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New 21mm || SEM or not SEM, that is the question!


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Hello everyone,


I decided to get very soon a 21mm, plus a VF (probably the CV 21/25). I want a brand new lens, not used. I'm ready and excited to explore this FL on my M10... Because I don't need speed, my primary choice it's the Color Skopar f/3.5. I know it's a great lens, small and light as I prefer, affordable, and it would fulfill my needs and pleasure to shoot at f/4 and f.8.


Now, said that I have to confess you something. The most inspiring M lens I always wanted to buy since my first Leica year, it's not a 35 APO. Or a Noctilux, or any summilux. It's actually an Elmar, a super one... The one and only 21 SEM. Yes! In my very short Leica/rangefinder experience, I think I understood that the 21/SEM is one of the finest lenses of the brand. It's super sharp, corner to corner, an extraordinary glass with almost no lacks or competition in its focal length (when speed is not needed). And it always attracted me a lot. It makes sense to have only one lens as a reference for that specific FL. Am I right? I can have five, six 35mm lenses, but in my mind, it makes sense to have just one 21. Is this a lens that makes almost everyone happy?
.
I'm still "scared" it's not necessary that much, because I'm sure I will be fine too with the Color-Skopar, you know what I mean? Nowadays, the brand new lenses are modern and great. I love the 2.8/35 ZM IQ and rendering, as my CV 35/1.4 II MC. They are different tools for other purposes. But If I love the Nokton Classic, do I should love the Color Skopar anyway? 🤣 Just kidding. I mean, I'm totally ok with a 90% sharp lens instead of the best one. And I know too that I would appreciate in the SEM, the lens hood shape (which I adore), the focus tab, the 6-bit coded, etc etc.

In your experience, or from what you have heard, what do you think are the differences between the two 21? Does it (super) worth the upgrade? Any feedback it's very appreciated.
In constant M-evolution, Have a great Sunday.

 

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CV 21 mm f/1.4 Asph. In-camera B&W. I love 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!

Dennis, my friend, the 21 is one of my favorite focal lengths. Yes, the SEM is the best of the bunch. I have the original 21/4 Super Angulon, which was my dad’s, probably the weakest of all of them, but I keep it for sentimental reasons. I had the 21/2.8 Elmarit for years and used it extensively in my film days. Great lens. Sold it after about ten years of owning it. Got a 21/2.8 ASPH a few years ago, but sold it after acquiring the WATE. Through the years I kept the first version of the 21/4 Co

Dennis, you know you want the SEM! Put yourself out of your misery, and do it. The SEM is the best of the bunch, and if you don't buy it, you'll be second guessing yourself until you break down and buy it. I've been there many times myself.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Dennis said:

my primary choice it's the Color Skopar f/3.5.

I am going through same thoughts, albeit without any 21mm at present. No doubt the SEM is 'best' (I have 24 Elmar and it is superb) but, and this is big but, I know I will rarely use this lens.. Landscapes and maybe occasional interiors. So, in GBP, 2500 for SEM plays 630 plus hood for CV. Sean Reid gives the CV lens a good report and it seems plenty sharp across the frame at f5.6 and f8, which is where I would use it for DoF.

Tough one, but don't think my head will allow me to tie £2k up in SEM for very little use.

 

Edited by pedaes
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Dennis, my friend, the 21 is one of my favorite focal lengths. Yes, the SEM is the best of the bunch. I have the original 21/4 Super Angulon, which was my dad’s, probably the weakest of all of them, but I keep it for sentimental reasons. I had the 21/2.8 Elmarit for years and used it extensively in my film days. Great lens. Sold it after about ten years of owning it. Got a 21/2.8 ASPH a few years ago, but sold it after acquiring the WATE. Through the years I kept the first version of the 21/4 Color Skopar. This had Italian flag issues with my M9. No issues with my MM CCD though, and it performs very well with my M10. You can pick them up for $400 or less.

I still have my 21 finders, as well as the 21, 24, 28 variable Leica finder. I found a quicker run and gun solution with the M10 while using the WATE on our Med Cruise. Focus with the OVF and then frame and compose with Live View on the back of the camera. Works great!

