Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/2.8 ASPH - MACRO
By: Thorsten Overgaard. April 2007. Latest edit May 2020.
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This is a very dear lens in more than one sense. It's a rare lens that was only produced in ca. 200 pcs. from 1998 to 2001, simply because it was very difficult to produce, and Leica eventually gave up making a profit on it. (And it wasn't because it wasn't an expensive lens in the first place to acquire).
The Rudolf Steiner Kindergarten in the garden of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. Leica R8 with DMR, 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 @ 100 ISO f/2.8.
But more importantly, it's simply a brilliant lens. In his Lens Compendium, Erwin Puts write about the 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 that "the 2.8 performance is better than the 2.8/35 and the 2/35
at 2.8", and compares it to it's 1997-littlesister, the 35-70mm Vario-Elmar-R ASPH f/4.0 (which is generally acclaimed as a lens with a fantastic picture quality) by saying, "the newer 2.8/35-70 has 11 lenses, many of
which are of exotic specification, proving the effort to go up just one stop. With this lens Leica introduces an interesting strategy and that is building a low aperture lens to very high optical standards of performance. The luminous energy flowing through a lens of aperture f/2,8 is twice the amount of a lens with an aperture of f/4 and the effort to control and manage this energy flow is very demanding. It is not well recognized how difficult it is for a designer to control aberrations when stepping up one stop."
The Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 Macro. © Thorsten Overgaard.
Let's be honest. This is a huge lens, and you will soon start questioning if you could do with one stop less in the much more compact (and much much more economical) f/4.0 littlesister. For my part I've never used the f/4.0 indoor, and that is where I do most of my shooting. So it's been a rather useless "sunshine lens" which I'm sure people living in more sunny parts of the world appreciate.
HRH The Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark. Leica R8 with Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 Macro. © Thorsten Overgaard.
After using the f/2.8 for a few days I got used to the extra "long tale" hanging over and behind my right shoulder and managed to move around so that the lens did not constantly hit walls and doors. And then I was sold. It's simply a nice lens to handle, fast to focus, and has a size and grip that made it easy for me to imagine I was already handing a Leica S lens (I was testing this lens in the days after the Leica S2 was released at Photokina, September 2008).
Leica R8/DMR with 35-70/2.8 @ f/2.8, 1/90, 200 ISO, Processed via Lightroom. © Thorsten Overgaard.
As for weight, that was not an issue for me. The lens I use the most on the R8 and R9 is the 80mm Summilux-R f/1.4 which is not a huge lens, but still weights 700 g.
In general it was very soon "my lens" and went where I went, and I appreciated the flexibility of being able to zoom where I would normally shift between my two preferred lenses, the 35mm Elmarit-R f/2.8 and the 80mm Summilux-R f/1.4. Being a special lens, it has the "love factor" that the f/4 doesn't have, likewise the 80mm Summilux-R, the 50mm Noctilux-M, the 75mm Summilux-M and other special lenses. It's in that special category of "lenses like no other".
HRH The Crown Prince Frederik and HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark. Leica R8 with Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 Macro. © Thorsten Overgaard.
The relatively good depth of field, along with a very smooth and fast focusing mechanism, make it easy to obtain sharp pictures, even when in a hurry, and it captures extreme details in crisp colors. Only disappointment to me is that I love to shoot against the sun, and the zoom is simply not made for that; too much glass for the strong light to reflected in under such extreme conditions. As can be seen in the Erwin Puts qoute in the buttom of this page, it does well in handling light; but only when the light source (the sun) is just outside the frame.
Leica R8 with Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 Macro. © Thorsten Overgaard.
The first RED EPIC users started playing around with the Leica adapters in January 2012 which will enable RED EPIC video cameras to take Leica R and Leica M lenses. As if it wasn't hard enought to get Leica M lenses, this won't make it easier. And the R lenses that seemed to have dropped a little in price are likely to go op again, especially on the more exotic ones that are suitable for video.
The 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 Macro on the Leica M240 (left) and on the Leica R8 (right).
|The Leica R to EPIC RED converter. A similar exist for Leica M lenses to be mounted onto RED EPIC.
||RED EPIC with the worlds best zoom, the Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 that only 200 has been produced of (second-hand price ca. 10,000$)
||Photo by Clayton Haskell
Marco Onorato receives an EUROPEAN CINEMATOGRAPHER 2008 award at European Film Awards at Forum on December 6, 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark (Photo by Thorsten Overgaard/Getty Images). Leica R8 DMR with 35-70mm f/2.8 @ f/3.4, 400 ISO, 1/125 sec, Lightroom 2 RAW-conversion. © Thorsten Overgaard.