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AGeoJO

Leica M9 Rangefinder Alignment - Finnicky?

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I received my M9 about a year ago. Right away I noticed that all my lenses that worked perfectly on the M8 were backfocusing. So, off it went to Jersey right away and when I got it back, it was all good and I was really happy. My M system has not been extensively, I would say about 3,000 shots in a year. Recently, I noticed that I started getting the same issue, albeit not as severe as before but definitely noticeable. Although I focus carefully the focus plane seems to fall behind the target slightly I didn't drop the camera, although I didn't really baby it but I never abused it; actually I handle it with sufficient care. When not in use, I store it in a protective bag. I couldn't think of anything that would have caused that to my camera.

 

Has it happened to any of you and what can cause the RF go out of alignment actually? I am contemplating of shipping it back to Jersey but I would like to hear what others have experienced.

 

Thank you,

Joshua

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Guest mc_k

I would guess a clumsy mounting or dismounting of the lens might throw things off? But I don't know. I think this is why one photographer famously dedicated one camera to each lens.

 

Alternately, maybe you didn't get the sticky stuff I think they put on the adjustment screws, or if you're going by a test you did, maybe your setup isn't the same as before.

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Quite a few of my M cameras over the last forty years went off at one point of time. It is just a mechanical thing that sometimes needs adjustlemnt. Usually I guess my cameracase got a knock without me noticing or remembering.

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In my experience over about 40 years and more Leica M bodies than I can count, I've never had a rangefinder go out of alignment, although I've certainly found them misaligned at purchase. Of all of them the only one I ever had to adjust anything other than the roller cam eccentric (infinity adjust) is my M9. That needed the close-focus adjusted (front focusing 2cm). I've traveled extensively with my cameras on airplanes, trains, boats, busses, subways/metros and of course automobiles. The camera bag was not always on my lap, although I try not to put it on the floor. I've even taken them on an ox cart and in a wooden snood atop an elephant.

 

So my perception is that some rangefinders might be more susceptible to drifting, either because the adjustment points aren't tightened sufficiently during assembly or subsequent servicing, or there are tolerance variations in the fit of the parts themselves. That is, unless the camera takes a significant knock. I can say that in all my years none of mine have been knocked into something with any more force than what wouldn't really hurt much if it was knocked into your forehead with the same force.

 

OP: have you checked the alignment at infinity? (A sharply-defined cloud against a blue sky, or the moon at night, or even a building at least a mile away if you can get such a vantage point). If that's what has gone out (and most likely it is) then it isn't a very daunting DIY adjustment, if you're the least bit handy you might avoid an extended absence of your camera for a 5-minute adjustment.

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I'm not very happy with the Allen Key method. Admittedly it is fine when on the road with no access to a repair shop, but the drawback is that it does influence the other two adjustments as well. If you are lucky infinity is indeed the only one that has drifted, but if the close distance adjustment is involved you may get infinity right, but will find close focus even more off than it was before. The third one in the middle of the arm is less likely to be wrong, so usually it can be disregarded. The best thing to do is to go to somebody who has both the expertise and the gear (targets at 1, 3 and 10 meters) to do it right.

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My M9 is out of RF alignment, and has really been so since it went to Solms for change of a cracked sensor filter. I have temporarily Allen-wrenched it into line for close and close mid-range subjects, but thereby, there is no coincidence at infinity. After the holidays, that body will go to Will van Manen (http://www.kamera-service.info) for a professional RF adjustment.

 

The old man who got his arm twisted

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The gain (close) adjustment is an eccentric washer held in place by a threaded locking stud that is (or at least, supposed to be) very tight. Unless it is found to be loose, there is no reason to suspect it has been upset. The roller cam eccentric also is quite stiff, and much less likely to be affected by vibration or a body knock than people seem to believe.

 

What is the likely scenario where misfocusing has begun to plague a previously-ok camera, is not that the rangefinder arm adjustments have been upset, it is that internal components of the rangefinder have moved in respect to the rangefinder arm. Thus, unless the internal parts are loose or damaged, adjusting the roller cam eccentric (allen wrench) back to proper infinity coincidence should be sufficient. In other words there should be no need to adjust the arm length as long as it has not been disturbed.

 

In fact, the service manual(s) speak of adjusting the gain only if and when the arm has been disassembled.

 

This is a different issue to finding a new camera mis-focusing from the factory. In that case there may be multiple adjustments needed, sad to say.

 

As for having the expertise and the proper instrumentation to do these adjustments, Jaapv is right of course. However, it is not that hard to set up a target 1m from a tripod-mounted camera, and then adjust the gain until you get tack-sharp with the rangefinder images superimposed. Nor is it difficult to adjust for infinity. My opinion is if one can see well enough to focus the rangefinder and determine a subject is out of focus, one can see well enough to adjust it, if perhaps with the aid of a magnifier for increased accuracy. Although the DIY method is tedious and time-consuming, if done with meticulous care and in an unhurried manner it is just as accurate as if done with the jig and standards used by professional service personnel. Those jigs and standards are at least as much for speed and efficiency as for accuracy.

