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Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/2.8 ASPH
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Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8
 
 
   
   

Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/2.8 ASPH - MACRO

By: Thorsten Overgaard


The Rudolf Steiner Kindergarten in the garden of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. Leica R8 with DMR, 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 @ 100 ISO f/2.8.

This is a very dear lens in more than one sense. It's a rare lens that was only produced in ca. 200 pcs. from 1998 to 2001, simply because it was very difficult to produce, and Leica eventually gave up making a profit on it. (And it wasn't because it wasn't an expensive lens in the first place to acquire).

But more importantly, it's simply a brilliant lens. In his Lens Compendium, Erwin Puts write about the 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 that "the 2.8 performance is better than the 2.8/35 and the 2/35
at 2.8", and compares it to it's 1997-littlesister, the 35-70mm Vario-Elmar-R ASPH f/4.0 (which is generally acclaimed as a lens with a fantastic picture quality) by saying, "the newer 2.8/35-70 has 11 lenses, many of
which are of exotic specification, proving the effort to go up just one stop. With this lens Leica introduces an interesting strategy and that is building a low aperture lens to very high optical standards of performance. The luminous energy flowing through a lens of aperture f/2,8 is twice the amount of a lens with an aperture of f/4 and the effort to control and manage this energy flow is very demanding. It is not well recognized how difficult it is for a designer to control aberrations when stepping up one stop."

Let's be honest. This is a huge lens, and you will soon start questioning if you could do with one stop less in the much more compact (and much much more economical) f/4.0 littlesister. For my part I've never used the f/4.0 indoor, and that is where I do most of my shooting. So it's been a rather useless "sunshine lens" which I'm sure people living in more sunny parts of the world appreciate.

After using the f/2.8 for a few days I got used to the extra "long tale" hanging over and behind my right shoulder and managed to move around so that the lens did not constantly hit walls and doors. And then I was sold. It's simply a nice lens to handle, fast to focus, and has a size and grip that made it easy for me to imagine I was already handing a Leica S lens (I was testing this lens in the days after the Leica S2 was released at Photokina, September 2008).

Leica R8/DMR , 1/90, 200 ISO, Processed via Lightroom 2
Leica R8/DMR with 35-70/2.8 @ f/2.8, 1/90, 200 ISO, Processed via Lightroom

As for weight, that was not an issue for me. The lens I use the most on the R8 and R9 is the 80mm Summilux-R f/1.4 which is not a huge lens, but still weights 700 g.

In general it was very soon "my lens" and went where I went, and I appreciated the flexibility of being able to zoom where I would normally shift between my two preferred lenses, the 35mm Elmarit-R f/2.8 and the 80mm Summilux-R f/1.4. Being a special lens, it has the "love factor" that the f/4 doesn't have, likewise the 80mm Summilux-R, the 50mm Noctilux-M, the 75mm Summilux-M and other special lenses. It's in that special category of "lenses like no other".

The relatively good depth of field, along with a very smooth and fast focusing mechanism, make it easy to obtain sharp pictures, even when in a hurry, and it captures extreme details in crisp colors. Only disappointment to me is that I love to shoot against the sun, and the zoom is simply not made for that; too much glass for the strong light to reflected in under such extreme conditions. As can be seen in the Erwin Puts qoute in the buttom of this page, it does well in handling light; but only when the light source (the sun) is just outside the frame.

The first RED EPIC users started playing around with the Leica adapters in January 2012 which will enable RED EPIC video cameras to take Leica R and Leica M lenses. As if it wasn't hard enought to get Leica M lenses, this won't make it easier. And the R lenses that seemed to have dropped a little in price are likely to go op again, especially on the more exotic ones that are suitable for video.

Leica R to EPIC RED converter   RED EPIC with the worlds best zoom, the Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8
The Leica R to EPIC RED converter. A similar exist for Leica M lenses to be mounted onto RED EPIC.   RED EPIC with the worlds best zoom, the Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 that only 200 has been produced of (second-hand price ca. 10,000$)
    Photo by Clayton Haskell

Marco Onorato receives an EUROPEAN CINEMATOGRAPHER 2008 award at European Film Awards at Forum on December 6, 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark (Photo by Thorsten Overgaard/Getty Images)
Marco Onorato receives an EUROPEAN CINEMATOGRAPHER 2008 award at European Film Awards at Forum on December 6, 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark (Photo by Thorsten Overgaard/Getty Images). Leica R8 DMR with 35-70mm f/2.8 @ f/3.4, 400 ISO, 1/125 sec, Lightroom 2 RAW-conversion.

