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Leica APO-Telyt-M 1:3.4/135mm

The Leica APO-Telyt-M 135 mm f/3.4 is the longest focal length lens available for the M-system, but the shortest optic within the manufacturer's APO-Telyt line. It is the only APO-Telyt that is currently still present in Leica's product catalog, as production of its R-system-siblings was discontinued in 2009. However, several M-Summicron lenses have also gained an APO-designation since the late 1990s, so that the 135mm is in very good company.

The APO-Telyt is a manual focus telephoto lens for operation with M-series rangefinder cameras (or mirror-less digital cameras). It has been extensively corrected for apo-chromatic color aberrations to achieve outstanding contrast, sharpness, and color fidelity. Indeed, in his 2002 booklet "Leica M-Lenses: Their Soul and Secrets", Leica expert Erwin Puts recommends the 3.4/135mm as a reference lens for color reproduction within the Leica-lineup.

The Leica lens is sold with front and rear caps and a soft nappa leather case. Optional accessories include a 49mm UVa filter, a universal polarizing filter, and a special adapter for the polarizing filter.

Accessories for the 3.4/135mm
ItemDescriptionOrder No.USD Price
(approx.)
ebay
Offers
Lens front cap (E49)Clip-on lens cap1400128check
Lens rear capM-mount rear cap1426917check
Soft leather pouchNappa leather lens case1471045check
UVa Filter (E49)Haze eliminating filter & lens protector1332885check
Universal Polarizing Filter MPol-filter & holder (fits E39 & E46)13356500check
Universal Polarizing Filter AdapterAdapter to use Leica-13356 on E491441850check

The APO-Telyt-M was introduced in 1998 as a relatively compact lens that balances well on M-cameras. Its focal length enables frame-filling portraits from somewhat further distances. It can also be nicely used for landscape shots if space-compressing telephoto effects are desired. Examples of pictures taken with the lens can be easily found on flickr.

Lens specifications

The lens-body is a Leica-typical all metal construction. The core specifications of the lens are the following:

  • aperture range from 3.4 to 22;
  • focal length of 135mm, providing a diagonal angle of view of 18°;
  • lens construction with five elements in four groups;
  • front filter size of E49;
  • focus range from 1.5m to infinity;
  • maximum magnification of 9.2;
  • integrated, sliding lens hood;
  • front diameter of 56mm (2.2 inches);
  • maximum diameter of 58.5mm (2.3 inches);
  • overall length to bayonet mount of 104.8mm (4.12 inches);
  • weight of 453g (1 lb.).

The lens retails for about USD 3,500, but can occasionally also be found in excellent, pre-owned condition at a discount of 15 to 30 percent to the new item price.

In terms of optical quality, the APO-Telyt-M performs very strongly. In particular, the lens delivers superior contrast and sharpness, with its excellent performance at maximum aperture being especially noteworthy. This is one of those rare lenses that does not need to be stopped down to perform at its best. Moreover, vignetting, distortion and flare are well controlled and not of concern in practical use. These quality characteristics of the APO-Telyt-M emerge clearly if reviewed in comparison with the Elmarit-M 1:2.8/135mm and the Tele-Elmar-M 1:4/135mm, its predecessors in the Leica line-up. Whether the extra in quality is worth the premium in price, however, is a question every Leica-shooter has to decide for herself or himself.

Leica APO-Telyt-M 135mm FAQ

One major issue with 135mm lenses on M-system cameras is the small viewing area that makes it difficult to achieve focus. In fact, focusing the APO-Telyt-M wide open with the standard 0.72 finder can be a bit of a challenge and using a magnifier or stopping the lens down to f5.6 is advisable to get consistently sharp images. The focusing problem is particularly marked when shooting with the M8 or M8.2 due to the 1.3x format factor and correspondingly cropped viewing area. In addition, framing is difficult with these cameras: Leica omitted the 135mm frame lines in the viewfinder of the M8 cameras (in favor of frame lines for 24mm lenses), so that accurate composition of a shot with the 135mm becomes a trial and error exercise. Indeed, Leica discourages the use of the APO-Telyt-M on the M8 and M8.2. The newer, full-frame M-cameras again feature 135mm frame lines and, hence, make it easier to compose with the APO-Telyt-M.

Below are some additional issues and questions that have been encountered by Leica shooter's with corresponding responses or suggestions.

Does the APO-Telyt-M contain aspherical lens elements?

No, there are no aspherical elements in the configuration of the lens.

Why does Leica's US website list the lens with an ASPH suffix, if it does not contain aspherical elements?

This is an error of the webmaster; the German version of the Leica site correctly lists the lens without the "ASPH" designation.

What is the full-frame focal length equivalent of the APO-Telyt-M on an M8?

The M8 has a format factor of 1.33, so that a 135mm lens on an M8 provides the same angle of view as a 180mm lens on a full-frame camera.

Is it possible to combine the 1.25x and the 1.4x magnifiers to achieve large magnification on the M8?

Yes, the two magnifiers can be simultaneously mounted, but the contrast of the finder will drop.

Is there a third-party viewfinder that goes well with the M8 and the APO-Telyt-M?

The Tewe 35-200mm zoom viewfinder set at 180mm could be an option [lb].

Does Leica support 6-bit-coding for the APO-Telyt-M to enable automatic lens detection on the M8 and M9?

No, the APO-Telyt-M is not designated to carry a 6-bit code. One has to select the lens manually from the menu to bring up the 135mm frame lines and get correct EXIF data. Care should be taken to switch back the menu selection when subsequently changing lenses [uw].

Can the APO-Telyt-M be 6-bit-coded by third party services to enable automatic lens detection on the M9?

Yes, the 6-bit-code can be machined and painted on the mount and is recognized by the M9 (with the latest firmware). The code for the APO-Telyt-M is 001010, that is white, white, black, white, black, white.

How does the bokeh of the APO-Telyt-M compare to that of the Elmarit 1:2.8/135mm or the Tele-Elmar 1:4/135mm?

The APO-Telyt-M produces a somewhat harsher bokeh, so that other lens options might need to be considered if a smoother transition from sharp to out-of-focus areas is desired.

Does Adobe Photoshop contain a lens profile for the APO-Telyt-M?

Lens profile support for the APO-Telyt-M was added in Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw 7.0 (which is part of Photoshop CS6), as well as Lightroom 4.0.

How many copies of the APO-Telyt-M have been produced to date?

More than 4,500 serial numbers have been assigned to the APO-Telyt-M [leica-wiki].

Further Reading

Alternatives to the APO-Telyt 3.4/135mm in the Leica lens catalog are the earlier Tele-Elmar and the Elmarit lenses. A comparison review shows that they are all very good and sharp, but that the newer 3.4/135mm has a slight edge. Moreover, the evolution of Leica's M-rangefinder cameras can be retraced the respective compendium on this site.