VARIO-ELMAR-R 105-280 / 4.2

This is a record of using the LEICA R mount, VARIO-ELMAR-R 105-280 / 4.2 with a digital camera.

Table of contents

LEICA VARIO-ELMAR-R 105-280 / 4.2 Photo Example by HASSELBLAD X2D

In terms of focal length, this lens is similar in performance to the APO-TELYT 280mm F4. The specifications of the two lenses are the same in terms of maximum lens diameter and filter diameter, but the VARIO-ELMAR-R is 20 mm longer, weighs about 100 g more, and has a slightly darker maximum aperture f-stop of 4.2.
The VARIO-ELMAR-R is what is called a Sanyon zoom lens in Japan. The Sigma 100-300/F4 lens I used to own weighed about 1400g, and this lens is about 500g heavier and chunkier.
As with the APO-TELYT 280mm, there is no significant deterioration when looking at the results of shooting with the APO-EXTENDER x2 attached. The moon below is the result of a 1/2-scale downsized image with the center cropped out.


The manufacturer’s sincerity can be seen in the fact that the f-number is ritually marked as 4.2. From a marketing point of view, it is certain that it would sell better if the f/4 value was used as a deception.
For a lens that was manufactured for only two years and with only 1,500 units manufactured, it is a lens that is often seen in the used market in Japan.
I have seen it about 5 times over the past 10 years and have just now managed to capture it.
The price depends on the condition of the lens, but it varies widely, and the cheapest one I saw was around 150,000 yen in 2015. 2022 is still in the 200,000 to 300,000 yen range, which gives the impression that it is sold much cheaper in Japan than in overseas markets such as eBay.

Telephoto zoom lens released at the end of the R mount.
The zoom ring is moderately heavy and does not inadvertently change the focal length. Turning it to the right moves the lens toward the telephoto side, with the rightmost focal length being 280mm.
The focus ring is lighter than the zoom ring and can be easily operated, but since the angle of rotation is about 330 degrees, it seems to turn quite a bit from infinity to minimum focus distance. Turning it to the right shortens the shooting distance and extends the lens, with the right end being the shortest shooting distance and the lens being the longest.
The hood is a built-in type and can only be pulled forward; there is no hood lock mechanism.
The minimum focusing distance is 1.7 m at all focal lengths, giving the impression of being able to get very close at the 280 mm position.
The results taken with the X2D’s 44mm x33mm sensor show some kicking at the four corners when photographing a 105mm focal length blue sky, but this is hardly noticeable in general landscapes.
The APO-EXTENDER x2 can be used without any problem; the APO-EXTENDER x1.4 seems to be attachable based on the position of the rear element of the lens, but we cannot confirm this because we do not have an APO-EXTENDER x1.4 on hand.
1,500 were made between 1996 and 1997.

focal length(mm)105-280
Maximum aperture4.2
Minimum aperture22
Lens configuration10groups 13elements
Leaf blade8
Minimum distance(m)1.7
Lens length(mm)236Distance from mount flange
Lens max diameter(mm)88
Filter diameter(mm)77
Release Year1996Product end 1997

Reference links

  • VARIO-ELMAR-R 105-280-F4.2


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