Cheap Leica Clone: TTArtisan 28mm f5.6
In this article I share my experience of using the Chinese TTArtisan 28mm f5.6 M lens, a clone/ copy of the legendary Leica Summaron 28mm f5.6. I use the lens for 28mm portraits, on film and with digital cameras.
*The new 7Artisans 28mm f5.6 is another option so I will cover that lens too. YouTube videos linked below and together with related 28mm lens videos.
TTArtisan 28mm f/5.6 lens for Leica M mount
Pergear kindly sent me an early copy of the new 28mm TTArtisan lens for Leica M cameras to review. I think my YouTube video was one of the first shared on the platform so I felt fortunate to receive a copy to play with. Thanks Pergear! My copy came without a lens hood being a pre-release version but they are now supplied with a lens hood.
Expectations vs Reality
I’m still reasonably new to Chinese lenses. I know many Leica users wouldn’t dream of putting such a thing on their treasured Leica camera but I tend to take a more practical view. If it’s good I’m happy to use it with my various Leica bodies, regardless of the brand.
Saying that, my expectations were mid to low for this cheap lens. I knew it was a copy of a Leica lens and we’ll come to that further down.
Out the box the first thing I notice was the size! So compact ..and pretty! Next it was the weight (151g / 5.3oz). This is a solid lens like you would expect from Leica. Older Leica lenses especially like the Leica Summicron 50mm f2 DR and Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5. All 3 of these lenses are heavy relative to their compact size.
The focal throw is smooth and the aperture scale has nice precise feeling 1 stop clicks. Far better than I would expect from a cheap Chinese clone lens. I enjoy old lenses as you may know if you follow the blog. I really appreciate the styling of this lens, it makes a Leica camera look better than without in my opinion. It looks particularly good on a black Leica body such as my Leica M4-P.
TTArtisan 28mm f5.6 on digital Leica camera
What about image quality I’m sure you ask? Well again, better than expected. On my first outing with the lens I used it on the digital Leica SL full frame mirrorless camera and my Leica M240 digital rangefinder camera. See all the photos in the linked YouTube video below.
28mm street photography + travel photography
As a photographer that shoots mostly model portraits (and weddings) the 28mm focal length may not be my first choice. If however you are a street photographer I think 28mm is perfect. 28mm is my most used focal length for non-portraits and small lenses like this make it the perfect travel lens.
Architecture with 28mm lens
Normally I think photographers would agree that 28mm is too tight for architecture shots. But if you want a tighter crop it can work well if you don’t mind the more artistic impression vs. perfection. The TTArtisan 28mm f5.6 can’t compete with well corrected APO lenses and ASPH lenses, especially in the corners but you can still make nice photos with it.
28mm Leica portraits
It’s not often you read 28mm and portraits in the same sentence but you might be surprised! I found myself in a smaller than expected Airbnb in Budapest for a model shoot and 35mm wasn’t wide enough to get the shots I wanted. I had the 28mm TTArtisan lens with me for my travel photography so I used that instead.
There is a catch though. Most rangefinder lenses have a close focusing distance of 0.7m to 1m (limited to match the Leica camera rangefinder). The TTArtisan 28mm 5.6 minimum focus distance is 1m so with a 28mm focal length that’s not close enough to make portraits with any impact (for me). If however you use the Leica SL series (SL, SL2, SL2-S), these cameras are L mount so you can then use the 7Artisans Leica M-L close focus adapter. I use this adapter frequently on the Leica SL and Lumix S5 with all my Leica M mount lenses, Leica screw mount lenses and Leica R lenses. Now I can focus closer I am able to make portraits I like and I used it for the whole photoshoot. I think this was the start of my love for this lens!
The following photos are shot with the Leica SL camera, 7Artisans close focus adapter and TTArtisan 28mm f5.6 lens. (Captured in RAW with the MrLeica Leica SL B&W preset applied in Adobe Lightroom).
*If you enjoy female portraiture you can find more photos on my Instagram
Black and white film – TTArtisan 28mm 5.6
On the mentioned Budapest trip I was also using various film cameras. I had various cameras including a Leica M4-P, Leica CL (film) and Contax T2. The Leica CL paired well with the compact 28mm TTArtisan lens to give a small setup for walkabout. The 35mm Leica CL unlike the Minolta CL doesn’t have 28mm framelines so I used the entire viewfinder to approximate the 28mm composition. The better choice was the Leica M4-P which is a nicer camera (other than slightly bigger) and gives you 28mm frame lines.
Here are a series of photos shot on my various photowalks in Budapest. As with most images in this article, double click the photo to view in full res. Photos were shot at f5.6-f11, mostly by zone focusing (hyperfocal distance). If you want to join me on a future photowalk group workshop day join my mailing list.
The beauty of rangefinder cameras is you can use a slow shutter speed if there is not enough light for a f5.6 lens. For these low light shots I braced myself and shot with a shutter speed of 1/15 to 1/30.
Colour film – TTArtisan 28mm f/5.6
The blue sky weather and yellow trams of Budapest made me want to shoot colour film too. Here are some more TTArtisan 28mm f5.6 sample photos, taken with the Leica CL (I believe) and expired Fuji Superia film.
