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fursan

Is it too much to ask? ( long rant )

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After reading a lot on the ZM Sonnar-C (and the article in LFI about the 35mm Lux), I realized that there is some focus shift in the design. 90AA is an example where focusing close up (10 feet or nearer) is no good while focusing 10 feet or further will demonstrate 90AA in all its glory. Are we expecting too much or are we to live with the "constraints"?

 

I think we have to see it as 2 things:

1) front/backfocus because of not accurate calibrated lens -> should be possible to solve this problem by better quality control and propriate check from Leica side (and thats what I just expect from Leica)

2) front/backfocus caused by focus shift -> not so easy to solve. I dont like it but as long as I know it in advance (Like the 50Sonnar, 35luxasph or Noctilux) I can either accept it or use/buy different lenses; personally I get along with it

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There actually IS a reason why Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Zeiss etc. quit building rangefinders and switched to SLRs - and why most photographers happily went along with them - once the SLR mechanism became cheap and fairly reliable (c. 1955-65). The SLR view system (assuming Nikon F/Canon F1/Leicaflex-scale viewfinder magnifications, not the postage stamps available in most DLSRs today) makes for better focusing reliability across a wider range of lenses, and is cheaper and less prone to adjustment issures, to boot.

 

Most photographers quickly reserved their Leica Ms for the 21-50mm range once SLRs were available, because in that range (and only in that range) they are/were as easy or easier to focus than an SLR. (Think of using a 21 f/3.4 Super-Angulon - much easier to focus fast via snapping the RF images together in a dark bar than trying to tell if a 20-21mm lens is focused using a groundglass.)

 

The sole advantage to the RF system of focusing is that it made for a (usually) smaller, lighter, faster, quieter camera, with smaller lenses (no bulk needed to fit in auto-aperture or AF mechanisms) and allowed for some other attributes that some find useful (outside-the-frame viewing, the offset corner viewfinder if one is right-eyed) - IF one was willing to accept the limitations of the system.

 

For really fast moment-catching use wide-open, I still find the upper limit of the Leica to be 50mm - which is fortunately now a short portrait tele on the M8. I use the longer lenses in a more contemplative style and at f/4-5.6 most of the time - or chimp the results to make sure my "120 f/2" lens was really focused.

 

This is not so different from my film-M experience - in fact in general I find the M8 to be an improvement in that the 50 as a short tele is easier to nail focus with than even the 75 f/2 was on film (but let's not wander into the old "equivalent DOF" debate).

 

It is not possible to "calibrate" a rangefinder system to handle much more than a 50 f/2 totally reliably, because part of the optical system is one's own eyeball, and Leica can't do much about that. For me, there is often a "dead zone" in the RF patch wherein small movements of the focus ring do not produce a visible change in the RF images (although with a fast lens the same movements ARE producing a visible shift in the actual focus point) - even with the 1.25x magnifier.

 

Leica produces some lenses that are well outside my own comfort zone for reliable RF use - and that's fine, because someone somewhere may be able to make use of them.

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Hi Fursan,

 

I've been away from the forum for a while and when I returned and saw your post I thought 'poor guy, how frustrating for him, what he says is true but in the end you just have to get zen with what the gear does or give up and sell it.'

 

Then I decided to test a hunch I've had from shooting over the summer. The context is, I've had a bad back (now healed) and so have done less shooting than usual and might blame any blur on my physical state. But in fact I had good reason to suspect that something else was at play.

 

I have two M8 bodies (one black one chrome) and if I ignore my CV lenses for a moment I also have a WATE, 28 cron, 35 cron, 50 lux, Nocti (as a loaner), 75 cron and 90 F4 Macro. I also have an MP. Both M8 bodies have been back to Solms this year to have their RFs re-calibrated. This was done in full knowledge on my part that the famous 'focus shift' issue is a reality that won't go away with calibration: I was one of the first to notice and test for it on the M8, and that saga is documented at great length in other threads here.

 

Anyways: I had noticed over the summer that I was getting better focus, consistently, on the black than the chrome body. The lenses I use most, because I travel with them, are a CV15mm, 28 cron, 50 lux and 90 macro and I found that the black body was generally good and reliable but that the chrome body seemed to focus badly with the 50 lux in particular ever since its RF was re-calibrated. But I was in Zen mode, thinking that I could not be bothered to go through the whole testing rigmarole again. Then I looked once more at my sister's wedding shots and thought, 'that was a big big day and my focus hit-rate was not good enough with that chrome body and actually that p****s me off because she doesn't get married every day'.

