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New Generation Multi-Focal Rangefinder Lenses: 

Leica 28-35-50 Tri-Elmar and Konica 21-35

For decades SLRs have had it all over Rangefinders so far as zoom lenses are concerned, and they still do.   None the less, rangefinder fans started having more options with the introduction of the revolutionary Leica 28-35-50 Tri-Elmar in 2000.  For the 1st time, rangefinder lovers had choices of several focal lengths in one rangefinder coupled lens.  Though a bit big and expensive (it is a Leica lens, after all), the Tri-Elmar developed many fans and proved an outstanding performer. 

1st Generation Tri-Elmar mounted on Green M6 TTL, production 300.   Do you need 3 smaller faster lenses, or one slower lens?   To each their own, as preferences and shooting tastes do indeed vary widely. 

 

Konica 21-35/3.4-4 Mounted on .58 Black Paint LHSA M6 TTL, production 60.   The Tri-Elmar was alone in M mount, until Konica introduced their M mount 21-35/3.4-4 in early 2002.   Performance? So far I have seen no published tests, but generally Konica lenses have an outstanding reputation.  For years the Konica sales slogan was "The Lens alone is worth the price" -- and it was. 

 

 

Side by Side, Konica 21-35/3.4-4 and 1st generation Leica 28-35-50/4 Tri-Elmar.  The outward construction and finish of both lenses compare quite well to each other.   Unlike the Tri-Elmar which is a regular production lens, the Konica 21-35 is limited production, with an announced production run of only 800 lenses.  It is doubtful if the Konica 21-35 will be officially exported out of Japan.   

The Konica 21-35 has a convenient focusing lever which is lacking from the 1st generation Tri-Elmar, but added to the 2nd generation.  Personally I find the 21-35 combination more useful than 28-35-50, but many photogs will say just the opposite.  Which focal length combination is "best" depends upon what you happen to like, not fact.   Ergonomically, this generation Tri-Elmar suffers from its 3 control rings (focus, aperture, focal length) from being more or less identical -- which could lead to a confusing shooting experience.  The Konica lens also has 3 control rings, but each feels distinctly different.

 

      

Konica 21-35 brightline finder compared to the Voigtlander 21 brightline finder.  The Konica finder shows both 21 and 35 framelines at the same time, and is smaller than the Leica 21-28 zoom finder.

 

The Konica 21-35 is sold complete with square lens hood, rear lens cap, 21-35 brightline finder, leather lens pouch, cloth lens pouch,  and leather finder pouch. It is a very well thought out package.  Unlike the Konica Hexar RF, which sometimes has compatibility problems with M lenses, Konica M lenses seem to work fine on Leica M bodies.   The production run may have only been 800 units, but I have yet to confirm this.

Should you buy one of these new kind of Rangefinder lenses? It all depends upon what you shoot and your shooting needs.  If you need fast, lightweight, or small lenses, this is not the way.  On the other hand, if you are looking for ONE lens to carry with your camera that will handle the most situations,  these ARE your solution.


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Revised: November 25, 2003 Copyright  2002  Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved.    This means you may NOT copy and re-use the text or the pictures in ANY other internet or printed publication of ANY kind.  Information in this document is subject to change without notice.  Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.