Leica 283550 mm f4 TriElmarM lens

G

Guest

This is as close as Leica gets to a zoom lens for the M system and is a most convenient lens for day time walk-about use.

The Leica 28-35-50mm f/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH is a unique rangefinder lens, in that it offers three popular focal lengths in one package. There is a rotating ring which has a click-stop for each of the three focal lengths. They are selected in a strange sequence, namely, 35mm - 50mm - 28mm and this is done to match the mechanical sequence in which the viewfinder framelines have been arranged in the Leica M cameras for which it was developed. Leica had to do some clever design work to achieve this.

The correct framelines in the camera are selected automatically for each focal length. There have been two versions of the Tri-Elmar. The current version (which I own) is available only in black whereas the first version was available in black or silver chrome finish. The current version is also slightly narrower, has a convex tab instead of a milled surface on the focusing collar, has more positive click-stops on the focal length selector and has depth of field scales painted on the barrel for each focal length. These DoF scales are a little confusing at first but, after gaining some experience in using the lens, it does become quite straightforward.

Some users have reported that the selection of framelines is a bit touchy, even with the current version, and it is sometimes necessary to give the selector ring an extra nudge to cause the correct framelines to pop into position. In my particular ex&le, the 28mm position is sometimes like that but it's no big deal and I have found it easy to adapt to using this lens.

The Tri-Elmar is actually constructed like a zoom lens but, in practice, it cannot be used that way. It is designed only to be used at the three click-stop settings and Leica warns that trying intermediate settings of focal length will cause out of focus images. The optical formula consists of eight lens elements in six groups. Two of the elements have aspheric surfaces, which, Leica explains, help to correct aberrations and distortion and enable the size of the lens to be kept small.

As with most Leica optics, performance is excellent at the maximum aperture of f/4, with superb contrast and rendering of colors. Only marginal improvement can be achieved by stopping down to f/5.6 or f/8; the smallest aperture is f/22. Optimum performance, in terms of resolution, is obtained at the 50mm focal length but is still very good at the 35mm focal length. At 28mm, there is some slight barrel distortion, loss of detail and slight vignetting, which in most circumstances goes unnoticed and, in any case, can be overcome by stopping down to f/8.

Focusing is adjusted by the collar closest to the lens mount, which, thanks to its added tab, is now easier to operate and less likely to be confused with the adjacent focal length selector collar than with the old version. Focusing is internal, so the length of the lens doesn’t change as focus is adjusted. Minimum focus distance is 1 meter.

Considering what it is, the current version Tri-Elmar is quite compact, with a length of 67.8mm and width of 55mm and weighing 340 grams. The filter size is 49mm (previous version was 55mm). If filters are not used, there is no need to fit a lens hood and the Tri-Elmar is not supplied with one. This is because the front element is slightly recessed into the barrel, depending on the focal length selected. A circular lens hood can be purchased separately but it is rather expensive and, since I don’t use filters, I haven't bothered to buy one. I have noticed flare only a couple of times and that was with the sun just outside the field of view on a clear day. Other than that, I have found the Tri-Elmar to be free from flare and ghost images.

It is probably true to say that most Leica M users have considered buying the Tri-Elmar and that many have decided against it. The two most common objections raised are its slow speed and the suspicion that it can't possibly be as good as the equivalent prime lenses. To be honest, with its maximum aperture of f/4 it is really too slow for low available light photography and, for that reason, I acquired a 50/1.4 Summilux for such use. However, for daytime walk-about use, the Tri-Elmar has no rival. Being able to select between three very useful focal lengths, with just a twist of the selector ring, is so much faster and more convenient than changing lenses and it can make the difference between grabbing a shot and missing it. Also, in the range of apertures it offers, the Tri-Elmar is as good as any Leica prime lenses except for some of the most recent versions.
 
G

Guest

Ray, you just nudged me over the edge to buy one. I have never seen a practical review like yours on this lens. I thank you, but my wife curses you
.

Chuck
 
G

Guest

Ray,
Thanks for the email on the lens. After reading your review and the test by Erwin Puts, I bought one. Should be getting it in a couple of days and I'll post my humble opinion in the weeks ahead. I'll probably do the same and Keep my 35mm f/2, but it appears thats all anyone needs. I have a Pentax LX for Telephoto stuff and just sold my 90mm Elmarit for lack of use. PS: My wife is not quite as happy as I am with the advise you gave.
Randy
 
G

Guest

>I bought a Tri-Elmar after reading Puts' review, and I'm very pleased with >it. I usually shoot it wide open, but you wouldn't know it. Excellent >optics in every way. Does very well on a Hexar RF body as there are lines >for 28, 35, and 50.
 