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Posted (edited)

I own these M 21s:

- TTArtisan 21/1.5

- Leica M 21/3.4 11145
- 
Voigtlander VM 21/3.5
- Voigtlander VM 21/4

I still think the TT is an underrated value play. I see it as a heavy 21/2.8 that can be stopped down in emergencies or character. The 21/4 I would not recommend for digital Ms prior to the M10-R because of the color casting. The 21/3.5 I find a great all-arounder, esp. after considering weight. I don't love the zone focus ergonomics and would like an all-black version. The SEM is stellar, but if you're shooting f/8 landscapes (pretty typical for a 21) I think you'll be challenged to see a huge difference between any of them. My only real knock on the SEM is that I find the aperture ring annoyingly loose, which gets even more annoying when you're doing set-and-forget f/8 zone focus with an OVF. Very easy to accidentally bump.

For anyone remotely on the fence because of budget and/or uncertainty of bonding with the focal length my default rec would be the 21/3.5. And at this point I choose to carry it more often than the SEM just because of how much I've come to value tiny and light kits.

Edited by astrostl
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4 hours ago, Fedro said:

I have the SEM and I think it is wonderful (also from an ergonomic PoV).

I can only imagine. The proportion/shape/measures/ergonomic looks very beautiful and so Leica 🏆

3 hours ago, pedaes said:

Sean Reid gives the CV lens a good report and it seems plenty sharp across the frame at f5.6 and f8, which is where I would use it for DoF.

 

2 hours ago, astrostl said:

The SEM is stellar, but if you're shooting f/8 landscapes (pretty typical for a 21) I think you'll be challenged to see a huge difference between any of them.

Yes, at f/8 nowadays (in most cases) lenses performance are really good. That's a plus for the CV (cause the cheaper price for "similar" performance). Can I say that? 🤔

2 hours ago, derleicaman said:

Dennis, my friend, the 21 is one of my favorite focal lengths.

Indeed, for deep stories I would say. Adan said beautifully before, for serious storytelling. 

Thank you for sharing your experience. I didn't expect to be mentioned the CV 21/4. I thought is fine for film, but not ideal for digital. But I heard it's a great all-arounder.

2 hours ago, astrostl said:

For anyone remotely on the fence because of budget and/or uncertainty of bonding with the focal length my default rec would be the 21/3.5. And at this point I choose to carry it more often than the SEM just because of how much I've come to value tiny and light kits.

That's a fair point. Light and small it's always, always, very welcome. Like the Nokton Classic 35/1.4 II ... This is the way!

I heard that the 21 TT is great , but I really want something small. The SEM is at the limit, but I could forgive it 🙂

2 hours ago, astrostl said:

I don't love the zone focus ergonomics and would like an all-black version.

As the new Ultron II, it works perfect in black, and with focus tab 👍 100% agree.

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, Dennis said:

I can only imagine. The proportion/shape/measures/ergonomic looks very beautiful and so Leica 🏆

 

Yes, at f/8 nowadays (in most cases) lenses performance are really good. That's a plus for the CV (cause the cheaper price for "similar" performance). Can I say that? 🤔

Indeed, for deep stories I would say. Adan said beautifully before, for serious storytelling. 

Thank you for sharing your experience. I didn't expect to be mentioned the CV 21/4. I thought is fine for film, but not ideal for digital. But I heard it's a great all-arounder.

That's a fair point. Light and small it's always, always, very welcome. Like the Nokton Classic 35/1.4 II ... This is the way!

I heard that the 21 TT is great , but I really want something small. The SEM is at the limit, but I could forgive it 🙂

As the new Ultron II, it works perfect in black, and with focus tab 👍 100% agree.

 

 

 

I'm in similar position. I bought 21mm Color Skopar F4 a year ago and I confirm it is a great performer. It is also very small/compact. There are few drawbacks, maybe important, depending on your shooting style: veiling flare/ghosting and rending of "greenish" scenery. If you plan to shot into light/sun/... than veiling flare can ruin your photos. Trees are another important thing category (for me). Green rendeing is not Leica like green but more "brownish" green.

