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Should I get the 90-280 lens!?


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Hi everyone,

just want to grab some thoughts to help me make this decision. 
I was mainly a M shooter and normally shoots 35mm and 50mm, after getting the 90cron I struggled to nail focus on the rangefinder and played around with my friends SL which ultimately landed myself a SL2 with the aim to use M lenses. However I was fascinated by the longer zooms and bought the lumix 70-200 f4 which allowed me to shoot birds for the first time and absolutely loved it. I then tried the 1.5x converter and the sigma 100-400 for longer reach but was alittle disappointed with the results. Now the question is should I sink money into the 90-280? Would I get noticeable improvement in sharpness and IQ? My only use with the SL2 is now just for birds since I prefer to travel with the M because it’s lighter. I feel guilty and wasteful knowing that I’m spending a lot of money on just one use and I don’t know if I could justify it. I’m also abit worried about the weight. Have anyone used all three lenses and have a preference? Thanks!

Edited by Ktsa5239
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Took this one today at 280mm and cropped Hello guest! Please register or sign in to view the hidden content. Hallo Gast! Du willst die Bilder sehen? Einfach registrieren oder anmelden!

Heres another shot Hello guest! Please register or sign in to view the hidden content. Hallo Gast! Du willst die Bilder sehen? Einfach registrieren oder anmelden!

I'm so impressed with this lens! Its incredible the level of sharpness and detail I'm getting! While it is alittle short in terms of reach, but I dont think I could go back to the sigma 100-400 after getting this. Damn, it would be perfect if theres an extender for this lens. Hello guest! Please register or sign in to view the hidden content. Hallo Gast! Du willst die Bilder sehen? Einfach registrieren oder anmelden!  

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The SL90-280 is a fabulous lens, better optically than my SL 24-90.   But I don't use it for birding, which would seem to require much greater FL, unless it's for backyard or similar, especially with no converter.  I keep M lenses on my M bodies, and native SL lenses on my SL2, but both systems yield superb files for my print needs.

Jeff

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You could look at the longer R lenses. Yes, no OIS, yes, no AF, but that can be compensated for by refining your shooting technique. IQ is unparalleled, however. For birding AF is no prerequisite. Again a matter of technique - I remember, quite some years ago when I attended a bird workshop, using a DMR with Vario-Elmar 105-280 and 1.4x Apo-extender amongst a host of Canons and Nikons  that I was the  only one  to get an acceptable shot of a Lanner Falcon in flight. Why? Because I let the bird fly into the preset plane of focus and all the others were struggling with AFC  that could not keep up.

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Ktsa5239 said:

Hi everyone,

just want to grab some thoughts to help me make this decision. 
I was mainly a M shooter and normally shoots 35mm and 50mm, after getting the 90cron I struggled to nail focus on the rangefinder and played around with my friends SL which ultimately landed myself a SL2 with the aim to use M lenses. However I was fascinated by the longer zooms and bought the lumix 70-200 f4 which allowed me to shoot birds for the first time and absolutely loved it. I then tried the 1.5x converter and the sigma 100-400 for longer reach but was alittle disappointed with the results. Now the question is should I sink money into the 90-280? Would I get noticeable improvement in sharpness and IQ? My only use with the SL2 is now just for birds since I prefer to travel with the M because it’s lighter. I feel guilty and wasteful knowing that I’m spending a lot of money on just one use and I don’t know if I could justify it. I’m also abit worried about the weight. Have anyone used all three lenses and have a preference? Thanks!

I have the 90-280mm & agree with the collective wisdom here that it is too short for birds. For birding I use the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM with the Sigma MC-21 adapter.  AF is not lightning fast but it's accurate. Only single auto focus is available, no continuous AF with this lens, IQ is exceptional, even with the Canon 1.4x TC mounted. This Canon lens is probably the best telephoto Lens I've ever owned, (I have the Carl Zeiss 300mm f2.8 C/Y as well as Leica R 280mm f4 APO Telyt).  @helged also uses the Canon 400mm lens & shares a similar view.

I also use the Sigma 100-400mm L which is an extremely versatile & light lens, I use it with the 1.4x TC. Image quality is good up to a subject distance of 15m to 20m max. For best IQ you have to use this lens with the electronic shutter, as there's shutter slap/shock with the SL2 as well as the CL. 

Having said all of this, I agree with Jaap regarding the limitations of AF for birds in flight. My best shots of birds in flight have still been with MF lenses.

Have a look here: https://michali.zenfolio.com/p362803621

 

Edited by michali
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Thank you for everyone’s ideas and comments!

