Earlier this week the Leica Rumors site came up with something that quickened my interest. It is alleged that Leica is working on a remake of the legendary 28mm f/5.6 Summaron, an oddball lens that fully qualifies for the description of pancake. It isn’t a lens I had ever seen in the metal, so I took myself off to Old Street where Red Dot Cameras has an example of almost everything ever made. I just knew Ivor Cooper would have one tucked away somewhere. I wasn’t disappointed.
The f/5.6 Summaron superseded the veteran 2.8cm f/6.3 Hektor and was launched in 1956. Just 6,228 28mm Summarons in screw-mount were manufactured between 1955 and 1963. The lens is a high performer, despite the slow f/5.6 maximum aperture. It is very compact and beautifully constructed; unfortunately it is quite rare and this used example at Red Dot Cameras in London is priced at £599.
My interest was aroused because I can see such a lens, if it is ever produced, becoming a favourite among street photographers. It is tiny and unthreatening and will look great on either a film camera or a modern digital. I can see it on my M-D already. The slow aperture is no problem for street photographers where f/5.6-f/8 is the normal range in order to achieve a useful depth of field. Fast apertures can be awkward for quick shooting because of the critical focus requirement.
Take into account the wide 28mm focal length—enjoying a resurgence of popularity following the success of the Leica Q—and we could well have a perfect little street lens on our hands. It will be a doddle for zone focus, even better than the popular 35mm Summicron. Choose a suitable hyperfocal distance of 1.5 or 2 metres and just about everything you point the camera at will be acceptably sharp.
The popular 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit has similar characteristics but, although small itself, it cannot be compared with the Summaron, a petite little thing if ever there were one. I image a new version will have to be slightly larger, but there is plenty of scope for Leica’s engineers to come up with the smallest M-mount lens in current production.
If nothing else, this rumour will rekindle interest in the few vintage Summaron f/5.6 lenses on the market. They are already rare and I can see them being snapped up rapidly. After all, a new version is going to be at least three times the price if/when it arrives.
The lens in the photograph is available from Red Dot Cameras at the time of writing.