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Thread: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

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    Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Hi everyone,
    I have decided to consider getting a ultrawide lens for my Leica M system, and I am currently quite torn between the Zeiss and Leica 18 mm offerings. I once owned a WATE, and found that I used it infrequently enough to give it up. I suspect that the 18 mm lens might be used in my kit for speciality/architecture/extreme angle work, so I am inclined to spend a bit less and consider either the Leica 18 mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar or the Zeiss 18 mm f/4 ZM Distagon.

    I have read everything on the web that I could find for both of these lenses, which is suprisingly little. Many feel that the Distagon is a close match for the Elmar, both in terms of build and performance, and the main win for the Zeiss are filter thread size and cost (3x cheaper than the Super-Elmar). Despite it, some people have expressed strong dissatisfaction regarding the Zeiss option due to the red edge issue that comes up with using non-Leica wide angle lenses on the M9.

    I use Leica M9's, and have no interest in how the lens would perform on an M8. I am curious if you guys who share and comment here have experience with the lens on the Leica M9, and if so, whether coding, or no coding are a better option. I have not yet encorporated Cornerfix into my digital workflow, so I'd be curious about lightroom work arounds or whether cornerfix can be used in a LR workflow....

    Bottom line, are you satisfied with your Distagon, or would you prefer the Super Elmar, despite the price difference, to avoid sensor issues/red edges, etc....?

    Your help is greatly appreciated in advance....
    Ashwin Rao
    Seattle, WA
    My Photography

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    Senior Member atanabe's Avatar
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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Ashwin,
    I had a WATE as well and like you no longer have it due to non use. I guess the bigger question is why I did not use it as much, well for architecture, distortion if you don't get it perfectly parallel. With a rangefinder it is pretty hard to get it perfectly lined up, yes I could PS it but call me an old fashioned purist. Working the extreme WA type shot I find much more challenging than with an SLR, having to focus and recompose and compensate for focus shift.

    All that said, you may want to evaluate your purchase decision for that wide of a lens.
    Al Tanabe my website https://www.altanabe.com

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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Hi Ashwin,

    I've posted a number of posts (in a variety of forums) regarding my experiences with the two 18mm lenses in question, especially when used on the M9. It's been a while since I used either but my main objective was in comparing the two, without bias for either brand. In a nutshell, I found for my use, the Zeiss was the overwhelming choice, when all factors taken into consideration. There is far less distortion with the Zeiss, with the Leica's distortion primarily of the "mustache" type, which is difficult to simply remove in post processing. Sharpness across the frame was close between both, with possibly the Leica being slightly stronger in the central part of the frame than the Zeiss, but at the expensive of slightly weaker corners...therefore the Zeiss is generally appears to be more even across the frame.

    The Zeiss can be hand coded by marking inside the newer Zeiss grove cut into the mount and it doesn't easily rub off. A milled mount was previously marketed for the Zeiss (by John Miltch) to faciliate perminant coding. The Leica is obviously already 6 bit coded. Now onto red edge. I didn't notice it, but some have reported some red edge with the Leica 18, even with latest firmware. I posted elsewhere that red edge seen with a particular lens, may also be influenced by the actual sample used and/or the M9 its mounted on. There seems to be a +/- variance of both, and if one happens to get a lens sample that has a propensity for red edge and happens to have a M9 that seems to exhibit a bit more with a known sample, then it magnifies the issue. The opposite is true also Others too have reported similar. observations.

    With my Zeiss 18mm, I did noticed some red edge but once I coded it as a Leica 21mm f2.8 pre asph (was the best selection for red edge with this lens), all traces of red edge disappeared and the lens was a joy to use when needing 18mm, without breaking the bank. The ability to use a standard filter size as well as being 1/3 the price of the Leica, made it a no-brainer for me, when lower distortion was thrown into the equation.

    The Leica I felt had better color balance and was a bit warmer, but nothing that I couldn't easily change with the Zeiss images in post processing. 18mm is not a focal length I was using much at the time and if your feel it will only be for occasional use, I would consider pocketing the difference in cost by going for the Zeiss. Anyhow, these are just a few things I quickly jotted down now from memory. Let us know what you decide.

    Dave (D&A)

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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    I agree with Dave's summary, and will offer my own perspective.

