Leica VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH. Review
The Leica VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH. for L-Mount is a new fast standard zoom lens for full-frame Sony, Leica, Panasonic and Leica cameras.
It will also work with APS-C sensor cameras with an effective increase in focal length to 36-105mm due to the crop factor.
The Leica 24-70mm f/2.8 features a rounded 11 blade diaphragm which creates an attractive blur to the out of focus areas of the image.
It also offers a dust- and splash- proof construction, a stepping AF motor for fast and quiet autofocusing, and a minimum focusing distance of 18cm (at 24mm) and maximum reproduction ratio of 1:4.5 (at 70mm).
The Leica VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH. lens is available now priced at £2299 / $2795 in the UK and the USA, respectively. This lens is made in Japan, rather than Germany.
Ease of Use
Weighing in at 856 grams and measuring nearly 12.5cm in length, the Leica VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH. is certainly a big and heavy lens given its focal length.
It's actually a little bit lighter than one of its main rivals, the Panasonic Lumix S PRO 24-70mm F2.8, which weighs in at 935g, and slightly heavier than the other, the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 DG DN Art, which is 830g.
As seen in the product photos above and below, it complements a full-frame camera like the Leica SL2-S that we tested it with very well, although it certainly makes for quite a substantial overall combination.
Build quality is outstanding, which is perhaps to be expected given the rather eye-watering price tag.
The lens has a body and lens hood that are made entirely of metal, and it also incorporates a brass bayonet mount that's supposed to be more durable. The optical elements are made of high-grade glass.
In terms of features, the Leica VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH. standard zoom lens is a rather pared back affair, with no external controls other than the focus and zoom rings.
Focusing is usefully internal and manual focusing is possible, but only when set via camera body, rather than via a Focus switch on the lens barrel. Full-time manual focus override is thankfully available at any time simply by rotating the focus ring.
The Leica VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH. lens has a generously sized focus ring, which is ridged for easier grip. There are no hard stops at the ends of the range, making it harder to set focus at infinity. Polariser users should be pleased that the 82mm filter thread doesn't rotate on focus.
When it comes to auto-focusing, the Leica VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH. is a very quick performer, taking about 0.10 seconds to lock onto the subject when mounted on the Lecia SL2-S that we tested it with.
We didn't experience very much "hunting" at all, either in good or bad light, with the lens accurately focusing almost all of the time. It's also a very quiet performer, which makes this lens equally well-suited to both video recording and more candid stills shooting.
It doesn't include built-in Vibration Reduction, with the lens relying on the camera body to supply this feature. It is weather-sealed though to help protect it against water spray and dust.
The Leica VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH. ships with a metal petal-shaped lens hood that twists into place.
At the 24mm focal length the angle of view is 84.1 degrees.
At the 70mm focal length the angle of view is 34.3 degrees.
Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, are not a problem for the Leica VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH., even at the edges of the frame.
There's some noticeable barrel distortion at the 24mm focal length and slight pincushioning at 70mm which is apparent in both the Raw files and uncorrected JPEGs.
With the lens set to its maximum aperture of f/2.8, there is some light fall-off in the corners at both ends of the zoom range. Stopping-down to f/5.6 virtually eliminates this.
The Leica VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH. isn't claimed to be a macro lens, but it delivers quite good performance nonetheless if you zoom to 70mm. It has a minimum focusing distance of 18cm / 38cm at 24mm/70mm, and a maximum magnification ratio of 1:4.5 when set to the 70mm focal length. The following example demonstrates how close you can get to your subject.
Sunstars and Flare
The Leica VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH. produces quite nice sunstars when stopped-down to f/16 and f/22.
As these examples shows the lens is is a little susceptible to flare when shooting directly into the sun, even with the supplied lens hood fitted, but overall it is well controlled thanks to the lens' Super Multi-Layer Coating.
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.
In the Leica VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH. lens, Leica have employed an iris diaphragm with 11 rounded blades, which has resulted in very nice bokeh in our view.
We do realise, however, that bokeh evaluation is subjective, so we've included several examples for your perusal.
In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.