Opinions on R Telephoto Lenses Please...

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I would like to hear opinions on Leica R Telephoto lenses. I have heard that the new 180/2.8 Apo Lens is top notch according to Erwin Puts. What about the new 280/4 Apo?

Any input would be much appreciated!


-- Sol Campbell (solcam31@hotmail.com), February 07, 2001



You are asking a large question - who has experience of a large number of Leica telephoto lenses who is in this forum? Not me. I have the 180 f3.4 APO and find it superb - therefore a priori I suppose the new 180 2.8 APO to be at least as good if not better and it is a half a stop faster. The 180 Elmar f4 I can also personally vouch for. Others on this forum like the older non-APO Elmarit 180mm. Putz likes the 180 Summicron (c.$5000 I think). I would anticipate that the latest 280mm f4 APO would be a joy - but what a price. Virtually all Leica teles are now desgnated APO, which in my experience and from comments of others really does mean something in the Leica world, so I would anticipate stellar performance, but they do not come cheap. I have personal recommendations about the older 280f2.8 (non-modular) but again have never tried these wonderful and wonderfully expensive lenses. Likewise the older f6.8 400mm Telyt is reputed to be an excellent performer (a bargain at c.$700 secondhand), but it is slow. I hope someone may answer you but I suspect that you need to be a Bill Gates to have really tried out these lenses and thereby usefully answer your question.

P.S. If your definition of "telephoto" includes 80-135mm there are quite a few threads that deals with these lenses already in the database.

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), February 07, 2001.

My personal experiences with Leica R telephotos:

90/2 Superb lens, the one I still carry along with the 80-200/4 because of 2 stops faster speed.

90/2.8 (late version) Sharper in corners than the 90/2 at f2.8 and f4 especially under 3m; a flatter-field lens. Noticeably lighter. I would never sell it but use it less now that I have the 80-200/4.

100/2.8 APO. I sold this lens because it was just too heavy to lug around, especially with the 1:1 accessory and tripod collar. Optically, wow!

135/2.8 (late) Sold this one also. I don't know why this lens gets praised. It's just ok.

180/4 Decent lens but the least-performer of all the 180's, much less than the 80-200/4. Sold this one also.

180/2.8 (late E67 non-APO) To me the best 180 ( maybe I should say, after the 180/2 and 2.8 APO's, neither of which I've tried)in terms of performance, and definitely the best of all in value. Can be used with the 1.4x APO, which none other can, so the lens can be 180, 250, 360 and 500 with various combinations of teleconverter. Less expensive than the 180/3.4 due IMO only to the latter's mythical stature.

180/3.4 APO I tried 2 samples of this lens, was disappointed with both. Fabulous at infinity, performance drops of quickly and severely the closer you get. There's a good reason it's made to focus only to 2.5m vs 1.8m for the 180/2.8 and 180/4. This lens also, for some strange reason, tanks with any kind of filter on it.

280/2.8 APO (non-modular) Superlative lens. Fraction of the cost and bulk of the modular version, 1.4x and 2x much more compact than 2 focus modules needed with newer system.

400/6.8 Nice optical performance, very light. Somewhat unweildy due to length, and I personally don't like the pushbutton-trombone focusing. Very difficult to focus due to dim finder and grainy focusing screens. (Even matte screen in R8, which I don't understand why people think it's brighter than the R7, I can't see any difference at all. If anything, the lower magnification makes it harder to focus.) The 400 works well with the 1.4x APO in bright light. Makes more sense than the 560/6.8.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), February 07, 2001.

