Montag, 14. März 2016

LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 on Sony A7r


LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8
LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 - Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA MACRO-ELMARIT-R 60 mm f/2.8

There are two LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 in Leicas discontinued R lens lineup. They are quite different from each other. The first Version was introduced in 1975 and was designed by Walter Mandler. The second version is a complete redesign that was released in 1991. The new version is smaller and is known to be among the finest Leica R lenses. They can be easily identified as the newer version offers integrated filters.
This article is about the more desirable, second version of this lens.

Blue hour architecture Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 (slightly cropped)

The LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 is a great lens for landscape, architecture and shooting indoors. For a full frame camera like Sonys A7 series this is one of the best ultra wides you can get. It is an retrofocus SLR lens and therefore it shows no corner problems on Sony’s A7 series. It is not an easy lens to shoot with, if you are new to ultra wides you will have to learn how to fill the frame. I'm still struggeling, but the challenge highly welcome.
Adapting to smaller sensors like APS-C or Micro Four Thrids makes little sense. Due to the crop factor the lens will have a equivalent field of view of a 28 mm or 38 mm and for that purpose you can do better and far cheaper on these sensors.


Buid Quality
LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 Typography
LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8
The Leica Elmarit 19mm 2.8 II is very well build, it seems to be an all metal lens. All markings are graved and illed with paint. The focus ring is much smoother than I expected and has less resistance than my 60 Macro or the 135mm 2.8 I used to have.
Everything feels very well made and is build to with precision. It is made in Germany and it feels so nice to own a high quality german product. Even most Zeiss lenses are now made in Japan (by Cosina).
I also love the design of the lens exterior. The complete typography on this lens (and all newer Leica lenses) looks adorable great. I know that this is not important for most people, but for me this adds value to this item.

With 560 g and a maximum diameter of 60 mm size and weight feels right for this kind of lens.
One thing I don’t like about this and many Leica R lenses is the black paint job. I have the feeling it is prone to scratch, but not awfully bad.



LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 lens hood
LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 with attached lens hood.
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA MACRO-ELMARIT-R 60 mm f/2.8

Lens hood and filters
This lens has a dedicated rectangular lens hood. It is made of plastic but feels quite sturdy. You can cilp it on the lens but the process can be a bit fiddly. Engraved on the hood it says: "R 2.8 19  A 68 12546" if you came here by google searching for a lens  hood, good luck. The lens is rare and so is the hood. Don't buy a lens without it the hood itself will set you back up to 200€ if you can find one. More on flare resistance later, but you will definatley want that hood! The are no filter threads on this lens, so 3 party lens hood won't work either.
Because of the the missing filter threads there is an integrated filter which allows you to dial in a yellow-green, orange and blue filter. That is quite common on very wide vintage lenses.

Note vignetting in the extreme corners even at f8, I have the feeling that this is caused by the lens hood. I will have to find a better procedure to test vignetting, this is ahot at the sky that's why the left side is a bit brighter.


Vignetting
The Leica R 19mm 2.8 clearly shows some vignetting. On most images that didn’t bother me that much. When stopping down things get better and while I don’t shoot that lens wide open that much, vignetting won’t stop me to do so. The great thing about an ultra wide is the tremendous depth of field and in most cases you want to maximize this effect and therefore stop the lens down to f8. Wide open is only recommended if you need that additional light. The lens is actually quite good wide open but you won’t get another artistic expression, like you do when shooting a fast tele lens wide open.




Bokeh sample #1
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 wide open


Bokeh
You won’t get that much of Bokeh just by shooting at f2.8, you will also have to focus right at the minimum focus distance. Even then, the blurred background isn’t really enough to isolate a subject. This behavior is common for ultra wide angle lenses and based on physics. Nevertheless it can create a special look, If you want to achieve that.  Take a look at the next two examples.

Bokeh sample #2
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 wide open

Bokeh sample #3
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 wide open

Lens flares
Now we can get back to the lens hood. Flaring might be the biggest issue of this lens. That is to be expected with such an old lens, but keeping the sun out of the frame can be a bit of a challenge considering how much you get into the frame with a 19mm lens. Let me repeat don’t buy this gem without the original lens hood. Even if I have the feeling it causes vignetting, the hood is glued to my lens. Cool thing about the hood is it’s appearance. The setup looks like you have a professional video camera. The next examples give you a feeling of what to expect. The first extreme one was made just to show how intense it can be and in this case it doesn’t hurt so much. It is a bad image anyway and the flares even add something to the image. By the way this one was shot at f8! The second landscape example is more subtle, but for images like that, I can’t tolerate any kind of flares. You can see it if you look at the left side of the tree, it looks like a reddish circle.

