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The Leica Elmarit-M 28/2.8 ASPH review

If you’re looking for the smallest and most light weight native Leica lens, you can stop right here. The Leica 28/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH is tiny, super light and it has all the specs you need for terrific landscape shots and (documentary) travel photography.

This is the Elmarit 28: perfectly suited to capture action close up in relatively good light

This is the Elmarit 28: perfectly suited to capture action close up in relatively good light

I bought this lens years ago when I needed something wider than my 35/2 Summicron, but longer and faster than my CV21/4 color skopar. Because I thought I wouldn’t use it much, I opted for the Elmarit instead of the Summicron. By then, I was still thinking that the Elmarit was the budget choice. After one wedding I knew the lower price wasn’t faced by a compromise in image quality. Au contraire, the 28 Elmarit turned out to be a lot sharper than my 35 Summicron.

It's tiny, light weight and it looks good (and with the update it looks stunning)

It’s tiny, light weight and it looks good (and with the update it looks stunning)

My 28 Elmarit quickly became one of my favorites for ceremonies in tight, but not too dark places. I was still shooting with the M9 and the M240, so ISO was still a thing to take into account (much more than with the SL and the M10). Because of the shorter focal length and the larger depth of field, I could show more context during ceremonies. Context in this case means the people that attend to the wedding. I know from experience that the way that the bride and grooms family and friends react to the ceremony are really important after the wedding. The 28 Elmarit made that just a little easier.

I decided never to leave the 28 home again

Even when shot straight against the sun the 28 Elmarit keeps things in control. Yes, there is flare, but still plenty detail.

Even when shot straight against the sun the 28 Elmarit keeps things in control. Yes, there is flare, but still plenty detail.

After I shot a wedding that happened partly on a very, very small boat in the Amsterdam canals and I had to shoot a dance less than two meters away from where I was standing – or more correctly: was trying to stand – I decided never to leave the 28 home again. I won a few awards with that picture by the way. Still one of my favorites.

The 28 Elmarit almost replaced my CV 21/4. On most weddings where I had to shoot a formal group portrait, the 28 was wide enough. Because the CV 21/4 is even smaller than the 28 Elmarit, I bring in just in case.

Build quality and ergonomics

The Leica 28 Elmarit doesn’t feel like a budget lens at all. By now, we know that all Leica lenses are built like tanks. Even the Summarit series is sturdier than you’ll probably ever need. The 28 Elmarit is no exception. Even though it is very light, it still feels solid. Yes, like a small tank. A Sherman, if you please.

The Leica 28 Elmarit doesn’t feel like a budget lens at all

There are a few downsides that I need to discuss: first, because the lens is so small, you have to be careful not to move your finger in front of the lens. It has happened a few times. Second, the plastic hood on my version isn’t the best or sturdiest. On the other hand, it is not as bad as some reviewers try to make believe. The cap however, that should be placed on the hood, doesn’t work. Leave it at home or lose it. The good thing is that the latest version of this lens has an all metal hood. Problem solved. Third, the aperture ring is too loose. Yours may be better, but mine accidentally shifts more often than I like.

Focus is smooth and focus throw is good. It is short, but that’s perfect for a wide angle with a not too fast aperture. The focus ring is tabbed, which is good for photography, but bad for cinematography. It won’t work with follow focus.

Showing context is what this lens is about. Yes, you need some light (or not, with the SL or M10) but you get things done.

Showing context is what this lens is about. Yes, you need some light (or not, with the SL or M10) but you get things done.

An action, in the middle of it. I found colored paper in my photo bag weeks after this wedding.

An action, in the middle of it. I found colored paper in my photo bag weeks after this wedding.

Leica Elmarit-M 28/2.8 ASPH review

 

Sharpness, bokeh and rendering

Wide open this lens is already insanely sharp. Stopping down is only necessary if you need more DOF. I only do this when shooting a group portrait, or if there is more light than my shutter and ISO can handle. Another good thing is that there is almost no distortion at all. Good news for landscapers and architecture photographers.

Wide open this lens is already insanely sharp

While ‘insanely sharp lenses’ are often rendering quite clinically, the 28 Elmarit is not clinical. Yes, it is sharp and contrasty, but I’d say it still has some character. If you want a lens with crazy vignetting and interesting bokeh, this is not your lens, but although bokeh isn’t something to rave about in this lens, it is definitely pleasing enough.

For me, this is a lens that delivers stunning sharpness and consistent images. I can shoot this lens against the sun, without worrying about detail or complete washing out of my subjects. Flare is present only when you push it. And if you do, your images are still totally fine.

Wide open @2.8 this little lens delivers sharpness

Wide open @2.8 this little lens delivers sharpness and even some pleasing bokeh!

And a crop

And a crop

Sharpness improves a bit in the corners, if you ever need it.

Sharpness improves a bit in the corners @f4, if you ever need it.

And finally @5.6

And finally @5.6

 

Conclusion

I think it’s safe to say that the Leica 28/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH is a lens that all Leica M shooters should have. It’s so small and light, you’ll forget you brought it in your bag. Your hands, fingers and shoulders will thank you if you use this lens on your M all day. And after a day of shooting, it’s always a delight to see how this little gem rendered the things you saw that day.

the Leica 28/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH is a lens that all Leica M shooters should have…

Even if I’d buy the crazy 28 Summilux, I’d still keep this lens for every trip or job where weight really matters. I wouldn’t bring a 28 Lux on an outdoor trip where every gram counts. Even the 28 Cron would be too heavy for that. The 28 Elmarit is small and light, without compromises in image quality.

So who’s it for?

  • Landscape and architecture photographers
  • Travel photographers, with a preference for documentary photography
  • Any photographer that needs a very good 28mm that isn’t fast

Who’s it NOT for?

  • Photographers that want to isolate their subject from the background.
  • Photographers that want to shoot indoors with a M8 or M9

 

On any trip where weight is key, bring the 28 Elmarit.

On any trip where weight is key, bring the 28 Elmarit.

Shot against the sun, no problem at all.

Shot against the sun, no problem at all.

Not my favorite part of the wedding: the group shot. Usually the 28 is wide enough to squeeze <100 people in one shot.

Not my favorite part of the wedding: the group shot. Usually the 28 is wide enough to squeeze all the guests in one shot.

On a city trip, weight is also crucial. Also if you're drinking beer in Berlin.

On a city trip, weight is also crucial. Also if you’re drinking beer in Berlin.

What about shooting from a bike (while I even ride the bike)? Shooting with one hand is easier with a light weight lens.

What about shooting from a bike (while I even ride the bike)? Shooting with one hand is easier with a light weight lens.

It's all about the dog...the context I mean.

It’s all about the dog…the context I mean.

The kiss in the train. Love the 28mm field of view.

The kiss in the train. Love the 28mm field of view.

And here too.

And here too.

Seen enough weddings for today? Good, this is the last one.

Seen enough weddings for today? Good, this is the last one.

 

And one with the M8, for those who are smart enough to own one. This lens was originally built for the M8.

And one with the M8, for those who are smart enough to own one. This lens was originally built for the M8.