Leica 21mm SEM or Zeiss 21 f2.8

Discussion in 'Leica M and LTM Lenses' started by VINCETAN, Jun 19, 2015.

  1. VINCETAN

    VINCETAN Leica Place Top Veteran

    710
    Aug 19, 2013
    I am looking for a wide angle lens in the 21mm range and is wondering if the Leica SEM is worth the big price difference vs the 21mm f2.8 Zeiss ZM lens? I think the Leica is a newer design than the Zeiss but over twice the price, is it really worth it?
     
  2. carlb

    carlb Leica Place Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    769
    May 1, 2013
    Vince, when I look for a very wide lens I look for sharpness. As far as character, I worry about that for more of the for 35mm, 50mm, 70mm, etc.

    The Zeiss are very sharp ...
     
  3. brusby

    brusby Leica Place Regular Subscribing Member

    96
    Mar 1, 2014
    I love Zeiss lenses, but the Leica 21mm SEM is a beautiful and amazing lens. It's very sharp, has great contrast and best of all it's really small and compact.

    I just fixed some broken links to a few images made with the Leica 21 that I posted a while back.

    https://www.leicaplace.com/threads/646/#post-5764
     
    • Like Like x 1
  4. carlb

    carlb Leica Place Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    769
    May 1, 2013
    Ah, I see. I'll look for more images from this lens, it might have something unique, and superb ...
     
  5. carlb

    carlb Leica Place Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    769
    May 1, 2013
    OK, I have a used 21mm SEM ASPH f3.4 coming in a few days ... The example pics I see look great, I like the fact that it minimizes the vignetting color-shift. Less post processing. :^)
     
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  6. VINCETAN

    VINCETAN Leica Place Top Veteran

    710
    Aug 19, 2013
    Carl, your stockpile is growing rapidly. I was debating between this 21 or the 24 and if I would rather get the 2.8 version. I also might go back to getting a Tri-Elmar since it gives me the flexibility and I really like the rendering of that lens.
     
  7. rbelyell

    rbelyell Leica Place Veteran

    202
    May 25, 2014
    just out of curiosity, is there some reason for not considering the 21 elmarit? i have one thats practically glued to my rd1. no color shift and very little vignetting. its small even with the hood, and i am very happy with the rendering overall.
     
  8. carlb

    carlb Leica Place Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    769
    May 1, 2013
    Vince, I'll see how it does monday when I pick it up at UPS. Also have a Ricoh GV-1 viewfinder coming in, since I intend to use the lens on an M9. 21mm is one of the widest fields of view that captures a neat look, without drawing too much attention to the fact that it's wide-angle - at least to my eye.

    Tony, I decided on the 21mm SEM ASPH f3.4 hoping that it does minimize edge color shift on the full-frame sensors. That's what I'm reading about it - hope I'm getting that correct. M9 and M240 OOC images do suffer from color shift especially in the wider lenses.

    That shift can be fixed in post, but I'd rather not have to mess with it - including that white-card shot to help characterize the correction.

    The sharpness and contrast of the lens is praised, as well. Both of those are quite important to me. Found one used at a pretty decent price ...
     
  9. rbelyell

    rbelyell Leica Place Veteran

    202
    May 25, 2014
    sure, i understand, thanks. my curiosity was why you hadnt considered the 21 elmarit. is/are there negatives associated with it that set it apart qualitatively from the zeiss and the SEM you considered? i am very interested because i have never seen anything negative written about the elmarit, but it seems consistantly overlooked. given the performance, size and 2.8 aperture that i enjoy, i'm wondering what negatives i am missing and why no one ever talks about the elmarit in 21mm rf lens discussions. i am especially confused because i believe the elmarit is a walter mandler designed lens, and typically mandler lenses are coveted.
     
  10. uhoh7

    uhoh7 Leica Place Regular

    163
    Oct 14, 2014
    SEM 21 is legendary, really best daylight UWA ever made by Leica. The Zeiss which comes close is the 18/4 M. The elmarit and ZM 21/2.8 are both great lenses, but not at the SEM 21 level. Nothing is. :)
     
  11. rbelyell

    rbelyell Leica Place Veteran

    202
    May 25, 2014
    not to be a pest, but 'best' in what respects?

    also, as you put elmarit and zeiss together, and there are so many discussions about the zeiss, the leica pre elmarit super angulon and the cv 21, i am still curious why the elmarit seems never to get mentioned. i'm honestly just curious if i am missing some flaw everyone else knows about, you know, like the person who is oblivious to the seed he has on his front tooth. ):
     
  12. carlb

    carlb Leica Place Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    769
    May 1, 2013
    Tony, there's nothing wrong that I'm seeing about the 21mm f2.8 ASPH Elmarit. Compared to the SEM, it's a bit larger and exhibits 8-point sun-stars. The latter might cause some Leicanistas to shake their heads. I think I chose the SEM when I saw one in decent shape for a good price.
     
