The Leitz (Leica) Tele-Elmar 135mm f/4.

(Photo Source: L Camera LeicaWiki)

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The Leitz (Leica) Tele-Elmar 135mm f/4 is a lens I’ve been seeking for a while.

When I moved away from DSLRs, I sometimes missed having a longish focal length for certain applications, like photographing sports (where shooting from a distance is often a reality).  Telephoto lenses are also surprisingly useful for landscape photography, and for portraiture too.

However, 135mm represents a long focal length for a Leica M camera, because accurate manual focusing in this range can be tricky unless both camera and lens are in perfect calibration.

Knowing this, I nonetheless set out to find the venerable “T-E 135”.

The Tele-Elmar 135mm f/4 was manufactured from 1965 to 1990 before it was updated, first cosmetically, and then to the current Apo-Telyt 135mm f/3.4 form in 1998.

Why was I looking for the older model?

The current Apo-Telyt 135 approaches a cost of US$3300 (as of July, 2011), whereas a T-E 135 can be found for as little as $500, and the performance difference is said to be negligible!  In other words, the older model represents one of the last true bargains of Leica optics.  The other things in favour of the T-E 135 are its small size and light weight  – these are qualities I value dearly.

Well, I finally secured an excellent condition Tele-Elmar 135mm f/4, manufactured near the beginning of its production cycle, in 1966.  This makes my copy a 45 yr old lens!

Fortunately, manual focusing with the T-E 135 has been easy and accurate.   The lens is a little soft at its widest aperture (f/4), but is quite sharp beyond that, with excellent contrast.  Given the apertures involved, this lens will most likely be used in outdoor settings where plenty of light is to be found.

Funny enough, my first use of the T-E 135 occurred at an indoor pool, as I couldn’t wait to try it!  The lack of light necessitated shooting at a relatively slow shutter speed of 1/125 sec and a high ISO of 2000.  Here is the end result:

(please click on the image below)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 1966 Tele-Elmar 135mm f/4 @ f/5.6.

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4 thoughts on “The Leitz (Leica) Tele-Elmar 135mm f/4.

  1. Mike says:

    Lovely picture. A great smile.

    I have a 135 Elmar – even older. I wasn’t sure how I would like it on the M9, but I’ve found it a lovely lens and ideal for picturing people. It has a softsharp quallity that suits just nicely.

    MIke

  2. Rob Lowe says:

    Hi Peter,

    Your site and your insights are an inspiration! I started shooting M-mount lenses on my GXR-M very recently and compared to every other AF outfit I have ever shot with, it’s completely wonderful. This particular article of yours encouraged me (as I also missed the longer FL from time to time) to source the same model lens which, I was very lucky to secure in mint condition with original caps and even it’s clip-on hood. This lens completely blows me away, despite having to be extra steady when focusing / shooting. This shot was taken by me last week, GXR-M & Tele-Elmar 135/4 @f4 – indoors with daylight through open patio windows. Hope you enjoy it and thank you for excellent work!

    Best regards,
    Rob

    • Prosophos says:

      Thank you Rob! I’m glad you are enjoying this lens and I appreciate you letting me know. Congratulations on finding a beautifully maintained one – that’s just wonderful, as is your image!

      Peter.

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