I know I will regret this

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by philip_wilson, Oct 5, 2012.

  1. I know I will regret this comparison as there are bound to be posts from people who hate Leica and from those who want test chart shots but...
    I recently acquired a Leica R zoom 35-70 F4 - I bought to to use on my Leica New M body (when it shows up next year). The lens was $1000 NEW (well it is 12 years old but new). Although it is a mix of Leica design and glass and Kyocera construction Erwin Puts regards it as one of the best R series zooms (The F2.8 version of this lens is legendary but Leica was unable to manufacture it in any quantity) and suggests that it performs as well as the 50 Sumicron. So while I am waiting for my M I bought a Fotodiox "pro" adapter (without AF confirmation) and thought I would compare it to my Canon 24-70 F2.8 I. The Leica is obviously smaller, lighter and feels mach better made. I just took a few test shots in the garden and this is what I noticed.
    The Leica is sharper than the Canon at all apertures and focal lengths but the difference is not that great that it would matter to most photographers. Similarly the Leica shows less CA and the colours and contrast are slightly better. That said the differences in all of these are quite small and you really do need a side by side comparison to see the differences. The edges and corners of the Leica images are noticeably sharper that the Canon but this is likely due to the field curvature effects of the MkI 24-70. The Leica also shows no obvious distortion whereas the Canon shows slight distortion. On the other had the Canon is a stop faster, goes to 24mm and has AF.
    Probably the biggest difference between the two lenses is the transition from in focus to out of focus and the Bokeh. I have always found this difficult to show on the internet as you either end up with crops of the OOF highlights or a small image.
    Here are a few images - all taken from a tripod in live view (and Yes the Canon lens is micro-adjusted to this body) using my 5DII.
     
  2. The scene shot at 35mm (this was the Leica but on these small images you cannot tell). Unless I say otherwise all images were shot on the same camera and lens settings in RAW and converted in CS5 / ACR. I applied no post processing (sharpening, contrast etc... unless I state otherwise)
    00atUO-498711584.jpg
     
  3. Crop from Ha Ling (mountain at the back)
    00atUa-498711984.jpg
     
  4. So even in the centre (and at F8) the Leica is sharper but this is probably not a surprise and photographically unlikely to be significant.
    Her is a different shot at 70mm and F4 - the Canon is a slightly longer 70mm than the Leica by the way
    00atUe-498713584.jpg
     
  5. Now some crops from the centre - both shots are ISO100 F4 70mm and 1/640 Here is the leica crop from the tree
    00atUk-498713684.jpg
     
  6. Here is the Canon
    00atUm-498713784.jpg
     
  7. And finally an attempt to show the OOF transitions of Leica vs Canon
    00atUn-498713984.jpg
     
  8. I believe this is one of the R-series lenses that go back to the Leica/Minolta cooperation. I used to own the Minolta MD version of this lens, and it is indeed very good - not to be confused with the variable max aperture 35-70 Minolta also made, which is terrible.
    My main gripe with this lens, as with all 35-70 zooms is that neither at 35mm nor at 70mm the perspective you get is dramatically different from 50mm. Granted, the zoom option can be handy at times, but if the perspective is not significantly different, "foot zooming" by taking a step forward or back is often a viable alternative. Given these facts, I have always preferred the speed of a 50mm over the flexibility of a 35-70 zoom. Only if the wide end starts at 28 - or better yet 24mm - and the tele end reaches 85mm or longer, a mid range zoom lens becomes interesting for me.
    Of course YMMV.
     