 

So this morning I wearily got out all the lenses, tripod, lens test chart, blah blah blah. I did a very simple test: Every lens, wide open and at F4, on both bodies, at 1.1 metres.

 

And I found exactly what I suspected: the black body is good throughout (with one unanticipated exception: it doesn't focus the 75 cron well wide open, and I did re-test this) and the chrome body is less sharp, sometimes unacceptably so. The 50 lux on the black body gives such sharp results that they look exactly like the never-shot-or-printed vector file of the test chart at 100% on screen. That's why I love the M8. But the chrome body, though stellar on the 75 cron, is poor on everything else - and it's only taken about 400 shots since it was recalibrated.

 

BTW the loaner Nocti was useless on both bodies but worst on the Chrome at F4, where the lens chart looked like soup.

 

If I could draw a lesson from this it would be:

 

I could send the chrome body in for re-cal once again, before its warranty runs out but that might achieve nothing. OR I could use the black body for everything apart from the 75 cron, but then I'd have to carry two bodies. OR I could sell the chrome body with the 75 Cron and thank God that I have an M8 that performs really well with all the other lenses. OR I could throw a final hissy-fit, claim quite correctly that I've spent a year and a lot of money (well over 40K US Dollars) buggering about with all this and that I want to give up, shove the lot on eBay, and buy something else.

 

The trouble is, what is that something else?

 

In point of fact despite the ENDLESS frustrations of all this, I still don't believe that I will get the same combination of quality of result, ease of portability and good ergonomics with any other existing camera. I still don't use my Canon 5d, haven't done for a year, because my experience with the M8 is that for me at least it is the only camera with which I feel comfortable doing certain kinds of work.

 

So in the end, though of course (and at these prices) every M8 should work reliably with all recommended M lenses (especially current, coded models) at all F stops, and though is is damned damned damned annoying that this is not the case, it remains one baby which I don't want to chuck out with the bath-water. But I can tell you one thing: if another manufacturer comes out with another RF with similar quality of image file, handling and glass but more consistent and predictable performance, I will ditch my Leica in a heartbeat! I just happen to be 98% certain that that won't happen...

 

Tim

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Zeiss would be the only possible contender, I think, since the Voigtlaender Bessas have a much narrower rangefinder, and not nearly the quality. I don't like the high-contrast Zeiss philosophy though, nor do I want to fiddle with 1/3 stops.

 

I have the same annoyances, but when I think about all my favorite things in life, none are perfect. My Mac hangs and crashes, my Stevens bicycle is developing some squeeks, and my movie projector is not bright enough. Then again, they are all the best compromises I have found, and I will not sell or trade any of them.

 

The Leica rangefinder system was the best there was within its tolerance with film, and the problems were minimal. The accuracy of the M8 has shown up a series of problems, and I am certain that Leica is no happier to hear our complaints than we are to make them. There will be improvements coming in the future, I am certain of it. Meanwhile, we (and Leica) have to make the best of an imperfect situation and system, and just get the most mileage out of what we have.

 

I wonder if a large proportion of the 36 lenses Leica is designing are re-designed M lenses, designed for more focus accuracy and reliability, as well as more careful tunability at the factory, but with otherwise identical or nearly identical optical formulas? The whole emphasis has surely shifted with the M8, and a higher resolution M9 would only exacerbate the whole issue.

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Tim - Welcome back. Sorry to hear about your back; backs can be buggers can't they.

 

Your focus issues were indeed an epic, but you seem to have thrown another spanner into the works. The former wisdom was that chrome lenses tended to be less susceptible to the focus problems than black ones, and the likelihood was that chrome lenses were more used on chrome bodies. It seems you have just pointed a finger of suspicion at chrome bodies? Boy, it's hard keeping up with this stuff.

 

............... Chris

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Tim - Welcome back. Sorry to hear about your back; backs can be buggers can't they.

