My interest in Leica Zoom lenses has taken me on an interesting journey over the last few years. The first ones I acquired were for the TL system, notably the 11-23 and 55-135 objectives. Now discontinued these lenses are superb, albeit a little slow. Both remain in my collection and continue to be used, particularly when travelling. As I slowly moved into the SL system I read countless reviews as to how good all of the dedicated zooms are, so I thought I should try a couple out for myself. I have never really cared for standard zooms, preferring fast primes when working with my favourite focal lengths - between 35mm and 100mm.
A few years ago I wrote about how Leica’s 55-135 and 11-23 zoom lenses for the APSC TL/CL cameras had changed my opinion of zoom lenses for the better. I moved away from zooms four decades ago due to being very unimpressed with the output from them. The only exception to this was a 11-22mm Zuiko zoom for my Olympus E-1 in 2005. This was a good lens but suffered from severe purple fringing in high contrast areas. So when I got into Leica’s APSC system I decided to give zooms another try and could not believe how good they were. Over the decades I had become very used to fast aperture primes and realised that by going the zoom route, I was going to have to compromise speed for something more sedentary. With this in mind I held onto the couple of primes I was already using with my TL2 so that I would have access to fast aperture glass. The combination of zooms and primes worked very well and is one I still use when travelling.
It was always my plan to build a small collection of SL primes, based around the focal lengths thatI consider most useful to me. In recent years I have preferred to keep my lens choice small, unlike around 20-30 years ago when I had a dozen or so for one system. Back then the number of lenses in my collection had grown out of trial and error as I experimented with different focal lengths and speeds. In retrospect I found it useful (if not a bit costly) to establish which angles of view I tended to operate with, as my personal taste has not really changed much since then. My core system comprised of 35, 50 and 100mm lenses, the latter occasionally being replaced with a 135, or even more occasionally a 180. It was these which saw most active use over many years, while others were used simply when I felt like a change (and to justify their existence).
My interest in 35mm lenses has remained unfettered since I first got into ‘serious’ photography more than four decades ago. I have written elsewhere of my fondness for this focal length and it’s ability to capture slightly wider angles with little in the way of distortion. It was a long time before I purchased my first 35mm, as before this I have used zooms and often composed images on or around this angle. Seeking a lighter alternative, I soon latched onto the fact that I could have a fast prime - much faster than a zoom - minus the heft. When I first discovered Leica Camera’s it was via the X1, as it had a 35mm equivalent lens built in, albeit not particularly fast. Not many years after this I was lured into purchasing the X Typ 113, thanks to its much faster 35mm prime. I still use that camera today and the results I can get from it are sublime.
Towards the end of last year, Ethan and myself attended an in-store day held at the Leica Camera Store, Manchester. The purpose of the visit was to get our hands on the newly announced Leica SL2 and see how it compared to the original SL. I have always been fond of the SL after trying one out at 2016’s camera show in Birmingham. However it was the T system that I brought into, comfortable with the fact that it shared the L mount with the SL. While slowly building my T system I kept an eye on the gradual evolution of the L system.
It has been many years since I owned a telephoto zoom lens of any kind. Burned by poor quality third party zooms of the 1980’s, I have consistently ducked getting another and always opted for primes when requiring telephoto focal lengths. This changed when researching a recent trip to the eastern region of Halkidiki in Greece. Part of the itinerary was to visit the town of Ouranoupoli which is close to the border of the Monks Republic of Athos.
This is the lens that captured my interest in the T system around a year ago. Tantalisingly exhibited at the 2016 Photography show but unavailable to the public at the time, it would be several months before I finally owned one. This was not as much to do with supply and demand but more my own prevarication when deciding on what new camera system to purchase. Once I had decided to buy into the T system, my commitment was bolstered by 35mm f1.4 ownership.