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Thread: Focusing the M9

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    Focusing the M9

    As a long time M-user and someone who recently posted how good the M9 works for me I am starting to get annoyed with slight focus problems.

    This seems to turn into a neverending story and I am questiong somewhat if the rangefindermetering is really suited well for high resolution digital photography.

    For example one ofmy most used lenses - the 50asph/1.4.
    Backfocused on my M8 when I boght the lens new, sent it in and then it worked fine on the M8. When I got my M9 and had to send it in for a repair (together with the 50) I got it back and for some reason the 50 seems backfocus slightly specially at infinity. This is enough to make an image "not sharp".
    So I send the M9 together with 5 lenses in another time , it comes back, looks fine at short to medium distance but stil not correct at long distance.
    Then I buy a new 35/1.4asph, and it backfocuses slightly from everything longer than 1m distance.
    My 75 Summarit however seems to work fine (even if I take into account the larger DOF I can see where the focus point is).
    My 75Lux, which also had been calibrated by Leica also seemed to be very slightly off and I finally gave up and sold it. I am sure the lens was fine but I just couldnt focus it allsways 100% and I believe it might suffer very slightly from focus shift.(but focus shift is a different problem eliminated step by step by Leica with newer designs)

    I have to mention here that I also struggeled with AFaccurancy from some cameras in the past. The Canon 7D, and also lately the K5 (I dont know yet how much is caused by lens problem and how much camera AF-system).

    Slight focus errors do destroy each and avery advantage of a fast good lens IMO. A 200 Euro zoom focused propperly will lead to an sharper image than a slightly OOF 50/1.4asph.

    Nikon works very fine here (in my experience), and the S2 also seems to work very accurate except maybe in certain special situations.

    I think I will give it another try and send it all in another time. But its the first time I really having thoughts to eventually sell my Leica M stuff and stay just with S2, a DSLR and a X1 (or X100).


    I am question the rangefinder system for high resolution digital photography with fast lenses. Also talked to Leica about this and they said they allready to a lot to calibrate lenses before they leave the company but that it is quite tricky to get everything perfect.

    If I wouldnt like the sensor and the user interface and the lenses of the M-system so much I would have given up long time ago.

    I am quite happy that at least the S2 seems to work for me quite well-specially for a MF camera.

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    Senior Member Ario Arioldi's Avatar
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    Re: Focusing the M9

    From what I have personally experienced and learned from other users experience I'm reluctant to blame the rangefinder only for all this out of focus issue.
    In my view the problem is with the combination of very fast lenses and high resolution sensors for which not even the AF built in the most advanced DSLR seems to be any more sufficient to fullfill our expectations.
    I have seen for instance exemples of poor auto focus performances of the most recent Nikon and Canon fast Lenses (24/1.4 and 35/1.4) when mounted on the top of the class respective DSRL's.
    There is also some interesting reading on the digilloyd blog about this subject.
    Ario

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by Ario Arioldi View Post
    From what I have personally experienced and learned from other users experience I'm reluctant to blame the rangefinder only for all this out of focus issue.
    In my view the problem is with the combination of very fast lenses and high resolution sensors for which not even the AF built in the most advanced DSLR seems to be any more sufficient to fullfill our expectations.
    I have seen for instance exemples of poor auto focus performances of the most recent Nikon and Canon fast Lenses (24/1.4 and 35/1.4) when mounted on the top of the class respective DSRL's.
    There is also some interesting reading on the digilloyd blog about this subject.
    Ario
    Quite an advantage of contrast based focusing a la m4/3.
    If speed of contrast AF becomes even better (the gh2 seems allready pretty good here) thats maybe really the way to go except for action and sports photography.

    On the other side my Nikons could reliably focus my 50,85 f1.4 lenses, and also the 200 at f2.0, and my S2 also seems to focus pretty good.

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Just curious, have you tried the same lenses on a film body?

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by ken_vs_ryu View Post
    Just curious, have you tried the same lenses on a film body?
    Most of them not, except the 90/2.8
    Film seemed for sure more forgettable.
    Also most lenses worked fine on my M8.
    I assume it is now the infinity calibration of my M9 which migh be wrong and probably the 35asph/1.4II which might need some calibration.
    The frequency lenses and/or body need calibration seems just to often and nearly each time one adds a piece new body or new lens the confusion begins again.

