Leica Super Elmar 18mm f/3.8 ASPH review

This is not everyday street photography lens. This is not a street photography lens at all by most standards, but it creates some insane street views. Wide angle 100 degrees lenses are quite something. You capture huge amount of data in one image with them. With so much data in one image you have to compose very carefully. The level of your camera is very important because what would have been a straight column looks like it is about to fall. The 18mm Leica M APSH lens is a small monster. When talking about sharpness this lens is super sharp from angle to angle. Only in the extreme corners depending on subject closeness and angle, you can see blur or less sharpness or extreme distortion. Crop the image you took to the golden ration or 16:9 and you will have some beautiful panoramas with just one image. I love using this lens, even though I am not using it as often as I should. Maybe because it requires EVF or LCD to precisely compose or level. Lower your angle and you will create some interesting perspectives. It just creates images you will not see every day. There is one not much discussed topic of what 90 mm vs 50 mm vs 35 mm vs 18 mm lens will do to your scene. Each have different characteristics. When we talk about 50 and 90 mm lenses we refer most often to bokeh, separation, portraits. With 35 and 18 we talk about angle of view, depth, environment, street. There is one more very important characteristic about the length of the lens. It is called compression of the scene. Let me give you some examples, whilst I should probably illustrate with examples in a separate article (you might want to check this article in my blog about angle of view of Leica Summilux 35 FLE, Leica Summilux 50 ASPH, Leica Summicron 90 APO, and Leica Elmarit Macro 100mm compared and look for the element on the wall behind the main subject on 35mm 50mm lens). For the start of this explanation let set the 0 - the natural compression is somewhere between the 35 and 50mm lens. This is when what you see is what you will get on the final image. Let's compare the two extreme lengths I mentioned- 90mm and 18mm. The Leica APO 90mm will compress the scene while Leica Super-Elmar 18 mm will uncompress-stretch the scene. What stretching will do is emphasis how big your front close to camera object is. Imagine you are taking a picture of a person and further back there is a tree. 18 mm lens will separate the person from the tree by pushing the tree to the back thus making it smaller. 90mm lens, while having better separating and bokeh powers, it will bring the tree so close to your subject you might not like that. I had this experiment with 90 and 35 mm on the same subject, framed the same way. What I noticed on the 90 and I did not liked was that something way way back in the scene was now way way too close and distracting from the main object. So this Leica 18 mm Super Elmar has some very unique ways to emphasis your subjects, to create some breath taking images, but you have to master it.

Wider angle lenses have another advantage. They are more cinematic and if used properly they produce excellent 21:9 ratio for video work. I have used the Leica 18 mm Super-Elmar on a video project. Since it has enormous depth I preset the lens to f 5.6 and shot the whole video like that. You can check it here.

The Super Elmar name corresponds to it maximum aperture which is not a fast lens. f 3.8 is not for low light even though you can shoot at 1/18 of a second and have no blur issues. There is one thing I like about this lens combined with EVF. Because it is a wide angle lens it requires the lens to sit lower vertically that lets say 50 or 90 lens. Leica M EVFs have the ability to be tilted at 90 degree angle. This will give you a whole other experience when shooting. All the sudden you are shooting Hasselblad style which I genially like. First the camera sits on your both hands. Second, because your body pose is no longer looking straight you attract less attention. You pose is looking down 90 degree angle toward the subject thought the EVF. People will think you are looking at your camera and not them. This is genius and I love it!

Next time it rains I will take it out for a spin to capture some reflections. Bellow image has a magnifier function. On desktop computer roll your mouse over for the zoom in, on mobile press and hold then move.
Leica Super Elmar 18mm f/3.8 ASPH Overview
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