BONEV PHOTOGRAPHY - Leica Vario-Elmar-R 80-200 f4 review

BONEV PHOTOGRAPHY

LEICA VARIO-ELMAR-R 80-200 mm f/4 review

I have had this great Leica lens for over 6 years now. I got it when I sold all my Canon gear and especially to substitute the Canon 70-200 L II lens. This is the only zoom lens in my Leica arsenal. It is also shares the least used lens with my Leica 18/3.8 ASPH, 90/2 APO and 100/2.8 APO Macro R lenses (I have to do a review for this absolute jewel). That does not mean the Leica Vario-Elmar-R is not a great lens!

This lens shares some design similarities with its bigger brother the Leica 70-180 f2.8. Being only f4 lens it is much smaller which makes it easier to handle and carry when you have to. The lens is just over 1000 grams so it is not the lightest but for 80-200 mm lens it is actually rather light.

Being manual focus lens you have two rings - one for zooming and one for focusing. The mechanics are fantastic. Very long focus turn which helps when you want to focus very precisely. This is not a fast lens so you have to take your time with it. On my Leica M camera I have to use the Electronic View Finder in order to work with it. LEICA VARIO-ELMAR-R 80-200 lens is a beautiful creature.
100% crop for sharpeness
If you are interested where the lens performs the best as far as sharpness is concern, then it is at the longer range. Move after 100mm and this lens will blow your socks off. The maximum detail you will get at 180mm at 5.6. It is razor sharp lens there. At 180mm this is the sharpest and most uniform lens I have and I have seen. It is sharper than my Leica 100 mm APO lens and that is a statement. The above image is somewhere at 130-180 mm at f5.6, no sharpness or edits are added to the image. This is straight from the camera but cropped to 100%. Image of the yellow flower (#14) is also straight from the camera. Overall the lens is sharp already from f4 to f11. But sharpness is one side of the coin. The tonal range is insane with this lens. You do not get any blown out highlights or shadows.

Vignetting is no issue on all lengths and all apertures. That is normal for all long lenses and the VARIO-ELMAR-R 80-200 is no exception from the rule here.

I do have the Leica APO Extender 2x so this actually makes it 160-400 mm lens. Some of the images bellow are taken in combination with it (images 12 and 13).

I mainly use this lens for landscapes and wildlife. The tones are out of this world. It tends to be less contrasty than the currently produced lenses but this gives huge advantage in the dynamic range that my camera gets, which helps in post processing too. Sometimes, depending on the light conditions it reminds me of shooting video with S-Log.

I am so glad I took it for a spin 2 weeks ago. We went to Malyovitsa peak in the Rila mountain. The weather was fantastic the first day. Sunny with some clouds but I was able to capture the peak in its beauty. The second day was very windy so I was looking for a more dramatic shots which I was able to capture. First five images represent that trip.
  •  LEICA VARIO-ELMAR-R 80-200 mm f/4

    LEICA VARIO-ELMAR-R 80-200 mm f/4

  •  LEICA VARIO-ELMAR-R 80-200 mm f/4 mounted on Leica M240 with Leica APO-Extender 2x

    LEICA VARIO-ELMAR-R 80-200 mm f/4 mounted on Leica M240 with Leica APO-Extender 2x

Gallery

  •  Malyovitsa peak taken at 200mm f5.6

    Malyovitsa peak taken at 200mm f5.6

  •  Malyovitsa peak taken at f5.6

    Malyovitsa peak taken at f5.6

  •  One of the peaks at Malyovitsa taken at 5.6

    One of the peaks at Malyovitsa taken at 5.6

  •  Malyovitsa peak taken at 200mm f5.6

    Malyovitsa peak taken at 200mm f5.6

  •  Malyovitsa peak taken at 200mm f5.6

    Malyovitsa peak taken at 200mm f5.6

  •  Rocks near Belogradchick

    Rocks near Belogradchick

  •  Rocks near Belogradchick

    Rocks near Belogradchick

  •  Rocks near Belogradchick

    Rocks near Belogradchick

  •  Rocks near Belogradchick

    Rocks near Belogradchick

  •  Rocks near Belogradchick - The Rabbit

    Rocks near Belogradchick - The Rabbit

  •  Sunset at the rocks near Belogradchick

    Sunset at the rocks near Belogradchick

  •  This image was shot with APO-Extender 2x at 200mm

    This image was shot with APO-Extender 2x at 200mm

  •  400mm with Leica APO-Extender 2x

    400mm with Leica APO-Extender 2x

  •  Close shot

    Close shot

  •  Full moon

    Full moon

  •  Brown bear

    Brown bear

  •  Brown bear

    Brown bear

  •  Ostrich

    Ostrich

  •  Aligator

    Aligator

  •  Meerkat

    Meerkat

  •  Meerkat

    Meerkat

  •  Rhino

    Rhino

  •  Christmas tree

    Christmas tree

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