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The FOUR lenses in the MATE

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The Leica 28-35-50 Tri-Elmar (also known as the Medium Angle Tri-Elmar, or MATE) is a lens well-known for its complexity, and for the fact that it hasn't been made in ~14 years.  As one might expect for a lens that offers three of the most popular focal lengths, 28 mm, 35 mm, 50 mm, it's a highly versatile lens, especially for travel and street photography, or whenever carrying multiple lenses is a challenge.  

The MATE is an engineering marvel— not only does it offer three focal lengths at constant f/4 aperture, but changing the focal length also mechanically changes the frame lines to match, AND if 6-bit encoded on recent (digital M) bodies, will also change the focal length displayed in Live View and the focal length recorded in each image's EXIF data to match, thanks to the body's ability to detect the frame line lever position.

One of MATE's shortcomings—the maximum f/4 aperture—is mitigated by the high ISO performance of M10-generation bodies, especially the M10 Monochrom.

I was fortunate to obtain one of these lenses recently (v2, E49), and while putting it through its paces, found that the MATE actually offers a "fourth lens"—a ~40 mm pseudo-macro (close-focus) option that is accessed by setting the focal length to the mid-point between 50 mm (the middle position of the zoom ring) and 28 mm (the clockwise-most position of the zoom ring when looking at the front of the lens).  The precise position is not critical, although a position close to the actual mid-point between 50 and 28 works best.  

At this setting, you end up with a ~40 mm focal length lens that can close-focus to ~0.4 meters!  While not as macro-capable as a true macro lens such as the 90/4 Macro Elmar, one can capture subjects at a much greater size than otherwise possible with this lens, especially given that its minimum focusing distance is normally a full 1.0 meters.  Of course the rangefinder cannot be used to focus in this mode, but Live View with focus peaking works quite well for focusing in this mode.

Attached is a matrix showing the same subject photographed with the MATE at all four focal lengths, always at the minimum focusing distance.  The entire frame of each image is shown (no cropping).  You can see that the "40 pseudo-macro" option has a much larger subject reproduction ratio than the three standard focal lengths.

I've also found the 40 pseudo-macro option quite useful for taking portraits—more so than the canonical option of 50 mm with a 1-meter minimum focusing distance.  This option is optically quite good, approaching the (excellent) 50 mm focal length in terms of overall sharpness.

 

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That's fascinating. I thought the elements needed to be in full alignment to function as intended and leaving it in a mid-position wasn't an option.

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Posted (edited)
17 minutes ago, james.liam said:

That's fascinating. I thought the elements needed to be in full alignment to function as intended and leaving it in a mid-position wasn't an option.

No, it's a bona fide zoom lens, James, like the Dual-Hexanon 21/35.

Pete.

Edited by farnz

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22 minutes ago, farnz said:

No, it's a bona fide zoom lens, James, like the Dual-Hexanon 21/35.

Pete.

Wasn't aware that the intermediate FL's worked on the MATE! Thought only the WATE was a bona fide zoom. Live & learn.

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Ennh - the MATE is not a true zoom, because 1) as the OP demonstrates, it isn't parfocal - the in-between settings don't hold focus distance. Cannot therefore be used for a continuous zoom while shooting video, for example.

And 2) one cannot zoom with one movement from 28 to 35 to 50mm. One has to change focal lengths 28>50>35, or 35>50>28.

It is a doubled varifocal lens: a 28-50, with a "gear change" at 50mm to make it a 50-35. In order to accomodate the default M frameline ordering.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varifocal_lens

By comparison, the WATE zooms in one motion from 16-18-21, in order, and holds focus at the in-between settings. Since the internal frameline mechanism is irrelevant at those focal lengths.

Be interesting to do some optical tests at the "~40mm" setting (is there also one between 50 and 35?) - for barrel or pincushion distortion, and resolution into the corners at various apertures.

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A fair point, Andy, perhaps I should have written that the MATE offers continuous focal lengths between its nominated focal lengths, or something of the sort.  It hadn't occurred to me that someone might shoot video with it but of they could/might.

Pete.

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Sorry I seemed abrupt and grumpy, though. It was late. 😳

There are several names for specific lens types that have acquired a generic meaning, and most of the time it doesn't matter.

For example a "telephoto" lens did not originally mean any long focal length. It meant "a lens design that makes the physical length more compact than the actual focal length." Quite a mouthful....

Thus we have the 90mm Elmarit (1) or 135 Elmar, whose optical centers are actually 90 or 135mm from the film when focused for infinity, and the Tele-Elmarit and Tele-Elmar, which are significantly shorter. Technically, the compact 1980 90mm Summicron-M should have been called the "Tele-Summicron" to distinguish it from the earlier stovepipe 90 Summicrons.

