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MikeSR

ELMAR 135mm f/4

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OK - moment of madness and ignoring all of the warnings about not being able to focus, I caved in and bought a vintage (1960) ELMAR 135mm f/4 for my MM at a ridiculous bargain basement price. I confess that focusing has been a ... challenge. Even with a 1.35x magnifier on the viewfinder the paper-thin DoF at anything much under 5m (17ft) is a problem. Anyway, I have a large number of out-of-focus shots as a result. But a shot of some workmen in a nearby street (where the point of focus matches my intentions) does not look too bad.

 

I've included a 100% crop of the central area. Does it seem a little soft or have I been staring at my screen for too long? Thoughts appreciated.

 

Has anyone else had any experience of this lens and any thoughts on how I might get some consistently good reasonable results?

 

Thanks,

 

Mike

 

Settings were: 1/125s, f/8, ISO 1600 (handheld)

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Congratulations on your nice Elmar. I find myself focusing this lens much more consistently using focus peaking on the EVF2, in other words on the M (Typ 240) than using the RF. As a matter of fact, this lens was one of my reasons for exchanging my M9 for an M.

 

I think your photos are quite sharp as they are. If anything, I suspect a small amount of motion blur. Handholding a 135mm lens at 1/125 of a second does not leave much room for blowing up the image, I think.

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Congratulations on your nice Elmar. I find myself focusing this lens much more consistently using focus peaking on the EVF2, in other words on the M (Typ 240) than using the RF. As a matter of fact, this lens was one of my reasons for exchanging my M9 for an M.

 

I think your photos are quite sharp as they are. If anything, I suspect a small amount of motion blur. Handholding a 135mm lens at 1/125 of a second does not leave much room for blowing up the image, I think.

 

Yes, I wondered about the handholding. It was a bit of a balancing act between ISO and speed. As my first foray into auto ISO - I probably need to increase the minimum speed... and find a brighter day.

 

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) they don't make a 240 version of the MM, so no possibility of a change there.

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It's kind of luck-of-the-draw if older lenses calibrations are within the narrower tolerances of high-res digital sensors. My 135 Elmar happened to luckily be one. My Tele-Elmar not so much, and I had to mechanically alter it to bring the lens head closer to the body by about 1mm for it to couple accurately with the rangefinder and produce a tack-sharp image. But it looks like your Elmar is fine. You might want to take advantage of that nice tripod foot and use a monopod, belt-pod, or Leica table tripod (either braced against a nearby object or as a chest-pod). Poor-man's image stabilizer

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It's kind of luck-of-the-draw if older lenses calibrations are within the narrower tolerances of high-res digital sensors. My 135 Elmar happened to luckily be one. My Tele-Elmar not so much, and I had to mechanically alter it to bring the lens head closer to the body by about 1mm for it to couple accurately with the rangefinder and produce a tack-sharp image. But it looks like your Elmar is fine. You might want to take advantage of that nice tripod foot and use a monopod, belt-pod, or Leica table tripod (either braced against a nearby object or as a chest-pod). Poor-man's image stabilizer

 

You might be being a bit generous there - it is entirely possible that I got the focusing wrong but hit lucky (my error offsetting any error in calibration). The million dollar question is: is there a correct method to check/calibrate the lens? Something that a Leica dealer can/will do, or save the money and do it myself?

 

I normally do the bracing and tripod but have had variable results recently... it reinforces my thought that calibration could well be an issue. I had a feeling that there was something not quite right (hence posting here).

 

Just have to wait another few days to get my MM back from a free sensor replacement (2 weeks and being done locally) and I can give it a try!

 

Thanks, your comments have really got me thinking.

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It is a treat lens on the MM. I bought mine for $161 on ebay a couple of years ago. Very beat up but perfect glass.

 

Here are some results from a Brooklyn Nets game that i shot last year.

http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-forum/people/326928-per-larrys-likalar-some-mm-shots.html

 

Not sure one could ask for more for $161

Edited by A miller

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It is a treat lens on the MM. I bought mine for $161 on ebay a couple of years ago. Very beat up but perfect glass.

 

Here are some results from a Brooklyn Nets game that i shot last year.

http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-forum/people/326928-per-larrys-likalar-some-mm-shots.html

 

Not sure one could ask for more for $161

 

I think that gets the point across! Mine was about that price last year (from a shop). They are crazily inexpensive.

 

Calibration time then... there must be something on the Internet about how to go about it. I presume the three screws in the black section are the key... but I have no idea where to start as yet.

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I think it's just your low shutter speed, and even though it is an MM they do still need some sharpening and perhaps a bit more edge contrast in post processing if you didn't do that already. I don't think there is anything fundamentally wrong with it.

