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35mm Summilux - do I dare?

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The 35 Lux Asph can have the most amazing fingerprint wide open, and very rarely can have some horrible bokeh with strong colours. But in general I'd have to say the contrast is just perfect, colour is strong, images are super super super sharp wide open. Almost a faultless lens except it was just not the focal length for me.

 

I had the chrome version, very heavy but reassuringly very solid with what I'd consider a better weight on the focus ring. Also the chromes were never reported with any focus issues. But no longer available new.

 

Recommended 110% if that's your focal length.

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Carsten gave an accurate account of Tim's problems with his 35/1.4's. When Tim then had the same problem but to a lesser degree with the 35/2 with which he replaced the Summiluxes, he was finally able to explain to Solms the kind of problem he was experiencing.

 

That was the breakthrough moment in the story, in my opinion. It is since that time that other customers have been able to have their lenses adjusted without problem, and it is since that time that Leica seems to be recognizing that the ways they tested lenses before are inadequate for digital.

 

In other words, Tim's was a horror story of "Yes, sir, your description is correct; the lens is functioning as it is designed to"; it sounds as if they did not bother to photograph with the lenses, but simply tested them on the same inadequate test equipment they had used to pass the lens initially.

 

But that inadequacy is now history (thanks greatly to Tim's forceful following up with the 35 Summicron) and IMHO though there may still be backfocusing 35 Summiluxes on the market, Leica now understands how to fix them quickly and efficiently.

 

--HC

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I am also one of those with no problems with their 35 Summilux. Although my Summilux is the pre-asph version. Which is also great on the M8 at a better price point. I also feel the pre-asph is a better performer with the M8 than on film Ms. Makes a great normal lens on the M8.

 

gene

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Carsten gave an accurate account of Tim's problems with his 35/1.4's. When Tim then had the same problem but to a lesser degree with the 35/2 with which he replaced the Summiluxes, he was finally able to explain to Solms the kind of problem he was experiencing.

 

That was the breakthrough moment in the story, in my opinion. It is since that time that other customers have been able to have their lenses adjusted without problem, and it is since that time that Leica seems to be recognizing that the ways they tested lenses before are inadequate for digital.

 

In other words, Tim's was a horror story of "Yes, sir, your description is correct; the lens is functioning as it is designed to"; it sounds as if they did not bother to photograph with the lenses, but simply tested them on the same inadequate test equipment they had used to pass the lens initially.

 

But that inadequacy is now history (thanks greatly to Tim's forceful following up with the 35 Summicron) and IMHO though there may still be backfocusing 35 Summiluxes on the market, Leica now understands how to fix them quickly and efficiently.

 

--HC

 

Howard,

 

If you talked to Edmund, you might get a less rosy picture. I think his 35 Lux is now on its 4th visit to Solms. However in general, I would agree that they are improving. My Noctilux came back after its second visit near perfect. My guess is that their testing rigs were simply worn and were not holding each lens in a perfect register. The methodology was antiquated but should have been adequate. It was proved to be inadequate, so either it was incorrect, sloppy procedures or worn equipment. Given the ethos at Leica, I would plump for the latter.

 

Wilson

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I

(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...)

 

The 40 Nokton shows some focus shift but it should not show backfocus with an M8 that has a correctly adjusted rangefinder. I looked at this in my review of the lens. Also, one can no more generalize about focus shift with CV lenses based on the 40/1.4 than he or she can generalize about the same affect from Leica lenses based on the 35/1.4 Asph. With all three RF lens manufacturers (CV, Leica and Zeiss) some specific models show focus shift and others do not. It isn't a problem that is specific to any one brand.

 

The "calibrated differently" hypothesis put forward by the salesman is not confirmed by the many tests I've done of RF lenses.

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The 40 Nokton shows some focus shift but it should not show backfocus with an M8 that has a correctly adjusted rangefinder. I looked at this in my review of the lens. Also, one can no more generalize about focus shift with CV lenses based on the 40/1.4 than he or she can generalize about the same affect from Leica lenses based on the 35/1.4 Asph. With all three RF lens manufacturers (CV, Leica and Zeiss) some specific models show focus shift and others do not. It isn't a problem that is specific to any one brand.

 

The "calibrated differently" hypothesis put forward by the salesman is not confirmed by the many tests I've done of RF lenses.

 

Sean,

 

I agree. My two most accurate lenses for focus are the CV35/1.2 Nokton and the 90/2.8 Elmarit.