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Remember that it is an open-loop system, so there is nothing to compensate for slight errors. Each and every component in the chain must be calibrated just-so since there is no sensor that can tell you if the ACTUAL image is on-focus.
    They are pretty sensitive and many folks really do not consider it an interchangeable-lens system. Perhaps a changeable lens system, but not necessarily between all bodies and lenses.
    When it is right though it works pretty well.
    -bob

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    Senior Member Ario Arioldi's Avatar
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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob View Post
    Remember that it is an open-loop system, so there is nothing to compensate for slight errors. Each and every component in the chain must be calibrated just-so since there is no sensor that can tell you if the ACTUAL image is on-focus.
    They are pretty sensitive and many folks really do not consider it an interchangeable-lens system. Perhaps a changeable lens system, but not necessarily between all bodies and lenses.
    When it is right though it works pretty well.
    -bob
    The same limitation is applicable also to DSLR conventional (non-LV) AF where the sensor on which the focus is being evaluated is different from the capture sensor.

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob View Post
    Remember that it is an open-loop system, so there is nothing to compensate for slight errors. Each and every component in the chain must be calibrated just-so since there is no sensor that can tell you if the ACTUAL image is on-focus.
    They are pretty sensitive and many folks really do not consider it an interchangeable-lens system. Perhaps a changeable lens system, but not necessarily between all bodies and lenses.
    When it is right though it works pretty well.
    -bob
    Thats how I feel-if its right it works well.
    Specially as someone who has not only 1 or 2 lenses, and many of them fast /(24,35,50 Lux) it is even more difficult to get everything set.

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by Ario Arioldi View Post
    The same limitation is applicable also to DSLR conventional (non-LV) AF where the sensor on which the focus is being evaluated is different from the capture sensor.
    That is not true.
    At least in the case of dslr-like focusing systems, the location of the focusing sensor and its relative position to the the imaging sensor can be adjusted. Once that is done, variations in lenses are in most systems accounted for as the servo moves them enough to achieve detected focus at the focusing sensor. In the M9 lens variations are completely not compensated. Also, in the M9 style of focusing arrangement, the focus sensor is the eye and the servo mechanism includes the brain and hand. I know that my eye is not as good as a focusing sensor in a dslr and my hand trembles and my attention wanders, so my bit as part of this servo is not well implemented either.
    -bob

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    Senior Member Ario Arioldi's Avatar
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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Also In the M9 system, once the rangefinder of the camera and the elicoids of the lenses are all calibrated within the correct tolerances everything is supposed to work as expected. In both cases you need adjustments based on the observed performances.
    I do not argue in general about the supposed higher reliability of the electronic system vs the brain/eye/hand driven system, but, based on my personal experience, I would say the if the DSRL type AF is in may instances faster and may be easier to use, it is not more accurate and consistent then the RF.

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by Ario Arioldi View Post
    Also In the M9 system, once the rangefinder of the camera and the elicoids of the lenses are all calibrated within the correct tolerances everything is supposed to work as expected. In both cases you need adjustments based on the observed performances.
    I do not argue in general about the supposed higher reliability of the electronic system vs the brain/eye/hand driven system, but, based on my personal experience, I would say the if the DSRL type AF is in may instances faster and may be easier to use, it is not more accurate and consistent then the RF.
    I wouldn't be so sure.
    It depends on the specific cameras in question, but if accuracy includes repeatability I can measure the hysteresis in the rangefinder system wich is well taken up with a well designed servo system.
    Both systems need to be used properly I will grant, but open loop systems have insurmountable shortcomings.
    It is just engineering. If the result is good enough for you, fine, but it cannot be more accurate or more consistent because it fails in theory.
    -bob

    p.s.
    don't argue with the mods, it makes us cranky

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    Senior Member Ario Arioldi's Avatar
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    Re: Focusing the M9

    The DSRL conventional AF is open loop as well.
    I will not argue anymore, promised.

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by Ario Arioldi View Post
    The DSRL conventional AF is open loop as well.
    I will not argue anymore, promised.