Lens flare sample #1
BOOOOM! Look at that!
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Lens flare sample #2
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8


Distortion
Distortion is well controlled, there is some but that shouldn't bother you. Unfortunately I can't show you any brick walls, sorry. There is also a Lightroom profile for this lens.

LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 ROM
LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 rear lens element and ROM contacts
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA MACRO-ELMARIT-R 60 mm f/2.8


Chromatic Aberrations
Well yes there is also some chromatic aberrations in the cornes at high contrast scenes. But again nothing you should woory about. Apply the Lightroom profile and check "remove chromatic aberrations" and your done. No fancy post processing needed here.

Perspective distortion corrected and therefore cropped
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8


Sharpness
Now for all you sharpness freaks this is the lens to get. The Sony A7r can show quite clearly if a lens is sharp or not. And boy this lens is razor sharp, especially at f8 the sharpness spreads evenly across the frame. Wide open it is very usable but you see improvements by stopping down. When I come home from shooting with the Leica 19 R and import the shots in to Lightroom, it's often like WTF! The results you get from this lens are so impressive. It has lots of sharpness and contrast. Take a look at the review from DearSusan they used the lens also on the A7r and there it outresolves the 36 megapixel sensor in the corner!!! When you have been out shooting with three lenses and the first image of the Leica appears in full resolution on your screen, you know that this lens is worth every penny. We will get to that "penny" part later...


LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 Alternatives
Until recently Sony’s full frame e-Mount System had little choices in this focal range. The Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS lens was the only one for quite a while. Now there is a 21mm Loxia and a Batis 18mm will probably soon join the party.
Adapting lenses is popular among Sony A7 users and you have lots of lens choices, but when it comes to ultra wide angles things can get a bit tricky. Leica M wide angle lenses doesn’t work well due to their construction type, especially considering the prices you have to pay. Old SLR Systems like Canon FD, Minolta MD are always worth a look for adaptable lenses, but ultra wides were comparatively poor to more modern designs. A Canon FD 20 2.8 is not a bad choice considering it’s price but it will not make you say wow. In fact even Canons EF System has not a high reputation for their ultra wide lenses. The new 11 - 24 L is might change that, will see. But I don’t like Canon EF lenses on Sony A7 either…
The Zeiss 21 2.8 Distagon is known to be a stellar lens and is also maybe the biggest competitor for the LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8. There is one thing about the Zeiss Distagon 21 which I really don’t like, the 82 mm filter thread. The lens itself is just huge and get’s even bigger with an adapter. The Leica is not small either, but is sizewise more like an old fast 50mm, if you detach the lens hood.

LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 size comparision
LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 next to a Carl Zeiss Planar 50/1.4. The Leica is quite a bit bigger but not arkwardly huge like some other ultra wide angle lenses.
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA MACRO-ELMARIT-R 60 mm f/2.8

Pricing and availability
If you’ve read this far and you think that you want one for yourself, here is some bad news. As every Leica R lens you can only find it on the used market. I’ve read somewhere that only about 5900 pieces where ever made. So this is a rare lens and pretty hard to find. If you happen to find one, boom there is the next slap in your face. Prices for this lens seem to skyrocket, although it is hard to make a definite statement, because they show up only occasionally. Right now there are quite a few on eBay worldwide and all are between 2000€ and 3500€, ouch! The ROM versions are usually at the op end! Once again, don't be confused with the old version which can be had for below 1000€.
This lens is also highly sought after by filmmakers and due to the fact that Leica R is adaptable to Canon EOS, there is a huge target audience of lens connaisseurs.
The ROM versions might even get more expensive if Leica releases an rumored electonic adapter for their new SL full frame mirrorless and legacy R lenses.

On the other hand, the median 2800€ is a good investment. You will have one of the finest ultra wide angles ever produced. You will most probably get your money back if prices keep increasing.
For me the most important point is, this lens is future proof. If Canon or Nikon or anybody else will come out with a new full frame mirrorless camera, this Leica R lens will be adaptable, while something like the 21 Loxia most probably not.


LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 II
LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8
Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA MACRO-ELMARIT-R 60 mm f/2.8


Conculsion
The Leica Elmarit 19mm 2.8 II is the best lens I’ve ever used. It shoots images that make you say wow, when your’e back home. Sure it has some flaws, but at f8 this is really close to the perfect ultra wide angle lens. I love the rendition and colors this lens produces and using it is a pure joy.

I hope you enjoyed my review and let me know what you think in the comments section.
You can see some of my work on my flickr profile:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mugelone/


Here are some additional sample images:

Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

Shot on Sony A7r with LEICA ELMARIT-R 19 mm f/2.8 at f8

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