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Thread: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

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    Senior Member mjm6's Avatar
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    A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    Folks,

    I have a handful of Leica R lenses converted to Sony mount, and I'm very pleased with the performance of them. These are all Leica designed and built lenses, though.

    I know that Minolta was responsible for the design and maybe some production of the zoom lenses, and the 24mm and possibly others. I understand that in the case of the 24mm, it was based on a Minolta design, but may have been entirely built in Germany (or Canada). Some of the zooms were apparently made in Japan...

    I don't really care about the pedigree of the lens; where it came from, etc. I care about the way the lenses render. I'm curious if anyone can speak directly to the way the lenses like the 24mm (in particular, as that's my favorite focal length), and the Minolta-influenced zooms perform. Do they fall far from the Leica tree in terms of color rendering, contrast, and OOF rendering characteristics?

    I have done comparisons between Leica and Zeiss fixed focal length lenses in the past (at the same focal length, etc., included too) and feel that for my preferences, the Leica glass renders much more favorably. If I were to get a Minolta-influenced Leica lens, am I going to lose that?

    Anyone have any sage advice on this?


    Thanks,


    ---Michael
    a7r, a7rII, FE 16-35, FE 24-70GM, FE 70-200, Loxia 21mm, 35mm, 50mm

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    Senior Member doug's Avatar
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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    The only lens I'm qualified to comment on is the old 75-200mm f/4 zoom. Flare resistance is good, but sharpness, bokeh and construction quality are not what I consider Leica-quality.

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    Senior Member LCT's Avatar
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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    Only own 2 Minolta R lenses. The 24/2.8 # 11221 cannot compete with its M counterpart and the 35-70/3.5 # 11244 is outperformed by the latest 35-70/4 # 11277 in all counts but size and speed IMHO.

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    I still have the 24/2.8R . It is a Minolta design that was assembled and tested by Leica . You should look at Puts Leica compendium for better information on the design . It does not compete with the 28/2.8R or the 35/2R both are much better. Its has lower contrast and less of the vibrancy you normally associate with leica R glass.

    But when I used it was the only 24 available and it paired with the 35 and the 19 as my wide angles . I learned to shoot it at 5.6 and slower shutter speeds to get the best image quality.

    I would look for the newest 28/2.8 Elmarit and then go with the 19/2.8 . You may also find that it can t be converted to the Sony because of the rear elements(better check).

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    Senior Member doug's Avatar
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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    Quote Originally Posted by glenerrolrd View Post
    I still have the 24/2.8R .... You may also find that it can't be converted to the Sony because of the rear elements(better check).
    I expect few problems with mirror box clearance when converting a Minolta-sourced Leica-R lens because the Sony cameras use the Minolta mirror box clearance specs.

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    Quote Originally Posted by doug View Post
    I expect few problems with mirror box clearance when converting a Minolta-sourced Leica-R lens because the Sony cameras use the Minolta mirror box clearance specs.
    Looks like you are correct from a review of the Leitax conversion instructions. You can even use the 35/1.4 summilux on the A900.

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    Senior Member mjm6's Avatar
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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    Thanks folks. I have the 28mm 2nd version, but I prefer the 24mm focal length, so I am interested in that lens instead.

    I have a few ways to go on this as I see it. There are Minolta lenses available for the Sony that are AF, and will function natively with the camera, or I could go through the effort to get a 24mm R lens and adapt it. If they are functionally the same lens, there is probably no reason to go the Leica route, especially since it will cost 2x more. Of course, there should be a 24mm CZ lens available soon as well, but I generally prefer the rendering of the Leica lense to the CZ lenses by a good margin.

    I've found that I prefer the non-ASPH versions of the Leica lenses... the most recent versions seem to be so corrected that they have more difficult in-focus to OOF transitions, and the OOF areas are more distracting and somewhat schizophrenic. While I have the 24mm M ASPH, only because it was never available in an older, non-ASPH version. The rest of my M lenses are all pre-ASPH for this reason. I think the modern Leica lenses are beginning to look more like CZ lenses than they have in the past.


    ---Michael
    a7r, a7rII, FE 16-35, FE 24-70GM, FE 70-200, Loxia 21mm, 35mm, 50mm

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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    Quote Originally Posted by mjm6 View Post
    There are Minolta lenses available for the Sony that are AF, and will function natively with the camera, or I could go through the effort to get a 24mm R lens and adapt it. If they are functionally the same lens, there is probably no reason to go the Leica route, especially since it will cost 2x more.
    I think we need an expert on Minolta lens genealogy here. Is the 24/2.8 AF the same optically as the older 24/2.8 MC/MD manual-focus lens? If not, is the Leica-labeled R-mount lens based on the Minolta AF lens or on the older manual-focus lens?

