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TomKB

Newbie Needs a Little Help

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Hi.  My name is Tom and I'm hoping to get a little help.  I'm brand new to the Leica world, so I'm trying to determine the appropriate expectations.  A few days ago I purchased a used M10 from B&H.  I love it.  But I'm having a problem with the focusing.  I'll explain.  

 

For a year I have owned a few Leica lenses that I have used on a Sony body.  Now that I have an M10, I'm struggling with focus.  I use a 50mm Summicron F2 version 4, and I was consistently getting what I considered to be soft images on the M10.  This lens had performed well on the Sony, and all reviews glow about its sharpness.  But I was not seeing it.  

 

So I went online and I found some pictures of a dollar bill someone had taken with the same lens.  My results were decidedly inferior.  But I noted some details of my experiment and this is what I found.  If I focused with the range finder focusing system I got poor results.  If I focused with the live view and focus peeking, I got decent results.  If I focused with precisely measured distances relying on the focus scale, I got good results.  Significantly, when I checked range finder focus when it was focused with the distance scale, the range finder system indicated it was well out of focus even though that was not the case.  My teenage daughter and her good eyes confirmed my observations. 

 

I suspected that perhaps the camera's calibration was off.  I put on my Leica 90mm f2.8 Tele-Elmarit and I observed the same results.  So that seems to confirm that it's the calibration.  

 

But here is where it gets odd.  I put on my 35mm Voigtlander Ultron and everything works perfectly.  The rangefinder focus system and the scale distance results are the same.  I can take crystal clear pictures with this lens with the range finder system and it's a joy.  

 

Anyone have any ideas what is amiss?  I am in the return grace period for the camera, and I might opt to send it back if I cannot solve this.  It's a lovely camera and I hope to keep it.  

 

​Much appreciated.  

 

- Tom 

 

 

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If you are new to Leica and rangefinder focusing, chances are that this is not the camera. It takes a bit of practising to get rangefinder focussing  right.

 

The M10 has, in general, very few calibration issues. In the unlikely case that this one has, it is no reason to refuse the camera, your dealer should be able to have it fixed in a quick turnaround if you communicate with them.

 

If anything, your lenses might need calibrating. It is very common for lenses that were built for film to be out of tolerance on a more precise sensor. You wouldn't have noticed it on your Sony as it uses TTL focussing. Any camera workshop that is able to service Leica gear can solve that for you for a modest fee. The same goes for 6-bit coding, usually done at the same time. Older lenses will benefit from a clean and adjust anyway.

You can, of course, go through Leica, but it will be more expensive and (much) slower.
 
The fact that you find scale focussing more accurate than EVF focussing shouldn't happen, as the EVF is 100% accurate; it shows you the output of the sensor itself.

Distrust focus peaking though, all focus peaking systems are less than 100% accurate, they show the places of highest contrast, not necessarily the plane (zone, rather) of focus. Use focus magnification only, except for long lenses and macro.
 
90 mm is the most critical of your lenses, 35 mm the least, as errors may be hidden by DOF, so that may influence your results.
 
Read the M  FAQ on focussing (repeated here for convenience), and practice, practice, practice.

 

 

 

 


The M cameras work the same way as any rangefinder camera, the central patch in the viewfinder is your focussing tool.
It is important to look through the viewfinder in the optical axis. Looking into the camera skewed will result in inaccurate focus.

The first thing to do is to ascertain that you can see the rangefinder patch properly. A correct match between the rangefinder and your eye is even more important than it is using an SLR.
Leica sells corrective diopter lenses. Determining which one you need - if any- can be done by going to your optician and holding his try-out lenses between your eye and the viewfinder. The one that allows you to see the rangefinder patch and framelines sharply is the correct one. Order the nearest value from Leica. In a pinch, you can use over-the-counter reading glasses for this test. If your eyes need special corrections, you can use your spectacles, provided you can see clearly at 2 metres distance ( the virtual distance of the rangefinder patch).

For special cases, there are viewfinder magnifiers (not for the M10 (yet)). They can help, especially with longer and fast lenses and they can give confidence, but they can also be not very useful; they cannot correct errors in the focussing mechanism or the eye.  In fact, they may magnify issues. Leica offers a 1.25x one and a 1.4x. These need diopter correction like the camera, but often of a different value than the camera viewfinder.
Basically, for an experienced user, magnifiers are not needed and will only lower contrast and brightness, but many users do like and use them.

Once the viewfinder is corrected optimally, there are three methods of focussing, in ascending order of difficulty aka training.

1. The broken line method. Look for a vertical line in the image and bring it together in the rangefinder patch to be continuous.

2. The coincidence method. Look for a pattern in the image and bring it together to coincide. This may lead to errors with repeating patterns.

3. The contrast method. Once you have focus by method 1. or 2. a small adjustment will cause the rangefinder patch to "jump" into optimum contrast. At that point you have the most precise focussing adjustment.