    LOL
    There you start again...
    It is closed loop at least in the case of the D3/D3x and 5DII and 1DsIII etc
    -bob

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by Ario Arioldi View Post
    The DSRL conventional AF is open loop as well.
    I will not argue anymore, promised.
    With the DSLR you can at least finadjust inaccurancy of lenses in software (as long as it is a consistent behaviour which is not allways the case)

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    Senior Member Ario Arioldi's Avatar
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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by t_streng View Post
    With the DSLR you can at least finadjust inaccurancy of lenses in software (as long as it is a consistent behaviour which is not allways the case)
    This is true (also what is written inside brackets).

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Hi Tom
    I've been thinking about this one, after a week away with just my M9s. I still think that given time I get a better hit rate with the M9 than with AF, even though my eyesight is less than perfect.

    Of course, Lieca's problem here is that there is no such thing as 'right', because of the adjustment of both the rangefinder and the lenses. . . . with the added wobbly of focus shift.

    I can certainly make myself very unhappy testing the focus on my different lenses (9) on the two bodies, but I don't really find that this apparent variation is borne out in real life, where I do seem to get it right most of the time.

    I always find that the misleading size of the focus points in dSLR's (with relation to the actual focus sensor) create a number of oof images, even though all has looked good.

    Perhaps the search for perfection in focus only leads to misery. Of course, if your M9 makes you miserable, then the solution is easy!

    Just this guy you know

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Hi Jono,
    yes, perfection never happens.

    However to be frienk I believe there are many photographers who blame their eyes but do just have a focusing system not working right. And thats sad.

    However I need the infinity thing fixed and I am frustrated that Leica didnt fix it even though I sent everything in.
    I can overcome this by turning the focus wheel just sligtly over the point I focus on, but thats not the solution for me.
    The S2 and the Nikons show me that a good AF is up to the task, and I start to lust for a M9 with a good AF with AF fineadjust.
    Buying a 35mm prime for 3500 Euro and then having to send it in is just no fun and not right IMO. Having to send a 50/1.4asph in 3 times until it works ok isnt funny either.
    My M9 should have been adjusted after the repair (I sent the 50 with it), and then it should have been fine after I sent it in another time and exactly explaining what was wrong. Now I have to send it in another time.
    I will include a long letter and also cc it to some people I know at Leica.




    Quote Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post
    Hi Tom
    I've been thinking about this one, after a week away with just my M9s. I still think that given time I get a better hit rate with the M9 than with AF, even though my eyesight is less than perfect.

    Of course, Lieca's problem here is that there is no such thing as 'right', because of the adjustment of both the rangefinder and the lenses. . . . with the added wobbly of focus shift.

    I can certainly make myself very unhappy testing the focus on my different lenses (9) on the two bodies, but I don't really find that this apparent variation is borne out in real life, where I do seem to get it right most of the time.

    I always find that the misleading size of the focus points in dSLR's (with relation to the actual focus sensor) create a number of oof images, even though all has looked good.

    Perhaps the search for perfection in focus only leads to misery. Of course, if your M9 makes you miserable, then the solution is easy!

  18. #18
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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Hi,
    This is my first post here, but I've been intrigued by this thread, as I've been spending a good deal of time worrying about focus myself. I'm especially concerned with three lenses. 1. the 135 APO Telyt. 2. the 50 Summilux ASPH. 3. the 90 Elmarit M.

    Of course, Leica doesn't "support" the APO Telyt on the M9, but I so love the particular quality it has that I've wanted to make it work. I've tried everything, including buying both magnifiers -- which has led me to conclude that I do better with the naked eye (however wretched mine are.) In the end, what it's taken to get an acceptable number of "hits" is practice. In my back yard, I have a buried phone cable marked by a post with a warning label; I've taken more shots of that label than you can believe. It's taught me that the 135 slightly front focuses, at least on my M9, so that, focussing toward infinity, I have to accept the very first "in focus" position. The 90 is almost exactly the opposite -- so that, in focussing this lens, I always do so turning away from infinity. The 50 is dead on.

    From all this, I conclude that the OP is right, in a way. I expect it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to calibrate the rangefinder in a particular camera to give reliably accurate focus with a number of lenses, given the unforgiving nature of the "digital film plane." On the other hand, you can work it out on an individual basis, however annoying this can be. I've found this to worth it, if only to let me use the APO Telyt, which is a wonderful lens.

    anthony hyde

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by xywriter View Post
    Hi,
    This is my first post here, but I've been intrigued by this thread, as I've been spending a good deal of time worrying about focus myself. I'm especially concerned with three lenses. 1. the 135 APO Telyt. 2. the 50 Summilux ASPH. 3. the 90 Elmarit M.