    I have the Leica 18 SE and here's why. I wanted a lens that I didn't have to fuss about, at all. It's already coded, no red edge to worry about (after that first FW update) and I enjoy just going out and shooting with it. Sure, there's distortion, but *for me* it doesn't bother me a whole lot. When I'm out shooting a landscape or urban scene, I don't mind so much if there's some distortion and I sometimes work it into the scene. To put it simply, I have a lot of fun with the lens.

    Now, for other purposes such as architecture, I went a different route. I picked up a Zeiss 21 4.5 which has almost zero distortion. It shows really nasty red-edge though, so I mostly use it for B&W shots. Haven't tuned up a good cornerfix profile yet as my M9 is in for service right now.

    Having said all of this, after picking up a 7-14 for my GF1 I've used the 18mm a bit less, but that's more because the 7-14 is a really awesome and fun lens and I've been spending time getting to know it.

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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    And to add one more thing, I've never owned the Distagon, so I can only compare my experience to what I've read and heard from others.

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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by dannh View Post
    Sure, there's distortion, but *for me* it doesn't bother me a whole lot. When I'm out shooting a landscape or urban scene, I don't mind so much if there's some distortion and I sometimes work it into the scene. To put it simply, I have a lot of fun with the lens.
    I agree with dannh in that if one is shooting landscapes, the type of distortion I described for the Leica rarely would be noticed. On the other hand, when photographing interesting recognizable items, often with straight lines, the distortion can not only be noticable but distracting. It's not that the Zeiss is distortion free...but its lower and where present, a simpler type of distortion to correct.

    I did hear as dannh mentioned, that the latest M9 firware did help greatly with red edge and the Leica 18, although I've heard from a few that had samples that still exhibited some in certain type of lighting situations. If you do get a Zeiss (or Leica for that matter), I would definitely look for one with a trial period in order to look for red edge (and code the Zeiss as a 21mm f2.8 pre asph.).

    Dave (D&A)

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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Call me Dan. (I should sign my posts!)

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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Ashwin:
    I have used the Zeiss Distagon 4/18 T on my M9 with great results. Best coding, as noted, is 21mm pre-ASPH (I tried the WATE at 18mm and 18mm Super Elmar settings as well). It is amazingly sharp and distortion free for an 18mm for architectural and landscape work, and the build quality is terrific (better than Zeiss' 2.8/21 Biogon T and 2.8/35 Biogon T IMO). Feels and works like it is carved out of a solid billet. One issue is its 4.0 max. aperture, which limited it to outdoor use for me. In light of how infrequently I use an ultra-wide (I recently traded the 4/18 for the Zeiss Biogon Biogon 2.8/21 T, as I wanted more speed), I didn't consider the Leica 18mm Super Elmar or WATE.
    Rich

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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Thanks, Rich, Dave, and Dan. So it sounds like the consensus so far, as well as from a few others, is that the Zeiss 18/4, coded as a 21 pre-asph, works best (least red edge), and is somewhat sharper and less on the distortion end thant the Leica, while being cheaper, while the Leica wouldn't have any red edge (or at least, minimal), while exhibiting slightly more distortion that might affect shots of geometic objects (straight lines).

    Over all, I gotta say that if I get one of these, I am leaning towards the Zeiss, though the red edge thing's got me a tad nervous....
    Ashwin Rao
    Seattle, WA
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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    I can't speak to the Zeiss, but I have enjoyed the Leica SEM 18/3.8 on my M9. I'm going to be in Seattle Jan 14 & 15 for a Rick Steves event, so if you'd like to, you would be welcome to take the lens for a day and play with it to see how you like it.

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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by ashwinrao1 View Post
    Thanks, Rich, Dave, and Dan. So it sounds like the consensus so far, as well as from a few others, is that the Zeiss 18/4, coded as a 21 pre-asph, works best (least red edge), and is somewhat sharper and less on the distortion end thant the Leica, while being cheaper, while the Leica wouldn't have any red edge (or at least, minimal), while exhibiting slightly more distortion that might affect shots of geometic objects (straight lines).

