Leica M 28mm lens compendium
Lenses with a focal length of 28 mm are classic tools of photo reportage. They give prominence to a main object that is relatively close to the camera, while still being able to put the central point of interest into the broader background-environment. Moreover, 28mm-wide-angles are often used for in-door photography where they make it possible to capture broad settings in tight spaces without distorting the perspective as much as an ultra-wide angle would do.
It is then not surprising that there are a number of 28mm lens options available for an iconic reportage camera like the Leica M. Leica has produced no fewer than ten different 28mm lenses for the M-bayonet or M39 screw mount (which can be attached to M-cameras via an adapter). One design, the Elmarit-M 1:2.8 / 28 mm, is now in its fifth generation, which makes it the most re-designed optic in the lens producer's history. In addition, 28mm wide-angles for the M-system are offered by other quality manufacturers, notably Carl Zeiss, Konica, and Voigtländer. Hence, the M-shooter has the choice among a rather broad range of options when looking for a lens that provides a 75° diagonal angle of view.
There are more than a dozen 28s for Leica M. Five of these - the Leica Summinlux, Summicron and Elmarit ASPH, the Carl Zeiss Biogon, and the Voigtländer Ultron are current versions, while the remaining lenses have meanwhile been discontinued. Owners of the Leica M5 and CL should note that the first version of the Elmarit-M 28mm can not be mounted on their cameras due to a protruding rear element. Also, some of the older lenses take unusually-sized or Series filters, which can be hard to get nowadays.
In July 2012, photography blogger Ken Rockwell reviewed several 28mm lenses for Leica M. In particular, he tested the Leica Summicron, Leica Elmarit ASPH, Carl Zeiss Biogon, Konica Hexanon, and Voigtländer Ultron. Ken found all of these lenses to be of very high optical and mechanical quality, surpassing most offerings available for (D)SLR. He noted some differences among the lenses, though, which can be summarized as follows.
Ken observed that while the Leica Summicron showed some notable vignetting, the lens is tack sharp throughout the image frame and has no distortion, so that it received his best overall assessment in terms of optical quality. The Carl Zeiss Biogon and the Leica Elmarit ASPH are not far behind, while the Hexanon and Ultron are seen as a bit weaker, for example with respect to corner sharpness. In terms of handling and ergonomics, the Leica Elmarit ASPH received the best review as a very compact, well manufactured wide-angle. Some of the other, larger lenses can obstruct parts of the viewfinder window, which can at times become annoying.
So overall, the Leicas are ahead on technical performance. Yet, the Biogon and Ultron are suitable alternatives and very attractive price-wise, so that they deserve careful consideration. The Hexanon was the only discontinued lens in the sample, and even though it continues to be a very good lens, it failed to shine relative to the other offerings.
|Headline specifications of 28mm wide-angle lenses for the Leica M-system|
|Carl Zeiss T* Biogon 28mm f/2.8 ZM||M||2.8 - 22||8 / 6||0.50||E46||37.7 / 51.0||220||2004-today||700-1,100||check|
|Konica M-Hexanon 28mm f/2.8||M||2.8 - 22||8 / 7||0.70||E46||40.1 / 55.4||230||1999-2003||800-1,300||check|
|Leica Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH||M||1.4 - 16||10 / 7||0.70||E49||67.0 / 61.0||440||2015-today||5,000-6,000||check|
|Leica Summicron-M 28mm f/2 ASPH||M||2.0 - 16||9 / 6||0.70||E46||40.8 / 53.0||270||2000-today||2,800-3,500||check|
|Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH||M||2.8 - 22||8 / 6||0.70||E39||30.0 / 52.0||180||2006-today||1,800-2,300||check|
|Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 (IV)||M||2.8 - 22||8 / 7||0.70||E46||41.4 / 53.0||260||1992-2006||1,400-1,800||check|
|Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 (III)||M||2.8 - 22||8 / 6||0.70||E49||48.0 / 53.0||250||1979-1993||1,100-1,500||check|
|Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 (II)||M||2.8 - 22||8 / 6||0.70||S7 / E48||46.0 / 52.0||225||1972-1980||1,000-1,300||check|
|Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 (I)||M||2.8 - 22||9 / 6||0.70||S7 / E48||38.0 / 52.0||243||1965-1969||2,500-3,500||check|
|Leica Tri-Elmar-M 28/35/50mm ASPH f/4||M||4.0 - 22||8 / 6||1.00||E55 / E49||67.8 / 55.0||340||1998-2007||3,300-5,500||check|
|Leitz Summaron 2.8cm f/5.6||M39||5.6 - 22||6 / 4||1.00||A36||15.0 / 40.0||150||1955-1963||800-1,300||check|
|Leitz Hektor 2.8cm f/6.3||M39||6.3 - 25||5 / 3||1.00||A36||23.0 / 35.0||110||1935-1955||600-1,200||check|
|Minolta M-Rokkor 28mm f/2.8||M||2.8 - 22||7 / 7||0.80||E40.5||35.5 / 51.0||135||1980-1984||500-900||check|
|Voigtländer Ultron 28mm f/1.9 Asph||M39||1.9 - 22||9 / 7||0.70||E46||48.3 / 55.0||261||2000-2008||400-750||check|
|Voigtländer Ultron 28mm f/2||M||2.0 - 22||10 / 8||0.70||E46||51.2 / 55.0||244||2008-today||500-800||check|
|Voigtländer Color-Skopar 28mm f/3.5||M39||3.5 - 22||7 / 5||0.70||E39||25.8 / 49.6||163||2002-2007||400-700||check|
The headline specifications of all M-mount lenses by Leica, Voigtländer and Zeiss are contained in the M lens compendium on this site. You can similarly find information on Leica UV filters and Series filters, in case you are looking to protect the front element of your lens. Moreover, there is a description of the evolution of the Leica M-camera line, as well as a downloadable version of the Leica family tree which used to be on display at the company's headquarters.