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Thread: A few questions about the MATE

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    Senior Member Robert Campbell's Avatar
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    A few questions about the MATE

    Hi there,

    I've a few questions about the MATE, and hoping some of you can help. It would be for use on the M240 and MM.

    It seems like a good 'travel' lens; it would be about 300g lighter than my combination of 28/35/50 lenses together. Weight is a significant issue for me, as I have neck problems. But is it a 'jack of all trades and master of none'?

    I'm not concerned about the maximum aperture, more about performance and reliability. I've read that the mechanics can be a bit weak; is this correct?

    Is there a difference between the E55 and E49 versions? I gather the optics are the same, what about the mechanicals?

    And, is the convenience worth it over three (modest) primes?

    TIA
    Sláinte

    Robert.

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    In my experience if you can cope with having an f/4 minimum aperture the MATE is an excellent lens for travel. I had the most recent version and the mechanics were rock solid. When using an M8 or M9 I was limited to a max usable ISO of 800 so the f/4 limitation made me use other lenses. But on an M240 you're gaining a few stops of usable ISO so it's as if the lens went from being an f/4 to an effective f/2. Now we're talkin'.
    Brad Husick

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    Thanks for that!

    Any other views?
    Sláinte

    Robert.

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    I had one, great travel lens, very good imaging, but, f4 speed was a concern. Not an issue for outside shots, but limiting for inside. Mostly compensated for with an M8/M9 because you could just dial up a faster ISO. The f4 was still a concern if you wanted narrow DOF for subject isolation.

    I had the E49 version, and I understand that the mechanicals were superior on it, especially in regard to moving the indicator for the framelines.

    And it is a largish lens, but not ungainly so.

    In the end, I did sell it, as it was a fairly valuable lens and I felt that having discreet lenses was okay for my shooting style.

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Campbell View Post
    Hi there,

    I've a few questions about the MATE, and hoping some of you can help. It would be for use on the M240 and MM.

    It seems like a good 'travel' lens; it would be about 300g lighter than my combination of 28/35/50 lenses together. Weight is a significant issue for me, as I have neck problems. But is it a 'jack of all trades and master of none'?

    I'm not concerned about the maximum aperture, more about performance and reliability. I've read that the mechanics can be a bit weak; is this correct?

    Is there a difference between the E55 and E49 versions? I gather the optics are the same, what about the mechanicals?

    And, is the convenience worth it over three (modest) primes?

    TIA
    I have one but don't use it that much. Optics are fine, even at f4.0.
    However I use the M often at wider f-stops, that's why I don't use the MATE much. People say the later version is mechanically better/more reliable.
    One comment about the focal length: The 50mm setting of the MATE seems somewhat wider than the 50mm primes I own.
    Now that you mention the lens I should use it more often again. However I se 35mm now for 80% of my shots, so I really don't need the 28 and 50mm setting often, and that's why I bring the 35mm Summicron most of times.

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    I've had three, 2 E49s 1 E55.
    I didn't love any of them, and won't get another!
    The last one had occasional flare at 50mm, enough to completely spoil the image, but very random and unpredictable. I learned later that this could be fixed with a trip to Solms, but I suppose that might not be cheap.
    All the best

    Just this guy you know

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    Hello Robert,

    I've used an E49 version on an MM for a couple of years now -- I got it for the same reason that you're talking about, my poor shoulders just can't carry a heavy bag any more . As a travel lens I think it's superb, though I'm primarily a landscape and architecture photographer, so I'm not using it (much) for portraits or street work -- though when I have done some street work, leaving it at 35mm and f8 works really well for me! Apart from not having to carry those three primes it also obviates issues with having to change lenses at inopportune moments -- for me it nearly always seems to be an in-opportune moment . Looking at my images, I find that it compares very well with what I get using primes (28/2.8, 35/2, and 50/2) -- I have encountered very occasional flare problems at 50mm also, but not enough to be a real concern (and sometimes it can work well) -- f5.6 or f8 it gives me great results and the mechanics have been trouble free. For my own personal work around architecture and buildings using the MATE as the 'normal' lens means that I can carry around the 21 Super Elmar as well, which is an added bonus

    Good luck!
    John.