 

There are only these three adjustments accessible through the lens opening:

 

1) Infinity (roller cam eccentric).

2) 1m (gain, washer at the pivot-point of the arm)

3) near-disengage (screw in center of eccentric stop behind the "tail" of the rangefinder arm that it contacts when the roller cam is in its front-most position, ie. no lens mounted). This merely sets the nearest distance at which the rangefinder disengages, and has no effect on focus per se.

 

If 1) and 2) are done and there is still mis-focusing in the mid-distance, the top plate has to come off for further adjustment.

Edited by bocaburger

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Thank you so very much for your input, guys.

 

@ early gallery: Yes, it is still under warranty but I just cannot bear the idea of not having my camera for a few weeks. The first time around, under pressure from the dealer, Leica in New Jersey turned that around fast and in just a few days, I got it back. I doubt that they will do that again.

 

@ bocaburger, lars and jaapv: Although I don't have two left hands but I am nervous and apprehensive and I dont't feel really confident to do the allen wrench adjustment. But I will look into that. Is there an on-line instruction with pictures to do that method? What are the tools needed to perform that method?

 

@ mckeough_k: I don't quite understand what clumsy mounting entails

. If the lens mount fits into the groove in the camera, I just turn it until it clicks and I do the reverse when dismounting. Like I mentioned before, I am always careful in handling the camera and never tried to mount or dismount a lens with force.

 

Thanks again,

Joshua

 

Sorry for the typo in the title. Right after I noticed it, I tried to correct that but somehow I couldn't. Oh, well

.

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@ bocaburger, lars and jaapv: Although I don't have two left hands but I am nervous and apprehensive and I dont't feel really confident to do the allen wrench adjustment. But I will look into that. Is there an on-line instruction with pictures to do that method? What are the tools needed to perform that method?

Just a 2 mm allen wrench.

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The gain (close) adjustment is an eccentric washer held in place by a threaded locking stud that is (or at least, supposed to be) very tight. Unless it is found to be loose, there is no reason to suspect it has been upset. The roller cam eccentric also is quite stiff, and much less likely to be affected by vibration or a body knock than people seem to believe.

 

What is the likely scenario where misfocusing has begun to plague a previously-ok camera, is not that the rangefinder arm adjustments have been upset, it is that internal components of the rangefinder have moved in respect to the rangefinder arm. Thus, unless the internal parts are loose or damaged, adjusting the roller cam eccentric (allen wrench) back to proper infinity coincidence should be sufficient. In other words there should be no need to adjust the arm length as long as it has not been disturbed.

 

In fact, the service manual(s) speak of adjusting the gain only if and when the arm has been disassembled.

 

This is a different issue to finding a new camera mis-focusing from the factory. In that case there may be multiple adjustments needed, sad to say.

 

As for having the expertise and the proper instrumentation to do these adjustments, Jaapv is right of course. However, it is not that hard to set up a target 1m from a tripod-mounted camera, and then adjust the gain until you get tack-sharp with the rangefinder images superimposed. Nor is it difficult to adjust for infinity. My opinion is if one can see well enough to focus the rangefinder and determine a subject is out of focus, one can see well enough to adjust it, if perhaps with the aid of a magnifier for increased accuracy. Although the DIY method is tedious and time-consuming, if done with meticulous care and in an unhurried manner it is just as accurate as if done with the jig and standards used by professional service personnel. Those jigs and standards are at least as much for speed and efficiency as for accuracy.

 

There are only these three adjustments accessible through the lens opening:

 

1) Infinity (roller cam eccentric).

2) 1m (gain, washer at the pivot-point of the arm)

3) near-disengage (screw in center of eccentric stop behind the "tail" of the rangefinder arm that it contacts when the roller cam is in its front-most position, ie. no lens mounted). This merely sets the nearest distance at which the rangefinder disengages, and has no effect on focus per se.

 

If 1) and 2) are done and there is still mis-focusing in the mid-distance, the top plate has to come off for further adjustment.

Well, yes, you are right that proper adjustment is certainly not beyond the capacity of a dedicated amateur (amateur=somebody who loves to do something

) However, I would suggest it is beyond the scope of the average user.

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It's under warranty, send it back, end of!

 

I could have done the same with my M9, but chose not to for several reasons. I have had Leica (US) do service before under warranty and had it come back either not fixed correctly, or with something else wrong that wasn't wrong before. That after an absence of months for a ten-minute repair. If it's something I can't handle, well, then I have no choice. But I've adjusted a bunch of Leica rangefinders over the years and know I can do it right and without doing any collateral damage.

