Review: Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4

Introduction

leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz
Sony A7rII with Voigtlander VM-E close focus adapter and Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4

The Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 is the longest Leica lens for the M-series and at the same time the shortest (and only one still in production) of the Apo-Telyt series. This is a well regarded but also very expensive 135mm lens and while rather compact it is not very fast with a maximum aperture of f/3.4. Can the image quality make up for the moderate speed like we have seen with the Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4? Let us find out!

Sample Images

leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7s |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4
leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7rII |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4
leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7rII |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4

You can find most of the shots in this review in full resolution here.

Specifications and Version History

This is the only 135mm 3.4 lens by Leica, I have already reviewed the predecessor which is half a stop slower here. The lens reviewed here features the following specifications:

    • Diameter: 59 mm
    • Field of view: 18° (diagonally)
    • Length:  105 mm
    • Weight: 450g + adapter
    • Filter Diameter: 49 mm
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 10 (inwardly curved)
    • Elements/Groups: 5/4
    • Close Focusing Distance: 1.5 m
    • Maximum Magnification: 1:9
    • Mount: Leica-M

Brand new this lens is really expensive with 3800$/3600€ you can get it on Amazon.com/B&H (affiliate links). If you want one I recommend looking for a used one which you can often find for around 2000$/1500€ on ebay.com/ebay.de (affiliate links).

Build quality and Handling

leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz
Focus ring and depth of field markings

One thing is true for all Leica lenses I have used so far: the build quality is really top notch and there is rarely anything to complain here. Resistance of the focusing ring (~130° from oo to 1.5 m) is perfect, the aperture ring features half-stop click-stops, all markings are engraved and filled with paint, very tight tolerances with no wobbly parts (even true for the retractable lens hood). The front lens does not rotate on focusing. Simply perfect.

leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz
Hodd extended

Vignetting

leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting

Wide open there is vignetting of only 0.9 EV, stopped down to f/4.0 this improves to only 0.5 EV, stopped down to f/5.6 it is negligible with 0.3 EV and further improves to 0.25 EV at f/8.0. There is also a Lightroom profile for this lens.

Sharpness

infinity
leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
The lens shows good across frame resolution already wide open. Stop down to f/4.0 to improve contrast slighty, stop down to f/5.6 for really good corners and across frame performance.

close focus (1.5 m)

A minimum focus distance of 1.5 m is okay for a 135mm lens. The performance at f/3.4 in the center is quite good and gives satisfactory results, stopping down to f/4.0 boosts contrast and resolution across the whole frame. While stopping down further does not visibly increase the image quality in the center of the frame f/8.0 looks best for across frame sharpness near the minimum focus distance.
Adding a close focus adapter like the Voigtlander VM-E close focus does not have a huge impact. Because of the 135mm focal length the maximum magnification only barely increases, so I rather recommend using a lightweight non-helicoid adapter like the metabones Leica-M to Sony-E (affiliate link) with this lens.

Flare resistance

leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz
Sony A7rII |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/8.0

As is the case with many tele lenses (including the predecessor) the sun just outside the frame may lead to serious flare across the whole frame. Contrast is also significantly lowered. The retractable hood does not really help in situations like the one above. Ghosting with the sun inside the frame isn’t a problem though.

Even just a bit of stray light will also significantly reduce the contrast. The built in hood doesn’t really help, but slight reframing does:


Sony A7rII | Leica Apo-Telyt-M 3.4 |  f/11.0 | no crop

Distortion

There is a very small amount of pincushion distortion with barely any field relevance.

Bokeh

leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7s |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4

With the bokeh of the 135mm 4.0 lenses I reviewed so far I was never happy as I think for anything but headshots there is simply not enough blur and backgrounds often turn out rather nervous. This lens, while being half a stop faster, doesn’t really knock it out of the park in terms of bokeh for me either. In terms of quantity there just is not enough for my taste.
Furthermore the bokeh is a bit harsh and nervous, which is not my preferred rendering. With foliage you really have to watch out as backgrounds can easily become distracting as in the shot below.

leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7s |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4
leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7rII |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4
leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7rII |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4

Coma

Coma correction is really good, even wide open point light sources are only slightly deteoriated.


