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Leica 135mm lenses for M cameras advice sought


pgk
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I've owned a few! All have been Tele-Elmars or Elmarit-Ms. And I've not got on with any of them due to focus issues or image 'quality' (i.e. micro contrast, colour and overall contrast) of the resulting images. One was sharper on the LHS than the right but none have really been anywhere close to my 90mm Elmarit-M and certainly not in the same league s the 75mm Summicron.

 

However, 135mm is a focal length that I like so I'm minded to persevere so here are my questions:

 

Is the last iteration of the Tele-Elmar (E46) a better mechanical design and less prone to focus and other issues despite having the same optics?

 

Is the Apo-Telyt-M really a significant advance (is it up to the 75mm Summicron's standards)?

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When you compare the MTF-graphs of the 75mm Summicron to the 135mm Apo-Telyt, you'll see that the 135mm lens is significantly better - you'd expect this from a lens with modest opening.  

 

In practice the theoretical differences will not have much significance. The practical performance of the longer lens is impaired by the limits of the rangefinder. At f 3.4 and middle distance you'll have big problems to focus correctly - not the lenses fault, just the rangefinder's. Some users - with eyes of eagles and way above mere physics - will tell you there is no problem. You may try, perhaps with a magnifier for the rangefinder's ocular or with EVIL. 

 

Taking all into account the differences between the Tele-Elmar and the Apo-Telyt - even when you clearly can see them on MTF-graphs - are also just theoretical in most cases. I don't know if the different mechanical builts of the Tele-Elmar make any difference in usage. With the older built  of the Tele-Elmar you can unscrew the lens head and use it with the old Visoflex.

 

 

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I think that the mechanical construction of the last Tele Elmar doesn't make any difference in the practical issues of focusing a 135 via RF : add that it is by definition more costly than a "classic" Tele Elmar, and I conclude that a change isn't Worth.

 

The classic TE 135 is a lens that can be easily CLAed and RF-adjusted by a good lab... I did it with mine and my mean rate of correct focusing HAS improved. BUT.... I prefer always to use f8 or f11 with a 135 when at mean distances...

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The 135mm focus length is great, I like it very much with the SL (much better than with M). 

Any of the M 135 lenses is very sharp and rich in contrast. It is really a pleasure.

I am actually using an old silver Elmar 4/135 (the first M lens I bought, now active again since February). The main difference is the simpler coating. But it is also "apo". 

Here some photos     http://www.l-camera-...43#entry3056586

With the modern M rangefinder the 135mm are at the limit. It is necessary to have a calibrated M, a calibrated 135 and they have to fit together well. (So you need to get them calibrated at the same time, and repeat that from time to time)

That's why I only use them with the SL. (Or the M with LiveView)

So you blame the 135 for the focus problems, but I guess it is the calibration to a large degree.

Edited by steppenw0lf
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Just to make it quite clear. The Tele-Elmars that I have owned have always lacked significant micro contrast even when correctly focussed and at f/8-11. All have been older lenses though and only one was the version prior to the last, E46, version. They have also lacked overall 'bite' in terms of contrast even when used with the hood. So I suppose what I'm asking is whether the E46 version or later Apo-Telyt are significantly better or whether the copies that I have owned are atypical? I've also tried the f/2.8 version but it was too soft wide-open for my taste in this focal length.

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I thought the APO might be a good replacement for a late Tele-Elmar I had owned for years, and took the plunge. My take was that for my shooting, it was a waste of money. Yes there was improved micro contrast (at least on film), and the edges of the field seemed more clearly defined - the APO was clearly an improved lens by many measures. However, I really missed the capability to use the lens head separately, either directly on a Visoflex, or with bellows, or on my digital camera (via an adapter). I never got along with the 135 Elmarit with goggles, as Luigi indicated, it was just too unwieldy for a 135 lens. As far as the micro contrast on the Tele-Elmar, after looking at some of my slides from the 1960-70s, I would have to say that images "popping" were more highly dependent on the lighting than strictly lens design...and the APO in those circumstances would probably have been spectacular instead of merely really great. So, in summary, I prefer the non APO on the basis of results vs relative cost. When I could achieve grab shot results like those shown in the example below taken in blazing pacific sun with little prep time, IMHO the Tele-Elmar proved its worth again and again.