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    Senior Member doug's Avatar
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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    I think we need an expert on Minolta lens genealogy here. Is the 24/2.8 AF the same optically as the older 24/2.8 MC/MD manual-focus lens? If not, is the Leica-labeled R-mount lens based on the Minolta AF lens or on the older manual-focus lens?
    The Leitz/Minolta 24mm lens pre-dates the AF lens by many years; 1974 IIRC.

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    Senior Member mjm6's Avatar
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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    Of course, Oren, you are correct. I was forgetting that the Leica has a mid-70's vintage apparently, which clearly puts it into the realm of the MC era.

    The leica is a 9 element in 7 group, with a floating element, 6 blades to the aperture.

    The old MC Minolta is 9 elements is 7 groups with a floating element. There was a later MD version that is 8 elements in 8 groups as well, 7 blades.

    The AF Minolta is 8 elements in 8 groups, and the last one made, the 24mm RS was 8 element in 8 groups, with a change to the aperture blades, 7 blades.

    It's possible that the Leica lens design changed over time, but I suspect it only did to accommodate the availability of different optical glass properties, and not to change the character of the lens in a substantial way. That's basically what Puts says.... He also states that a lot of the oldest 24mm lens elements were made in Japan and then sent to Germany for reworking. Later, the elements were made in Germany.

    The Minolta did change, but I don't know what the motivation was. It looks like the switch to AF didn't substantially change the optical design, as they are both 8/8 designs.

    I suspect that I'm going to get both of them to satisfy my intellectual curiosity a little bit... they aren't really terribly expensive, and I could sell the one that I don't like as well.


    ---Michael
    a7r, a7rII, FE 16-35, FE 24-70GM, FE 70-200, Loxia 21mm, 35mm, 50mm

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    Subscriber Member Jonathon Delacour's Avatar
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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    Michael, you might find the following links helpful...

    In a post to the Alternative Gear and Lenses forum at FredMiranda.com, member debuggerus listed 24 Minolta lenses he's converted to Sony Alpha mount. About the Rokkor 24/2.8, he wrote:
    MC W. Rokkor 24mm f2.8 (3): great 24mm. It's sharp at all apertures.
    I have a number of the Rokkors he lists and his descriptions of their merits/deficiencies correspond pretty much exactly to my own experience. I have the VFC (Variable Field Curvature) version of the MC Rokkor 24/2.8 and it is very good.

    The Minolta Manual Lens List has detailed information about all the variants of the MF Rokkor lenses, listed by focal length. It's very useful in identifying a particular variant from a photograph of the lens.

    You might also want to read the Rokkor Files page about the history of Minolta lenses to see how the build quality and features changed over the long production period. I've avoided lenses from the late MD period in which, according to the Rokkor Files, "many of the lenses were again redesigned to reduce weight and size, and the amount of plastic in the lenses increased phenomenally."

    debuggerus rates the "difficulty of conversion" of the Rokkor 24/2.8 as "3", the most difficult. If you don't wish to attempt the conversion yourself, forum member Jim Buchanan has an excellent reputation for converting Rokkor lenses to Canon EOS mount and his website indicates he is developing conversion kits for Leica R lenses. He may be able to assist you or to suggest someone else who could do the conversion.

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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    Quote Originally Posted by mjm6 View Post
    I suspect that I'm going to get both of them to satisfy my intellectual curiosity a little bit... they aren't really terribly expensive, and I could sell the one that I don't like as well.
    Given that you have a fair amount of experience with lenses and have developed a pretty refined sense of what you like and don't like, in the end, that's probably what you're going to need to do.

    I can't speak to the 24's, but in the time I had an A900 I used primarily a 50/1.4 Sony and a 35/2 Minolta RS. Both would have measured as very competent on the usual bench tests, but the 35 also had a little something extra in drawing character that I didn't know to expect. Maybe I just got an especially good sample. And others might feel differently about the particular "flavor" I was responding to. Regardless, when it comes to this sort of subtlety, you're going to be the best judge.

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    Senior Member mjm6's Avatar
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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    Thanks for all the input folks. I'll collect some lenses over the next few weeks or so and then try them out. If there is anything to report, I will come back with a report on what I have found out.


    ---Michael
    a7r, a7rII, FE 16-35, FE 24-70GM, FE 70-200, Loxia 21mm, 35mm, 50mm

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    Senior Member mjm6's Avatar
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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    The Minolta RS (most recent version) is sharper in the corners. At center, they appear about the same. I don't know about flare resistance, color or contrast at the moment, I'll need to do a good test tomorrow and then post a few images. It looks like the Leica renders with a warmer palette.

    The Leica R is wider than the Minolta by a millimeter or two.

    The 24mm ASPH M smokes both of them, but I expected that.

    ---Michael
    a7r, a7rII, FE 16-35, FE 24-70GM, FE 70-200, Loxia 21mm, 35mm, 50mm

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    Senior Member mjm6's Avatar
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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    OK, the 24mm Minolta RS is sharper in the corners, but I think the Leica is sharper in the center (marginally). Both are easily bested by the Leica M lens.

