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david.kize

Using a DSLR or Leica M lens for telephoto (say, 135mm and up)

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Ideally, I would use my Leica M10 only with Leica or other M-mount lenses.  However, given the advantages of high quality DSLR cameras for telephoto photography and optical stabilization (e.g., for whales and other sea and land wildlife, or for people or other relatively small subjects far away), I wonder how many of the photographers on this forum would use a DSLR and telephoto lens in addition to or instead of the Leica M10 with a 135mm or shorter lens?

 

I have DSLR lenses (prime and zoom) that, in the telephoto range, go from 135mm up to 600mm.  In turn, the faster of my lenses can take teleconverters up to double those focal lengths, and there is also a 1.5 apparent increase if using a half-frame sensor instead of full-frame.  I have both the smaller Nikon D500 DX frame and a D800 FX frame.

 

My current plan on vacation trips where a long focal length would be useful, will be to take (1) my Leica M10 with perhaps a 135mm lens in addition to one or more of my "normal" focal lengths (right now I have 35mm and 50mm and am considering a 75mm), plus (2) a Nikon camera body with a long lens.  I rarely use a tripod.  Thus, for lenses in the long range of focal lengths, image stabilization has been important to me.

 

So . . . I will be very interested in what others do in regard to sticking with Leica M-mount lenses when they are photographing people, wildlife or other relatively small objects at long distances.  

 

And for those of you using a Leica M-mount 135mm lens, do you find any problem with its lacking image stabilization?  I think I would buy a Visoflex 020 EVF for use with the 135 not only to see the image better than in the small frame-lined portion of the optical viewfinder, but also to hold the camera more still against my face rather than holding it away from me while looking at Live View.

Edited by david.kize

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I’ve used Leica Ms since 1968 for 35 - 90 lenses, but always also had an SLR (often Leicaflex) for longer and macro. I do use a 135 Tele Elmar some on my M10 now, and RF focus is pretty good, especially stopped down a bit. I also have the 020, and can nail focus more accurately with it, but live view on the M10 is pretty clunky compared to using the same lens on an A7 body. I got the A7 to use with my Leica R and other old SLR lenses, and it works very well, even without stabilization, but I’ve been without stabilization forever.

I actually like shooting action with an M and 90 or 135 lens, as you can watch the action about to enter the frame.

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!@%$^#@# browser crash just ate my 500-word answer

 

But anyway - I use a 135 all the time on my M10. It works for me. However, back when serious SLRs first came out (1960), it was common that most working pros switched to using their Leicas for 21-50mm lenses, and then added a Nikon or Pentax for 85/90/105/135 (and of course anything longer).

 

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/127367495687847362/

 

I do notice my 135 requires a shutter speed of 1/1000 or preferably higher on the M10 - digital resolution just reveals camera shake that film didn't capture.

 

Realistically, a 135 doesn't add that much for wildlife - unless one is willing to get really "up close and personal" - see first attached with 135 on M4-2 from about 20-25 feet.

 

135 really either just works for one - or it doesn't. It's a borderline lens in the M system for classic RF focusing/viewing, but when it works, it saves the weight of an extra camera and 180mm for "compressed telephoto" perspective. See second attached.

 

 

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I have used my M10 (yes, I gave up and upgrades from the M262, mainly for the live view support...) with both adapted SLR wide angle and telephoto lenses.

 

The lenses need manual aperture control, which rules out many options unless you want only to shoot wide open. Eg Canon EOS lenses usually only have electronic aperture control.

 

While it is possible to shoot telephoto with the M10, longer focal lengths really need a tripod - no so much as to avoid image blur, but to hold the system still enough to be able to focus accurately.

 

While it is nice to have one system that does everything, the M is not that system. For telephoto (and macro) I much prefer micro 4/3 cameras, as the stabilisation and smaller size/weight makes everything much easier. The image quality from the smalle sensor is not as different from the M10 as you might expect - and the accurate AF (E-M1 II) and stabilisation more than make up the difference in many use cases.

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I have used my M10 (yes, I gave up and upgrades from the M262, mainly for the live view support...) with both adapted SLR wide angle and telephoto lenses.

 

* * *

 

While it is nice to have one system that does everything, the M is not that system. For telephoto (and macro) I much prefer micro 4/3 cameras, as the stabilisation and smaller size/weight makes everything much easier. The image quality from the smalle sensor is not as different from the M10 as you might expect - and the accurate AF (E-M1 II) and stabilisation more than make up the difference in many use cases.

 

Mark, I agree with your comments.  But in my case, I would use my Nikon camera body as the extra camera for long range, because that is what I have.  And I wouldn't really see the purpose in adapting any of my distance Nikkor lenses to mount on an M10, because the Nikon would also have a good sensor, and I don't see what I would gain by adapting the Nikkor lens to the M10--except, of course, it would mean carrying just one camera body instead of two.

