To keep it simple: this is my favorite lens ever. A lot has been said about the relatively common Leica lenses like this and the 50mm Summilux ASPH; I’m not going to repeat too much of what has already been said. I’m also not going to get overly technical.
Modern Leica lenses, ASPH ones in particular, sometimes have a reputation for being ‘harsh’ or ‘clinical’ looking. I’m not going to debate those labels with respect to the whole Leica lineup, but I can say that I’ve never felt the need to apply either of those labels to the two modern ASPH lenses I’ve used, the 28mm Summicron and the 50mm Summilux. The 28mm Summicron has very nice tonality, reasonably smooth bokeh, and is sharp, but not painfully so.
And that really sums up my impression of its image quality. Some might call it boring; I call it dependable. It has a somewhat laid-back look to it. I think it rarely flares; when it does, it’s not that objectionable. It has some distortion, but it’s mild enough not to matter most of the time. It sharpens up some as you stop down, but again, for me, it’s sharp enough wide open for it not to be a concern. I have read that it sharpest around f/5.6 of f/8 if that is important.
Between the great image quality, the small size, the relatively fast maximum aperture, the smooth focusing, the focal length, the low distortion, and the nice balance between contrasty but not-too-contrasty, this lens does it for me. It’s why it is my most used and favorite lens. It’s not going to wow you with razor thing depth of field, not with swirly “character” bokeh. It’s just going to dependably deliver your solid photos.
With respect to sharpness, the 28mm Summicron is plenty sharp for me. It does portraiture and documentary-style photos fine. I think it also is fine for more environmental and landscape photos as well, but if that is your bread and butter and you require the ultimate in sharpness all across the frame, there are probably lenses better suited for those applications. That is not to say this lens isn’t sharp - I’ve never felt the need for a sharper lens.
I have few. The big complaints often mentioned are the hood size and vignetting. I’m used to the hood by now. I’ve thought about picking up the hood for the 35 Summilux, which is also supposed to work, or just using it without the hood, but frankly, I’m over it. The hood keeps my fingers from getting in the shot. Without the hood, the lens is impressively small, particularly considering it’s roughly the same size as the lens it replaced, an f/2.8 lens.
With respect to vignetting, the lens does vignette a good bit, particularly when wide open. It also seems to have more color shifts at the edge of the frame than many other lenses on the M9 and M 240. However, I don’t shoot those cameras so it’s a non-issue for me. I can say I had zero problems shooting on the M Monochrom.
Another issue that is sometimes raised with this lens and Leicas in general is the 0.7m minimum focus distance. This is often a fact of life as a rangefinder shooter, so you have to deal with it. It can be annoying when you want a close up of something and all you have with you is a wide angle lens. However, I can say that 0.7m is a good minimum distance when it comes to portraits with a 28mm lens. It keeps you from getting too close where you really get some unflattering perspective distortion. There’s a bit at 0.7m at the 28mm focal length, but to my eye, it’s acceptable.
Here’s a few other items to look at:
- My flickr page of all my 28mm Summicron shots. Mostly film, but there is a batch of M Monochrom photos in there.
- Technical Data sheet
- Erwin Puts' Leica Compendium – I have the 2nd edition. I think you can download the 1st edition for free somewhere.
- LensTip review – Some people complain about their reviews, but they have some nice images of coma and a few other technical details.
- Photoog review – Short review by a photographer.