    Over all, I gotta say that if I get one of these, I am leaning towards the Zeiss, though the red edge thing's got me a tad nervous....
    Hi Ashwin,

    Yes, that generally sums it up but keep in mind the distortion with the Leica is of a complex type and not simply barral distortion, so not only is it often more noticable but also very hard to near impossible to eliminate in post processing. Whether it will bother you or rear its ugly head from time to time its hard to say. It depends what you are shooting and how you photograph the subject (object).

    With regards to red edge and the Zeiss, whomever you purchase the lens from, I would do so with the abaility to return the lens after briefly trying it out when coded as a 21mm f2.8 pre asph. It can be sample dependent (mostly) and even a bit M9 dependent, so the particular combination may be fine or not. Only by trying out a Zeiss sample on your particular M9, will you know if red edge is an issue with it. Look for it by shooing both a light blue clear blue sky or a light color wall and a variety of subjects in both bright light and partial shade.

    One can make a good argument for either lens but for me, the reasons given in my previous posts sums up why the Zeiss was my 1st choice and luckily with my particular sample and camera, it worked our perfectly.

    Dave (D&A)

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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Ashwin,

    I have not used the Zeiss, but do own the SE. I have no complaints about the SE. It is sharp and well built. I have had no red edge problems. That said, I have used it very little ... simply because longer lenses (28 and up) much better fit my style of shooting. And that's when accounting for the 1.33 crop factor of my M8. (I know I need to use the 18 more to get a feel for whether I would like it, but while I keep telling myself this, I keep leaving it at home.)

    Anyway, per the Zeiss, I wonder if the lack of coding would be a factor. (I know it's a non-factor on longer lenses, but am not sure on 18mm lenses.)

    R

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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Ashwin, I have a collection of very good 18mm Distagon cornerfix profiles I created, which I would happily send you, they cover every aperture from f/4.0 to f/16 in whole stops.

    I should really get around to making LCC profiles in Capture One to simplify my workflow.

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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Ashwin, the ZM 18 is an excellent lens. Great colour and very sharp. There is a Denoir(Luka) on FM forums who has posted numerous shots with the ZM 18 and M9 and his experiences with it, http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/920070/116 .

    With respect to the red edge issue, this seem to a variable factor depending on the specific M9 and lens combination. I have two M9 bodies, both with red edge issues with FL 35 and less, regardless whether they are Leica or Zeiss. Both M9's exhibit the red edge differently. I accept this, use C1 Pro with LCC profiles now in my workflow. It is quick and very accurate. I still use the manual coding for the ZM's. For the ZM 25 I use 28 Elmarit Asph. There is still a red edge, but is quickly resolved with LCC profiles. Generally I find one or two profiles for lens/M9 combo works well. With wide angles, which I use a lot for landscapes, so the bright skies or ocean/sand will show up the red edge very quickly. For street shots, this may not be so much of a problem.
    Charles Kalnins
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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Red edge isn't a serious issue for landscape, I usually leave it (my 18mm Distagon is coded as a WATE), unless it is offending then I'll usually use the graduated filter tool in Lightroom.

    With any kind of shot with consistent colour along the borders like snow, or buildings it will be necessary to use cornerfix.

    Here are two previously unshared shots from NZ taken with the 18mm Distagon, with no cornerfix or graduated tool applied, I don't think the images suffer much because of it



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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Dan tha,nks for all of the advice. THose are AMAZING captures that anyone would be proud to have captured. I see no red edge at all, and your images are pushing me in that direction...if I could only make the lens sing like you do!

    Bravo, my friend!
    Ashwin Rao
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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    I think the ZM is a great lens, but personally I dislike the red edge more than its goods. The Leica 18 also has some red edge issue, but seem a lot less pronounced. Distortion is present, but to me it matters little since I don't shoot architectural stuff. YMMV - but I do love the Leica 18 Super Elmar.

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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Hey Ashwin,
    It's Harald (from Steve Huff's site).
    I used to have the Zeiss 18 Distagon and loved it. Big time!
    On the M8 I coded it like a Wate and on the M9 like the above mentioned 21mm. Worked like a charm, no red edge whatsoever!
    The lens is fantastic and I can highly recommend it. The quality you get is outstanding in every regard and for the money it's a steal.
    Also, with the M9 you don't even need to worry about coding anymore since you can manually select your preferred set-up. Which of course gives you ample choice of options to figure out your preferences.

