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guy

35mm Summilux - do I dare?

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Hi folks. I've been a lurker on this site for a while now – don't think I've posted anything yet – and as a Leica (and indeed rangefinder) newcomer it's been hugely useful reading. So first of all many thanks to everyone!

 

I took the plunge about six weeks ago and bought an M8 with a 21mm Elmarit. I immediately hit problems with rangefinder accuracy and backfocus on the lens, and having been through a long and painful series of trips to Leica UK (who really, really didn't want to know) the camera and lens went back to Solms for a three-week eye-testing holiday. Both were apparently off, and both have been corrected. Since then, I've had a fortnight's opportunity to play with the camera, and am thoroughly enjoying it: it's everything I hoped it would be, and I'm starting to get back that honeymoon feeling that I should have had when it first arrived.

 

I went for the 21mm because I wanted to start with a real "reportage" lens – a 28mm equivalent for street work, interiors and scene-setting. But that only covers half of what I'm interested in. The other half is low-light / wide aperture portraiture, for which I've been considering either a 35mm f1.4 or the 50mm f1.4. The attraction of both, of course, is the maximum aperture. Of the two, I'd come down on the side of the 35mm, simply because taking portraits indoors on a 50mm which has become a more-or-less 70mm can be tricky: I know this from the 50mm I have on my SLR, with which I often find myself trying to back through walls in order to get some framing to the shot. The 35 sounded like the perfect answer.

 

Except that now I'm reading that the 35mm Summilux is known to be one of the, if not THE, worst offender in the back-focus-M8-issue stakes. Which has really worried me...

 

If all this means is that I have to factor in another little holiday in Solms for the camera and lenses, then I think I can just about stomach that if what comes back is a setup that works. What I wanted to ask, though, is whether I reasonably can expect that, or whether adjusting for the 35mm will throw off the now-perfect 21mm. Obviously what I want would be for both to work to critical focus, but I've read conflicting accounts of whether this is exactly what I should expect, or whether it will always be a compromise and one lens will always have to be favoured at the expense of the other.

 

I'd be really grateful for any insight, especially from those of you who understand the backfocusing issue and how Leica adjust their lenses. Can I go for the 35mm, even though it may mean losing the whole kit to Leica for a month, or should I be going for the 50mm, which I know has a wonderful reputation but which may lead to my untimely death as I back out of a window trying for that perfect combination of subject and frame?

 

-----------------------------------

 

(As an addendum, I actually bought a Voigtlander 40mm Nokton, which I thought would be absolutely ideal for my purposes at a fraction of the price. It backfocused. I sent it to Leica with the M8 / 21mm when they went in, and they confirmed the problem but were of course unable to adjust it since it wasn't a Leica lens. A very nice chap at Robert White agreed to swap it out for another unit, but when he came to check their stock of Voigtlanders on the (correctly adjusted) shop M8, they ALL backfocused to exactly the same amount. His best guess is that Voigtlander lenses are calibrated fractionally differently to Leicas, because they're designed for Voigtlander cameras, and that this slight difference is exacerbated on the M8. But however you look at it, that turns out not to be the clever, cheaper option I'd hoped for. And the new 35mm f2.5 doesn't sound like it's going to float my wide-open-narrow-depth-of-field boat...)

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Key to realise is that camera and lens should be adjusted to their own independent references, not to each other, so that if Solms have done their job, the body will be correct. If you buy a 35mm Summilux (fine lens, BTW) and it is off, you should only need to return the lens for adjustment.

 

The 35mm Summilux exhibits focus shift as you stop down and the adjustment of the lens is critical in determining whether that shift remains within the increasing depth of field. Summiluxes are a challenge - only 2 left now - and the Noctilux is worse.

 

Best thing to do is to go to the dealer and try the lens. If you're paying close to £2000, that's the least the dealer should be able to do for you. But, you are correct, Leica UK are pretty useless and the dealers have a certain attitude problem.

 

I don't tolerate it, not for one instant. As Edina Monsoon memorably said, "You can drop the attitude, you're only a shop assistant".

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Guy,

welcome, although you are adding to my 'common name complex'!

when you say that a 50 in your DSLR is too long, do you have a 1.6 or 1.5 or 1.3 or indeed 1.0 crop factor DSLR? I ask because I find 50 a bit long on a 1.5x DSLR but I like my 50mm on the M8, and in fact never use a 35 on my M8 (other than to check the focus, perfect from new...albeit a summicron).

I am happy with a 28 and a 50 with the M8, (although a 28 summilux would be nice

) of course your reportage may be different to mine!

