LEICA SUPER-VARIO-ELMAR-SL 16-35MM F/3.5-4.5 ASPH IN-DEPTH REVIEW

THE WIDE-ANGLE ZOOM FOR THE LEICA SL IS HERE: SEE HOW IT PERFORMS IN THIS LEICA SUPER-VARIO-ELMAR-SL 16-35MM F/3.5-4.5 ASPH IN-DEPTH REVIEW!
Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm

Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm

After a long wait, with the release of this wide-angle zoom in April 2018 Leica completed the classic trio of zoom lenses for its professional mirrorless camera system, the Leica SL: in this Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH in-depth review I’ll examine this new zoom’s performance as far as sharpness, distortion, flare, drawing, and so on. As well, I will compare it at the wider end with the Voigtlander 15mm Super-Wide Heliar, and at the long end with the Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm F/2.8-4 ASPH. The Voigtlander 15mm Super-Wide Heliar is a very good ultra-wide lens, while the Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm is one of the best zoom lenses ever made. It should prove interesting to see how the newcomer compares with both of them, especially since these lenses have been my workhorses for the last couple of year of work with the Leica SL.

As always, please keep in mind that all my reviews are made under the point of view of a Fine Art Landscape Photographer: if your genre of photography is different my findings might not apply to you and your work.

Disclaimer: I am a Leica Ambassador since 2016. However, I am first and foremost a professional photographer, and I need to choose the best equipment for my work. I buy all my gear with my hard-earned cash, I don’t get paid by Leica to write articles for my blog and my relationship with Leica never stopped me from writing freely what I think about the gear I review.

Finally, I’d like to thank the great guys at NEWOLDCAMERA in Milan for fulfilling my order for the Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH incredibly fast by sending me the very first copy of the lens they received: once more, their service has been impeccable. Disclaimer: I have no business ties with NewOldCamera, I am just a very happy customer for about a decade now!

Let’s get started now and see in this Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH in depth review if it delivers!

Master Series Workshop in Tuscany and Cinque Terre
BUILD, SIZE AND WEIGHT

The Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH is built like a tank, its all-metal body is weather-sealed, beautiful to hold and use and the lens feels like it can withstand anything you’ll throw at it: something fundamental for my work in extreme weather conditions. The lens’ body is extremely solid, with no rattles, internal moving parts or noises of any kind. Focussing or zooming will not make the lens barrel extend, nor its front element rotate: this is great for photographers who, like me, relies on the use of filters for their work.

Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm

Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm

A curiosity: The Super-Vario-Elmar-SL shows focal length markings for 19mm and 21mm, rather than the more usual 20mm seen i.e. on Nikon and Canon’s 16-35mm offers. I take this as an homage to Leica classic 19mm and 21mm lenses for the Leica R. The full series of focal length markings on the lens barrel is 16mm, 19mm, 21mm, 24mm, 28mm and 35mm.

With its 88mm diameter and 123mm height, weighing at 990 gr, the Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL size is in line with similar 16-35mm f/4 lenses from Nikon or Canon, and slightly larger than the Sony 16-35mm f/4 Vario-Tessar. The Nikkor AF-S 16-35mm f/4 is 81mm wide by 124mm high weighing at 660 gr., the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 is 82mm wide by 113mm high weighing at 615 gr. and the Vario-Tessar is 78mm wide by 99mm high weighing in 518gr. While all these lenses are lighter, let’s keep in mind that all of them are made of plastic, not metal like the Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL.

Compared to the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm, the new Super-Vario-Elmar-SL is, on paper, just a bit smaller and lighter. In use, however, thanks to the non-extending lens design, the 16-35mm feels much smaller, lighter and compact than the Vario-Elmarit-SL.

USE OF FILTERS

The ability of using my 100mm square filter system is fundamental for me when I choose a lens. Going with the larger, heavier, more cumbersome 150mm square filter system is not an option for me if I can at all avoid it. The Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL has a standard 82mm filter thread, allowing me to use my beloved Formatt-Hitech Firecrest Ultra kit with an 82mm standard ring (if you haven’t got yours yet, get your kit on FORMATT-HITECH at a 10% discount using code VIERIB10 at checkout!).

