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Is an upgraded AF drive unit a must when buying Leica S lenses?


Reggieplaysbass

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Hello,

Hope everyone's doing well and staying safe. 

I've moved up to the Leica S top 007 system 6 months ago and so far have been having mixed results. Camera broke down and had to be shipped back to Germany. Got it back just in time before the quarantine started.

One of the reasons why I went with S system is to adapt my Contax 645 lenses and so far, these lenses on the S produce amazing results. 

I’ve been meaning to buy my first Leica S lens and have decided to go with the 70mm Summarit-S. While I’m more in favour of buying brand new, I’ve been seeing more affordable options around buy and sell forums like eBay and some local shops in Singapore where I live. 

I’m wondering if buying a lens with an upgraded AF drive unit makes a big difference in terms of performance and longevity (Given how much it costs to repair a Leica). Are there serial numbers I can use as a reference to know if the lens has an upgraded AF? Or is checking the production year enough?

Still weighing my options and would really appreciate your advice!

 

 

Best,

Reggie

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Hi Reggie,

You can e-mail Leica with the serial number of a lens and they can tell you whether it's been in with them for a AF motor upgrade.

Considering the relatively good prices than you can now get second-hand S lenses for I wouldn't worry too much as the charge to get the new AF motor fitted isn't too bad (EUR 236.86 for my Elmarit S 30mm). Any taxes and your shipping costs to get the lens to Germany would need to be added on, of course.  

Mark

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It is mostly a pain. A lens without a fixed motor is likely to fail at some point...faster with the 007 than the older models, as it focuses faster. But still, it is a pretty random failure with all sorts of factors -- wear and tear certainly, but also likely how good or bad the particular gear you got in your lens (a strong one or a weak one), how fast your camera focuses, probably the ambient conditions (cold makes plastic brittle, but plenty of people had failures in warm places) and any number of other factors. A few of my lenses failed, but my 120mm has not yet failed in 8 years, which is odd, as it is has the heaviest elements of all of them and is almost my second most used lens. I would say if you don't mind the uncertainty of having something potentially fail, you are ok. That said, I would recommend sending it in at some point over the next few years, as there is always a chance Leica might stop servicing the lenses, but there should be quite a bit of warning before anything like that happens. 

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It really comes-down to cost and loss of service.

I have taken advantage of a low price S lens, knowing that it would have to go to Germany for repair. In my case it was worthwhile. It delayed my enjoyment of the lens for a few weeks, but it also save me a considerable amount. Plus the lens came back as-new, fully serviced and inspected.

As long as you can bear to be without the lens for a few weeks (or more, I don't know what the turnaround is now), there is no real issue with buying a "non-updated" lens. Ask your local distributor how much it will cost to fix, and how long it will take, and take that into consideration when making an offer.

My 70mm hasn't failed yet. I am not particularly worried, but I guess it will eventually need to be repaired. At that point it will also be in need of a regular service, so the price will be quite fair.

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Thanks Stuart. perspective on purchasing second hand lenses really matters. Like with every purchase of used gear, one should factor in maintenance and repair which in this case is the inevitable upgrade of the AF motor.

Is also it safe to assume this is one of the reasons why most older S lenses drop lower in value in comparison to the M’s? Unlike the M’s, availability for repair and maintenance gives these lenses an expiry date? 

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Thank Bernard. I think that’s a good strategy going into purchasing an S lens factoring cost and time lost in repair.

Nice to know that the failure rate of the older 70mm lens is pretty low. Even more reassuring that you guys have confidence that in the event the motor fails, there’s access to fix it. 

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Don’t know about your location, but here in the US there are some reputable dealers that will only sell used S lenses that have the new motors (as well as ensuring new sensors in M9 based models), along with a short term dealer warranty and return policy (and in some cases, some Leica warranty). Leica Miami is one example, and one doesn’t need to live nearby to deal by phone and shipping.  Perhaps there are some dealers within your contact radius that do the same.  I prefer working with reputable dealers and building relationships.

Jeff

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I would say it is depend on price and budget. Of course, lenses with fixed motor are preferred :) 

Leica S glasses are one of few current lenses support full manual focus with real gear than Focus by Wire. (Both fuji and Hasselblad glasses are focus by wire other than latest 45mm f4P)  FBW are horrible in use. I use manual focus 90% with S gears unless the shooting distance is too far with lens wide open. So, most of my AF lenses are not with motor change and it never bother me. For landscape or tripod users, I don't see such a need, just pick lenses with good price and condition. For professional portrait, wedding, fashion, I feel lenses with motor fix is a must as you don't want anything happen during work. 

  

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Out of my seven S lenses, five had an AF motor failure, once during a shoot when I was paying a model, assistant, make-up artist and once in a workshop where my expensive camera became the laughing stock of the other participants (my buffer filling after a few shots and my expensive lens failing). On one occasion, two lenses failed on the same day...The repair turnaround was quick at about ten days, helped by my fantastic dealer here in Austria. So your decision whether to play it safe and buy a lens with a fixed motor or save some money by buying one that may still fail will depend on how much of a problem a failure will be for you (are you a pro or amateur) how many other lenses you will typically have with you when shooting (traveling light far away from home, with two lenses in your backpack vs. having a full set of with you lenses in a Peli case and being able to substitute a failed 100 with a working 120, for instance), how long you can wait for a repair and how quick the repair will be for you from where you live (I understand many countries have longer repair turnaround than my ten days). Right now, it may also depend on your estimate of how long the present lock-down will last, because the Leica factory is closed right now, I understand. 

