Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm 1:4 Review

11/12/2016 - 18:12
Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm 1:4 Review

<p><strong>Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm 1:4</strong>&nbsp;is a portrait prime lens for Leica rangefinder cameras.</p>

<p>This is one of the first Leica lenses. Produced since 1931 through 1968 and has several versions.</p>

<p>In this review is «Black Belt» version, the most common, which was produced from 1949 to 1963 the most common.</p>

<p>Optical design of this version is 4 elements in 3 groups (Tessar type).</p>


<h2>Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm 1:4 Specs</h2>

<p>Focal length: 90mm<br />
Aperture range: f/ 4 - f/ 32<br />
Aperture blades: 15<br />
Length (mm): 86<br />
Weight (gr): 280<br />
Filter Ø (mm.): 33</p>


<h4>Elmar f=9cm 1:4 Handling and Mechanics</h4>

<p>The lens is compact, especially unusual to see such a small diameter lenses and frames. As soon as it took in hand, immediately it appreciated the constructive and good ergonomics, and it became clear why so many photographers have fanatic love of the Leica brand. The designers did a good job on the design, I too can say, fell in love with this design.</p>

<p>The lens is assembled in a metal frame gray-silver color. Lens length 86mm. A diameter of the filter is 33mm. Here such interesting proportions.</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-02.jpg.pagespeed.ce.KvRO-AYzqv.jpg" /></p>

<p><em>View at focusing on infinity</em></p>

<p>In the middle of the barrel is the focusing ring. It is made of metal, not rubberized and has solid small incisions in order to make it convenient to rotate it. It is rotated by 270 degrees.</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-03.jpg.pagespeed.ce.clx-cRMO_F.jpg" /></p>

<p><em>View at MFD</em></p>

<p>By rotating the ring, the lens is extended by 12mm. It is a pity that I could not use it housing on Nikon reflex camera.</p>

<p>On the barrel applied focusing scale in meters, and the depth of field tags at different apertures.</p>

<p>Below, near the bayonet is 10mm black decorative ring. It is because of this ring, this version received by collectors the name «Black Belt».</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 rear" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-04.jpg" /></p>

<p>This copy has M39 thread. But there are also versions bayonet M-mount.</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 aperture" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-13.jpg.pagespeed.ce.f0GGfgup--.jpg" /></p>

<p>The diaphragm closes smoothly and has 15 blades it is not blackened.</p>

<p>The front element is covered with a metal cap, which flaunts embossed Leica logo.</p>

<p>The lens is composed of two parts. The front part is optical, elements in barrel, and the back part is mechanical, focusing helicoid.</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 dissassembly" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-05.jpg.pagespeed.ce.gzS_25P7Y5.jpg" /></p>

<p>Front part easily unscrewed from the helicoid, and thus it can be installed on another helicoid to get the focus to infinity in the SLR cameras. This look at it below.</p>


<h3>Mount Elmar f=9cm 1:4 on DSLR Camera</h3>

<p>Despite the fact that the lens for rangefinder camera, because it has retrofocus optical design with a long flange distance, as well as due to the fact that front optical part easily unscrews, you can mount it on any SLR camera using the shorter helicoid, which would compensate flange distance.</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 front part" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-09.jpg.pagespeed.ce.INKtrwjOx1.jpg" /></p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 front part" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-06.jpg.pagespeed.ce.A85qhCoA2h.jpg" /></p>

<p><em>Front part of Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm 1:4</em></p>

<p>I used homemade focusing helicoid based on Industar-50 3.5/50.</p>

<p>But there are difficulties. Despite the fact that mounting front part to helicoid threaded connection, it is a nonstandard thread M33x0,75. So I could not do without the help of the turner.</p>

<p>Familiar turner machined me this is a transitional step down ring M42-M33, I screw it in my focuser.</p>

<p><img alt="step down ring М33-М42" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-10.jpg" /></p>

<p><em>Improvised step down ring M33-M42</em></p>

<p>Do not forget to blacken the inside of the ring, to eliminate possible parasitic flare. By the way, the native helicoid has an excellent blackening inside.</p>

<p>To compensate for the flange distance, I needed to add a small extension tube, and M39-M42 adapter&nbsp; (4 mm thick, without the 4 mm segment offset and nonperfect though infinity will focus range is uncomfortable). And finally, for installation on a Nikon camera must also M42-Nikon adapter.</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 adapted for DSLR" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-11.jpg.pagespeed.ce.iHJ8heM3-A.jpg" /></p>

