Leica T (Typ 701) - Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-T 11-23mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH Lens Unboxing Video


Just to say there's a few too many 'Errrms...' a lot of whirring from my Nokia smartphone which I shot this on and a couple of mistakes, but this is what it is. And the reason I don't make videos very often!!

I've never done an unboxing video. I've always thought that it's a strange thing to do and a bit 'nerdy' to say the least. However, with the arrival of a Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-T 11-23mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH Lens, which has just arrived having finally been released, I have made an exception. And I've done this because this is almost a 'mystery' lens. The specs have been announced by Leica and a few pictures are around, but there is very little information available on what it actually looks like in reality or how it performs. So I decided to share the moments when I opened the box and saw what £1350 of Leica T lens looks like and feels like. 

As you might imagine in those two respects it comes as no surprise that this is an incredibly well made and aesthetically pleasing lens. Whether it is in fact made by Sigma for Leica or not, there is no doubting that this is a no compromise lens in the manufacturing department. Every bit of it is close to perfect, from the zoom and focus rings to the precise way it fits on the camera. Not to tight, not to loose. No lens 'wobble' here nor of course even a hint of zoom creep. It matches the Leica T body perfectly and the combination is black, metallic, sleek and feels like no other camera I've ever handled. It's beautifully balanced and feels less like holding a picture creating device than a work of art. Yeah, Yeah, I can hear you say, more Leica love prose, but if you ever get the chance to pick one of these up, you will know exactly what I mean. 

I've taken a few test shots and it's much as expected. Seriously sharp, from corner to corner, even wide open. There is however some 'bendy' barrel distortion at the wide end. My copy of Photoshop says that the lens profile IS being applied and it's still there. It's fixable, but it would have been nice for it not to be present. I suspect the reason for it is to keep the lens reasonably small and light. It's 368g which is fine for me. To give some kind of comparison, the Fuji 10-24mm is 408g but bigger. And the Fuji has a larger front element. 

I've run some files shot with it through Iridient Developer and those are scary sharp, even when upsized. IR does however illustrate that a fair amount is being 'corrected'. Below is a file from IR - 'uncorrected'

The file below is as above but after I've applied my own 'corrections' in IR.

This whole issue attracts a LOT of argument on the photographic internet. Some believe that all lenses should be 'perfect' without the need for this software 'correcting'. But even the Zeiss £4000+ Otus lenses have lens profiles, illustrating that even the supposed 'best' optics made can benefit from a little 'tweaking'. Every Nikon and Canon lens I've ever used also has a lens 'correction' profile. And a lot of the criticism is from people who are often talking about 35mm film lenses (rangefinder or DSLR) and the idea that somehow these were (are) better. When in fact they could also benefit from a little help from software as well. With non FF sensors, things are always being pushed somewhat anyway. The wide end of this lens is 11mm and that has consequences. I've accepted this for a while now and am quite happy to accept this practice as it means I get smaller, lighter and much more usable lenses as a consequence. And of course if it really does bother you then the choice is yours.

One thing that I've seen improve significantly over 35mm film lenses is the much better performance wide open for top rated lenses these days. I remember being stunned at just how good the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 was at it's widest aperture and not at all what I expected. And the three Leica T lenses I have so far demonstrate that perfectly. It's still the case that I try to avoid those wide apertures, thinking that the results will be compromised, but often this is unnecessary. Beacuse this is not some cheap and cheerful kit zoom.

Leica have always concentrated on creating lenses that work well at all apertures and this zoom is no exception. Unlike some others I have, I would have no hesitation in using this lens at f/3.5 or f/4.5 under any circumstances. Incidentally the aperture changes as follows. 11-12mm f/3.5 is kept. At 16mm f/4 is the widest aperture possible and f/4.5 only kicks in right at the very end - 23mm. Now very few people ever check this out, but it's actually very important and varies quite significantly from lens to lens. Some of those cheap and cheerful zoom lenses (say f/3.5 to f/5.6) only keep the fastest aperture at their widest focal length and that aperture stops down pretty quickly after that, usually reaching its slowest setting way before reaching it's zoom limit. But this Leica isn't like that at all. In fact the 11-16mm range is f/4 or better, this making it 'faster' compared to either the Fuji 10-24mm f/4 lens I used or the Sony 16-35m f/4 FE lens at those focal lengths. Something to bear in mind when appraising the lenses performance. 

I will of course be taking it out for some real world use ASAP. But unfortunately we are under a blanket of grey gloomy cloud at the moment (suicide light!!), so not the best circumstances in which to check it out. However, there isn't much doubt that this is a superb lens and will help me create some great images I'm sure. For me, the Leica T system is everything I've ever wanted from a mirrorless interchangeable and I will, from necessity, have to find new homes for a lot of my gear to finance it. Because I have to have the 55-135mm zoom as well. i.e. the complete Leica T 'set'. Since that's going to cost me around the £6000 mark, my camera shelf needs substantial pruning. But I will be getting a system that I'll love using and will give me the results I want. I've always found using any Leica inspirational. Having a camera with a red dot in my hand always makes me want to do the brand and it's history justice. Like many Leica owners I'm well aware of the talented and innovative individuals who have used these cameras and what they have created and I always try to make sure that at least I'm satisfied I've done the best I can whenever I press a Leica shutter and commit an image. 

And I'm well aware that there are many who think Leica's are overpriced indulgences, but whether that's true or not, I don't really care. If it is an indulgence then I'm perfectly happy to succumb to it. I would never try to pretend that what I get from this system is totally worth the money, but I'm prepared to pay for it. And in the end, that's the only thing that matters.