Home Genres Landscape Photography Review: Leica Summicron-M 28 f/2 close focus

Review: Leica Summicron-M 28 f/2 close focus

The improvements in the new Leica 28 Summicron-M f/2 are significant, and very much in concert with the recent re-issues of the 35 and 50 Summicron lenses.

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The Leica Summicron-M 28 f/2 has been a favorite of photographers for more than two decades, and its reputation has grown steadily since its debut. Version three is on the market now. And photographers ask: How much can you improve on what is already great? Quitea bit, as we will see.

I had the Leica Summicron-M 28 f/2 close focus for only a few short weeks during the spring of 2023. It was quite long enough to put it through its paces, but unusually there were no trips to foreign places. 

This is the third version of the Leica 28mm Summicron. The first version (11604) was released in 2000 before the age of digital, the basic optical design of 9 elements in 6 groups was already established, and like the other two versions, it had 10 aperture blades. It also had an immense plastic lens hood, which was rather ugly, and prone to interfering with the rangefinder.

The second version (11672) was released in 2016, together with new versions of the 28 f/2.8 Elmarit and the 35 f/1.4 Summilux. All three lenses sported new (and much improved) metal screw-in lens hoods, and the two 28mm lenses had a revised optical formula which was designed to improve the edge and corner resolution by flattening the plane of focus.

I wrote about this in 2016, and, if you’re interested, you can read about it here.

So this brings us to the version III, released on 26th October 2023.

The Leica Summicron-M 28 f/2 ASPH  (Close Focus)

The third version (Leica reference 11618) has the same nine elements in six groups optical formula with ten aperture blades, but there are several worthwhile changes. First, the rear element has been adjusted to work as well with the modern M and SL sensors (notably the M11).

The screw-in lens hood has been replaced with a slide-out lens hood (similar to that on the 35mm and 50mm Summiluxes). And Leica has added the close-focusing helical to allow you to focus down to 0.4 metre. With an M camera, this will need to be done either using Live View or the FOTOS app or the Visoflex 2. With the SL cameras, you can use it directly with the EVF. 

The maximum magnification of the old lens was 1:21.9, whereas the maximum magnification on the Leica Summicron-M 28 f/2 is 1:11.3. It is hardly a macro lens, but still a definite improvement. 

The new lens is 5mm wider than the previous lens and 1mm longer, but it is slightly lighter than the previous version with the screw in lens cap attached. At any rate, it handles very nicely on an M or SL camera.

Performance

In the short period I had the lens. I didn’t have the opportunity to do any comparative testing with the previous version, but the optical formula is the same, so one would imagine that the performance of the latest lens is just as good; the modification of the rear element suggesting that definition should be even better with the modern digital M cameras.

Close focusing

While the Leica Summicron-M 28 f/2 ASPH hardly qualifies as a macro lens at 1:11 magnification, it does make quite a significant difference, it’s great for taking close up motifs and while rendering the distance out of focus. And the new lens does have excellent bokeh.

Conclusion

This lens has three benefits over its predecessor:

  1. Close focus opportunities
  2. Newly designed body with twist out lens hood
  3. Improved performance with digital sensors

The optical formula is the same as the 2016 lens (no bad thing). It comes in a black anodised version. 

If you already have the 28 Summicron, then the new lens might not be a compelling upgrade, but Leica has made some real incremental improvements to what was already a great lens. If your principal camera is an M11 or an SL2, then the upgrade may seem quite compelling.

The improvements in the new Leica 28 Summicron-M f/2 are significant, and very much in concert with the recent re-issues of the 35 and 50 Summicron lenses. This lens completes the remake of the ‘holy trinity’ of high-quality practical lenses for the Leica M.


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6 COMMENTS

  1. I must admit I was never fully happy with the second version of the Summicron 28. When the focus is set at infinity it never really delivered sharp images. I sent it twice to the Customer Service and it got slightly better but not to my satisfaction. I ended up selling it and getting myself the Summilux (which I truly love).

    So it would interest me how the new model performs when the focus is set at infinity.

    • Hi There Stefano
      I don’t have the lens anymore (sadly), and it isn’t something I addressed specifically, still, I think I would have noticed if there was an issue.
      On the other hand, if , like me, you have the Summilux (and you don’t mind the weight) then there probably isn’t much reason to change!
      All the best

      • I also see no reason for change. The way the Summilux renders has something special and I don‘t mind the additional weight. It is the lens I use the most since I have it.

        To be more specific with the issue I had. Imagine you are on top of a mountain and you want to take a picture. As many parts of the landscape are kilometers away you set the focus at infinity. Whatever aperture I used, the picture with the focus at infinity was softer than the picture with the focus at 7-8 meters (even for parts of the landscape which were really far far away from me). So you might ask know why didn’t I use a small aperture and focus at 7-8 meters. It is what I did with the M10. It worked somehow with the smaller resolution even if not to my full satisfaction. With the L-DNGs of my M11 it was too soft for my liking.

        • Hi There Stefano
          That sounds like the infinity stop was set wrong on the lens. I don’t think it’s a universal problem . . . but as I say, I can’t actually tell! as I don’t have a lens anymore!
          all the best
          Jono

    • Hi there Brian
      I quite agree – the slide out hoods are so much better than the clip ons!
      . . . and thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      All the best
      Jono

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