<p>That's how the lens looks to the new helicoid, not bad.</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 on Nikon D80" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-12.jpg.pagespeed.ce.FU3CZGmEW8.jpg" /></p>

<p><em>Look at the Nikon D80</em></p>


<h2>Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm 1:4 Example Photos</h2>

<p>All photos were taken on&nbsp;<a href="">Nikon D3100</a>, RAW export with minimal exposure correction.</p>


<h4>Elmar f=9cm 1:4 Sharpness</h4>

<p>At wide-open aperture, the lens shows good sharpness.</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos street" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-25.jpg.pagespeed.ce.9JQS7R4p7E.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 4</p>

<p>When it covering to a value f/5.6 the sharpness in excellent, especially at far distances.</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos city road" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-14.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 5.6</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos street people" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-16.jpg.pagespeed.ce.Da1k-5hKDW.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 4</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos car" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-26.jpg.pagespeed.ce.pVEo6Fnqb8.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 4</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos fuel station" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-21.jpg.pagespeed.ce.Aifs9vYvfa.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 8</p>

<p>When closing the aperture to f/8, some improvements I have not noticed, At f/5,6 is the best performance I&nbsp;think.</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos street dialog" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-24.jpg.pagespeed.ce.atf6Xpfm53.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 5I&nbsp;think.6</p>


<p>Elmar f=9cm 1:4 Character and Bokeh</p>

<p>The lens has a Tessar optical design. Therefore, the character is quite predictable. But unlike the Zeiss Tessar's and Soviet Industar's Elmar character seemed me more interesting, more ductile.</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos character" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-18.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 4</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos bokeh" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-20.jpg.pagespeed.ce.CLisiG2vFq.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 4</p>

<p>Bokeh is beautiful, evenly blurring.</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos DOF" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-29.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 4</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos portrait" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-32.jpg.pagespeed.ce.QblQqQkNmR.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 4</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos wheels" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-31.jpg.pagespeed.ce.QKcqjOdIQi.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 4</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos close up" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-19.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 4</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos leaves" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-23.jpg.pagespeed.ce.LJ9VKLUykh.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 4</p>

<p>Some photographers, Elmar f=9cm 1:4 character like more than the late Elmarit having the same focal length but faster.</p>


<h4>Elmar f=9cm 1:4 Contrast and Color Rendering</h4>

<p>The lens has a good contrast. The colors are nice but different from the modern lenses. There is a certain vintage charm.</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos building" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-28.jpg.pagespeed.ce.kYLuFcxna7.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 8</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos train" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-17.jpg.pagespeed.ce.mwF-eO8XSD.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 5.6</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos city" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-15.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 5.6</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos contrast" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-22.jpg.pagespeed.ce.5GN54wno7i.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 4</p>

<p>As for the backlight, it does not copes. It should be strong direct light to get into the frame, and you get the picture overcast veil.<br />
I recommend using the hood.</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos flare" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-27.jpg.pagespeed.ce.3y4xR_snMi.jpg" /></p>

<p><em>f/ 5.6 example in the backlight</em></p>

<p>In general, photographing at Elmar, avoid strong direct and lateral light and be all right.</p>

<p><img alt="Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm f/4 example photos ukrainian figures" src="/sites/default/files/1/lenses/Leitz-Elmar-904bb/elmar-bb-904-33.jpg.pagespeed.ce.wu6h3Sor7v.jpg" /></p>

<p>f/ 4</p>


<p><strong>Summary</strong><br />
Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm 1:4 is an interesting vintage portrait lens. Ergonomics is so convenient that you do not want to part with it after using it. It is especially useful to use it on mirrorless cameras, where it can be as a moderate telephoto. Despite its optical defects, is now valued by photographers.</p>

peter m wilson's picture
I inherited this lens from my father along with the Leica rangefinder camera. I'd like to know if it can be fitted to a digital camera body and if so what makes/models would be recommended.
Anonymous's picture
I just tested it today on a Nikon Z6 using a LTM-to-Z adaptor, it worked fine. So I think this would adapt to any mirrorless camera.
Bryan Varney's picture
I purchased one manufactured in 1948 for my Sony A7 in M39 screw mount. Works like a charm. Here is a first shot from this weekend.
Example photos: 
Bryan Varney's picture
One more Image that has been cropped and edited.
Example photos: 
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