surface.
Actual (Design) Focal Length
(Used on the half-frame M8, its angle of view corresponds only to what a 38mm lens would see on a real LEICA.)
Straight at f/4, becoming inwardly-curved from f/5.6 ~ f/11, and straight again from f/16 ~ f/22.
Uniform half-stop clicks.
Stops down to f/22.
E39: 39mm x 0.5mm thread pitch.
This has been the standard pitch for 39mm since at least the 1950s, and it matches LEICA's other 39mm thread lenses and standard Hoya filters I've tried since 1954.
The Germans say "E39," which just means screw-in 39mm.
2.3 feet (28" or 0.7 meters).
Maximum Reproduction Ratio
Clip-on rectangular plastic, included.
Hood Part Number: 12 526.
Size: 42mm slip-over (A42 in German).
The front snap-on mount matches my 50mm f/2 from 1970 and the 90mm f/2.8 Tele-ELMARIT-M from 1974-1990.
The hood's design is flawed: there is no vent through which the camera's viewfinder can see. Use the hood, and you'll see it as a black spot covering the lower right of your camera's finder.
Rear, LEICA ELMARIT-M 28mm 1:2.8 ASPH at f/5.6. enlarge.
Comes with three caps:
Standard M rear cap 14 269.
Slip-on metal front cap 14 038 (for use without hood).
Floppy (easy to lose) rectangular plastic cover for the hood (cap part number 14 043).
Older M rear caps from normal and tele lenses won't work because they're not deep enough. Use the current 14269 cap, which is deep enough.
Comes with a very nice genuine nappa leather case, order number 439-606.052-000.
This leather case is used only when placing the ELMARIT-M ASPH in your safe; not when you're out shooting with it.
2.05" diameter x 1.18" long (52 x 30mm), without hood.
Hood makes the length 1.81" (46mm).
6.107 oz. (173.18g) measured without caps or hood.
6.970 oz (197.55g) measured with hood and both relevant caps.
LEICA specifies "approximately 6.35 oz. (180g)."
What LEICA tries to market as "six-bit encoding" is simply six white or black dots ground into the lens mount.
LEICA says "six-bit coding" to make it sound like some sort of advanced digital image processing algorithm. It's not: it's just a few colored dots.
The M8 and M9 reads these with LEDs to figure out what lens it is, so the can put the focal length data in the M8's EXIF. These is no aperture communication, so I doubt the M8 can do much of a decent job of encoding the set aperture value.
A bit is a simple yes-no or 1-0 value, in this case, marked with either white or black in six places. Big deal.
LEICA Product NumbersLens, complete boxed system with accessories: 11 606.
Hood: 12 526.
Hood Cap: 14 043.
Rear Cap: 14 269.
$2,000, October 2011.
$1,800 and $300 mail-in rebate made it $1,500 in January 2009.
$1,495 USA, February 2007.
When I got my test slides back, all I could utter was "those crazy Germans." This lens doesn't know how to flare, doesn't know how to distort and doesn't know how to be unsharp.
All the LEICA 28mm f/2.8 ASPH knows is how etch your film with perfection.
For sharpness, you can shoot it wide open and get results much better than any SLR or rangefinder lens I've ever shot on Nikon.
Unlike the Nikon lenses, this LEICA lens doesn't know how to go soft in the corners, even at large apertures.
If you're looking closely, like under 40x magnification of a Nikon Alphapot laboratory microscope, the farthest corners get just a hair less sharp at f/2.8 than they are at every other aperture, but they are still excellent.
At f/2.8 in the far corners of the full 35mm film frame, way beyond the edges of the M8.2's half-frame sensor, sharpness is merely excellent.
At every other aperture, or anyplace else in the full-frame other than the farthest corners at f/2.8, the sharpness is just crazy.
I'm amused at how LEICA tries to make people who buy this $1,800 lens feel unworthy, calling it merely an "introduction" to the LEICA system. LEICA is trying to taunt you into buying the 28mm f/2 ASPH, but if you buy one for $4,000, you'll have some of your viewfinder obscured because it's bigger, you'll get three times the distortion of straight lines, and you'll have to use larger 46mm filters.
Flare and Ghosts
I can't see any, even with the sun in my image. Be careful not to burn your shutter curtains trying this foolishness.
Sunstar at f/9.5, crop from 4 x 3 foot (130 x 85cm) print.
The 10-bladed diaphragm begets sharp 10-ponted sunstars.
There is no visible distortion of straight lines.
For critical use when shot at infinity, use a value of +0.5 in Photoshop's Lens Distortion Tool to correct the tiny amount of residual barrel distortion in scans from film.
Shot at 6 feet or 3 feet (2 meters or 1 meter), there is no distortion, visible or otherwise.
