I’ve been writing about this – I decided to part with my wonderful Zeiss Biogon 2/35 in favor of a 28mm and a 50mm lens. Having only one focal length just was too restricting for me. Also, it was only semi-fast, and its angle-of-view was too narrow for a walkaround lens, and too wide for a portrait lens.
My first purchase for my new lens setup was a Minolta M-Rokkor 28mm f/2.8, the wide-angle lens originally introduced with the Minolta CLE film rangefinder back in the 70’s. On the M8 with its 1.33x crop factor, this translates roughly to a 37mm equivalent angle-of-view – the classic, semi-wide reportage focal length, thus.
Before I got the lens, I wasn’t at all sure if I’d like the 35mm angle-of-view, though. Rather, I always thought I was a 50mm guy. But with the experience I had with the Lumix 20/1.7 on the E-P1 with its 40mm equivalent angle-of-view being sometimes a little too narrow, I was rather optimistic. And I was not disappointed! In fact, I really like the 28 M-Rokkor’s angle-of-view on the M8, especially considering how restricted I had felt with the 35mm Biogon before. I get considerably much more in the frame, but it’s not so wide so that the main subject gets lost. If I had a full-frame camera, I think a 35mm would be my favoured walkaround lens!
Not having experience with a comparable 28mm lens, I find the M-Rokkor to be a very nice piece of glass. It’s relatively small (not as small as the latest 28/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH., though), relatively light (next to the 35/2 Biogon, anyways) and is relatively sharp already at f/2.8. It does show some slight vignetting at that aperture setting, and it gets a little sharper from f/4 onwards, but I like its rendering wide open quite much, actually. Of course you won’t get much out-of-focus blurring with a 28mm lens at f/2.8, but with close subjects and distant backgrounds, some subject separation is possible.
With the M8’s 28mm framelines, it’s a different story. Yes, I know the M8’s framelines are calibrated to be true to the finally recorded field-of-view at 0.7m, so you’ll get more into the frame than indicated the farther away your focus lies. But with the 28 M-Rokkor, I do seem to get substantially more into the frame than I got with the 35 Biogon, and even so at its closest focusing distance. The following pictures show what the view through the finder looked like at 1.5m focusing distance, and what the lens recorded on the resulting picture. It seems, thus, that the 28mm framelines are more inaccurate than the 35mm framelines. (Note: I am aware of the parallax issue at close focusing distance, which becomes especially obvious with the table in the pictures below.)
What also struck me was that I seemed to get almost equally as much into the frame with the Lumix 20/1.7 on the E-P1, which has a nominal focal length of 40mm equivalent to full-frame, and even less when cropped to 3:2 aspect ratio (~ 42mm)! Now what does that mean again? The only possible answer I have is that the 20/1.7 acutally has a wider angle-of-view than a 40mm on full-frame would have – closer to 38mm, actually. This would also explain why the VF-1 viewfinder, created to fit Olympus’ 17mm pancake lens, works so well with the 20/1.7 – if this lens is in fact a bit wider, and the viewfinder a bit narrower than a 34mm eq. angle-of-view, then we have a pretty close match! This is just theoretizing, though, and I cannot prove my theory, having no comparative material at hand.
Whatever the answer to all these questions – I like that little M-Rokkor quite a lot on my M8. Oh, and lest I forget – yes, it does suffer from the common 28/2.8 M-Rokkor “disease”, namely seperation of the kitting of the first two lens elements. Although in the case of my copy, it is hardly noticable in normal light and only becomes visible when holding the lens against a bright light source and then looking through it. Its previous owner stated he never noticed any white spots – and I believe him, as you really have to look close and carefully. I can’t say if the really very very tiny spots inside the lens have an effect on image quality, as, again, I have no material for comparison. But I’m fairly sure it wouldn’t be noticable at normal viewing sizes, anyways, and as soon as the UV/IR filter is on the lens, they probably won’t be noticeable anymore.
In summary: The Minolta M-Rokkor 28/2.8 is a very nice allround lens on the Leica M8, yielding an approximate 37mm equivalent angle-of-view. It’s sharp, it has a very neutral rendering, and it’s a lot more affordable than any Leica 28mm – recent or vintage. Alternative: the Konica M-Hexanon 28/2.8, which goes for about twice the money, or one of the Voigtländer 28‘s.