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Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4 ultra wide angle lens
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Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4 ultra wide angle lens

The 21mm Leica ultra wide angle lens

By: Thorsten Overgaard

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Back to basics with the 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH

The Leica super wide angle lenses are known for having very little or no distortion. The 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4 is the "remake" of the 21mm Super-Angulon-M f/3.4 lens that I have used quite a bit. I've also used the Leica 19mm Leica Elmarit-R f/2.8 a lot.


Cambridge University library 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M f/3.4


The previous 21mm Super-Angulon-M f/3.4 was made for film cameras and in the modern digital Leica rangefinders one will see that the lens extrudes so far back into the body that is shadows for the lightmeter. Further, the previous model has very strong color abbaration in the corners. So it is a relief the redesigned new 21mm f/3.4 is out as a compact and fairly economical.

The new Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4 was released in Paris in June 2011 but then recalled as the focusing was stiff. The lens was then redesigned from 52 mm in diameter to 54mm in diameter so as to allow for grease and a smoother focusing. Lecia Camera AG asked anyone who had gotten the original model delivered to return it and get the new one. Some did while others sold the "faulty" lens to a collector.


Cambridge University library 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M f/3.4



Why I changed my 21mm lens from f/3.4 to f/1.4

After having traveled with the Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M f/3.4 for a couple of years I decided I wanted to change my lenses to fewer lenses and only have a select few "sexy" and "superior" lenses with me.

I had met with lens designer Peter Karbe shortly before I found myself in Sydney, and he had mentioned that I shoudl try to take portraits with the Leica 21mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 because it has no distortion.

The Summilux lens have always appealed to me, despite it's price tag and size. So when in Sydney, I knew that my friends at Camera Electronics in Perth had one in stock. So I called them and asked if they could sell it to me and at the same time help me clean out my lenses. So I sent them my 21/3.4, 35/2, 35/1.4 and a 90/2.5 and next morning the 21mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 arrived at the coffee shop where I usually had my morning coffee.


The Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4 on the Leica M9-P that was released the same day as the lens in 2011. © 2011-2015 Thorsten Overgaard.


Same quality as the Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 FLE

So I didn't let go of the 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4 for any other reason than that I wanted a "sexy" and superior lens that I would have fun using. The 21mm tends to be a lens that is practical to have whenever you need to take a really wide photo. Which is not that often as it turns out.

With the Summilux I will often take only that lens with me for a day and "think 21mm" and have a real great time with it. Because it's an artistic rather than practical choice.

The 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4 is in the same quality range as the 35mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 FLE (FLoating Elements) in terms of color accuracy, contrast and crisp sharppness. So it's a very good lens.


The Leica M4 with my Leica 21mm Super-Angulon-M f/3.4


Easy to focus

One of the things I liked about my old Leica 21mm Super-Angulon-M f/3.4 was the fact that a super wide lens with a f/3.4 opening is sharp almost from near-focus to infinity. The same goes for the new Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4.

If you tilt a wide angle lens, the lines wil tilt in the photograph. It can be very dramatic and a desired effect. For me, I prefer straight lines and I get those by holding the camera upright vertical. This way all lines are straight.

But the f/3.4 basically allow you to set the lens focus to for example 4 feet (1.2 meters) and you will see on the depth of field scale on top of the lens that everything from (3 feet) 90 centimeters to infinity will be in focus. This allow you to point the camera at some subject and simply shoot. It will be in focus, so all you have to pay attention to is that the camera is straight, and the exposure.

That's how I did the photos above from Cambridge Univsersity (because you are not allowed to take pictures inside).


The Leica M 240 with my Leica 21mm Super-Angulon-M f/3.4 (and the lens shade).



How to get correct exposure with a super wide lens

The Leica M9, Leica M Monochrom, the Leica M 240 and the Leica M 246 Monochrom all uses Classic metering, which means that the lightmeter in the camera base the exposure on an oval about 1/3 of the center of the sensor.

It's very easy to use the light metering with 50mm lenses and so on and get it right.

With a wide angle lens you should notice that you often will get the sky (which is usually much brighter than everything else) as part of the 1/3 of the center of the sensor, simply because the lens see so wide. This is how and why the light meter will pick up bright light and underexpose the real center of intersti in the photo. So jut keep an eye on that.

Tilt the camera slightly down or away from the strong light source, press the shutter release half down to lock the exposure reading, then recompuse and press the shutter.



Back story - The introduction in 2011

These images has been taken as JPG straight out of the camera at the release event in Paris, June 2011






world press
The world press have spotted a man with a Leica M9-P with Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4


Read about the classic 21mm Super-Angulon-M f/3.4 here.

Thorsten Overgaard's Leica Article Index
Leica M cameras:   Leica S:
Leica M Type 240 and M-P Typ240 (Leica M10)   Leica S1 digital scan camera
Leica M Monochrom Typ246 digital rangefinder   Leica S2 digital medium format
Leica M Monochrom MM digital rangefinder   Leica S digital medium format
Leica M9 and Leica M-E digital rangefinder    
Leica M9-Professional digital rangefinder   Leica Cine Lenses:
Leica M4 35mm film rangefinder   Leica Cine lenses
Leica M lenses:   Leica SLR cameras:
Leica 21mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4   Leica SL 2015 Typ 601
Leica 21mm Leica Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4   Leica R8/R9/DMR film & digital 35mm dSLR cameras
Leica 21mm Super-Angulon-M f/3.4   Leica R10 [cancelled]
Leica 28mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4   Leica R4 35mm film SLR
Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH FLE f/1.4   Leica R3 electronic 35mm film SLR
Leica 35mm Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leicaflex SL/SL mot 35mm film SLR
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95   Leica R lenses:
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0 and f/1.2   Leica 19mm Elmarit-R f/2.8
Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f//1.4   Leica 35mm Elmarit-R f/2.8
Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leica 50mm Summicron-R f/2.0
Leitz 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0 "rigid" Series II   Leica 60mm Macro-Elmarit f/2.8
Leica 75mm Summilux-M f/1.4   Leica 80mm Summilux-F f/1.4
Leica 75mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leica 90mm Summicron-R f/2.0
Leica 90mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leica 180mm Elmarit-R f/2.8
Leica 90mm Summarit-M f/2.5   Leica 400mm Telyt-R f/6.8
Leica 90mm Elmarit f/2.8   Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/2.8
Leitz 90mm Thambar f/2.2   Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/4.0
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Photo above: Leica R8/DMR with Leica 19mm Leica Elmarit-R f/2.8 version 1 @ f/2.8, 200 ISO.

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LEItz CAmera = LEICA



Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4
New Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4 prototype at the factory before the release.



Also visit:

Overgaard Photography Workshops
Leica Definitions
Leica History
"Photographer For Sale"
Leica Lens Compendium
Leica Camera Compendium
Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4
Leica 21mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4

Leica 28mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4
Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4
Leica 35mm Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95
Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M f/2.0
Leica 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0
Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4
Leica 75mm Summilux-M f/1.4
Leica 90mm Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0
Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/2.8
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Thorsten Overgaard
Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish writer and photographer, specializing in portrait photography and documentary photography, known for writings about photography and as an educator. Some photos are available as signed editions via galleries or online. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via e-mail.

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