100% crops from extreme corner, A7rII

Sunstars

The lens has 10 inwardly curved aperture blades and yields pretty nice sunstars between f/5.6 and f/16. For further reference you can also have a look at our Best lenses for Sunstars article.


100% crops from center, A7rII

Chromatic aberrations

longitudinal

leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz
Sony A7rII |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4 | 50% crop, minimum focus distance

The apochromatic correction of the Apo-Telyt is not as perfect as I would have expected and as we have seen with the Zeiss Batis 135mm 2.8 Apo Sonnar or the Voigtlander SL 180mm 4.0 Apo-Lanthar, but it still is a very good performer and loCA are not really an issue.

lateral


Sony A7rII | Leica Apo-Telyt-M 3.4 |  f/8.0 | CA 100% crop before/after corner

There are only very minor lateral CA which can easily be corrected by using e.g. Lightroom.

Alternatives

MS-Optis Aporis 135mm 2.4 Fluorit MC:
In my review of this lens I have written:  “the Leica might be the better choice for landscape and architecture while the Aporis might be better for portrait and street photography”. Now that I have tried both I can say that statement holds truth.
In the center and inner midframe there is also barely a difference in terms of resolution and contrast, only in the outer midframe and the corners the Leica is visibly better.
For me personally I prefer the Aporis because it is a full stop faster yet still 30% lighter.

Leica Tele-Elmar 135mm 4.0:
You are giving up half a stop of speed and better loCA correction, so for most this is probably the more sensible option, when just looking for a small low budget option for landscape and architecture shooting.

Zeiss Batis 135mm 2.8 Apo Sonnar:
This is a very modern design with AF, excellent color correction, great contrast and resolution already wide open. Compared to the Apo-Telyt it looks pretty bulky though and is a bit heavier.

Canon EF 135mm 2.0 L:
The Canon EF 135mm 2.0 L is a great lens that I still own and regularly use as it is one of the few lenses combining high resolution with smooth bokeh. But it is also heavier, much bulkier and loCA correction is worse.

Samyang 135mm 2.0 ED UMC:
Pretty much the same as the aforementioned Canon lens with apochromatic loCA correction and even more bulk. The color rendering also differs by quite a lot from my other modern lenses (much warmer).

Older 135mm 2.0/2.4/2.8 SLR lenses:
The Canon FD 135mm 2.8 is a good example of this class of lenses: most of these are significantly cheaper, but they are often lacking a bit in terms of contrast wide open and color correction isn’t really great either.

Conclusion

good

  • very good resolution
  • good contrast (unless there is stray light)
  • distortion
  • correction of longitudinal and lateral CA
  • coma correction
  • build quality
  • handling
  • vignetting
  • suntars
  • size
average

  • bokeh
  • flare resistance
  • weight
not good

  • price (especially new)

The table above certainly looks like this is one of the best lenses I ever reviewed as there is much to like: resolution and contrast are already good wide open (still a bit worse compared to Batis 135mm 2.8), most optical aberrations are corrected well (coma, distortion, CA, vignetting), handling and build quality are great and you get all that in a small package.

There is one issue that remains though, at least for me personally, and that is the speed and the bokeh connected to it. The amount of subject separation is just not enough for my taste and I didn’t really like to use this lens for portraiture and that somewhat limits the applications down to landscape and architecture for me.
For these applications the lens really excels, but this is also true for the very cheap predecessor. So what do you get for 10 to 20 times the price of the Leica 135mm 4.0 Tele-Elmar?
While I would not consider this an actual Apo lens, the correction of longitudinal CA has been significantly improved and of course it is half a stop faster. But for landscape and architecture these things do not matter that much to me, so I have a hard time justifying the big premium for myself.

Still, the used prices (at least in Germany) are sometimes reasonable nowadays and resolution as well as contrast (stopped down slightly) are close to Loxia level, so this can supplement your kit of Loxia or Voigtlander lenses at a focal length not yet covered by those manufacturers by still keeping the sunstar rendering in line.

Brand new this lens is really expensive with 3800$/3600€ you can get it on Amazon.com/B&H (affiliate links). If you want one I recommend looking for a used one which you can often find for around 2000$/1500€ on ebay.com/ebay.de (affiliate links).

