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Jan 162012


USER REPORT: Vintage Glass is Fun
a Mini-Review of a 1961 Leica 90mm Elmarit f/2.8
by Amy Medina – DangRabbit Photography
Nothing too technical here, I just wanted to share my delight with a recent lens I got for my upcoming birthday (yes, I got my gift early!). It’s an old version 1 of the 90mm Elmarit, and what a joy it’s turning out to be.
I’ve wanted a 90 for quite a while, ever since last year when I found myself in a situation where the 50 just wasn’t long enough and there was no way to get closer with my feet. Two very interesting fellows were sitting in chairs conversing on the other side of small boat canal, and I only wished to have something longer to capture more of their wonderfully interesting personalities.
So I finally decided to take a chance with this old Elmarit. While I’d love a newer one, it’s just not in the budget for me.
It arrived on Thursday morning and I immediately set out to give it a try… down to a favorite marina on a misty day. This is one of my first shots with the lens, wide open, of a favorite subject:


This old Elmarit renders in a very classic way, with focus-fall-off that isn’t harsh or dramatic, but silky smooth. Wide open, the lens is surprisingly sharp. Contrast is more of what you’d expect in an old classic like this — the contrast is not at all punchy  — but lets face it, in the digital age we can always give contrast a little boost in post if necessary. It has a fantastic character about it, the way an old Summitar does (but the bokeh isn’t swirly). Straight out of the camera, the files have a vintage look to them, not in color, but in their rendering… and it takes to a retro-style post-processing treatment quite nicely.


The downside is that the lens is quite prone to flare. Though I didn’t get a hood with the lens, I’ve heard it actually makes little difference, and since it’s a bit long already without the hood, I’m not sure I’d use it anyway. It is something to be aware of though. The flare is of the soft hazy kind.
The lens isn’t heavy, but as mentioned, long. You can see in the photo of my camera with the lens mounted, it’s almost silly looking… almost. Focus is smooth, and the throw isn’t too long. Adjusting focus with the Elmarit is quite comfortable and easy, though with any 90 you’ll want to be sure your rangefinder mechanism is aligned properly. Luckily, mine is spot on, even after almost 5 years. I love my M8.

Also, focusing can be a little challenging with a long lens like this. I have a 1.25 magnifier screwed onto my M8 and it really does help in a big way. And I have one of the cheaper, “from Hong Kong” magnifiers I got on EBay and it works a charm.


Overall, for under $400 I am thrilled with this star-of-a-lens… and it’s a gem worth exploring if your budget doesn’t allow for a more modern 90, or if you just want to try some vintage Leica glass. I’ve been having a ball with it for the last four days, and though I was a little worried 90mm might be long for every-day use, it’s proving to be just a new focal length to explore, and a fun one at that.


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Thanks for reading and looking!

  40 Responses to “Vintage glass is fun! A mini review of the Leica 90 Elmarit by Amy Medina”

  1. THANK YOU for that review! I got a banged-up M2 with this lens for 400€ and i will spend another 100€ on restoring the lens and 200€ on the body. Looking at your pictures convinced me that this is money will spent, since i am looking for a used M9 soonish. :)

  2. Lovely personal review. I have a 1966 Emarit f2.8 90mm (fat) lens on its way and I’m looking forward to putting it through it’s paces. I have a 35 and a 50, but the 90 will do nicely in balance with the wider lens.

  3. I bought my 90mm 2.8 Elmarit in 1973, still have it and use it. The leather covering is coming off and I have lost the red dot, but the glass is clear. I still have the lens hood, but it serves no purpose, it is pretty much a portrait lens and it is very well suited for B&W film.

  4. Denis Gilbert says, I have the 90mm Tele Elmarit 2.8 and use it on my M6 and M2,a beautiful lens which
    I much prefer against newer glass.

  5. What a beautiful lens! Having just got my 70s f2.8 90mm Elmarit, I will enjoy using mine on my digital rangefinder.

  6. Greetings,

    I just wanted to ask, where exactly did you buy your camera strap?


  7. Great review. I have the exact same lens for my M9, and agree with your comments.

    I might add that it produces –wonderful— color, saturated and warmish. Stopped down is pretty sharp. Wide open it is somewhat soft, but I bought it for making old-fashioned portraits anyway so that is actually a desired feature for my uses.

    This lens demonstrates in a beautiful way how great the M system is, that one can pick up a 50 year old lens for a couple of hundred dollars that produce top notch results with a certain look.

