Leica 21mm/3.4 Super-Angulon

21mm/3.4 Super-Angulon & M9 _

The 3.4 SA was introduced in 1963 and followed the 4/21 SA (1958). It shows its best results between f 4.5 and f 11, I prefer f 8. It is the the only super wide, on which I thought a little miracle might have happened to the 35 mm format optical industry, and which I judge as impressing as the MF 4.5/38 Biogon [ I feel the 4.5/38 as the best super wide I ever saw; additionally, both lenses (3.4/21 SA and 4.5/38 Biogon) perform very similar (sharpness, color rendition, out-of-focus rendition), at least when stopped down to f 8 ]. The 3.4/21 is pretty sharp, and comparable to the pre-asph (version 4) 2/35 Summicron or rigid chrome 2/50 Summicron. Both, the out-of-focus and the color rendition, also agree to the pre-asph 2/35: rich and with a lot of shades. In low light (i.e. f 4, 1/30 to 1/60, 200 ASA), it additionally accentuates white or bright areas, increasing the modeling effects. In my experience, the 4/21 M SA performs similar (although less sharp by far), but both, the 2.8/21 asph Elmarit and 4/21 R SA, perform remarkably different. Though more sharp, specially at lower f-stops, the 2.8/21 asph lens shows colors and contrasts, which agree to the color and contrast rendition/ management of the current 2/50 M Summicron or 1.4/35 ASPH Summilux, and which I feel as “too strong” or too much saturated (not always, but too often). Different, the 4/21 R SA shows a (slightly) reduced color scale, specially in bright sun shine. The shadow parts are very dark, almost black. And, although this special performence remembers on the Summar’s color rendition, there is a difference in the viewers picture perception: The pictures, specially landscapes in bright sun light, get “restless”, “turbulent”, “unsteady”, “nervous” (?, phrase). This effect results from the large number of changements of bright sun shine and (almost) black shadow, which cannot be avoided most of the times. The large number of changements results from the wide angle of the lens: you simply get “very much” in your picture. Additionally, there is another difficulty: Specially unexperienced 21 mm VF/RF users pretty soon get desperate, because the forground is “too empty”. So, although I feel the 3.4/21 SA’s rendition as more pleasant, I’d suggest the 4/21 R SA to beginners, because it is more easy to create the picture (you get what you see). The 3.4/21 is a neutral lens with a slight tendency to cold, the 4/21 R SA is a warm lens. _ Alfred Breull

 

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