Sample Images

leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7rII |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4
leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7rII |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4
leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7rII |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4
leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7rII |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4
leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7rII |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4
leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7rII |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/5.6
leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7s |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4
leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7rII |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4
leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7rII |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4
leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7s |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4
leica apo telyt 135mm 3.4 m m-mount review sony a7rii 42mp wetzlar leitz vignetting
Sony A7rII |Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4 | f/3.4

You can find most of the shots in this review in full resolution here.

Further Reading

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My name is Bastian and for many years I have been mostly shooting Nikon DSLRs. As of today I have made my transition from Nikon to Sony and I am mainly using small but capable manual lenses. My passion is landscape photography but I also like to delve into other subjects from time to time.

22 thoughts on “Review: Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135mm 3.4”

      1. Thank you ver y much, i am looking for a better 135mm lens than the zeiss, but some options are too big, for 400€ wich you will choose?

  1. Any chance you could show a size comparison between this lens and the Aporis (and any others you think are relevant) with adapters?

  2. East German Zeiss Jena 135/3.5 for M42 or PB costs under 100 is sharp corner to corner at all focus distances wide open, focuses down to 1 meter and has nice bokeh, though not too much of it due to it being 3.5. Not much copy variation either. Main weakness is likely less effective MC coatings and 6 aperture blades. I think I’ll keep it and spend the rest on beer.

  3. It can be assumed that a 3000 EUR lens performs reasonable well, though the created images are looking not very contrasty. I’m personally more interested in using older used lenses and create unique looks with them.

  4. Hi Bastian
    Thanks for the great review and photos.
    Any chance you will review the third Leica 135mm as well? The 135mm 2.8 should be a good budget choice. Especially as the R- version, which you get below 200€.

  5. One of the mediocre Leica designs that marketing sadly calls “APO” to fool the consumer (same with the 90 “APO” Summicron, and just a little better with the 75 “APO” Summicron).

    Arguably the best 135 lens is missing from the list of alternatives: The Zeiss APO Sonnar 135/2.

    1. I’m guessing Bastian thinks that the wonderful 2/135 Apo Sonnar is not really an alternative because of size. It’s a great lens, but the alternatives to it are Sigma 1.8/135, ZA 1.8/135 and other large fast 135s. I don’t think a person chooses between lenses in these very different classes.

      1. Well, he did have 2 of the large/fast 135’s on his list (the Canon and Samyang), although those are among the smaller/lighter options.

        1. True! Especially the Samyang isn’t that much smaller. I’m guessing he hasn’t used the f2 Apo Sonnar. I have one, but I’m in Australia and sharing lenses between the guys in Germany and me is not practical. We try to confine our comparative comments to lenses we have used, or to comparative tests that other members of the team have performed.

          1. Personally I think the much bigger and faster ones are not really an alternative, but I still try to list the ones we actually reviewed nevertheless.

  6. I replaced my C/Y MM 2.8 135mm with a Leica Elmar 4/135mm (1960). Sharpness of the two lenses is about the same but the backlight rendering of the Elmar 4/135mm is so much better than the C/Y MM 2.8 135mm. Backlight rendering of my C/Y MM 2.8 135mm is really bad – low contrast & bad colors. I also do not like the purple fringe of my C/Y 2.8 135mm at f2.8 and f4. The Elmar cost me only 230 Euros…

  7. I’m really enjoying a manual focus 135mm on my a7riii for the past few weeks, taking landscape and street shots. My $40 Pentax smc 135/3.5 m has been glued on the camera, and hasn’t been too far from f/8 the whole time. For me, a vintage 135 is a great tool for stopped-down manual focus, and I don’t see any image quality reasons to lug anything more bulky than the incredibly small smc. If I were after wide aperture portraits and/or razor thin DOF, that to me demands a totally different tool–big, heavy, expensive, modern coatings…

    This Leica seems like it is in between–kinda big, very expensive, kinda good at wider apertures; but, slow and lower IQ than the bigger alternatives, and only marginally better stopped-down IQ than other smaller alternatives.

    Nice review, as always!

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