Leica 24-70mm Vario-Elmarit-SL f/2.8 ASPH review

Want a do-it-all lens for both stills and video? Then the Leica 24-70mm Vario-Elmarit-SL f/2.8 ASPH is the best out there

Leica 24-70mm Vario-Elmarit-SL f/2.8 ASPH
(Image: © Future)

Digital Camera World Verdict

While zoom lenses used to get a bad rep for image quality, the Leica 24-70mm Vario-Elmarit-SL f/2.8 ASPH is certainly the exception, and dare I say the industry leader in proving that zoom lenses well and truly deserve to be in your camera kit, and while I only shoot prime lenses, I would buy this lens in a heartbeat - it really is that good - and that's coming from someone to dislikes external zoom lenses.

Pros

  • +

    Great zoom range

  • +

    Brilliant image quality

  • +

    Excellent build quality

Cons

  • -

    External zoom design

  • -

    No stablization

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Zoom lenses have always come with the old adage that they will never be as good as prime lenses, and while I only shoot prime lenses, the Leica 24-70mm Vario-Elmarit-SL f/2.8 ASPH is like having four prime lenses in one - the quality really is that great.

Leica 24-70mm Vario-Elmarit-SL f/2.8 ASPH Specs

Mount: Leica L-mount
Lens design: 19 Elements in 15 Groups
Maximum aperture: f/2.8
Minimum aperture: f/22
Angle of view: 82.3° to 35.3°
Minimum focusing distance: 7.1" / 18 cm
Filter size: 82mm
Dimensions: .5 x 4.8" / 88 x 123 mm
Weight:
0.9 lb / 856g

With its 24-70mm zoom range, this lens opens up a whole world of options and possibilities in many photographic genres such as portrait photography, sports photography, landscape photography, and everything else in between. 

However, if stills are just a part of your workflow and you're looking for a great lens to have in your kit bag for video work too then I can highly recommend this lens as one of the best Leica SL lenses.

What makes this lens stand out?

Its smooth zoom ring makes it a joy to use for video to create dramatic shots, and its vast zoom range makes it the ideal lens to always have on your camera for stills. In fact, this is what this lens excels at - being ready all the time and including the most popular focal lengths of 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 70mm - meaning no matter the subject or the compensation this lens can really cover it all.

Another surprising thing that I noticed was this lens wasn't too heavy when paired with a Leica SL2-S, weighing at 1.9 lb / 856g on a zoom lens that features a constant f/2.8 aperture and has throughout the zoom range and is made up of 19 elements in 15 groups, I think that's outstanding!

(Image credit: Future)

Leica 24-70mm Vario-Elmarit-SL f/2.8 ASPH Build and Handling

While I must admit I really don't like external zoom mechanism lenses, in fact, you can read all about why I think external zoom lenses should be a thing of the past - but I have to eat my words when it comes to the Leica 24-70mm Vario-Elmarit-SL f/2.8 ASPH.

I really enjoyed using this lens for landscapes and taking images of everyday life and had it fixed onto the Leica SL2-S throughout many days of shooting and I loved it. 

Its build quality is out of this world, even the extension barrel when zooming feels really solid, better than any other external zoom lens I have used in the past, while I can't say this will never have issues with dust or worse, while in my hands I felt confident using the lens in various weather conditions.

As soon as you mount this lens to your Leica SL2 or Leica SL2-S camera you can feel how well this lens is constructed and it is perfectly balanced, even without a battery grip, it might be a little "top-heavy"  but when holding it in the hands and composing images, I found that it was very well balanced in the hands. 

Its focus ring is also super smooth to operate making this lens a dream if you still love manual focusing, and because this is quite a compact lens it is easy to navigate the zoom ring, while also trying to find critical focus when focusing manually.

(Image credit: Future)

Leica 24-70mm Vario-Elmarit-SL f/2.8 ASPH Performance

While I am a big believer in prime lenses, every image I took across this review was pin-sharp and it never disappointed, if manual focus is your bread and butter then I can only say this lens will be a dream to use, although it has no distance scale marking on the lens, so if you want to "zone focus" you will have to preset that before taking any images.

(Image credit: Future)

(Image credit: Future)

Obviously, this lens is able to shoot wide open at f/2.8 which lets in a tonne of light and makes shooting in the most dimly-lit surroundings a total breeze - perfect for those who like to shoot images in all locations and at all times of the day, even at night. 

Overall I'd say this lens produces amazing images with rich tonalites and very high clarity, something that I haven't seen in zoom lenses, and I am sure anyone who buys one will not be disappointed.

(Image credit: Future)

Leica 24-70mm Vario-Elmarit-SL f/2.8 ASPH Lab Results

We run a range of lab tests under controlled conditions, using the Imatest Master testing suite. Photos of test charts are taken across the range of apertures and zooms (where available), then analyzed for sharpness, distortion and chromatic aberrations.

We use Imatest SFR (spatial frequency response) charts and analysis software to plot lens resolution at the center of the image frame, corners and mid-point distances, across the range of aperture settings and, with zoom lenses, at four different focal lengths. The tests also measure distortion and color fringing (chromatic aberration).

Sharpness:

(Image credit: Future)

(Image credit: Future)

Center sharpness is excellent at all focal lengths and apertures, even wide open at f/2.8. By comparison, corner sharpness is a little disappointing, especially at longer focal lengths, where it's mediocre when shooting at larger apertures.

Fringing:

(Image credit: Future)

Only at 24mm does fringing become barely visible. At all other focal lengths it's essentially a non-issue.

Distortion:

(Image credit: Future)

There's a trace of barrel distortion at 24mm, but at all other focal lengths the lens does a superb job of eliminating any distortion.

Leica 24-70mm Vario-Elmarit-SL f/2.8 ASPH Final Verdict

While zoom lenses used to get a bad rep for image quality, the Leica 24-70mm Vario-Elmarit-SL f/2.8 ASPH is certainly the expectation, and dare I say the industry leader in proving that zoom lenses well and truly deserve to be in your camera kit, and while I only shoot prime lenses, I would buy this lens in a heartbeat - it really is that good - and that's coming from someone to dislikes external zoom lenses.

Overall, I'd say if you're thinking of investing in the Leica SL-System and you want to keep the cost down but also want a good lens that has a versatile range of coverage in your genre of photography or for shooting video, for $2,895 / £2,390 the Leica 24-70mm Vario-Elmarit-SL f/2.8 ASPH is your best bet.

(Image credit: Future)

If you enjoyed this, you might also like our best Best Leica SL lenses guide, or our reviews on the Leica SL2 or Leica SL2-S, and while you are here why not see the best Leica cameras.

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Sebastian Oakley
Ecommerce Editor

For nearly two decades Sebastian's work has been published internationally. Originally specializing in Equestrianism, his visuals have been used by the leading names in the equestrian industry such as The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), The Jockey Club, Horse & Hound, and many more for various advertising campaigns, books, and pre/post-event highlights.


He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, holds a Foundation Degree in Equitation Science, and is a Master of Arts in Publishing.  He is a member of Nikon NPS and has been a Nikon user since the film days using a Nikon F5 and saw the digital transition with Nikon's D series cameras and is still to this day the youngest member to be elected into BEWA, The British Equestrian Writers' Association. 


He is familiar with and shows great interest in street, medium, and large format photography with products by Leica, Phase One, Hasselblad, Alpa, and Sinar. Sebastian has also used many cinema cameras from the likes of Sony, RED, ARRI, and everything in between. He now spends his spare time using his trusted Leica M-E shooting Street photography or general life as he sees it, usually in Black and White.