I understand that 280 might not have enough reach for true birding but I’ve been using 70-200 with 1.5 which is about 300mm and it feels ok with crop around local bush walks. I guess the biggest question is rather the improvement in sharpness and IQ is justified by the cost.

I’ve tried looking up the R lens options and canon zoom options but it seems like I would be spending similar amounts to the 90-280 either way and I imagine the 90-280 might be more versatile down the road if I experiment with other genres right? 
 

thanks again for everyone’s input. Really appreciate it!

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The SL 90-280 is my best lens. So it is definitely worth the price. You could also try to get it used. As it is so heavy many sold it again, so it is quite easy to find it used.

The weight is the big question. Can you stand it or will you find it too much in the end.

As it is my best lens I will never sell it. But I do not use it on holidays.

But all high performance teles are heavy and big. The EF 4/400 DO II that Michali mentioned is maybe the “smallest” of them all. Still not for holidays. The Nikon 4/300 Fresnel lens is much smaller, even small enough for holidays.

If you need smaller teles switch to micro four thirds.  Quality is good enough. Long reach is suddenly no problem anymore. (factor 2)

 

By the way. Send a letter to Leica so that they finally produce an extender for the SL 90-280. Karbe is against it (but in this case he errs, cropping is not equivalent). But If many users demand it, they will probably give in in the end. (It is easy to produce, no rocket science. Of course all others have it. One extender is enough, factor 1.7x would be useful.)

Edited by caissa
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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, caissa said:

The Nikon 4/300 Fresnel

... is a very good lens, also with the Nikon 1.4x extender. But you need the electronic Novoflex Nikon F to Leica L adapter, that is far from the best way to go (now discontinued, and I also believe it only works on SL, not SL2). 

The only 'extender' for the 90-280 is  the Leica CL...

 

Edited by helged
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Thanks for everyone's inputs again.

I ended up going into the store to try one with cash ready and an empty peak design backpack to carry it home. However, its way bigger and heavier than I ever imagined. So after trying for a 10-15min I know this lens is not for me. However, upon trying the 24-90 I was super impressed and decided to take that one instead as my first SL lens! Happy days!

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On 5/12/2021 at 7:55 AM, caissa said:

Send a letter to Leica so that they finally produce an extender for the SL 90-280. Karbe is against it (but in this case he errs, cropping is not equivalent). But If many users demand it, they will probably give in in the end. (It is easy to produce, no rocket science. Of course all others have it. One extender is enough, factor 1.7x would be useful.)

YES !

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On 5/11/2021 at 3:14 AM, michali said:

I have the 90-280mm & agree with the collective wisdom here that it is too short for birds. For birding I use the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM with the Sigma MC-21 adapter.  AF is not lightning fast but it's accurate. Only single auto focus is available, no continuous AF with this lens, IQ is exceptional, even with the Canon 1.4x TC mounted. This Canon lens is probably the best telephoto Lens I've ever owned, (I have the Carl Zeiss 300mm f2.8 C/Y as well as Leica R 280mm f4 APO Telyt).  @helged also uses the Canon 400mm lens & shares a similar view.

I also use the Sigma 100-400mm L which is an extremely versatile & light lens, I use it with the 1.4x TC. Image quality is good up to a subject distance of 15m to 20m max. For best IQ you have to use this lens with the electronic shutter, as there's shutter slap/shock with the SL2 as well as the CL. 

Having said all of this, I agree with Jaap regarding the limitations of AF for birds in flight. My best shots of birds in flight have still been with MF lenses.

Have a look here: https://michali.zenfolio.com/p362803621

 

I was going to recommend the 400 DO as well. One of my favorite lenses of all time. 

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You might indeed consider the Leica APO Telyt-R 280 F4 with eventually an APO 1.4x or 2x extender.  Like @jaapv already mentioned: no IS and no AF but the image quality is unparalleled on the long Leica R lenses. 

I also hesitated between the SL 90-280 an the R 280, but in the end choose for the old one.  I’m an M photographer with also an SL2.  The SL2 is far better for anything 90mm and beyond (IBIS and proper EVF), but I’m a manual focus shooter.  So the AF of the SL 90-280 was not a determining factor in the choice.  The possibility however to be able to add an extender was one of the features that made me lean to the R lens.   I found a (although pricy) pristine ROM version earlier this year and could not be happier since then. 