   
   


British soul singer and songwriter Seal
in an exclusive photo session at The Soho Hotel in London, promoting his new album “SOUL," October 2008 (AP Photo/Thorsten Overgaard). Leica R8 DMR with Leica Vario-Elmarit-R 35-70mm f/2.8, 200 ISO, 1/15 sec (with mirror up which create more movement of the camera as the mirror and camera is shooting in turn, fast after each other). Converted to b&w (and contrast increased dramatically) in Hasselblad/Imacon FlexColor 4.6 RAW converter.

    Leica R8 with DMR, 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 @ f/4.0
   
   
    Leica R8 with DMR, 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 @ f/2.8
   
   
    Leica R8 with DMR, 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 @ f/4.0
   
   
    Leica R8 with DMR, 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 @ f/5.6. Here's a detail from that, ca. 80% of full-size:
     
   
    Leica R8 with DMR, 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 @ f/3.4, 200 ISO
   
   
    Leica R8 with DMR, 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 @ f/4.0, 200 ISO (shot out through the car window; you can see the blur from the window edge in the buttom of the frame)
   
   
    Leica R8 with DMR, 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 @ f/2.8, 200 ISO
   
   
    Leica R8 with DMR, 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 @ f/2.8, 200 ISO
   
   
    Leica R8 with DMR, 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 @ f/2.8 , 200 ISO
   
   
    Leica R8 with DMR, 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 @ f/4, 200 ISO
   
   
    Leica R8 with DMR, 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 as MACRO @ f/8
   
   
    Leica R8 with DMR, 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 @ f/2.8 (see f/8 below for comparison of DOF)
   
   
    Leica R8 with DMR, 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 @ f/8
   
    American actress Kelly Preston is wearing a Chanel creation by French designer Karl Lagerfeld from the AW08/09 Chanel ready-to-wear collection, Sunday, Oct 26, 2008 at the Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead where she handed over a charity check of  50,000 to the Sussex Air Ambulance Service on behalf of the L. Ron Hubbard Foundation and the Church of Scientology at the 12th annual Gala Charity Concert. With Kelly Preston was husband John Travolta and daughter Ella Blue who flew in from Paris in their private jet for a few days in UK. John Travolta is currently filming
    American actress Kelly Preston wearing a Chanel creation by French designer Karl Lagerfeld, at the Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead where she handed over a charity check of £ 50,000 to the Sussex Air Ambulance Service on behalf of the L. Ron Hubbard Foundation. (AP Photo/Thorsten Overgaard). Leica R8 DMR with Leica Vario-Elmarit-R 35-70mm f/2.8, 200 ISO, 1/25 sec. Converted in Lightroom 2.0 RAW-converter.
   
   

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    American actor Tony Curtis
    American actor Tony Curtis in London, October 2008. Leica R8 DMR with Leica Vario-Elmarit-r 35-70mm f/2.8, 400 ISO, 1/60 sec, converted with Lightroom 2.0. As you can see, the lens actually handles the light coming in through the window to the left quite bad; stray light is all over the picture field. It seems a problem at 70mm where the light reflectons seem to fill the full frame, whereas at 35mm it only fills part of the frame, usually the center.
   
    American actor Tony Curtis being interviewed at The Herrods in London by Niel Sean of FOX Entertainment and Emma Brumpton, October 2008
    American actor Tony Curtis being interviewed at The Herrods in London by Niel Sean of FOX Entertainment and Emma Brumpton, October 2008. The guy in the background is Mr. Curtis' designated wheelchair driver! Leica R8 DMR with Leica 35-70mm f/2.8, ISO 400, 1/45 sec. Lightroom 2.0 conversion of RAW.
   
    British actress Judi Dench receives an honorary LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD at European Film Awards at Forum on December 6, 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark  (Photo by Thorsten Overgaard/Getty Images)British actress Judi Dench receives an honorary LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD at European Film Awards at Forum on December 6, 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark  (Photo by Thorsten Overgaard/Getty Images)
    British actress Judi Dench receives an honorary LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD at European Film Awards at Forum on December 6, 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark (Photo by Thorsten Overgaard/Getty Images). Leica R8 DMR with 35-70mm f/2.8 @ f/3.4, 400 ISO, 1/125 sec, Lightroom 2 RAW-conversion.
   
