Leica Camera AG has released three-generation updates of three of its core and most used, most loved wide-angle lenses for native use on M-System cameras and via adapters on a range of full frame, APS-C and Micro Four Thirds aka mirrorless stills and video cameras.
The redesigned Leica Summicron-M 35mm f/2 Aspheric, Leica Summicron-M 28mm f/2 Aspheric and Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 Aspheric lenses feature optimized lens designs, more robust lens construction and redesigned all-metal lens hoods. I especially appreciate this new generation’s improved lens and lens hood robustness and redesign, as will photojournalists working on location in often challenging, sometimes dangerous conditions.
I was lucky in my early, post-art school career. I lived in a provincial backwater city with little respect for the visual arts and especially for photography in particular and moviemaking in general. The perceived value of any creative art form deemed too mechanical and too reliant on technology was low.
Few citizens there apparently wanted to practice either of the tech-based two art forms I loved, photography and filmmaking. And so the equipment for creating both fetched low prices on the secondhand market. I stumbled upon my first secondhand and very affordable Leica M-System rangefinder camera in the grimy window of an odd little camera store in a mostly deserted, windy inner city arcade.
Having never seen a Leica before, curiosity got the better of me and I bought the camera along with a 35mm f/2 Summicron-M lens. And a roll of 35mm Kodachrome 64. As soon as I hit the street I knew that this was the tool set I had been searching so long for. Images I had been visualizing for years but failing to get right with the SLR cameras and lenses of the time effortlessly burned themselves like magic into my beloved Kodachrome.
My photo-making colleagues there told me I was crazy. Leica rangefinder cameras were held to be way too old-fashioned and far too hard to use. And incredibly delicate. I was instructed to conform to the local norm and get rid of my Leica and its lens at once. Mustn't frighten the horses.
I sold all my 35mm SLR gear and bought a second secondhand Leica M camera. As my business began taking off, I added lenses until I had my original Summicron-M 35mm f/2, an Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8, a Summicron-M 50mm f/2 and a Summicron-M 90mm f/2. I added some short-lived whimsical purchases like an old dual-range Summicron 50mm f/2 and Visoflex II but sold the latter after it felt too DSLR-like for my liking.
I often carried both Leicas around my neck for paid assignments on location in the middle of nowhere, one camera equipped with a wider lens and one with a narrower one. A couple of times out there I came across another Leica-using crazy, a long, lean American photographer who had four Leica M cameras and an enormous collection of lenses in his shoulder bag, two or three cameras often draped around his neck. He had, he informed me, plenty more in a safe at home. My local colleagues reckoned he was a CIA agent, ‘cos who could actually afford all that Leica gear if not on a US federal government salary.
As my photography business grew, I added other quirky secondhand cameras as my assignments and clients demanded, and always had a wider lens and a longer lens for each, and always German-made. I had learned never to compromise on the quality of my optics after a few too many disappointments with the Japanese glass of the day.
None of those lenses, as beautifully crafted and expensive as they were, approached my Leica M-System lenses in resolution, micro-contrast and the sheer beauty of their color and its warmth and richness. They taught me what lenses should be. That first Summicron-M 35mm f/2 became my gold standard the instant I bought it and it has remained so ever since, even now.
I sold it and the rest of my Leica gear long after succumbing to extreme photochemically-induced dermatitis, wanting never to be reminded of those days of great photographs, plenty of fun, some real achievements and good earnings despite the low fees paid to creatives here. Fat chance.
I may never be able to afford to buy into the Leica M-System again, new or secondhand, but those cameras and lenses set the bar so high for me that I always strive to attain something like the look they bestowed so easily, whether shooting stills or video.
The Leica M-System lens range is looking as healthy as ever, with the addition of these three beautifully updated lenses, and I am especially pleased to see the Summarit-M 75mm f/2.4 below them on the Leica M-Lenses page. So too the Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4 with Macro-Adapter-M.
I had bought the dual-range Summicron 50mm for close-up work like big close-up face shots and fine details of people at work, and the Summicron-M 90mm for longer shots but neither quite did the job for me. Those two newer telephoto lenses were what I had envisaged but were not being made yet.
Many moviemakers and stills photographers may never have the means to own Leica-designed and manufactured lenses, but thanks to Panasonic’s close collaboration with Leica, they may be able to buy Panasonic video and stills cameras equipped with Leica-designed lenses.
In countries with extensive camera and lens rental services, I implore you to rent some Leica lenses to experience them for yourself. CW Sonderoptic makes high-end cinema lenses under the Leica Summilux-C and Leica Summicron-C brand names.
If you are able to rent, borrow or buy one of these three updated wide angle Leica M-System lenses, or some of their companions from the M-Lens collection, I am confident you will understand why cinematographers of the stature of Shane Hurlburt, Emmanual Lubezki, Benoît Debie, Benoît Delhomme, Newton Thomas Sigel, Amir Mokri and many, many more rely on Leica ciné lenses.Hail the gold standard! Leica updates 3 M-System optical classics, 1 35mm & 2 28mm lenses. Click To Tweet
Leica M-Lenses – Masters of the Moment
At its maximum aperture, the Summicron-M 28 mm f/2 ASPH. already delivers impressively rich contrast, differentiated reproduction of even the finest structures, a soft and smooth bokeh and extremely high resolution. This is due to its recalculated optical design, which almost completely eliminates the astigmatic differences in the image field caused by the cover glass of the sensor to ensure excellent image quality from corner to corner in every picture.
Read more about the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 28mm f/2 ASPH
This lens is optimised for digital photography and has significantly reduced image field curvature in comparison to the previous model. This results in considerably improved image performance with high resolution and extremely impressive reproduction of details. The Elmarit-M 28 mm f/2.8 ASPH.is practically distortion-free from infinity to its closest focusing distance of 0.7 metres, and provides an exeptionally clear view through the viewfinder of M cameras
Read more about the LEICA ELMARIT-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH
The eleven blades of the iris of the new Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 ASPH. create a circular aperture. This lends the out of focus areas of subjects a smooth and harmonious look. The newly designed and constructed lens delivers pin-sharp pictures with rich contrast and almost complete freedom from distortion – at all apertures and distances – and even when wide open.
Read more about the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH
(cover photo credit: snap from Leica)