 

I do have three wide to normal lenses for my Nikon D800 that I really like (21mm, 28mm and 40mm), and I could see getting an adaptor to mount on the M-10--but my 21mm Zeiss Distagon is fairly large and heavy, and the others are not that much different in focal length than my Leica 35mm and 50mm.

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 And I wouldn't really see the purpose in adapting any of my distance Nikkor lenses to mount on an M10, because the Nikon would also have a good sensor, and I don't see what I would gain by adapting the Nikkor lens to the M10--except, of course, it would mean carrying just one camera body instead of two.

 

 

For the $30 an adapter would cost you could try and see if it works. You might find you need a tripod as you'll be using LV, but a tripod is more useful (with any lens) than a second body anyway.

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I consider the M system a 24-90mm system. Those are the focal lengths I feel I can shoot without much fuss, and I don't have to use external viewfinders to shoot anything in that range. I have tried several different external optical viewfinders (Zeiss, Voigtlander and Leica) for different wide focal lengths, but I don't like using them at all. I prefer the EVF/LV to any external optical viewfinder for wide or long lenses if I had to use one.

 

I've tried to make the M-system my "do it all system", and over a couple of years I've come to the conclusion that it simply never can be a do it all system. It is a very limited system, but it does what it does very well within it's limitations (24-90mm, manual focus, etc), and it also offers an enjoyable process, and I do favor Leica's color science to anything else out there. I love the slightly warmer greens and tones overall. I find it very difficult/impossible to match the files from my A7rIII to the output from the M10, both in Lightroom and Capture One 11. The Sony files are more correct, but the Leica files simply just look better and requires far less tweaking.

 

For anything wider than 24mm I'd go with an SLR or mirrorless camera. For anything longer than 90mm I'd go with an SLR or a mirrorless camera. Personally I'm considering using the M-system for the 24, 35, 50 and 90 focal lengths, and a Sony A7rIII with a 12-24mm and a 100-400mm for anything wider and longer. The SL could also be an option, but it's too expensive, and it doesn't have the lens selection (12-24 and 100-400) that the Sony system has. And even if the SL did, I'm sure the lenses would be far bigger, heavier, and much more expensive.

 

My advice is to not try to make the M-system into a do-it-all system, and rather enjoy it for what it is within it's limitations. It truly shines in the 24-90 range with smaller, light-weight and compact lenses.

 

PS! I have never tried a 135mm on the M-system. I've considered the APO-Telyt a couple of times, but not pulled the trigger yet. I might one day if I find a good deal.

Edited by indergaard

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David,

 

If one day you can, try R lenses like a cheap for Leica Apo-Telyt-R 3.4/180 with adapter R to M (even with x2 Apo-Extender-R is usable at 1/1000s or 1/2000s hand held).

 

Only less enjoying is "time parallax" when Visoflex 020 used on M10 on fast moving subjects.

Edited by a.noctilux

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David,

 

Remember, to be fully functional the Nikkor lenses have to be the older models that have an aperture ring on them!  

 

For the 135 M lens, the 020 viewfinder would come in handy, since as you said, holding the rig at arm's length to focus/frame would not be practical.  I have found the viewfinder very helpful for the two extreme focal lengths I have; 135mm and 21mm, and also for the old 105mm Mico Nikkor I use occasionally.

Edited by RonM

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My Nikon film SLR and my Leica film rangefinder make a good working pair. My Leica rangefinder works well for me at focal lengths between 21mm and 90mm. My Nikon SLR works well for me at focal lengths shorter than 21mm and longer than 90mm.

 

Even though I could use an adapter to mount my Nikon telephotos on my M10 and use the LCD for composing and focusing, I prefer using my long lenses on my APS-C digital SLR.

 

Working Pair by Narsuitus, on Flickr

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Is anybody who has both a Leica M 135mm and an equivalent focal length with a DSLR or APS-C camera, happy with the Leica 135?  That is, where you have a choice to cover the 135mm range, do you usually use your Leica M lens?

 

There seems to be a consensus so far that the M10 is best at 24-90mm.

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I’ve alway felt that 90mm was equally good on RF and SLR, while 135 was easier on SLR and shorter on RF. However after getting the M10 and finding a better hit rate with 90 than with the M9, I found a nice M Tele Elmar, and would agree with Andy that it is a stellar lens. I get very acceptable shots with the RF, but pixel peeping shows live view with mag can fine tune better, especially wide open. The 135 TE also gives great results on the A7.

I’ve had several 135s over the years it was a popular focal length, and none better than the TE.