 

Your focus issues were indeed an epic, but you seem to have thrown another spanner into the works. The former wisdom was that chrome lenses tended to be less susceptible to the focus problems than black ones, and the likelihood was that chrome lenses were more used on chrome bodies. It seems you have just pointed a finger of suspicion at chrome bodies? Boy, it's hard keeping up with this stuff.

 

............... Chris

 

Hi Chris,

 

Thanks!

 

I've given up trying to determine any overall rhyme, but I do think I get the reason, and it's what we suspected all along: the tolerances are extremely extremely fine and tiny tweaks make a difference as to whether a particular lens/body combo achieve perfection. I've just had to adopt the philosophy that perfection is a bonus and that as long as I get 'good or better' most of the time, that will have to do! I just ran a full focus test on the chrome body now I have isolated it as the less accurate focuser with nearly all lenses and I can tell you that on my reference lens, the 50 lux, the chrome body at one meter simply focusses 3 to 4mm further back than the black body. That means that the focus shift becomes an issue with that body and not with the black body, which is set to very very slightly front focus when full open.

 

I'm not even sending the chrome back to Solms: I honestly believe that these degrees of adjustment are easier done using the focus ring than a calibration rig - and it's quicker!

 

The only answer seems to be: know what every body does with every lens at every f stop. Blimey, that means that acquiring very subtle skills will give better results.

 

Scary, eh?

 

;-)

 

Tim

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I have the same annoyances, but when I think about all my favorite things in life, none are perfect. My Mac hangs and crashes, my Stevens bicycle is developing some squeeks, and my movie projector is not bright enough. Then again, they are all the best compromises I have found, and I will not sell or trade any of them.

 

 

 

I wonder if a large proportion of the 36 lenses Leica is designing are re-designed M lenses, designed for more focus accuracy and reliability, as well as more careful tunability at the factory, but with otherwise identical or nearly identical optical formulas? The whole emphasis has surely shifted with the M8, and a higher resolution M9 would only exacerbate the whole issue.

 

 

I agree entirely Carsten. I hate to make the Ferrari analogy because it says some of the wrong things about why one might be attracted to a premium brand, but historically, very very highly tuned performers tend to be very highly strung and need finer and more frequent adjustment and higher levels of skill.

 

One thing though: I don't see myself buying the Summarits even if they are better behaved: I want the extra speed of the lenses I already have!

 

Best

 

Tim

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Similar issues appear with DSLRs and manual focus.

 

For 'just missed' focus attempts, the theory is that digital sensors, unlike film emulsions, have no 'depth' The image is either at critical focus EXACTLY on the reception plane of the sensor or you get a 'just missed' soft image. There is NO margin for error, as miniscule as it might be on film, with a digital sensor.

 

Misalingments issues don't have to be large - mfg tolerances in the lens, camera body and RF mechanism, when in the right planetary alingment can cause an issue when additive - or they can cancel one another out just enough to avoid an issue on a particular camera. Put that lens on another body and it could misfocus.

 

As for gross focus issues -- one drawback of the increased popularity of the M system (other than cost) will be new to RF (or even cameras) users, more and more folks new to photography (or simply wanting to carry a chic digicam) mishandling lenses and cameras then (unwittingly) selling them used (and in need of adjustment).

 

A secondary drawback to hot demand can be production QC not keeping up with the desire to get product out the door to feed the demand.

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I've heard that somewhere before....<G>

 

Best,

 

Sean

 

Yes Sean I have read this in your reviews along with many other useful points but it really is an old axiom. Studies done at various times going back decades have shown that shooting hand held or with autofocus or with speeds slower then 1/500 limits your maximum resolution to a number 1/2 or 1/3 of what Leica lenses are capable of.

 

And I would also agree with your advice of starting by verifying the accuracy of the RF and then if you adjust any lens make sure it's done to a standard by a competent tech. Matching lens to a camera that might be off will have you chasing your tail. Rangefinders are complex mechanical devices and a knock can throw them off. My Plaubel 670 RF went in for service once a year to get adjusted, the Mamiya 7 RF seemed to need tweaking monthly. The Leica finder by comparison is really robust and tends to keep in spec unless subjected to shock.

 

The shift from film to digital will require rethinking every component of the system. From optical design to the finder, of course all the while Leica will never be able to admit they are optimizing anything for digital as oposed to film. The M8 can provide reliable repeatable results, otherwise I wouldn't be using it. But it can take some effort to get everything configured. Hopefully things will get easier as the system develops.

