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Thread: Lens recommendations for M9

  1. #1
    Workshop Member Wayne Fox's Avatar
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    Lens recommendations for M9

    Now that I have a Leica dealership, I'm pulling a M9 in to sit on the shelf but it's actually going to be my personal camera to take along as a backup for my Alpa or PhaseOne system.

    I'm a total noob to Leica, especially the lenses. When the rep visited recently I was able to play with one, and although it was sort of awkward, the image quality vs the size is outstanding, and I assume I can adjust to the viewfinder/rangefinder challenges.

    The problem I'm having is locking in on what lenses I might want - no clue what the differences are in Summarit, Summicron, Elmar, etc . Also unclear how well the Tri lenses work.

    I've been researching this for an hour or so, but while I continue to search, I thought I'd ask a few questions here ... it's obvious many of you have been leica users for a long time and maybe you can point me in the direction of some good sources for information as well as your opinions that might save me some time.

    So what do all the lens types mean? Are some not really suitable for the digital m9?
    How sharp are triple focal length lenses ... they sound like a nice idea to save space but is there a quality loss similar to zooms on dSLR? Specifically interested in a the Tri-Elmar 28-35-50 (which sounds like it was made pre M9 and maybe doesn't work so well ... don't see it on their website) and the 16-18-21.

    If you were taking a basic 3 lens systems for a backup while shooting mainly landscape (wide/normal/short tele), which 3 lenses would you take?

    Thanks for any advice.
    wayne
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    Senior Member Hacker's Avatar
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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    The types generally refer to the corresponding aperture speeds.

    e.g.
    Noctilux f/0.95, f/1
    Summilux f/1.4
    Summicron f/2
    Summarit f/2.5

    The Tri-Elmars are sharp, and the 28-35-50 is pre M8, so you can only get it secondhand. Otherwise, they are all sharp, just slower.

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    Subscriber Member Chuck Jones's Avatar
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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    Wayne, way back when Leica first shipped their digital back add-on for the R system, what they called the DMR, I coined the phrase "Slippery Slope" to describe the very process you are now following to others that at that time were asking about lenses for their Leica "R" cameras. People who have come before you, as I and most of us here have, will likely laugh with understanding at the term "Slippery Slope." We've already slid down it!

    So here let me add to what advice you've already been given in the post above. The multi-focal lenses are all excellent quality and tack sharp, but they are slow. Think f/4 slow wide open, and what that means to your sinking shutter speed in low light. For landscape use you'd likely be on a tripod so that won't bother you as much as it would myself as a people shooter. These combo lenses are not cheap, however. Slow and Expensive.

    I've shot most everything now that Leica has ever made for an M body, save for the new 24 'Lux, which I expect is spectacular. Since you asked for a recommendation about my favorites, I will not take price as an obstacle in considering and will instead offer up my opinion as to what would be the top performer within your focal range. Please understand though that overall, you will not find a better assortment of quality lenses for another 35mm camera. All other systems have positive DOGS in their lens lineup, and focal coverage holes in the available choices. Leica is the exception.

    The M system has been made for more years than most of us have been alive, so there is an enormous quantity of lens choices available that will fit on your M9. The latest ASPH designs at all speeds and focal lengths are outstanding, and very consistent across the lineup in color and look, save for the Summilux versions and the Noctilux which have a completely different drawing signature and Boke. Lenses manufactured before the 1950's have coatings for B&W photographic film, so will behave in unusual ways in some cases when used with your M9 digital sensor. I happen to enjoy this more artistic rendering myself, but many people prefer everything tack sharp. The "Leica Glow" as often described is very evident in most of the older glass, particularly in the 35mm & 50mm focal lengths. There are many fine lenses to be found in this group, and at prices far below what you will end up paying for new lenses. Are they as good? Depends completely upon how you define the word.

    To fully understand the Leica lens choices and their differences, you must first understand the Leica Philosophy that guided their design in the first place. Leica in many ways is a throwback to days long departed for most companies still in business today. Their whole point in being is to build the very best optic possible with the latest design technology available at the time. This is the way it was done when the company was founded, and this is the way it has always been done every day since. Looked at simply from an R&D perspective, this makes things very simple. When a lens can be improved upon sufficiently to make a detectable image quality difference, a new design project is launched. When completed, along with the many other pieces that go into it such as the manufacturing, quality control inspection steps, production parts procurement, and the all important training for the line assembly and manufacturing staff, the new lens is put into production.