On the other hand it is very very sharp (sharper than my Cron 28 for example). BW rendering is great.

At the end I'm also looking at SEM just because of veiling flare. It is not predictable, thus not always avoidable. 

Few examples on M-E220:

 

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7 hours ago, Cobram said:

There are few drawbacks, maybe important, depending on your shooting style: veiling flare/ghosting and rending of "greenish" scenery. If you plan to shot into light/sun/... than veiling flare can ruin your photos.

Thank you for let me know. Great photos, thank you for sharing. I don't like veiling flare. I usually shoot wherever I can, and this includes photos against the sun. I really like silhouettes and harsh light. And the CV 21/4 maybe it's not ideal for me. That's why I was thinking the 21/3.5 was better choice than the f/4 version. Or SEM 🤔

 

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1 hour ago, Dennis said:

Thank you for let me know. Great photos, thank you for sharing. I don't like veiling flare. I usually shoot wherever I can, and this includes photos against the sun. I really like silhouettes and harsh light. And the CV 21/4 maybe it's not ideal for me. That's why I was thinking the 21/3.5 was better choice than the f/4 version. Or SEM 🤔

 

Dennis, you know you want the SEM! Put yourself out of your misery, and do it. The SEM is the best of the bunch, and if you don't buy it, you'll be second guessing yourself until you break down and buy it. I've been there many times myself.

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Posted (edited)
40 minutes ago, derleicaman said:

Dennis, you know you want the SEM! Put yourself out of your misery, and do it. The SEM is the best of the bunch, and if you don't buy it, you'll be second guessing yourself until you break down and buy it. I've been there many times myself.

hahaha. "I've been there many times myself." It looks like a common state between users. I know. 

My only limitation/struggle is that I live in Mexico. With no Leica fellows around my state and not traveling abroad lately, I didn't have a chance to see lenses in person and try them. I plan to visit the USA at the end of the summer, testing (maybe even renting) and making decisions based on my hands-on experience. Cause it's hard to choose online just based on reviews, user opinions, images, etc.

What about LHSA in Seattle in October? That would be great. I'm sure also in Seattle, there are a few places where to get new/used lenses for M cameras.

 

 

 

Edited by Dennis
I wrongly write Boston instead of Seattle
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21 minutes ago, Dennis said:

hahaha. "I've been there many times myself." It looks like a common state between users. I know. 

My only limitation/struggle is that I live in Mexico. With no Leica fellows around my state and not traveling abroad lately, I didn't have a chance to see lenses in person and try them. I plan to visit the USA at the end of the summer, testing (maybe even renting) and making decisions based on my hands-on experience. Cause it's hard to choose online just based on reviews, user opinions, images, etc.

What about LHSA in Boston in October? That would be great. I'm sure also in Boston, there are a few places where to get new/used lenses for M cameras.

 

 

 

Hello Dennis, we did Boston in 2019. This year, the meeting will be in Seattle in October.

Unfortunately, I will not be there this time. I have a wedding of my niece the week before and will be doing my tour of Leica Portugal and the big event in Wetzlar the week after.

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Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, derleicaman said:

Hello Dennis, we did Boston in 2019. This year, the meeting will be in Seattle in October.

Unfortunately, I will not be there this time. I have a wedding of my niece the week before and will be doing my tour of Leica Portugal and the big event in Wetzlar the week after.

My fault sorry. I was referring to Seattle (just edited, thank you). Busy days for you, good luck

Edited by Dennis
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22 hours ago, Dennis said:

Hello everyone,


I decided to get very soon a 21mm, plus a VF (probably the CV 21/25). I want a brand new lens, not used. I'm ready and excited to explore this FL on my M10... Because I don't need speed, my primary choice it's the Color Skopar f/3.5. I know it's a great lens, small and light as I prefer, affordable, and it would fulfill my needs and pleasure to shoot at f/4 and f.8.