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if you buy a lens without new notor you have to know:

a) lens can fail at some point and if its older than five years you  might have to pay repair with 300-400 $.

b) lens can fail in a bad moment (during travel or an important moment)

So IMO a lens with old style motor should be at least 400 $ lower in price, and then it depends how much you depend on that lens.

As an amateur with many S lenses and alternative gear (SL2) I can risk than any of my S lenses fails and I have to wait some weeks for repair.

If I was a pro with just a S and 3 lenses I would certainly not want any lens without new motor.

 

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10 hours ago, Reggieplaysbass said:

Thanks Stuart. perspective on purchasing second hand lenses really matters. Like with every purchase of used gear, one should factor in maintenance and repair which in this case is the inevitable upgrade of the AF motor.

Is also it safe to assume this is one of the reasons why most older S lenses drop lower in value in comparison to the M’s? Unlike the M’s, availability for repair and maintenance gives these lenses an expiry date? 

Yes, it is safe to assume that. But the main reason the S lenses lose so much value is that they could only practically be used on S cameras for most of their lifetime, and more recently they can be added to L mount bodies via adapter. They are big, heavy and the system overall was very expensive, so not too many people were interested. The people that were tended to already have the lenses. The S2 came out before the D800 and the high resolution 35mm cameras, and the S has had a slow rate of development compared to other camera systems, particularly 35mm, so I think that there was a large segment of users who just gave up or switched to smaller, lighter and less expensive systems that had higher resolution and more modern features. There just was not a big enough market for the lenses. Compare that to the M lenses, which can be adapted (regardless of how good the results may be) on film and digital bodies made for the last 65 years. The Leica R lens market grew substantially after mirrorless and good adapters. I imagine that if the S lenses could be adapted to Canon, Nikon, Sony and Fuji etc with auto-focus and auto-aperture, their price would skyrocket. Not sure this will happen though, as the system is still quite niche and Leica is unlikely to release the lens communication protocol to other manufacturers or adapter makers in China.

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vor 12 Stunden schrieb Reggieplaysbass:

Hello,

Hope everyone's doing well and staying safe. 

I've moved up to the Leica S top 007 system 6 months ago and so far have been having mixed results. Camera broke down and had to be shipped back to Germany. Got it back just in time before the quarantine started.

One of the reasons why I went with S system is to adapt my Contax 645 lenses and so far, these lenses on the S produce amazing results. 

I’ve been meaning to buy my first Leica S lens and have decided to go with the 70mm Summarit-S. While I’m more in favour of buying brand new, I’ve been seeing more affordable options around buy and sell forums like eBay and some local shops in Singapore where I live. 

I’m wondering if buying a lens with an upgraded AF drive unit makes a big difference in terms of performance and longevity (Given how much it costs to repair a Leica). Are there serial numbers I can use as a reference to know if the lens has an upgraded AF? Or is checking the production year enough?

Still weighing my options and would really appreciate your advice!

 

 

Best,

Reggie

If I may, what Contax lenses do you use on your S007? I avoided the AF failure fiasco (after my Leica 120 spent an unduly long time in the hospital in Germany) by getting the Contax-Leica adapter plus the 55 3/5 and the 80 f2 lenses. Very happy with these two, solid, reliable, really fine glass.

Re your initial question, I wouldn't worry too much about the risks. You can minimize the risk of course by buying lenses that are either new (not new old stock!) or have been upgraded with the new AF module (from certified dealers that tell you exactly what you will get). Your S007 adds a bit more mechanical stress on the lenses, mind. I am using an S006, and the 120 now behaves as it should (probably the best portrait lens I've ever owned).

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11 hours ago, Jeff S said:

Don’t know about your location, but here in the US there are some reputable dealers that will only sell used S lenses that have the new motors (as well as ensuring new sensors in M9 based models), along with a short term dealer warranty and return policy (and in some cases, some Leica warranty). Leica Miami is one example, and one doesn’t need to live nearby to deal by phone and shipping.  Perhaps there are some dealers within your contact radius that do the same.  I prefer working with reputable dealers and building relationships.

Jeff

Thanks Jeff. Singapore is pretty small so I usually depend on getting my gear from Japan and HK. Most of the time I find what I need in the country with some reputable dealers I know. but since Leica S lenses and accessories are so hard to find here, I’ll have to source it out abroad. Will have a look at Leica Miami’s inventory. Thanks for the tip.

 

7 hours ago, ZHNL said:

I would say it is depend on price and budget. Of course, lenses with fixed motor are preferred :) 

Leica S glasses are one of few current lenses support full manual focus with real gear than Focus by Wire. (Both fuji and Hasselblad glasses are focus by wire other than latest 45mm f4P)  FBW are horrible in use. I use manual focus 90% with S gears unless the shooting distance is too far with lens wide open. So, most of my AF lenses are not with motor change and it never bother me. For landscape or tripod users, I don't see such a need, just pick lenses with good price and condition. For professional portrait, wedding, fashion, I feel lenses with motor fix is a must as you don't want anything happen during work. 