Guy

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Hi Guy,

 

Back in December and January I went through many of the doubts you are having and did post a query in this Forum. I had a lot of encouragement from the members. Shortly after that I emptied out my wife's purse and ordered the M8, 35 mm Lux ASPH and 50 mm Lux ASPH. Very sorry to hear about your problems.Let me say not everyone goes through this and I was one of those who received everything in perfect working order. I happen to believe most of us are more than satisfied with our purchases and am now considering another lens to fill out my kit. That ladies purse is bottomless:-)

 

Richard

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Guy--

Welcome to the forum; you've got a good question.

 

No one seems to have a handle on why some M8 bodies and some Leica lenses have given the problems they have. Most purchasers have no problem with either, but of course, this forum is a good place to find out about the problems others are having.

 

Mark is right: You sent camera and lens to Solms, and they should have been adjusted to be "right," that is, not "right with each other," but both individually correct and within tolerances.

 

Both the 35/1.4 and the 50/1.4 are state-of-the-art lenses. You won't find better than either. And as you said, the 35 gives you a more useful field and the same low-light capability.

 

The new LFI, just out, not yet arrived by mail to the US, is supposed to have an article on the focus shift issue that Mark mentioned. Many of Leica's most stunning lenses are designed to have a focus shift, and I'm sure the magazine will explain why and how that works to our optical advantage. The problems with the 50 and 35 Summiluxes have apparently been due to a minor misadjustment of the lenses: They had a small backfocus problem which was magnified by the designed focus-shift.

 

The difficulty was that it took so long for someone to get the idea into Leica's head that there really was a problem. Once they recognized that there was a misadjustment, they were able to fix the lenses in question.

 

So my take is: Don't worry. Buy the 35/1.4. It will probably be right; if not, Leica can fix it without nearly the problems that the earlier posters had.

 

I won't argue with anyone who has had great difficulty getting everything adjusted; I accept the fact that they had real problems, and I'm sorry they (you) did. And, truth be told, I don't understand how some bodies and lenses left the plant so poorly adjusted.

 

But I also maintain that most purchasers of these bodies and lenses don't have these problems. (That's probably one reason it took so long for Tim Ashley to get Leica to see the problem: "No one has ever had such continual problems, so the problems can't be ours, they must be the customer's." But once Tim was able to demonstrate the problem, Leica saw it; and according to my understanding of a conversation that Holger Fehsenfeld had with a Leica service technician, the company now recognizes that the way they tested lenses for film is inadequate for digital.)

 

--HC

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As Edina Monsoon memorably said, "You can drop the attitude, you're only a shop assistant".

 

I remember that episode with great fondness, and often find Eddie's quote springing to mind...!

 

Folks, thanks so much for this. It's very reassuring stuff you're posting. Guy: sorry. It's not a common name, honest. Just clearly a name that often applies to discerning people of character who frequent classy forums like this. The DSLR in question is indeed a 1.5x crop (Nikon D200) and I had considered that I'd be "getting back" some 10mm of range with a 50 on the M8; but it was always the 35 that seemed closest to what I'd like.

 

Richard, it's always good to hear when things DO work! And like I said, I feel a distinct honeymoon atmosphere coming over me now that my existing setup is fully functional.

 

(I was quite surprised at Leica UK's attitude to the original problem, mind you. When I sent the camera and lens to them initially, their "technical department" got back to me to say that they'd tried the lens on my camera and two others, and were getting identical results each time: and that therefore there was no fault. I explained on the phone that defocusing in the viewfinder yielded a sharp image, and asked them to try this. They refused point blank. In the end I had to go to Milton Keynes, to their HQ, and show them by taking pictures in the lobby that the problem WAS there – and was ALSO there on the two other camera bodies they had to hand. This was all confirmed when the camera went to Solms. It turned out that the "tests" performed by the technical department in the UK had involved taking photos of the inkjet printer on the end of one guy's desk with each of the three (faulty) cameras and then looking at them to see if they looked different. State of the art stuff... they really, really, REALLY don't give a toss about the M8 in the UK: it's just in a box to the continent or not their problem. But that's enough of that rant.)

 

Mark and HC: I think that's really what I wanted to know – that if there turns out to be an issue, I can send just the lens back to Germany and get it sorted, but that hopefully there shouldn't be a problem in the first place. You're also right that this is worth a trip to London or wherever to try the thing in the shop... if I can. I've been told by some dealers that they won't open lenses to allow you to try them since "paying customers don't want to buy opened goods"... which brings us neatly back to Mark's AbFab quote...

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But I also maintain that most purchasers of these bodies and lenses don't have these problems.

