Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Leitz 28mm f/5.6 Summaron: Resurrection rumours resurface

Leitz 28mm f/5.6 Summaron: Resurrection rumours resurface

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 Photo by Mike Evans, taken at Red Dot Cameras in London
Photo by Mike Evans, taken at Red Dot Cameras in London

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The f/5.6 Summaron superseded the veteran 2.8cm f/6.3 Hektor and was launched in 1956.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.

Street photography

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.

 With a 28mm lens (this is the Elmarit f/2.8) and a modest aperture you can make sure almost everything is in focus. An f/5.6 lens can be made even smaller and will be perfect for street shooting (captured with a Leica M-P and Elmarit)
With a 28mm lens (this is the Elmarit f/2.8) and a modest aperture you can make sure almost everything is in focus. An f/5.6 lens can be made even smaller and will be perfect for street shooting (captured with a Leica M-P and Elmarit)

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.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. These are rare and expensive. There is one coming up at Westlicht with a start price of €400 and an expected range of €800 to €1000. It seems to have a red scale which I have not seen with this lens before. The hoods for these are also rare and fetch prices around €300. I have both the lens (black scale) and the hood. Without the hood you are talking about a very low profile ‘pancake’ format on an M body.

    The lens works very well on digital bodies and I will shoot some images with it on the M240 and send the results to you. I would actually be interested in a modern version of this lens; perhaps the first potential modern Leica lens product that has aroused my interest for quite some time. The f5.6 Summarons are coated and give a more modern look than pre war lenses such as the 28mm f6.3 Hektor.

    William

  2. Correction. On pulling out my f5.6 Summaron from a cabinet in order to put it on my m240, I see that it has a red aperture scale for depth of field but the indicator on mine is a black triangle, whereas the one at Westlicht has a red triangle. Confusing maybe; but I only say this for accuracy and clarification.

    William

  3. Yes I have one as well, super little lens as incidentally was the Russian made Leica screw fit 28mm f6.3 Orion at a fraction of the price. Don Morley

    • Hola, Don, good to hear from you. I’m definitely going to buy one of these if/when/probably it is launched. It’s one of those quirky lenses that will appeal.

  4. I used to own a Summaron 28mm f/5.6, but traded it in as part of a complete Leica IIIf kit (camerabody, Summaron 28mm, Elmar 50mm, Hektor 135mm) for a brand new Leica M6. The lens was very compact, focussing was very smooth, but I remember the colour rendition with slide film to be quite cool and I sort of disliked the limitation of the f/5.6 full opening. But it was the most beautiful of the three lenses, and in prestine condition. The only thing I didn’t sell was its beautiful metal lenscap with the Leica logo on it. Would I only have known then that it was a relative rarity, the price I got for the complete kit was less than £599 🙁

    • What year did you sell, René, that sounds a very low price, especially with the old Summaron 5.6 fetching up to £600. Hold on to that cap, it could be valuable.

      • I think it was 1996, Mike. I saw the M6 for the first time in real life in a small camerashop in Vienna on a business trip in 1995, and was much impressed by the compactness of the M-lenses (and still am). The Leica IIIf kit was given to me by my father and I simply couldn’t resist the M6. Had to confess to my father that I traded in his camera and showed him the M6. He looked at it and through it and much to my relief he said: "I would have done the same". But in retrospect I should have kept the IIIf and lenses. Still own the M6, adore it and will never ever sell it. In 3 million years they will dig it up and say: "Look, a sign of an ancient civilization". Love your blog.

        • Renè,

          Thank you for your nice comment on the blog. Yes, hindsight is a wonderful thing. I have sold many things that I should have kept. On the other hand, I got rid of many things that I ought to have sold earlier. It’s a nice story, though, especially your father’s reaction.

          The good thing about Leica film cameras is that they are something to keep for a lifetime.

          Mike

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