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    Thanks all for your thoughts!

    I'm pondering...
    Sláinte

    Robert.

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    I wrote an article about the MATE 4 years ago in the M9 days (well, I still have the M9)...anyways, the MATE is a lovely performer, moreso at 35 and 50, albeit a bit slow. At 28, it's fine, but occasionally loses contrast and can flare.... I think it's rendering is great, and I only sold it because I use primes more and value speed:

    The Leica MATE Lens Review (Medium Angle Tri-Elmar) by Ashwin Rao | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS
    Ashwin Rao
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    My Photography

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    I don't know this lens at all, but notice in the responses above that Jono and JohnEaton say it's subject to flare at 50mm and Ashwin says it tends to flare at 28mm. FWIW.
    Ed

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    Quote Originally Posted by erudolph View Post
    I don't know this lens at all, but notice in the responses above that Jono and JohnEaton say it's subject to flare at 50mm and Ashwin says it tends to flare at 28mm. FWIW.
    Hi Ed
    2 to 1 . . . but Ashwin is bigger than me so I won't argue

    The flare at 50mm is insidious and apparently random (but can be fixed by a trip to Solms).

    I think the flare at 28mm is standard "the sun is just outside the picture" flare

    Just this guy you know
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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    Thanks again for your thoughts and the link.

    It might be a bit harsh, but I'm getting the feeling that the MATE is being "damned by faint praise". It's a clever concept, but just a bit flawed. Some mechanical problems, perhaps solved in the third iteration; I would be unhappy with the flare. Somehow, many of my pix are contre jour—is there any other way—and I think I'd be displeased with the results. And as sunshine is a rare commodity in Ireland these days, I don't want to return from a trip abroad (Dracula land in May is on the cards) only to find that many pix are unusable.

    I think I'll stick with what I've got for the present.
    Sláinte

    Robert.

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    Sensible man

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    A few more clues. Leica has withdrawn the MATE, even though it integrates its function nicely with the rangefinder system. The WATE (16-18-21) is still available. Since its range is actually pretty small, it is a true zoom, and with prime-like performance at least at the 16 and 21 mm ends of the range. I interpret this as saying that Leica doesn't feel the MATE keeps up with their current offerings.

    scott

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    Quote Originally Posted by scott kirkpatrick View Post
    A few more clues. Leica has withdrawn the MATE, even though it integrates its function nicely with the rangefinder system. The WATE (16-18-21) is still available. Since its range is actually pretty small, it is a true zoom, and with prime-like performance at least at the 16 and 21 mm ends of the range. I interpret this as saying that Leica doesn't feel the MATE keeps up with their current offerings.

    scott
    HI Scott
    I think the MATE was already discontinued when the WATE was introduced (around the time of the M8 incidentally).
    Of course I don't know, but I understood they stopped making the MATE because it was too expensive (all the mechanics to change the frame lines). The WATE doesn't have this.

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    Quote Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post
    HI Scott
    I think the MATE was already discontinued when the WATE was introduced (around the time of the M8 incidentally).
    Of course I don't know, but I understood they stopped making the MATE because it was too expensive (all the mechanics to change the frame lines). The WATE doesn't have this.
    Puts has the MATE manufacture ending in 2006, although I think you could still find them when the M8 came out. The fact that the frame sequence in the M3,2,4,5,6,7 cameras was 35, then 50, then 28 mm must have required a really Rube Goldberg (sorry, Heath Robinson) mechanism.

    scott

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    Quote Originally Posted by scott kirkpatrick View Post
    Puts has the MATE manufacture ending in 2006, although I think you could still find them when the M8 came out. The fact that the frame sequence in the M3,2,4,5,6,7 cameras was 35, then 50, then 28 mm must have required a really Rube Goldberg (sorry, Heath Robinson) mechanism.

    scott
    Exactly, difficult and expensive . Sadly I think my first one was probably state of the art, but the next two weren't.

