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Are M lenses really interchangable?

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Robert--

I'm convinced this storm is passing, but it is definitely annoying.

 

When I took my M8 out of the box I wondered if it would function. After shooting a while, I decided to do a lens test, and was pleased to see that the lenses all worked fine, with the exception of a possible slight backfocus of the oldest lens.

 

Leica entered new territory with the M8, and we were all glad they did. They're still solving issues with the camera, but they are progressing.

 

They seem to have had some lapses or misunderstandings in quality control and assembly, and that's a pity. And some people have had more than their share of troubles.

 

But the solutions are coming, and it does no good to damn the company for venturing onto new ground.

 

--HC

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...But the solutions are coming, and it does no good to damn the company for venturing onto new ground.

 

--HC

 

I'll cut them some slack on the other issues, but since when is producing lenses and cameras so they focus accurately new ground? Isn't this the heart of what Leica was supposed to be good at? (And having good quality control so that the focus would be dependable?)

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Alan--

By new ground, I'm referring to the needs of digital, some of which they seem to have solved well, and some of which seem still to need tweaking. As Mark Norton said, in all likelihood, the only part the M8 shares with previous M's is the red dot.

 

--HC

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Alan--

By new ground, I'm referring to the needs of digital, some of which they seem to have solved well, and some of which seem still to need tweaking. As Mark Norton said, in all likelihood, the only part the M8 shares with previous M's is the red dot.

 

--HC

 

Yes I got that about the new stuff but the focusing issue is not related to any new ground. Regardless of the number of parts in the M8 that are the same or are similar to parts in previous models, the way rangefinders work is the same. And what excuse is there for a lens to leave the factory poorly adjusted? That hasn't changed at all. To me it looks more like a quality control problem than a technology problem.

 

The question on this thread was about something I thought Leica solved years ago - how to make rangefinders focus accurately with interchangeable lenses. If they could do that in the past then what went wrong? If they couldn't do that in the past then why do so many people say that rangefinder focusing is more accurate than SLR focusing for normal and shorter lenses?

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Alan--

You put your finger on it: The same lenses we've been using for film without noticing problems are now giving trouble on the M8.

 

This thread and others on the topic are not in the analog part of the forum, but in the digital section: We agree that there may have been some QC slippage, but the main problem, as others and I have pointed out repeatedly, is that the rules that applied for film are inadequate for digital.

 

Very few people are having focus problems with the M8, but some definitely are. Leica has to figure out what procedural changes are needed. I don't want to keep repeating myself. Check Puts. Check LFI. See Reid Reviews. See Holger's citation of the Leica repair technician as transmitted thru Carsten.

 

Some few people are having problems, but they are very few. The problems we are aware of--see Tim Ashley's 35 Summicron, for example--come from a design feature of the lens (focus shift) exacerbated by a slight misadjustment of the lens (backfocus) magnified by the way we view digital images (at 100% and larger).

 

Before the M8 there was no outcry that lenses were not focusing properly. The problem arose with Leica's rangefinder entry into the digital milieu.

 

It's new territory whether we like it or not.

 

--HC

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Yes I got that about the new stuff but the focusing issue is not related to any new ground. Regardless of the number of parts in the M8 that are the same or are similar to parts in previous models, the way rangefinders work is the same. And what excuse is there for a lens to leave the factory poorly adjusted? That hasn't changed at all. To me it looks more like a quality control problem than a technology problem.

 

The question on this thread was about something I thought Leica solved years ago - how to make rangefinders focus accurately with interchangeable lenses. If they could do that in the past then what went wrong? If they couldn't do that in the past then why do so many people say that rangefinder focusing is more accurate than SLR focusing for normal and shorter lenses?

 

I have to think the focusing thing is more of a camera problem than a lens problem. I was another of the RD1 betta group that had to deal with some REALLY serious rangefinder/backfocus problems. The rangefinder alignment problem was well known by the time I got my camera and I had my choice of three bodies by the time I purchased. I tested all three of them in the store and took the best one home for a weekend of testing before making my final purchase. After that I spent countless hours rigorously testing my lens collection like never before. I did a LOT of pixel peeping. It turned out that my camera was a good and only a few of my lenses had back/front focusing problems. I took a lot of pictures and I was happy.