 

Fursan -Maybe it would be best for now if you used your Nikons for everything 50 and longer and used the M8 for wide to normal applications. Give you time to get acquainted with the system and enjoy it more with less frustration.

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And I would also agree with your advice of starting by verifying the accuracy of the RF and then if you adjust any lens make sure it's done to a standard by a competent tech. Matching lens to a camera that might be off will have you chasing your tail. Rangefinders are complex mechanical devices and a knock can throw them off.

 

Exactly. I believe in starting with the simplest steps first and I think the first step anyone with M8 focus problems (preferably confirmed by another experienced RF photographer) should do is to make sure the RF itself is adjusted correctly. This is basically the same RF unit that's in the M7 and is an evolution of the original in 1954. RF cameras have always had the potential for misadjustment (especially if they are dropped, etc.) but many people working with film haven't been as critical about focus and sometimes the cameras stay slightly mis-adjusted.

 

Cheers,

 

Sean

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Yes Sean I have read this in your reviews along with many other useful points but it really is an old axiom. Studies done at various times going back decades have shown that shooting hand held or with autofocus or with speeds slower then 1/500 limits your maximum resolution to a number 1/2 or 1/3 of what Leica lenses are capable of.

 

Hi Hank,

 

Of course. I was just teasing you.

 

Cheers,

 

Sean

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If Leica could get their in-house quality control up to standard, perhaps the price of the M8 wouldn't be shooting up

 

My brand-new M8 and brand-new 21mm Elmarit backfocused quite drastically. Back they went to Solms at Leica's expense. Both the rangefinder and the lens were adjusted, and everything was smiles until I bought a brand-new 50mm Summilux. That backfocused too. It, plus the 21mm and the body, went back again. It's due with me today and this time just the 50mm has needed adjustment – which at least is as I'd hope it would be. But that's two round-trips to Germany, plus however many hours of engineer's wages, that Leica is out. That's got to be hurting their profit margin. And the thing that bugs me is that if they can see there's a problem once I tell them there is, why can't they see there's a problem in the first place and fix it before shipping the lens?

 

Basically I can't help feeling that the poor saps who buy the M8 after the price increase are effectively paying for my repair bills on inadequately-controlled kit...

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Tim, welcome back. hope your back comtinues to improve. have to dash. talk

to you later.

 

thanks

 

Hi Fursan,

 

I've been away from the forum for a while and when I returned and saw your post I thought 'poor guy, how frustrating for him, what he says is true but in the end you just have to get zen with what the gear does or give up and sell it.'

 

Then I decided to test a hunch I've had from shooting over the summer. The context is, I've had a bad back (now healed) and so have done less shooting than usual and might blame any blur on my physical state. But in fact I had good reason to suspect that something else was at play.

 

I have two M8 bodies (one black one chrome) and if I ignore my CV lenses for a moment I also have a WATE, 28 cron, 35 cron, 50 lux, Nocti (as a loaner), 75 cron and 90 F4 Macro. I also have an MP. Both M8 bodies have been back to Solms this year to have their RFs re-calibrated. This was done in full knowledge on my part that the famous 'focus shift' issue is a reality that won't go away with calibration: I was one of the first to notice and test for it on the M8, and that saga is documented at great length in other threads here.

 

Anyways: I had noticed over the summer that I was getting better focus, consistently, on the black than the chrome body. The lenses I use most, because I travel with them, are a CV15mm, 28 cron, 50 lux and 90 macro and I found that the black body was generally good and reliable but that the chrome body seemed to focus badly with the 50 lux in particular ever since its RF was re-calibrated. But I was in Zen mode, thinking that I could not be bothered to go through the whole testing rigmarole again. Then I looked once more at my sister's wedding shots and thought, 'that was a big big day and my focus hit-rate was not good enough with that chrome body and actually that p****s me off because she doesn't get married every day'.

 

So this morning I wearily got out all the lenses, tripod, lens test chart, blah blah blah. I did a very simple test: Every lens, wide open and at F4, on both bodies, at 1.1 metres.

