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ZM 18mm f4 and ZM 21mm f45


Well-Known Member
Thank Patrik for revealing these lenses before Photokina.

There was a long time in the past that there were only very few lenses available for the ultra-wide angles. There were 16mm f8 Zeiss Hologon and Leica 21 mm. It was like that for many years.

With the introduction of the Zeiss Ikon system, Zeiss started with 21 and 15 leaving Leica being in a very weak state of only having 21.

Leica introduced the coding system for their M lenses. Although it was intended for the communication between Leica lenses and M8, the commercial intention was the attempt to exclude people from using Zeiss lenses on M8. I am pretty sure that Leica would not code for Zeiss lenses even if you send them the lenses.

Leica entered a new era of introducing a tri-elmar-M 16 18 21 f4. I have mixed feeling with this lens. Very few lens maker is able to make good wide angles, it is even more difficult to make a good wide angle lens with three different focal lengths. Is Leica trying to do too much at a time ? I hope I am wrong.

Zeiss do know what they are good at and now we are seeing the flourishing of wide angle Zeiss lenses. I agree that Zeiss should concentrate in making primes with small apertures before embarking on zooms. I know Zeiss is famous for making good zooms but primes excel in optical quality. When I am using my Biogon 21 2.8, I noticed it being less good compared to my C-Y distagon 21 2.8 so there is certainly rooms for improvement. I am glad that they introduce the 21 4.5 and I would expect it to be better than 21 2.8.

I already have ZM 15 2.8 and ZM 21 2.8. I am sure you will expect me to to buy the two new biogons instead of the new tri-elmar-M. Do you think M users like tri-elmar, the answer is obviously not. It is against the original M principle to introduce the tri-something especially in the field of complex optics.


Well-Known Member
Sales and use of the Leica 28-35-50 Tri Elmar counter that POV Joseph. The original lens has been popular enough to have spurred a second version.

Introduction of the wider Tri Elmar is to coincide with the launch of the M8 and it's cropped frame sensor. Tri Elmars have found favor with travel buffs who wish to travel light. I had one and it produced favorable images as one would expect from Leica ... it was just to slow of an max. aperture for my style of rangefinder work.

Leica will be coming to market with faster wide primes, but it will be a slow process as is their way.

Superwides are not a popular choice of working rangefinder photographers, and truly good ones cost a lot relative to the amount of use they get, as one can see from the price of the Zeiss ZM version. A photographer could secure a Hasselblad SWC for less, and have a superior photographic experience in every way.


Well-Known Member
Hasselblad SWC do have the advantage of superior image qualities when compared to 24x36.
It also produces image in the shape of a square. The angle from one corner to the other is about 90 degree.

On the other hand, I can see a major competitor from the other side. If you fit the new Zeiss 21mm f4.5 to any M mount cameras including a Voigtlander, loaded it with slow film like ISO 25 or 50, you will get a much cheaper version of wide angle. Although the image quality may not be as good as Hasselblad, it is a very small camera with very good image quality to many people's standard.

One of the reason why Alpa is famous is because it has excellent optics from Schneider. The image it produce has excellent resolution and contrast even more so than Hasselblad SWC. Schneider achieved this slight superiority by making a lens of =5.6. Hassy SWC has 4.5.

Zeiss is now making an equivalent of Hasselblad in 24X36 format. I have great expectation to his little lens.

Photographers like Marc is happy one focal length as long as you provide him/her with superior image qualities as in the case of SWC, I certainly agree with this. Leica's move of providing the Tri-elmar to me is worrying. The freedom of changing focal length is achieved with a compromise of image quality.