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LEICA 21mm f/3.4 ASPH
SUPER-ELMAR-M (2011-)

© 2011 KenRockwell.com. This page best with Corporate S regular and bold activated.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

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LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH

LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH (46mm filters, 9.280 oz./263.1g with hood, $2,995 new). Vergrößern. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link to them at Adorama, at Amazon and at B&H Photo-Video. They are never in stock; you have to order yours and wait. It helps me to keep helping you when you get anything through these links, regardless of the country in which you live. Thanks! Ken.

 

January 2014   LEICA Reviews   LEICA Lenses    All Reviews

 

See also:

How to Use Ultra-Wide Lenses

LEICA ELMARIT-M 21mm f/2.8 ASPH (1997-2011)

LEICA SUMMILUX-M 21mm f/1.4 ASPH (2008-today)

LEICA 21mm lenses, 1958 - today

21mm Rangefinder Lenses

LEICA 21mm Viewfinders, 1958 - today

 

Sample Image File

Golden Tree, June Lake Loop 18 October 2013

Golden Trees and Sunstar, June Lake Loop, 18 Oktober 2013. LEICA M typ 240, shot as DNG at ISO 200 with LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH at about f/11 at 1/60, processed in Aperture 3 into this full-resolution JPG. bigger or full-resolution JPG.

 

Introduction       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

Ritz Camera

I use Adorama, Amazon, eBay, Ritz, B&H, Calumet, J&R and ScanCafe. I can't vouch for ads below.

The LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH is LEICA's best ultrawide lens ever made at any price. It is ultrasharp at every aperture, has negligible distortion, is small, light and takes common 46mm filters, and for the first time since 1958's SUPER-ANGULON 21mm f/4, has a proper 9-bladed diaphragm for superior 18-pointed sunstars!

This LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH is better than today's $6,500 LEICA SUMMILUX-M 21mm f/1.4 ASPH because this f/3.4 lens is sharper, less distorted, much smaller, lighter and takes normal filters. Better optics, better handling and less than half the price makes this new f/3.4 lens the choice of the discerning and practical photographer.

This LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH is better than the previous $4,500 LEICA ELMARIT-M 21mm f/2.8 ASPH (1997-2011) because, while they have the same optical performance, this new lens has superior ergonomics, takes more common filters, is smaller, lighter and most importantly because this new lens has a 9-bladed diaphragm for superior 18-pointed sunstars.

Other than speed, the only lens that can outperform this lens in any way is 1958's SUPER-ANGULON 21mm f/4 because it takes standard 39mm filters and has less distortion due to its symmetrical design. The gotcha is that its symmetrical design prevents the use of through-the-lens meters or use on the LEICA M9 and LEICA M9-P, and the 1958 len's ergonomics aren't as good as this new LEICA 21mm f/3.4.

If you want the best LEICA ultrawide ever made, this LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH is it.

 

Compatibility       top

This LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH works perfectly on every LEICA M camera, from 1954's LEICA M3 through today's newest LEICA M7, LEICA MP, LEICA M9 and LEICA M9-P.

 

History       top

See Guide to all LEICA 21mm lenses, 1958 - today for details.

 

1958-1963

The LEITZ SUPER-ANGULON 21mm f/4 was made for LEICA by Schneider. It's a great lens and one of my favorites because of its 9-bladed diaphragm, tiny size and standard 39mm filter, but sadly newer cameras cannot meter with this great lens. The sensors of the LEICA M9 and LEICA M9-P are not compatible with it either, unless you use some odd software to compensate for edge effects.

On film, this is a great lens.

 

1963-1980

The LEITZ SUPER-ANGULON 21mm f/3.4 was also made for LEICA by Schneider.

It uses a bizarre 48mm filter size and has a hideous 4-bladed diaphragm.

It also is a symmetrical design not usually compatible with TTL metering or with the LEICA M9 and LEICA M9-P, so I've never bothered with it.

This old f/3.4 is therefore the least desirable of all LEICA 21mm lenses, so it's amusing that LEICA chose to pimp it up when talking about this new 21mm f/3.4 ASPH. Even if this old f/3.4 was interesting, it wasn't even made by LEICA.

 

1980-1997

The LEICA ELMARIT 21mm f/2.8 was the first 21mm actually made by LEICA.