 

Wilson

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The 40 Nokton shows some focus shift but it should not show backfocus with an M8 that has a correctly adjusted rangefinder. [...] The "calibrated differently" hypothesis put forward by the salesman is not confirmed by the many tests I've done of RF lenses.

 

Sean, that's really interesting. I really liked the Nokton on paper: right aperture, right length, single-coated etc. It sounded perfect for me. When I quoted the guy at Robert White, I was just passing on what I'd been told, which seemed to suggest to me that I'd have to scrap the Nokton and go for a Leica 35. Frankly I'd be much happier to have a working Nokton at the moment, for a number of reasons, not least the gaping price difference.

 

I still have the Nokton since I'm abroad at the moment and can't return it to the shop til I'm back in the UK. They've very generously agreed to allow me to hang on to it in the meantime as long as I keep it in its box and don't use it. It really does backfocus very obviously with the lens wide open, which is where I'd want to use it most. But given my experience with Leica UK themselves "testing" lenses on M8 bodies which turned out to have the same misadjusted rangefinder as mine, do you think it's worth my instead swapping this Nokton – the thinking being that perhaps it's a dud lens but that the others in the shop might be better *despite* what the salesman found when he tested them (ie, that his M8 might be faulty)?

 

Further, does anyone know of a reasonably economical way to get a Voigtlander lens adjusted in the UK? Robert White suggested this simply wouldn't be cost-effective, but you guys may know differently. If I could get the Nokton working I'd be a very happy bunny indeed, and could put my Leica 35 savings towards a 28 Lux instead...

 

Many thanks, again, for everyone's help with this.

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PS I should perhaps have pointed out that when I said that the shop's M8 was "correctly adjusted", I was once again just quoting what the salesman told me...!

 

PPS And Sean, I should also have said that your Luminous Landscape review of fast lenses was instrumental in my choice of the Nokton in the first place, so I have been trying to do my homework ;-)

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Further, does anyone know of a reasonably economical way to get a Voigtlander lens adjusted in the UK? Robert White suggested this simply wouldn't be cost-effective, but you guys may know differently. If I could get the Nokton working I'd be a very happy bunny indeed, and could put my Leica 35 savings towards a 28 Lux instead...

 

Many thanks, again, for everyone's help with this.

 

Guy,

 

You could try Malcolm Taylor, if he is not underwater at the moment as he is in THAT part of the country. I have sent a couple of people to him plus I have used him my self, as does Leica UK from time to time. He has a full optical bench set up and if anyone could help you he could. If you are interested, PM me and I will give you contact details.

 

Wilson

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There is a very interesting and balanced article on the Summilux 35 asph and focus shift in the newest LFI. Basically they say the problem cannot be resolved within the current design without compromising quality at maximum aperture (the way Zeiss seems to have done) and the only solution will be a new design with a floating element. The M8 is simply too critical.

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There is a very interesting and balanced article on the Summilux 35 asph and focus shift in the newest LFI. Basically they say the problem cannot be resolved within the current design without compromising quality at maximum aperture (the way Zeiss seems to have done) and the only solution will be a new design with a floating element. The M8 is simply too critical.

 

Jaap,

 

I too have just put down the LFI article. I think, I am afraid, it makes a terribly good argument for the Biogon 35 rather than the Summicron, which like the Summilux also suffers quite bad aperture shift and maybe also for the CV 35/1.2 Nokton rather than a Summilux. How often do I use F2 on the Biogon - probably less than 20% of the time and have I noticed any softness - only once or twice. Does it make sense to compromise 80% of your images for a marginal improvement on 20% - not in my book. If I need to go faster, I always have my Nokton 35/1.2, which draws very differently from the B35 and in general is better on people that the B35, which seems to find blemishes on the best complexion.

 

As a take anywhere pair, when I don't want to carry a Billingham, for me it's the Biogon 35 and Elmar-M 50.

 

Wilson

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There is a very interesting and balanced article on the Summilux 35 asph and focus shift in the newest LFI. Basically they say the problem cannot be resolved within the current design without compromising quality at maximum aperture (the way Zeiss seems to have done) and the only solution will be a new design with a floating element. The M8 is simply too critical.

 

pretty much the reason i sold the lux in favor of a new cron. My Lux had a focus shift that i decided was not worth fighting the problem and bought a brand new Cron which does perform very well.