 

And I found exactly what I suspected: the black body is good throughout (with one unanticipated exception: it doesn't focus the 75 cron well wide open, and I did re-test this) and the chrome body is less sharp, sometimes unacceptably so. The 50 lux on the black body gives such sharp results that they look exactly like the never-shot-or-printed vector file of the test chart at 100% on screen. That's why I love the M8. But the chrome body, though stellar on the 75 cron, is poor on everything else - and it's only taken about 400 shots since it was recalibrated.

 

BTW the loaner Nocti was useless on both bodies but worst on the Chrome at F4, where the lens chart looked like soup.

 

If I could draw a lesson from this it would be:

 

I could send the chrome body in for re-cal once again, before its warranty runs out but that might achieve nothing. OR I could use the black body for everything apart from the 75 cron, but then I'd have to carry two bodies. OR I could sell the chrome body with the 75 Cron and thank God that I have an M8 that performs really well with all the other lenses. OR I could throw a final hissy-fit, claim quite correctly that I've spent a year and a lot of money (well over 40K US Dollars) buggering about with all this and that I want to give up, shove the lot on eBay, and buy something else.

 

The trouble is, what is that something else?

 

In point of fact despite the ENDLESS frustrations of all this, I still don't believe that I will get the same combination of quality of result, ease of portability and good ergonomics with any other existing camera. I still don't use my Canon 5d, haven't done for a year, because my experience with the M8 is that for me at least it is the only camera with which I feel comfortable doing certain kinds of work.

 

So in the end, though of course (and at these prices) every M8 should work reliably with all recommended M lenses (especially current, coded models) at all F stops, and though is is damned damned damned annoying that this is not the case, it remains one baby which I don't want to chuck out with the bath-water. But I can tell you one thing: if another manufacturer comes out with another RF with similar quality of image file, handling and glass but more consistent and predictable performance, I will ditch my Leica in a heartbeat! I just happen to be 98% certain that that won't happen...

 

Tim

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Sean , thanks. I shall give it another try, though.

 

bye

 

Hi Fursan,

 

I haven't yet seen all of the posts here but some M8s (brand new) may have rangefinders

.

.

.

 

Again, the *production* copies of the M8 I've used have all had rangefinders that have been adjusted correctly.

 

Cheers,

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Hi Folks,

 

I would like to thank all of you that have provided valuable suggestions and your

impressions of the issues ( real or imagined by me ) and ways, i might resolve them.

 

I shall keep on trying ( and b**ching and moaning ), but i like the M system too much

to quit now or sell it. unless something equal to it is offered as an alternative!

 

Once more, all your input is gratefully acknowleded.

 

Best regards.

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Hi Folks,

 

I would like to thank all of you that have provided valuable suggestions and your

impressions of the issues ( real or imagined by me ) and ways, i might resolve them.

 

I shall keep on trying ( and b**ching and moaning ), but i like the M system too much

to quit now or sell it. unless something equal to it is offered as an alternative!

 

Once more, all your input is gratefully acknowleded.

 

Best regards.

 

I agree - lets tell Leica that they shall work on this issue but dont let us get too frustrated. One think I learned - if you once get a lens which works perfect on your body- dont ever sell it.

cheers, Tom

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I may be castigated for making the following statement but I'm going to anyway. This is in no way directed at you Fursan, your thread simply has gotten me thinking about this. I well and truely believe that a large percentage of focus issues with the m8 are "operator error". I remember learning rangefinder focussing with a 3b and various m cameras to be a long journey, not something that happened overnight. I also don't believe that Leica's ability to put on the market properly calibrated lenses and rangefinders has all of a sudden evaporated. Prior to the m8 you very rarely heard a soul complain about lens and rangefinder accuracy. Did they lose their mojo sometime between say setember of last year and hmmm say october of last year? Don't think so. Did heaps of folks who have never used a rangefinder start to pop-up in these previously obscure forums on the internet around say november of last year? Yup.

an interesting thing that comes to mind for me is how long it took me to learn to make a flat horizon on a rangefinder camera. I was starting to think my m6 had a crooked gate (silly me) but I realized i was sort-of tilting to the right at the last moment of composition and then CLICK. Now if you did like I did but your tilt is forward or backwards, and you are using a Noctilux, summilux or other lenses with severely short depth of field, your photo is not in focus. Noone has problems focussing elmarits eh? Mostly lenses with focal planes barely thicker than a lens cap. Add to the mix that most people here ain't spring chickens anymore(deteriorating vision-sorry), and not much static realities these days....you know what I'm getting at...operator error. A friend used to tell me the old adage.....if the horse bucks you-get right back on it and ride. This could apply here. Thanks for listening and no offense to anyone who reads this....Brad

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Brad,

 

As far as I am concerned, I have not taken what you have said as being directed at me. Even it was, there is no offense intended and there is nothing I should get uptight

about.

