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Leica APO-TELYT-R 3.4/180mm long time experience
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 10:23 pm    Post subject: Leica APO-TELYT-R 3.4/180mm long time experience Reply with quote

Where to start... Ok, I've got it... THIS LENS IS F**** AWESOME!!! No really... Just look at this picture...



I know, I know, this is a serious forum. So, let's start again, disable CAPS LOCK and be more serious Wink
APO-TELYT was my first entry to the world of true APO lenses. And, after more than one year, I'm still surprised by it's image quality every time I put it on my camera.

History of this lens is well known, so only briefly. This lens was developed by Walter Mandler at Leitz Canada at the begin of '70 as surveillance lens for US NAVY. It uses special glass types developed to replace the fluorite crystals with glass with comparable characteristics but without disadvantages of the crystals.
More historical and technical stuff you can find on Marco Cavina site.



Optical performance
All my tests and pictures are done with 14Mpx APS-C Samsung GX-20. This lens is designed to provide best performance at infinity. It delivers all the performance at wide-open and you need stop down only to get more DOF. According to Erwin Puts, it delivers it's best at f5.6. But when properly focused it's almost impossible to distinguish between wide-open and f5.6 even when pixel-peeping at 100%. Probably the 14Mpx is not enough to outresolve this lens.
From f8 you can see the decline in image resolution due to diffraction.
The sumarization about infinity performance is quick and boring. On APS-C you get uniformly sharp contrasty image from center to corners without signs of CAs or vigneting from wide-open onwards.
Here are three images on tripod with infrared remote shutter and 3s mirror lock-up. I've used heavy PP (contrast and saturation) due to hazy atmosphere. But, you can still see that the limiting factor here is the camera sensor, even at f3.4. The bigger city in background is almost 20km away.

Infininity @f3.4, f5.6 and f8.


And here is my favorite 100% crop from down left corner @f5.6. You can clearly see 3 people and a dog in front of the yellow building.



There is lot of discussions about image quality at closer distances. Let's sum it this way, MAYBE there is slight drop in resolvance power at closer distances, but it is still so high even at f3.4 that it beats my Olympia Sonnar 2.8/180 stopped down to f8 without hesitation. CAs or corner sharpness is again no issue even at full sunlight.
The only real competition from my lenses is APO-Lanthar 4/180 which holds slight advantage at distances < 2,5m, but you need to zoom to 100% to distinguish this. But this time I won't compare these two lenses, there is a thread about this here on forum.

Bokeh of the lens depends on distance. Most of the time it is no issue and very pleasing (the DOF at f3.4 and closer distances is paper thin - look at the high-res image of the cat at the end of this post), but sometimes it can be distracting due to strong correction of all aberrations. See this 100% crop



from this image.



But otherwise the bokeh is nice without double lining and with smooth transitions. Aperture has 8 blades and up to f8 it is nicely rounded.

Contrast is top even in contralight (if you avoid direct sun), but the lens retains lots of details in shadows (as usual with Leica lenses).

My standard contralight bokeh/contrast owl test @f3.4


and @f5.6


Colors are just Leica. Not as contrasty and rich as Zeiss or newer Cosina Lanthars, but well balanced and with lot of subtle tonalities. Microcontrast is top. I really like, how well the in focus objects are separated from the blurred background at all apertures.

It's almost impossible to get some CA from this lens, I didn't used ANY form of CA correction in any of the images here.

Handling
My only bigger complain is against the build and handling. The nice thing is integrated lens shade. The bad thing is (for Leica) surprisingly the build of the body. One of the important design parameters was probably the weight and compactness. Unfortunately the lens is still heavy due to huge amount of glass inside. This alone is not a problem at all, but most of the weight is located in nose of the lens and if you combine this with the short focusing helicoid located in rear part of the lens, you have a problem. With my almost mint copy this is no issue, the focusing is silky smooth. But I've tried one heavily used copy and the focusing wasn't so smooth. My first version of Elmarit 2.8/180 is even older and comparably used and the focusing is still perfectly smooth. But, the body of Elmarit, is significantly sturdy.

Otherwise the focusing is a joy even on small APS-C viewfinder. Due to relatively high lightness and wide-open sharpness, the in-focus plane just jumps in.

