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Leica APO-Telyt-R 2.8/400mm

When it was launched in 1992, the APO-Telyt-R 400mm f/2.8 (non-modular) represented a major improvement in Leica's super-telephoto offer. Thanks to its apochromatic correction, the contrast, sharpness and color fidelity it delivered were significantly better at full aperture than for the earlier telescope 400mm f/6.8 lens stopped down. Overall image quality is deemed to be comparable to that of the highly appreciated Leica APO-Telyt-R 2.8/280mm, which had been released eight years earlier.

The 2.8/400mm was, however, only a short-lived design. It was discontinued in 1996, when the APO-Telyt-R Module system was launched, which contained a similarly fast 400mm lens. The latter has a revised optical design (only ten lenses in eight groups), features a shorter minimum focus distance, takes different filters, has a different handle, and is a bit less bulky, but even heavier.

Like all R-system lenses, the 400mm f/2.8 has to be focused manually and does not benefit from any image stabilization mechanism. The lens-body is a Leica-typical, high quality, all metal construction. The core specifications of the lens in comparison to its successor, the 2.8/400mm Module lens, are listed below.

Headline specifications of Leica 400mm super-teles
Aperture and focal length2.8/400mm (non-modular)2.8/400mm Module
Leica Order No.1125611847
No. of elements/groups11/910/8
Angle of view (degrees)6.26.2
Minimum focus distance (m)4.73.7
Highest reproduction ratio11.18.6
Smallest aperture2222
Rear filterSeries 5.5Series 6
Lens hoodTwist-onTwist-on
Length (mm)365344
Diameter (max, mm)166157
Weight (g)5,8006,240

The 2.8/400mm was sold with front and rear caps, as well as a lens carrying strap and an aluminum carrying case. It can take Series 5.5 filters through a drop-in filter drawer or a special polarizing filter holder. It is fully compatible with Leica's 1.4x and 2x APO-Extenders, giving rise, respectively, to 1:4.0/560mm or 1:5.6/800mm optical systems.

Accessories for the 2.8/400mm (non-modular)
ItemDescriptionOrder No.USD Price
(approx.)
ebay
Offers
Lens front cap (A166)Push-on lens cap14086155check
Lens rear capR-mount rear cap1416225check
Lens hoodClip-on lens shade14545550check
Aluminum caseCarrying and protection case14584350check
Lens and case carrying strapHeavy-duty strap with plastic clips14311150check
Filter ND 1x (Series 5.5)ND drop-in filter13026130check
Filter holder for Series 5.5Holder for drop-in filters14591310check
Polarizer in Holder (Series 5.5)Circular polarizer filter in drop-in holder13338400check
APO-Extender-R 1.4xTeleconverter 1.4x11249750check
APO-Extender-R 2xTeleconverter 2x112621,000check

Leica aimed the APO-Telyt-R 2.8/400mm explicitly at sports photographers. For example, the lens provides for the opportunity to pre-select the minimum focus distance. Hence, a photographer can follow the action and then, if needed, quickly achieve focus at a near point on the sports-ground by turning the focus mechanism up to the stop.

Leica APO-Telyt-R 400mm FAQ

Below are some issues and questions that have been encountered by Leica shooter's with corresponding responses or suggestions.

Is vignetting an issue with the 1:2.8/400mm?

Vignetting amounts to about one f-stop wide-open, but is quickly reduced when stopping down.

Is the APO-Telyt 400mm similarly sharp at near distance and at infinity?

The non-modular 400mm was optimized for medium to large distance shooting and its performance drops somewhat at closer distances.

Does the focusing action on the APO-Telyt-R 2.8/400mm need to be adjusted for infrared photography?

No, due to its apochromatic correction there is no need for focus adjustment when using the lens for infrared photography up to 1000nm.

Can the APO-Telyt-R be used on a Leica S-series medium format camera?

Yes, there is an adapter made by Michael Leibfritz that makes it possible to mount an R-system lens on a Leica S. The image circle of the lens will cover the full sensor area.

How many copies of the 1:2.8/400mm were produced and sold?

There is a total of 390 serial numbers that were assigned by Leica to the 1:2.8/400mm, which makes it the rarest of all APO-Telyt lenses (apart from the APO-Telyt-R 1:5.6/1600mm, which was a special order item) [leica-wiki].

Further Reading

The most direct alternative to the 400/2.8 within the APO-Telyt family is the newer, modular APO-Telyt 400mm f/2.8. Moreover, the shorter 280mm f/2.8 could be used in combination with the 1.4x APO-converter to give similar reach, but one stop less light. General technical information on all the Leica APO-Telyts can be found in the APO-Telyt specification compendium.