Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 lens

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 lens

Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica

January 2018

“LEICA’s biggest secret – It’s LEICA’s smallest and lightest 90mm bayonet-mount lens ever made, and it also is among LEICA’s very highest-performance 90mm lenses of all time….”

(Ken Rockwell)(Link below)

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 – why I wanted this lens

After my first cycling-photography adventure to Fuertventura I wished I had owned a compact telephoto lens.  My existing Leica telephoto lenses are not compact and are on the whole quite heavy.  I have a Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO lens and a Leica Summicron 90mm f2 Pre-ASPH lens. Both Summicron lenses are fast (f2) so are relatively big and heavy (in Leica lens terms) due to all the glass elements inside.  I also own a chrome 1960’s Leica Elmar 135mm f4 lens.  The 135f4 is lightweight but I use it less than the Summicron lenses as I find it a bit soft shot at f4-f5.6.  This is potentially due to misfocus issues if my Leica M240 is not exactly calibrated with the  135mm lens.  For my next cycling adventure I thought I for landscape photography (and general snaps of things I saw on my travels) I didn’t need a fast lens such as a Leica Summicron lens with an f2 maximum aperture, nor even a Summarit with an f2.5 maximum aperture so I did a web search for Leica Elmar lenses.  Leica Elmar lenses have a f4 maximum aperture and as such tend to be lighter and more compact in size.  I found myself back on Ken Rockwell’s website and decided the lens that I wanted was the super compact Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 telephoto lens.  With a 39mm filter thread and it only being only slightly longer than my 28mm Leica Elmarit-M lens the 90mm Macro-Elmar seemed the perfect travel companion.  As you may have guessed I bought a Macro-Elmar 90f4 after finding a nice deal on a used lens.

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 – size comparison

Leica 90mm, 50mm, 28mm ..jpg

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 ...

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 – Test photos

When the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm lens arrived I did a few rough and ready test shots in the garden and around the house:

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4

Leica Macro Elmar-M 90mm

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 – Wedding Photography

I then had the opportunity to test the Macro-Elmar 90mm in a real situation (for my usual style of photography (portraiture – models and weddings) prior to taking it on my second cycling / photography adventure.  I packed the 90f4 Elmar for a bridal shoot / mock Leica wedding photography photoshoot and the results were fantastic even with the lens wide open at f4 and a 1/60 shutter speed.  It gave really nice subject background separation for portraiture despite being a slow f4 maximum aperture lens.  I will blog the wedding photography look images separately but here are a few 90mm examples from the day at Weston Hall Hotel:

Leica Wedding - Leica M3!

Leica Wedding Photos

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 – Model Photography

I took the Macro-Elmar  90f4 on my repeat cycling trip to Fuertventura as planned and used the lens as originally intended, for Leica landscape photography. Again, I will blog my thoughts once the accompanying photos are ready to share.  The photos were all shot on film and I still need to develop the film.  Since Fuertventura I have used the 90mm lens on most of my photoshoots including when I was in Budapest over the Christmas break.  Yes, blog to follow but here are a couple of Macro-Elmar 90mm samples from Hungary:

Leica Headshot

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm Headshot

After Budapest and starting 2018, the Leica Macro-Elmar 90mm lens continues to be my new favourite lens which I seem to keep gravitating to.  Here are some recent photos shot in the studio with the 90mm:

Leica Studio Shoot

Leica Photoshoot

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 lens

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 – thoughts so far

As you may have sensed I have been extremely impressed with the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 lens.  The small size is perfect for my overseas trips yet I still reach for it in the studio too.   It focuses closer than I think any of my other Leica M lenses in terms of magnification so I love it for tight headshots where I normally find I cannot get close enough.  My next best lens for close up headshot photos is equally impressive but larger  and heavier Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO lens.

To conclude, the Macro-Elmar-M 90mm is small, lightweight, close focusing (even without the Leica Macro adapter)(I don’t have) and super sharp wide open.  If you don’t need a fast lens such as f1.4-f2 the Leica Macro-Elmar 90mm f4 lens is a real winner.. and seemingly hidden gem amongst the Leica lens line up.  I have not noticed many other Leica photographers using this lens online or seen any rave reviews about it (other than Ken’s review linked below).

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 – Specifications

Rather than repeat the information readily available online please find a link to the Ken Rockwell’s 90mm Macro-Elmar-M review below including full lens spec.

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 – Related Posts

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Leica Summicron 90mm f2

Leica Summicron 90mm f2 vs Leica Summilux ASPH 75mm f1.4?

For Leica portraits I love my photos taken with the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 but I wanted to be able to get closer to my subjects. This gave me 2 real options. Leica Summicron 90mm f2 or Leica Summilux ASPH 75mm f1.4. Both lenses focus at 1M. Some of the other 90mm lenses do not focus as close and the 75/1.4 is the fastest 75mm lens and the 90/2 is the fastest Leica M mount lens.

The 75mm focal length is not hugely different from 50mm whereas for a 3 lens setup a 28mm (or 35mm), 50mm and 90mm makes more sense.

The Summilux 75/1.4 is would be easier to focus without a viewfinder magnifier however the Leica M9 does not have 75mm framelines.

The deciding factor was the used price of both lenses. The 90mm f2 Summicron can be picked up for 5x less than the 75mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH.

The only risk with either of these lenses is due to the very shallow depth of field it is possible that the rangefinder calibration on the Leica M9 does not align with that of the lens. As a result images may appear soft with the lens used wide open up close even though the lens is plenty sharp enough.

After seeing a newly listed Leica Summicron 90mm f2 on eBay I bought it straight away. There are a few different Summicron 90/2 lenses available. I got the Pre-M 1973 style version. It has a silky smooth slide out hood and newly serviced crisp aperture ring clicks.

I was very lucky in that the seller happened to live locally so I was able to take my M9 with me to test before buying. I was lucky and my lens is indeed sharp wide open on my M9. I would not stay razor sharp but plenty sharp enough for female portraits.

I cannot wait to see the Summicron 90/2 rendering and bokeh when used outside!

I will use the Leica M9 + Leica Summicron 90mm f2 combo on my next studio shoot so results to follow.

If you want to see what the lens looks like Ken Rockwell did a great Leica 90mm f2 comparison here.

MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.uk – UK Leica Photographer