It took 49mm filters and later 60mm filters.

 

1997-2011

The LEICA ELMARIT-M 21mm f/2.8 ASPH is LEICA's first aspherical 21mm lens and has magnificent performance, except for its moronic 8-bladed diaphragm that gives nasty 8-pointed sunstars that scream "shot on Canon!"

It takes 55mm filters, again a weird size for LEICA.

 

2011-

This LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH is LEICA's best 21mm lens ever. It offers the superior 9-bladed diaphragm for the first time since 1963, as well as superior ergonomics and takes a reasonable 46mm filter.

Yahoo!

LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH

LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH. Vergrößern.

 

Specifications       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

 

Name

Leica calls this the LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH, Verk. Nr. 11 145.

SUPER-ELMAR means it's an f/3.4 lens.

The -M means it's for LEICA's M-Kameras.

ASPH means it has two aspherical surfaces for higher optical performance.

 

Optics        top

Internal Diagram, LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH

LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH diagram. Vergrößern.

8 elements in 7 groups.

Two aspheric surfaces.

Four elements made with anomalous partial dispersion glass.

Rear surface is planar (flat).

Multi-coated.

 

Focal Length       top

21mm.

The actual focal length of this f/3.4 lens is actually slightly longer than the actual focal length of the LEICA ELMARIT-M 21mm f/2.8 ASPH (1997-2011) to which I compared it directly.

If used on the failed half-frame LEICA M8, it sees only an angle of view similar to what a 28mm lens sees on a real camera.

 

Angle of View       top

90º diagonal (75º on the half-frame M8).

81º horizontal (65º on the half-frame M8).

59º vertical (46º on the half-frame M8).

 

Diaphragm       top

LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH

LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH at f/5.6. Vergrößern.

9 straight blades, hallelujah!

This leads to superior sunstars, which is important for an ultrawide lens.

 

Close Focus

0.7 meters (2.5 feet), marked.

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio

1:29.8.

 

Minimum Subject Dimensions

716 x 1,074mm.

 

Filters

Common 46 x 0.75 mm (E46).

Avoid filters with extra-large outer rings like those by Contax and some by B+W; they won't fit inside the hood.

LEICA filters and Hoya filters work great.

 

Size        top

65.92mm (2.596") maximum diameter of hood, measured.

54.83mm (2.159") extension from flange, including hood, measured. (rated 43mm without hood.)

 

Weight        top

9.280 oz. (263.1g), measured, with hood.

9.825 oz. (278.6g), measured with hood and caps.

8.735 oz. (247.65g), measured without hood or caps.

Hood alone: 0.545 oz. (15.4g).

Front 14 212 and rear 14 269 caps: 0.545 oz. (15.45g) together.

Rated 9.2 oz. (260g) by LEICA.

 

Caps         top

LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH, capped

LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH, capped.

The supplied flexible TPE-V plastic 14 212 hood cap slips over the front of the hood. It is the same cap as used by the new LEICA SUMMILUX-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH (floating element) and LEICA TRI-ELMAR-M 16-18-21mm f/4 ASPH. The cap costs $27 sold singly.

The loaned lens seen here came with a standard 14 269 M rear cap. I don't know if new samples will come with the new 14 379 hard PC/ABS plastic rear M cap.

 

Hood        top

The supplied 12 465 hood is the as used by the new LEICA SUMMILUX-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH (floating element) and LEICA TRI-ELMAR-M 16-18-21mm f/4 ASPH. It costs $265 to replace.

The hood is short, tough and simple. It works well and doesn't get in the way.

The hood is LEICA's newest "spin-tight" design that screws on and off, and is hard-keyed for perfect alignment.

 

Announced        top

21 June 2011.

 

Available       top

Possibly by the end of 2011.

 

Part Numbers        top

Lens kit: 11 145 (what's included).

Nappa leather case: 439-606.096-000 (included).

Hood cap: 14 212 (TPE-V, included).

Hood: 12 465 (included).

Rear cap: 14 379 (PC/ABS, included). Replaces older 14 269 rear cap.

Front 46mm cap: 14 231 (not included, used if you lose the hood).

 

Case and caps, LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH

Box, LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH. Vergrößern.