     
     
   
    Marianna Faithfull arriving at European Film Awards at Forum on December 6, 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark  (Photo by Thorsten Overgaard/WireImage)
    Marianna Faithfull arriving at European Film Awards at Forum on December 6, 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark (Photo by Thorsten Overgaard/WireImage). Leica R8 DMR with 35-70mm f/2.8 @ f/3.4, 400 ISO, 1/125 sec, Lightroom 2 RAW-conversion.
   
    Mille Hoffmeyer Lehfeldt and husband arrives at European Film Awards at Forum on December 6, 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark  (Photo by Thorsten Overgaard/WireImage)
    Mille Hoffmeyer Lehfeldt and husband arrives at European Film Awards at Forum on December 6, 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark (Photo by Thorsten Overgaard/WireImage). Leica R8 DMR with 35-70mm f/2.8 @ f/3.4, 400 ISO, 1/125 sec, Lightroom 2 RAW-conversion.
   
    President of EFA, film director Win Wenders and wife arrive at European Film Awards at Forum on December 6, 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark  (Photo by Thorsten Overgaard/WireImage)
    President of EFA, film director Win Wenders and wife arrive at European Film Awards at Forum on December 6, 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark (Photo by Thorsten Overgaard/WireImage). Leica R8 DMR with 35-70mm f/2.8 @ f/3.4, 400 ISO, 1/125 sec, Lightroom 2 RAW-conversion.
   
    Lifetime Acchievement Award nominee Judi Dench arrives at European Film Awards at Forum on December 6, 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark  (Photo by Thorsten Overgaard/WireImage)
    Lifetime Acchievement Award nominee Judi Dench arrives at European Film Awards at Forum on December 6, 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark (Photo by Thorsten Overgaard/WireImage). Leica R8 DMR with 35-70mm f/2.8 @ f/3.4, 400 ISO, 1/125 sec, Lightroom 2 RAW-conversion.
   
   
   

Confirmation portrait. This photo session was done with both the 90mm Summicron-R f/2.0 and - as the above - 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/2.8 @ 2.8 on the R8/DMR. 200 ISO, RAW conversion in Lightroom 2.0. Click here to see the counterpart in the 90mm Summicron-R site.

   
     
     
    35-70mm Leica Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8
    The 35-70mm Leica Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 with box. It also comes with a leather bag.
   

   
   
    Further quotes from Erwin Puts' Lens Compendium on this lens:
"Night pictures are quite demanding as specular highlights, deep shadows and large bright light sources
generate secondary reflections and veiling glare and halo effects . The Vario-Elmarit-R is outstanding here. No coma at all: in the critical zone in the negative (2/3 from the axis that is the zone of 12 to 18mm from center),
light sources are cleanly delineated, hold their shape and are without any halo rings. Light sources very close together at far distances are separated clearly and without fuzzy rings and have a brilliantly clear luminance. Dark shadows are clean black and the darker colors have fine color hues."
"It is always possible to take photographs with secondary reflections and veiling glare. No lens I know of is
immune to forced glaring effects. More important is the performance in more 'natural' circumstances."
"The Vario-Elmarit-R can be used without any reservation in strong backlit situations and in oblique lighting when the sources are just outside the lens elements. When forced you will notice an occasional strongly colored secondary reflection in the image. Efficient coating on the almost twenty free lens surfaces is evident. Optically this lens brings the vario
performance a few steps higher. The 70 position is the best and has Apo qualities."
   
     
Left: Leica R8 w/DMR with 35-70mm  Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8
Right: Laica R9 w/motor with 35-70mm Vario-Elmar-R ASPH f/4.0
 


The Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 is a 1,000 g lens, 145 mm long and 89 mm in diameter. The smaller 35-70mm Vario-Elmar-R ASPH f/4.0 is only 400 g, 84 mm long and 70 mm in diameter.
Interestingly enough, this huge lens feels nice and natural after a while. As comparison, the 80mm Summilux-R 80mm f/1.4 is 700 g, yet the size of the 35-70mm f/4.0.

Also see my Leica Lens Compendium which is a complete list of Leica lenses  since 1908.

For detailed technical information about the 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/2.8, download the original brochure as PDF here.

 

 

Also visit:

NEW: Advanced Photo Workshop
Leica Definitions
Leica History
"Photographer For Sale"
Leica Lens Compendium
Leica Camera Compendium
NEW: Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95
Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8
Leica Digilux 2
Leica X1

NEW: Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4
Leica S2 medium format dSLR
Learn from Thorsten Overgaard

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 onlline. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via e-mail.

Feel free to e-mail to thorsten@overgaard.dk for
advice, ideas or improvements.


 


 

 






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