As an adjunct to Jay's points about the 180 2.8 Elmarit being cheaper than the 180 APO Telyt. They seem to be about the same on my observation, in fact the 180 Elmarit can be more expensive by about $100. This is no doubt due to the fact that there is a new APO 180mm causing the value of the old one to drop and due the fact that the 180 Elmarit (non-APO) is relatively rarer than the 180 Telyts which are quite plentiful secondhand. Of course, I cannot comment with the 180 Telyt versus the non-APO Elmarit debate, but I certainly find the Telyt to be an outstanding lens fully useable at full aperture with absolutely no need to stop down (unless you need the DOF). However, I must say that I do usually use mine at further distances and rarely use it close up for which I use the 90mm or 50mm. It takes the 2X APO convertor and maintains APO quality with this, but does not take the 1.4X as Jay says.

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), February 08, 2001.

I have only recently got into the Leica SLR systems with a SL and three lenses, 60 Elmarit Macro, 135 Elmarit and 180 Telyt APO. With my very limited experience, I agree with Robin's comments on the 180 Telyt APO - it's a superb lens. I didn't find the lack for performance at close focus distance. But I do find the 2.5m minimum is somewhat limited. Compared with the Nikkor 180 EDIF AF-D lens, the 180 Telyt APO has much smoother and creamier out of focus highlights (Bokeh). Other than that, I find the Nikkor 180 EDIF AF-D is every bit as good, if not sharper. I also find that the 135 Elmarit to be excellent although it may not be the telephoto lenses that you asked.

-- Cing-Dao Kan (cdkan@yahoo.com), February 08, 2001.

Hi Sol,

I am a happy user of a 180mm f2.8 apo-elmarit. Very expensive and not yet available 2nd hand, it is REALLY fantastic. Others have gone pretty far to test the optical qualities of this lens and I do not have the technical means or the time to perform such tests myself.

But I can say that it is certainly a very amazing piece of hardware to use. Internal focusing and super-smooth focusing ring are 2 very big advantages on previous generation 180's. Both these features help provide perfect balance and fast reactivity in all circumstances. The focusing ring can be gently operated with the thumb of the left hand while holding the base of the camera (or with the tip of of the fingers if you use a motordrive), with no friction whatsoever. This allows you to maintain the camera in a stable position and shoot while focusing. Almost as fast and convenient as AF but without the chasing or the FUD that make AF so frustrating to control freaks such as myself.

I recommend this investment to anyone often using such a focal length: you KNOW performance is best-of-breed, and you USE a wonderful tool leveraging top notch ergonomy.

The 280mm f4 apo also enjoys a great reputation. But it is not in my busying list this

-- Alan (alan.ball@yucom.be), February 19, 2001.

Hello, Sol.

I just went through the same quandry and I ened up with the 180 3.4 which I feel is superb -small, light and tack sharp. I understand other s are less enamoured than I.

I also got a 250 f4 Telyt-R -the later model with the push-button rotating tripod collar and find it ,also, wonderful.

The current 90mm 2.8 is a small, light, knock out of a lens.

I hope this helps. I am new to the Leica R system but have been a working photographer for 20 years. Wonder what took me so long...



-- Robert Burgess (bobburgess@earthlink.net), April 30, 2001.

Hi Sol,

I asked a similar question a few months back. I live in Jakarta and can't afford new lenses so I have to be ready to decide whether or not to buy whatever turns up on the used market here. (Ordering things from overseas to be sent here can be a nightmare!) In the end I bought a 180/4 Elmar-R, which may be inferior to the other 180s mentioned but is pretty good nevertheless. It has the advantage of being small and light and takes E55 filters. I can always trade it in if a more attractive 180mm becomes available but, for now at least, I'm very pleased with its performance.

I also have a 90mm/2.8 Elmarit-R (later model, serial no. 3551XXX) which has given me spectacular results. It's only a relatively short focal length but is excellent for short to medium range - portraiture and zoo critters, for instance. I really would recommend the 90 Elmarit if you haven't got something like that already. Some people have voiced the opinion that this is one of the best lenses ever made! If you're interested, there is a brief review at URL: http://photozone.de/reviews/leica90.htm

Regards, Ray

-- Ray Moth (ray_moth@yahoo.com), May 04, 2001.

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