IN USE: FOCUSING AND DIAPHRAGM

Autofocusing the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL is quite fast and nearly silent. The lens never hunts, and focus is precise. The ability of moving the focus point with the Leica SL’s joystick all over the frame is great for landscape photography with the camera on a tripod, when focussing and recomposing might not be feasible. More, the magnifications of focus area feature of the Leica SL make achieving perfect focus a breeze. Compared to the near-instantly focussing Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm is slightly slower: for my landscape work, however, the lens is definitely fast enough.

The Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL uses a “focus-by-wire” system to manual focus the lens: in practice, this means that manually turning the focus ring will tell the lens in which direction, and how much, to move focus electronically. More, there is no infinity stop on the focus ring. This is the same system used by all SL Vario lenses. The focus ring on the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL is extremely well damped and feels great in use. As with the other SL Vario lenses, focus precision is great, and there isn’t any serious lag to worry about.

Aperture is controlled directly by the camera, and no manual aperture ring is present on the lens itself.

SHARPNESS AT INFINITY

Methodology: using my usual “real world” test scene, I manually focussed on the trees on the far ridge in the middle of the frame using the maximum focus area magnification for precise focus. I then prepared 100% crops of the center, 900×600 px, top left corner and mid-right side at full-stop apertures ranging from wide open to f/11. When comparing lenses, of course I left the tripod unmoved. My Leica SL had Firmware 3.2 installed.

16mm

Let’s start looking at the full scene first, compared with the Voigtlander 15mm to see how much difference there is in real-world use between the 105.6 degrees angle of view of the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL at 16mm and the 110 degrees of the Voigtlander 15mm (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s now examine the crops in detail, starting with the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL in the center (click on the images to enlarge):

Sharpness in the center is amazing, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm wide open at f/3.5 is simply perfectly sharp. Stopping down, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL stays perfectly sharp until f/8; sharpness then starts declining slightly from f/11 on due to diffraction.

Let’s see how the Voigtlander Super-Wide Heliar 15mm compares (click on the images to enlarge):

The Voigtlander Super-Wide Heliar 15mm offer its best performance in the center when wide open at f/4.5. Stopping down, sharpness starts declining slightly from f/5.6 and clearly from f/8 on due to diffraction.

Let’s now examine the top left corner, starting with the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL (click on the images to enlarge):

The Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm is almost perfect wide open at f/3.5, improving at f/4 to be perfectly sharp between f/5.6 and f/8 (probably slightly sharper at this last aperture). Sharpness starts declining slightly from f/11 due to diffraction.

Let’s see how the Voigtlander Super-Wide Heliar 15mm behaves in the top left corner (click on the images to enlarge):

Performance here is definitely not great wide open, improving constantly until f/11. Since performance in the center behaves in the opposite way, I’d take this as a sign of field curvature.

Finally, let’s check the mid-right side, Super-Vario-Elmar-SL first (click on the images to enlarge):

The Super-Vario-Elmar-SL starts practically perfect here wide open, improving slightly until f/5.6 where it becomes just perfectly sharp staying that way at f/8 too. Sharpness starts declining slightly at f/11 due to diffraction.

Let’s check the Voigtlander Super-Wide Heliar 15mm in the mid-right side (click on the images to enlarge):

Performance here is much better than in the top left corner: the lens starts off very strongly and keep its performance up to f/8. At f/11, sharpness starts declining due to diffraction.

Master Series Workshop in Iceland Spring 2019
24mm

Again, let’s see the full scene image first, compared with the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm. You can see that, at a reported focal length of 24mm for both lenses, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL covers a slightly wider angle of view than the Vario-Elmarit-SL (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s examine the center crop first, starting with the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL. Reported aperture at 24mm is f/4.1 (click on the images to enlarge):

At 24mm as well, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm’s performance in the center of the frame is already perfect wide open at f/4.1. Stopping down, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL stays perfectly sharp until f/8; sharpness then starts declining slightly from f/11 on due to diffraction.