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I've owned a few! All have been Tele-Elmars or Elmarit-Ms. And I've not got on with any of them due to focus issues or image 'quality' (i.e. micro contrast, colour and overall contrast) of the resulting images. One was sharper on the LHS than the right but none have really been anywhere close to my 90mm Elmarit-M and certainly not in the same league s the 75mm Summicron.

 

However, 135mm is a focal length that I like so I'm minded to persevere so here are my questions:

 

Is the last iteration of the Tele-Elmar (E46) a better mechanical design and less prone to focus and other issues despite having the same optics?

 

Is the Apo-Telyt-M really a significant advance (is it up to the 75mm Summicron's standards)?

The focus problems are not due  to mechanical design, but to the limitations of the rangefinder. It is possible to focus an 135 reliably, but it will always be challenging. Personally I see very little quality differences between the Tele-Elmar and Apo-Telyt. Wide open the APO will have the edge, but it will only be visible using immaculate technique.

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My first Tele-Elmar, bought used, had slight focusing issues and I noticed the lens and barrel were mis-matched. So returned the lens for a refund. My later attempt to find a good specimen was more successful and is easy to focus on the M240 with live-view. I could not justify spending more for the Apo version. Before that I bought an excellent 135 Elmar and have been surprised how good that is for the price. You need to shop around because most are very old and tend to have dry lubricant unless serviced or used often.

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The 135mm Tele Elmar f4 was an "APO" lens even if not stated.

The new version, bigger, built in hood, larger filter, is the same lens..

Not only my observation, but many other lens users and testers.

My Hektor 135,, f4.5 is like other Hektors I had.

Lousy. A simple 135mm Enlarger lens was way better on my Visoflex.

 

The 135mm Elmarit f2.8 with giggles is an amazing lens!

A photojournalist was testing said lens, snapping a few images of the camera shop owner.

A few days later, I saw the results. Glossy 12x15" prints.

Simply spectacular in sharpness, image beautifully rendered.

I realized I needed to get better with 35mm!

So if some say soft, bad technique, RF not set.

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Well, not in Erwin Puts' authorative compendium, about the Tele-Elmar:

It is undoubtedly a front-rank design, but for true apochromatic correction we have to look at the next stage [i.e. the Apo-Telyt]

About the Apo-Telyt:

a masterpiece [...] that will challenge the technical capabilities of many users

A good copy of the Hektor is not "lousy". It is sharp, albeit of lower contrast, and one of the best IR lenses there is. If your experience was different you had one with haze, fungus or separation.

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My experience with the APO-Telyt-M and a pair of M3's has been spectacular. Many favourite images from this combination. I also have a 135mm Elmar f4, a superb lens, but not at the standard of the APO-Telyt-M. Also the Elmar is quite a bit longer (non-Tele) and about the same mass as the APO.

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The 135/3.4 is one class ahead at full aperture and f/4 compared to my 135/2.8 and 135/4. For good hit rates, better use an EVF or a magnifier at full aperture with this lens. A well calibrated RF will work fine at f/4 and on though. 

 

Exactly.

Why not have a look at the MTF curves? The 135/4.5 is much better than the classical 135s. Already starting at 3.4!

Jan

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Buy the 135 4.0 tele elmar.  The APO is not cost effective for the SLIGHT image quality difference and the head does not remove.

 

When the Leica rep showed me an early sample,  the first thing I did was check to see if the head unscrewed.  That makes it a no go  as I use a full set of iso lenses 65 to 560.

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Thanks all. My problem is whether the next 135mm that I buy will firstly focus correctly and secondly deliver better results than the last ones. May just be worth hanging on for an Apo-Telyt and getting it adjusted by Leica if needed - the Tele-Elmars are cheap enough but might prove expensive if needing adjustment - and the cost of adjustment isn't recoupable given the value of these lenses.

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Why expensive? Will van Manen adjusted my Tele-Elmar, it was years ago, and it was emphatically not expensive. I got my APO cheap,some years ago as it was A-, but I wouldn't have bothered otherwise. I still prefer to use the old type Tele-Elmar, much nicer to focus as the throw and feel suit me better. For daily work, I don't really see a difference in quality - I need a tripod for that.

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This won't help the original poster, but have had a couple of the 135s over the years with goggles, the Elmarit. Traded in the first one, then rebought a used one ridiculously cheap! It did great on the m6, even hand held, but I hated the weight! It is still a good lens and wish was a way to remove the goggles and rely on the EVF.

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