The Leica 90mm Macro Elmar and the Macro Adapter M by Jono Slack
Quite out of the blue, Leica announced these two products at the 100 year celebrations at Wetzlar. I think most people were taken unawares. The lens had been in development for a long time, I had a prototype version in 2013 for testing. The optical design of the lens was the same as the much loved older Macro Elmar, but with some functional refinements to match it with the adapter.
In fact, I first spoke to Stefan Daniel and Jesko Oeynhausen about the idea of producing a helicoid adapter for M lenses a long time ago – during the early discussions about the M240 and Live View.
The idea of being able to use any of the M lenses as a close up lens was very attractive to me (I’d had great results using a Hawks Bay adapter on a Sony NEX camera).
I’ve had a lot of questions by email and on Forums and Facebook about both the lens and the adapter, and I think that probably it isn’t terribly well understood. So I thought it would be good to write this short article.
The Macro Adapter M
This is basically an extension tube to allow you to focus much closer with all Leica M lenses. Very much like the OUFRO which was produced by Leica from 1959 to 1983. However, it as the added functionality of having a helicoid extension – turning the knurled ring extends the length of the tube. There is no glass in the adapter, it has a male Leica M mount on one side (to attach to the camera) and a female one the other side (to attach the lens). In the pictures below you can see the adapter in it’s normal state (on the left) and in it’s fully extended state (on the right.
The Macro Elmar 90mm f4
This lens has been around since 2003, in it’s old incarnation there was also a macro adapter M, this had goggles and, when attached, only allowed focusing between 0.5 – 0.76 metre, but it was rangefinder coupled; without the macro adapter it could focus from 0.8 metre to infinity. With the new macro adapter attached to the new Macro Elmar, you can focus all the way from 0.4 metre to infinity, but you need to use Live View or an EVF as it isn’t rangefinder coupled.
The new version of the lens differs from the old version in three ways. Firstly, the aperture ring is larger, and easier to hold. Secondly, the lens clicks firmly into place both when extended and when retracted, finally, with the new version, the aperture ring stays in the correct place when the lens is fully retracted.
Apart from being fantastically sharp, the lens is really small, and when collapsed, it’s really easy to carry around on the M.
Using the Macro Elmar with the Adapter M
It’s really hard to describe exactly how the camera works with the lens and the adapter, so I’m using some snapshots with a description of what you can do in each situation.
- with the lens Collapsed and the Adapter fully retracted
In this position you can focus from 0.8metre to infinity, however, you need to use live view to focus as there is no rangefinder coupling (as is the case in all situations with the Adapter attached)
2. With the lens Extended
In this position you can focus from about 0.5 metre to around 0.76 metre
3. With the lens Extended and the Adapter fully extended
In this position you can focus from 0.42 metre to around 0.5 metres
4. With the lens Extended but with no Adapter fitted
Here the lens will focus from 0.8 metres to infinity (just as it will when attached to the adapter but collapsed). In this case of course the rangefinder coupling works as any other lens, and the exif information will contain the details for the 90mm lens and not the adapter.
Using other Leica M lenses with the Leica Macro Adapter M
You can use the Macro adapter with any Leica lens, the focusing range will vary from lens to lens, but in every case you will be able to get close to your subject. Of course, there is no rangefinder coupling, and so you must use Live View, preferably with the EVF.
Using the Macro Elmar 90mm f4 and Macro Adapter M with the Leica T
As there is no rangefinder, and the Leica T only has live view, then, when using the Macro Elmar 90mm there is no penalty in using the adapter, and it has the advantage of allowing you to focus all the way from 0.41m to infinity easily and quickly. You need to stack the Leica Adapter T, and the Macro Adapter – this works fine, the adapters are beautifully made and fit together without any movement, the Leica T passes through the 6 bit code on the Macro Adapter for the exif information.
Of course, on the APSc sensor of the Leica T, the 90mm becomes a useful 135mm f4 lens, small and very high quality.
Using the Macro Adapter M with the Leica T and other M lenses
Stacking the Leica T to M Adapter, and the Macro Adapter M allows close up photography with all Leica M lenses. However, the focusing range will be small (just as it is using the combination on the Leica M.
It seems to me that there is a very good argument for Leica making a new adapter for the Leica T, with a helicoid adapter so that all M lenses can be fitted, and can be focused from infinity down to close up.
The new incarnation of the Macro Elmar 90mm f4 and the Macro Adapter M is a well thought out and very flexible combination. It provides convenient close up facilities for M users with Live view and the EVF, and it also makes an excellent mid telephoto and macro combination on the Leica T.
More Photos with the combination
If you enjoyed this article you might like to make a donation to Cancer Research
My wife, Emma Slack, did the Ladies Tractor Road run in aid of breast cancer research again this year (and I took the pictures)
This is a fantastic event, and has raised more than £350,000 for breast cancer research over the last 11 years. Please think about helping Emma to reach her magic £1,000.00 target again this year. Just click on the cancer research UK logo above. Or else click on the link below: