Leica M lens quality control disappointment

Discussion in 'Leica' started by budjames, Dec 8, 2017.

  1. budjames

    budjames Rookie

    14
    Jul 31, 2016
    I satisfied a lifelong desire to own a Leica M camera by purchasing an new M10 a month ago. With the camera, I purchased the Summilux 50mm f1.4 and Summicron 35mm f2 lenses.

    I shot Canon SLRs and Pro DSLRs for 40 years before switching to Fuji X cameras and Fuji lenses about four years ago. The recent Leica purchase was a "bucket list" decision.

    As I started shooting with my new Leica, I realized that the image quality was hit or miss and disappointing compared to the excellent IQ of the Fuji cameras.

    I took my new camera and lenses to the Leica repair facility in north New Jersey yesterday. The technicians checked out the body and lenses. The body was fine, but both lenses were out of calibration and creating the random IQ results. I had to leave both lenses with them for recalibration. The bummer was that with their work load, the lenses would not be done until after the Christmas holiday. It will probably be a month before I get them back.

    It was good news that the problem was not me, but the lenses. However, I'm bummed that I just spent over $13,000 on my first Leica and two lenses and could not consistently produce acceptable images. So much for the legendary Leica quality.

    Has anyone else had such a terrible experience with recent lenses purchases? Just curious.

    Regards,
    Bud James

    www.budjames.photography
     
  2. BrianS

    BrianS Super Moderator

    Apr 3, 2013
    Bill Pierce, who I have read articles from since I was 12 (ie, for almost 1/2 century) , wrote that the first thing photographers did when purchasing new Leica cameras and lenses was to drop the lenses and camera off with the local repair tech to be "Zeroid". This means that the new lenses were matched to the existing camera, or new camera matched to existing lenses. Having "zeroed" a lot of Russian lenses for myself and others- I understand the issues. "Exact focus" with a lens is affected by shooting aperture and wavelength of light. "ASPH" and "APO" lenses minimize each of these, respectively. With film, exact focus was also affected by how film sits in the camera- and different films might sit differently. With Digital- exact focus is affected by exact location of the sensor, thickness of the photo-sensitive layer, the microlens array and color filter array of the sensor. With a Monochrome Digital sensor (and film) exact focus is affected by the filter used with the lens. I have the M8, M9, and M Monochrom. Each of these cameras made "Slightly different" assumptions about these parameters, and each one is "Slightly" different from the other. I suspect the M10 is also a bit different.

    So- we're back to Bill Pierce's advice about having a lens "Zeroed". With modern AF-Focus DSLR's, the ability to do fine tuning to match a lens to a camera is built into the camera. With an RF camera: it's also built in, as long as you are good with using tools for fine adjustments. That means a trip to the Tech or a lot of time spent on the workbench. I view the latter as "relaxing" and comparable to "Knitting". My regular job of the past 40 years is working with computers. I still write a lot of assembly language, because of the absolute control. Kind of like using a Leica with a lens that has been custom shimmed to be optimized for wide-open work with an Orange filter for my M Monochrom. Take the Orange filter off- it will front-focus by an amount that I've already measured. 40 years ago, a Physicist taught me the "law of conservation of inconvenience". It applies to Leica. I've found the inconvenience to be balanced with results gained, like coding in assembler.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 8, 2017
  3. JonVdG

    JonVdG Regular

    34
    Apr 29, 2016
    Boulder, Colorado
    Jon
    Hello Bud,
    I haven't had this experience with any of my Leica M bodies or lenses, but of course you're not alone. I have had issues with my Nikon AI-S manual focus lenses needing to be adjusted for correct focus, but it's a relatively easy procedure. Brian's advice is good - get them zeroed and you'll likely get a lifetime of enjoyment from them. If it's focus reliability out of the box that you need, I recommend looking at the Leica TL system. You'll find a lot of what most people enjoy about Leica there. The manual focusing experience isn't nearly as nice, but you have autofocus for those critical moments when you need it.

    Happy Shooting,
    Jon
     
  4. asiafish

    asiafish All-Pro

    Aug 9, 2013
    Bakersfield, CA
    Andrew
    I bought a brand-new 28 Summicron in March, and had to have a wobble between the front and rear asssemblies tightened three weeks later. It loosened againin another month and I sent it off to Leica. To their credit, the lens was back in my hands two weeks later and is tight as I expect a Leica lens to be.
     
  5. budjames

    budjames Rookie

    14
    Jul 31, 2016
    More disappointments with my new Leica M10.

    I finally got my brand new Summilux 50mm and Summicron 35mm lenses back from the Leica repair center after they had them for about 6 weeks. The lens focus issues seem to be fixed and the image quality is now excellent with these two lenses.

    Now the problem I having is that after mounting the Summicron 35mm lens to the camera, it was showing up as a 21mm f2.8 lens in the resulting image metadata. When I check by pushing the button on the right back of the camera to which displays information about the battery, SD card and lens mounted, it shows 21mm when my 35mm lens is mounted. After removing the attaching the lens several times, it would sometimes show properly as a 35mm lens. I have not seen this problem with my other three Leica lenses (Summilux 50 and Summicron 28 and 75).

    By accident, I discovered that moving the lever that changes the frame lines in the viewfinder, that the lens would show as 35mm and then switch to 21mm. Jiggling the lever or flipping it in and out a few times would restore the lens reading as 35mm. I think the problem is now in the M10 body.

    Now, I am going to have to send in the body and 35mm lens to have Leica fix it. I'm sure that I will be without my new camera for a few more weeks while this gets sorted out. Very disappointing!!!

    Regards,
    Bud James

    www.budjames.photography
     
  6. carlb

    carlb All-Pro

    Feb 6, 2013
    Although it won't make for a perfect experience ... They're pretty flush with SLs. I'm guessing a bit of asking/cajoling would have them put a SL and M lens adapter in your hands as a loaner. (SLs are big and heavy, but excellent beasts.)
     
  7. budjames

    budjames Rookie

    14
    Jul 31, 2016
    Carl,
    Thanks for the suggestion, but I only want a Leica M rangefinder so the SL swap would not be serve me.

    I switched from Canon Pro DSLRS and "L" Pro lenses to all Fuji X and Fuji lenses. My current FujiX bodies are XPro2, XT2 and a fixed lens X100F. The Fuji XF lenses are excellent so this covers my needs for a "DSLR" type experience and capabilities.

    I have realized since my last post that the erroneous 21mm sensing when the 35mm Summicron is mounted, is because of the lever which changes the illuminated frame lines in the viewfinder. Working this lever can get the 35mm lens indicator to switch to 21mm. I think the internal components are "sticking". The more that I work the lever, the less the problem happens. At least I can replicate the issue. I think I just need to break it in some more. We'll see if this eventually goes away.

    Regards,
    Bud James

    www.budjames.photography
     
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  8. chris0202

    chris0202 Regular

    38
    Aug 13, 2017
    I am sorry that you have to go through these. Leica's QC is rather questionable. I hope they fix things for you. Most my current Leica stuff are vintage ones so I don't feel too bad sending them in for service.

    BTW, my friend recently bought a x100f and we noticed that one corner in the back screen is making a sound when pressed. He asked for replacement and the new one had a different corner that makes the sound... So far, my experience suggests that Canon's build quality is hard to beat. I am a current 5d iv user who went back from mirrorless.