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Leica S with the 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH

Get Leica 30-90mm at B&H Photo.

A local friend loaned me his Leica S system, so I went out and shot some material with the Leica 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH (and some with the 180/3.5).

The 30-90mm is a lens I hear about from some Leica S shooters as one that works great as an all-arounder and is good for travel, being about the same size as its fixed focal length siblings. Personally, I’d find a kit consisting of the Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH and the 30-90mm all but complete for most practical outdoor shooting purposes.

But reality intervenes; the S system is massively out of my price range. Still, part of having a broad range of perspective is shooting everything from the Ricoh GR and various mirrorless cameras to the Hy6 Mod 2 and the Leica S, and everything in between.

Focusing the 30-9mm at dusk with its f/3.5 to f/5.6 aperture is no cakewalk (well, all but impossible by eye), but the autofocus seemed to work accurately, judging by a quick look at the files.

The CCD sensor in the Leica S is lovely as one might expect, and results for black and white conversions are first rate too (toggle the image below).

I’ll be posting some material from the 30-90mm in Guide to Leica with the intent of it being a practical reference for what one can expect from the lens, how much stopping down is needed for realistic depth of field, etc. I may post some suggestions on processing the files, sharpening to mitigate diffraction, etc (depending on interest).

Image below has been considerably improved from the dulling effects of diffraction by using the technique described in Mitigating Micro Contrast Losses from Diffraction Blur. As resolution increases, this technique is critical; Leica S images go visibly less crisp by f/9.5 due to diffraction, and f/11 on the image is greatly affected.

 
Boulders in Pescadero Creek
f13 @ 1.5 sec, ISO 100; 2015-04-22 18:22:11
LEICA S (Typ 006) + Vario-Elmar 30-90 @ 30mm

[low-res image for bot]

Steve K writes:

The Boulders in Pescadero Creek image to me just looks awesome; it has such a smooth tone. I am not sure if its the characteristic of the CCD sensor, Leica lens or both. Yet just comparing this image to others whether taken with the D810 or Sony, this S2 Image to me just melts on my display.

DIGLLOYD: Yes, the CCD sensor in the Leica S has a very nice feel to it, just velvety and luxurious. I had a similar sense of that with the Pentax 645D but the Pentax optics are not in the same league as Leica S lenses (and the price reflects that). I like the look of CCD sensors (though they have some clear limits on ISO and long exposures). It seems that CCD will soon pass away almost entirely, as CMOS takes over.

Full aperture series with up to 24MP images coming soon.

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