21st March 2021, Singapore – Last week when I did a walk with the Leica Summilux 50mm, the article garnered almost 5,000 views in 24 hours – that got me thinking, is Leica still generating interest with younger & potential photographers that have not bought-in into the history of Leica cameras? Well, for me, I have always perceived Leica as a “progression” in many photographer’s journey. It is not a must-have, but definitely a must to own a Leica once in your lifetime in my view. For me, my love with rangefinder cameras started when my Dad gave me a Yashica MG-1 in 2010. (It was a 1975 camera and he bought it to shoot me as I was born in that very same year.) I find shooting with a rangefinder challenging but fun at the same time. It is hard to describe but it’s another level of photography that many will probably not experience or have not experienced it. The Leica M10 is the epitome of everything you can image from a digital rangefinder camera – all right let us not go that far. Back to the Super Elmar-M 18mm that I am re-reviewing today.
For those new to Leica lenses, here’s a quick introduction.
Lens type: Elmar – These are entry-level “slower” lenses with a max aperture of F3.8-F4.
Lens type: Elmarit – These slightly faster lenses comes with a max Aperture of 2.8
Lens type: Summarit – Latest Leica lens-line with a max Aperture of 2.5
Lens type: Summicron – The premium line of F2 lenses.
Lens type: Summilux – The “First Class” fast & sharp lenses with 1.4 Aperture.
Lens type: Noctilux – Out-of-this-World lenses with F0.95 Aperture with an unworldly price. (Note: previous Noctilux lenses come in F1.0)
We shall call it the Elmar 18mm for this review. Search the history of Leica and you will be surprised why the Elmar 18mm is special – because Leica has not added any ultra-wide angle prime lens for the M series line since 1958 – since the 21mm that is. Many have touted the Elmar 18mm as the “Millennial lens” since most of the younger photographers prefers wider angle photography. Whatever you call it – to me, it is an extremely useful and a great lens to use. The only thing that puzzled me was – why Leica does not make it as a Elmarit (F2.8) since the price point for the Elmar 18mm is close to the Elmarit price bracket. Anyway, Leica being Leica, we can only remain puzzled.
At 18mm, the Elmar 18mm is under the category of Ultra-Wide-Angle lens. The optics are lined up into 8 elements in 7 groups with 2 aspherical (on surface) elements (that explains the ASPH code on lens). The aperture is a standard 09 blade which was rumoured to give nice starburst at F16 – which I have not tried since I own this lens.
As expected from Leica, the anodized aluminum Elmar 18mm was built like a tank, the lens is solid and weighty but not heavy at 309gm (with the special filter adaptor) and it measures only 48.8mm X 61mm – can be easily passed off as the smallest ultra-angle lens in the world. The Elmar 18mm starts focusing from 70cm to the front and although this is not really impressive – hey, this a UWA lens, not a fisheye or macro lens.
Due to the Elmar 18mm’s construction and design, I had mounted the special 77mm adaptor to it and to put a filter over the front element to protect it. I have always “over-experimented” almost every lens/camera that I had and that goes the same for this Elmar 18mm. In the case of this Elmar 18mm, it is an “over-engineered” lens which gives a lot of value, usability for the price it retails.
I took the Elmar 18mm out on a gloomy Saturday afternoon for a walk with a couple of friends and I am doing this as a last review for this lens as I will be selling off this lens to make space and I have always used the 21mm more often than this Elmar 18mm. Instead of wasting its time exhibiting itself in my dry cabinet, it is time for a new owner who will appreciate this lens to own it.
(This lens is for Sale by the way as I have the 21mm which I am keeping – do scroll down for the details)
Let’s see some of the photos that I had shot using the Elmar 18mm paired to a M10 below.
With an Ultra-Wide-Angle lens like the Elmar 18mm, I almost feel that I can rule the world. Most people will not think that an UWA can do anything decent for street photography, but I beg to differ. That was why I decided to do this review to prove many of you wrong. In fact, with the wider angle of view, you can achieve wide angle street scenes, coupled with landscapes, cityscapes and you can do wonders in really tight places.
I decided to walk from City Hall to Chinatown, a short 4.2 km walk via Connaught Road, Boat Quay, Hong Lim to Chinatown. The Elmar 18mm is a wonder when space is tight or subject is too tall/large – while my friends struggled the above shot with their 24mm, I got everything framed and composed in seconds and took the above shot.
The Elmar 18mm is not just another UWA lens, it renders colours very accurately (paired with M10) and it gives shit loads of details – even when I shot some of the scenes in F3.8.
In a way, this is amazing, yes you may argue many other brands produce wider angles prime lenses than Leica – but wait till you check out the details – the Elmar 18mm is not just wide, it captures details like no other.
The Elmar 18mm is a lens that one must first understand its strength before you can use it to its max capability. Despite owning the lens for a while, I have not really mastered its effective use except learning how it processes light slightly differently from other UWA lenses. The above image taken at Esplanade MRT is such an example – the Elmar 18mm is really good at “dividing lights” and I can create the above shot easily without much effort. While other systems may end up giving the user an over-exposed image due to the “smarter” metering, the Elmar 18mm gave me the above image in One Shot.
I believe I do not have to explain the benefits of having an Ultra-Wide-Angle lens while on the street. It was absolutely amazing for me to see the images that I had shot with the Elmar 18mm for this walk. If I had brought the Summilux 50mm with me, I believed many of the images in this review would not be possible at all.
I chanced upon a group of youngsters having fun with skateboards and I decided to take a group shot for them. These guys are cool and friendly, do say hello to them when you see them, they are near to the underpass leading to Esplanade.
Walking around with the Elmar 18mm allows me to shoot almost everything from anywhere. Some of these shots were cropped – and because I can do so. The Leica M10 has enough pixels for me to crop up to 70% off the original image from the Elmar 18mm.
Yes, the above image was shot right at the foot of the spotlight structure, I was that close, and the Elmar 18mm allows me to shoot it standing right below it. The beauty of 18mm.
The below shot was the back alley of Boat Quay – I had attempted this shot at this location many times with many lenses, the Elmar 18mm nailed it in just one shot. Another great example of what this Elmar 18mm is capable of.
The Leica Super Elmar-M 18mm F/3.8 ASPH is in a class of its own. At F/3.8, I really think Leica could have made it as an Elmarit (F/2.8) so the Elmar 18mm will find a home with nightscape photographers. Very capable lens for landscape for sure, it has also become a class-leader for wide angle street shots among the younger photographers of today. If you are a Leica M System user, you will love the Elmar 18mm – I promise.
Here’s a parting shot (courtesy of Serene | Digital | Crafts). See you again soon!
This very unit here from this review is for sale. This Leica Super Elmar-M 18mm F/3.8 ASPH comes with the special Leica 77mm filter adaptor and the everything else that came with the box. I am selling because I really prefer the 21mm due to my shooting style. I had only used the Elmar 18mm for a few times and it had been dormant inside my dry cabinet for a long time until I did this review – so you can imagine how mint this unit is. There is no dusts, no fungus, no mould and at a pristine condition.
**This review unit is yours for SGD $2,700.00**
Buy Here: https://www.ebay.com.sg/itm/Leica-Super-Elmar-M-18mm-F-3-8-ASPH/294076925353
Buying this Lens
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Renting this Camera – Please check for availability first.
For those of you who wish to try out the camera/ lens before purchase, we are pleased to share that this camera & lens is available for rental at our appointed rental merchant:
Camera Rental Centre is Conveniently Located at:
50 South Bridge Road, CMO Building, (very near to Clarke Quay MRT)
#02-18. Singapore 058682
Reviewer: AL Lee