 

Well last summer I dropped the camera in the parking lot of Lassen State Volcanic Park and knocked the rangefinder completely out of kilter. I was anticipating the arrival of the M8 so I keep putting of getting it repaired until my preordered M8 showed up. Well that was a long wait. Meanwhile I learned to zone focus and just kept taking pictures. My results werent all that bad and kept getting better and better as my zone focusing skills improved. Well after a while I noticed the rangefinder, although pretty goofy wasn't totally useless. I learned to make a few *corrections* as I started using it for more critical focus situations and the results we not bad. All and all I was getting pretty good focus results from the RD1 even with a wonky rangefinder. Remember I was a Canon 20D autofocus user before.

 

Well when I finally got my M8 I was astounded. You people that have never peered through a RD1 rangefinder versus a M8 have no idea how much better the Leica is. I was in heaven. Sure my old lenses that backfocused a bit still did. Lenswise everything was about the same. But honestly, even though I am a wide open shooter, a mildly backfocusing lens is the least of the focusing problem. More devastating to sharp focus are tired eyes, bobbing heads and shakey hands. Those effects mask the subtleties of a little backfocus error. In fact, only when you have the camera on a tripod can you really eliminate the really most important factors that lead to blurry pictures in real life.

 

Anyway, I have yet to do any systematic test of any of my lenses like I did on the RD1. I'm pretty sure I would find a range of moderate problems that are hardly ever the main reason for a blown shot. For my part, when I get a new lens (for me at least) I just check infinity focus on the same distant building off of my roof deck that I have been doing for 20 years. Then I shoot a couple of frames of an inclined newspaper focusing on a pencil at about 3 feet. I like infinity focus to be right on. As for the three foot test, well if can hit +- an inch or so, thats about all I can do myself. Hell, half the time my head bob well make the focus BETTER than it would be on a tripod.

 

My take on all of this backfocus stuff is do a reality check on your actual picture taking results before going bonkers in the pixel peeping department. Granted, pixel peeping can be a rewarding hobby in itself but sometimes taking pictures is too.

 

Rex

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Granted, pixel peeping can be a rewarding hobby in itself but sometimes taking pictures is too.

Rex--I understand there's a move afoot to open a pixel-peepers' support group here on the forum.

 

--HC

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Rex--I understand there's a move afoot to open a pixel-peepers' support group here on the forum.

 

--HC

 

Hi, I'm Rex and I'm a pixel peeper. I peeped my first pixel when I was in high school and it just got worse from there.

 

And I thought giving up alcohol was hard

 

Rex

AKA Wrecks

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...Before the M8 there was no outcry that lenses were not focusing properly. The problem arose with Leica's rangefinder entry into the digital milieu.

 

So what changed? Did Leica lower its standards or were the film users not so critical?

Plenty of others have theorized that digital users are much more critical because it is easy to test the gear and examine the results at high magnification. So it is possible that this has been a problem all along but only a few complained. Does that make it ok?

 

Maybe we're all getting more critical now that we are shooting digitally but is that a bad thing? More people are making giant prints now too. The gear is supposed to keep up with our needs.

 

I don't know if the issue is widespread or not. Short of random testing of new cameras and lenses, there's no way to measure it. But in reading this forum it seems that more than a few have had problems with the focusing. I think there are three live threads on the subject at this very moment. And quite a few owners have reported sending their cameras and lenses in for adjustment. Maybe these are more critical users.

 

While nothing is perfect, the ability to adjust a rangefinder or a focusing mount within very tight tolerances every time is certainly within Leica's capabilities. That is all I am getting at. Widespread or not I have a hard time understanding how even a single lens or body leaves the factory with the focus as far off as is reported. (Perhaps the camera's rangefinder gets knocked out of alignment in shipping, but I don't think that could happen with a lens.)

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Not many people looked at shots from say an M6 at 100% magnification. Plus focussing a rangefinder - especially at closest range is by no means easy. When you have what you think a perfectly focussed image can you move the focussing dial very slightly without seeing any change in the overlapping images? In a lot of cases I think you will be able to.

 

My personal opinion is that many of the reported problems are a combination several factors. the limitations in a rangefinder system, user error, the inherent limitations of a rangefinder system, combined with the ease of looking at images at a pixel level. Focussing a Nocti wide open on an M6 I learned to accept that the focus on some shots would be slightly off. It's just one of those things that you have to get used to.

