Leica M lens quality control disappointment

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

  1. budjames

    budjames New to Leica Place

    Oct 30, 2017
    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.

    Bud James

  2. Brian

    Brian Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    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: Dec 8, 2017
  3. JonVdG

    JonVdG Leica Place Regular

    Apr 29, 2016
    Boulder, Colorado
    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,
  4. asiafish

    asiafish Leica Place All-Pro

    Aug 9, 2013
    Bakersfield, CA
    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.