 

Included         top

Case and caps, LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH

Ensemble: LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH. Vergrößern.

The lens comes with everything seen here, and more!

The lens arrives in a plastic bag with a matching serial number.

This is shipped inside a custom-padded genuine leather case. It has no straps and serves no purpose other than for protecting the SUPER-ELMAR-M 21/3.4 ASPH when it's thrown in the LEICAMAN's luggage.

This case is packed between cut foam spacers on top and bottom of the box.

The box includes an instruction manual, warrantee certificate and serial-numbered Prüfzertifikat (hand-signed test certificate).

The box has a serial number that matches the lens.

The silver box seen here is shipped inside another plain cardboard outer box, also with a matching serial number. The outer box is for protection against germs and fingerprints to insure that your shiny silver box is not touched by anyone other than yourself when you get your lens. This makes five items with serial numbers: lens, bag, Prüfzertifikat, box and germ shroud.

 

Quality        top

MADE IN GERMANY.

 

Price, USA         top

January 2014: $2,995 new.

November 2011: $2,995 new.

 

Performance       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

Overall   Bokeh   Color Balance   Distortion   Ergonomics   Falloff

Finder Blockage   Flare and Ghosts   Focus   Lateral Color  Mechanics

Sharpness   Spherochromatism   Sunstars

 

Overall       performance   top

The LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M ASPH 21/3.4 is LEICA's best 21mm f/3.4 ever, at any price. Its performance is virtually flawless.

Get one; there is no other 21mm lens to consider unless you really need f/1.4, or prefer the original LEITZ SUPER-ANGULON 21mm f/4 for its 39mm filter and lower distortion on film.

 

Bokeh       performance     top

Bokeh, the character of out of focus backgrounds, not simply how far out of focus they are, is unimportant with 21mm lenses because almost nothing is ever out of focus.

The only way to see anything out of focus is to have something very close to the lens, and then focus on it.

If you do this, bokeh is only fair in the center, and poor on the sides.

Here are crops from extremely enlarged prints of about 35 x 52" (90 x 135cm), or the equivalent of looking at LEICA M9 images, shot as DNG and converted in Apple Aperture 3, at 100% on-screen.

In these examples, a vertically polarized phase lattice was set up at 1 meter (3 feet) on which the SUPER-ELMAR-M ASPH was focused, while synthetic reference vegetation seen out of focus in the background was at 15 meters (50 feet).

 

Center Bokeh

 

Left Edge Bokeh

Edge bokeh doesn't vary much at the larger apertures because mechanical vignetting hides much of the aperture regardless of the diaphragm setting.

 

Color Balance       performance     top

Color balance appears the same as my other LEICA lenses, especially the LEICA ELMARIT-M 21mm f/2.8 ASPH (1997-2011) to which I compared it directly.

On a LEICA M9 and LEICA M9-P, you will see what appears to be a cooler color balance if you don't use a 21mm lens profile. This is because the light from the back of this lens hits these cameras' sensors at a steep angle which causes the light to hit different CCD wells leading to a bluer rendition over most of the frame. When you use a 21mm lens profile, all this technical hocus-pocus goes away and the picture looks normal, but on a digital LEICA without a profile set, the overall image, especially sides, will look bluer.

More at Usage.

 

Distortion       performance   top

The LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH has minimal distortion. If you see it, it bulges a little in the center and sucks-out again at the sides.

Its complex distortion doesn't correct completely with Photoshop's lens distortion filter; some waviness remains after correction. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.

 
Correct with
10' (3m)
-1.5

© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

LEICA 21/3.4 SUPER-ELMAR-M ASPH Distortion

LEICA's claimed distortion.

 

Ergonomics       performance   top

LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH

LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH. Vergrößern.

Ergonomics are perfect. They are the best of any 21mm LEICA lens ever.

The hood is solid metal. It's not moving no matter what you bang against it.

The aperture ring is exactly what we expect from LEICA; it's the same as other current lenses.

Likewise, focus is the same as other LEICA lenses made these past 30 years or so: perfect. This sample's focus was slightly stiffer than the focus of my LEICA ELMARIT-M 21mm f/2.8 ASPH.

 

Falloff (darker corners)        performance   top

The LEICA 21mm f/3.4 SUPER-ELMAR-M ASPH has no significant falloff when used with a lens profile on the LEICA M9.