 

Focussing a Nocti wide open at 1 metre - or a 75mm lens at a similar distance - isn't easy, in fact with a lower magnification body than an M6/7 such as the M8 it's difficult.

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Alan--

Your posts indicate to me that you're getting closer to the understanding so many of the rest of us have come to. It has been a gradual awakening for all of us, I'm afraid.

 

You say you cannot see how a camera or lens could be shipped slightly out of adjustment, and we've all--add Mark Norton to the list on this one--touched on that. Have you ever purchased a car on which something was a little off? My, how could that be!

 

But every point you've raised (or at least most of them; I'm not counting) has already been answered in this thread.

 

As Steve just said, and as many of us have gradually come 'round to seeing: The change is the entry of digital onto the scene. But that's where you and I started ten posts ago.

 

I think it was Emil Keller who told me that the M3 had a surprising number of problems at the start. You could have made then the same arguments you're making now--"My golly-wumpus, how long have they been building bodies and lenses? Haven't they learned anything? Must be quality control." But today, I know a number of people who prefer the feel of the old double-stroke model.

 

Same with the initial M5's, till they got that 'little thing' with the curtain rollers figured out. Let's not even talk about KE-7A's or M4-2's.

 

I said above there might have been some slippage in quality control, but the more I think about it, and the more I consider the posts on this thread, the more I'm beginning to think that's unlikely. Maybe there was a loosening of QC standards, though Puts (op cit) seems to feel that's not the case; I don't want to put words into Reid's mouth, but his review of 35's and his postings to Tim Ashley's thread on the topic imply that he doesn't see any such deterioration. (He'll soon correct my misapprehension.

)

 

I'm beginning to see that the M8's apparent problems are due to the fact of a new medium conjoined with state-of-the-art but quite stressed design standards (see EP's comparison of the concepts behind Leica's and Zeiss's designs). Quality standards haven't been loosened, as I've shown above; but perhaps they need to be adjusted for the digital world.

 

The nice thing is that when the M8b comes out, you and I will both feel justified: You'll be saying "Great, they finally fixed the problems." And I'll be saying, "I told you they would."

 

--HC

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That's all great stuff and I am sure you are right but personally having spent thousands of £s on M8 and Leica lenses and having now tried 4 M8s that don't focus properly I am now at the stage where they have one more chance (5th body coming Monday) and if they cant produce one that focuses properly I won't be buying any Leica digital M8b, c, d, or whatever, no matter how good they are.

 

Be in no doubt, this is a major epidemic problem and Leica need to get it fixed quick. They must appreciate that a lot of M8 customers will become 'once bitten twice shy' and never risk an M8 again.

 

I have wasted 6 months and dozens of trips to my dealer and still don't have a usable camera. Its only because my dealer is such a nice guy and tries so hard that I haven't demanded a refund long ago.

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Rex--I understand there's a move afoot to open a pixel-peepers' support group here on the forum.

 

--HC

 

Howard PLEASE get down from that HIGH horse. It is becoming very annoying.

In the old days with my M3's if I made the image in the RF/VF line up, with ANY Leica lens attached to the camera, I could count the whiskers on a face when looking at the negative. Now with the M8 not only can't I count the whiskers but I can't even see that there are whiskers and the person behind the guy I was focusing on is in focus.

 

The great focusing and clarity of the image on the negative was the reason I fell in love with Leica cameras and especially the glass. Now with the M8 and new lenses, at least the ones I own now, I get better sharper images form my Nikon D200 with it's heavy AA filter. And you know what I don't need to worry about magenta with it.

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I have found that most of the used lenses I have purchased and an occasional new one have back focused, sometimes very badly. Someone might not notice on film because they don't immediately make 30 x 40 test prints of a ruler. I figure a trip to DAG on any used lens I purchase and have the retailer check focus before he sends any new lens. This is an issue totally independent of the M8.

 

I have found all RF systems (Linhof Technika, Plaubel, Mamiya, Leica) need adjustments, some more frequently then others. They are very complex mechanical systems and like a car engine pre-computers and electronic fuel injection they have to be kept in proper adjustment. It is disappointing to see a new camera or lens out of adjustment but my M8's RF was dead on. I had it checked to a standard by DAG. You could take a lens you know to be dead on into the store and check a new M8 before purchase.

