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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 length 2.8/400mm (non-modular) 2.8/400mm Module
Leica Order No. 11256 11847
No. of elements/groups 11/9 10/8
Angle of view (degrees) 6.2 6.2
Minimum focus distance (m) 4.7 3.7
Highest reproduction ratio 11.1 8.6
Smallest aperture 22 22
Rear filter Series 5.5 Series 6
Lens hood Twist-on Twist-on
Length (mm) 365 344
Diameter (max, mm) 166 157
Weight (g) 5,800 6,240

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)
Item Description Order No. USD Price
Lens front cap (A166) Push-on lens cap 14086 155 check
Lens rear cap R-mount rear cap 14162 25 check
Lens hood Clip-on lens shade 14545 550 check
Aluminum case Carrying and protection case 14584 350 check
Lens and case carrying strap Heavy-duty strap with plastic clips 14311 150 check
Filter ND 1x (Series 5.5) ND drop-in filter 13026 130 check
Filter holder for Series 5.5 Holder for drop-in filters 14591 310 check
Polarizer in Holder (Series 5.5) Circular polarizer filter in drop-in holder 13338 400 check
APO-Extender-R 1.4x Teleconverter 1.4x 11249 750 check
APO-Extender-R 2x Teleconverter 2x 11262 1,000 check

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].

Comparison of APO-Telyt-R lenses
Leica Lens Designation Elements/
Min Dist/
Max Ratio
(m / #)
APO-Telyt-R 3.4/180mm 7/4 2.50m / 11.5 S7.5/E60 135 / 68 750 1975-98 750-1,100 check
APO-Telyt-R 2.8/280mm 8/7 2.50m / 8.1 E112/S5.5 261 / 125 2,750 1984-96 2,300-3,100 check
APO-Telyt-R Module 2.8/280mm 8/7 2.00m / 6.1 Series 6 276 / 125 3,740 1996-09 6,600-8,400 check
APO-Telyt-R 4.0/280mm 7/6 1.70m / 5.0 Series 5.5 208 / 88 1,875 1993-09 3,300-4,500 check
APO-Telyt-R 2.8/400mm 11/9 4.70m / 11.6 Series 5.5 365 / 166 5,800 1992-96 7,000-9,000 check
APO-Telyt-R Module 2.8/400mm 10/8 3.70m / 8.6 Series 6 344 / 157 6,240 1996-09 10,500-13,000 check
APO-Telyt-R Module 4.0/400mm 9/7 2.15m / 4.6 Series 6 314 / 125 3,860 1996-09 7,500-9,500 check
APO-Telyt-R Module 4.0/560mm 11/8 3.95m / 6.4 Series 6 382 / 157 6,360 1996-09 12,000-14,500 check
APO-Telyt-R Module 5.6/560mm 9/7 2.15m / 3.1 Series 6 374 / 125 4,050 1996-09 9,000-11,000 check
APO-Telyt-R Module 5.6/800mm 11/8 3.90m / 4.5 Series 6 442 / 157 6,550 1996-09 13,000-15,000 check

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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