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Jaap,

 

I too have just put down the LFI article. I think, I am afraid, it makes a terribly good argument for the Biogon 35 rather than the Summicron, which like the Summilux also suffers quite bad aperture shift and maybe also for the CV 35/1.2 Nokton rather than a Summilux. How often do I use F2 on the Biogon - probably less than 20% of the time and have I noticed any softness - only once or twice. Does it make sense to compromise 80% of your images for a marginal improvement on 20% - not in my book. If I need to go faster, I always have my Nokton 35/1.2, which draws very differently from the B35 and in general is better on people that the B35, which seems to find blemishes on the best complexion.

 

As a take anywhere pair, when I don't want to carry a Billingham, for me it's the Biogon 35 and Elmar-M 50.

 

Wilson

 

My Summicron 35 asph chrome has no preceptible focus shift in daily use. It is a darn sharp and well-focussing lens at all apertures

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My Summicron 35 asph chrome has no preceptible focus shift in daily use. It is a darn sharp and well-focussing lens at all apertures

 

The problem ones all seem to have been black. Maybe it is the aluminium barrel at fault and the brass barrels on the chrome lenses are OK.

 

Wilson

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It sure does make you wonder that the chrome has no reported issues as does earlier black Asphs but newer ones seem to be the ones that have this shift. It makes you think what has changed.

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It sure does make you wonder that the chrome has no reported issues as does earlier black Asphs but newer ones seem to be the ones that have this shift. It makes you think what has changed.

 

Eoin,

 

I would not be surprised if the barrels are no longer being made in house. The alloy and brass barrels may be made by different companies. Brass is much easier to machine accurately than alloy. Given that we are aware that Leica's QC is not up to scratch at present, out of spec barrels may be reaching the assembly stage. The correct way to size an outside sourced (if it is) component like this on a modern production line is with a laser against an electronic template but that sort of technology does not come cheap.

 

Wilson

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It sure does make you wonder that the chrome has no reported issues as does earlier black Asphs but newer ones seem to be the ones that have this shift. It makes you think what has changed.

It could be something as simple as one part of the tooling required for the manufacturing going out of spec, and being replaced. I think it is more likely that the new ones have problems, and the old ones less so, than the chrome ones being better. How many problems have owners of older black copies reported?

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Carsten, that's what I'm saying, it seems the majority of complaints seem to originate from newer manufactured lenses and not necessarily chrome or black from previous batches. The issue seems by all reports fairly recent(1 year at a guess). I don't know what's gone wrong but it's not limited to the 35 Lux Asph.

As you know my M8 departed today on it's journey back to solms accompanied by the "nothing in focus till f:/8" brand new Noctilux and my new 28 Summicron which is front focusing.

Your guess is as good as mine, but at the end of the day I'm purely speculating. The most important point here is now top of peoples mind when ever they get a new lens they have to check it for focus and it's surprising how many people have issues. Is it just a digital thing?, people were blissfully unaware with their 6 x 4 or 10 x 8's or slides?. I don't think so, so many of these same lenses are now being used on the M8 today without issues. But not a day seems to go by when someone reports a newly purchased lens giving focus problems. Well perhaps that's an exaggeration, but these stories seem to surface in droves once a thread is started on the subject.

 

The side effect of this is a knocking of confidence in the quality we all seem to hold so dear, we as onlookers have been effected by these problems, many first hand with our M8's having to be returned from the first batch, others with lenses having to be returned. Does it seem to effect our loyalty?, no, we are the hard core in our love of all(most) things Leica. But at some point these issues will have an impact on both current and future customers, if the matters are not addressed and quickly.

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But at some point these issues will have an impact on both current and future customers, if the matters are not addressed and quickly.

 

I agree. I thought I'd done a lot of research before I bought the M8 / 21 Elmarit combination, in that I'd read reviews, was fully aware of the IR issue (but didn't really care – the pros outweighed the cons on that one) and so forth. But clearly I didn't do *enough* homework, because the focusing thing took me completely by surprise. I started this thread because I'm now cautious to the point of trepidation about buying a new Leica lens.

 

I'm a brand new Leica user and so far have just the M8 and 21 Elmarit. I have, then, a whole stable of Leica glass ahead of me. I am, in other words, Leica marketing's wet dream. (Certainly Nikon are weeping into their cups now I've jumped ship.) So for me to be nervous about buying my next lens from Leica because I don't know if it's going to, y'know, actually WORK – I would have thought that's a failure of confidence that they need to address very, very swiftly.

 

I don't regret the M8 decision: now that its rangefinder is within tolerance and the Elmarit is adjusted, it's beautiful. I love it. The photos are wonderful. But let's all sing it together now: it should've been this way from the start...

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