Leica APO-Telyt compendium

Leica released its first apochromatically-corrected lens, the APO-Telyt-R 1:3.4/180mm, in 1975 and has since then added 11 more APO-Telyts to the line-up. An apochromat is an optical system that has been extensively corrected for chromatic aberrations. Since the refractive index of glass differs for different wavelength, blue, red and green light-rays are bend to a differing extent as they pass through a lens, resulting in light scattering and color fringing. This color dispersion is most noticeable for telephoto lenses, as the latter magnify any image imperfections along with the object. In order to reduce these imaging defects, apochromatically corrected optical systems use an assembly of three lenses, often involving expensive abnormal-dispersion glass, to get the light-rays for all three primary colors to converge on the same focus point for maximum color accuracy, contrast and sharpness.

Leica 2.8/400mm
Leica APO-Telyt-R Module 2.8/400mm
Leica APO-Telyt-R Module 2.8/400mm

Eleven of the twelve different APO-Telyt lenses that Leica produced since the mid 1970s were for its R-series of single lens reflex cameras, while the 3.4/135mm was released for its M-rangefinder series. The set of manual-focus lenses includes such notable gems as the Module system of interchangeable head and focusing units or the exotic 5.6 / 1600mm, which is thought to have been the most expensive camera lens in the world. Since Leica discontinued its R-series of cameras and lenses in 2009, the APO-Telyt-M 1:3.4/135mm is the only lens of its kind that is still in production and listed in Leica's product catalog. However, many of the APO-Telyt-R lenses can be found in excellent condition on ebay.

Leica APO-Telyt production shares
APO-Telyt production shares[leica-wiki]
APO-Telyt production shares[leica-wiki]

It should be noted that Leica has not limited apochromatic correction to its long telephoto lenses, but has over time also applied the design technique to several portrait and macro lenses of medium telephoto reach, including in its range of M-mount rangefinder lenses. Throughout, Leica has been taking pride in the substantial extent of the apochromatic correction it is applying to its apochromats. APO-Telyts feature full color correction at wide-open aperture and across most of the image field. Other manufacturers are less demanding when assigning the APO-designation to some of their lenses.

In total, about 30,000 APO-Telyt lenses have been produced and sold to date. The relatively short M-135mm and R-180mm are the most popular lenses, accounting together for more than 70 per cent of total production and sales. The fact that these lenses have been in production over long periods, as well as their relatively lower price tag, certainly contributed to their sales success. The APO-Telyt-R 1:5.6/1600mm was a special order item, of which only two copies were made.

Headline specifications of Leica APO-Telyt lenses
Leica Lens Designation Elements/
Min Dist/
Max Ratio
(m / #)
APO-Telyt-M 3.4/135mm 5/4 1.50m / 9.2 E49 104.7 / 58.5 453 1998-today 2,400-3,000 check
APO-Telyt-R 3.4/180mm 7/4 2.50m / 11.5 S7.5/E60 135 / 68 750 1975-98 750-1,100 check
APO-Telyt-R 2.8/280mm 8/7 2.50m / 8.1 E112/S5.5 261 / 125 2,750 1984-96 2,300-3,100 check
APO-Telyt-R Module 2.8/280mm 8/7 2.00m / 6.1 Series 6 276 / 125 3,740 1996-09 6,600-8,400 check
APO-Telyt-R 4.0/280mm 7/6 1.70m / 5.0 Series 5.5 208 / 88 1,875 1993-09 3,300-4,500 check
APO-Telyt-R 2.8/400mm 11/9 4.70m / 11.6 Series 5.5 365 / 166 5,800 1992-96 7,000-9,000 check
APO-Telyt-R Module 2.8/400mm 10/8 3.70m / 8.6 Series 6 344 / 157 6,240 1996-09 10,500-13,000 check
APO-Telyt-R Module 4.0/400mm 9/7 2.15m / 4.6 Series 6 314 / 125 3,860 1996-09 7,500-9,500 check
APO-Telyt-R Module 4.0/560mm 11/8 3.95m / 6.4 Series 6 382 / 157 6,360 1996-09 12,000-14,500 check
APO-Telyt-R Module 5.6/560mm 9/7 2.15m / 3.1 Series 6 374 / 125 4,050 1996-09 9,000-11,000 check
APO-Telyt-R Module 5.6/800mm 11/8 3.90m / 4.5 Series 6 442 / 157 6,550 1996-09 13,000-15,000 check
APO-Telyt-R 5.6/1600mm .. .. Series 6 1200 / 420 60,000 2006 2,000,000 check

Further Reading

One lens that is not listed above is the APO-Telyt 600mm f/5 mirror lens, of which only a prototype exists, and that is therefore more a collector's item than a useable R-lens. Moreover, you can find information on different lens versions (2-cam, 3-cam, ROM) for the R-mount on a separate page on this site. Finally, the evolution of Leica reflex cameras over time might be of interest.

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