Leica Summaron-M 28mm f5.6 Lens First Impressions

Leica Summaron-M 28mm f5.6 Lens First Impressions:

Let me start off by saying that I’m not a particular fan of the 28mm focal length.  I either go for a 35mm or a 24mm but I’ve been a fan of the Leica Summaron-M 28mm f5.6 since its release.  In fact, I waited this long to review it because I was hoping the temptation for buying one for myself would dissipate over time 🙂 (This is a loaner).  As some of you know, the 28mm Summaron-M was modeled after an older screw mount lens that was in production from 1955 to 1963, so we’re not after maximum technical image quality here.  If that’s what you’re after, you might be better suited with the 28mm Summicron or even the 28mm Elmarit.  We’re after character with the 28mm Summaron-M, and in a way, were celebrating the imperfections.  So, let’s take a closer look at this lens.

This 28mm Summaron-M’s price is $2,595, which for a Leica lens, especially one that feels like a special edition, isn’t ultra expensive but when you first open the satin-lined box, it sure feels pretty special.  It feels almost too good to use.  The build is typical Leica in that it’s pretty much perfect; it basically feels like a jewel or fine watch.  It’s very solid, and at 165 g without the hood, it has a nice heft to it considering the tiny size of this lens.  It also comes with an beautifully machined solid brass hood that looks like it came straight from the 1950s.

As for handling, it’s a bit different than what I’m used to :).  It takes a little getting used to only because the Leica Summaron-M 28mm f5.6 is so tiny.  It’s so compact that sometimes it takes me a while to even find the little focusing tab when my eye is looking through the viewfinder.  However, with a lens like this, you’re shooting it like a street lens: you set it at a small aperture, and almost everything is in focus.  Even at it’s largest aperture, plenty is in focus so I’m not playing around with the focus ring much.

In terms of image quality, the Leica Summaron-M 28mm f5.6 has surprised me a bit.  I was expecting something that produced a more vintage look, which it definitely does.  For instance, there is no hiding the vignetting this lens produces, especially at f5.6.  But it’s definitely sharper than I expected…maybe not as sharp as the 28mm Elmarit-M or the Summicron version but don’t think this is just a collector’s lens; it can definitely be used just like any other lens to produce great results, and in this case, with a unique look.

As I said earlier, I particularly love this lens.  I love the idea behind it.  I love that Leica is planning on continuing production of older lenses.  One could argue that you could get say the Elmarit-M 28mm f2.8 ASPH that offers better optical quality for $2,295, which is $300 less.  But I love that this time around Leica purposely produced a lens that isn’t exactly perfect.  I love the size of it, and it makes it an absolutely great street lens even in its silver chrome finish.  I currently have the 28mm Summaron mounted on my SL, and no one even looks at me when I use it.  I wasn’t this discreet even with my 28mm Elmarit ASPH and M9 a few years ago.  I love not only the optical character of this lens but also the physical character of it.  It feels special, and let’s be honest, that is part of the Leica mystique.  As for it’s largest aperture of just f5.6?  It does not matter to me at least because I shoot lenses around this focal length usually at small apertures anyway.  But I’ll go into greater detail about my thoughts of this lens in my upcoming review.  Thanks for stopping by!

6 comments… add one
  • john

    I `don`t usually comment and I`ll never be able to afford a lot of the gear you review but i love reading your honest opinions. Thank you very much for the work you put into the site and for your hands on experiences. I love learning from every source.
    Please keep up the good work!

    • Patrick

      Hi John!

      Apologies for the late reply. I really appreciate you taking the time to write such a wonderful comment. Thank you! It’s great that you learn from different sources, and I’m very glad to have you as a visitor. If you ever have any questions or any feedback (good or bad), you can always leave a comment or contact me through my Contact Page. I hope to hear from you again!

      Best regards,

      Patrick

  • Elderin

    Hi Patrick,
    great review but as usual in the pictures that come with the words i see more your personal style of editing rather than the character of the lens. That would be my only complaint 😉 For a photographer it is the crown discipline to create a unique look but as a reviewer i think one should let the lens tell the story instead. But many thanks for the article. I am really interested in the lens. Looks awesome, will be lightweight both on camera and in the bag. Wonderful travel compagnion.

    • Patrick

      Hi Elderin!

      Apologies for the late reply! I’ve been running around lately. Thanks for the kind words!

      As for adding my personal style, I can totally understand what you mean but my blog’s never really been like a “Consumer Reports” type site. Nothing here has ever been scientifically tested or anything. I review gear based on how it affects my style of photography, which many other bloggers do as well. In other words, I use the gear like how a normal user would use it, and every photographer has their own specific style.

      As for the lens, you should definitely buy one. I seriously almost bought one myself the other day. It is absolutely wonderful!

      I greatly appreciate you stopping by, and leaving a comment!

      Best,

      Patrick

  • Elderin

    Bye the way i was really torn between the SL and the M10. It seems you made the jump from the classic rangefinder to this model and never looked back. I had a little time to play with it, too, and i liked it a lot. Fokussing is a joy with this one. Probably the best camera to adapt manual lenses. I ended up with the M10 though but i am always thinking about the SL…

    • Patrick

      BUY THE SL haha ;). I did leave the rangefinder and never looked back :). Obviously, everyone has different needs and preferences. I respect the M10, and it was definitely great to shoot with it in Tokyo. But out of all the cameras I’ve ever owned, which also includes my old film days, the SL is by far my favorite camera ever. It works like a Leica meaning the menus are straight forward and easy to navigate. It does not have unnecessary electronics. It has some some of the best lenses available yet it is versatile in that you can mount several other types of lenses, which include the M lenses, of course. Speaking of the M lenses, they are a joy to focus on the SL as you mentioned. If you want to street shoot, and go light, bring the SL and a couple of M lenses. If you want some killer image quality, grab a couple of SL lenses. Anyway, I could go on and on but I may run out of room in my comment box here :).

      Best,

      Patrick

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