Let’s see now how the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL compares at 24mm in the center (click on the images to enlarge):

The Vario-Elmarit-SL starts off near perfection wide open at f/2.8 and is perfectly sharp at f/4 and f/5.6. Sharpness then starts declining slightly from f/8 on due to diffraction.

Let’s examine the top left corner now, Super-Vario-Elmar-SL first (click on the images to enlarge):

The Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm performs extremely well wide open at f/4.1, improves further at f/5.6 and is perfectly sharp at f/8. After that, sharpness starts declining slightly from f/11 due to diffraction.

Let’s see the Vario-Elmarit-SL in the top left corner now (click on the images to enlarge):

Wide open at f/2.8, the Vario-Elmarit-SL is definitely softer than his newer brother wide open: let’s keep in mind that there is one stop of difference between lenses at this focal length though. Sharpness picks up at f/4, to be nearly perfect at f/5.6, starting to decline again at f/8 due to diffraction.

Let’s go and check the mid right side of the frame, as always starting with the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL (click on the images to enlarge):

Here too the performance of the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm wide open at f/4.1 is perfect. Stopping down, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL stays perfectly sharp until f/8; sharpness then starts declining slightly from f/11 on due to diffraction.

Let’s see how the Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm performed here (click on the images to enlarge):

Performance here is much better than in the top left corner: the lens starts off very strongly and keep its performance up to f/8. At f/11, sharpness starts declining due to diffraction.

Master Series Workshop in Death Valley
35mm

As always, let’s see the full scene image first, compared with the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm. Again, you can see how, at a reported focal length of 35mm for both lenses, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL covers a slightly wider angle of view than the Vario-Elmarit-SL (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s see first how the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL behaved in the center (click on the images to enlarge):

Again, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL starts off perfectly sharp in the center wide open at f/4.5 and stays that way until f/8. Sharpness then starts declining slightly from f/11 on due to diffraction.

Let’s check out the Vario-Elmarit-SL in the center (click on the images to enlarge):

The Vario-Elmarit-SL also starts off perfectly sharp in the center wide open at f/3.1 and stays that way until f/8 where sharpness starts declining slightly due to diffraction. At 35mm in the center of the frame, the Vario-Elmarit-SL seems to be resolving more fine detail than the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL.

Let’s now check the top left corner, Super-Vario-Elmar-SL first (click on the images to enlarge):

The Super-Vario-Elmar-SL starts off great at f/4.5, and sharpness increases until f/8 where the lens is perfectly sharp. As usual, sharpness starts declining slightly from f/11 on due to diffraction.

Let’s see how the Vario-Elmarit-SL behaves in the top left corner (click on the images to enlarge):

Almost perfect wide-open at f/3.1, the Vario-Elmarit-SL starts off even better than the 16-35mm Super-Vario-Elmar-SL. Sharpness then improves to be practically perfect at f/5.6 and start declining again after f/8 due to diffraction.

Let’s finally see how the Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL behaves at 35mm in the mid right of the frame (click on the images to enlarge):

Once more, a perfect performance from wide open at f/4.5 to f/8, and a very slight decline in sharpness at f/11, as always due to diffraction.

How about the Vario-Elmarit-SL? Let’s see (click on the images to enlarge):

The Vario-Elmarit-SL starts off slightly softer wide open at f/3.1 than the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL, to become perfect at f/5.6. Sharpness declines as expected after f/8 due to diffraction.

Master Series Workshop on Dorset's Jurassic Coast
SHARPNESS AT CLOSE FOCUSING DISTANCE AND BOKEH

To examine sharpness at close focusing distance, as well as to see how the Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL f/3.5-4.5 ASPH draws out-of-focus areas, I focused on the Phillips screw right under the mailbox’s red flag in the lower right corner of the frame (about 70cm from the lens barrel). Together with the full frame image I included 100% crops taken at the point of focus, to check out sharpness, and center crops to see what happens in out-of-focus areas near infinity.