G

Guest

I have heard it said that a Tri-Elmar plus either a Hexar RF or an M6TTL .58 is a match made in Heaven. I agree.
 
G

Guest

Ray,
I picked up my Tri-Elmar today and am going to run a couple of rolls through the camera and see how it is. I have one question regarding what you said about the selector ring and going from 35-50-28. It seems that this one does the same thing as yours, in that, I have to give it a little nudge at 28mm to get the frameline to come up. It does not seem to be at an indent, but all the way over. At 35mm it can go a little past the indent point. Does this sound like what yours does and is it considered OK. I'm going to check the focus at these settings and am not worried if it all lines up, I just don't want a new lens that is out of adjustment. If anyone else has a comment on this it would be appreciated.
Thanks, Randy
 
G

Guest

Randy,

The series I Tri-Elmar was uncertain in registering the frames. I don't know whether Leica has improved it in the series II. My series I was improved and now brings of the 35 and 50 frames as it should. I use it on the M2/M5/CLE with external 28 OVU so don't have experience with the in-camera 28.

I would have Leica service yours.

Regards,

Justin
 
G

Guest

Randy,

Sorry for the delay in replying to your question, I've been away overseas and just got back to sunny Indonesia. As Justin says, the first version was reputedly more tricky in registering the framelines but even the current version is not perfect. The problem you describe sounds like mine, i.e. to get the 28mm frameline to pop up, I have to turn the selector past the indent. However, the frameline then stays in place when I then return the selector to the indent position. I haven't tried using the lens without the selector at the indent position.

As Justin suggests, if you can't see the correct frameline with the selector in the proper position, perhaps you should take up the problem with Leica.
 

bobman

Member
Hi,

I am very new to Leica Lenses. As Ray has spoken about 2 series of Tri-Elmar. Is there a vast different from each of these lenses. The reason I asked was that I had a friend who wanted to sell me his Tri-Elmar (First series) and in your honest opinion, should I buy?

Thank you
 

lewis44

New Member
Bobman C,
I have used both the 1st version #11890 and the 2nd #11625 and give the following impressions. Optically they are identical. I saw no difference in the film I shot. The changes are as follows:
1. The filter size went form 55 to 49mm
2. A focus tab was added.
3. Depth of field scale also added.
There are probably some other differences, but I believe those are the most noticable. Someone else may want to comment on what I left out.
As stated elsewhere in the postings, there was a problem on some of the first lenses to go into the 28mm position properly, but that was corrected and both the lenses I used worked fine. You can pick up the 1st version for less than the 2nd, and if the changes are not that important to you, go for the 1st.
Randy
 

jay

Member
> Optically both versions are identical, with superb performance at all > apertures and focal lengths. The equal of current Leica primes and better than the > last generation. Maximum aperture is f/4 but for travel and general-purpose > shooting the convenience of 3 focal lengths in one lens beats out the slower > speed, as long as for travel you have a 50/2, 35/2 or 35/1.4ASPH along if > you shoot in low light without flash a lot. The second version takes a 49mm > filter but use of the (extra, added-cost) shade is a must with bright light > sources outdoors. Version 1 has a flared front piece which acts as a shade, > unless you put a 55mm filter on the front of it, in which case by happy > coincidence (actually Leica's cost cutting measure) the shade from the > 21/2.8ASPH/24/2.8ASPH fits. Version 2 has a confusing rat-maze DOF scale for all 3 focal > lengths, but at least it has a DOF scale, which IMO is obligatory for shooting > with a rangefinder camera where there is no visual preview of DOF in the > finder. Unfortunately Leica also replaced the nice, ribbed focusing ring of v.1 > with one of those awful finger rests on v.2. Those infernal things make > focusing in vertical orientation practically impossible unless your fingers are > double-jointed. So there are good and bad points with both versions. The > 1st version will be much cheaper ($900-1000 for mint, vs $1200-1300 for a mint > 2nd version, and plus you'll spend $75 or so for a shade).
 

lewis44

New Member
> [Chris, Both versions of the Tri-Elmar are optically th same. The newer one #11625 has a smaller filter size (48mm, as I remember, Vs 55mm for the older one) and a depth of field scale on the lens. Also the newer one has a focusing tab. I shot with both, with excellent results. Great image quality. I found that I used the 35mm most of the time (90%) so kept my standard kit, without adding the Tri-Elmar. I do however highly recommend the lens. Check out Erwin Puts site
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to get a complete review. Randy]
 
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