15mm or 19mm R-lense

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I'm thinking of going for a super-wide lense. Can anyone tell me from their experience, how much difference is the 15 f/3.5 Super-Elmar-R compared to 19 f/2.8 Elmarit-R?

How are the optics of both lenses compared to each other?

-- Taweephol Thipayarat (taweephol_tic@yahoo.com), January 21, 2001


Huge difference in coverage. Small differences in focal length make increasingly larger coverage differences the shorter you go. I formerly owned a 19 R and still own a 15 (Cosina-Voigtlander, for the M). You can see the difference easily between the 19 and 21; I have a 17mm Tamron-SP in adaptall with a Leica mount, and this lens is significantly wider than the 19 yet still noticeably less than the 15. As to optical quality, I can't comment on either the current 19 or 15 R lenses having never owned them. I heard somewhere that the 15 has been discontinued (it is a Zeiss lens) and rumors that Leica is going to introduce one of their own to replace it, but I haven't read anything official from Leica on the subject.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), January 21, 2001.

The 15mm-R is indeed was a licensed Zeiss design and is (I am told) exceptional optically. It is also a very large optic - I cannot imagine taking this anywhere unless you know you will need to use it. Imagine the Voigtlander multiplied by 10 in volume. Huge curved front element - very impressive, very expensive and now discontinued. The 19mm in contrast is a more normal sized optic and a more recent design (1990) - again I hear of exceptional quality - you could take this anywhere. Also expensive. I would like one, but doubt I will ever buy one as the price/use ratio is too high. Both lenses have built in turret filters - very nice.

I say nothing about their fields of view as the widest lens I have is a 21mm.

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), January 22, 2001.

If your experience turns out to be anything like mine, you will have a hard time finding much use for any thing wider than a 21, or at the most 19mm. Note what Jay said:

Huge difference in coverage. Small differences in focal length make increasingly larger coverage differences the shorter you go.

I am a wide-angle freak, but I think there are limits. 24mm will handle 99% of wide-angle requirements.

Best wishes,

-- Bob Fleischman (RFXMAIL@prodigy.net), January 22, 2001.

You might want to check out the new Voigtlander 12/5.6. Except for the low speed, this is a mighty lens with an amazing viewfinder. I don't have one (yet!) but will soon rectify this situation. It's probably true that 21/24 will cover most needs (I have the M 24 and use it about 50/50 with a 35) but I suspect that if you got the 12 with the Bessa L body (since you seem to be using R cameras) and give it time, like use it exclusively for a few weeks or do a single project with it, then you'd find it extremely useful.

My thinking is that if you want to go superwide, go superwide. Plus, the Voigtlander lens plus body will cost far less than either of the other two options and offer something that no other lens does.


-- Robert Appleby (laintal@tin.it), January 23, 2001.

I have the first version of the Elmarit-R 19mm, which was made between 1975 and 1990. The angle of view difference between either version of 19mm and the Super-Elmar-R 15mm is 14 deg (110 vs. 96). Interestingly, for the super wides the relationship between field of view and focal length is close to linear: 165 deg. - 3.7 * focal length. For all focal lengths the relationship is a power: 1545.2x^- .9181. (That is my observation from published data.) The earlier 19mm is cheaper and would suit your needs unless you must travel light. It is much bigger than the new version. The images are superb at f/5.6 corner to corner. Wide open there is light falloff in the corners, so I don't use this lens wide open. I have enlarged to 11x16 with this lens. Lines at the edges are perfectly straight, but people at the edge of the frame look really fat. :-) Except for the size, there is nothing not to like about the lens. On an R8 it works fine but the aperture reading blinks in the viewfinder.

-- Robert Rose (camerabug99@hotmail.com), February 01, 2001.

I owned the early version of the 19 Elmarit. I didn't like the image quality in the edge and corner areas; it might have been good enough for journalistic photography, and that was the design intent, but not good enough for my needs. I then changed to the 21 Super-Angulon, which I still have and use -- great for close-ups. The 21mm is a great alternative, since quite reasonable on the used market. The drawbacks are dark corners, field curvature when shooting close (which can be used to your advantage), and the somewhat darker viewing image. Sharpness and contrast is still very very good, much better than a 17mm Tamron (which I also once owned and used). The present 19mm Elmarit is one of my favorite lenses, but be careful when heads are near the edge or corner of the image. My 24mm Elmarit is much better for those uses. The 19 is a bit more contrasty and sharper than the 24. I have two 24s, it used to be my favorite lens, still great for people shots because it renders skin a bit smoother than the latest Leica lenses. Even though some people claimed it not to be as sharp, I've had many double speads published that were taken with the 24mm Elmarit. ( The 19mm and new 28mm Elmarit-R lenses are definitely sharper) Now to the 15mm Super-Elmar-R: According to published test results, this lens is still the best of the 15s. Mine is just a bit softer than the present 19mm Elmarit. It is a bit more difficult to use, physically and compositionally, and it is heavy. A new one is on the way and we can expect improved image quality and lighter weight. Also, just like with the 15mm Super-Elmar-R, we can expect an exceptional price tag. I hope this helps.

-- Wolfgang Hoffmann (wolfgang@facstaff.wisc.edu), February 10, 2001.

Thank you for all of your answers. There are a couple of 19 f/2.8 Elmarit-R used here in Thailand. I am prefering it over the 15 f/3.5 since it is a very expensive lense compared to the 19 f/2.8.

-- Taweephol (taweephol_tic@yahoo.com), February 11, 2001.

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