It's just that in this particular discussion, the now-generic meaning of "zoom" ("any lens with variable focal length") was introducing some confusion.

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Posted (edited)

I assume you can use it as a continues zoom between 28mm and 50mm? and find a "hacked 35mm" ? (look through EVF to decide). 

Can you compare the "hacked 35mm" and the "true 35mm"? Just to get a feeling how to play the game. 

Edited by Einst_Stein

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I'll do some additional tests tonight and will report back.  My earlier findings were that the midpoint of 35 and 50 was not useful, but I'll double-check when I'm done with work.

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I’m not aware of any photographer whom I consider as street photog with this lens.

 I cannot recall any street photog who is jumping between three lenses on the street, either.
:)

 

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vor 5 Stunden schrieb adan:

Thus we have the 90 mm Elmarit (1) or 135 mm Elmar, whose optical centers are actually 90 or 135 mm from the film when focused for infinity ...

Sorry but there is no such thing as 'the optical center' of a lens.

Instead, it's the position of the rear principal plane that determines the lens type. There are three options:

  • rear principal plane before the front element's front vertex = telephoto lens
  • rear principal plane inside the lens = regular lens
  • rear principal plane behind the rear element's rear vertex = retrofocus lens (also called 'reverse telephoto,' for obvious reason)

.

vor 5 Stunden schrieb adan:

Technically, the compact 1980 Summicron-M 90 mm should have been called the "Tele-Summicron" to distinguish it from the earlier stovepipe 90 mm Summicrons.

No, it shouldn't and hence, isn't. The 1980 Summicron-M 90 mm, as well as the current Apo-Summicron-M 90 mm Asph which is the same size and shape, is significantly shorter than the previous 'stovepipe' Summicron 90 mm. Still it is not short enough to qualify as a real telephoto lens.

Leica Camera, formerly Ernst Leitz Wetzlar, will add the 'Tele-' designation to a lens' name only if it is a real telephoto lens. If 'Tele-' is missing in the name then it is no telephoto lens. However, this does not apply to the Telyt name. R or M lenses named Telyt may or may not be real telephoto lenses. For example, the Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135 mm 1:3.4 is a telephoto lens; the Leitz Telyt-S 800 mm 1:6.3 is not.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Ko.Fe. said:

I’m not aware of any photographer whom I consider as street photog with this lens.

 I cannot recall any street photog who is jumping between three lenses on the street, either.
:)

 

You are free to call whomever is whatever type of photographer. 

I remembered an advise from someone a few years ago: A serious photographer will never use a zoom lens in his serious work.   ....  BS!

 

Edited by Einst_Stein

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Posted (edited)

 

Some answers:

1) If you set the MATE to any intermediate focal length and use the rangefinder to focus, the result is very blurry.  So you don't get a usable 35 by setting the lens somewhere between 28 and 50.

2) The "40 macro" setting I described in my original post yields quite sharp, low-distortion images.  I shot a window blind (honeycomb paper cells) by hand at the 40 macro setting, minimum focusing distance, and attached result suggests low distortion.

Overall, this fourth MATE lens option is quite usable and useful, as far as I can tell.

 

Edited by onasj

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2 hours ago, Einst_Stein said:

You are free to call whomever is whatever type of photographer. 

I remembered an advise from someone a few years ago: A serious photographer will never use a zoom lens in his serious work.   ....  BS!

 

It is not about me calling someone. It is about recognized street photographers not using this lens. As for zooms and serious photographers. I see sport photographers with zooms on events all the time. Press photographers. And it is only me we Leica, as spectator.  So, perhaps here is someone, somewhere with MATE on the street. :)

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On 3/11/2020 at 11:23 PM, 01af said:

Leica Camera, formerly Ernst Leitz Wetzlar, will add the 'Tele-' designation to a lens' name only if it is a real telephoto lens. If 'Tele-' is missing in the name then it is no telephoto lens.

Do you mean that lenses like Elmar-C 90/4, Summarit-M 90/2.4 or Summarit-M 90/2.5 are not telephotos in spite of their small size? Just curious.

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I have the v2 and I just can not get this close-up feature to work. Any advice?

 

Regards,

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Stein K S said:

I have the v2 and I just can not get this close-up feature to work. Any advice?

 

Regards,

Are you using live view to focus? Set the focal length to the mid-point between 50 and 28, set the focusing distance on the lens to the minimum (1 m), turn on live view, and get close (about 40 cm) to your subject, then move slightly closer or farther until live view shows the subject is in focus.

Edited by onasj

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Posted (edited)

Thanks!

I do use Live View. However, I was not aware that the lens should be on minimum distance. The focus in my experience when ¨going macro¨ is not cruical to put it that way, but this is an entirely different case afterall... 😉

I`ll try again asap!

Edited by Stein K S

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