Sturdy Yet Small: Leica 28mm F2.8 ASPH Elmarit Review

Leica’s tiny M-mount lens balances sharpness, character, and great design.

Camera lenses are typically small or bright, but not both. The Leica 28mm f2.8 ASPH Elmarit may not be as bright as its f1.4 siblings, but it takes up barely any room in a camera bag. I rarely throw around words like cute when writing about technology, but the 28mm is so small that it’s adorable. And, more practically, it’s less in-your-face while out shooting, better balanced on an M-mount body, and easier on the neck.

While the tiny size piqued my interest, the Leica 28mm f2.8 ASPH Elmarit won me over with an ideal mix of sharpness and character. It’s the Little Lens That Could. And, while Leica and cheap never belong in the same sentence, the 28mm isn’t priced as high as other M-mount wide-angle lenses.

Too Long, Didn’t Read

The Leica 28mm f2.8 ASPH Elmarit is the M-mounts smaller, less expensive wide-angle. It delivers solid sharpness, yet enough flare and vignetting for some character. Unfortunately, the bokeh has a bit of an onion ring to it at times, and like other M-mount lenses, it’s manual focus and without weather-sealing.

Leica 28mm f2.8 ASPH Elmarit Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Excellent build
  • Tiny size
  • Sharp images that still have some character
  • Easier to focus than brighter apertures and longer focal lengths
  • Not as expensive as other M-mount wide-angle lenses

Cons

  • Manual focus only
  • Some onion ringing to the bokeh
  • No weather-sealing

Gear Used

I used the Leica 28mm f2.8 ASPH Elmarit with the M10-R and the add-on electronic viewfinder. The Wandrd PRVKE Lite stored my loaner Leica gear during this review.

Innovations

The Leica 28mm f2.8 ASPH Elmarit has been around for a few years, but it’s the M-mount’s most compact lens. It’s also designed to reduce the barrel distortion typically found in wide-angle lenses.

Leica 28mm f2.8 ASPH Elmarit Tech Specs

Leica provides these technical specifications for the Leica Elmarit 28mm f2.8 ASPH:

  • Angle view: For 35 mm (24 x 36 mm): 75°/65°/46°;
    for M8 (18 x 27 mm): 60°/51°/36°, corresponds to a focal length of approx. 37 mm with 35 mm-format 
  • Number of elements/groups: 8/6 Entrance pupil for bayonet: 11,8 mm 
  • Focusing range: 0,7m to infinity 
  • Scala: combined meter-/feet-increments
    Smallest object field: for 35 mm: 533 x 800 mm, for M8: 400 x 600 mm 
  • Highest reproduction ratio: 1:22,2 
  • Setting/type: preset, with click-stops, half values available 
  • Smallest aperture: f/22
    Number of aperture blades: 10 
  • Lens hood: Leica M quick-change bayonet E39 available, screwable (supplied) 
  • Length: approx. 30,7/49,4mm (without/with lens hood)
    Largest diameter without lens hood: approx. 52mm
    Weight: approx. 175g/211g (without/with lens hood and covers) 

Ergonomics

When I first pulled the Leica 28mm f2.8 ASPH Elmarit out of the box, I reacted a bit like I would to baby shoes and kittens. This lens is so tiny that it’s cute. It’s just 1.2 inches long without the hood (1.9 inches with the hood) and narrow enough for tiny 39mm filters. At just over six ounces, it didn’t make the M10-R front-heavy.

Closest to the camera body, the lens houses a depth of field scale. The focus ring has no textured grip, but it does have a small finger rest to grab onto when focusing. This finger rest is a u-shaped piece that you can rest your left thumb or pointer finger on to turn the ring.

Next up is the aperture ring. Unlike the smooth focus ring, the aperture has both a texture on the outside and a click as you turn. It was easy to reach for the finger rest to focus and the ring to adjust the aperture with just a little bit of use. Differentiating between the two would have otherwise been more difficult on such a tiny lens barrel.

Nearly as long as the lens itself, the optics ship with a screw-on metal hood. The hood blends in seamlessly with the design of the lens. The lens is so small that I even tucked it into the bag with the hood still on. (The hood is not reversible.)