    For a company of low production volume such as Leica, this takes years. So while all of the later Leica generations of a lens are going to be superior in viewing the final image when looked at as a lens designer. But let's not forget that what these designers start with is the design books of their predecessors, who were also the very top lens designers of their own generation, and who carefully followed the tradition of passing along all of their own design notes, research, and help full hints on what has and has not worked in the past. This "Institutional Memory" as business analysts call it, is the huge advantage the present Leica Chief Lens Engineer starts out with. Every new lens change advances the design and manufacturing art another step, in an ever continuing chain.

    Since the day the first Leica M optic was made, they have enjoyed the reputation of the finest available in the 35mm focal length. Since day one. How does that impact you? Very simply. Every old lens made by Leica for the M camera you buy today was, the day it was manufactured, the finest available in it's focal length and speed at the time. So every "old" Leica lens is pretty dang good when you come right down to it. Sure, some are better at some things than others, but across the board I do not believe you can buy a "poor" Leica M lens, they never made any!

    Though you can easily buy a poor copy of one. Lenses are mechanical in design, so do have moving parts. Older lenses were made at a time before modern lubricants were available. Leica recommends that all lenses be periodically examined, cleaned, lubricated, and re-adjusted to bring it into exact tolerances. Or CLA, as you will often see it referred to. This is an important consideration when purchasing particularly a lens twenty years old or more. It likely will need a CLA before functioning to build standards. This too will require an additional investment over and above the cost of the used lens.

    Please note I use the word investment instead of expense too. While there is no question the cost of a new Leica lens is very high. It has to be. There is no way humanly possible to hand make, hand polish the glass elements, and hand fit assemble an optic of this quality built to these exacting mechanical precision standards out of some of the most expensive rare earth elements on the planet, and not have it cost a small fortune. They invest a small fortune making them this way! But I, for one, along with most every other Leica owner hope they never stop this practice. This practice alone is the real value of your investment long term. As labor and rare materials costs rise, so do the prices of new lenses. Every time a politician here in the USA causes the dollar to rise, so do the prices on new Leica lenses. As long as Leica still follows this well stated Leica Policy of continued improvement, the value of every existing Leica lens will continue to rise. It is simple economics. In all the years I have bought Leica M lenses, I have never regretted buying a single one. They've all been a true delight for me, the oldest to the newest, and they all let an artist do their thing

    The best wide angle 21mm lens I have ever seen in ANY mount for 35mm cameras is the outstanding Leica 21mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH. It's dearly expensive, $6,500 but worth every penny of it and much more. For landscape or people use, you will never find a better wide in my opinion. I own one of these myself, and it is my primary lens that lives most of the time on my M9 body.

    The 24 f/1.4 Summilux should likewise be of similar nature to the 21mm sister. They both derive from the same design. The 24mm f/2.8 Elmarit ASPH I also own, and find it too to be an excellent choice for a landscape use, particularly because of it's excellent micro contrast that helps resolve all those landscape small details. The 28mm 'Cron ASPH is certainly not to be overlooked, another fantastic lens I own and use often when 21mm is just too wide. If you positively must have speed, the 35 & 50 'Lux are both good but in my opinion quality wise I believe the f/2 'Cron versions are technically superior particularly for landscape use where the higher micro and macro contrast of the 'Cron gives them a visual landscape advantage. The f/2 'Cron versions of both are also substantially less costly, and take up a fraction of the room and weight allowance as they are both smaller and lighter to carry in the field.

    Sorry to write a book here, but my opinions sometimes take a bit of space to express. Bottom line, if you can, avoid the "Slippery Slope" and either save your money and quit right now, or plan that you too will start to experience "lens creep," that evil disease that seems to erode all of the available space on your credit cards over time. Once you start using that M9, there is no return if you are comfortable with shooting a rangefinder. Nothing else will ever do the same as it does, and nothing else will ever work the same as it does. For we nerd wing nuts who have used it so long, there is no other camera made we would rather use. You see, shooting any M is like shooting an old friend and partner in photography, not some technical contraption. Be forewarned, it will also drain your credit card navigating the "Slippery Slope" of M lens choices

    Best of luck, welcome to the M owners club, and enjoy your new purchase!

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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne Fox View Post
    ...
    If you were taking a basic 3 lens systems for a backup while shooting mainly landscape (wide/normal/short tele), which 3 lenses would you take?

    Thanks for any advice.
    1) IMO and experience all modern Leica lenses are sharp and fully usable even wide open.

    2) For three lenses I would go either 21-35-75 or 24-50-75, but thats me.

    I would choose at least one lens (the 35 or 50) f1.4.