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    Senior Member Robert Campbell's Avatar
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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    Quote Originally Posted by scott kirkpatrick View Post
    A few more clues. Leica has withdrawn the MATE, even though it integrates its function nicely with the rangefinder system. The WATE (16-18-21) is still available. Since its range is actually pretty small, it is a true zoom, and with prime-like performance at least at the 16 and 21 mm ends of the range. I interpret this as saying that Leica doesn't feel the MATE keeps up with their current offerings.

    scott
    Sometimes, what isn't said is more significant than what is said.

    I'm still a bit curious; the front element of the MATE was made by Hoya; is this common for Leitz? And, the sequence of the focal lengths, 28-50-35 is strange; somehow not 'natural'. Was this sequence determined by the optics, or the gyrations needed for the frame line selector?
    Sláinte

    Robert.

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    Quote Originally Posted by scott kirkpatrick View Post
    A few more clues. Leica has withdrawn the MATE, even though it integrates its function nicely with the rangefinder system. The WATE (16-18-21) is still available. Since its range is actually pretty small, it is a true zoom, and with prime-like performance at least at the 16 and 21 mm ends of the range. I interpret this as saying that Leica doesn't feel the MATE keeps up with their current offerings.

    scott
    Hi Scott,
    I rather believe that Leica didn't sell enough MATE or didn't see enough demand for such a lens.
    As I wrote before I do believe the MATE keeps up pretty well with the primes. I once compared my MATE to 28/35/50 Summicrons (on the M8) - at f4.0 there was a slight difference and at f5.6 I couldn't tell much. It is not a supercontrasty lens but this is not a disadvantage in digital photography.
    I haven't tested it on the M9/MM/M 240 though.

    I also believe that the fact its not a real zoom has the advantage that the selection of focal length is more active from the photographer, while a zoom sometimes is just used instead of getting closer or more far away to the subject.
    With the TRi-Elmar one really thinks if 28,35 or 50 is most adequate focal length for a certain subject.

    If I was not liking 35mm so much, I would certainly use the Tri-Elmar more often. From an IQ-standpoint I would have no reservations.

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    I think this lens was so complex that Leica lost money on every one they sold - kind of like supercars. Bugatti loses money on every Veyron sold despite the car selling for $1M a copy.
    Brad Husick
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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    Quote Originally Posted by bradhusick View Post
    I think this lens was so complex that Leica lost money on every one they sold - kind of like supercars. Bugatti loses money on every Veyron sold despite the car selling for $1M a copy.
    That's what I understood as well Brad

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    I bought an E49 version 2 of this lens when it first came out. It had rave reviews from Mr Puts. It is a really fantastic lens and beautifully made. The 35 and 50 options were as good as the pre-asph 35 and 50 cron albeit two stops slower. There was a bit of barrel distortion at the 28 end, but nothing terrible. I sold mine just because I found myself using primes and wanted the speed. If you want a travel lens, then it's a top choice.

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    I've had mine (1st vers) since about 2007 and despite having various other lenses in those focal lengths still use it a fair bit on M8, M9 and 240. It was probably slightly more useful to me on the M8 than later models, but still… For walking around, I sometimes take it and the 90 macro Elmar and am quite happy. I haven't really had any flare issues over and above those with the single focal length lenses, and while at 28mm it doesn't quite measure up to the 28/2 at f/4, at other apertures and focal lengths it matches current offerings quite well in practice. It's definitely as good or better than pre-asph 28's and 35's.

    As the handling is a bit strange with the 3 rings I made a focussing tab with a plastic tie-wrap.

    If you've seen pictures of the MATE cut in two you'll see how complex the mechanics are, and why Leica couldn't afford to continue with it. The focal length progression is due to the optical design; it's not a zoom and in between settings can't produce a useful image.

