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Leica 21mm f/3.4 Super-Elmar-M ASPH

Leica Super-Elmar-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH

See my Guide and Review of the Leica M9.

The new Super Elmar-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH (about $2995) looks to fill a gap in the M line with another highly compact and very high performance wide angle, joining the 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH and the 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH (both highly recommended).

The “tab” focusing as seen at right side of the lens does not offer the fine finger control as with a knurled focusing ring, at least not for me; tab focusing is found on many of the smaller M lenses. But the compact size apparently demands the tab approach.

Performance according to the MTF charts looks to be near optimal wide open at f/3.4 for coarse structures (very impressive), improving only very slightly by stopping down to f/5.6 for fine structures and for contrast in corners. This is a very high performer. The MTF charts also suggests a nearly flat field, and there is absolutely minimal astigmatism, both attributes that are admirable for digital (see Making Sharp Images).

MTF for Leica Super-Elmar-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH

Distortion (wave type from barrel to pincushion) looks to be very low for a 21mm lens, though not nearly as low as the Zeiss ZM 21mm f/4.5 Biogon (which unfortunately has color shading issues on the M9 due to extreme ray angles).

Distortion for Leica Super-Elmar-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH


Nominal, as per Leica.

Angle of view
(diagonal, horizontal, vertical):
for 35mm (24x36mm): 91°, 80°, 59° for M8 (18x27mm): 74°, 64°, 46° (Equivalent focal length : approx. 28mm)
Optical design: Number of lenses/groups: 8 / 7 Aspherical surface: 2
Position of entrance pupil: Position of entrance pupil: 15,6mm (related to the first lens surface in light direction)
Focusing range: 0.7m to infinity
Distance setting Scales: Combined meter/feet graduation
Largest reproduction ratio: 1:29.4
706 mm x 1059 mm (35mm) / 530 mm x 795 mm (for M8)
Aperture: With click-stops and half-stop clicks, f/3.4 to f/16
Bayonet: Leica M quick-change bayonet with 6 bit lens identification bar code for digital M models
Filter mount: female thread for screw-on filters size E46
Male thread with stop for lens hood (included in delivery)
Lens hood: Non-rotating
Dimensions: 43/55mm (with/without Lens hood), diameter 53 mm
Weight: 279g (nominal)


Leica’s description of the 21mm f/3.4 Super-Elmar-M ASPH:

With the LEICA SUPER-ELMAR 21 mm f/3.4 ASPH., Leica is extending the range of M lenses in the super wide angle range with a model that combines outstanding reproduction with a compact design. It delivers uniformly excellent reproduction quality over the entire field of view, with only a very slight deterioration at the edges in the close-up range. This performance can only be improved slightly by stopping down, which means that you can take photo- graphs with full stop with no concerns, unless your compositional ideas call for a greater extension of the depth of field that can only be achieved with smaller apertures.

The vignetting characteristic of every optical system is more pronounced on a super wide-angle lens than on normal lenses and those with long focal lengths. At full stop in 35mm format it is a maximum, i.e. in the corners of the image, of around 2,1 stops, around 1,2 stops on Leica M8 models with their slightly smaller format. Stopping down to f/5.6 reduces this light falloff at the edge of the image – to 1.6 and 1.0 stops respectively. Stopping down further does not result in any further reduction as essentially only the natural vignetting remains. The maximum distortion of the lens of around 1.5 % is hardly perceptible.

The retrofocus-like construction is made up of a total of eight lens elements, and the use of a lens element with two aspherical surfaces and four lens elements made of glass types with anomalous color dispersion (partial dispersion) make a crucial contribution towards restricting aberrations to an absolute minimum.
Summary: The LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21 mm f/3.4 ASPH. combines optimum reproduction with compact dimensions, offering all M users a wide range of options in the spontaneous super wide-angle photography that is typical of the Leica M.

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