R-180mm versions and recommendations please

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I am interested in a 180mm prime for my R. The 2.0 is overkill for my needs, so I am only interested in the 2.8 Elmarit et al.

I have seen the APO-180 (newest) used for c.1500US, but other versions for considerably less. I have no idea about the history of this lens and its various versions. Can you please advise me on which version is the best value? I am a travel and hobby photographer, and almost never shoot wildlife and never sports.

-- Rene (1_talj@wanadoo.fr), May 24, 2002


I have APO 180 f3.4 and Newest APO 180 f2.8. My personal opinion is that the newest APO 180 f2.8 is better than the f3.4 after comparing the slides taken in the same time. The bigger wide open apeture is more helpful than the f3.4.

BR Clark

-- Clark Tu (clarktu@giga.net.tw), May 24, 2002.

Rene, I used to have the APO 180/3.4. This lens is superb in every aspect, arguably the best 180mm around (even better than the Nikkor counterpart).
I have a picture on line taken with this lens, however it isn't the best shot to proof the excellent qualities. It is sharp from center to edge, even when used wide open.
I sold this lens to Andy Wagner, maybe he can comment more on this lens.

-- Eric Kragtwijk (e.kragtwijk@hccnet.nl), May 24, 2002.

I have the 180 3.4 Apo, and it is more lens than most people can handle, to tap the potential of this lens you must work with the very best films, the most solid tripod, and the best possible technique. The new 180 2.8 Apo may be a better lens, but for the price difference I would take the 3.4 version. Everyone knows that the 3.4 is not designed for close focus work, but that is why there is a 100 2.8 Apo.

-- David Kernaghan (dkernagh@mdrobotics.ca), May 24, 2002.

Salut René,

The current 180mm apo-elmarit typifies the unfortunately overused concept of "awesome".

It is a beautiful piece of hardware, with an exquisit mechanical construction. Size, weight and general ergonomy are flawless.

Contrary to its predecessors, it focuses internally. This means that the length of the lens, and thus the balance of the camera-lens combo, remains constant during focusing. That is a useful feature with that type of focal length. The R8 w/winder or motor is the perfect companion for that lens, offering a marvelous handholdable combination (if you are not lazy.

Even more useful is the wonderful lightness of the focusing ring. You can focus (and that includes follow focus in action pics) with the index of your left hand, while the rest of your hand supports the camera. It shows just enough resistance not to defocus by accident (though some users feel there should be even more resistance built in. not my feeling).

Compared to the old f3.4, it focuses much closer, which is a precious asset in real life.

And when you get the slides processed, you see the real benefit of using what is considered in all credible benchmarks as the absolute best short tele in the market today (with the f2 'cron): quality is perfect at f2.8, and closing down the lens is only useful if you want to extend depth of field.

Only down side: it is not compatible with the 1.4x converter.

Try it, buy it, and enjoy !

-- Jacques (jacquesbalthazar@hotmail.com), May 24, 2002.

The best bargain in the Leica 180's is the 1st-version 180/2.8 which can be found in 3-cam for around $325-400. It's almost as good as the second version, but quite a bit heavier (though it has a tripod bushing which is nice for doing landscapes).

The next best bet is the 2nd (E67) version of the 180/2.8. This lens can be found in nice shape for around $600-750, is extremely sharp and has great tonality, *much* better than the 180/3.4. Plus it accepts the 1.4xAPO converter (so does the 1st version).

For travel photography, you have 2 other interesting options: one is the 180/4, which is optically excellent and extremely light and compact (smaller than a 135/2.8!). The other option is the superb 80- 200/4 zoom, which can't be beat $ for $ especially given the range of focal lengths vs one fixed lens.

IMO the 180/3.4APO is over-rated. I found them to be disappointing in terms of picture quality and the 2.5m not-so-close-focus distance is severely limiting for a lens of this length.

Of course the 180/2.8APO is arguably the best optically, but unless you are going to be shooting it wide open, and/or on a tripod, you will not likely get your full money's worth out of it.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), May 24, 2002.


I think the 180 APO Telyt is a real deal these days as many people have dumped them for the current 180 APO Elmarit or the zoom. The newer lens is probably a little better, but we are up in the stars with the performance with both these lenses. The Elmarit is a half stop faster which is very nice, but there again it is also over $2000 and difficult to find secondhand. Also, and this is a real consideration, the current APO lens is bigger and heavier than the Telyt, which is surprisingly small (although not particularly light).

