The Nikon LTM glass, classic by any standard. But how good have they held up? This is what I set out to discover as I collected good examples of these lenses and got to work. Testing for the 35mm and 28mm was conducted on the Leica M9-Monochrome and Leica SL with Leica adaptors. I was let down by the 50/f1.4, finding it to be very soft wide open and what’s the point in having fast glass if you can’t shoot it wide open?
Get ready, there’s a lot of images in this one!
I love vintage or “legacy” glass. And while I did find the 50/f1.4 disappointing, the 35mm and 28mm were a lot of fun with plenty of character. It took me awhile to find good examples of the Nikon LTM classics 35/f3.5 and 28/f3.5. In fact, while we work our way through this review you’ll see a couple of specs in some of the images. Dust, a little grime, but they were as clean as I could find and I didn’t want to scrub all the images for the review.
With the 35mm I found the sharpness to have held up quite well, even with a little oil in the lens. The draw is pleasing and warm tones are produced naturally, needing the smallest of bumps in post to make the image come alive. When shooting JPEGs the lens produced a great result, even if it was a little light in contrast for my tastes. Especially when compared to the 28mm, which is really the one that stood out in my eyes.
The 28mm is a hot lens with Leica shooters right now, with Leica releasing the Q, a full frame fixed lens mirrorless 28/f1.7 camera that has quickly become a cult favorite. And then there’s the forthcoming 28/f5.6 M mount lens, which is a updated in quality, build, coatings and mount (from LTM to M mount), but otherwise unchanged in draw and character, and Leica has also recently released the 28/f1.4 M lens. This has all happened in just a matter of a few years. And it’s not just them, the 28mm lens is being used by many in place of the once dominant 35mm, the amount of photos flooding Flickr, Instagram and other sites featuring the 28mm has been on the rise for years. So when decided to track down the Nikon LTM lenses, I knew I had to feature the 28mm.
While some will see what I refer to here as character and draw as flaws of this lens, I prefer to see them as what they are, two very good reasons to love this magic little lens. Technically speaking, the features I think are great are flaws. Things that have been worked out of modern lenses. Vignetting at the edges, drop off, things that would kill my positive opinion of any modern lens, are the same things I loved about this legacy 28mm. Old glass doesn’t always hold up, but if you’re in the market for a certain draw, then a look like this may just be what the doctor ordered. Leica saw their LTM 28/f5.6 increase in price on the second market because the look produced by it has suddenly become fashionable again and as such they’re releasing a modern take on the same lens. But here we have a vintage lens that can be found in better shape with greater ease and for less cash than the Leica 28/f5.6. What do you need to used it on you M mount camera? A $10 adaptor from eBay. So $2000+ for a lens Leica still can’t get to the market (or even give us a ETA on) or $500-800 for a good Nikon that a couple stops faster at f3.5!
The 28/f3.5 has held up very well. It’s sharp across all apertures, it seemed to peak around f8 in my opinion. It’s clear and bright, with pleasing vignetting that doesn’t distract to much from the subject. It creates drama when used well. This isn’t a replacement for your Leica M 28/f2.8, it’s a niche lens for shooters that want this look. The same can be said about the 35mm, in fact if you’re a 35mm guy, you can get this one at a very good price from $300, $600-700 if it’s really mint. While the 35mm isn’t full of the same character as the 28, it’s still quite sharp and I absolutely loved shooting it on the Monochrome. Both of these lenses are reasonable choices for bringing that legacy look to your digital camera. But neither is without a few faults…
The 28 has a lot of very evident distortion. Straight lines bend and bend hard, even for a 28mm of this vintage. If you watch this, you can use it to your advantage to create drama. But if you’re not tuned in, you’ll have images with a serious unwanted warp. And with the 35? Well for whatever reason focus peaking on modern cameras had a hard time with this one again, it wasn’t as bad as the LTM 50 I talked about a couple weeks back, but there was still some issue getting things Dailed in just right. This again may be due to the contrast based focus peaking in the Leica SL and the fact the was a slight haze in the 35. The MM had no issue however with getting a good true focus in the finder. It may just be me, but I didn’t find the 35mm to be as interesting as the 28mm. But this is of course just a matter of taste. Both lenses have a lot of character and are fairly sharp throughout the image. They have a focus distance of around 3ft, and if you care to hunt it down, each lens has a hood.
Nikon’s LTM glass was considered very good for the time and both of these have held up well, giving the user a very nice vintage look for their images in a tiny compact package. The 28mm is considered to be every bit as good as the much praised Canon 28/f3.5 but the Canon is curiously hard to find a good example of. For some reason, even with this being the case, the Nikon sells for a little more. Even though the Nikon LTM 28/f3.5 isn’t rare, it’s valued by collectors, more so in the black finish. It performs well, has a pleasing draw to it and creates a interesting drama that I really liked. I found it worked well in both color and B&W.
As for the 35/f3.5, it’s by far the most common LTM 35mm from anyone as far as I can tell. And while it’s not quite as sharp as Nikon’s f2.5, it’s very good and oh so tiny (and much cheaper!). If you really want a 35mm LTM, the 35/2 Leitz (Leica) Summicron ASPH is considered by many the king of 35mm focal lengh LTM glass, but it’s much harder to find a great example of and much more expensive than the Nikon 35/f3.5. If you’re looking for a 35 with that vintage look, the Nikon 35/f3.5 isn’t a half bad choice.
Good LTM glass is back style again and the vintage look and feel is well represented in both of these lenses. I found myself having fun shooting them both on the Leica SL and M-Monochrome. Sure there’s the normal mild problems that come with adapting a legacy lens to a modern camera, but if you want that look, you’re willing to accept this. Both lenses created good images, were easy to work with and gave me the legacy lens look I wanted. These are two fairly easy to find lenses that are a lot fun. FP
Completely made up ratings for the lenses:
• Nikon LTM 35/f3.5: 7/10
• Nikon LTM 28/f3.5: 9/10