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I have used many long(ish) lenses on my M, including a 70-210 R lens, older 180 and 300mm manual-focus Nikkors, and 400mm Telyt-V.  At higher shutter speeds, the results have been acceptible hand-held, but the 300 and 400 lenses have tripod attachments which make the results that much better.  That said, my days of traveling with 2 camera systems are done with.  If I was going somewhere a long lens was essential, I would simply bring shorter lenses for my Canons and leave the Leicas at home.  I am not much into wildlife or adventure travel though, so most of the time the Canon and its cannon-like lenses stay home.  I have no difficulty focusing a 135 on my M's with the rangefinder, but in the past I always brought along a BL finder because it gave a larger view and which was sized for framing at infinity vs close-up, and most of my 135 shots tend to be at longer distance.  With the M I have given up carrying an array of shoe-mount finders in preference of the EVF, much as I dislike EVF's, because it compacts and lightens my kit.

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I won't argue against those who think the M is "best at 24-90" - but my most-used lenses on my M are 21mm and 135mm.

 

As to Leica 135s vs. "other" 135s: There is the "historical contingency" that 70-200 (or thereabouts) zooms replaced the 135 in many photographers bags, in between about 1975 and 1985. And especially once 70-200 zooms became commonly available with f/2.8. Nikon, Zeiss and Canon responded with 135 f/2.0 versions (see Narsuitus' picture above), which were quite good given their specs, but also not something an M could focus, and Leica just stuck with their ca. 1973 design for the R. Then the AF revolution prompted full redesigns of everyone's lens lines, and we got, for example, the "variable bokeh/soft-focus" Nikkor AF-DC 135 f/2.0 and Canon EOS 135 f/2.8.

 

Additionally, Nikon and Canon quit designing 135s for their rangefinder cameras when those systems were dropped (early 1960s) so the Leica 135s are of more recent design (1964 f/4, 1973 f/2.8, 1996 APO f/3.4).

 

So it is complicated, and one is often comparing apples and bananas. Designing new, state-of-the-art 135s languished after 1982 or so, except for f/2.0 designs, where the exotic prices could recoup the expense. And Leica's APO-M.

 

For me, it comes down to - I simply will not carry anything the size of a 135 f/2.0 or 180 f/2.8 and a camera capable of using such - no matter how good it is. I did it for years, and it is a wall against which I will no longer bang my head.

 

At lesser apertures, I find the 135 TE and/or APO to be cleaner and sharper than the manual SLR Nikkor/Canon/Pentax/Minolta f/2.8-2.5s (1970s designs). The Zeiss/Contax/Kyocera SLR 135 Sonnar f/2.8 is in the same league generally as those Leica M lenses (but not compatible except via EVF viewing) and exceeds the Leica Elmarit for "clarity." So by process of elimination, the Leica M Tele-Elmar is my choice, if I want to use 135.

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The M system for me is limited to RF viewing, most always handheld, with lenses from 28-90. Generally 35/50. Been that way since the 80’s.

 

I’m considering the SL or X1D (or successors) as a complementary digital system for using wider, longer and zoom lenses. My selection criteria include weather sealing for body and lenses, and at least 35 format size.

 

Jeff

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For decades, when we were young, my wife and I carried two systems Leica M and R.

Long and very short focal lengths were for R  (17mm to 560mm plus PC lens !)and for M it was classic 35/50/90 or later 35/50/75/90.

 

Then came time for less gear to carry and use, we now use only M system and I try to use what is possible with LV/EVF plus adapters.

For a while Visoflex III  was not really practical before LV/EVF.

 

If only one 135mm is possible, I would use Tele-Elmar 4/135 that is as good as can be a 135mm lens, even it's 550g is usable with it's large focus ring.

 

I have also in M the Elmarit 2.8/135 with goggles ( at 730g almost same weight as Apo-Telyt-R 3.4/180) that lens was usefull in less-ISO film days.

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[PS! I have never tried a 135mm on the M-system. I've considered the APO-Telyt a couple of times, but not pulled the trigger yet. I might one day if I find a good deal.

 

As others have said. Try the Tele-Elmar 4/135. It is one of the best buys for money in Leicaland.

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I took these picture today from the same standpoint. One against the sun, the other with the sun behind. The pictures are not great, but I think they show how the Tele-Elmar works.

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I get great pics with 135 ,  but RF focus is very touchy.    Forget moving subjects wide open.  135 tele Elmar is a great lens and very sharp IF you can hit the focus.  My dealer described it as near APO IN 1985.  

 

Two suggestions.  Use original viso flex or add the electronic one.  I dislike electronic finders, but you can put some great glass  on the M10 including 180 2.8 and 300 4.0 .  Use Fotodiox Nikon to M adapter.   Screens on original viso are among the best focusing screens ever made for tele and close work.  

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