The Leica Tri-Elmar M is Leica’s only wide angle three position zoom. Is it a zoom, well sort of… It is a lens with three distinct positions, and it only performs well at these specific focal length positions. We have a lens that covers 16mm, 18mm, and 21mm focal lengths. We are going to look at its strengths and weaknesses…
It is arguably one of the best wide angle lenses in the world, easily holding its own today. A few other wide angle primes are better, but they are primes, they’re supposed to be better. If you want a small unobtrusive wide angle lens then this maybe your ticket.
For this test I used my Leica 24 megapixel M240. The M240 only records an approximate aperture value. There is no electronic link with M lenses to the camera. Yes, there is a 6bit coding on the lens, but that only tells the camera what lens is attached. No aperture information is passed. When you examine the files you may see an aperture value, again it is only an approximation. I did record that actual aperture values used in this test independently.
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Image samples from this super lens. Manufactured in the 1950’s these are still super – if you can find one in good condition.
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This is a superb lens! You can expect extraordinary sharpness right from wide open. Smooth Bokeh and no, and I say again, no chromatic aberrations. The lens distinguishes itself by having excellent separation of the subject from the background, it’s very 3D. Colour contrast is high and images need very little processing when coming from dng files. The lens has a very special look, especially at mid-distances. Close up performance is also very good, due to the floating element. Close up images still retain interesting bokeh as well. Check out the parrot shot below. Vignetting also serves to enhance image quality ( I know that some will disagree), but I really like this lens and its output.
I am working on the review of this wonderful lens, that is sadly discontinued by Leica. It is a very light small lens ideally suited for travel. The nearest modern alternative would be the 90mm F/2.8 Summarit. The F/2.8 Elmarit is available on EBay and if one is careful, you can pick up a very good copy.