I had posted the other month about 90mm lenses on RF’s over at rangefinderforum, and was about to pick up a used Summarit for a good price when the 90mm Macro-Elmar-M caught my eye. I found one used for a good price, with the macro adapter, and went for it. I know there’s not a lot out there about this lens, so here’s how I feel so far.
First of all, its small. Collapsed its about the length of the 28 Summicron (which is a bit smaller than the Zeiss ZM 35/2). Actually its a bit smaller—by the difference of a UV filter ring. Extended its the length of the 50 Summilux ASPH with its hood retracted. It’s smaller in diameter than either of those lenses.
Extending the lens is quick and easy. It focuses pretty close without the adapter and I think is going to be perfect for walking around - the extra bit of close focus distance will let you zoom in on details if you need too. With the adapter, which is smaller than I imagined, all of my close focus needs are provided for. I used to shoot macro stuff with a Canon SLR, 100mm macro lens, and flash setup. Obviously this won’t do that kind of macro—bugs, tiny stuff, etc.—but for flower-sized ‘macro’, it’s perfect. Flowers, food, signs, leaves are all fair game with the adapter. If you were going on a real macro adventure, bring your SLR, but for travel, you extend your capabilities quite a bit with a unit the size of a deck of cards.
The lens seems sharp with nice bokeh. Sharp enough, even wide open. It’s not the fastest thing in the world, but I have other lenses for that. I think in low light, I’m better with a 50 or a 28 anyway. I can hand hold it to a surprisingly low speed, so all is not lost. I don’t know how it does with flare. I don’t have a hood for it, so I would imagine I’ll find out at some point.
This has got me to thinking though. When I do go out with my SLR, I’m going to start bringing the appropriate sized extension ring from now on. Tiny and who knows when it might come in handy.
While this lens is expensive new, you can probably find them used for around the $1k mark if you keep your eye out. At some point, I’ll flesh this review out a bit with some pictures of the lens and adapter.
More photos from this lens can be found on my flickr page.
So I’ve had this lens now for about 2 years. I don’t use it much, which is pretty much what I expected. It’s a bit slow for anything other than outdoors, so I usually don’t use it when I’m at home. It is perfect for travelling though. I travel (alone) a couple times a year for work. This lens takes up very little room and is plenty fast enough for outdoors. It really gives me the extra bit of reach for certain kinds of shots. I recently went to Japan and used this it a couple times. The turtle shot above is from that trip. Even though I had the 75mm Summilux before the trip, there was really no reason to lug around such a heavy lens when I could pack this one instead.
It is the kind of lens that I need to remind myself to use more often though. There are quite a lot of opportunities with this focal length, but I’m just don’t think in those terms a lot.
For some reason, in 2012, I sold this lens. I say ‘for some reason’ because I can’t remember what that reason was. I liked the lens, though I didn’t use it too much. It probably had to do with the fact that:
- I was quitting my job soon and moving to Ohio.
- I wanted a 6-bit coded version of it, and I had estimated the cost to have that done to be around $350. Almost easier to sell and rebuy.
- I never had the original hood as I had put together my set in pieces. The hood was probably going to run me $100–150.
Whatever the reason was, I sold it. I ended up selling it for a good deal more than I had originally purchased it for, so that worked out well. Likely due to point 1 above and the fact that I rarely saw them for sale used, I never ended up repurchasing the lens.
Fast forward to 2019. I’ve been shooting more and more on my Sony A7RII. As wonderful of a camera it is, I have decided to return to Leica. I examined the lenses I had, the lenses I might want to upgrade, etc., and I started to think about the 90mm Macro-Elmar-M. Some of my favorite photos were taken with it and its slow speed is not an issue for me as I have faster 90mm lenses.1 I looked around and found three (!) good used copies of it for sale. Two of the sets were 6-bit coded, and one of the lenses was actually the newer version for use with live view. Even though I like the idea of the new version locking in the collapsed position, I decided that the original version with the optical close focus adapter would be a better for me. I repurchased the lens and am looking forward to using it.
I will say that I am not a fan of the hood. I never had issues with flaring before, so I will probably leave it at home and just wing it with a UV filter, as there is no lens cap.
Since reacquiring this lens, I also ended up getting a Leica M10 Monochrom—my first digital M. Great camera which I’m sure I’ll write about at some point. Unfortunately, it introduced me to the world of poorly calibrated lenses and rangefinders. I can only assume that film is less sensitive to this issue.
Needless to say, the 90 Macro-Elmar M that I had received was pretty badly front focusing. I sent it off to DAG for fixing and it is now good. Unfortunately the macro adapter seems to be a bit off, but that is minor. I will shoot some film with that adapter and if it is good there, just live with live view on the M10 for macro.
90mm is not my favorite focal length. For some reason though, I now have 3 90mm lenses for Leica. 28mm is by far my favorite, of which I have 2. I also enjoy 50mm (2 lenses) and 21mm (1 lens). ↩︎