Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4 Lens Review

My goal in purchasing the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4 lens was to have a compact telephoto lens for my hiking ventures in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. I currently have both the Leica Elmarit-M 90mm f/2.8 and Leica Tele-Elmar-M 135mm f/4 lens, but compared to the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4, the weight difference is substantial. If you are an avid landscape photographer who hikes a lot, you will appreciate the small footprint of the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4 lens.

To test the lens, my friend and I traveled to the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, to visit both Locke and Walnut Grove, California.

Locke, California

Locke, also known as Locke Historic District, is an unincorporated community in California’s Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta built by Chinese immigrants during the early 20th century.

If you would like to learn more about the history of Locke, I recommend purchasing the following book “Bitter Melon: Inside America’s Last Rural Chinese Town.” Some of the images in the book are captured with a Leica M camera.

Walnut Grove, California

Established in 1850 by John W. Sharp, Walnut Grove is one of the earliest settlements along the Sacramento River. Sharp journeyed west from Ohio with his young family and chose the site of Walnut Grove because of the abundant walnut and oak forests in the area.

As you can see, there is a lot of history in the area which is rich in old architecture and signage.

Walking the streets of Locke and Walnut Grove

We started our ventures by walking the streets of Locke. Not being used to shooting telephoto lens in a street photography situation, I needed to adjust my shooting style. After shooting a couple of frames, I acclimated myself to the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4 lens. One of my recommendations (if you are not using a tripod) is to set the camera shutter speed to 1/250th of a second to maximize image sharpness. The small footprint of the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4 lens tricks you into thinking your shooting a 50mm or 28mm lens. I’m pretty steady holding my camera, but I noticed a couple of images that were not 100% sharp when the shutter speed of the camera was at 1/125th of a second or below.

While walking the streets of Locke and Walnut Grove, my focus was to capture the essence of both locations and the historical perspective of Locke. The following images were captured using the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4 lens on the Leica M10.

Final Thoughts

I was thrilled with the image quality from the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4 lens.

– Compact lens for hiking into the wilderness
– Very sharp and contrasty lens
– The depth of the color range is awesome
– Solid construction, built like a tank
– Love the compression when shooting detail scenes
– Out of focus areas have a smooth bokeh
– The technical data specifically the MTF graphs, are the best I’ve ever seen for a lens.

Here is a link to the Leica Technical Data for the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4 lens. Pay close attention to the MTF graphs, which reinforce my comments about the sharpness and contrast of the glass.

Download PDF File

Here is a screenshot of one of the Locke images in Capture One 12 at 100%. I’m using the default sharpening settings with the application of a little clarity and structure which you can see in the screenshot. The Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4 is one sharp lens!

Combined with the Leica Super-Elmar-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH and Leica Summicron-M 50mm f/2 lens, the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4 lens completes the trifecta for the ultimate landscape photography lens kit for the Leica M series camera.

I can not wait to use the lens on my hiking trip to capture wildflowers on the Carson Pass Trail off Hwy 88 near Wood Lake, California.

Note: The images on this page were captured using the Leica M10 and Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4 lens. Capture One by Phase One was used to process the RAW files.