    Of course, Leica doesn't "support" the APO Telyt on the M9, but I so love the particular quality it has that I've wanted to make it work. I've tried everything, including buying both magnifiers -- which has led me to conclude that I do better with the naked eye (however wretched mine are.) In the end, what it's taken to get an acceptable number of "hits" is practice. In my back yard, I have a buried phone cable marked by a post with a warning label; I've taken more shots of that label than you can believe. It's taught me that the 135 slightly front focuses, at least on my M9, so that, focussing toward infinity, I have to accept the very first "in focus" position. The 90 is almost exactly the opposite -- so that, in focussing this lens, I always do so turning away from infinity. The 50 is dead on.

    From all this, I conclude that the OP is right, in a way. I expect it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to calibrate the rangefinder in a particular camera to give reliably accurate focus with a number of lenses, given the unforgiving nature of the "digital film plane." On the other hand, you can work it out on an individual basis, however annoying this can be. I've found this to worth it, if only to let me use the APO Telyt, which is a wonderful lens.

    anthony hyde
    HI Anthony
    and welcome - what a pragmatic first post!
    I think that Tom (understandably and correctly) feels that if he's sent all the lenses in to Leica together with the camera body, they ought to be able to get the calibration right, and it's hard to argue with.
    On the other hand, I'm pretty much in your camp - I understand my lenses, and what I'm going to get with them - and like you I focus some lenses from infinity, and some lenses from the other end.
    I don't actually think that the quality of one's eyesight is nearly as important as practice - and I think there is a real truth that if the M9 isn't your primary camera system, it's hard to keep in practice.
    all the best

    Just this guy you know

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post
    HI Anthony
    and welcome - what a pragmatic first post!
    I think that Tom (understandably and correctly) feels that if he's sent all the lenses in to Leica together with the camera body, they ought to be able to get the calibration right, and it's hard to argue with.
    On the other hand, I'm pretty much in your camp - I understand my lenses, and what I'm going to get with them - and like you I focus some lenses from infinity, and some lenses from the other end.
    I don't actually think that the quality of one's eyesight is nearly as important as practice - and I think there is a real truth that if the M9 isn't your primary camera system, it's hard to keep in practice.
    all the best
    I agre Jono,
    the other thing is when having used an AF camera with accurate focus (like my S2) you realize how easy life can be
    If just the S2 and its lenses were in the size (and price) of the M9 and lenses.
    By the way the A900 and 24-70 also seems to focus pretty reliable.

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by t_streng View Post
    I agre Jono,
    the other thing is when having used an AF camera with accurate focus (like my S2) you realize how easy life can be
    If just the S2 and its lenses were in the size (and price) of the M9 and lenses.
    By the way the A900 and 24-70 also seems to focus pretty reliable.
    Hi Tom
    Of course, the A900 and the 24-70 are reliable (and it seems the S2 as well) . . . but like most dslr's the mark for the focus point is smaller than the actual focus point, so that with some subjects, if you aren't careful, the camera may actually focus on something behind where you intended (I found that both the D700 and the D3 could do this). Especially where you're focusing on something small, with something bright and contrasty behind.

    The point about it is that it's variable, depending on the subject and the situation . . . so it isn't easily repeatable, and doesn't seem to have much of a pattern to it (and perhaps it's reasonable anyway).

    One of the things I do like about manual focus with a rangefinder, is that you really DO know what you're focusing on.

    For me, whatever the irritations, my hit rate is as good with the M9, even though I can demonstrate focusing variations between lenses.

    all the best

    Just this guy you know

  22. #22
    xywriter
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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Jono,
    Much thanks for the welcome.
    I agree, and can see why Tom's annoyed, having gone to all the trouble of sending camera/lenses back to them. I guess I'm just resigning myself, and accepting it as a limitation of the system, and the only workaround I can see is practice and yet more practice. On the basis of my experience with AF systems (Olympus, mainly) I'd also say Tom has been fortunate with the S2 --though my wife says her XI focus is always dead on, if slow. And there were all the troubles Canon had with their high-end camera a year or so ago.