16mm

Let’s see the full image first, again compared with the Voigtlander 15mm to see how much difference there is in real-world use between 105.6 and 110 degrees angle of view (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s now examine sharpness at the point of focus, starting with the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL (click on the images to enlarge):

Wide open at f/3.5, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL’s performance is already extremely strong. Sharpness improves steadily stopping down, with best results between f/5.6 and f/8, where the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL is practically perfectly sharp. At f/11, as expected diffraction again takes its toll.

Let’s now compare it with the Voigtlander Super-Wide Heliar 15mm at point of focus (click on the images to enlarge):

At close distances, the Voigtlander’s corner performance is much better than at infinity. Sharpness at the point of focus is already very good wide open at f/4.5, improves at f/5.6 and the lens is perfectly sharp at f/8. With f/11, diffraction starts making the image softer again.

Let’s see now how the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL renders out-of-focus areas at far distances in the center of the frame (click on the images to enlarge):

And the Voigtlander Super-Wide Heliar (click on the images to enlarge):

While not the first lenses coming to mind for their out-of-focus capabilities, both the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL at 16mm and the Super-Wide Heliar 15mm render out-of-focus areas nicely, gaining sharpness gracefully stopping down.

Master Series Workshop on the Isle of Skye and Glencoe
24mm

Again, comparing full frame images you can see that also at close focusing distances at a reported focal length of 24mm the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm covers a slightly wider angle of view than the Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s now examine sharpness at the point of focus, starting with the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL (click on the images to enlarge):

Again, we witness an amazing performance here for the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL, which starts off nearly perfectly sharp wide open at f/4.1 and becomes perfect at f/5.6 and f/8. Diffraction kicks in at f/11, as expected.

Let’s compare it now with the Vario-Elmarit-SL (click on the images to enlarge):

The Vario-Elmarit-SL is equally impressive, and even more so considering that it’s one stop faster than its wider brother.

Let’s check now out-of-focus rendition at 24mm, starting with the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL (click on the images to enlarge):

And the Vario-Elmarit-SL, keeping in mind the extra stop advantage (click on the images to enlarge):

At 24mm, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL draws pleasantly, increasing sharpness nicely stopping down. Personally, I find bokeh to be slightly nervous after f/5.6. While I like the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL’s drawing very much, I find that the Vario-Elmarit-SL draws in a nicer way wide open thanks to the extra stop, and keeps a smoother character even at apertures equal to those of the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL.

Master Series Workshop in Comacchio and Venice
35mm

Once more, comparing full frame images you can see that also at 35mm the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL covers a slightly wider angle of view than the Vario-Elmarit-SL (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s start once more examining sharpness at the point of focus, Super-Vario-Elmar-SL first (click on the images to enlarge):

One more 10/10 performance for the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL here: the lens starts off perfectly sharp wide open at f/4.5 and stays equally sharp all the way to f/11.

Let’s compare it with the Vario-Elmarit-SL now (click on the images to enlarge):

The Vario-Elmarit-SL also show a perfect performance.

Let’s check now out-of-focus rendition at 35mm, the “tele” end of the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL (click on the images to enlarge):

And the Vario-Elmarit-SL (click on the images to enlarge):

Once more, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL draws very nicely at 35mm as well, where in my opinion its out-of-focus rendition is at its best. The Vario-Elmarit-SL behaves also very pleasantly here, with a smooth transition along the f/stop scale.

SHARPNESS CONCLUSIONS

In short, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH’s performance is very impressive, being almost perfectly sharp all over the frame at any focal length and at any aperture both when focussed at infinity and when focussed very close. A minimal, slight softness in the corner at 16mm wide open aside, as far as sharpness is concerned this lens is nothing short of an optical feat.