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    Subscriber Member jaapv's Avatar
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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    Great post, Chuck!! I couldn't agree more.
    One thing: The most impressive Leica lens of all (and I have / used to have a depressingly large number of them ) is the Summilux 50 asph. No M9 owner should be without one imo.
    JAAP
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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    Great writeup, Chuck! I totally agree that with Leica what you ask yourself is not whether a lens is good performer - because they all are, but how you wish to tradeoff between size, price, and speed... which comes down to finances and intended use.

    BTW, f/4 on the WATE is no big deal. The lux 21 is in a class of its own, but otherwise most fixed lenses at 21 or wider are f/2.8 or slower anyway. So f/4 is not a huge deal in such a wide lens since they can be handheld at very low speeds.

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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    Quote Originally Posted by t_streng View Post
    1) IMO and experience all modern Leica lenses are sharp and fully usable even wide open.

    2) For three lenses I would go either 21-35-75 or 24-50-75, but thats me.

    I would choose at least one lens (the 35 or 50) f1.4.
    In contrast, on an M9, I would choose on of the two "triologies":

    1) 28-50-90
    2) 35-50-90

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    Senior Member eleanorbrown's Avatar
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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    I shoot landscape with my M9 and have the 24 2.8, 35 cron, 50 lux and 75 cron. I use them all frequently for landscape. Eleanor

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    Senior Member JohnW's Avatar
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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    I hesitate to recommend Ken Rockwell, but if you can get past his personality, his Leica lens pages offer lot of basic information:

    http://kenrockwell.com/leica/lens-reviews.htm

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    Member Mohammed Taqi's Avatar
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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    I recommend these four lenses: 24 Lux, 35 Lux, 50 .95 Nocti, 75 Cron.
    You will fall in love with these 4 lenses as soon as you take the first shot.

    Wish you all the best with your choices.
    M (Typ240), Lux 24mm ASPH, Lux 35mm FLE, Cron APO 75mm ASPH, 60mm Macro-Elmarit-R, 80-200mm Vario-Elmar-R. Sony a7S
    MohammadTaqi.com

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    Senior Member JohnW's Avatar
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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    Quote Originally Posted by Mohammed Taqi View Post
    I recommend these four lenses: 24 Lux, 35 Lux, 50 .95 Nocti, 75 Cron.
    You will fall in love with these 4 lenses as soon as you take the first shot.

    Wish you all the best with your choices.
    Here's hoping we can fall in love for less than $25K.

    John

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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    Indeed, love isn't normally cheap with Leica

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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    I second the 24 35 50 and 75 luxes. I also have the 90 cron aa and the wate, love them both as well. . I have owned the 28 cron great lens if you like the focal length. Wane it seems you do more nature then low light but the current 35 and 50 luxes are very spceial. the 28,35 to 50 is nice but it flares at 50 a little faster then the 50 lux. Get the 49 mm fitler version it is supposed to be a little less flare. at 28 it can be a little softer then the 28 cron but hey it is a weight saver.

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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    My choice is the 28 Cron (no extra viewfinder needed!), 35 Lux, 50 Lux, 75 Cron, all asph, and the often-overlooked 135 Apo Telyt. I also got the 12 mm V'lander.

    This kit covers pretty much everything for me until I need long telephoto, when I resort to the Sony 70-400G.

    Bill

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    Workshop Member Wayne Fox's Avatar
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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    I appreciate all the replies, especially Chuck for his time in his well thought out response. This has definitely given me some good ideas.
    wayne
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    Subscriber Member mwalker's Avatar
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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    Wayne I have had all of them at one point and unless you have two M9's you won't change lenses as much as you think. I ended up with only three lenses, 24 elmairt, 35 Lux, and 50 Lux. The 35 stays on the most. That still represents a lot of money but not nearly as much as a full line up. I shot a whole Russian portfolio with the 35 and 50.
    Mike

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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    Wayne,

    I shoot mostly landscapes, but usually something intimate or abstract, not the big picture.

    My favorite lens is the 50 Lux. I also have a 35/2.0, 28/2.0, and a 90/2.8. Never use the 35. If I go wide, I want the wide look I get with the 28. The 90 is great, relatively small and cheap by Leica standards.

    Have fun with your M. I love using mine. In use, it draws less of my attention to it, than any other camera I've used so I just concentrate on the image.

    Here is a shot that demonstrates some of what I love about the 50 Lux.

    Best,

    Mitchell



    http://forum.getdpi.com/forum/attach...1&d=1291736527

  18. #18
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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne Fox View Post
    If you were taking a basic three-lens system for a backup while shooting mainly landscape (wide/normal/short tele), which three lenses would you take?
    Summarit-M 35 mm, any Leica 50 mm lens, Summarit-M 90 mm. Plus the Elmar-M 24 mm Asph if you want more wide-angle coverage.

