Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-70 ASPH
I had a brief moment with the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-70 ASPH lens on my Lumix S1 camera. In my hand I could tell this lens was built up to Leica standards, meaning the lens is actually manufactured in Japan (not Germany) under stringent quality control. I notice a nice heft, but not too heavy. When I mounted the lens to the Lumix S1 camera, I noticed this lens/camera combo was balanced nicely and easy to hold.
For some quick tech specs
- Lenses/groups 19/15
- Aperture blades 11
- Aperture range f/2.8-f22
- Filter size 82mm
- Working range 24mm: 0.18m to infinity
- Working range 70mm: 0.38m to infinity
- Length 123/153mm (without/with lens hood)
- Diameter 88/97mm (without/with lens hood)
- Weight 856/906g (without/with lens hood)
- Retail $2,795
The lens is made up of 19 elements in 15 groups. Included in the arrangement are three aspherical lens elements and nine anomalous partial dispersion lens elements. When these elements work together they correct monochromatic aberrations and chromatic aberrations.
As Leica is part of the L-Mount Alliance, this lens is a fabulous choice for the professional shooter. I know you are probably wondering how this lens works on the Lumix S1. I would answer, perfectly. As soon as I mounted up the lens to the camera, I had to run out and take a couple of quick shots of my car. Below you will see the images of my car. The image on the left is shot with settings 70mm at f/8. There is little to no distortion from what I can tell. The lines on the building are pretty straight without bending (pincushion or bloating). The image on the right shows how sharp the center of the lens is. This one was shot at 47mm at f/2.8. Check out the bokeh in the upper right with the light through the trees and the one round light from the building. Click images to enlarge.
Off to the beach
Once I had a feel for the lens, it was time to head off to the beach. I had my Lumix S1 set up with rear button (AF) focus and the switch selector to MF. I used manual focus most of the time. I have to say with my old eyes, focus peaking is one of the greatest features of the modern mirrorless camera. Using the manual focus ring on the Vari-Elmarit is buttery smooth. It definitely was a pleasure using manual focus and focus peaking with this camera/lens combo. I’m sure by now everyone wants to know how autofocus on the lens worked with the camera. I have to say that AF was quick and accurate. Panasonic uses DFD (depth from defocus) for the AF system. DFD is a when the AF system interprets the depth by making tiny focus adjustments and analyzing how the image has changed as a result. With an understanding of the out-of-focus characteristics of the lens being used, the camera can interpret these changes and build a depth map of the scene. Basically it finds the focus and tweaks defocus in and out until sharply focused. I did not have any problems using autofocus for still photography. You still see a little pulsing from the DFD system from time to time, but it’s not distracting. Now, to get to the photos. My first stop was to photograph the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse. I didn’t want to bring my tripod with me, so I arrived a little after dawn. The light in the sky was not what I was hoping for, but it was still a very pretty sunrise. Here are two images from Hillsboro. The one on the left is of the lighthouse. I photographed the lighthouse set with 70mm, f/5.6 at 1/125. The in-body stabilization worked wonderfully. The photo on the right is of the sign at the pier. I noticed some heavy vignetting on some of my images. Here is a good tip: make sure your lens hood is fully attached. The sign is photographed with the settings 61mm, f/2.8 at 1/320. Click images to enlarge.
After Hillsboro I drove down to Pompano Beach. I walked along the sidewalk checking out the scenery. Here are some samples that I took using the Vario-Elmarit-SL attached to the Lumix S1. I have to say, I really enjoyed using this lens. I like the colors that it reproduces, too. All these samples have been tweaked a little. I modified white balance, played with the contrast and upped the vibrance a little. I wanted to test this lens on how I shoot. I do not shoot charts or make graphs. I like testing equipment in real-world use. That’s the best way for me to judge whether or not the equipment will work for my shooting style. Click images to enlarge.
One of the things that can happen when shooting a sunrise is sunflare. The sunflare will cause a starburst effect which is pretty common when shooting toward a light source. Depending on the aperture, the starburst effect can be simple or dramatic. Another phenomena when shooting toward a light source is ghosting. If you look close at the photo below, you will see the starburst effect from the sun, but no ghosting. Ghostings are green, magenta and/or white spots that trail towards the bright light source. Because of the aspherical lens elements and anomalous lens elements in the Vario-Elmarit lens, monochromatic aberrations and chromatic aberrations are very minimal to nonexistent. FYI, ghosting is usually the answer to the paranormal “ghosts” in photos you see from adventure seekers. Lower quality lenses always have some sort of distortion, flares and chromatic aberrations. That is the test to the construction of the elements and build quality of the Leica lens–it reduces these engineering problems in a way that justifies the price. For more information about sunflare, ghosting and aberration, Panasonic has information on the Lumix Know-How page.
Here are some more images from my walk. If anyone knows me, then they know I am from Alabama. Albertville to be exact. Albertville is also known as the fire hydrant capital of the world. I always take shots of the hydrants from my travels, as long as they are Mueller hydrants from Albertville. Here is a new one just manufactured in 2020. I had to add a building shot, too, because people like to use architectural structures for lens testing. I can’t decide if I like the color version or the black and white version best. You can’t have water without a boat.
I have to say, I really enjoyed using this lens. The build quality is superb, the glass produces sharp images, the weight is not overbearing and the AF is accurate. I didn’t think twice about walking around the beach and salty air because the lens is weather sealed. The lens characteristics are what I look for in a professional lens. I know the rumors going around on the internet about this being a repackaged Sigma. It’s not. I’ve also seen sample images taken between this lens, the Sigma lens and the Lumix S lens. By far the Leica and Sigma have a step above the Lumix lens for image quality, but the Leica has the edge over the Sigma for image quality and robust build. If I were a casual shooter, I would not think twice about the Sigma. I am serious shooter that has a camera in hand just about every single day. I need reliability day in and day out for my work. I need a lens I don’t have to think about or worry about. I believe the 24-70mm Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL can deliver day in and day out. After this quick usability test, I am putting the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-70 ASPH at the top of my list.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. If you would like to see more of my work check out my gallery.