    Comparing this lens with the modern version (90/2 or 75/2 for example) is like comparing a 1965 ferrari and a 2005 ferrari. Same soul, totally different animals. One just can’t compare them side by side.

  8. I wonder does anybody has any personal experience with both the 90mm Elmarit and the newer and slightly faster 90mm Summarit? Which one has a better rendering?…. looking at a 75mm corn APSH but am tempted by these more economical offerings after seeing what Amy and Rolle have posted.
    Any comments or opinions would be appreciated.

  9. Great report, Amy! My friend, who is trying to sell this lens, will be happy too..I was on the fence about buying it until I read this.

    Joe ;)

  10. Awesome Amy, I’m a big fan of vintage glass, these are wonderful shots………

  11. Knew you would love this lens Amy and that you would get the best out of it. It’s another real steal in the vintage group alongside the 40 Summicron 50 Summitar and 50 Summilux V1, just love old quality Leica lenses!

  12. Congratulations Amy.

    I’m sure you will enjoy this new challenge and we will be able to enjoy its fruits.

  13. Lot of new gear lately, Pana, Oly, Nikon, Sony, etc. Oeps I didn’t noticed any new Leica stuf, except the usual $$$$ titanium collector items, or the stuff that never reaches the store…. The famous ‘not in stock’ items :). …. Cheers!

  14. Actually, 120mm (equivalent) is quite a nice focal length. Since I’ve gotten my dad’s old Pentax SLR, I’ve grown quite fond of the 135mm lens it came with. It provides a different view on things — more focussed on detail.

    Glad you enjoy your new toy! :-)

  15. i have owned 3*90mm’s…summicron (lovely but too heavy), elmarit (new version, lovely still heavy) but now have the tele-elmarit (early 80’s version) lovely/perfectly balanced, 3d pop and silky bokeh

  16. Love the last shot! Great lens too, hrm i think its time to get a leica…

  17. Amazing. Reading this makes me want to get a used Leica M8. I am picking up Leica Summicron 35mm version 4 for my Sony NEX 5N. And I already have some M-mount Voigtlander glass as well.

    I mean the NEX 5N produces amazing images with manual focus legacy glass but what I lust is the rangefinder experience! The dynamic range on the 5N sometimes is greater than my friends 5D mk2 and my Alpha A900 at certain times. Higher than Canon for sure at all times.

    M8 is not the greatest technical masterpiece as low light blows and all but the mechanical qualities is what I am after. The innards that make rangefinder focusing and usability experience as what it is.

  18. Great post Amy! It’s nice to see reviews occasionally of some of the older glass that many of us think about acquiring for various reasons (including the high price and ridiculous unavailability of new Leica glass these days….). Your first shot of the seagull is wonderful. I’m currently enjoying a 90mm Elmar C f4, using it on my M9 and my MP. It’s a cheap – but slower – alternative to the 2.8. But even wide open at f4,I get sharpness at the point of focus and a nice, dreamy feeling elsewhere.

  19. Great shots I love the first one . I went from a M6 to a M8 and then to a 9 and never purchased new
    lenes I still use a 35 , 50 ,90 and 135 all go back 40 and 50 years with great results , do not
    think I will ever upgrade because I love the results Good Shooting JM

  20. Let’s go back to b&w. Oh, that leaves out the M8. OK, an MP, M7, M6? Whatever.

  21. vintage lens ,classic photo’s , very natural looking outcome amy ! very nice !!

  22. Thank you for this mini review, Amy! It sure looks like a good lens to me, but in your hands every lens seems to be good! ;-)

    And the last image is awesome!


  23. while I am sure that it’s a wonderful lens, I have to admit that 90mm is a bit long on on the M8 (for me).
    I liked 75mm better, but then there is no real vintage 75 except the Summilux which is quite a bit newer than your Elmarit :)

  24. oh, i found a foto with this lens …

  25. thanks for sharing! every word is true. last year i bought this lens for my M8. i must admit i don’t use it much, because for me it is too long (in both meanings) and looks -your right- silly ;-)
    but i won’t sell it, just because it’s so >vintage<

  26. Lovely shots, Amy. I had this lens briefly, but found issues with flare when used without the hood. It has a good reputation, optically, and you are showing its strengths with your images. Hope all’s well. Miss ya!

  27. Wow, very cool! I’ll keep my eye out for one of these for my M8.

  28. Wow, this old lens does a great job, plus the one using it too! Very nice shots Amy to show off this ol’ jewel. The bokeh is smooth and creamy. Love it. May have to look at this one if I ever get the M mount for my Ricoh GXR!

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