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In my case it is the camera at fault. At the moment I have an M8 with which all my lenses are pretty much spot on. I cant accept the camera because it has an electrical fault (viewfinder leds)

 

I have tried 4 other M8s and they all back focus badly with all my lenses (at least all the ones where the DOF doesn't make it imposable to check the focus point)

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Just did a few ruler tests with my lenses, all bought second hand, only the tri-elmar is coded. I used a distance of around 1.2 meters, tripod and self-timer, all lenses at maximum aperture.

 

The 35 is spot on at f2, with a bit of dof both in front and behind the point I focussed on.

The tri-elmar is spot on at 50, but front-focusses a centimeter or two on both 28 and 35, still within dof goodness though.

The 50 lux is way out (as suspected from results with vastly more attractive subjects), at least 3-4 cm backfocussing.

The 24 is possibly a little front focussed, but it was pretty hard to tell - in practice I really doubt I'll ever focus this lens that carefully anyway.

The 90/f2 is spot on, and I realised it's the first time I've used it on the M8.

 

My conclusion - it's nothing to do with my M8, but I guess I'll buckle and sent the 50 lux in for coding and a bit of focus tlc. It's a nice lens for across-the-table portraits and getting a beautiful portrait with the wrong eye in focus is annoying.

It's kinda ironic that the two cheapest lenses I own are both right on the money

 

I hope I never feel the need to photograph rulers again. I thought about doing a comparison test with my M7 - but I really don't care that much, and it seems an egregious waste of film.

 

In conclusion - I vote that M lenses really are interchangeable. All of these apart from the tri-elmar have done good service on an M7 and a Hexar RF, the only one I noticed a problem with before a ruler entered my ouvre was the 50 lux.

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I'm beginning to see that the M8's apparent problems are due to the fact of a new medium conjoined with state-of-the-art but quite stressed design standards (see EP's comparison of the concepts behind Leica's and Zeiss's designs). Quality standards haven't been loosened, as I've shown above; but perhaps they need to be adjusted for the digital world.

 

 

I think that is the key here. If Leica makes great f1 and f1.4 lenses and has a camera with a hi-res sensor, then many photogrphers may feel they should be able to consistantly get the most out of them. I'm not an engineer so I don't know if the overall design is such that the required tolerances are acheivable and sustainable in production. If not, then they may need a new design or users will have to accept the limitations of the mechanical system. Although I don't think we've reached this point because Leica and other shops seem to be able to adjust lenses and bodies that have been returned to them. So why aren't they this accurate when they leave the factory in the first place?

 

I think if we look at what Hasselblad has done with the H3D (Ultra-focus and Digital Apo Correction) and what Canon has done with the 1DmkIII we see how manufacturers use the AF mechanism to fine tune each lens. They realized that focus compensation was necessary as not all focusing issues could be addressed by mechanical precision alone. I don't know how else one could compensate for focusing shifts that result from stopping down.

 

Someday Leica may find it necessary to radically redesign the entire system if photographers demand high speed lenses that focus with extreme accuracy.

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To me it seems we're dealing with the 'half full, half empty' problem, or the 'invisible gardener' problem.

 

Some people clearly have major focusing problems with the camera, most (so far as I can tell) don't.

 

I think we've gone through the list of possible explanations, and some of us just like to complain. There's nothing wrong with that. We aren't accomplishing anything by complaining, but we certainly feel better afterward, and we have the hope that one more voice will give Leica greater impetus to solve the problem.

 

Here's something you could help me with if you're interested. I'm curious about the 1/2 second consistency in M8 skipped files, as I mentioned at http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-forum/leica-m8-forum/29625-m8-skips-file-numbers-anyone-else.html#post310499. With the interest and enthusiasm expressed in the present thread, I bet some of you would have some insight into why and under what circumstances the M8 skips file names. Several reasonable proposals have been raised in the thread, but I bet there are more that haven't occurred to us.

 

It seems to me an interesting programming problem if nothing else, and putting our combined knowledge and experience to work on the issue could produce some information that could help correct a minor snag in the M8's programming.

 

--HC

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If I was starting out, I would buy just one body and two lenses - 28/2, 75/2 and would then have a reasonable chance of a consistent set. As it is, I'm overwhelmed by the level of variability I'm seeing with 3 bodies and 16 lenses. With the M8, less is more.

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