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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.

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Headline specifications of Leica 400mm super-teles
# 2.8/400mm (non-modular) 2.8/400mm Module
1Leica Order No.1125611847
2No. of elements/groups11/910/8
3Angle of view (degrees)6.26.2
4Minimum focus distance (m)4.73.7
5Highest reproduction ratio1 : 11.11 : 8.6
6Smallest aperture2222
7Rear filterSeries 5.5Series 6
8Lens hoodTwist-onTwist-on
9Length (mm)365344
10Diameter (max, mm)166157
11Weight (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.

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Accessories for the 2.8/400mm (non-modular)
# Item Description Order Number USD Price (est.) Current Offers
Lens front cap (A166)Push-on lens cap14086155ebay.com
Lens rear capR-mount rear cap1416225ebay.com
Lens hoodClip-on lens shade14545550ebay.com
Aluminum caseCarrying and protection case14584350ebay.com
Lens and case carrying strapHeavy-duty strap with plastic clips14311150ebay.com
Filter ND 1x (Series 5.5)ND drop-in filter13026130ebay.com
Filter holder for Series 5.5Holder for drop-in filters14591310ebay.com
Polarizer in Holder (Series 5.5)Circular polarizer filter in drop-in holder13338400ebay.com
APO-Extender-R 1.4xTeleconverter 1.4x11249750ebay.com
APO-Extender-R 2xTeleconverter 2x112621,000ebay.com

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].

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Comparison of APO-Telyt-R lenses
#  Lens
(dia x len)
Leitz Canada APO-Telyt-R 180mm f/3.4MF7 / 42.50S7.5/E6068 x 135 mm750 g800-1200ebay.com
Leica APO-Telyt-R 280mm f/2.8MF8 / 72.50E112125 x 261 mm2,750 g2000-4000ebay.com
Leica APO-Telyt-R 280mm f/2.8 ModuleMF8 / 72.00rear125 x 276 mm3,740 g8000-12000ebay.com
Leica APO-Telyt-R 280mm f/4MF7 / 61.70E7788 x 208 mm1,875 g3000-6000ebay.com
Leica APO-Telyt-R 400mm f/2.8MF11 / 94.70rear125 x 314 mm6,240 g10000-15000ebay.com
Leica APO-Telyt-R 400mm f/2.8 ModuleMF10 / 83.70rear157 x 344 mm5,800 g10000-15000ebay.com
Leica APO-Telyt-R 400mm f/4 ModuleMF9 / 72.15rear157 x 382 mm3,860 g6000-12000ebay.com
Leica APO-Telyt-R 560mm f/4 ModuleMF11 / 83.95rear157 x 382 mm6,360 g12000-18000ebay.com
Leica APO-Telyt-R 560mm f/5.6 ModuleMF9 / 72.15rear125 x 374 mm4,050 g10000-15000ebay.com
Leica APO-Telyt-R 800mm f/5.6 ModuleMF11 / 83.90rear157 x 442 mm6,550 g15000-20000ebay.com

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.

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