LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-S 24MM VS LEICA VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24-90MM REVIEW

Leica SL with Leica 24mm Super-Elmar-S f/3.5

USING LEICA S LENSES ON THE LEICA SL: LET'S SEE HOW THEY FARE IN THIS SUPER-ELMAR-S 24MM VS LEICA VARIO-ELMARIT-SL REVIEW ON THE LEICA SL!

In this compared Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH vs Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH review, we’ll explore the behaviour of one of the best of Leica S lenses on the Leica SL. As I mentioned in my recent Leica S-Adapter L review (click on LEICA S-ADAPTER L REVIEW to read it), being able to use Leica S lenses on the Leica SL is a major plus for my work. When I am in the field, in my bag you’ll find a Leica S (Typ 007) equipped with 24, 35 and 70mm S lenses; a Leica SL (Typ 601) with either the 10mm or the 12mm and the 15mm Voigtlander for ultra-wide work; and the Leica S-Adapter L to use my S lenses on the SL, both as a backup and to extend my available focal length range. This makes for a relatively compact yet complete kit, covering all bases for my photography; plus, the files I come home with are artistically and technically beautiful.

If you are interested in the Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5’s behaviour on the Leica S (Typ 007) instead, click LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-S 24MM F/3.5 REVIEW.

Disclaimer: At the time of writing, I am a Leica Ambassador. That said, I am a professional photographer looking for the best equipment for my work, I buy all my gear with my hard-earned cash and I don’t get paid by anyone to write articles for my blog.

The Dolomites Photography Workshop

BUILD, SIZE AND WEIGHT
The Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH is not a small and light lens by any means; its size and weight are comparable to the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH. The Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH without the adapter is 100mm in diameter and 112mm tall, weighing at 1.260 gr; with the adapter, it becomes 150mm tall weighing at 1.497 gr.

The Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH, on the other hand, is 88mm in diameter by 138mm tall, weighing at 1.140 gr. While a large and heavy lens, you have to consider that the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH, with its f/3.5 maximum aperture, is an extremely fast lens in medium format terms, and a lens with no equals on the market at the time of writing.

Both lenses are built magnificently, their all-metal bodies feel extremely solid, with no play or rattling sounds.

The Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH will not extend and its front element will not rotate while focusing. The Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH, on the other hand, is at its shortest at 24mm but will extend when zooming. Its front element will not rotate as well, either zooming or focusing.

IN USE: FOCUSING AND DIAPHRAGM
Used on the Leica SL, both lenses offer instant manual focus override when in AF mode. As well, both lenses can be autofocussed by pushing the joystick on the back of the camera when in MF mode. More, with both lenses you can move your focus point all over the frame, and with both lenses you’ll be able to use the depth of field indicator on the SL’s top screen. In short, the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH behaves exactly like a native SL lens. Finally, the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH sports a window on the lens barrel to check out focus distance, while the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH does not.

Focus precision is very good with both lenses; I never missed focus with either, during my tests. The Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH locks focus slightly more surely, while the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH may slightly hunt at times. Focus speed, on the other hand, is a very different matter: the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH definitely beats the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH on the Leica SL. That said, the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH is one of the fastest focusing lenses I have ever used, so no surprise here. The zoom easily wins on focusing noise as well: while the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH is virtually silent, you can definitely hear the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH’s motor working.

Last, the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH will focus as close as 40cm whereas the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH, with a closest focus of 30cm, will bring you 10cm closer to your subject.

You’ll be able to control diaphragm from the camera body with both lenses in exactly the same way.

Cinque Terre & Tuscany Photography Workshop

USE OF FILTERS
As a landscape photographer, being able to use filters is of paramount importance for me when I choose a lens.

More, the ability of using my beloved Formatt-Hitech Firecrest Ultra 100mm square filter system is fundamental for me when I choose a lens and going with the larger 150mm square filter system is not an option, if I can at all avoid it.

Both lenses in this Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH vs Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH review feature filter threads. The zoom natively supports my 100mm Formatt-Hitech Firecrest adapter, while I had to find a creative solution to use filters on the S prime. Click on my 100MM SQUARE FILTERS ON THE LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-S 24MM article to find out how.