Now, said that I have to confess you something. The most inspiring M lens I always wanted to buy since my first Leica year, it's not a 35 APO. Or a Noctilux, or any summilux. It's actually an Elmar, a super one... The one and only 21 SEM. Yes! In my very short Leica/rangefinder experience, I think I understood that the 21/SEM is one of the finest lenses of the brand. It's super sharp, corner to corner, an extraordinary glass with almost no lacks or competition in its focal length (when speed is not needed). And it always attracted me a lot. It makes sense to have only one lens as a reference for that specific FL. Am I right? I can have five, six 35mm lenses, but in my mind, it makes sense to have just one 21. Is this a lens that makes almost everyone happy?
.
I'm still "scared" it's not necessary that much, because I'm sure I will be fine too with the Color-Skopar, you know what I mean? Nowadays, the brand new lenses are modern and great. I love the 2.8/35 ZM IQ and rendering, as my CV 35/1.4 II MC. They are different tools for other purposes. But If I love the Nokton Classic, do I should love the Color Skopar anyway? 🤣 Just kidding. I mean, I'm totally ok with a 90% sharp lens instead of the best one. And I know too that I would appreciate in the SEM, the lens hood shape (which I adore), the focus tab, the 6-bit coded, etc etc.

In your experience, or from what you have heard, what do you think are the differences between the two 21? Does it (super) worth the upgrade? Any feedback it's very appreciated.
In constant M-evolution, Have a great Sunday.

 

My copy of the CV 21 3.5 focused past infinity on the M10-R. All my other CV and Leica lenses hit infinity at the hard stop, so I didn't want to have to deal with that for just one lens. Other negatives were a slightly odd feel to the build – the focus "stick" is strange, and the ridged focus ring ridges were almost so sharp they felt unfinished – perhaps my copy's focus ring was not finished well. The retro square lens hood (separate purchase) was nicely finished but comically large. OTOH, the image quality was incredible, especially considering the size of the lens. IQ corner-to-corner at infinity was good by f/5.6. It was bitingly sharp at MFD, with a nice rendering wide open. And the MFD on the CV is 50cm versus the SEM MFD of 70cm – this makes a huge difference to the size of a given subject at MFD.

I returned my 21 3.5 and went for the HUGE CV 21 1.4, which has been incredible. I may still go back and get the 21 3.5 to have for when I just want to toss in a 21 and not feel it in the bag.

As much as I love the build and ergonomics of Leica's M lenses, the MFD of the SEM makes it a tough buy for me.

 

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All I am going to say is that I have used many 20/21mm lenses and the SEM is IMO the 'best' of all I have tried. Its a fabulous diminutive optic. That said, other20/21s are not bad (well mostly, some actually are) but the comments on the forum should be read and digested carefully because a new SEM is not a cheap option.

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33 minutes ago, pgk said:

All I am going to say is that I have used many 20/21mm lenses and the SEM is IMO the 'best' of all I have tried. Its a fabulous diminutive optic. That said, other20/21s are not bad (well mostly, some actually are) but the comments on the forum should be read and digested carefully because a new SEM is not a cheap option.

It's the best, I know. That's why it's no tempting. And I'm sure I won't have any issues or complains too... And to shoot at f/4 and f/8 only, it works like a charm for me. I buy one, I use it a lot, and I never look back and sell it. I know, I see this coming. In my mind, it makes sense that I could really love the 21FL on M cameras. And if I buy a color skopar, and like it a lot, maybe I would want to buy the SEM later. But I'm sure that if I buy the SEM first, I won't need a Color Skopar later 🤣 Does it make sense?

24 minutes ago, lexontario said:

Ive owned mine for 3 years. No issues

Thank you for sharing, great to know..

-

Is there something I need to know about the 21mm FL? Something crucial for M cameras? I just know I would buy for sure the CV 21/25 VF and a Thumbie by Steve. I have big hands, and I can't really use the M w/o Thumbs Up. So I need a solution. 🙂 

I probably would use it always composing with the external VF and focusing w/ the focus tab or by distances, with no need to look into the OVF (well, when I don't have time and need to be fast). Once I have all time to play, I guess it's reverse: you focus first using the OVF, then well compose with the ext.VF, and click. 
.
How does it perform the SEM after f/8? Is diffraction very visible at f/16? I ask because I have no idea if the diffraction affects every lens in the universe at certain f/stops in FF, or the SEM causes it's outstanding. It deliveries a still beautiful f/16 IQ. Or all of you don't shoot after f/8?