Compared to the Voigtlander 15mm, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL wins hands down. Compared to the amazing Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL is as good if not better: however, the Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm has about one stop advantage at all comparable focal length, which might make it more suitable for your work.

VIGNETTE AND COLOUR RENDITION

In real world use, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL shows a hint of vignetting at wider focal lengths wide open. Personally, I find this vignette not disturbing at all; it is something I wouldn’t feel the need to correct for 95% of my images. In fact, I often add some vignette in, to help drawing the eye towards the more important areas of my images.

Colour rendition is very pleasant to my eye and is in line with the Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm, making for a great duo in the field when colour consistency is important for your work.

DISTORTION

To check for distortion, I photographed my garage door, increasing contrast and adding straight red lines in PP to help seeing distortion better. Let’s see the results (click on the images to enlarge):

As you can see, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH is extremely well controlled for distortion, with straight lines staying straight at every focal length.

Since I have been comparing the Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH with the Voigtlander Super-Wide Heliar 15mm version III and the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH for sharpness, while I am at it I decided to add distortion images for both lenses as well. Please keep in mind that I applied a lens profile in Camera Raw for the Voigtlander, to level the field (click on the images to enlarge):

Both these lenses are equally well controlled for distortion, showing no signs of it whatsoever.

FLARE

During my test, I never used the provided lens hood; more, in the “mailbox” sequence I was shooting against the sun, and with the sun in the frame. Nevertheless, as you can see in the full frame images below, the lens showed great contrast and resistance to flare (click on the images to enlarge):

CHROMATIC ABERRATIONS

In my “real world” test, I have never seen any sign of colour fringing and chromatic aberrations, even when shooting against the sun.

THOUGHTS ON THE FOCAL RANGE

When Leica announced the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH, I was in the camp of those who would have preferred a 12-24mm lens instead: my logic was that such a lens would have been wider, which I love, and would not have had any overlapping with the amazing 24-90mm. However, in time I changed my mind: here’s why.

Optical quality, speed, weather-sealing, and everything else being equal:

– A 12-24mm would very likely have been bigger and heavier;
– A 12-24mm would very likely have required a bulbous front element, such as any other similar lens on the market, and therefore would have required me to use 150mm square filters which, as mentioned above, is something I’d do anything possible to avoid;
– Since my most used focal lengths range between 15mm and 35mm, a 12-24mm lens, being limited to 24mm on the long end, would have been less “universal” in terms of range for my work. I can easily see going out just with the 16-35mm for many of the locations I routinely go to, while with a 12-24mm I would have had to bring the 24-90mm along as well.

Therefore, for my work, I find the 16-35mm focal range to be a good match with my existing kit. Of course, your requirements – and therefore your conclusion – might be different.

APERTURE: FIXED OR VARIABLE?

In designing the zooms for the Leica SL system, Leica seems to have chosen a variable aperture approach for all their lenses, and the same decision went into the design of the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH.

While for your work you might have preferred to have a fixed f/4 or even a fixed f/2.8 lens instead, for me as a Fine Art Landscape photographer this is completely irrelevant: I do most of my work at f/8 – f/11 anyway. More, the difference between a fixed f/4 lens and a f/3.5-4.5 lens is negligible in terms both of light gathering and bokeh: so, for me the lens being a f/3.5-4.5 instead than a fixed f/4, doesn’t make much difference if at all. What counts is its optical quality.

THE DIGITAL CORRECTIONS CONUNDRUM

On the internet, there has been for a while now a heated debate about whether design of Leica SL’s lenses must only rely on optical excellence to produce great images, or whether is acceptable for them to be “helped” digitally by lens profiles. While I have no definite information one way or the other, whichever the case to me this is sort of a moot point: let me explain you why.

First of all, more than speaking about cameras and optics taken singularly, I always prefer to consider my gear in terms of a “system” of various pieces of equipment all working together a common goal: that of allowing me to create the best images I can in the easiest possible way. Much like other mirrorless systems, the Leica SL and its zoom lenses have been designed for the digital world from the ground up and are intended to work as a whole. The benefits of such an approach are very evident with the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL as they are with the other native SL lenses.

