Leica User Forum


Go Back   Leica User Forum > International User Forum > General Leica Discussions > Customer Forum

Customer Forum The Leica Customer Forum is the place for discussions about the Leica in general, what is not covered by the more specialised sections

Reply « Previous Thread | Next Thread »
 
LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 08/08/06, 04:45   #1 (permalink)
Neuer Benutzer
 
Join Date: 08/08/06
Location: Toronto
Posts: 5
Default Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

Ad
Hi all - I am sure that the following question has already been asked and so it's answer probably already known. Nonetheless, .....

"Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?" Also, any plans in the near future for auto-focus?


Thanks very much!

Robert
Robert44 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08/08/06, 05:01   #2 (permalink)
Erfahrener Benutzer
 
lambroving's Avatar
 
Join Date: 09/07/03
Location: Central Virginia
Posts: 1,282
Default Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

A Leica is a rangefinder with very precise and quick focusing. Suspect many of us prefer to know precisely WHAT IS in focus.
__________________
Best,

William

M5, M7, MP .58, SL
lambroving is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08/08/06, 05:07   #3 (permalink)
Erfahrener Benutzer
 
Join Date: 09/09/05
Posts: 155
Default Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

1. There are quite a few Leica cameras with autofocus, among them the Leica digital compact cameras and also the Minilux and CM and others.

2. For M cameras, the reason is simple, there was no autofocus technology in the 1950's. Hence for backward compatibility reasons, there is no autofocus today. I believe the lenses with their metal barrels are also too heavy to do autofocus.

3. For R cameras, it was a design decision.

4. Plans for future-- question is moot since there are Leica autofocus cameras now. However, digital M will not have autofocus, same backward compatibility reason.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert44
Hi all - I am sure that the following question has already been asked and so it's answer probably already known. Nonetheless, .....

"Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?" Also, any plans in the near future for auto-focus?

Thanks very much!

Robert
waileong is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08/08/06, 05:09   #4 (permalink)
Erfahrener Benutzer
 
Join Date: 02/02/06
Location: Planet Earth
Posts: 512
Default Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

Quote:
Originally Posted by lambroving
A Leica is a rangefinder with very precise and quick focusing. Suspect many of us prefer to know precisely WHAT IS in focus.
For the SLR cameras, the viewfinder of an AF camera is nowhere near as easy to focus manually than a good manual focus camera. Even Canon acknowedges that AF fails where critical focus is nessesary, for example at close range with limited DOF.
telyt is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08/08/06, 06:11   #5 (permalink)
Benutzer
 
Fotobug's Avatar
 
Join Date: 07/08/06
Posts: 38
Default Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

Robert,

I think that Leica was very wise not to persue the auto-focus technology in its M-rangefinders and R-slr's for all of the reasons previously stated. That is the wonder of the marketplace. If a Leica user wanted an autofocus slr camera, there are plenty of *other* brands that are happy to sell them. If one were to look at the demographics of M and R-series users, I would wager to guess that they tend to want to keep system automatization to a minimum. Furthermore, autofocus has much too marginal a usefulness to allow it to control engineering of both the bodies and lenses of both M and R-series.

Take care.
Fotobug is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08/08/06, 06:36   #6 (permalink)
Erfahrener Benutzer
 
Join Date: 26/09/02
Posts: 399
Default Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

Not to be a contrarian, I think Leica missed the boat. I think that if the company could relive the past five decades, it would have taken SLR's seriously, taken electronics seriously, and ultimately been at the forefront, just as it once was. The company was born of innovation. Now, it seeks to carve a niche based upon the lack thereof. I love the company just the same, but what a pity to lose the pinnacle.
__________________
Mrs. Peel....We're needed.
steed is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08/08/06, 07:48   #7 (permalink)
Erfahrener Benutzer
 
Join Date: 26/09/02
Location: Montreal, Canada
Posts: 175
Blinzeln Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

Robert,

Your question is a very important one and has been raised - and debated - many times by Leica users and members of this forum. As mentioned above, the issue of AF in a rangefinder M Leica can be considered a non-issue as one of the major reasons (if not THE major reason) for getting a RF Leica M camera is its superb and utterly precise coupled rangefinder focusing mechanism.