 

 

 

Well, yes, you are right that proper adjustment is certainly not beyond the capacity of a dedicated amateur (amateur=somebody who loves to do something ) However, I would suggest it is beyond the scope of the average user.

 

I don't know what the scope of the average user is, but patience and a light hand are probably the most critical and relevant traits required. I believe both can be learned, but believing one has ten thumbs tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, sadly:(

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AGeoJO--- My new M9 focuses past infinity. I returned a brand new 50 Summicron because of unsharp results, but when it happened on a new Summilux and others, I checked with my good old M8, and yes, the sensor has shifted forward. I am about to return the M9 for fixing, so I won't have it until at least February. Lucky then that I really like the M8 - with or without IR filters - and I trust it implicitly. Will the M9 ever be as reliable as the M8? This is a virtue for which the M8 does not get enough credit. I'm not parting with mine anytime soon.

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In another thread, an esteemed member from Colorado (altitude ~5000 feet) noticed that his M9 went out of adjustment when he flew to a place at sea-level. Have you traveled with the camera? Have you taken it out in very cold weather? I wonder about just those particulars when I read of M9 focusing issues.

 

Over the years with six Leica M film cameras I've not had focusing issues (and I use fast lenses, often wide-open), however for the past several years each body is dedicated to a particular lens. I never remove the lens except to dust.

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. Will the M9 ever be as reliable as the M8? This is a virtue for which the M8 does not get enough credit. I'm not parting with mine anytime soon.
:eek:I wish we had known that in 2007...

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In another thread, an esteemed member from Colorado (altitude ~5000 feet) noticed that his M9 went out of adjustment when he flew to a place at sea-level. Have you traveled with the camera? Have you taken it out in very cold weather? I wonder about just those particulars when I read of M9 focusing issues.

 

When I got back to London (low altitude, freezing cold) from egypt/mountsinai (high altitude, boiling hot during the week I was there), I found that the rangfinder image wouldn't align fully at infinity. Closer focusing seems to be accurate though. Leica offered to have the camera + lenses calibrated under warranty, but gave me a wait of 4 weeks (or around 10 days if I was willing to pay a substantial fee, or 6 weeks if i left it closer to Christmas). It's just not going to happen right now.

 

btw. I wish I had 2 M9s so I could just leave my two lenses permanently attached, and have one to keep if i need to send the other to Solms

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Well, I dropped my camera case once again, which knocked the RF slightly out. Sent it to Will van Manen and got it perfectly back within a few days, for the outlay of 35 Euro (may vary according tothe amount of work).Beats sending to Solms...

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@ early gallery: just like boca burger mentioned, I really hesitate to send my M9 in although it is still under warranty.

 

@ pico and aymoon: Yes, I did travel with it but not from location to location that would that much altitude change. But people do that on a regular basis and I certainly hope that that would not be the cause. I expect Leica to be less rugged than, let's say, professional caliber DSLRs from Canon or Nikon, but not that finicky.

 

@ Bilco10: Wow, shifting of sensors is worse the the RF being out of perfect alignment. I don't trust myself, at least not right now, to do the RF alignment myself, let alone the adjustment of of the sensor.

 

@ jaapv: I wish that I could find a local independent, reliable and capable repair man that can turn a small repair/adjustment like this fast. I really don't mind paying for that kind of service, too, regardless whether the warranty is still there or not.

 

Update: I did a few steps that seem to help the situation. It seems that the first two steps do not contribute much but hey, the heck why not:

 

1) Make sure that the the RF windows and Viewfinder are clean without any grease marks. This is pretty much taken for granted but now I am paying more attention to this condition.

 

2) Use a viewfinder eyecup to minimize stray lights from hitting your eyes while focusing. Thanks to lasik, I am free of prescription glasees

. Somehow it seems like the RF patches are slightly, ever so slightly contrastier for easier focusing.

 

3) I used to focus from both ways, coming from the infinity or coming from the minimum focusing distance (MFD) and I just aligned the two and took the picture. I notice now, maybe I didn't before and maybe it acted the same way before, I am not sure), that after the two patches are aligned if I turn the focusing ring ever so slightly, the two patches still overlap just fine. Now, after the two patches are aligned, I turn the focusing ring a little bit to the right, towards the MFD. The patches are still perfectly aligned though but that setting is on the brink of being slightly front focusing. It looks like there is a slight spread of the RF alignment based on the patches and I am I am biasing my focusing preference towards front focus. Is this a band aid of the issue? Maybe, but so far so good. Until I notice another shift of the RF alignment that will make me change my focusing method, I am not sending the camera in. If there is a shift, then I would certainly hope it would go the other way around

.

 

Thank you,

Joshua

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