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Another choice which goes kind of half way but is more compact is the excellent APO Elmarit-R 180/2.8 plus the 2 x extender (results in 360 / 5.6). Unfortunately, the 1.4x extender fits only the second version, which appeared around 2003. 

- Matti

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Get 90-280mm is the way to go for sure!

I was a R lenses addict for quite some time and I just collected bunch of my R telephoto primes and traded in all of them for SL 90-280mm, with adding few $$$ on top. 

I think when you shoot telephoto lenses you need to have a zoom lens instead of primes, because to get a right shot framing at infinity you can't step back 5 feet to change framing, you have walk 500 or more to change what is in your frame, or switch to another huge telephoto prime lens, which is not always easy. Here is my personal experience and opinion.

I had 180mm APO-Telyt -R f3.4 ROM made in Canada in excellent condition, I was happy with warm color of this lens, sharpness was pretty good and great ergonomics with SL2, getting things in focus was 4 stars out of five and it was relatively light lens, but you won't be able to walk around having camera with this lens around your neck for couple hours, 85% of the time it was on tripod with R adapter which is adds price and some weight, and it's not weather sealed.

I also had rare Leica 280mm APO-Telyt-R f/4 ROM lens in a mint condition, it was a monster size lens that I stoped using completely because of it's weight (heavier than SL 90-280mm) and rarely getting any shots in focus at infinity or at it's beyond infinity options, focusing was a PAIN with this lens. It weight required larger tripod, or being half hight down on tripod to avoid camera shake. This was a tripod only lens with terrible ergonomics, required use of R to L adapter and it was not weather sealed. Living near Pacific ocean in California I must have weather sealing, because of beach sand flying in air and waves splashes, there is a small filter insert on side of the lens where any dust or anything was able to get easily inside.

I also used extenders Leica R 2x Extender non APO and APO 2x extender R, non APO was just a junk, such a huge decrease in quality does not make any sense and even APO extender was very disappointing to me, I sold them both. If you need an extender tube for SL 90-280mm, just put it on Leica CL with same L mount it becomes even longer telephoto lens. 

Anytime I would have to go for a telephoto shooting, I would have to bring with me a extremely heavy back pack with those two R primes, where pretty much only those two lenses and SL2 can feet, plus a small and fabulous APO 90mm M lens. Back pack full of those 3 lenses and SL2 camera was impossible to carry around, so it stayed in my car trunk all the time, while I was shooting with one lens on tripod at fixed focal lengths. 

SL 90-280mm is heavy and large, but it replaces entire back pack full of telephoto lenses that is extremely heavy and hard to focus, this one lens is giving you exceptional prime Leica quality with auto focus, flexible zoom range, being weather sealed and you will be able to see your lens data in Lightroom. A side of speaking that SL 90-280mm is a state of art amazing lens by itself, some people say one of the best lenses ever made by Leica.

 

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Ktsa5239,   I see you made your choice...and an excellent choice for a SL Vario lens too.  But if you ever find the need for a longer or even wider SL Vario zoom lens(s), both the 90-280 and 16-35 are simply superb lenses.  Perhaps we will see some of you photographs on the forum on day.  Keep creating and congratulations.  r/ Mark

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I’m intrigued that no one’s mentioned the value of using the 90-280 in cropped mode. I’ve found that to be really helpful in occasional bird photography. 
And as far as weight goes, I’d rather carry an SL2 with the 90-280 than a Canon pro  body and 70-200!

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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, chris_tribble said:

I’m intrigued that no one’s mentioned the value of using the 90-280 in cropped mode. I’ve found that to be really helpful in occasional bird photography. 
And as far as weight goes, I’d rather carry an SL2 with the 90-280 than a Canon pro  body and 70-200!

Cropped mode useful for sure.... but a Leica TC would be better😀.

As far as Canon goes... R5/6 together with RF 70-200 2.8 almost a full kilo under the weight of the SL2 + 90-280, (F4 version more like 1.5 kilo's) but no TC's for the new 70-200's either. However, add a 100-500 and still 300+grms under the SL2 combo.

 

Edited by Boojay
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Posted (edited)
20 hours ago, Boojay said:

Cropped mode useful for sure.... but a Leica TC would be better😀.

As far as Canon goes... R5/6 together with RF 70-200 2.8 almost a full kilo under the weight of the SL2 + 90-280, (F4 version more like 1.5 kilo's) but no TC's for the new 70-200's either. However, add a 100-500 and still 300+grms under the SL2 combo.

 

Good points - though I’d been thinking about the 1Dx…

re the TC - I’d not want to forgo IBIS … 

Edited by chris_tribble
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