Side remarks:

If you try focussing on a subject emitting polarized light like a reflection it may happen that the polarizing effect of the prism system in the rangefinder will blot out the contrast in the rangefinder patch, making focussing difficult. In that case rotate the camera 90 degrees to focus.

Note that when one focusses and recomposes the camera will turn. For geometrical reasons one must bend slightly backwards to keep the focussing distance constant.

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Live focusing not that simple via the rear screen, and the top-mount detachable EVF is preferable as you then have the camera better locked to your face rather than waving about in two hands. Using a tripod if I compare rangefinder versus live view and they are not the same it's inevitably poor technique. And not calibration issues. 

 

A visit to your dealer to see if he stocks diopters might be worthwhile and you should test these in situ: one might make all the difference.

Edited by microview

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While it’s true that focusing on a rangefinder accurately requires practice, I suspect based on his meticulous post that Tom’s technique may not be the issue, especially given that he is clearly doing careful tests, not simply snapping photos and finding them soft.

 

Tom, while it’s uncommon among newish Leica M cameras, it’s possible that either your camera or the lenses or both are not calibrated correctly to a reference standard. I’ve seen calibration issues with multiple lenses, and with one (out of several tested) M10 bodies. If you use a tripod and compare the viewfinder’s correspondence with the live view image you can pretty quickly figure out if it’s a calibration issue. If you take the gear to your nearest Leica dealer and test the lenses on their M10, and their lenses on your body, you can quickly confirm your own findings and likely deduce if your body or lenses or both need adjusting.

 

I find a Lens Align II to be a cheap and indispensable tool for checking the calibration of all Leica lenses I acquire.

 

Good luck— as you note, it’s a joy when it’s all working correctly!

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I appreciate the feedback. Thank you.

 

My testing was done with a tripod and carefully measured to photograph a dollar bill so I could compare it to the online image. I did rely on focus peeking for the EVF and I agree that this was not optimal.

 

I think because the new lens works great in all environments I’m going to surmise it’s the vintage lenses that I should have evaluated.

 

Another clue that I didn’t mention is that when I focus to infinity on the 50mm, distant objects are out of focus both in output and by the range finder.

 

Anyone have recommendations on service providers in the Phoenix area for lens calibration and coding? Or a list of providers?

 

Again, thank you for sharing your wisdom.

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As TomB_tx states above, DAG is excellent and quick. If you send your M10 and all lenses he will most likely get them all back to you in a week. At least that was the time frame for me on multiple occasions.

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I think because the new lens works great in all environments I’m going to surmise it’s the vintage lenses that I should have evaluated.

 

 

Older Leica lenses can suffer from incorrect adjustment because, incredible but true, there was a time when the fashion was to calibrate the lens to the body, or visa versa the body to the lens. It is an easy way for a less experienced camera tech to get both working together, but of course throws up a big problem when the equipment moves on to new owners. Leica have never ever done this themselves, they calibrate the body and the lens but each to their own set tolerances, and not so one is adjusted to compensate for the other being out of tolerance. So if we assume the new lens is correct, and the new body is correct, then I think you are right to suspect the Leica lenses. If you chose a good tech to do any adjustment they should ask for the body as well, not because they end up adjusting it necessarily, but to rule out owner misinterpretation of the problem.

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I sent the 50mm and 90mm to DAG.  While there is some guesswork, I think probability favors the lenses.  If DAG rules out the lenses, then I will return the body and wait for another.  He should get the lenses today, so I've cast my lot to some observation and a little guesswork.  

 

He was kind patient on the phone, and I think that I'm in good hands.  

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Don is honest, efficient, very fairly priced and exceptionally capable. No worries.

 

Jeff

And will adjust the body for a modest fee as well, if you so wish. Why send back a perfectly good camera that just needs a tweak?

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And will adjust the body for a modest fee as well, if you so wish. Why send back a perfectly good camera that just needs a tweak?

Not sure about Don, but Sherry Krauter, another trusted long term Leica repair person, will only work on M film bodies, saying that digital Ms require specialized equipment for exacting tolerances that is cost prohibitive. And yes, I’m aware many here are successful DIY. But that’s her approach.

 

Jeff

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Yes, but she is about the only one to refuse to adjust digital bodies that I know of.

I can see her point, though. If the sensor is positioned out of tolerance you need laser-interference gear to adjust it. Fortunately for other repairers, this is a rare occurrence. 

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As it happens I just got my Elmar-M 50mm back from Don for adjusting focus. It is now spot-on as with the other lenses he has done for me.

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Here is an update. DAG returned the 50mm today. It works quite well now, thanks to his services. He was a pleasure to work with. He said the lens was far off, more than he normally sees. It turns out it needed work on both the optics and mechanics, although I’m not sure what that actually means.

 

Anyway, the problem is solved and I’m content.

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Optics = positioning of the glass elements relative to one another and the lens barrel/focusing cam.

 

Mechanics = positioning of the metal lens focus cam or lens focus helical (focusing ring plus internal bits).

 

I.E. he tweaked, twirled, or repositioned some or all of the above until they were where they were supposed to be.

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