    Stay away from the 21 mm and 24 mm Summilux lenses unless you really need their extra-ordinary speed. They get many recommendations here—but that's only because people like to recommend always the most expensive stuff. Sure, they're great lenses ... but mostly for street and available-light shooting, not so much for landscapes.

    Sadly, the Tri-Elmar-M 28-35-50 Asph is discontinued. The Tri-Elmar-M 16-18-21 Asph (a. k. a. Wide-Angle Tri-Elmar, or WATE) is just as good as the Super-Elmar-M 18 Asph and Elmarit-M 21 Asph at all apertures at the frame's center. Near the corners, the prime lenses are slightly better at f/4 and f/5.6. From f/8 on, there is no notable difference anymore.

    The Leica lens names refer to the lens speed.
    - Noctilux—1:0.95, 1:1, 1:1.2
    - Summilux—1:1.4
    - Summicron—1:2
    - Summarit—1:2.4, 1:2.5
    - Elmarit—1:2.8
    - Elmar—1:3.5, 1:3.8, 1:4, 1:4.5

    These names don't say anything about optical design or quality. There are lenses that don't stick to this scheme, notably the Apo-Telyt-M 135 mm, the discontinued Elmar-M 50 mm which is 1:2.8, an old Summarit 50 mm 1:1.5, and several more really old lenses discontinued decades ago.

    Lenses meant for the Leica M system carry an -M suffix. The -R suffix is for lenses for the discontinued Leicaflex and Leica R SLR cameras. The -S suffix is for the new Leica S system. Leica M lenses produced before the advent of the Leicaflex system in the mid-'60s don't have a suffix. Older Leica lenses bear the former company name which was Leitz. Originally, Leica was just a product name meaning 'Leitz Camera.' Later, Leica became the company's name.


    Quote Originally Posted by JohnW View Post
    I hesitate to recommend Ken Rockwell ...
    So why do you have to mention that name?


    Quote Originally Posted by JohnW View Post
    ... his Leica lens pages offer lot of basic information
    Actually they provide a lot of misinformation. Why don't you mention Steve Huff's or Thorsten Overgaard's Leica pages?
    Last edited by 01af; 7th December 2010 at 13:10.

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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    Quote Originally Posted by mwalker View Post
    Wayne I have had all of them at one point and unless you have two M9's you won't change lenses as much as you think. I ended up with only three lenses, 24 elmairt, 35 Lux, and 50 Lux. The 35 stays on the most. That still represents a lot of money but not nearly as much as a full line up. I shot a whole Russian portfolio with the 35 and 50.
    I've got to agree here with Mark. I'm not really a wide-angle person, so am I truly amazed at just how far a 35mm lens can go on the M9. I never got this much mileage out of the 35L on the various Canon 1Ds' over the years, so I cannot offer a well reasoned explanation of why 35mm is working well (for me) these days.

    The 50 Lux ASPH is a truly amazing lens, and I always have it handy, but right now the 35 Lux ASPH is the "go to" lens.

  20. #20
    Subscriber Member Chuck Jones's Avatar
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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    There was a time that I felt exactly the same as you, if my 50 'Lux wasn't in my bag, I felt positively naked. I could never understand why more professional photographers among my friends didn't just shoot a 50 'Lux and forget about even owning anything else. Felt that way myself, and went about trying to put my concept into practice, where I ran into the artist's greatest curse, REALITY!

    I still see those beautiful 50 'Lux images and drool... they are SO beautiful. In no small part because there just aren't that many of them. Why? Something this beautiful, why not much more? Because of two main reasons in my opinion. First, they sure aren't easy to do with any consistency. My "keeper" rate with the 35mm 'Lux is very low wide open with light measured in candles sitting on the table. Maybe 1 in 10 reasonably sharp somewhere and maybe 1 in 10 of those sharp where I want it to be. So call it 1 in 100 frames "works" as a professional quality capture. Of course, as with all things "art," acceptable sharpness and placement of it are very subjective things. So is the Boke. For amateur or fine art professionals, this works. 1 in 100 images is more than enough of a selection. But when you are trying to document an event, or shooting a commercial or advertising job of any kind, that kind of "keeper" rate just doesn't work. The DoF at f/1.4 is just so thin, a quarter of an inch of movement between the time I focus and the shutter release click can be the difference between a stunning image and garbage. I hate seeing screens of garbage surrounding a couple jewels, but that is what I had to live with shooting my 35mm 'Lux wide open. I ended up stopping down most of the time to f/2 on most occasions if I was going to be working in close.