    I really think your right about the advantage of using the M9 as your primary system. With the M8, I still used a DSLR, but I'm now selling all that gear. The M9, with its quirks and challenges, is tough enough (but rewarding enough) to master without taking on something else, at least for me. Of course, when I go on that safari to Africa. . .

    BTW, on another thread I saw some of your shots with your (then new) 24 Summilux. I haven't been so tormented with lust since I was 16.

    anthony hyde

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    Administrator Bob's Avatar
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    Re: Focusing the M9

    The leica system is pretty sweet if you can use it provided that either you are lucky or if you have had your gear matched up.

    Unless you bounce bits of it against the pavement, an activity I do not recommend, it tends to be stable once calibrated.

    There are bunches of human factors things going on as well.
    One important feature is the clear view of the image one is shooting without its projection on some sort of ground glass. This alone is a benefit for many and makes it worth the tuning and fiddling.

    That is not to say that dslr type focus systems don't need to be checked and calibrated, indeed they do.

    Each sort of system also has its best and worst subjects to focus.
    I think both have difficulty with a clear solid texture-less field. Your eye can't focus on it and neither can anything else.

    My favorite rangefinder trick focusing target is something like a picket fence. Those can be fun to focus :-)

    places that are very dark can be fun too, some dslrs have ir or other emitters to provide enough light to focus.

    Where is the AF spot really and how big is it? well they all seem to be larger than the little precise-looking points indicated, of course focusing a 135 on a rangefinder and your silver patch is a large part of the frame too.

    I have money waiting to be spent on a M9 size and weight body with lenses as good as the Leica M lenses and with a focus confirmation lamp visible in the finder when say the central 10% of the silvered patch was spot on. I would keep everything else manual aperture, manual focus, just give me a little assistance and the ability to use it or ignore it as I please.
    -bob

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    I think just due to their very nature a RF isn't going to be the ideal tool if you want perfect pixel peeping focus in this high resolution digital world. It would be like expecting a sports car to handle well in the snow.

    If one really wants to focus down to the millimeter using longer focal lengths wide open and then view those results at 100%, then a RF isn't the best tool for the job.

    A camera system with live view, zoomed in 400%, and ideally on a monitor rather than a 3" LCD screen is going to be a far wiser choice if you've got those needs.

    I find it best just to accept that I'm probably not going to be able to get perfect focus with a RF in many cases. I bought a f2.8 90mm over the 90 Cron for the reason that I doubted I'd really be able to shoot it that well at f2.0.

    Focusing is a compromise with a RF, just like not having 10 FPS is. If I'm working in a dark environment or with fast moving subjects I want my D3 and a speedlight with AF assist beam hands down. I'm going to manage to get jack squat trying to focus myself under those type of conditions.

    At the same time, in most cases I can nail the focus pretty well and quite quickly. When using a DRF in the types of situations where it can excel, I love the results.

    In cases where its maybe not the ideal tool, I do miss shots, and sometimes they aren't perfectly in focus but Im still usually quite happy with what I get.

    Its really just the nature of things. They are an imperfect, way overpriced, outdated camera in a modern world where there are a ton of other models than can do way more all for better and cheaper.

    Its like driving a classic car. A 65 GTO convertible cost way more than a Toyota Camry, gets worse milage, doesn't have the modern safety features like air bags or ABS, isn't going to be reliable, isn't going to perform better, probably doesn't have A/C, and unless its aftermarket the sound system is going to be just a radio.

    On paper there isn't a single thing that would make that GTO a better choice....however, whats cooler to drive around in on a nice warm spring evening ?

    A 65 GTO convertible or a Toyota Camry ?

    I'll pick the Camry for the hour commute to and from work everyday but for driving fun its hands down the GTO.

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    I know the thread is abour RF focusing but we also discussed dslr.
    The advantage of large viewfinder dslr like the s2 for example is that a) the AF works accurate often and b) if it doesnt there is a good chance to know it because you see it.
    the smaller the viewfinder gets the harder it is to see Af errors.

    Regarding the post before.Even in film times I switched from a 90/2.8 to a 90 Summicron but then back to an elmarit because I thought I couldnt reliably focus the Summicron.
    But the I like shallow DOF and fast lenses and I know that if a lens and the body are calibrated it is possible to nail it.