 

On the contrary, I thank you for your experienced comments and your hex key

alignment howto, in a past post, has been instrumental in pointing me in

the right ( or left

direction.

 

having said that, I do not necessarily agree with all what you say. some operator error

sure. I too could be making it. I am mature in age, bad in vision, short of breadth,

short of height, cardiac patient..but focusing..now i have not lost that bit.

 

Thanks and God Bless.

 

I may be castigated for making the following statement but I'm going to anyway. This is in no way directed at you Fursan, your thread simply has gotten me thinking about this. I well and truely believe that a large percentage of focus issues with the m8 are "operator error". I remember learning rangefinder focussing with a 3b and various m cameras to be a long journey, not something that happened overnight. I also don't believe that Leica's ability to put on the market properly calibrated lenses and rangefinders has all of a sudden evaporated. Prior to the m8 you very rarely heard a soul complain about lens and rangefinder accuracy. Did they lose their mojo sometime between say setember of last year and hmmm say october of last year? Don't think so. Did heaps of folks who have never used a rangefinder start to pop-up in these previously obscure forums on the internet around say november of last year? Yup.

an interesting thing that comes to mind for me is how long it took me to learn to make a flat horizon on a rangefinder camera. I was starting to think my m6 had a crooked gate (silly me) but I realized i was sort-of tilting to the right at the last moment of composition and then CLICK. Now if you did like I did but your tilt is forward or backwards, and you are using a Noctilux, summilux or other lenses with severely short depth of field, your photo is not in focus. Noone has problems focussing elmarits eh? Mostly lenses with focal planes barely thicker than a lens cap. Add to the mix that most people here ain't spring chickens anymore(deteriorating vision-sorry), and not much static realities these days....you know what I'm getting at...operator error. A friend used to tell me the old adage.....if the horse bucks you-get right back on it and ride. This could apply here. Thanks for listening and no offense to anyone who reads this....Brad

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I also don't believe that Leica's ability to put on the market properly calibrated lenses and rangefinders has all of a sudden evaporated.

 

That's probably right, but what has changed with the M8 is that people check far more than they used to - firstly, its way easier to do, 5 seconds and you're done, no more waiting for film to be developed, trying to remember what negative what which, secondly its easy to adjust the test right then to investigate what you just found, and finally, its zero cost.....

 

So, if the suggestion is that new users are either less will to work at things, or just less capable, no, I don't agree, they're just taking advantage of what digital offers. And unfortunately, for some (many?) of them, Leica is coming up short. To the point of previous posts, it's not an unreasonable expectation that a brand new M8 and a brand new Leica lens should be able to focus accurately out of the box, no return trips to Solms required.

 

Sandy

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I remember reading a pdf document from canon regarding the side effect digital sensors and their improved resolution had in magnifying any error in the focus system. Depth of focus was also reduced with digital when compared to film at the same aperture IIRC.

 

It's obvious to me that, due to the introduction of digital sensors into the M system this has shown up the wider tolerances that were acceptable with film. It's arguable given the focusing system in place if such manufacturing tolerances can be tightened and achieved without necessitating matching problem lenses to bodies in the future.

 

It's frustrating having to send equipment back to solms for a minimum of 4 weeks with the only information coming in the service order which will say "focus test with M8 and make test pictures" for the lens and "inspect, clean and adjust rangefinder" for the body. What always amazes me is the lenses are always ready before the body comes out of the workshop, so much for matching lens to body if the lens is already finished.

 

I feel lucky that my lenses all focus correctly wide open, I do notice focus drift with one or two depending on the aperture but I'm learning to either compensate or stop down even further to overcome the drift. Not an ideal way to work but if anything the M system is quirky in it's own way anyhow. And I've no intention in changing away from it.

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