  9. This is actually not the Leica Minolta zoom - this is an ROM only zoom that was Leica Kyocera. As I understand it Leica designed the lens and was responsible for the glass but Kyocera built the lens. I have not shot the earlier Minolta or Sigma lenses but I understand the Sigma was terrible but the Minolta was quite good - although it is reputed to be not as good as the lens I am using in this test - this lens can only be used on R8 and R9. I agree on the focal length range and I would not suggest anyone buying this lens (or the excellent Contax F3.4) over the Canon unless they were clearly aware of the limitations. I actually bough the lens for use on thee new M where I occasionally long for the Tri-elmar (28,35,50 F4) and saw this lens as a much cheaper alternative (the used Tri-elmar is about $4000) given I would not use either lens a lot as I have faster M series glass in this range. Here is the final image showing the Canon OOF transition
    00atUu-498714184.jpg
     
  10. As I expected the small images do not allow you to see the difference in the transition form in focus to out of focus for the two lenses. Thus you will have to take my word for it that the Leica is a smoother transition and the micro contrast and pictorial style draw you in more. I have asked four people who are near me at the moment (not a scientific test) if they could see the difference between the two images and which one they preferred. While non are photographers all could see a difference and preferred the Leica.
    I posted this really so that Canon 24-70 buyers would not long for the Leica (the difference is not that great - possibly except for portraiture - where I don't use the 24-70 anyway as canon makes better lenses for this). Similarly Leica R users (or potential buyers) can see that this lens is a superb performer. Interestingly - if you can find one they are not a bad buy given recent price increases
    I paid $1120 for my 24-70 some years ago but they now sell used (KEH) for $1400 - 1500. The MkII version of the 24-70 is $2300. I only paid $1000 for my lens (brand new) plus $60 for the adapter. So if you don't want the Tamron and don't mind MF, a slower aperture and a limited wide range - the Leica is not a bad buy. I did not mention it but the Leica is actually a very good Macro lens - it has a macro setting which is pretty good - a quick test says that it is very close to my 100 F2.8 LIS
     
  11. Any chance you could post an image of the lens itself? I would be particularly interested to see what the macro setting looks like.
     
  12. Interesting. Personally I would rather have spent the $1000 on the Canon 35mm f/2, 50mm f/1.4 and the 85mm f/1.8 - three nice primes with great image quality that cover the same focal range as the Leica but also come with auto focus, wider apertures and a 12 month warranty.
     
  13. Jamie - since I have those 3 lenses already it would not make a lot of sense for me to buy them again. In actual fact I find the 85 a very good lens, the 50 good - but a bit soft at F1.4 and F1.8 and the 35 F2 I find rather disappointing. I was actually a big fan of the old FD 35 F2 but the EF version is not that great a lens. I did not actually buy the R series lens to use on Canon - I bought it for the new Leica M rangefinder. I have found occasions where the tri-elmar 28, 35, 50 F4 would have been useful but the $4000+ used price has discouraged me so I actually regard the 35-70 as a cheap (though inferior) substitute. While everyone comments on the prices of Leica lenses they hold their value remarkably well so I doubt if I will lose money on this lens.
    For Frank - here is an image of the Leica. Obviously it makes the build quality of the Canon look poor but this is to be expected. The macro setting is engaged at the 70mm end by holding in the silver button and turning the lens. It focuses to about 26cm and gives 1:2.8. So not as good as a macro but still remarkable for a zoom - and the quality is very high.
    00atXt-498741684.jpg
     
  14. Sorry Philip, after re-reading my last post I think I came across as being quite abrupt. I am sure the Leica lens will be a beautiful thing to use on your new M. Whilst I am not a fan of using manual lenses on a DSLR I know plenty of people enjoy it. It was interesting to see the results.
     
  15. No your post was fine - I am not actually advocating buying this lens instead of the Canon one - I was merely comparing the two for anyone who was interested. I will use MF lenses on my DSLR - mainly tilt shift lenses (the 17F4 is probably my favourite lens and I also use Mamiya MF lenses on a tilt shift adaptor) plus I use a Contax 50 F1.7 which I find much better wide open than my Canon 50 F1.4
    I posted the results and bought the adaptor because while I bought the Leica for use on my new M body (when it arrives) it is so beautifully constructed that I decided to buy an adaptor and see who it compared to the Canon zoom. The answer seems to be that despite it's age it is optically a better performer. This is not surprising as Erwin puts (the renowned Leica expert) rates this as a top performing Leica lens - as sharp if not sharper than the R series primes! It is not their best zoom - that was the 35-70 F2.8 a lens they only managed to make about 200 copies of as it manufacture was too difficult! That lens (when they come up for sale) sells for over $10,000!
    Out of interest how do you find the 35 F2 performance - I find mine is little better than the 16-35 II or the 24-70 F2.8
     
  16. Philip, it'll be interesting to see how the new EF 24-70 stacks up against the Leica. I was never enthralled with the copies of the original version of the Canon zoom that I had, and am hoping that the new lens will be better.
     