Summary
This lens outrun it's era about 15-20 years and is great example what is possible, when the money is not limiting factor in development. Even now, almost 40 years later, the APO-TELYT is top performing lens comparable to current top lenses, which costs 10 or more times more.
This lens truely opened my eyes, if you compare it to it's contemporary lenses (Sonnars, Takumars, Pentaxes, Pentacons) you realize that performance of this lens is from other galaxy. The negative side effects are this. You can't blame the lens for bad photo. The fault is always on the viewfinder side of your camera!
You want more of this kind of lenses, which keeps your check balance at constantly low numbers Wink
Now the 2000 question is, how much better is APO-Elmarit 2.8/180?!

Images
Here are some of the better images... Not much of them, the 180mm on APS-C is very long (270mm FF FOV equivalent) and I still struggle with the composition. Handheld shooting is not easy too, but the in-body Pentax stabilization helps a lot.

First two flowers wide open with macro ring. Not bad and I really like bokeh on second image, but Lanthar does better job here






"Wildlife" Wink first two wide-open, third maybe stopped down to f5.6







High-res


Landscapes @f5.6




Look at this 100% crop!


High-res



Portraits, all wide-open















High-res


Thank you, for viewing.


PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for showing and sharing this very well built review.
Shocked I'm impressed by the portraits, less by the first landscapes but maybe due to the air conditions ?
As I have same "subtle foggish" landscapes with my Jupiter 21M and Orestegor 200mm, I'm wondering what criterias make a good landscape picture taken with a 180, 200 or 300mm lens ?

Smile

PS : the mountain photography makes me think about a James Bond's movie.


PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Holy cow, those shots are sharper than broken glass Shocked Resolution looks incredible from the GX-20.


PostPosted: Thu Jan 13, 2011 8:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's a complete and great review! There is no doubt that this lens is AWESOME, the portrait shots are just fantastic!


PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2011 9:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks everyone.

Olivier wrote:
Shocked I'm impressed by the portraits, less by the first landscapes but maybe due to the air conditions ?
As I have same "subtle foggish" landscapes with my Jupiter 21M and Orestegor 200mm, I'm wondering what criterias make a good landscape picture taken with a 180, 200 or 300mm lens ?

Yes, the air conditions was not ideal. I'm still waiting for clear arctic air to come this winter, to unleash true power of this lens. Maybe polarizing filter may help a little.

ManualFocus-G wrote:
Holy cow, those shots are sharper than broken glass Shocked Resolution looks incredible from the GX-20.

The Samsung chip in GX-20/Pentax K20D and K7 is amazing at low ISOs to 400. Recently I've got 5D and I'm little bit disappointed by it's color rendition, but when comes ho high ISO the Samsung chip loses.


PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2011 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I fall in love ...that tulips and that bokeh Shocked


PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2011 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shocked Shocked
There's so much reality in those photos, it just blows me away !
Super samples, superimressive.

Cheers
Tobias


PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One interesting addition... I did quick comparison between APO-TELYTs from different decades. The optical performance is basically the same. No differences in sharpness or image uniformity (i.e. no decentering in any of the compared lenses), but Leitz had quietly changed the coating in course of time. The newest lens, has most neutral color rendering. The oldest has most of the Leica green cast.
From left:
SN: 3599xxx ~ 1992
SN: 3164xxx ~ 1982
SN: 2988xxx ~ 1979





PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 7:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And here you can see the serial number where Leitz switched from Series VII filter to E60. The older lenses can be converted to E60 at Leica.
From "Handbuch des Leica system 1996/97".



PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 8:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very thorough review! Thank you.

The photos with the cats are impressive.

Apart from being faster, what is the difference of the f/2.8 180mm Apo-Elmarit?


PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nkanellopoulos wrote:
Apart from being faster, what is the difference of the f/2.8 180mm Apo-Elmarit?

According Erwin Puts, the 2.8/180 APO-Elmarit is at f2.8 already at it's best and stopping down slowly degrades the performance. While APO-TELYT delivers it's best performance stopped down to f5.6, where both lenses should perform equally.
The MTF diagrams of APO-Elmarit confirms its wide-open behaviour.
Moreover Elmarit incorporates internal focusing, focuses closer (1,5m vs. 2,5m) and should perform better at short distances.


PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nkanellopoulos wrote:

Apart from being faster, what is the difference of the f/2.8 180mm Apo-Elmarit?

around 1000 Very Happy ....


PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BRunner wrote:
nkanellopoulos wrote:
Apart from being faster, what is the difference of the f/2.8 180mm Apo-Elmarit?

According Erwin Puts, the 2.8/180 APO-Elmarit is at f2.8 already at it's best and stopping down slowly degrades the performance. While APO-TELYT delivers it's best performance stopped down to f5.6, where both lenses should perform equally.
The MTF diagrams of APO-Elmarit confirms its wide-open behaviour.
Moreover Elmarit incorporates internal focusing, focuses closer (1,5m vs. 2,5m) and should perform better at short distances.

Thank you for the fast response.
I am tempted to try a Leica lens after so many Zeiss.

Which of the 2 would you choose? The Telyt, I guess?

Interestingly, the prices seem to vary greatly on eBay...
What are reasonable prices for these lenses?


PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 10:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nkanellopoulos wrote:
Thank you for the fast response.
I am tempted to try a Leica lens after so many Zeiss.

Which of the 2 would you choose? The Telyt, I guess?

Interestingly, the prices seem to vary greatly on eBay...
What are reasonable prices for these lenses?

Unfortunately I don't have personal experience with APO-Elmarit 180, it's price ~2000 is out of my reach. But if the money are not limiting factor, I'll - of course - go for it.

On the other side, APO-TELYT is currently cheapest ticket to Leica APO world. The price on eBay.de ranges usualy between 450 and 600, depending on age and condition. But the latest ROM versions from late '90 can go significantly higher.

I want to sell my 29xx copy (all images here was made with it), because I've got the 35xx copy recently. If you are interested, PM me.


PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 10:21 pm    Post subject: Re: Leica APO-TELYT-R 3.4/180mm long time experience Reply with quote

Your evaluation is most interesting, and I concur with main poinst in your analysis. This is one of those lenses that have justified their place in photographer's bags for more than 2 decades. I agree, I would personally stay clear of the oldest version, the green color cast is typical of Leica R of its age. Designed for use completely different than what people today subject it to (originally made for B/W film, medium to infinity focus).

I also share the criticism Leicaphiles direct towards bokeh in certain scenarios - this is not my idea of nice out of focus rendering.

BRunner wrote:


As with any legendary lens, it has its own drawbacks. Most importantly, the strongpoints outweigh the weak areas. When used properly, as shown in your post, this is one lens hard to justify not owning. Thank you for an evaluation which highlights both, I do enjoy reading these "How you should use it" and "avoid this when using it" type of reviews. Their objective, and serve real use as opposed to theoretic image quality.


PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2011 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great lens!
Did you use the Leitax bajonet?


PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

blende8 wrote:
Did you use the Leitax bajonet?

Nope, I'm using these cheap Chinese mounts. But they are well machined and made from brass.





PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2011 8:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

APO-TELYT meets FF 5D

I didn't know, that Gandalf uses Canon Wink



PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2011 9:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Superb rendering!


PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2011 9:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pich900 wrote:
Superb rendering!


+1 trully excellent, I can't imagine better quality , perfect!


PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2011 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Attila wrote:
pich900 wrote:
Superb rendering!


+1 trully excellent, I can't imagine better quality , perfect!


Thank you. Leica lenses aren't always the sharpest (not the case of APO-TELYT) or fastest, but they have probably most natural rendering of highlights and shadows and are overall well corrected for all forms of aberrations.


PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2011 10:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, great image quality !


PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 10:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not exactly my best portrait, but great example how fantastically APO-TELYT handles backlighting situations. On FF stopped down to f4 or f5.6.



PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 11:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, i don't know why, but i know that i shouldn't read this kind of threads when my bank account is crying Twisted Evil ...

The tulips and the portraits are great ...


PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 11:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Time for another update... some random shots with APO-TELYT on 5DmkII

As you can see, APO-TELYT is not exactly gentle portrait lens...but I like the amount of details, when everything "clicks" - focus, steady hand and so on.

@f3.4 or f4 (and ISO640 Exclamation), I don't remember correctly...no PP except -1 Shadows in DPP , no colors adjustment... (click the image for 3000x2000 hi-res version)



others @f5.6