  13. carlb

    carlb Leica Place Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    769
    May 1, 2013
    Here's one from a first walk with the 21mm SEM on the M9. Had to guess on the framing, the viewfinder arrived later.

    19452093394_ca24620473_b. view by the path by Carl B, on Flickr

    There is some bad sensor dust here, heh! But the lens contribuition looks great. Also, color shift is completely corrected for JPEG, and if I remember correctly raw too.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2015
  14. rbelyell

    rbelyell Leica Place Veteran

    202
    May 25, 2014
    looks very nice, congrats.
     
  15. uhoh7

    uhoh7 Leica Place Regular

    163
    Oct 14, 2014
    I think for a true analysis you need people who shoot them all alot. I looked long and hard at the zm21/2.8 and nearly pulled the trigger. I doubt it is better than the elmarit, but it's way way cheaper. LOL I think that's why the elmarit is less loved, pricey.

    The SEM 21 is a 2011 design and draws like the 28 cron at similar apertures, with a very similar color signature: this I can really testify to, since I own them both. So, how better? Sharpness across the frame is better and color rendition is richer. Or so is very often claimed, and why should not the latest 21 be the best?

    Of course the price of the 8 element 35 cron shows "best" is a matter of opinion LOL. And newest may not be to a particular shooter's taste. The 35 cron asph, another lens I came within a whisper of buying, is crazy controversial. You have guys who swear by it and those who hate it. I went for the ZM 35/2 instead, which is great, but not quite to 28 cron level for me.

    Let's take a look at the SEM 21:
    18617364328_57175980b8_b.
    Overgrown
    by unoh7, on Flickr

    18800096782_084c4591af_b.
    Yellow Log
    by unoh7, on Flickr

    18678744679_2e09f73d69_b.
    L1033499-2
    by unoh7, on Flickr

    You have been around enough to know "best" is always subject to qualifiers. SEM is slow, not cheap etc. But superb.
     
  16. rbelyell

    rbelyell Leica Place Veteran

    202
    May 25, 2014
    thank you for your thoughtful reply and your lovely pictures. i understand everything you said, but must take issue with the price difference between the elmarit and the zeiss 21/2.8, they seem to me to be pretty close on price.

    coming from slr's i have long been a huge zeiss fan, and a leica skeptic. but as i moved to rf over the last five years and i use more leica lenses i really do see rendering differences generally between the two manufacturers--not in every case, but in a lot of them. im actually now finding zeiss sharpness too 'harsh' compared to leica sharpness. i cannot define it past that, some have called it 'cold' or 'sterile'. but i see it, and in general i prefer leica. this is specifically so in the 21 debate. my elmarit is fast, small, has pop and lovely warm color with plenty of detail even on my lowly 6mp rd1.
     
  17. uhoh7

    uhoh7 Leica Place Regular

    163
    Oct 14, 2014
    Tony is that the pre-asph you have? Those I see for around a grand. Or is it the ASPH, which fetches close to 2k?

    I think you have a good question, very interesting really.

    Here is Puts on what I think is your version, the pre-asph:
    "The general performance of the Elmarit-M lens is better than that of the Super-Angulon at f/3.4. This is partly due to the reduction of astigmatism, which results in improved rendition of fine details.

    At f/4.0 extremely fine details are vis- ible with good contrast in the center and within a 12 mm diameter circle around the center. From there to the corners the image details become progressively softer, but fine details remain within a detectable range.

    Optimum performance is reached at f/ 5.6 with extremely fine details now vis- ible over the entire image area into the outermost corners. Subject outlines, es- pecially in the outer zones, have soft edges, giving an overall impression of a smooth, somewhat subdued image. Stopping down to f/11 and smaller aper- tures diminishes image quality. Decentering was not measurable.

    Generally speaking, this lens is a com- mendable performer and an improve- ment over the Super-Angulon lens. In the field at the wider apertures, image quality is a bit modest."