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, hdmesa said:

My copy of the CV 21 3.5 focused past infinity on the M10-R. All my other CV and Leica lenses hit infinity at the hard stop, so I didn't want to have to deal with that for just one lens. Other negatives were a slightly odd feel to the build – the focus "stick" is strange, and the ridged focus ring ridges were almost so sharp they felt unfinished – perhaps my copy's focus ring was not finished well. The retro square lens hood (separate purchase) was nicely finished but comically large. OTOH, the image quality was incredible, especially considering the size of the lens. IQ corner-to-corner at infinity was good by f/5.6. It was bitingly sharp at MFD, with a nice rendering wide open. And the MFD on the CV is 50cm versus the SEM MFD of 70cm – this makes a huge difference to the size of a given subject at MFD.

Thank you for detailed information about the CV. I heard something new and confirmed other things. Awesome.

1 hour ago, hdmesa said:

As much as I love the build and ergonomics of Leica's M lenses, the MFD of the SEM makes it a tough buy for me.

About the MFD, I resigned myself. I know there is the 70cm limit. And I'm happy now. I changed my way to shoot with Leica, I shoot slightly differently on M. And 50cm MFD could be (with LV) a game changer in some situations. But it's not requirement for me. With 70cm (specially with a 21mm I think it's a good compromise. Since the 35mm FL, I would super love to have a MDF of 50cm 🙂   

1 hour ago, hdmesa said:

My copy of the CV 21 3.5 focused past infinity on the M10-R.

Do you think maybe the lens it's not optimized for high resolution sensor?

Edited by Dennis
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3 minutes ago, Dennis said:

Thank you for detailed information about the CV. I heard something new and confirmed other things. Awesome.

About the MFD, I resigned myself. I know there is the 70cm limit. And I'm happy now. I changed my way to shoot with Leica, I shoot slightly differently on M. And 50cm MFD could be (with LV) a game changer in some situations. But it's not requirement for me. With 70cm (specially with a 21mm I think it's a good compromise. Since the 35mm FL, I would super love to have a MDF of 50cm 🙂   

Do you think maybe the lens it's not optimized for high resolution sensor?

Without the need for 50cm MFD, I would go for the Leica all day long. I have several CV lenses: 21 f/1.4, 35 f/1.2 III, 35+50 APOs, and 75 1.5 – and the two lenses that stay with my M either on the camera or in the bag are the 50 Lux BC and 28 Lux. I can't really give a reasonable answer as to why, but it sounds like you're the same way and prefer the Leica M lens experience.

Focusing past infinity is probably normal for the 21 3.5, but it could be copy variation – I didn't try another copy to see. Sometimes a lens will just be designed that way. But it has nothing to do with resolution – the new CV lenses like this are incredible performers on high res sensors like the M10-R.

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29 minutes ago, hdmesa said:

I can't really give a reasonable answer as to why, but it sounds like you're the same way and prefer the Leica M lens experience.

I would love to start the kit with a Leica 21 SEM, then passing to 35mm (CV and ZM) and 50 (now 50/2 Cron v5 and in the future a fast one, don't know yet if CV 50/1.5II or 50/1.2III), up to a 90 used not expensive Leica. My idea it's probably add the new 28mm Ultron IIand make my FL ideal range and kit, like this:

21---28-35-50---90

The good point of buying a CV 21/3.5, it's that I would probably buy it w/ a couple of extra CV lenses, plus a bag. If I get the SEM, I only get the SEM. 

At the end of the year I would probably do the switch from DSLR to mirrorless. I didn't decide yet which camera system (I have three options), but I know I would need everything. New camera, lenses, batteries, cards and who knows what more haha. A tough decision.

 

 

 

 

 

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@Dennis In another thread you can now see pros and cons of 21 Skopar in two posted photos. First photo: very sharp, nice rendering. Second photo: flare. I shot mainly people and sometimes happened to me that veiling flare artefacts were positioned just on the face of a person. Verry irritating 😉

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