Some quality of a lens can only be achieved through superior optical design and construction, especially by keeping built tolerances to an extreme minimum. Such qualities are sharpness, contrast (especially for fine detail), drawing and rendering, coma, flare resistance and so on.

Other qualities instead, such as vignette and distortion control, can be achieved as well with the help of software.

Now, if adding digital corrections for vignette or distortion impacted image quality, sharpness, contrast, micro-contrast or detail rendition in any way, I would agree with those preferring a full-optical approach to image quality.

However, images created with the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH are extremely sharp all over the frame at all focal lengths and at any aperture, they have great flare resistance, great contrast, and so on. Examined at 200% as I routinely do, they don’t show any signs of digital stretching or noise in the corners resulting from digitally lifting vignette or correcting distortion, nor they show any digitally-created problems of that sort. Therefore, whether vignette and distortion corrections are done optically or digitally is of very little importance to me: is the result that counts.

In my opinion, rather than discussing to no end on the quality of either approach, our job as photographers should be that of taking such great image quality and put it to a good use artistically and photographically.

Master Series Workshop in Iceland Winter 2019
CONCLUSIONS

A long-waited and very welcome addition to the Leica SL’s native lens lineup, the Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH didn’t disappoint: it is a superb, class-leading lens indeed.

Technically speaking, the Super-Vario-Elmar-SL is extremely sharp all over the frame for every focal length, at any distance and at any aperture; for landscape work, using it at around f/8 will guarantee you extremely sharp images from corner to corner. The lens is extremely resistant to flare, is very well contrasted at macro level and shows great micro-contrast as well. Distortion, vignette and chromatic aberrations are all either absent or very well corrected.

Artistically, the lens draws quite beautifully; its arrival opens new possibilities for wide-angle photography with the Leica SL using all the benefits of native lenses versus adapted lenses: fast and reliable autofocus, weather-sealing, perfect built and amazing image quality.

What about landscape work? Well, as always it depends on your preference in terms of focal lengths. If, like me, you love to use wide-angle lenses, this lens is simply a no-brainer for existing Leica SL users or for people considering this system for landscape photography. It will free room in your bag and make your workflow better and more streamlined both in the field and in post-processing by replacing quite a few prime lenses, with equivalent or better optical quality and adding native AF, weather sealing and filter-friendliness to your arsenal of wide-angle lenses for the Leica SL.

In short, the Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH found a permanent room in my bag, and I can’t wait to put it to a good use in the field. Highly recommended.

Thanks for reading this Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH in-depth review, I hope you enjoyed it! Why don’t you share it with your friends, or drop me a comment to let me know how you feel about this?

Have a great day, and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE TO THE NEWSLETTER!

Technical details: quick and dirty product images have been shot with the Leica SL equipped with the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 on a Really Right Stuff tripod equipped with an Arca-Swiss P0 Classic ballhead. All photos have been developed and finished in Adobe Photoshop CC.

13 replies
  1. john kelley - kilglass
    john kelley - kilglass says:

    excellent presentation and factual – wonderful that those Leica users are always in awe what their lenses can produce…
    our family use of Leica cameras is in fact a time period of over 65 years…
    long may it continue john kelley

    Reply
  2. Robert Gromen
    Robert Gromen says:

    All that is very nice, but once again, Leica falls short. They left out Image Stabilization in a lens that costs thousands of dollars! Both the 24-90 and 90-280 have it and it’s great.
    Why they left it out is once again disappointing to those of us who are older photographers and really benefit from IS. I personally will look for third party alternatives instead, even if they don’t have IS, they will be a lot less expensive. Had this lens been made with IS, I would have bit the bullet and paid the price. Disappointment in Leica continues.

