Comparing Image Samples - Leica's Current Version 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit ASPH vs the Previous Version
For some reason, I always feel apologetic when making these posts. First, I am most regretful for not being more timely in my reviews - given that my last one was almost a month ago. And second, I wish I were more thorough, although I suspect that this is something that I will perfect over time, as I trudge along with more experience. What was it that Hannibal Lector said about the Tooth Fairy... he's refining his process? I could only hope for as much.
With this comparison of images between the current version Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit ASPH and the previous version - long story short - from my inspection of the images, they're both pretty much the same, resolved on a 24 megapixel sensor. To be honest, I really couldn't find much of a difference when stopped down. But there does appear to be a noticeable improvement in the current version, with respect to bokeh, when shot wide open at f/2.8. Actually, I find the bokeh significantly better.
Given that, I really don't think that people are going to buy the 28 Elmarit for the sake of it's bokeh. It's really more of a documentarian purposed lens than one used for isolating images. As such, I decided to shoot more documentary type images for my comparison, given that's how I generally use this lens. I mean, I can shoot up closer, which is really the purpose of a proper wide angle, but at 28mm, you're already pretty up close, even when shooting a torso height image.
For most of the images shot outdoor, given that rain was threatening all day, plus the sweltering Hong Kong summer heat, I tried to wrap up the shooting quickly, I shot the images at ISO 800, in order to get the best balance of depth of field and shutter speed, given that's how this lens should be used outdoor. So most of the outdoor images were shot at f/8 under the bright sun, or f/5.6 when in some shade.
As you can see at f/8, there really isn't all that much difference between the two lens. I've inspected the images at 100% crop on Lightroom, and believe me, there really isn't any perceptible difference.
This is where it gets interesting. The bokeh of the version 2 28 Elmarit is clearly more blurred, and more pleasing to the eye. However, let's get real, the 28 Elmarit was not designed for bokeh, but still, I believe that it does do an adequate enough job in isolating the subject, if shot close enough (which really isn't that close at 0.7 meters), and the image framed at torso height.
More shots outdoor. Nothing different. Just for your viewing interest. but I suppose you could compare corner sharpness - although this is something I do not do.
The last couple of sample images were shot at f/5.6, which I think is the optimal aperture setting with regards to getting depth of field and optimizing shutter speed and ISO speed. For my street shooting, I'm usually between f/4 and f/5.6.
A side note on post processing of the images. I have tried to retain as much of the original raw images as possible, with the exception of tweaking the exposure. I did that so that the lighting of the images between the different version lenses would be as uniform as possible. The purpose of doing that is to make the comparison easier. Also, the white balance of the indoor shots have been tweaked, because Leica sensors apparently do not have a clue, when it comes to indoor white balance and especially the variances in incandescent light flickering.
So my conclusion - unless if squeezing out better bokeh is important to you on the 28 Elmarit, the previous version is really more than sufficient, if all you require is a good documentarian lens. But honestly, having just that little bit more bokeh when you need it, is pretty nice.
Other than that, like with the current version 35mm Summicron, I suspect that these current version lenses were designed to better handle higher resolving sensors beyond the 24 megapixel standard. Perhaps I will do a test comparison between these lenses on a Sony A7r2 with an adaptor - assuming I get around to doing it, and assuming that such a comparison can be done before Photokina this year, when Leica is rumored to introduce a higher megapixel M body.
Special thanks to Olga.