    The reason why i parted with the Distagon had nothing to do with the lens or its performance on the M9.
    Thing is, I wasn't happy with the performance of my 28 Elmarit on the M9 (loved it on the M8, though). That's why I decided to sell it and buy the 28/f2 Summicron ASPH instead. To soften the blow to my wallet I decided to let go of the 18 Zeiss as well since I also have a 21/f2.8 Elmarit.

    To be honest, I left myself a back door open. Meaning, I still have access to the Zeiss. The sneaky bugger i am, i made sure to sell it to a good friend of mine. (who lives close by

    cheers, Harald

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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Harald, Great to see you here!!!! Glad to hear you loved the 18 f/4. I am leaning more and more strongly towards getting it. Seems like a real winner and for the times I need to reach for an ultra wide, this would be the lens to have, it appears....the Super Elmar is too pricey for me, I think, and if performance is comparable (a la the 24 elmarit vs 25 biogon), I think I'll be a very happy camper, as long as the red edge doesn't foil me....

    Time to call Robert very soon, but at this point, it won't come before Christmas !

    Quote Originally Posted by 2x2 View Post
    Hey Ashwin,
    It's Harald (from Steve Huff's site).
    I used to have the Zeiss 18 Distagon and loved it. Big time!
    On the M8 I coded it like a Wate and on the M9 like the above mentioned 21mm. Worked like a charm, no red edge whatsoever!
    The lens is fantastic and I can highly recommend it. The quality you get is outstanding in every regard and for the money it's a steal.
    Also, with the M9 you don't even need to worry about coding anymore since you can manually select your preferred set-up. Which of course gives you ample choice of options to figure out your preferences.

    The reason why i parted with the Distagon had nothing to do with the lens or its performance on the M9.
    Thing is, I wasn't happy with the performance of my 28 Elmarit on the M9 (loved it on the M8, though). That's why I decided to sell it and buy the 28/f2 Summicron ASPH instead. To soften the blow to my wallet I decided to let go of the 18 Zeiss as well since I also have a 21/f2.8 Elmarit.

    To be honest, I left myself a back door open. Meaning, I still have access to the Zeiss. The sneaky bugger i am, i made sure to sell it to a good friend of mine. (who lives close by

    cheers, Harald
    Ashwin Rao
    Seattle, WA
    My Photography

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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    I love the WATE and think the wide end is where a zoom really makes the most sense. Perspective close-in is very sensitive to position, and a little bit of zoom offers precise control over framing. Given that the WATE is optically excellent and physically compact, the issue IMO is really about cost. (And, yeah, it's expensive - no ifs and buts about that.)

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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Well, the saga has wound up with me picking up an ZM 18 mm f/4 from a local GetDPI member (thanks, Geof), and my preliminary shots suggest a bit of red edge that's improved by coding as a 21 mm f/2.8 pre-asph elmarit, as many of you have suggested. I am looking forward to seeing what the lens is capable of and if we get along.

    Thanks for your help, everyone!
    Ashwin Rao
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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Congradulations Ashwin, I believe you made a great choice and looking forward to your exceptional images created with the Zeiss 18mm. Even with a bit of red edge, it may not have all that much impact except with images that have wide empty expanses on a uniformly light color like light blue sky, white snow or little detail on the offending edge. Let us know how it goes.

    Dave (D&A)

  23. #23
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    Re: Looking for your advice- 18 mm lens options for the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by ashwinrao1 View Post
    Harald, Great to see you here!!!! Glad to hear you loved the 18 f/4. I am leaning more and more strongly towards getting it. Seems like a real winner and for the times I need to reach for an ultra wide, this would be the lens to have, it appears....the Super Elmar is too pricey for me, I think, and if performance is comparable (a la the 24 elmarit vs 25 biogon), I think I'll be a very happy camper, as long as the red edge doesn't foil me....

    Time to call Robert very soon, but at this point, it won't come before Christmas !
    Ashwin, Congrats on your new lens!
    If there's still a red edge problem, try different coding settings. Easy to do with the manual setting option. I know the S-Elmar is f/3.5 but why not giving it a try. Merry Xmas!

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