Where AF might be used in a Leica camera would be in its reflex Leica R camera line. Whenever the subject was raised with Leica reps, there were always a number of reasons and excuses given. Here are a few that were given to me over the years:
- There would not be enough space in the camera (even in R8!) to put a phase-detection module (the device that calculates the AF) of a level that would meet our quality criteria
- We would have to introduce some "slack" in the focusing helicoidal mechanism in order to facilitate the work of the focusing motors (IMHO, a genuine issue as Leica lenses use very tight tolerances for their helicoids - which is totally the opposite of modern AF lenses)
- Available focusing motors (USM-like or in-camera) would not be powerful enough (or have enough torque) to quickly focus our lenses, which unlike Japanese lenses, use (heavy) all-glass elements and not plastic (I was actually told this by a high-ranking manager at Leica in 1998, believe it or not)
- And finally, one the best ones: we would have to completely re-design our lens mount and adopt a bigger wider mount ... (not sure I want to believe that one)

IMHO, the real reason why Leica decided that AF was not going to be for them are marketing related: i.e. do we as Leica Camera AG want to become another "me-too", do-it-all, push-the-button-and-we-do-the-rest, all-automatic camera maker? Leica is not Canon or Nikon. It does not have their vast financial resources. If a Nikon or Canon camera model fails, well it's just one model and life goes on. If one Leica camera model fails because its design does not meet the (high) expectations of Leica users, it can spell disaster for Leica ! Remember the M5 ?

Leica cannot compete head-on with these bigger players, so it has to play a different set of cards: the Leica "experience". The pleasure of manually focusing a lens that is at once smooth and responsive, and so utterly precise. Lenses that are so magical that when the image finally "pops" into the viewfinder (due to YOUR input, not some computer) you are astonished by the view. This is especially true of APO Leica lenses. In short, you're hooked! That is the Leica experience. And that is why so many sane people are willing to part with insane amounts of cash to get their "fix".

Just for the fun of it, go to your nearest Leica dealer and ask to try out a Leica R9 with either an APO-Summicron-R 90mm or an APO-Telyt-R 180mm. I think you will see what I mean. A word of warning: Leica is an addiction that knows no substitute ... ;-)

Cheers,

John F.

P.S. To be fair, during the 1976 Photokina, Ernst Leitz Wetzlar (Leica Camera's previous name) did show a working prototype of their Correfot CK-2 autofocus system integrated into a Leicaflex SL2 reflex camera (and tethered to a rather large "portable" computer). Apparently, the Correfot AF system was eventually used in German Leopard tanks.
Two links on the Leitz Correfot: What Digital Camera Test Reports (1980 Leica brochure) and Correfot (in French only)

Last edited by john_f; 08/08/06 at 07:55.
john_f is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08/08/06, 07:55   #8 (permalink)
Moderator
 
andybarton's Avatar
 
Join Date: 21/06/06
Location: Airstrip 1 - 53°17'46"N, 03°05'02"W
Posts: 26,327
Default Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

Quote:
Originally Posted by lambroving
A Leica is a rangefinder with very precise and quick focusing.

You should know better than this, William...



Some Leicas are rangefinders, others are not.
andybarton is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08/08/06, 08:03   #9 (permalink)
Benutzer
 
Join Date: 13/07/05
Posts: 67
Default Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fotobug
Robert,

I think that Leica was very wise not to persue the auto-focus technology in its M-rangefinders and R-slr's for all of the reasons previously stated. That is the wonder of the marketplace. If a Leica user wanted an autofocus slr camera, there are plenty of *other* brands that are happy to sell them. If one were to look at the demographics of M and R-series users, I would wager to guess that they tend to want to keep system automatization to a minimum. Furthermore, autofocus has much too marginal a usefulness to allow it to control engineering of both the bodies and lenses of both M and R-series.

