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Leica 90mm F4 Elmar Screw Mount

By | 02/11/2022

The Leitz 9cm f4 Elmar is almost as ubiquitous as the famous Leitz 5cm f3.5 Elmar but often seems forgotten about.


The lens dates back to 1933 and was Leica’s first 90mm.  Information technology was likely designed to take advantage of their newly released rangefinder cameras, model’south II and Three.  The 9cm Elmar is function of the the first wave of Leica’s new 35mm camera system, which, simply three years prior, received its first interchangeable lens mount.  This was a time of critical innovation that begot nigh-mod expectations of portable cameras.

My copy of the 9cm Elmar is blackness and brassed with chrome trim from 1946.  This is the first year that Leica applied UV coating to the front chemical element.  Across the addition of increasingly higher performing coatings and changes in barrel blueprint, the simple 4 element in three group blueprint endured until 1964, well into the Leica M mount days.  At that place was even a collapsible version of the 90 Elmar!

Probably similar many 21st century shooters, I primarily bought the ninety Elmar considering it cost such a negligible corporeality.  Typically, a mere $100-$300 depending on the model, will yield a good re-create.  Quite a bargain for the Leitz name, AND for spectacular portraits!

9cm f4 Elmar + Kodak Tri-X 400 (with FIKUS shade)

While some will notice that the slow f4 maximum aperture and rotating front rings will keep them from putting their cheap vintage Leitz to much apply, others will capeesh information technology’s pocketable nature and surprising performance for daylight photography.

Old in the 1950’southward, the ninety Elmar received modern aperture values engraved on the discontinuity ring.  So if the f4, 4.5, half dozen.3, ix, 12.v, 18, 25, 36 scale bugs you, simply seek a newer copy.  And as noted, when rotating the focus ring on the older, cheaper copies, the unabridged front assembly likewise rotates.  Information technology may be best to gear up aperture first, then focus so as non to chase the aperture around the barrel.  Kudos to Leica though for imprinting the aperture scale on the “top” and “bottom” of the ring so that if you rotate the assembly a total plough, you don’t accept to wait on the “bottom” of the lens to notice your f-terminate.  When I was in my 20’s and new to using gear this old, these things seemed wonky to me.

With a petty more age and understanding of the development of 35mm photography under my belt, as well as matured handling of cameras and lenses, these pocket-size nuisances really don’t trouble me much.  In fact, I rather enjoy the quirkiness!

Your patience with ergonomics will be rewarded with the 90 Elmar.  It takes a FANTASTIC photograph!  Unlike before, uncoated Leitz lenses, my feel is that I get very little of the veiling flare and contrast loss that haunts LTM lenses.  Similar many short telephotos, at full discontinuity, it pays to exist careful with bright calorie-free entering the front element at an bending but I really don’t apply the correct FIKIS hood very much because the single coating seems to hold its own very nicely.


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9cm f4 Elmar + Kodak Tri-X 400 (with FIKUS shade)

The 90 Elmar is well good at portrait photography because, even at it’s sharpest performance in middle apertures, information technology exhibits a compression of well-intended glow and roll-off that smooths the skin and softens shadows.  Meanwhile, out of focus backgrounds, maybe surprisingly with an f4 lens, melt abroad gently with a reasonably smooth bokeh that lacks noteworthy fringing or chromatic aberration with color picture show.  We can probably credit the uncomplicated formula and the Elmar’southward luxurious fifteen blade diaphragm for this lovely rendering.

9cm f4 Elmar + Fuji 400 Pro H (without FIKUS shade)

In use, the 90 Elmar is a adept lens to have around considering it’s not very demanding.  It can easily be a “merely in case” type lens.

Not but is information technology inexpensive but it’s small-scale enough to disappear in a clenched fist.  Information technology takes upwardly negligible space in the bag.  Additionally, as noted, you lot tin can usually squeak by without a hood.  (though I would recommend one for extended use.)  And any accessories you utilize with the 90 Elmar, such equally the front cap, filters or even FIKUS hood, are a common 36mm diameter and then they’ll probably fit your 50mm or 35mm as well.

If using the 9cm Elmar as intended, on a Barnack Leica, yous’ll desire to slip a viewfinder into your accessory shoe.  Brightline viewfinders by Leica or Voigtlander are my preference but they can be costly.  SGVOO is the five alphabetic character discussion for Leica’s 9cm brightline finder.  In that location are some cheaper 90mm wireframe finders like ROSOL and RASAL.  And there are some more costly folding optical finders similar SEROO and SOOUT.  And then there are the multi-length optical finders, IMARECT VIOOH and VIDOM.  If your budget is tight, there are plenty of 3rd party finders or guess framing using the 1.5x RF patch as a guide.

Of course, you will need an LTM to M adapter if running an older re-create of the 9cm Elmar with a Leica Thousand, but it doesn’t cost much more than to crash-land up to an M mount version with normal aperture and altitude markings.  And because this is only an f4 lens, it should be accurate to focus even on a Leica CL or Voigtlander Bessa but works precisely on whatsoever Leica M or Barnack rangefinder, pretty much regardless of it’s EBL.

9cm f4 Elmar + Fuji 400 Pro H (without FIKUS shade)

There actually isn’t whatever reason at all not to buy a 90 Elmar in a barrel style of your choosing.  Even if you don’t oftentimes step into the world of rangefinder telephotos, you might just find the ninety Elmar will pull yous in!

Thanks for reading and happy shooting!

UPDATE: For the Fourth of July festivities, I used the 9cm Elmar to capture fireworks, the results were awesome!

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