 

Edit: I just tried one of your images applying a small amount of Unsharp Mask and it makes a vast difference to the sharpness

 

Steve

Edited by 250swb

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I have the lens which is a pleasure to use. My rule is to aim to use at least 1/500th second shutter speed, briefer if possible. For its age it is a creditable performer but it does benefit from a little post-processing (LR in my case).

 

I took mine to Wengen, on advice from this forum, and shot the Silberhorn from our hotel balcony with impressive results. I used it with my M8. Even when I bought a Tele-Elmar I could not part with the delightful 135mm Elmar. Most are in excellent condition and rather better than the earlier Hektor in that focal length. Life with the M-240 is even better with focus-peaking.

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I think it's just your low shutter speed, and even though it is an MM they do still need some sharpening and perhaps a bit more edge contrast in post processing if you didn't do that already. I don't think there is anything fundamentally wrong with it.

 

Edit: I just tried one of your images applying a small amount of Unsharp Mask and it makes a vast difference to the sharpness

 

Steve

 

Sorry, should have said that I did not sharpen as I wanted to get opinion on image out of camera (levels are tweaked). Good point though, thank you.

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Right... on the basis of the very helpful comments, all supportive of the lens, I shall try some calibration shots when I get my MM back with its new sensor. Focusing at minimum range and as wide open as possible in the first instance. Tripod, brightly lit subject etc.

 

On reflection, I think that my main issue is: was my point of focus where it appeared to be in the viewfinder?

 

I'll post the results here.

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Before sending the lens in eventually you may wish to check that the focus mount is properly matched to the lens head. You should find a small vertical number on the focus ring between "1.5" and "1.7" metre: "55" for instance. Means that the actual focal length of the lens is 135.5mm. Then you may wish to unscrew the lens head and check what engraved number is handwritten on the bottom if any. Should be "135,5" if the focus ring number is "55" normally.

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Before sending the lens in eventually you may wish to check that the focus mount is properly matched to the lens head. You should find a small vertical number on the focus ring between "1.5" and "1.7" metre: "55" for instance. Means that the actual focal length of the lens is 135.5mm. Then you may wish to unscrew the lens head and check what engraved number is handwritten on the bottom if any. Should be "135,5" if the focus ring number is "55" normally.

 

It does say 55 by the way. Not sure where the other number is though (cannot remember how to take the lens apart).

 

On the focus front though I actually think that any error is mine and not the lens/camera combination. I just tried focusing on a cardboard box (tripod, f4, ISO 320, 1/4s, closest I could focus, moving the camera, the cat is top centre frame) and the results are as below (same image cropped, on version straight from camera and another given some basic LR treatment). I also tried sliding the tripod a cm or so towards the box and a cm away from the box - those images were both noticeably less well focused than the one below. I'd appreciate any comments as to whether I did the right thing in this test.

 

So... the problem as I see it... or not? My eyes, steadiness of my hands etc. Will just have to keep the shutter speed up I suppose. I've also adjusted my optical corrector thingy for the viewfinder so that I can focus without my glasses on, for now. The only issue is having to do more before I can take a shot (i.e. remove my glasses, not drop them etc.).

 

One other slightly irritating discovery - the MM has a maximum setting for minimum speed in Auto ISO mode of 1/125. Any reason for that limit? I would really like another stop or two on that for this lens. Not that I have a real problem in manual mode but it does make those quick shots a bit more of a challenge.

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I couldn't get my Elmar to focus, so I sent it to Leica - too old to repair ...

 

Leica's response is both sad and ridiculous. Fortunately there are still excellent repairmen who will do an even better job.

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I don't think you have a problem with it Mike, your results look perfectly OK to me. But you may be better choosing the ISO and not have it on Auto. With the MM you can go way up before the images become 'artistic', just don't pre-judge them with the small JPEG image in the LCD.

 

Steve

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I don't think you have a problem with it Mike, your results look perfectly OK to me. But you may be better choosing the ISO and not have it on Auto. With the MM you can go way up before the images become 'artistic', just don't pre-judge them with the small JPEG image in the LCD.

 

Steve

 

It was actually the first time I had tried Auto ISO (on any camera) but actually seemed as though it might be good for this lens... if it had a higher minimum speed setting. Perhaps not for normal use (without careful monitoring) but maybe for street. As you say, you can pump the ISO way up without a problem but I still normally try to keep it at a minimum, all other factors allowing.

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[...] cannot remember how to take the lens apart [...]
.

Suffice it to unscrew the lens head which was sold separately then (11951).

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