Review and Photo example of the VARIO APO ELMARIT R 70-180mm F2.8.

Table of contents


  • VARIO-APO-ELMARIT-R 2.8/70-180 Photo example (ESO1DsMKIII)


The Vario Apo Elmarito (Elmarito) R 70-180mm F2.8 is a lens released at the end of the Leica R mount, and 2,250 were made between 1995 and 2000. I’ve seen lens mount cams with R cams and ROM terminals.

The lens I owned had a ROM terminal, serial number 378xxxx, and was one of 500 made in 1997, and I bought it at a fairly high price. The problem with using Leica’s genuine R Adapter L is that the focal length recorded in EXIF is 70mm no matter what focal length the lens is used for. This may be a problem with the R Adapter L and LEICA SL typ601, but if the focal length information is sloppy, the flash operation seems questionable. Since almost no one uses a flash with this lens, it probably won’t be a problem.
Also, since it is a medium telephoto lens and there is no protrusion on the rear lens, it can be used with the EOS-1DsMKIII without any problems.

If you don’t mind the weight of 2kg, it’s a convenient lens as it can cover focal lengths of 70mm, 90mm, 135mm, and 180mm with just one lens. Unfortunately, the minimum focusing distance is limited to 1.7m and 180mm across the entire range.
The Apo Elmarito 180mm is a short-throw lens that costs about 300,000 yen, so if you have to choose one, you’ll probably have to decide between the sharpness of a single focus lens and the convenience of a zoom lens.

Lens operation is based on the rotary zoom lens of Leica R-mount lenses, with a zoom sling at the base to change the focal length and a focus ring in the middle.
The MF rotary zoom lens is conveniently placed with the focus ring at the front, as it is easier to use. Changing the focal length is done internally inside the lens barrel, but changing the focal length slightly changes the lens length. The shortest lens length is 180mm, and the longest is 70mm.

The lens hood is built-in and extends approximately 30mm from the front edge of the lens when pulled out. The length of the hood is better than not having one at all, but the backlight resistance is fine, so I think this hood is fine.

In keeping with the trends of the times, this lens uses F2.8 at all focal lengths.
Zoom lenses with a full focal length of F2.8 are a specialty of Japanese manufacturers, and zoom lenses with similar specifications can cost around 200,000 yen at most if they are made in Japan. The used price of this lens is about double to triple that price. Since the number of copies of this lens distributed domestically is small, second-hand prices at shops are always considered to be bullish. As I write this article in 2023-2024, prices start at around 300,000 yen on eBay, so I get the impression that prices are falling worldwide. A relatively new F2.8 zoom lens from a Japanese manufacturer has been released with a minimum focusing distance of around 1.2m, so the specs of this lens are inferior. As of 2024, Japanese lenses have become much more expensive, but Leica lenses have become even more expensive.

This lens was the first zoom lens to use the Apo'' name, and its name is unique.This lens was the only zoom lens with theApo” name, in the order of Vario'',Apo”, and the name. There is. Why does this lens look like this? I think it’s strange, but I don’t think there’s any deep reason behind it, such as the first person in charge naming it without much thought, or the second person not liking the wording and changing it. As far as I have researched, I have not seen any mention of this issue.

There are only a few zoom lenses that can be considered Leica originals, and the following should apply. I have heard that Panasonic is collaborating with Panasonic on lenses for SL, but the actual situation has not been disclosed. This is in contrast to hearing that the TL lenses were designed and manufactured by KM. This seems to be due to the company actively issuing patents.

  • Vario Elmar R 21–35mm F3.5-4.0 ASPH.
  • Vario Elmarit R 35-70mm F2.8 ASPH.
  • Vario Elmarit R 28-90mm F2.8-4.5 ASPH.
  • Vario Elmar R 105mm–280mm F4.2
  • Super Vario Elmar SL 16-35mm F3.5-4.5 ASPH.
  • Vario Elmarit SL 24-90mm F2.8-4 ASPH.
  • APO Vario Elmarit SL 90-280mm F2.8-4 ASPH.


focal length(mm)70-180
Maximum aperture2.8
Minimum aperture22
Lens configuration10groups 13elements
Leaf blade8
Minimum distance(m)1.7
Lens length(mm)189.5Distance form mount frange
Lens max diameter(mm)89
Filter diameter(mm)77
Release dateYear 1995Product end y2000

Reference links

Update history

  • 2024.03.26
  • 2022.05.26

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