    The M has a much more even illumination as well (I shot with the lens coded on the camera, so that is probably part of the reason for that). The M also renders much cooler, but I suspect that is the camera more than the lens.

    The Leica R gradually falls off in sharpness towards the side, and then right near the corner, falls off considerably. The Minolta appears to be a little less sharp in the center, but then becomes sharper than the Leica about 1/3 of the way out, and continues to be sharper the rest of the way, somewhat considerably by the corners.

    The Minolta appears to have higher falloff at f5.6 than the Leica R.

    The Leica R appears to have slightly higher contrast than the Minolta.

    I haven't tested flare resistance yet as the light is changing too much today to make an equal comparison. I'll do it tonight on a streetlamp.

    I'm including small Jpegs of the images, and a single file with the center side and corner swatches.

    Note that the Leica is, of course, an 18MP camera, and the Sony a900 is a 24MP camera, so they are slightly different sizes of images. All told, the M is vastly superior in terms of sharpness and detail rendering.

    I haven't attempted any color balance, and let Lightroom do auto exposure on the images, then tweaked them to make them smilar in apparent exposure. That is difficult because of the falloff differences in the lenses, however.

    ---Michael
    a7r, a7rII, FE 16-35, FE 24-70GM, FE 70-200, Loxia 21mm, 35mm, 50mm

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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    Hi Michael:
    I purchased an A900 couple of months ago to use with my R glasses. I have converted the 28 Elmarit, 35 Lux, 80 Lux, 35-70 f4, and 80-200 f4. So far I have not been totally happy with the sharpness compared to the M9. I attribute that to the M lenses being more modern and my inability to focus as well with the Sony even with the M-screen. So I just bought a Minolta 24-105 on eBay for it's auto-focus. The Zeiss lenses are too heavy for me.

    BTW, the 35 Lux, latest version, cleared the mirror with room to spare. Thanks to the up and flip design of the Minolta mirror box.

    Alan

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    Member JimBuchanan's Avatar
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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    I'm certainly interested in the subject, but the OP is confusing me with starting the thread talking about Leica R lenses, then commenting and comparing to Leica M lenses.

    The OP seems to have a preference for 24mm, but the late 28 R Elmarit is the champ, and the Minolta MD 28/2.0 is the stellar performer on the Minolta side, over the 24s. That is if you are talking Canon and Sony dDLRS.

    Its not surprising the Leica M24 Elmarit outperforms the 24 Leica R and Minolta MD. In the dSLR world there is more IQ with the 28s.

    Just my opinion.

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    Senior Member mjm6's Avatar
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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    Jim,

    What's so hard to understand? I have both an a900 and an M9, so it is logical that I would compare the lenses if I have the same focal length in both.

    It's also no suprise that the M is superior. It has been in EVERY comparison that I have done (but I have not tested normals or telephotos). At longer focal lengths, the gap may be closer, even though the lack of an AA filter will probably still make the M9 the clear winner.

    I really don't care what focal length you think is the 'best' because it doesn't meet my photographic needs... I chose to compare 24mm lenses because they do. If I chose the focal length based only on the chart performance of the lens, I wouldn't use any wide angle lenses, as normal and telephoto lenses are almost universally better than the wides in the corners.


    ---Michael
    a7r, a7rII, FE 16-35, FE 24-70GM, FE 70-200, Loxia 21mm, 35mm, 50mm

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    Member JimBuchanan's Avatar
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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    Quote Originally Posted by mjm6 View Post
    Jim,

    What's so hard to understand? I have both an a900 and an M9, so it is logical that I would compare the lenses if I have the same focal length in both.
    ---Michael
    It's OK, Michael.

    It just wasn't clear to me, the way you presented your case. Now, I know you have a a900 and M9 and are comparing the 24mm focal length. In the original post, there was no mention of Leica M cameras or lenses.

    I also can't add anything to what has already been said. It is known the Leica R 24mm focal length is not as good as the R 28mm focal length, and understandable the Leica M 24mm can outperform the Leica R 24mm. If you are looking for superior image quality in a R lens that competes with a Leica M lens, then you may have to add 4mm.

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    Subscriber Member Jonathon Delacour's Avatar
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    Re: A few questions on Leica R lenses...

    Quote Originally Posted by JimBuchanan View Post
    The OP seems to have a preference for 24mm, but the late 28 R Elmarit is the champ, and the Minolta MD 28/2.0 is the stellar performer on the Minolta side, over the 24s. That is if you are talking Canon and Sony dDLRS.
    +1

    I have a number of 28mm lenses including a late Elmarit-R 28/2.8 and a Minolta MD 28/2.0 and, while the Elmarit-R is indeed the champ, the Rokkor is a close second.

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