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    It can certainly be done, Charles and Luka have been posting some amazing 90 Cron shots lately. I just personally found that my own hit rate wasn't quite that good at f2.0 and as I don't often like to take the time to critically focus and/or focus bracket, shooting at f2.8 gave me a little breathing room. As such, I personally went for the cheaper and slightly lighter Elmarit instead of the Cron

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    You might try investing in a 1.25x magnifier for the M9. It makes focus much easier, and faster. With both the M8 and my new M9, I found some degree of matching the lens to the camera was required. Some lenses worked properly on both, the 35/1.2 and 50/1.1 required 0.025mm of copper take for the M9 but required 0.05mm of tape for the M8. Lenses made for film cameras make slightly different assumptions, film is not as flat as a digital sensor. I am also thinking the thicker IR absorbign glass of the M9, and different microlens array will affect lenses slightly differently. Lenses that produce an image coming in at oblique angles is probably going to be different from those coming in more directly.

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob View Post
    I have money waiting to be spent on a M9 size and weight body with lenses as good as the Leica M lenses and with a focus confirmation lamp visible in the finder when say the central 10% of the silvered patch was spot on. I would keep everything else manual aperture, manual focus, just give me a little assistance and the ability to use it or ignore it as I please.
    -bob
    Hi Bob
    I know I'm at risk of irritating a moderator and I know that you've said that you now have problems focusing an M camera, but I've got old eyes too, and I think it's just practice getting it right. Maybe focus confirmation will come (or even an EVF if it must), but I don't find M9 focusing hit and miss, even wide open in low light, and I think it's all about practice, of course, it might not be worth the candle, but if you like the results and the lenses . . . . and you can bet that focus confirmation lamp would be referring to the truck going past in the background.

    I make mistakes with my M9, but I tend to spend a little time each day practising focusing, and I really don't get many oof shots, certainly less than with my AF cameras.

    Of course, in the current day and age it's easy to suggest that focusing shouldn't be a skill . . . . . . but if you want to use an M9, then it IS a skill, but it isn't magic and we can all do it - even with cranky old eyes.

    all the best

    Just this guy you know

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by Millsart View Post
    It can certainly be done, Charles and Luka have been posting some amazing 90 Cron shots lately. I just personally found that my own hit rate wasn't quite that good at f2.0 and as I don't often like to take the time to critically focus and/or focus bracket, shooting at f2.8 gave me a little breathing room. As such, I personally went for the cheaper and slightly lighter Elmarit instead of the Cron
    I agree that it's doable, but the difficulty will depend on the situation. I have no problems with the 90 Cron for portraits or closeups. It's at longer distances it becomes tricky. At 20-30 meters I typically have to contend that the focus will be in the general area where I want it to be. Infinity can be tricky even stopped down. It's not exactly at the mechanical stop but I have to pull it back a bit and even at f/5.6 or f/8 it's difficult to be 100% sure to have peak sharpness.

    Generally speaking below 50 I don't get OOF shots - which is more than I can say for when I'm using wider manual focus lenses on a DSLR. With a fast 50 mm lens I get perhaps 1 in 50 or one 1 in 30 shots OOF at the largest aperture - still generally acceptable. With my 75 Cron that increases to a worrying 1 in 10 wide open - especially at medium distances and if I'm stressed. I've been really unhappy about a couple of shots that I've missed - mostly involving people at medium distances.

    Two examples from my Egypt trip earlier this year:





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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Well, no examples with the M9 yet as I just got it this past week.

    Nikkor 8.5cm F2, wide-open on the M8, using a 1.25x magnifier. We are talking a $50 "ebay" no-name. The Leica brand finder was a bit more, ended up keeping both.





    Subject is moving, focus on the skate, camera panned with the motion. The 50+ year old Nikkor was perfect on the M8, no adjustments required. It was fairly dark in the skating rink, ISO 2500 used.
    Nikkor 10.5cm F2.5, Hand-held and wide-open on the M8. Used the 1.25x finder:



    100% crop:




    I added one layer of copper tape to the RF cam of the 10.5cm F2.5 to optimize for the M8. Will test on the M9 this weekend.