Build Quality

Like other M-mount lenses, the Leica 28mm f2.8 ASPH Elmarit is constructed from metal. This gives the lens a sturdy feel despite its tiny size. While I only used the lens for two weeks, it felt like it will hold up well, except for maybe some paint wear after a lot of use.

While the metal design will hold up better than a plastic lens barrel, Leica doesn’t weather-seal their lenses. I’ve used similar lenses in light rain, but I didn’t want to risk it in anything more.

Focus

The Leica 28mm f2.8 ASPH Elmarit is a manual focus lens, like all M-mount lenses. Like other manual focus lenses, the 28mm forces you to slow down and spend more time on the shot. It’s not as finicky as the Leica 90mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH because of the wider angle and not so wide aperture. There’s a little more room for error, and the depth of field scale is also helpful.

The lens can focus about 2.3 feet from the front. It’s not a close-up lens, but that’s forgivable at such as wide-angle.

Ease of Use

Despite being admittedly too reliant on autofocus, I found this lens really easy to use. At such a wide-angle and at f2.8 instead of f1.4, the lens leaves a little more room for error than longer and brighter lenses. With some patience and the add-on EVF for focus peaking, I could get most of my shots in focus. You’ll need to use zone focusing for quick moments or moving subjects. The Leica M mount isn’t for beginners, but for photographers new to the M line, this is an easy lens to start with.

Image Quality

So how is the image quality of a wide angle lens that’s “only” an f2.8? Well, we really like it!

Bokeh

Despite the wide-angle and being “only” an f2.8, the lens can still capture some nice soft backgrounds. Bokeh is nicely rounded, with minimal change in shape towards the edges. However, the bokeh balls sometimes have an onion ring edge, particularly with harsh light and towards the corners of the frame.

Sharpness

The 28mm has an ideal balance between being too soft and so sharp that you see every pore. The center is sharp wide open, and so are the edges. The very corners see a bit of softness wide open.

Lens Character

I occasionally spotted some colored fringing, but chromatic aberration was overall well-controlled from this lens. 

Shooting backlit with morning sun, I was able to capture some soft flare. The lens produced more soft blotches than the perfectly circular hard-edged ghosting circles. I also spotted a few arch flares towards the edge of the image when the sun hit just right.

Barrel distortion is relatively well-controlled but not entirely absent. There’s slight curling at the corners — if you place a small regularly shaped object on the corner, you may notice a slight change in shape. Vignetting is slight, concentrated on the corners, and easy to edit out if unwanted.

Color Rendering

In real-world shots, I found the 28mm produced some realistic tones. I was generally happy with the color in my shots. However, it didn’t detect quite as many hues on a color test chart as the Leica 21mm f1.4 Summilux.

Extra Image Samples

From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.

Edited

Unedited

Conclusions

Likes

  • I love the durable metal build and the vintage look.
  • The lens is tiny, easy to pack, and unobtrusive.
  • The 28mm has the ideal balance between sharp and too sharp.
  • The lens is easier to focus than wider aperture and longer focal length lenses.
  • The $2,295 list price is more attainable than the $8K 21mm.

Dislikes

  • M-mount lenses are manual focus only.
  • The bokeh balls occasionally have a hard edge to them.
  • There’s no weather-sealing.

The Leica 28mm f2.8 ASPH Elmarit is a tiny lens that packs a lot of perks. The little, durable lens is easy to use for a manual lens. Subjects were sharp, backgrounds nicely blurred, and yet there’s still some character to be seen.

Except for the onion ringing bokeh, the cons are all things that AI could say about any M-mount lens. It’s a lens that’s nearly $3,000 yet doesn’t have autofocus or weather sealing.

The Leica 28mm f2.8 ASPH Elmarit is a good lens for photographers new to the M-mount system, as well as street, landscape, and travel photographers looking for small glass that packs a big punch. Therefore, I’m giving the Leica Elmarit 28mm f2.8 ASPH four out of five stars. Want one? Check out Amazon for the best prices.

Hillary Grigonis

Hillary K. Grigonis is a photographer and tech writer based in Michigan. She shoots weddings and portraits at Hillary K Photography. A mother of three, she enjoys hiking, camping, crafting, and reading.