If used without a profile, it appears to have significant falloff as a result of limitations of the M9's and M9-P's sensor.

I've greatly emphasized it below by shooting a gray field and presenting it against another gray field.

Unlike most of my lens reviews, I've shown these results in color so that shading variations and peripheral color shift are visible. For other lenses, I show these in monochrome for simplicity.

As of this writing (08 November 2011), the M9's most recent 1.162 firmware is defective (it doesn't always bother to write files), so my M9 is running the last good firmware version (1.138). Version 1.138 predates this lens' release, so my M9 lacks the exact profile for this lens — and love you readers as I do, I cannot load the 1.162 firmware just to try this profile at the expense of losing my images. Therefore I used the manual profile for the LEICA ELMARIT-M 21mm f/2.8 ASPH, which works great. More at Usage.

 

LEICA 21mm f/3.4 SUPER-ELMAR-M ASPH light falloff on M9 at infinity:

No lens profile:

f/3.4
f/4

f/5.6

f/8

© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

With 21mm f/2.8 ASPH 11 135/11 897 profile:

f/3.4
f/4

f/5.6

f/8

© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

LEICA 21/3.4 SUPER-ELMAR-M ASPH MTF, f/3.4

LEICA's claimed illuminance at f/3.4, f/5.6 and f/8.

LEICA rates it as 2.1 stops corner falloff at f/3.4 and 1.6 stops at f/5.6. (1.2 stops at f/3.4 and 1.0 stops at f/5.6 on the old half-frame M8).

 

Finder Blockage       performance   top

There is only the slightest blockage at the bottom of a shoe-mounted 21mm finder.

 

Flare and Ghosts       performance   top

LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH

Blinding direct view of midday sun at f/8, LEICA M9. Vergrößern.

Flare and ghosts aren't a problem. The only way to see ghosts or flare is to have the disk of the sun in the image, and expose for a much darker foreground against which one slight blob opposite the sun just might be able to be seen.

 

Focus        performance   top

Focus Accuracy

Focus accuracy is a personal issue between your sample of body and your sample of lens. No two samples match if you start looking too hard; this is a limitation of the mechanical technology.

This said, this particular sample focuses perfectly, as I'd expect for any 21mm lens.

21mm lenses have such huge depths-of-field that I've never seen one that didn't focus perfectly.

 

Focus Feel

Focus feels the same as other current LEICA lenses, if not a tiny bit stiffer.

There is never any play.

 

Lateral Color Fringes       performance   top

There are no lateral color fringes as shot on a LEICA M9.

 

Materials and Construction       performance   top

Rear, LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH

Rear, LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH. Vergrößern.

This SUPER-ELMAR-M ASPH is extremely well made. It's made the same as all other current LEICA lenses.

As expected, it's all black-anodized aluminum, with brass focus helicoids and mount, a solid aluminum threaded hood, and a red plastic index ball.

All markings are engraved and filled with paint.

Bravo!

 

Sharpness       performance   top

Warning 1: Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens.

Warning 2: Lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers.

With these caveats, this SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH is super-sharp at every setting. LEICA has never made a sharper 21mm lens.

Per my optical range tests, it's as sharp as the previous LEICA ELMARIT-M 21mm f/2.8 ASPH (1997-2011), both of which are spectacular.

This f/3.4 lens is rated slightly sharper than today's LEICA SUMMILUX-M 21mm f/1.4 ASPH. I don't have one of the f/1.4s here for direct comparison.

LEICA 21/3.4 SUPER-ELMAR-M ASPH MTF, f/3.4

LEICA's claimed MTF at 5, 10, 20 und 40 cyc/mm.

 

LEICA 21/3.4 SUPER-ELMAR-M ASPH MTF, f/3.4

LEICA's claimed MTF at 5, 10, 20 und 40 cyc/mm.

 

LEICA 21/3.4 SUPER-ELMAR-M ASPH MTF, f/3.4

LEICA's claimed MTF at 5, 10, 20 und 40 cyc/mm.

LEICA's MTF curves agree with what I saw: no variation in sharpness with aperture, and sharp corner-to-corner.

 

Spherochromatism       performance   top

The LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH has no visible spherochromatism, as expected.