    Now here he is talking about the ASPH:
    "The overall image quality is a quantum leap forward in relation to all previous 21mm lenses in the Leica stable.

    To place it in perspective: the perform- ance at f/2.8 is better in all respects than that of the f/3.4 Super-Angulon at f/ 5.6.

    At f/4 contrast and the clear rendition of very fine details improve, with the corners still lagging a bit behind. Overall contrast is now at its optimum, with ex- ceptional performance over a large part of the image field. At f/5.6 overall con- trast drops a little, but very fine details are still crisp into the far outer zones.

    From f/8 the performance drops ever so slightly and at f/16 it is noticeably be- low optimum.

    Decentering is not measurable. Overall assessment: this lens produces out- standing image quality at full aperture, which continues to improve as it is stopped down as far as f/8.

    It is by far the best 21mm lens in Leica history and the only recommended choice for the person who needs supe- rior performance from a 21 mm lens starting at f/2.8."

    Check out the charts:
    19495946054_cd1a204429.
    Leica 21/2.8 pre-asph
    by unoh7, on Flickr

    20118573395_abffec0d2c.
    Leica 21/2.8 ASPH
    by unoh7, on Flickr

    Huge difference really. Puts makes an intriguing observation which may point to the absolute supremacy of the SEM 21:

    "The performance of extremely wide- angle lenses at infinity is sometimes discussed as if it were a bit below expectation when compared to lenses with smaller angles of view. As I always use the same scene for a comparison, I was able to compare the image quality of a distant scene as recorded with a 28mm Elmarit-M lens (latest generation and a superb representative of its kind). The 28mm produces a high-contrast image, with extremely fine details, ren- dered very crisply. The overall image also has a clarity and lucidity that is diffi- cult to quantify.

    In direct comparison, 21mm lenses are softer, they lack the overall clarity and crisp reproduction of very fine de- tails. The same amount of details as obtained with 28mm lenses can be noticed without difficulty, but image de- tails are slightly ‘fuzzier’.

    Optical progress can easily be fol- lowed in the discussion that follows, with the 21 mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH representing a very high level of progress. It is the only 21 mm lens that compares favorably with the 28mm f/ 2.8 Elmarit-M."

    I can tell you the SEM 21, like the ZM18, takes this another step with jaw dropping performance at infinty. Here is Puts on the SEM 21, which is one of his three favorite Leica lenses: "The Super-Elmar-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH. approaches the ideal lens design: one does not often encounter a high-performance optical cell with homogeneous image quality at all apertures, distance settings and image height from centre to 21.6 mm wrapped up in a compact high-quality precision mount, even in the Leica stable."

    But all that may be moot for you and your taste, and many others as well. You mention a zeiss characteristic "cold and clinical" and I think one might well observe the zeiss color signature as slightly cooler than Leica, but for all the rest, it's case by case, with great variation in performance between say, a contax g 45/2 and a ZM 50/2, etc. Both very crisp, but very very different render, especially at speed.

    You love your elmarit, and who is to say you should not? Especially on an RD-1, where the outer field is absent, the pre-asph is going to do very very well.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2015
  18. VINCETAN

    VINCETAN Leica Place Top Veteran

    710
    Aug 19, 2013
    My initial thought was to get a 21mm and a 28mm. I bought a 28 only to return it because it was not as described. I am now reconsidering my decision and leaning more towards the 24mm. There seems to be 2 great 24mm, the current 3.8 and the previous 2.8. I think Put speaks highly of the 2.8 and the 3.8 is almost as good as the 21mm SEM albeit a little slower. Anyone have any experience with these 2 lenses?

    Thanks
    Vince
     
  19. rbelyell

    rbelyell Leica Place Veteran

    202
    May 25, 2014
    thanks uhoh, that was awesomely informative. tbh, i didnt know there were two versions of my lens! i have the pre-asph, and honestly my intent was not to 'push' my lens on anyone else, or tell them its better than whatever their choice was. my intent was to figure out why no one ever mentions it in 21mm discussions. over on rf forum it doesnt even have its own category, like its predecessor the super angulon, or the SEM, each of which have pages of discussion. i was just curious why it seems to be the 'invisible 21'. ):
     
  20. rbelyell

    rbelyell Leica Place Veteran

    202
    May 25, 2014
    vince, contrary to my generally stated opinion about zeiss, their 25/2.8 biogon seems outstanding to me and has been favorably compared to the 24 elmarit all over the web. at 1/3 the price you might want to consider it as well.