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    Senior Member CharlesK's Avatar
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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by Millsart View Post
    It can certainly be done, Charles and Luka have been posting some amazing 90 Cron shots lately. I just personally found that my own hit rate wasn't quite that good at f2.0 and as I don't often like to take the time to critically focus and/or focus bracket, shooting at f2.8 gave me a little breathing room. As such, I personally went for the cheaper and slightly lighter Elmarit instead of the Cron
    I am fortunate enough to have a backup M9 for traveling, a decision I made when I bumped my first M9 out of calibration, and not wanting to take my 5DII, I sold all my DSLR gear to fund the second body. This is where the fun started! Mixing and matching lenses to focus accurately. Fortunately in Melbourne, Camera Clinic will turn around M9/lens calibrations in 5 days, and most are covered under warranty being an authorized Leica repairer. I have on average sent all my lenses about 2 to 3 times, with both M9's to be finely calibrated so all the lenses work on both bodies. This is complex as sometimes the calibrations are not linear, and lens spacers will not work without fine adjustment of the M9.

    Prior to this, I was second guessing, thinking it was my eyes (BTW I use multi focals), or lack or technique(which does not go astray). Once getting the gear back, it is a dream to use now, as it works and the only person to blame now is me!!! As Jono suggested, it is important to know your gear and practice.

    My take, is there is much larger number of users of M9's, more than Leica has anticipated, and there is gap at the moment, in getting equipment quickly serviced and calibrated. I do think, if you can find an excellent service center that will turn around gear quickly is a big part of it. I accept the RF mechanism and its quirks, but more so having the service backup is critical, to not having your gear for a month or longer is not acceptable IMO.

    My move from the 5DII and L lenses, to Zeiss, was I could not rely on the AF and calibration on some lenses. Particularly the 50L/85L and 35L. I did spend considerable time doing the MFA, but the problem was that at f/1.2 - 1.8, the point of focus was not always repeatable. Still you accept and work with the gear.

    I am now finding I am having a better hit with the M9 than previously with the 5DII combo's.
    Last edited by CharlesK; 22nd March 2011 at 19:52.
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    Re: Focusing the M9

    IMO, there a number of factor when dealing with focusing a M9, but tend to agree with Jono regarding practice.

    Many M9 users are employing fast aperture lenses and frequently using them wide open ... often fairly close up. I think a decent number of times, OOF attributed to the gear is slight body sway introduced when one hesitates even for a split second. Couple that with focus-recompose and the focus shift of some lenses, and it can all impact critical focus.

    Not saying calibration isn't an issue. Had my share of that, and went through 3 different 75mm lenses (1 new 75/2, 1 used 75/2 and 1 75/LUX) before getting the 4th 75mm (a 6-bit LUX) that was dead-on to my system, a system that was already dead-on with all my other lenses.

    I bench test every lens I buy immediately, and if a lens doesn't focus correctly right out of the box, I send it back. The less I deal with Leica service the lower my blood pressure stays This isn't exclusive to Leica, I sent the first Sony Zeiss 24/2 back even though I could calibrate it myself in camera ... the second one was right on.

    -Marc

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Thank you for all the feedback. To answer some suggestions:
    - 1.25 magnifier: I agree here and do use it and it helps to reduce human error
    - Movement of photographer: yes, it can happen. But the fact the rate of shots where I nail it with the S2 and the Nikon is very very high indicates me that movement of me (or the subject) is not as often the problem as one might think in the first moment.
    - Service: My stuff went to Leica, Solms (I live in Germany)- so they should be able to do it. My dealer organizes short time to have it back, but the result is not allways 100% IMO.
    - The interesting part is that Also in earlier times I had more problems in the shorter distances and Leica eliminated this problem, but with my M9 I have now it is also at long distance, where specially my 50 and 135 do not focus right. I can prove this because if I focus the rangefinder and then turn the focus just a bit further the image comes out much sharper. (the turn 1 degree at long distance with the 50/135 rule)
    With the 35/1.4 I have to shoot the turn further 1 degree at everything longer than 1m rule, but not at 0.7m.

    What this post shows me is that there are quite some people who have to send in lenses, or who "learn" their gear which translates in knowing which part of the gear is slightl out of tolerance and how to compensate with technique.
    I am convinced Leica is a very skilled company, and the fact that it takes several times for them to calibrate a M9 and some lenses just indicates me that this focsuing system is at the limit techniquely (IMO) and a quite sensitive system.

