Leica M 18mm f3.8 ASPH Super Elmar – A User’s Review
This is the first time that Leica has launched a super wide angle lens of 18mm. In the past, the widest lens was a 21mm. For Leica Users, this is something to shout about. It is generally accepted that super wide and wide angle lenses on rangefinder bodies are sharper than similar lenses on DSLRs. Rangefinder lenses do not need to have a retro-focus design as there is no mirror box to worry about.
This lens is also fully backward compactable with Leicas Ms produced all the way back to 1953. This can’t be said about other brands
It is constructed with eight elements in seven groups, including one aspherical element. In addition, Leica has also extended its rangefinder system accessories with the new Bright Line Finder M 18mm which can be used with the new lens for effective framing.
The LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 18 mm f/ 3.8 ASPH. is ideal for a wide range of applications – from expansive reportage images to landscapes and architectural photography. When used on digital Leica M models, the LEICA M8 and LEICA M8.2, the slightly smaller format of the sensor increases the effective focal length to the 35 mm format equivalent of 24 mm.
This means that the new lens is also a particularly practical and useful wide-angle lens for digital M photography. In addition, the lens can also be used on all analog Leica M camera models, and it’s extremely short focal length of 18 mm opens up numerous new opportunities for composition and creative expression.
The fundamental parameters of vignetting and distortion traditionally encountered in super-wide-angle lenses have been effectively corrected in the case of the LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 18 mm f/ 3.8 ASPH., so that they play no role at all in practice. This results in extremely sharp, crystal-clear and uniformly exposed images from corner to corner. Due to the outstanding contrast and reproduction of details, the initial aperture of 3.8 can be used without any limitations.
Even wide open, the depth of field extends from infinity to 3.93 feet. Stopping down is only necessary as a means to further increase the depth of field.
The LEICA ELMAR-M 1:3.8/18 mm ASPH. is constructed with eight lenses in seven groups. Due to the use of one aspherical element, aberrations were reduced to a minimum.
The LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 18 mm f/ 3.8 ASPH. also features a patented, screw-on rectangular lens hood that contributes to its compact size.
A matching LEICA BRIGHT LINE FINDER M 18 mm is also available for the new LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 18 mm f/ 3.8 ASPH. lens. Used in conjunction with the new lens, it highlights the precise framing of the field of view and is distinguished by its vibrant, high-contrast image. Due to a concave mirror in the optics (hence the term ‘mirror viewfinder’), part of the incoming light is used to brightly illuminate the frame for the field of view – in the same way as in the viewfinder of Leica M cameras.
The finder has parallax compensation markings for close-up distances below 6.6 feet, yet also has markings for the slightly smaller image field of LEICA M8 models. It is, therefore, equally suitable for use with film (24 x 36 mm) and for digital photography (18 x 27 mm).
The entire optical system of the finder has a high-quality multi-layer coating to guarantee optimal viewing under all conditions. Its high-quality metal body is finished in the classic look of its predecessors of the fifties and sixties, but are milled from solid brass with the latest technology, and then finished in silver-chrome or black paint to match the cameras. The eyepiece is rubberized to reliably protect eyeglasses against scratching.
In the Field
In practice, the 18mm lens is very easy to use. I have paired this lens with a Leica M9. Most of the time I just set it at the hyperfocal position and snap away. As with any super wide angle lenses, care has to be taken to align the horizontal axis of the camera with the horizon to prevent distortions.
However, learning how to use this lens effectively takes some time. It is very easy to shoot a lot of nothing with super wides. I find the working distance of this lens is around 3 to 4 feet which is really close.
The images are really sharp even at corners. Barrel distortions are minimum. Chromatic aberrations or Chroma are well controlled. The color rendition is superb and not too contrasty making this lens an ideal lens for black and white photography.
It is a very nice lens to add to your collection. It is great for landscape, interior and street photography. Selling at around 7k rm it is a steal in Leica terms.