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Leica 28mm Summilux - Part 2 - In Bright Daylight and on the Street

Leica 28mm Summilux - Part 2 - In Bright Daylight and on the Street

Now that I have tested the Leica 28mm Summilux in suboptimal available light, and demonstrated how appropriate a lens it is for night time interior documentation, while on vacation, let’s see how well it performs during the daytime, when a fast lens is not required.

The question here is whether the premium for the 28mm Summilux is worth it for daytime photography, given how wonderful the 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit ASPH is under ideal light conditions, and for that matter, the 28mm f/2 Summicron ASPH. 

In determining whether the 28mm Summilux is the perfect holiday lens - even during the daytime - I have decided not to use a model. Instead I will shoot in the street, in order to increase the level of difficulty. Besides, documenting life around the surrounding area is a very normal part of vacation photography.

Immediately, the first thing I notice was the increased attention I was getting. Yes, the 28mm Summilux is a much bigger lens. It looks so much more substantial than the 28mm Elmarit. So when I'm taking pictures on the street, I did notice getting more stares from my subjects. It's not a bad thing, I think. If anything, I get more full face images. But if you happen to be shy, the 28mm Summilux may not necessarily be for you.

This street subject immediately noticed me taking a picture of her. However, she was very cool about it. I was very happy that she looked up at me.

Shot at f/2.8. The two subjects were staring at my camera.

These two appeared startled when I took a photograph of them. They were obviously looking at my lens!

What I also noticed is that the 28mm Summilux was relatively easy to use, when shooting at around six feet from the subject. But once you get closer, the image begins to distort significantly more than on the 28mm Elmarit. In fact, the more you approach the closet focusing distance, the more distortion becomes an issue. Case in point is the title image of my previous post. And if you shoot from an extremely weird angle, the perspective distortion goes up many folds. It makes the image unusable, unless that's what you're going for.

The 28mm Summilux when shot close to the subject can cause significant perspective distortion. However, the perspective distortion can also be used for composition. In the case of this image, the perspective distortion creates the illusion of a rising composition, while also directing the viewer's attention towards the main subject.

Another example of an image shot at an awkward angle. The perspective angles draw the viewer's eye to the main subject in the image.

Despite the issue of distortion when shooting closer, it's when you're shooting closer that the 28mm Summilux seem to be the best. The lens is wide enough to fill the subject in the entire frame, while still being able to document the background sufficiently. And when stopped down to f/8, you pretty much get everything in focus. Of course, this is the same for all 28mm focal length lenses. 

For a tall subject like him, I would have had to shoot further away to get all of him into the frame. That meant I would have had to include a crowd of people that were directly behind me. Because I was close enough, no one photobombed my shot. Shot at f/2.8 in bad light.

Being able to shoot closer, you can get more of the subject into the frame without being blocked by passersby. And for the sake of documentation, you also get more of the background. Shot at f/5.6.

In this shot, my camera was actually beside an elderly gentleman. If I used a tighter lens, like a 35mm lens, I would not have gotten this shot without blockage. Shot at f/8

With that said, I did notice that the depth of field was slightly less forgiving, stopped down for zone focusing, when compared to the 28 Elmarit. I did miss focus on occasion, when the subject was too close to me.

Zone focusing at f/4, normally I would have hit focus at this distance, if I were using my 28mm Elmarit. Instead, I'm slightly off. Image sharpness has been improved with Photoshop Shake Reduction Filter.

Also shot at close distance, roughly four to five feet away at f/4, I missed focus by a hair.

One thing I did find interesting was how the increase weight of the lens seemed to help me level the pitch of the camera angle. I would have thought that the lens would make my camera feel front heavy. But instead, it seemed to have made a good counterweight, when shooting at waist level.

Overall, I found the 28mm Summilux to be a joy to use. When stopped down, it appears to be just as sharp in the corners as the 28 Elmarit. But the distortion when shooting closer, and at weird angles is something of concern. Mind you, it's not as if you don't get weird distortions with the 28mm Elmarit. But to me, it seems less extreme. 

Shot at f/8/ This image has not been cropped for composition. I don't see much difference here from shooting the 28mm Elmarit at f/8.

Another full crop image. Shot at f/4. I don't see much difference here, compared to the 28mm Elmarit, shot at f/4.

If you shoot more during the daytime, under optimal light conditions, there really isn't a need to get the 28 Summilux. But the thing is, you never know when you'll need that extra stop or two of speed. Knowing that you have it gives you peace of mind, for when you go indoors or when you need to use it when the sun goes down. 

Shot zone focusing wide open at f/1.4. I didn't know that this was even possible! Image has been cropped for composition.

Another image shot zone focusing wide open at f/1.4. This image however has not been cropped.

So... the final verdict? Did I like it. Yes, I did. I really liked the 28mm Summilux. I really REALLY liked it. I liked it so much, that this is the lens that I will bring with me on vacation, from now on. That's how much I like it - enough to permanently replace my 35mm Summilux.

I guess the next thing to do now is to compare it with the 35mm Summilux, to see if this is really the case.

Overall, I loved the 28mm focal length. You can shoot close enough, so you won't get photobombed by some passerby between you and the subjects. You just need to remember to shoot closer, and be careful with your angles if you shoot too close.

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