  

I’ve tested a couple of S lenses and despite its AF speed and how it constantly hunts, the way it renders a photo still outweighs its flaws. But one would hope that it would last hence the AF upgrade concerns. But for my use, I think I can make do with MF 😀

 

6 hours ago, albireo_double said:

Out of my seven S lenses, five had an AF motor failure, once during a shoot when I was paying a model, assistant, make-up artist and once in a workshop where my expensive camera became the laughing stock of the other participants (my buffer filling after a few shots and my expensive lens failing). On one occasion, two lenses failed on the same day...The repair turnaround was quick at about ten days, helped by my fantastic dealer here in Austria. So your decision whether to play it safe and buy a lens with a fixed motor or save some money by buying one that may still fail will depend on how much of a problem a failure will be for you (are you a pro or amateur) how many other lenses you will typically have with you when shooting (traveling light far away from home, with two lenses in your backpack vs. having a full set of with you lenses in a Peli case and being able to substitute a failed 100 with a working 120, for instance), how long you can wait for a repair and how quick the repair will be for you from where you live (I understand many countries have longer repair turnaround than my ten days). Right now, it may also depend on your estimate of how long the present lock-down will last, because the Leica factory is closed right now, I understand. 

Wow, given your repeated experience of lens failing, I’m surprised you haven’t switched out yet. Definitely something to think about specially addressing repairs and upgrades.
My main system has been may Contax 645 and I have a couple of lenses I depend on on a regular basis. but as much as I love the planar 80mm f2, it hunts constantly (Missed a ton of great shots with that lens) and find the 70 summarit a more than worthy replacement. 

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5 hours ago, tom0511 said:

if you buy a lens without new notor you have to know:

a) lens can fail at some point and if its older than five years you  might have to pay repair with 300-400 $.

b) lens can fail in a bad moment (during travel or an important moment)

So IMO a lens with old style motor should be at least 400 $ lower in price, and then it depends how much you depend on that lens.

As an amateur with many S lenses and alternative gear (SL2) I can risk than any of my S lenses fails and I have to wait some weeks for repair.

If I was a pro with just a S and 3 lenses I would certainly not want any lens without new motor.

 

Thanks Tom. I do agree and it Really gives me something to think about. Given that 50mm is a focal length i use 80% of the time, I guess if I were to make a purchase just have to make sure i get something dependable and that lasts.

 

1 hour ago, HuntingSand said:

If I may, what Contax lenses do you use on your S007? I avoided the AF failure fiasco (after my Leica 120 spent an unduly long time in the hospital in Germany) by getting the Contax-Leica adapter plus the 55 3/5 and the 80 f2 lenses. Very happy with these two, solid, reliable, really fine glass.

Re your initial question, I wouldn't worry too much about the risks. You can minimize the risk of course by buying lenses that are either new (not new old stock!) or have been upgraded with the new AF module (from certified dealers that tell you exactly what you will get). Your S007 adds a bit more mechanical stress on the lenses, mind. I am using an S006, and the 120 now behaves as it should (probably the best portrait lens I've ever owned).

i have the planar 80mm f2, 35mm 3.2, 45mm 2.8, 120mm Apo makro, and the 140mm f2.8. All fantastic lenses and shines on the S. But majority of the time I use the 80mm f2 for travel and portraiture. Sadly it’s also the one that hunts like crazy. Maybe it’s the copy I own. But compared to the rest, the 80 is where I’ve missed the most shots as well.
Noted on minimizing risks. One less thing to worry about specially I’ve already had my 007 break down a few months ago.

 

 

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31 minutes ago, Reggieplaysbass said:

Will have a look at Leica Miami’s inventory. Thanks for the tip.

 

I see an S35 (new motor, of course) listed, but no others for now.  Still worth checking with Josh, who runs the used area, and he’ll know the bigger picture.  First class operation, run by David Farkas.

Jeff

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22 minutes ago, Jeff S said:

I see an S35 (new motor, of course) listed, but no others for now.  Still worth checking with Josh, who runs the used area, and he’ll know the bigger picture.  First class operation, run by David Farkas.

Jeff

@Reggieplaysbass, an S120 was also listed today at the Leica Store Miami...  Look at newly listed used inventory... not on the S lens page yet.

Edited by davidmknoble
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That’s why it’s worth contacting Josh.  He’ll know if other S lenses might be coming in trade or return from Leica Service, etc.  Things can change daily.  He can also put you on a wait list.  A couple of years ago I called on a Friday to put myself on a list for a mint used first version Monochrom.  None were available. Josh called me Monday morning, 3 days later,  to ask if I wanted one that just came back from Leica with new sensor and full service.  Still a gem.  Also got a mint SL 90-280 from them this year, just before the tariff related price increases, which later affected all used inventory in order to main pricing relationships between new and used gear... that’s good business.

Jeff

Edited by Jeff S
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