If you haven’t got your filters yet, get your kit on FORMATT-HITECH or FORMATT-HITECH USA at a 10% discount using code

VIERIB10

at checkout. Disclaimer: I am a Formatt-Hitech Signature Artist and Brand Ambassador.

SHARPNESS AT INFINITY
Methodology: focusing both lenses at infinity, I took a series of pictures with each lens in aperture mode starting from wide open and up to f/16; finally, I prepared 900 x 600px, 100% crops of the three zones showed in red in the full-size images (center, lower left and mid right) to examine sharpness up close. Let’s see the full pictures first, wide open (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s now examine the centre series, starting with the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH at 24mm (click on the images to enlarge):

And now, let’s see the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH on the Leica SL (click on the images to enlarge):

As you can see, both lenses performed extremely well in the center already wide-open, with the zoom being slightly sharper. Confirming the amazing quality of both these lenses is the fact that there isn’t any definite improvement in sharpness stopping either of them down. From f/11 onwards, as expected, both lenses start to become softer due to diffraction.

Let’s move to the mid-right side of the frame, again starting with the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH at 24mm (click on the images to enlarge):

And now let’s see the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH on the Leica SL (click on the images to enlarge):

Again, both lenses put in a very impressive performance; here, though, the S prime is sharper all over the aperture series. Best aperture for both here is f/8, after which diffraction kicks in softening the image.

Let’s see what happens in the lower left corner, once more starting with the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH at 24mm (click on the images to enlarge):

And now let’s see the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH on the Leica SL (click on the images to enlarge):

In this corner, the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH outperforms the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH, being sharper at any aperture, deeper into the far corner. Best aperture for both lenses is f/11, after which – as expected – diffraction kicks in softening the image. A note about corner sharpness wide-open: since both lenses were focused at infinity, some softness in the corners, which are much closer to the camera than the point of focus, had to be expected. Further proof of it is that both lenses performed better stopping down up to f/11, thanks to the help of increasing depth of field overcoming the loss of sharpness caused by diffraction.

Normandy & Brittany Photography Workshop

SHARPNESS AT CLOSE FOCUSING DISTANCE AND BOKEH
For this Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH vs Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH review, I set my point of focus in a “difficult” area such as the corner of the frame, framing my picture so that together with sharpness at close distances we can examine the rendition of out of focus areas as well. Let’s see the full images first, wide open (click on the images to enlarge):

First of all, you can see here how the Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH is slightly “wider” than the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH at 24mm. You’ll also note how the zoom exposed about one stop more “conservatively” than the S prime.

Now let’s look at the 900 x 600px, 100% crops, starting with the point of focus, the Phillips screw right under the red flag. Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH at 24mm first (click on the images to enlarge):

And now let’s see the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH on the Leica SL (click on the images to enlarge):

Both lenses pulled off a fantastic performance here, with the S prime being slightly sharper than the zoom all over the aperture range. Again, I was amazed to see how sharpness didn’t really improve stopping down either lens. Both lenses are at their best at f/8, stopping further down sharpness starts to decline due to diffraction.

Let’s now move to the center of the frame, to have a look at both lenses’ out of focus behaviour, again starting with the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH at 24mm (click on the images to enlarge):

And now let’s see the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH on the Leica SL (click on the images to enlarge):

You can see how both lenses have similar out-of-focus rendition and character. The zoom is slightly sharper until f/5.6, while stopping further down the S prime takes the lead. As well, can see how the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH shows a smoother sharpening curve along the aperture range.

SHARPNESS CONCLUSIONS
As a result of this Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH vs Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH review, I have been very happy to see that both lenses are extremely sharp all over the frame. As far as sharpness goes, you will be perfectly satisfied with either of them for your landscape work on the Leica SL. Considering that the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH is a fixed focal lens designed for a larger Medium Format sensor, and is part of what is considered to be the best line of lenses ever produced, these results are a testament to the quality of a modern 24-to-90mm zoom such as the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH.

More in detail, at infinity the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH is slightly sharper in the center of the frame, where I placed my focus point, while the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH is the better lens all over the frame.

At close focusing distances, on the other hand, the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH is sharper at the point of focus, offering a smoother sharpening progression over the aperture range.

I find drawing very pleasant with both lenses, with a smooth transaction between in-focus and out-of-focus areas.

