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90mm f28 ElmaritR lens



Lenses with focal lengths longer than 50mm and less than 180mm are generally referred to as “short telephoto†lenses. They tend to be used for portraiture, isolating elements of a landscape, capturing architectural detail, photographing in the theater and, generally, wherever subjects have to be photographed from a distance.

The 90mm focal length became one of the favorites for both Leica R and M users. It is especially popular for closely cropped portraits, because it produces an image with pleasing proportions. Facial features are not exaggerated as they would be with a shorter focal length, nor are they unduly flattened, as is often the case using a longer focal length. However, for the past few years (up until Photokina in 2002 in fact, when the no doubt excellent APO-Summicron-R 90mm f/2 ASPH was finally announced), Leica had discontinued the 90mm focal length for the R series. I’ve found this rather puzzling, especially since the 90mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R (latest version) was an excellent and relatively inexpensive lens. It was essentially the same, optically, as the 90mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M, which remains a current and popular product to this day, as a less expensive but very able alternative to the APO-Summicron-M 90mm f/2 ASPH.

What distinguished the 90 Elmarit-R were its compact size, reasonable price, resistance to flare, absence of vignetting and distortion and outstanding performance. Resolution, contrast and color rendering were excellent at all apertures from f/2.8 to f/22, optimum performance being reached at f/4 to f/5.6. Its relative flatness of field enabled it to be used successfully with Elpro lenses at very close range for macro-type photography.

In terms of construction, the 90 Elmarit-R had a relatively simple optical formulation, like its M sibling, consisting of 4 elements in 4 groups. It was a strongly constructed but quite compact lens, with a built-in sliding shade, weighing 450 grams, with a length of 57cm and width of 67 cm. Its portability made it an ideal travel lens. Filter size was the relatively common E55.

In its time, this lens was rated very highly in a number of published lens tests. Why Leica chose to discontinue it is a mystery to me, as I mentioned before but, fortunately, it is still quite widely available on the used market. It still remains one of the most useful lenses in an R user’s arsenal.


I use the R90/2.8 (2nd version) quite a lot, and in my view this must be the most underrated lens in the entire Leica system. It is really a top performer, as is its M sibling which continues to be offered. The R90/2.8 is clearly superior at least to the previous version of the 90/2, and in practical picture taking I do not see any difference compared with the 100/2.8 Apo Macro. On the web page
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, many Leica M and R lenses are MTF tested, apparently the testing was done by an employee at Hasselblad. The R90/2.8 came out with the highest score of all the tested R lenses, better for ex&le than the 50/2 Summicron.