Spherochromatism, mistakenly called "color bokeh" by laymen, is when out-of-focus highlights take on colored fringes, usually green and magenta.

 

Sunstars       performance   top

LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH

18-point sunstars at f/8. LEICA M9. Vergrößern.

The SUPER-ELMAR-M ASPH's straight 9-bladed diaphragm begets magnificent uniform 18-pointed sunstars on brilliant points of light.

 

Usage       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

Finders

You will need to use your choice of shoe-mounted 21mm viewfinder.

 

Metering

TTL and shoe-mounted LEICAMETERS of all LEICA and lesser cameras of all ages work great with this 21/3.4.

 

Lens Profiles (für digital LEICAs only)

Use a 21mm lens profile on the LEICA M9 or LEICA M9-P.

Without a lens profile, images sides and corners will be much darker and bluer.

As of this writing (08 November 2011), the LEICA M9's most recent 1.162 firmware is defective (it doesn't always bother to write files), so of course my M9 is running the last good firmware version 1.138. Version 1.138 predates this lens' release, so therefore my M9 lacks the exact profile for this lens.

I wouldn't suggest loading the 1.162 firmware just to get the proper profile for this lens at the risk of losing images.

I use the manual profile for the LEICA ELMARIT-M 21mm f/2.8 ASPH, and it works great.

 

Hood

The hood screws on and off.

Unscrew it to mount filters.

 

Filters

Since the hood screws over your filter, the hood won't screw over extra-fat filters like the Contax and some by B+W.

LEICA filters and Hoya filters work great, as do most Heliopan and B+W filters.

 

Compared       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH

LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH ünd LEICA ELMARIT-M 21mm f/2.8 ASPH. Vergrößern.

Per my optical range tests, this f/3.4 lens as sharp at f/4 and smaller as the previous LEICA ELMARIT-M 21mm f/2.8 ASPH (1997-2011). This f/3.4 lens is sharper at f/3.4 than the f/2.8 lens is at f/2.8.

This f/3.4 lens is rated slightly sharper than today's LEICA SUMMILUX-M 21mm f/1.4 ASPH. I don't have one of the f/1.4s here for direct comparison.

 
Dates
2011-
2008-
1997-2011
1980-1997
1963-1980
1958-1963
Color
black
black
black, also silver
black
Black or silver
silver
Filter
46mm
Series VIII or 82mm
55mm

55mm, earlier 49mm

48mm or Series VII
39mm
Length
55mm w/hood
66mm
46mm
46.5mm
51mm
27mm
Finder Blockage
minor
major
minor
   
none
Optics
8/7 retrofocus aspherical
10/8 retrofocus aspherical
9/7 retrofocus aspherical
8/6 retrofocus
8/4 symmetrical
9/4 symmetrical
Diaphragm
9 blades
 
8 blades
8 blades
4 blades!
9 blades
Sunstars
18 points
 
8 points
8 points
4 points!
18 points
Aperture ring clicks
half stops
half stops
half stops
   
full stops
f/min
f/16
f/16
f/16
f/16
f/22
f/22
Close focus
0.7m
0.7m
0.7m
0.7m, earlier 0.38m
0.4m
0.4m
Distortion, 3m
-1.5, complex
       
+1.0 simple
Weight
263g w/hood
580g
347g w/hood
290g
301g
251g
Price, 11/2011

$2,995
New

$6,495
New

$3,500
used

$1,300 used
$1,500 used
$1,000 used

 

Recommendations       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

As I've been saying, this is LEICA's best 21mm lens ever. I had my own on order only an hour after I got this loaner in my hands.

This 21/3.4 is a lens for photographers. The LEICAMAN doesn't make photographs, so he prefers the big, ugly and expensive LEICA SUMMILUX-M 21mm f/1.4 ASPH instead as a toy, but don't you be fooled. The f/1.4 lens is only for LEICAMEN and for use only if you really need faster apertures for use in very low light. Because of the short focal length, even at f/1.4 there isn't much out-of-focus. If you need to isolate a subject, use a longer lens.

The 21mm f/3.4 isn't available just yet. To get ours, we need to order it and be patient. See also How to Get It.

 

More Information       top

LEICA's technical data

LEICA's Fluff Page

 

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Thanks for reading!

 

 

Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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November 2011