I wasn't specifically looking for it, but when compared to the Contax G 28mm, it seems much warmer, maybe half an 81A or an A1. I'll have to investigate further.
There is no coma, which is when bright points of light in the corners turn into blobs. Coma is common in wide and in fast lenses.
This lack of coma is superb, and far better than any SLR lens I've ever used.
LEICA 28mm f/2.8 Aspherical wide-open at two minutes on Fuji Velvia 50.
Crop from lower left corner.
I see no coma, and this crop is the same as a crop from a huge 48 x 32" (120 x 80cm) print.
Falloff (darkened corners)
I never noticed any in real shooting, even at f/2.8.
If I did look for it, it has some at f/2.8, much less at f/4, and it's all gone by f/5.6 ~ 8.
Remember: darker corners are good for keeping your viewer's eyes from wandering out of the photo and keeping their attention in your photo where it belongs.
My M7 agreed exactly as I tried every half-stop.
Lesser lenses often become inaccurate at smaller apertures.
This isn't important on cameras which meter through-the-lens at taking aperture, like most modern LEICAs, but will lead to inaccurate exposures if you're using an external meter.
As far as I can measure, this lens is perfect.
The LEICA 28mm f/2.8 ASPH is made as well as anything popular today, but not quite as nice as Nikon's AI-s manual-focus lenses.
Plastic with metal catches.
Black anodized aluminum.
Black anodized aluminum.
Black anodized aluminum.
Black anodized aluminum.
(Nikon AI-s lenses add a layer of enamel over the anodization.)
Aluminum and brass.
Dull chromed brass.
Mounting Index Dot
Engraved and filled with paint.
MADE IN GERMANY.
LEICA 28mm f/2.8 ASPH on an M7, top view. enlarge.
The lower right of the viewfinders of my M4-P and M7 just barely see the tip of the lens. With a naked lens, there's no occlusion.
If you add a filter, there's a tiny bit of blockage, but nothing I'd worry about.
If you use the included hood, there is some blockage of the lower right.
If you use a 39mm -> 58mm step-up ring to use larger and stacked filters, you'll lose a good chunk of the corner of your finder, about equivalent to the corner of where a frame for a 65mm lens would go.
LEICA has this problem because today's M7 still puts the lens and viewfinder in the same place as 1954's original M3. The M3 came out before 28mm lenses were popular and before any camera's viewfinder could handle what were the "ultrawide" lenses of the 1950s. In the early 1950s, crazy people who used such wide lenses had to use external shoe-mounted finders.
LEICA 28mm f/2.8 ASPH on an M7, side view. enlarge.
You focus this tiny thing with a finger lever. There isn't much of a focus ring.
The aperture ring is perfect. It's easy to adjust with a fingertip.
The 28mm f/2.8 is so small that there's no big place to grab the barrel for mounting and unmounting. Your best bet is the tiny sliver of ring at the very base of the lens, the part with the red dot.
The f/stop index is recessed inside the grooves which serve to align the hood, making it harder to see the f/stop index if you're not using the hood.
If you use the hood, there are new indices on the tabs of the hood which fill the grooves, making it much easier to see.
LEICA 28/2.8 M Aspherical. enlarge.
I use one of these because it's tiny and excellent.
In the lab, the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 28mm f/2 ASPH can be slightly sharper, but it's also bigger, takes a larger 46mm filter, blocks my viewfinder, and has slightly more distortion.
I also compared this LEICA 28mm f/2.8 ASPH to the extraordinary Zeiss-for-Contax-G 28mm f/2.8. I found them equally excellent, and each far better than anything I've ever used on an SLR.
As rangefinder lenses, these lenses are designed without the optical restrictions imposed by having to avoid the reflex mirror of SLR cameras.
28mm is a much more practical lens than 24mm on the LEICA. It makes no difference on SLRs, but on most LEICAs, you probably have a 28mm viewfinder built into your camera. With a 24mm lens, you have to use a ridiculous shoe-mounted external finder. An external finder is more hassle than you can imagine.
An external finder requires you to peer through one hole to meter and focus, and another to compose. God help you if you use the wrong hole. Not only is using an external finder a pain and more junk to carry, forget using flash because it just took over your hot shoe.
24mm doesn't see enough differently for me to warrant the use of an external finder. If I want to mess with a finder, I'll shoot a 21mm or wider lens.
Therefore, 28mm is the widest easy-to-use lens für LEICA. If I want use an external finder, I'll use one for a 21mm lens.
I'd use a 39mm LEICA brand 13 131 UV filter for color print film, but why would anyone shoot color print film in a LEICA?
Popular Photography reviewed the LEICA 28mm f/2.8 ASPH in their February 2007 issue.
In early 2009, LEICA offered a $300 rebate.
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