This weekend, right in Jeeps hometown where the legend is created, was the Toledo Jeep Fest. Thousands of Jeeps show up for 3 days of celebration of all things Jeep. From the Friday night headliner (this year it was KC & The Sunshine Band) to the collectible and historic Jeep show at the Seagate center and the parade with over 1600 Jeeps. The Toledo Jeep Fest is widely regarded as one of, if not the best, Jeep show in the nation. Saturday I got in my own Jeep, headed north and took the newly rereleased Leica 28/ƒ5.6 Summaron lens with the M10 along for the ride.
The downtown is filled with Jeeps, from the earliest of models and concepts to the brand new JL. It takes me an hour to get from the outside of the downtown to the Seagate center because of the traffic. Whole parking lots are full of hundreds of Jeeps, families hustling from lot to lot taking selfies with Jeep after Jeep. Inside the Seagate Center vendors fill the halls, while in the main hall vintage, classic and unique Jeeps filled the room.
When I go out I almost always carry 2-3 lenses with me and two cameras, yet when I traveled to Toledo for the show yesterday I took only the M10 and the 28/ƒ5.6, with my Fuji X100f as a backup in case something went wrong. It’s been at least a decade since I’ve spent any time with a 28mm lens, let alone taken a 28mm to shoot an event. The new Leica 28mm Summaron M is an updated version of the thread mount (LTM or Leica Thread Mount) Summaron, the same optical design of the 1955 lens is used in this update, but with a modern optical twist. The lens uses modern standards, updated coatings, features 6-bit coding and a modern build quality, but maintains the original designs vignetting and the Summarons distinctive character.
Very little to no chromatic aberration is present in the lens, even against all this Jeep crome! Distortion is, of course, greater the closer you get to your subject. But for a lens design such as this, it’s not bad when you’re a bit farther away than the min focus distance of 3.3′. The Summaron has a “classic” six elements in four groups symmetrical optical design, this gives the lens it’s bold and heavy vignetting, but also produces fantastic fine detail and sharpness. The lens itself is very small, at just around 0.8″-long. The elegant, classicly fashioned brass lens hood, each made by hand, fits very well and clearly does its job quite well. The hood itself is a thing of beauty and really makes the whole lens come together is a very pleasing way.
” I feel the lens works best when slightly underexposed. This is when it’s classic look is at it’s strongest, when the shadows have a real depth to them and the blacks are used to full effect.”
Toledo really goes all out welcoming these Jeeps, every hotel within 20 miles was booked. The streets filled with hundreds of Jeeps from all over the country. The streets close to Seagate Center feature venders showing off their incredible jeep builds and latest parts. This was a great testing ground for the Summaron. The bright sunlight coming through the buildings provided plenty of dramatic lighting and plenty of opportunity for the lens to reveal any flaws, such as CA.
The focus throw is pretty long and very accurate but could take a little getting used to if you’ve not spent much time with old designs. This really is a lovely lens, and I found myself enjoying it while wandering around the Toledo Jeep fest. Because it is a slow lens, wide open at only ƒ5.6, most of the day I had the ISO at 800-6400 depending on the light. I also found my M10 wanted to slightly overexpose the image when set to aperture priority and I feel the lens works best when slightly underexposed. This is when it’s classic look is at it’s strongest, when the shadows have a real depth to them and the blacks are used to full effect.
“It takes me an hour to get from the outside of the downtown to the Seagate center because of the traffic. Whole parking lots are full of hundreds of Jeeps, families hustling from lot to lot taking selfies with Jeep after Jeep.”
The Summarons ultra lightweight means that’s it’s bound to be a favorite for many street and documentary photographers who love its unique draw and design. It’s also easy to add to a full kit without adding any actual weight. But it’s older design and rendering do come at a cost. This modern update on the 1955 classic will set you back $2600 retail or up to $3500 dollars online, depending on your market and demand. I’ve actually seen it sell for as much as $4000 in a Facebook group to a demanding collector. It was produced in very limited numbers and even had the lens preordered the same week as it’s announcement, it took nearly a year for Leica to actually get my copy out. It does appear some retailers such as B&H currently have it in stock. This is in part due to its design and elements of the lens, such as the hood, being handcrafted.
Since it’s release Leica has released another limited production rerelease, the Leica Thambar-M 90mm f/2.2 Lens and has announced that there will be more limited rerelease updates in the future.
Are they worth the price? If you’re someone who wants to recreate the unique look of legacy glass as a professional or serious hobbyist without the problems that come with them, most likely so. But at these prices, only the most dedicated photographers will be in the market for these lenses, and it’s already evident that many buyers are collectors only, which will only drive prices up when these lenses are sold out through Leica and other retailers. So if you do decide it’s worth the price tag, better move quick.
As for the Jeep show, and using the lens in the field…
I’m not a 28mm guy. Never have been, even though the focal length was part of my first kit, I never was attached to it. Instead, I favored the 50mm and 135mm. The 28mm sat in my bag lonely and unused. I have the Kiron 28/ƒ2, which is a fantastic lens, but again sits in a case in the closet. I love the handling and quality of Leicas Q camera, but they choose to make it a 28mm so I passed on it. When I want to go wide, I go wide. 21mm is my lens of choice for the M system.
But I do have a love for vintage or legacy glass, and here with the 28mm Summaron we have a lens that was prone to many of the same issues that plague all vintage lens, but especially LTM lenses. Issues such as fungus, hazing, degrading coatings, all solved by recreating a classic with the same legendary look without the problems. After spending the whole day with only this lens, I find myself wondering if maybe there is a place for the 28mm in my bag after all, at least this one. FP