Zooms: Which ones for the R?

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Okay. Due to the responses from my last query, I have a very good feel for which primes are liked with the R system. So, what about the zooms? In particular, the 35-70 2.8, 70-180, or even 105-280. How good are these when coupled to the 2x APO extender? Also, since I know a few of you own both systems, how do these zooms really compare to Nikon's comparable high-end f2.8 offerings, specifically the 35-70 or 28-70 f2.8 and the 80-200 f2.8?

I *really* appreciate all of your answers and patience with me on this topic! It's just that I'm looking at laying out a HUGE chunk of change to transition from my AF Nikon to R, and don't want to make a mistake. Thanks!

-- Jack Flesher (jbflesher@msn.com), November 28, 2001


The Leica 35~70 f/2.8 is an expensive rarity, superb image quality but outlandish price, even for Leica. Only 200 or so were made, discontinued due to unforseen manufacturing problems. There are rumors of a replacement but nothing is certain yet. The 35~70 f/4 lens is excellent, and the later (German, E67 filter) 35-70 f/3.5 is quite good. No idea how the compare with Nikon's lenses.

The 70~180 is a benchmark lens. I read a review/test somewhere on the web (URL long gone) comparing this lens with both Nikon and Canon comparable lenses. The test was performed by a Nikon user. The Leica lens was tested as somewhat better in resolution/contrast stuff, much better in the flare/color saturation department.

From what I've read, the 105~280 is nearly as good as the 70~180.

-- Douglas Herr (telyt@earthlink.net), November 28, 2001.

Erwin Puts is pretty ecstatic about the current 35-70s and the 70-180 and rates the 80-200 highly (it is a derivative of the 70-180 design). Think Tri-Elmar performance. The 70-180mm is, I think the only true APO zoom and only a little behind the 180 Summicron and Elmarit. It is according to him better than the 80/90s Rs and I think on a par with the 100mm APO-macro (if I remember correctly).

You won't get a 35-70/2.8 anyway.

He is much less ecstatic about the 105-280mm, so I get the impression the prime 100/180,280 lenses are superior to this. He waxes lyrically about the 280/4. I like Puts' approach, and he matches with my experience so far. One can rubbish him, but at least he has actually done the work and stands by his comments..

As you know, I can't help you about the comparisons with the Nikons. I don't use zooms so I cannot add anything from my personal experience.

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), November 28, 2001.

Jack, I own the 35-70/4 and 80-200/4. I have owned Nikon 35-70/2.8 Af-D, and 3 versions of the 80-200/2.8 including th AF-S. The Nikon zooms un-impressed me shot wide open, though the extra finder brightness was a plus. I tried out a 28-70/2.8 Af-S and was less impressed than with the 35-70/2.8, ended up buying a Sigma 28-70/2.8 EX which cost me $225 and was sharper than the Nikkor! The two Leica zooms are usable at full aperture, and the 80-200 has decent performance over the full focusing range at 200mm, something the Nikkors did not. At 200 and up close, I needed f/5.6 or f/8. The 35- 70/2.8 Leica is a collectors item; the 70-180/2.8 is a back-breaker that you need to use a tripod not to waste it's optical properties. Your choice bewteen them is dictated by ergonomics and economics as the performance of the f/4 zooms is spectacular. I had considered the 105-280/4.2, particularly because it accepts the 1.4xAPO teleconverter, however I decided on the 280/4 APO instead as I use this focal length almost exclusively with converters and wanted the extra performance of the APO design.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), November 28, 2001.


Unfortunately, I'm not surprised the Sigma was sharper. Word (rumor) on the street is many of Nikon's latest zoom and wideangle designs are with the digital body in mind. Now that I've been shooting with theM regularly, everything I shoot with the Nikon stuff under f5.6 looks bad. Which, of course, is why I am asking all of these questions about the R!

-- Jack Flesher (jbflesher@msn.com), November 29, 2001.

Jack, I have recently made a decision to switch my 35mm SLR work entirely over to Leica R, to-wit a 280/4, 280/2.8 and second R8 have been added to the stable.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), November 29, 2001.

Jay, I see the R8 is back in your kit. I love the beast, so welcome back!

-- Ivor Quaggin (iquaggin@home.com), November 29, 2001.


That is probably the solution I need to look at as well, but for right now there is *NO* way I can justify the expense! It looks like I'll be stuck with the F5 and Nikkors for the near term :.(...

Thanks to all for your responses!

-- Jack Flesher (jbflesher@msn.com), November 29, 2001.

Hi Jack !

I'm using the 4/35-70, the Apo-Vario-Elmarit 2.8/70-180, the Apo- Macro-Elmarit 2.8/100 and the 2.8/24. I used the 4/80-200 but sold it in favor of the 2.8/70-180, which I got new at eby for approx. 2550$. I also had a Canon EOS-1 with EF 2.8/28-70 L USM and 2.8/80- 200.

The 4/35-70 is a great lens. f/4 is no problem, except little vignetting in the lower focal range. No need for the 2.8 in terms of resolution and image quality. The 2.8/35-70 wasn't reviewed that good at http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/Forest/2252/3570mm.htm , but maybe it was a defect sample. I heard that some of them got defects after being sold (my photo dealer told me). The 2.8/70-180 Apo is a brilliant but heavy lens. It is slighly superior to the 80-200/4 and ready for the 2x-Apo-Extender. I'm using that combination and image quality is unrivalled. If you don't plan to use a tripod or the converter, the 4/80-200 is the lens to go for. Also for tracking, hiking or when weight is the most important thing. The 4/80-200 is a bargain for the money and performs maybe 80-90 % compared to the Apo 70-180.

I sold my Canon EOS and L equipment because it was inferior to the Leica stuff. That was on a high level, but inferior. I'm using the Leica Apo lenses with Velvia and Provia 100F. I scan them with a Canon FS4000US 4000 dpi slide scanner and print them on a Epson Stylus Photo 1280 (in Europe it's the 1290) printer.

You see the Leica quality when shooting wide open and at night. There, the spots are spots and no ellipses. No ghost images, no reflections ! Just pure image quality.

Conclusion : Take the 4/35-70. There is no need to look for the expensive 2.8/35-70. If you are on a tighter budget, take the 4/80- 200. It is much better than the Canon EF 2.8/70-200 or the Nikon Silent Wave 2.8/70-200. If weight and money isn't such a big problem, take the 2.8/70-180 Apo. With the 2x-Apo-Extender, you'll get a brilliant 5.6/140-360 Apo zoom. There is no need to buy the 4/280 Apo then. So if you are into telephoto/animal photography, take the 70-180 : You have a grown up telephoto lens with a brilliant image quality and a bright, unbeatable zoom in the 70-180 range : the best one in the world.

-- Christian Nagel (nagelchr@gmx.net), August 27, 2002.

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