 

That's me. No problems whatsoever with my 35 Lux ASPH which came directly from Solms under the rebate program--I'm glad I got it. A much better focal length on the M8 than a 50mm lens in my opinion (I think a 67mmm equivalent is a bit of a platypus). And the 35 Lux is one of the best fast lenses ever made, also in my opinion.

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Guest guy_mancuso

Wow another person named Guy , you must be a great person to carry such a special name . LOL

 

Welcome and now life will really get confusing. LOL

 

Guy

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A 50mm might be a better match for your 21mm. I suggest the pre-asph Lux. Never had problems with back focus or focus drift. Just nice pictures.

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Guy

 

There are some great M8 photos over on http://www.flickr.com Do search for photos by Anne Holmes

 

I've yet to find an M8 shot that wasn't shot with a 35mm. So in case you aren't sure about how the 35 looks with a 50 field of view this may help.

 

Neil

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Hi folks. I've been a lurker on this site for a while now – don't think I've posted anything yet – and as a Leica (and indeed rangefinder) newcomer it's been hugely useful reading. So first of all many thanks to everyone!

snip

-----------------------------------

 

(As an addendum, I actually bought a Voigtlander 40mm Nokton, which I thought would be absolutely ideal for my purposes at a fraction of the price. It backfocused. I sent it to Leica with the M8 / 21mm when they went in, and they confirmed the problem but were of course unable to adjust it since it wasn't a Leica lens. A very nice chap at Robert White agreed to swap it out for another unit, but when he came to check their stock of Voigtlanders on the (correctly adjusted) shop M8, they ALL backfocused to exactly the same amount. His best guess is that Voigtlander lenses are calibrated fractionally differently to Leicas, because they're designed for Voigtlander cameras, and that this slight difference is exacerbated on the M8. But however you look at it, that turns out not to be the clever, cheaper option I'd hoped for. And the new 35mm f2.5 doesn't sound like it's going to float my wide-open-narrow-depth-of-field boat...)

 

I have the CV 40 mm Nokton & have not found backfocus a problem at all & I have tested it carefully both close up & at distance when wide open ...maybe I was lucky

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Leica UK cannot do any adjustments to M8s themselves. They all have to go back to Solms. Unlike their film sisters, which can be serviced over here.

 

I have had nothing but exemplary service from them.

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I am one of those (I think a quiet majority) that has had no problems with their 35 Lux. Its a great lens and I use it whenever I'm photographing people and/or low light. The 28 stays on my camera the most however.

 

I'm waiting for that 28 LUX

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Leica UK cannot do any adjustments to M8s themselves. They all have to go back to Solms. Unlike their film sisters, which can be serviced over here.

 

I have had nothing but exemplary service from them.

 

Good to know. But they didn't tell me that at first: they offered to test the camera with a view to establishing whether I qualified for a replacement. I've described what this "test" involved above. Their view was that I didn't qualify for a replacement because they couldn't establish a fault. Solms of course could, and fixed it. Clearly your experience has been better, but I'm afraid mine was very far of the "exemplary" mark.

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Guy,

 

I have Leica lenses in other focal lengths - 90/2.8 Elmarit, 50's Elmar and Noctilux. However when I decided on an M8 in December, I watched the complaints about both the 35 Summilux and Summicron on this and other forums and decided to go for a Zeiss Biogon 35. It is a great lens and ultra sharp but very high contrast. I have therefore supplemented it with a CV 35/1.2 Nokton for a faster and lower contrast lens. The two lenses cost about the same as a Summicron in total. I have tested both lenses for focus accuracy and both were spot on. If you get a good Lux or Cron in 35, they are great lenses. I was not prepared to take the risk and blood pressure process of getting it right.

 

Wilson

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I was not prepared to take the risk and blood pressure process of getting it right.

 

Wilson

 

I really know what you mean about the blood pressure!

 

There's a lot to think about here. I love what I'm getting from my corrected camera and adjusted lens. Superb pictures. But the lottery preceding that moment is a bit daunting.

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Hi Guy, I am one of those who went through backfocusing problems at all apertures with my first 35 Lux. Leica Solms suggested me to send it back with M8 body and all the lenses, although 28 Cron, 50 Lux and 75 Cron are spot on when I am accurate with focus. I went to the shop, tested new one, which is spot on wide open, has slight backfocus between f2.8 --> 5.6 and again excellent from f8 on.

I simply love this lens, especially wide open and I am using it 70 % of the time.

Have fun with it, Jaka

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Mine is also great, but I bought it from Eoin, who had already tested it. Personally, given Tim's experiences, I would not have bought an untested lens without a full, money-back guarantee. Tim's experience is that the lens was way out, so was another copy, on several M8s, and Leica sent it back unfixed, saying that it was within specs.

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