Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Review

4.0
May 15, 2014 | Mark Goldstein |

Introduction

The Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH is a standard zoom lens for the brand new Leica T system. Offering a focal range of 27-84mm in 35mm terms, a compact and lightweight design, and an optical formula that comprises 10 elements in 7 groups, is the Leica 18-56mm T lens the perfect partner for the new Leica T camera? Read our Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH review to find out...

The Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH is the first zoom lens in Leica’s brand new T system. Compatible with the Leica T compact system camera, the 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 standard zoom lens boasts an angle-of-view range similar to that of a 27-84mm lens in a 35mm system. Other highlights include a close-focus point of 30cm, an iris diaphragm with seven rounded blades, a stepping motor-driven focusing system, almost silent operation for video recording, and an optical formula that comprises 10 elements in 7 groups, including 4 aspherical elements. The Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens is currently available for £1250 / $1750 in the UK and the US, respectively.

Ease of Use

The Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH is a relatively compact standard zoom lens, at least when compared to its DSLR equivalents; but it's still quite a bit bigger than a comparable Micro Four Thirds zoom, for example. As you can see in the pictures below, it complements the Leica T very well, not feeling at all front-heavy even when fully zoomed out.

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPHThe Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens attached to the Leica T camera

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPHThe Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens attached to the Leica T camera

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPHThe Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens attached to the Leica T camera

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPHThe Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens attached to the Leica T camera

The overall build quality is very good, thanks to a mostly anodized metal body construction, and is certainly in keeping with the superlative Leica T body. The Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens also boasts a metal mount and non-rotating 52mm filter thread.

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPHThe Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPHThe Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens zoomed-out to 56mm

The zoom ring is generously wide and has a ridged, rubberised grip band. Zooming is not internal, meaning the length of the lens changes while you zoom. Physically the lens is shortest at 18mm and longest at the 55mm setting, extending from approximately 6cm to 8cm in length.

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPHFront of the Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPHRear of the Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPHFront of the Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPHRear of the Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens

Both the zoom and the focus rings are smooth in action without being too loose. Zoom creep is not an issue. The focus ring is quite narrow and has no “hard stops” at either end of the focus range.

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPHThe Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens in-hand

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPHThe Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens with the supllied lens hood fitted

In terms of accessories, the lens ships with a generously-sized plastic petal shaped hood, which can be reversed over the lens. We did find that the hood often blocked the light from the Leica T's built-in flash.

Focusing

The Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens has an internal focusing (IF) system with a quiet stepping motor. In practice, we found the auto-focus to be fairly fast, quiet and accurate on the Leica T body. Thanks to the IF mechanism the front of the lens does not rotate on focus, which is very good news for anyone looking to use the lens in conjunction with a polariser or graduated neutral density filter.

Focal Range

At the 18mm end of the zoom range, the Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens has a wide angle of view of 75 degrees.

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPHField of view at 18mm

At the 56mm end, the angle of view narrows to 28 degrees, which can be described as short telephoto.

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPHField of view at 56mm

Distortion

At the wider end, the Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH has some barrel distortion, as you can see in the photo below, but it's no worse than you would expect from a 27mm equivalent lens.

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPHDistortion at 18mm

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPHDistortion at 56mm

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, are not too much of a problem with the Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens, as shown in the examples below.

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH

Macro

The Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH is not a macro lens. The close-focus point is at 30mm from the sensor plane. The following example illustrates how close you can get to the subject, in this case a CompactFlash card.

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPHClose-up performance

Bokeh

Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc. Leica have paid attention to this aspect of lens use, employing a 7-segment diaphragm with rounded blades for pleasing bokeh. In our view, their efforts have been largely successful - see the examples below.

Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH
   
Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.

Entry Tags

review, lens, zoom, standard, f3.5, leica, 18mm, f5.6, leica t, 27-84, t, 27-84mm, 18-56, 18-56mm, Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f3.5-5.6 ASPH

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