Take care.
No the other brands won't give you the Leica opticl quality. Quite frankly Leica missed the boat, that is also why Leica is no longer used in the frontline by professional photographers.

It seriously limits the usefullness of a Leica SLR system. One would have to have a separate DSLR and then why not just drop the R and go only with the "other" SLR??

Cheers,
Tim
timbedsted1234 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08/08/06, 08:39   #10 (permalink)
Gesperrt
 
Join Date: 18/10/02
Posts: 1,172
Default AW: Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

Quote:
Originally Posted by timbedsted1234
Quite frankly Leica missed the boat
that‘s especially tragic, because leica actually invented the "boat"...
:-(
user8952 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08/08/06, 09:14   #11 (permalink)
Erfahrener Benutzer
 
pascal_meheut's Avatar
 
Join Date: 26/09/02
Posts: 1,210
Default Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

Ad
Nice post by John_f, good resume of previous conversation.

About the reasons, I think it was taken at one of the worst period of Leica camera, when they were refusing all new technologies: no AF, no fast shutter, no HP viewfinder, no matrix metering... Probably because of hubris and lack of money...

When the R8 came out, adopting all of these ten years after the competitors, switching to AF was clearly out of reach financially.

But I do not believe in the many excuses:

- For the SLR cameras, the viewfinder of an AF camera is nowhere near as easy to focus manually than a good manual focus camera
This is just a screen problem. AF screens are designed to support low-speed lenses. Leica could go to AF and give us the choice between AF and MF optimized screens. Some people use screen with manual focus help on Nikon and Canons and are ok with them

- There would not be enough space in the camera (even in R8!) to put a phase-detection module (the device that calculates the AF) of a level that would meet our quality criteria
Big joke especially because Leica high-level representative said the contrary in other interviews, that the module was not the problem, just the lenses

- We would have to introduce some "slack" in the focusing helicoidal mechanism in order to facilitate the work of the focusing motors (IMHO, a genuine issue as Leica lenses use very tight tolerances for their helicoids - which is totally the opposite of modern AF lenses)
see next point

- Available focusing motors (USM-like or in-camera) would not be powerful enough (or have enough torque) to quickly focus our lenses, which unlike Japanese lenses, use (heavy) all-glass elements and not plastic (I was actually told this by a high-ranking manager at Leica in 1998, believe it or not)
Some modern Leica lenses do not need a huge amount of torque to focus: the 19/2.8, the 180/2.8 APO & the 280/4 APO for instance, i.e. the internal focusing lenses.
So Leica could adapt some optical design to AF at least. We do not need every lens to be AF. A 21-35, 50, 35-70, 90, 180 & 280 would be a good start and allow to use AF for the subjects which need it.

- And finally, one the best ones: we would have to completely re-design our lens mount and adopt a bigger wider mount ... (not sure I want to believe that one)
Sure. Pentax managed to go AF by keeping the same mount and it is very close to the Leica one. Nikon kept its mount and its small too...

I too wants to keep the capability to focus manually and the well-built, last for ever Leica lenses. But I think this is not a "fromage or dessert" case as we said in France. We could have both at virtually no ease of use cost.
pascal_meheut is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08/08/06, 09:41   #12 (permalink)
Sponsoring Member
 
stunsworth's Avatar
 
Join Date: 30/09/02
Location: Manchester
Posts: 20,699
Default Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

Autofocus may be a no-no, but there are times when some kind of focus confirmation would be nice. There are occasions when I've been shooting in very low light with my M6 and Nocti when I've found it very difficult to focus, especially if the subject isn't high contrast, or has a highlight in the focus plane. Of course this also precisely the same situation where an AF system would struggle. Perhaps Leica could use some of their laser rangefinder experience to develop a new system :-)

As Andy says not all Leicas are rangefinders. I've been using R lenses on a Canon digital body for some time. There have been occasions where auto-focus would have been useful, but manual focus has been more effective than I was anticiating.
__________________
Steve

Website
Flickr
Twitter
stunsworth is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 08/08/06, 09:43   #13 (permalink)
Neuer Benutzer
 
Join Date: 08/08/06
Location: Toronto
Posts: 5
Default Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

Thanks so much to all of you for your thoughtful replies.

When I posted, I should have been clearer and said "...why no auto-focus for the M and/or R series....". But thankfully, my slip-up was covered by the replies and most of them dealt with the M & R series, whihch what I was really interested in. Apologies for the slip.

Like many things in life, no simple answer.

Best to all

P.S. John F. Will definitely follow-up on your suggestion to try the R9 with those lenses. Very nice response.
Robert44 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08/08/06, 09:46   #14 (permalink)
Erfahrener Benutzer
 
petermcwerner's Avatar
 
Join Date: 31/01/05
Location: near Geneva, Switzerland
Posts: 329
Default Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

Focus confirmation with a red/green light in the (reflex) viewfinder would already be a big step forward and need not modify the lenses.
__________________
Peter Werner
M(240), Sony A7R, Nikon D700, Digilux 2, Panasonic G1
petermcwerner is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08/08/06, 10:53   #15 (permalink)
Gesperrt
 
Join Date: 04/03/06
Posts: 374
Default Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

Quote:
Originally Posted by steed
Not to be a contrarian, I think Leica missed the boat. I think that if the company could relive the past five decades, it would have [...] ultimately been at the forefront, just as it once was. [...][W]hat a pity to lose the pinnacle.
John, Leica is at the forefront - it just doesn't cater to the masses, that's all.
leica_mage is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08/08/06, 14:34   #16 (permalink)
Erfahrener Benutzer
 
Join Date: 02/02/06
Location: Planet Earth
Posts: 512
Default Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

Quote:
Originally Posted by pascal_meheut
This is just a screen problem. AF screens are designed to support low-speed lenses. Leica could go to AF and give us the choice between AF and MF optimized screens. Some people use screen with manual focus help on Nikon and Canons and are ok with them
"OK" manual focus isn't good enough, and the manual-focus aids in C and N viewscreens are useless at small apertures (typically smaller than f/5.6).

Quick and accurate is better than "OK", and it's not simply a screen problem. The entire viewing system is involved including and most importantly the semi-silvered reflex mirror. An AF camera's mirror allows more light to pass through because the AF system needs it, and the same would be true of a focus-confirmation system. The screen and pentaprism are designed around the reduced light reflective properties of the mirror to deliver a bright screen image at the expense of image contrast, when it's contrast that our eyes are most sensetive to when focussing. When AF fails (as Canon explains, below) the AF camera is left with a viewing system that is sub-optimal for manual focus.

I want to be able to focus quickly, accurately, and simultaneously anywhere and everywhere on the viewscreen. My subjects are very active, even when they appear to be sitting still. They might yawn, turn their head, shift weight from one foot to the other all in fractions of a second, each time shifting the plane of best focus. The eye could be anywhere, at any time so I cannot pick a particular focus point to watch. For example, are there any focus points at this pheasant's eye? Recall that this is exactly as I saw it in the viewfinder, no cropping:

(note: the software is substituting the web page titles for the URL, click on each to see the photo)

photographs of birds by Douglas Herr

In addition, I often watch multiple points or regions for optimum focus, in this case, eye, back, and tail:
photographs of birds by Douglas Herr

and with this bird, near eye, beak, 'ear' tufts, shoulder:
photographs of birds by Douglas Herr

beak, eye, neck:
photographs of birds by Douglas Herr

eye, chest, shoulder, fruit, toes:
photographs of birds by Douglas Herr

eye, beak, neck, wing, particularly as it twists, dips and flicks feathers while preening:
photographs of birds by Douglas Herr
photographs of birds by Douglas Herr

from tip of beak to tip of tail:
photographs of birds by Douglas Herr

beak, eye, neck, back:
photographs of birds by Douglas Herr

eye, nose, paw, and as much of the seed pod as possible:
photographs of mammals by Douglas Herr

eye, nose, beak and shoulder in lower right corner:
photographs of birds by Douglas Herr

eye, beak, neck, back as much of wings and tail as possible:
photographs of birds by Douglas Herr

