The Leica Elmar-M 50mm f/2.8

Panos Voudouris
6 min readNov 15, 2021

Welcome to my little review of a little odd lens from Leica: the Leica 50mm f/2.8 Elmar-M. What makes it odd you ask? The fact that it is one of the few collapsible lenses ever made!

The Elmar-M on my M4. Plus some Halloween decorations in the background.

A little bit of history

In the long list of 50mm lenses Leica has produced, this is a rather special little one. It was one of the first ever Leica produced for their screw mount lenses, first appearing in the 1930s! It has since gone a through a few iterations, going from a f/3.5 lens to f/2.8 and from screw mount to M. Mine is the latest version, which changed a fair bit compared to the previous version. The one I have was produced from 1994 until as late as 2007, had coated glass (unlike the previous ones) and came with a usable focus ring and aperture ring. As such, it is referred to as the Elmar-M, while all the previous versions are just plain “Elmar”.


So what is it? It is a slow, f/2.8 lens that is tiny when collapsed! The whole idea is that a collapsible lens makes the camera much smaller, ie much easier to carry. In fact, with the lens collapsible the camera can easily fit in a jacket pocket. If you think about it, the main reason cameras are awkward in shape is because the lens sticks out.

In/out. The lens hardly sticks out when collapsed.

The collapsed lens hardly sticks out as you can see above, as such it makes it very compact. The only other lens I have found that is as small this is the Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 Skopar, another tiny little gem of a lens.


Of course, one of the disadvantages of a collapsible design is that to keep it small the aperture needs to be modest, f/2.8 in this case. Now, if you were to tell me 5 years ago to buy a 50/2.8 I’d just laugh in your face. 50/2 would be the slowest I’d ever dare to get. In fact, I thought the faster the better so you’d normally find me lugging around a Canon 50/1.2L or a Nikon 50/1.2 AIS.

But then, I got into the world or rangefinders. And once you do that you have two options. You can keep up the arms race with fast lenses (after all they are still tiny compared to SLRs) or you embrace the…