VIGNETTE AND COLOUR CAST
To test for vignette and colour cast, for this Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH vs Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH review I shot a perfectly white wall evenly illuminated using my Elinchrom Quadra flashes. Let’s see the results, starting with the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH series (click on the images to enlarge):

Followed by the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH at 24mm (click on the images to enlarge):

As you can see, the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH is practically free of vignette and colour-cast. Of course, you’ll have to remember that this is a Medium Format lens, designed for a larger sensor than the Leica SL’s. The Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH, on the other hand, while also devoid of colour casts on the image’s sides, shows quite a bit of vignette wide-open, vignette that is virtually unnoticeable after f/5.6. While quite irrelevant when used on its own, the Vario-Elmarit shows a slight bluer colour rendition compared to the Super-Elmar.

DISTORTION
In the images below, I added some red lines to my garage door’s photographs to help you check for distortion (click on the images to enlarge):

Both lenses are extremely well corrected, either optically or with the help of in-camera software corrections, and are both virtually distortion-free.

Death Valley Photography Workshop

CONCLUSIONS
Bringing this Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH vs Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH review to a conclusion, in short both lenses performed wonderfully on the Leica SL, and you’ll be extremely happy with either of them. That said, here are the differences between them:

– The Leica Super-Elmar-S:
1. Is sharper at close range;
2. Is sharper at infinity over the entire frame (center aside);
3. Has virtually no vignette;
4. Has virtually no distortion;
5. Has a 95mm filter thread, but to use 100mm square filters you have to use a special adapter (see HERE);
6. May hunt for focus at times (quite irrelevant for landscape work).

– The Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL at 24mm:
1. Is sharper at infinity in the center;
2. Is slightly smaller and quite a bit lighter;
3. Focuses 10cm closer;
4. Focuses faster and more silently;
5. Has an 82mm filter thread allowing you to use 100mm square filters with your usual holder;
6. Has a slight blue tint compared to the Super-Elmar (quite irrelevant when used on its own).

In every other aspect, both lenses performed equally well. If you plan on using your Leica SL as a backup for your Leica S, the Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH will be an excellent lens on the SL: just get the S-Adapter L and enjoy it! If you don’t own a Leica S, while there are other choices covering the 24mm focal length on the SL, starting with the wonderful Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH, the S prime reviewed here is definitely a strong contender if money, size and weight are not an issue and, especially, if you are considering getting a Leica S in the future.

Iceland Photography Workshop

Thanks for reading this Leica Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH vs Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH review, I hope you enjoyed it! Why don’t you share it with your friends, or drop me a comment to let me know how you feel about this?

Have a great day, and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER!

SHARE THIS PAGE ON:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on google
Share on pinterest
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

3 thoughts on “LEICA SUPER-ELMAR-S 24MM VS LEICA VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24-90MM REVIEW”

  1. Hello Vieri,

    Tx a lot for the informant, helpful and very useful review.

    I was wondering if you could briefly share your experiences with me about Summarit-S 70mm on Leica SL.

    I am in between Summilux-SL 50mm and Summarit-S 75. The most important points for me are; +handling and usage in the field, +absence of IS and + is f/2.5 restricting or annoying from the aspects of light gathering and subject seperation (for a Summilux-M 50mm user :)

    As a potential future S user, I would like to have your valuable inpt. If you could infrom me about these points, that would be a great help for me since I am on a decision making process.

    Thanks in advance and best regards…

    Reply
    • Hello Kartal,

      you are very welcome. About your question, they are two completely different lenses, one is 50mm and the other is 70mm, one is a fast f/1.4 the other is f/2.5, etc. If you plan on getting the S in the future, you will be able to use the 70mm on both cameras, and the lens works great on both cameras (as all the S lenses); the 70mm it’s extremely sharp and detailed, with great colours and rendering. Other than that, it is impossible to compare them, in my view.

      All the best,

      Vieri

      Reply
      • Dear Vieri,

        Tx a lot for your quick response.

        “the lens works great on both cameras (as all the S lenses)”

        this was all I wanted to hear ;) I made my decision, and released the order for 70mm ;)

        I am sure, I will be asking you more about SL and S lenses in the future, sorry in advance :)

        I hope you keep continuing with your nice reviews…

        Sincerely,

        Kartal…

        Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to my newsletter
not to miss future articles!

let's develop photography together