    Bad as my keeper rate was with the 35mm 'Lux, for me with the 50 'Lux it is downright disaster. My second reason is 50mm is not my focal length to start with. Too tight for me. I'm a wide guy, the wider the better. So admittedly my experience with the 50 'Lux is coming from someone who did not shoot that lens long enough to master it - only long enough to realize the focal length didn't fit, nor did the horrible "keeper" rate. I sold it, and the 35mm 'Lux and stuck by my wider choices.

    I also found that owning both the 'Lux and the 'Cron versions of both lenses at the same time very interesting. I actually prefer myself the look from my old 35mm Pre-Asph wide open to the look from the older 'Lux. Better micro contrast and across the frame sharpness on the 'Cron, and whatever you gave up in the Boke shooting f/2 you more than made up for with the "Leica Glow" the 'Cron has and the 'Lux didn't. Pick your poison, look wise. And price wise! But the all time "Glow King" is the 35 'Cron Pre-ASPH. The 50, on the other hand, I like the look of the 'Lux much more than the 'Cron. But given that the 50mm focal length just didn't work for me, I sold the lot. I haven't owned a 50mm M lens for probably four years.

    Until about a week ago. I bought a new Noct to have a go with it and see if I liked it more. I will say that it is a stunning lens, but at a very stunning price. I'm still deciding whether to keep it around awhile and shoot it. The speed is fantastic, but if you think shooting sharp images at f/1.4 is difficult, you haven't seen anything until you try shooting a Noct wide open. Possible to do, but clearly a very specialized lens where you don't expect a high keeper rate. Look wise, the color is spectacular from it as is the micro contrast and sharpness. There is some womp, and the corners do have some vignette but easily correctable if you desire. I don't. I like the squared edges darker.

    What I will say though, is just from a couple of test images so far, one of which I will try to attach to this post, the look from this lens is very different from the last version of it. This one is pretty amazing in the look department, but frankly I am not sure yet if it wins the "look" contest over the 50 'Lux in my book.


    Quote Originally Posted by jaapv View Post
    Great post, Chuck!! I couldn't agree more.
    One thing: The most impressive Leica lens of all (and I have / used to have a depressingly large number of them ) is the Summilux 50 asph. No M9 owner should be without one imo.

  21. #21
    Adam Marelli
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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    Hey Wayne,

    How often do you shoot landscape at f 1.4? While the Summilux lenses are fabulous, they may be more responsible for "changing" the way you shoot than doing landscape work. Once you shoot at 1.4 a new realm of possibilities seem to open up.

    But at f 4.0 or higher, there wont be too much difference between a summilux or a summicron, but your pocket will have a few thousand dollars extra, especially if you are planning on buying a few lenses.

    My advice is start light. Buying a kit of Leica's top lenses straight away is not really the way to go. I learned more by shooting used lenses, really coming to understand their short comings (if any) and then upgrading. You don't seem like you are in any rush, or have pushy clients demanding you switch to a Leica system, so why not take your time in shooting.

    I agree with Chuck to 21mm Summilux is spectacular, but most of the things I appreciate about it would be tough to grasp having not worked with the 21mm Elmarit first. If you can round up some used glass or rent some lenses. Shoot them all, then buy the ones you like because ultimately the lenses in your bag may not match the ones in someone else's bag.

    Good Luck and Enjoy-Adam

    http://www.adammarelliphoto.com

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    Workshop Member kuau's Avatar
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    Re: Lens recommendations for M9

    +1 for Bills line up but I didn't have the funds for the faster lux, so went with the slower and yet smaller versions. I shoot landscapes and always shoot at aroumd f8 anyways. I also had fhe 90 elmarit for a few weeks but had trouble focusing it even with a 1.3x magnifier so I ended up selling it to Lloyd on this forum. I am debating on getting a used zeiss 21mm 2.8 but can't make up my mind because would also need to buy an external finder.
    I am still rather new to my M9 have had it now for 4 months.
    I am for sure drinking the leica coolaid right now.
    Yet I agree with an earlier post start off slow and don't go out and buy the top dollar leica lenses, only if you plan to shoot wide open all the time which seems like a lot of leica shooters do.

    How far is draper from park city btw?
    Steven


    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Caulfeild-Browne View Post
    My choice is the 28 Cron (no extra viewfinder needed!), 35 Lux, 50 Lux, 75 Cron, all asph, and the often-overlooked 135 Apo Telyt. I also got the 12 mm V'lander.

    This kit covers pretty much everything for me until I need long telephoto, when I resort to the Sony 70-400G.

    Bill
    Steven Kornreich
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