What is the Leica Elmarit-TL 1:2.8/18 ASPH?

Leica has announced a new 18mm pancake lens for its TL series of compact system cameras and gave us a sample of the lens along with the new CL, announced at the same time, to put it through its paces. It’s also likely to be known as the Leica Elmarit-TL 18mm f/2.8 ASPH and produces images comparable with a 27mm lens on a full-frame or 35mm camera.

Features

According to Leica, the company has built the lens to be the best-in-class for a compact 18mm f/2.8 lens on an APS-C format camera. If the engineers had been tasked to produce the best optical performance, the lens would be bigger.

Inside its metal barrel, the Elmarit-TL 18mm f/2.8 has 8 elements arranged in 6 groups with 4 aspherical surfaces to reduce aberrations.

As it’s designed for use on Leica’s TL range of mirrorless system cameras, the new lens can be focused automatically or manually. Leica’s M-lenses are manual focus only.

Leica Elmarit-TL 1:2.8/18 ASPH.  
Lens mountLeica L
FormatAPS-C
When used on the Leica SL, the camera automatically switches to APS-C format
Angle of view(diagonal, horizontal, vertical): Approx. 75°, 65°, 46°, corresponding to around
Aperture rangef/2.8-16
Focal length in 35mm format27mm
Optical design8 lenses in 6 groups with 4 aspherical surface
Closest focus30cm
Filter size39mm
FinishBlack/silver anodized
Dimensions and weight21 x 61mm
Weight80g

Leica CL Review

Build and Handling

At 21mm to the mount and 61mm maximum diameter,  the Elmarit-TL 18mm f/2.8 is very small and neat. When it’s mounted on the new Lecia CL, the camera looks like a very high-quality compact camera rather than an interchangeable lens model.

Leica is making the new lens available in anodised silver or black. When the black lens is mounted on the black CL, the camera looks very sleek and unobtrusive. The silver version of the lens is designed to complement the silver Leica TL2, but it looks very stylish on the black CL.

The narrow focusing ring rotates smoothly, but I found it was rarely needed on the new CL as the camera managed to get most subjects sharp without any help from me.

Performance

Leica is a renowned optics manufacturer and despite the 18mm lens’s pancake billing, it’s a strong performer.

Despite shooting in low, bright winter sun, I was only able to find a hint of chromatic aberration towards the edges of images I shot in a woodland where thin branches made high-contrast edges. That was when viewing shots at 100% on-screen, it’s not apparent at normal viewing sizes. 

In any case, the Lens Correction controls in Adobe Camera Raw were able to remove the slight purple fringing with a minor movement of the slider.

The extreme corners of images shot with the aperture wide open are a little soft, but they sharpen up nicely when the aperture is closed to f/3.5. The centre of the image is nice and sharp throughout the aperture range – which goes down to f/16.

If you photograph subjects with a strong linear element, such as a brick wall, you may spot very (very) slight barrel distortion, but it’s certainly not a major issue and will go completely unnoticed with most photographic subjects.

Similarly, vignetting is not a significant concern even when shooting at f/2.8.

Sample Images

Leica Elmarit-TL 18mm 2.8 ASPH Review

Scenes like this may exhibit some chromatic aberration towards the edges but it’s only slight and is easily dealt with in raw processing

Leica Elmarit-TL 18mm 2.8 ASPH Review

Flare only becomes an issue if you force it and include the sun in your shot

Leica Elmarit-TL 18mm 2.8 ASPH Review

There’s no need to worry about straight lines bending as barrel distortion is controlled very well

 

Leica CL Review Sample Image

Leica CL Review Sample Image

Verdict

The Elmarit-TL 18mm f/2.8 is a lovely lens to use with the new Leica CL or TL2. It complements the understated style of these cameras very well and maintains a nice balance. It lacks the versatility of a zoom lens, but with a 35mm equivalent focal length of 27mm, it makes a good walk-around optic on the CL.

Should I buy the Leica Elmarit-TL 18mm f/2.8?

If you’re investing in the CL or TL2, the Elmarit-TL 18mm f/2.8 makes a very high quality kit lens that’s perfectly suited to street, documentary and landscape photography.