    Reply
    • Ramsey Spencer
      Ramsey Spencer says:

      they didnt fall short at all .. its wide angle lens after all and there is no need for EVERYTHING to have IS build in … we are real photographers and we got skills for shooting and we know how to use the camera … so we dont need so much teach so we be lazy and we want everything ready to go …

      everyone need to stop crying about over easy needs especially in photography … no one was crying back in the film days .. why we dont have this why we dont have that .. you roll the film .. do the 2 settings which is shutter and aperture and call it a day …

      so enjoy what you have .. Leica is not stupid company to not add or add things .. they know what they do .. you like it .. welcome .. you dont .. then you know where to go

      cheers

      Reply
    • Vieri
      Vieri says:

      Hello Robert,

      I am sorry that you are disappointed because Leica didn’t include IS in the 16-35mm. However, personal requirements aside you’ll have to admit that it is quite reasonable not to include IS in such a wide-angle zoom, and therefore I don’t think it’s fair to say that “once again, Leica falls short” just because they decided not to include a feature that you wanted or needed. That said, of course you are free to look for different solutions: luckily, Leica SL’s flexibility allows you to use pretty much any lens you want with it.

      Best regards,

      Vieri

      Reply
  3. Eddie Butt
    Eddie Butt says:

    Vieri

    Many thanks for the review. As usual, excellent detail and scope. I’ve been using the SL with the Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm and Voigtlander 15mm – mainly for landscape – I absolutely love the camera and the lenses. I’ve been waiting for the 16-35mm and I’m pleased to see it you’re not disappointed with the performance. I’m not sure yet whether the improvement over the 15mm is worth the price – always the headache for the amateur user! I think I’ll be checking my piggy-bank…

    Reply
    • Vieri
      Vieri says:

      Hello Eddie,

      thank you for your comment, I am glad you enjoyed the review. As you, I have been using the 24-90mm and the Voigtlander 15mm as my main kit for my professional Fine Art landscape work for about a couple of years now, and just loved what the little Voigtlander could do. While the Voigt is amazing in the center, the performance of the 16-35mm at 16mm is far superior to that of the 15mm in the corners, and the 16-35mm offers the added convenience of being a zoom lens. However, whether this is worth the almost tenfold increase in cost to you, only you can answer…

      Best regards,

      Vieri

      Reply
      • Eddie Butt
        Eddie Butt says:

        Hi Vieri

        Well, I couldn’t resist it – my 16-35 lens arrived yesterday. I gave it a short outing today and first impressions are very, very good. I’ll take it for a nice day out in Glencoe (a couple of hours drive from me and an area I think you know well!) over the next week or two for a proper test!

        Once again, many thanks for the detailed review.

        Best regards

        Eddie

        Reply
        • Vieri
          Vieri says:

          Hi Eddie,

          that’s great! Enjoy your new lens, the 16-35mm is just wonderful – I brought it with me on the Dolomites in May, and loved it :) Yes, glance is an area I know very well and love very much – can’t wait to go back next Spring for my next Workshop there!

          Thank you once more for your kind words about my articles, much appreciated indeed, I am glad you are finding them useful. Have a great Sunday! Best regards,

          Vieri

          Reply
  4. Stephen
    Stephen says:

    Hello Vieri.
    Thanks for the review. Could you maybe complete the picture of this lens by adding tests for the gaps at 28mm and 19/21mm ? Even if you have no direct comparison with other lenses.
    Or maybe you have and could compare it to the WATE or a M Elmarit 28mm ?
    Thanks for the interesting review.

    Reply
    • Vieri
      Vieri says:

      Hello Stephen,

      Thank you for your comment, I am glad you enjoyed the review. No, I am not planning to add any further comparisons for other focal lengths, sorry about that. I feel that 16 – 24 – 35mm is enough to give a pretty complete picture of what this lens can do, since both in my testing and in the field I cannot find any significant difference in performance at 21mm or 28mm that couldn’t be inferred looking at what you see here.

      In short, the lens is closer to perfect at every focal length and any aperture than any zoom I have ever tried or seen tested :)

      Best regards,

      Vieri

      Reply

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