These areas aren't all in focus by accident; I'm watching all of these points simultaneously and shifting my position or waiting until the bird lines itself up with my focus plane. When everything comes together my shutter finger has to respond immediately; the fraction of a second used shifting the view for optimum composition is enough time for all sorts of stuff to shift out of the focus plane, and to watch this many regions simultaneously I'd rather use a viewscreen that shows me clearly and unambiguously where stuff is in or out of focus, all over the viewscreen all at once. Let me be clear about this: these areas aren't all in focus by accident.

Perhaps my needs are more specialized than the majority of camera users' needs, but there is no AF camera yet made that has focus points covering the entire viewscreen nor is there an AF camera yet made that can have enough simultaneous active focus points nor is there an AF camera yet made that includes the optimizing algorithm in my brain that can determine which of several active focus points are the most critical ones, and an AF camera in manual mode with its compromised viewscreen is not optimum for the kind of photos I want to make.

Canon's white paper at http://photoworkshop.com/canon/EOS_Digital.pdf explains using autofocus correctly. In particular see pages 11 and 29:

"For optimum focusing performance with close subjects, we recommend
avoiding the FLR (Focus-Lock-Recompose) technique. Instead, use an off center focusing point or focus manually."

and later in the white paper:

"The closer the subject, the more critical accurate focusing becomes.
One potential problem to avoid is camera or subject movement after
focus lock. This can happen more easily than one might think... Even
slight camera movement or subject movement after focus lock can result
in soft images, particularly when shooting at wide apertures with
narrow depth of field."

Last edited by telyt; 08/08/06 at 14:37.
telyt is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09/08/06, 03:04   #17 (permalink)
Neuer Benutzer
 
Join Date: 27/06/06
Location: Jakarta
Posts: 26
Default Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

If Panasonic can put in autofocus confirmation for manual lens on their L-1 (or Leica on the M8 or R10) we can see what happens. Canon can do it (with modifications). It is possible and can be a good tool. If the user doesn't like it then, an option to hide it can be installed.

It is just an aid, like focusing frames.
adi sudarsono is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09/08/06, 04:43   #18 (permalink)
Erfahrener Benutzer
 
Join Date: 02/02/06
Location: Planet Earth
Posts: 512
Default Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

Quote:
Originally Posted by adi sudarsono
It is just an aid, like focusing frames.
One that compromises viewfinder quality. It's a real shame that so many photographers today have no clue what a really good manual-focus viewfinder can do.
telyt is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09/08/06, 05:29   #19 (permalink)
Erfahrener Benutzer
 
Join Date: 26/09/02
Posts: 399
Default Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

after piping in with some criticism, including a bet that Leica would like to do it over differently, let me confirm that I LIKE manual focusing, especially in rangefinders. Just so you know where my heart and eye are.
John W
__________________
Mrs. Peel....We're needed.
steed is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09/08/06, 05:40   #20 (permalink)
Erfahrener Benutzer
 
mgcd's Avatar
 
Join Date: 25/09/02
Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Posts: 1,111
Default Re: Why is there no auto-focus for any of Leica's cameras/lenses?

Quote:
Originally Posted by telyt
One that compromises viewfinder quality. It's a real shame that so many photographers today have no clue what a really good manual-focus viewfinder can do.
Like you I still find that stunning...
mgcd is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply



Current eBay Ads

Thread Tools
Display Modes



Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off



All times are GMT +2. The time now is 09:45.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.1
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
SEO by vBSEO 3.6.0
© juergensen.net - Andreas Jürgensen