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    I'm really reluctant to endorse the strategy of a "joint" adjustment of lenses and camera which at the best can work if one has just one camera and as a maximum a couple of lenses.
    To compensate the bad calibration of one element with the opposite bad calibration of an other element does not seem to me a winning strategy.
    The RF of the camera has to be calibrated within the acceptable tolerances and the same has to be done for each lens indipendently, and by doing so the combination should perform as expected.
    This is the approach I've always followed with my digital M cameras and lenses and I'm happy with it.

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Ario, I agree the calibration of each item must be independent, and based on the master calibration at the authorized service centre. But even within the master calibration for both the M9 and lenses, there is a tolerance of what is acceptable, and what is really sharp. By communicating your needs to the service centre, hopefully you get what you need, whether it be for portraits/landscapes/streetscapes.
    Charles Kalnins
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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by Ario Arioldi View Post
    I'm really reluctant to endorse the strategy of a "joint" adjustment of lenses and camera which at the best can work if one has just one camera and as a maximum a couple of lenses.
    To compensate the bad calibration of one element with the opposite bad calibration of an other element does not seem to me a winning strategy.
    The RF of the camera has to be calibrated within the acceptable tolerances and the same has to be done for each lens independently, and by doing so the combination should perform as expected.
    This is the approach I've always followed with my digital M cameras and lenses and I'm happy with it.
    I quite agree with that in theory ... but do accept that some lenses aren't ever going to be spot on at all distances ... like my 34/1.4ASPH which I had calibrated with-in my most frequently used distances. In addition, I put my two M9s to different tasks ... one is used for the 50/.095, 75/1.4 and 90/2.8 and has a 1.4X mag and Thumbs Up ... where the other is dedicated to 21, 28, 35 with a 1.25X mag.

    -Marc

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Marc, I once tried the 1.4 mag but found it to be a bit tunnel like view, thats why I stayed with the 1.25

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    @marc: but do accept that some lenses aren't ever going to be spot on at all distances .
    If that is the case, and the camera RF is properly calibrated, then the problem is with the profile of the helicoid which is wrong: I've seen the same problem in the past on several Summilux 75, spot on at short distance, way off at 5-10 m and perfect again at infinity.

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    I just got a Leica 1.4x mag and was surprised to find out that its about the same view as my Ebay 1.25x mag, only with a larger/easier to see patch. I really was expecting it to be quite tunnel view/low contrast but it really didn't take much of a hit on the vf quality at all. Really helps with the 90mm and I'm sure with a 135mm as well.

    Not that the cheaper Ebay one isn't still a good buy for the price, but a Leica branded one actually may be worth the premium price

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Also regarding RF's in general, I really think there is only so much Leica can do in terms of trying to calibrate what is frankly a pretty low tech system that perhaps isn't best suited to the digital age.

    You never heard of any real issues with film shooters, but now with ultra high resolution 18meg digital sensors, who's output is being view at 100% detail on 27" monitors the inherit weakness in the system can start to show.

    It works amazingly well still overall, but compared to a live view style of focus where what you see is what you get, the mechanical coupling of a RF is already being pushed to its limits.

    Obviously things can and will get out of spec, and in which case they should be adjusted, but I think its going to increasinly be an issue of tilting at windmills so to speak as we progress to higher and higher resolution images while still using the same dated RF mechanism that just wasn't designed for the digital age.

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    These same issues existed with film shooters using super-speed lenses. I've adjusted both of my Canon 7 bodies to work with the 50/0.95. I shimmed the Canon 50/1.5 and Canon 50/1.2 for use iwth a Canon P, required making a custom shim.

    If you shoot at F2, likely you will never see these problems. Shoow at F1.5, and you need to be fairly accurate. At F1.2- need to be spot on.

    It's just not that hard to do, but really makes a difference with enlargements 11"x14" and up. 100% "Pixel Peeping" is like making a 24"x36" print.

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    Re: Focusing the M9

    Quote Originally Posted by t_streng View Post
    Marc, I once tried the 1.4 mag but found it to be a bit tunnel like view, thats why I stayed with the 1.25
    I've tried both - but I simply don't like using them - I'm so used to the field of view of the M9 finder, that changing it is like whacking myself over the head with a brick. I really don't understand how you can swap from one FOV to another just like that. I guess it's just me.

    On the other hand, I don't really find focusing much of a problem.

    Just this guy you know

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