David said:

"I have the 180 3.4 Apo, and it is more lens than most people can handle, to tap the potential of this lens you must work with the very best films, the most solid tripod, and the best possible technique."

I don't all together agree here, I rarely if ever use it on a tripod, but always at 1/500 or up and I can see the difference betweeen it and my other non-APO lenses, but I agree by any standards it remains a superb lens - and it will cost you only $700 or so secondhand.

I also do not agree with Jay about its performance - I have always found it a stunning performer. Its lack of real close focussing worries me not at all.

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), May 24, 2002.

One benefit of an APO lens that is often overlooked is how they snap into focus on the camera's viewscreen, much more so than a non-APO lens - and this applies whether you are using a tripod or not. This photo was made with the 180mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt:

While making a series of photos of this horse, I was astonished at how easy it was to tell when the image was in focus. I don't like the close-focus limit of the f/3.4 lens.

-- Douglas Herr (telyt@earthlink.net), May 24, 2002.

Sorry, don't agree at all with Jay's findings, quite the reverse in fact as I had both the 180f3.4 APO and last version of the 180f2.8 at the same time and contest was not even close, the APO being so much better as to make me think the 2.8 had a softar filter on it. Colour- contrast-resolution, the APO has it all except that close-up the performance drops off a bit. Buy one and enjoy, they really are one of the best deals in 'R' gear right now.

-- Gary Yeowell (gary@yeowell.fsnet.co.uk), May 24, 2002.


Don't forget to consider the 180 f/4 Elmar. Its image quality is equivalent to the pre-APO f/2.8 (E67) and it's extremely small and light (good for travel!) - but, of course, lacks the f/2.8 aperture. It's often as inexpensive as the oldest model f/2.8.

I have the E67-version pre-APO 180, and,as Jay says, it makes beautiful pictures. But either APO(3.4/2.8) version will have a little more knife-edge sharpness.

CLICK HERE to see a shot with the E67 180 f/2.8 @2.8.

Here are the 'eras' and filter sizes of the various Leica-R 180s, since used lenses are sometimes 'identified' by the filter size. And where the prices seem to be

1. Big, heavy 180 2.8 - 1968 to 1979 - series VIII filters - $400-500

2. E67 180 f/2.8 - 1980 to 1997 - 67mm filters - $500-800

3. APO 180 f/2.8 - 1998 to date - 67mm filters - $ as you said

4. APO 180 f/3.4 - 1975 to 1997 - 60mm filters - $600-900

5. Elmar 180 f/4 - 1976 to 1996 - 55mm filters - $400-500

As to 'value' - depends on what YOU value more - ultimate sharpness at any price or very good sharpness at a very good price. I think the pre- APO (2.) is the best compromise, or the f/4 (5.) if you want ultra- compact.

-- Andy Piper (apidens@denver.infi.net), May 24, 2002.


Thank you all for the helpful thoughts and advice. I have now been armed with more information that will help me to make an educated decision. This is surely the finest Leica forum that I have seen.

(Salut Jacques)


-- René T. (1_talj@wanadoo.fr), May 24, 2002.

Renee, sorry about the delayed answer, but I bought Eric's 3.4 180 and took some shots out in Yosemite. The lens performed very well. For my uses, hobby and travel I've found the lens to be a outstanding value. For the difference in price and my needs it fits the bill perfectly. Eric I'm having a great time with both lenses thanks again. I even got the wife to take some shots with the Leica.

-- Andy Wagner (awagner@midwest-express.com), May 24, 2002.

Andy, that is great! Will you share some pictures with the forum?

-- Eric Kragtwijk (e.kragtwijk@hccnet.nl), May 25, 2002.

Rene; My Nikon 180mm F2.8 ED lens is fantastic; sharp wide open.. The comments above state that Leica is better than this lens! Kelly

-- Kelly Flanigan (zorki3c@netscape.net), May 25, 2002.

Eric as soon as I get my computer and scanner to talk to each other I'll be posting some pictures, until that time I'm just having some fun with the lenses and camera. I don't want to fix the computer to quickly because I'm pushing for a new one.

-- andy wagner (yxandy@hotmail.com), May 25, 2002.

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