TTArtisan 28mm f5.6 vs Leica Summaron 28mm f5.6
Is the TTArtisan 28mm 5.6 a clone of the Summaron 28mm Leica lens? Yes it’s very close but not an exact copy. See my YouTube video where I explain the differences. A Patreon friend who owns the Leica Summaron 28mm f5.6 speaks very highly of the lens. If you don’t know, the Summaron 28mm was original released as a Leica screw mount lens and only more recently was re-released as a retro M mount lens. Unlike modern Leica lenses the older design of the Summaron gives a less clinical less perfect look. Lower micro contrast helps in this regard and that in turn helps give a more filmic look.
I knew the original Leica Summaron was designed as a less perfect lens so I expected the same from the TTArtisan clone. The Leica should be more perfect relative to the Chinese copy but I do like the optical flaws of the TTArtisan. It helps me make more artistic photos vs pixel perfect and it’s sharp enough wide open for my needs.
28mm f5.6 TTArtisan vs 7Artisan
If you follow the various forums online you may have seen that 7Artisans have now also released their own 28mm f5.6 lens. As with Pergear, they reached out and sent me a copy of the lens to review for YouTube. The question is which lens is the best?
7Artisans 28mm f5.6 vs TTArtisan 28mm f5.6
I was interested to try the new 7Artisans 28mm f5.6 lens for Leica M but I had my reservations. I was not sure how they could beat the TTArtisan version. The TTArtisan looks 10x better, its smaller and it feels great. I took both lenses to Portugal to do some side by side testing for YouTube.
First impressions? The TTArtisan is better made and looks better but what about the photos. The 7Artisan 28mm f/5.6 has higher contrast making the photos appear slightly sharper and with more saturation. Both lenses have heavy vignetting wide open and I think the 7Artisans has slightly less stopped down.
Cheap 28mm lens for Leica M camera
So which is the best cheap 28mm lens for your Leica M camera if you are on a tight budget? For me, I need the photos to be good enough and then I need to enjoy using the camera gear. Some big fat heavy lenses might be amazing but if I don’t want to carry them I wont use them. Equally if something is really small but has less functionality again I will try to find a happy medium. The TTArtisan ticks my boxes for looks, build quality, image quality and price.
Price of the TTArtisan 28mm 5.6?
Talking of price how much does this little lens cost –
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Hot news! TTArtisan release their 28mm lens in LTM mount
The problem with nice Leica M mount lenses (if shooting film) is you need nice Leica M film cameras. These are not cheap. If TTArtisan could release their lens in LTM mount you could use it on the awesome and compact (and more affordable) Leica iii cameras. Look what just happened –
Do you need something faster than f5.6?
Voigtlander have just released the new Voigtlander 28mm f2.8 Color Skopar in both M mount and LTM mount. Can it beat the TTArtisan 28mm f5.6 lens?
Vintage 28mm lenses for Leica
You could also consider some of the older vintage 28mm lenses. 2 lenses I use include the Canon 28mm f2.8 LTM and the Orion-15 28mm f6 –
TTArtisan 28mm f5.6 Review – YouTube
Here is my original review together with my first impressions of the lens
7Artisans 28mm f5.6 Review – YouTube
Watch to see side by side example photos using TTArtisan vs 7Artisans 28mm
Best 28mm lens for Leica M?
If you want the best 28mm lens for Leica M cameras then the TTArtisan is not it. The maximum aperture of f5.6 is not suitable as the only 28mm lens in your kit bag for most of us. For my Leica wedding photography I need a faster lens. In the past I used the Leica Summaron 28mm f2 v1 and now I use the new Voigtlander 28mm f2 Ultron v2. If you have the cash the best 28mm is the Leica Summilux-M 28mm f1.4 ASPH. Sadly I don’t yet have the cash but it would be so good for weddings!
If you want something smaller I think the Leica Elmarit 28mm f2.8 is still king, giving the perfect balance of size and optical performance for travel.
Best 28mm lens, period?
I can only comment on lenses I’ve used or know of. In the Leica world the Leica SL series lenses are said to be the best performers vs M lenses. Their larger size means less optical limitations when it comes to designing the lens. For Leica M lenses the faster lenses are said to be 1 stop sharper at any given aperture so for example the Leica Elmarit 28mm f2.8 at f4 can match the performance of the Leica Summicron 28mm f2 v2 at f2.8 or the Leica Summilux 28mm f1.4 at f2. Roughly speaking.
As I enjoy cameras and lenses from other brands too here is me doing some side by side testing of the lenses I own. I used to use Nikon DSLR cameras and I still enjoy Nikon SLR cameras.
Best 28mm Leica camera setup?
If you can’t afford the high price tag of the Leica Summilux 28mm f1.4 ASPH M lens, the smart money buys a Leica Q or Leica Q2 instead. Without sounding like a broken record, if I start doing more weddings I will seriously consider a Q/Q2. A fast 28mm lens is perfect for low light indoor wedding work but for travel and street photography too. These cameras are popular for good reason.
Lastly, if you love the 28mm focal length but are not sure what’s the best film camera to use with a lens, this video might give you some food for thought.
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