    It usually comes with me on trips.

    Henning

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    I had one years ago when I was still in film with M7. I sold it to fund my M8 and quickly regretted the sale. I bought another E49 last year and it is a great travel lens as long as you are mostly outdoors. The E49 is supposedly more reliable than the E55 and commands a higher price. I do not think it can match any of the primes on acuity but it is still a first class lens. Reading Erwin Puts on this lens is really worth it. Everything is a compromise and in this case, for saving some weight - or even the expense of three lenses vs one, it does what it is supposed to do.

    As an outdoor oriented travel kit, a WATE a MATE and the Macro Elmar are a very good combination. Three lenses. Seven focal lengths. Not much weight. if If you can deal with f4 .....
    Alan

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    Quote Originally Posted by weinschela View Post
    ...As an outdoor oriented travel kit, a WATE a MATE and the Macro Elmar are a very good combination. Three lenses. Seven focal lengths. Not much weight. if If you can deal with f4 .....
    That was the origin of my thinking: I already have two out of three, so the MATE seemed like a complement.

    I see that the E49 version seems to be generally thought of as having superior mechanicals.
    Sláinte

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    Reading through other's comments and thinking bit more carefully about my own use, I would emphasize: (1) that I think the MATE is a unique travel lens, I do get shots that I wouldn't have got otherwise (I wouldn't be carrying three primes!); (2) my personal view is that on prints up to 16x20 I can't see the difference from the primes (external landscapes, architecture, cities, etc): (3) I wouldn't be too concerned about the 'flare' issue, it's very infrequent and I'm not sure that any other lens wouldn't have exhibited similar results in identical circumstances. I think the positives far outweigh the negatives

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    My understanding is that, yes, Hoya did make the front element. The discontinuation of the lens had to do with the supply of those front elements coming to a close as much as the financial considerations already mentioned.

    I owned the e55 version of the lens. Bought it along with my first Leica: an M6 TTL. At the time I naively thought it would be "the one Leica lens I'd ever be able to own." What a slippery slope that turned out to be!

    The e49 version has a few mechanical advantages:

    1) The click stops for each focal length are tighter and thus more secure than with the original e55 version. I've never handled an e49, but do think this would be an improvement.
    2) The e49 version features Depth of Field indicators for each focal length, whereas the e55 has none.
    3) The e49 version has a focus tab. The e55 version does not.
    4) Perhaps an advantage: the two have different hood options which may or may not affect flare performance. I didn't own one and thus will refrain from editorial comment!

    I sold mine in part to fund my M8. In accord with the myth of selling *any* Leica lens, I must admit that do miss it.


    -J.

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    Re: A few questions about the MATE

    Quote Originally Posted by bradhusick View Post
    Bugatti loses money on every Veyron sold despite the car selling for $1M a copy.
    But Volkswagen gains far more than they loose in having a platform for design innovation and technology, not to mention the advertising and promotional benefits of making Bugatti's that rub off on the VW group overall. And I think the 'losing money' quote was a relative term anyway, perhaps in the beginning they did, but I think it was something put about to calm the surprise and anguish caused by the initial price tag. They are now more like 1.6 million Pounds, not dollars, and sell like hot cakes.

    Anyway, the MATE. I had the 49mm version and while it was a nice lens and did everything very well I felt it had no 'spark', that ingredient that makes you want a Leica lens over any other. Sometimes it was the slow speed that made things feel flat, but in actual terms I never liked the colour's it produced which I thought dull compared with similar focal length lenses. And then there was the flare, and the random flare Jono mentioned was real and would have me scratching my head because sometimes the sun wasn't even out. That was a about ten years ago, I sold it within six months.

    Nowadays if weight was a definite overriding issue and I wanted those same focal lengths for travel I would get the three CV Skopar's, the 28, 35, and 50. Maybe even add the 21mm in as well albeit it can produce the 'red edge' problem, but of course not a problem mounted on the MM.

    Steve

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