  17. I find that I don't use my 24-70 that much so I am not sure that I will replace the one I have. Most reviews rate the new
    lens better than the one I have but I tend to use primes for super critical stuff. I suspect the new lens will be closer to the
    Leica which is an impressive result as it is a lot more ambitious optically than the Leica. The one area where I doubt the
    Canon will match the Leica is in how it transitions from in focus to out of focus. I have no Canon lenses that do this as
    well as my Leicas (or my Contax lenses). I remember reading a rather lengthy scientific article about the differences
    between German and Japanese design philosophy that claimed to explain the compromises that each took. It is clearly a
    design thing as my Contax ZM 50 F1.5 is one of the best lenses I have for Bokeh and this transition and it is of course
    Japanese.
     
  18. Philip - many thanks for the picture and the explanation of the macro feature. You find the same feature in a number of Minolta MD zoom lenses, namely the MD 35-70/3.5, MD 35-105/3.5-4.5, and MD 35-135/3.5-4.5. As you say, it's no match for a dedicated macro lens, but these lenses have a better claim to be called 'macro zoom' than many newer products, which carry this label for no reason other than a marketing advantage.
     
  19. Leica is well known for great optics, so your results aren't entirely unexpected. However, this sentence raises some questions about the technical details of your test.
    Here are a few images - all taken from a tripod in live view (and Yes the Canon lens is micro-adjusted to this body)​
    Micro adjusted - does that mean that you used autofocus with your Canon lens while manually focusing the Leica? That could explain the differences regardless of any fine tuning that you've done previously.
    There's no guarantee that micro-adjustments will be accurate at any distance other than the distance that you used to make the adjustment. At the very least two data points (near and far) are required for accurate calibration of an instrument's range. Thermometers are routinely calibrated at the freezing AND boiling points of water (altitude adjusted). Guitars are fine tuned by comparing the tuning of an open string to the tuning at the twelfth fret (octave). A lens calibrated at a distance of 20 meters might be more accurate at 15 or 30 meters, but 2 meters or 200 meters potentially could be rendered less sharp than before the tuning was set.
    Are any of your comparisons taken from the exact plane of focus (confirmed by like focusing methods)? Obviously, the distant mountain peak is beyond that plane. Which of the tree branches, if any, were on the plane of focus.
    If you have indeed found a moderately priced lens that outperforms your Canon, congrats! And ENJOY! It should be a joy to carry and to use when AF and f/2.8 are not required.
     
  20. "The Leica is sharper than the Canon at all apertures and focal lengths but the difference is not that great that it would matter to most photographers"
    On my monitor at work I could not tell any difference at all, but on my NEC at home the Leica clearly outperforms the Canon.
     
  21. Dan. While I mentioned that the Canon was micro adjusted I actually used both lenses exactly the same way. They were
    both used in manual focus and I used the LCD and zoomed in to 10x to focus. I also just posted crops from the center
    around where I focused. The canon is actually quie a bit wore than the Leica at the edges of the frame. I assume it is due
    to the field curvature of this lens.

    Harry the shots that I took showing the transition between in focus and out of focus are noticible different in the full 21 MP
    images on my 27" iMac but the 700pixel wide images look quite similar. If you look closely you will also see that the Leica
    gives slightly different colours to the Canon.
     
  22. On the Macro front i took I quick test shot while hiking. The shot is handheld and is of a weed on a mountain. Considering it is handheld and shot at F4 it looks quite sharp and you can see the Bokeh. Sorry the subject is not better and that I did not use a tripod etc...
    00atky-498849584.jpg
     
  23. Leica was once the premiere camera maker on the basis of innovation and product quality. Leica still makes fine cameras, but the largest part of their perceived value comes directly from the name "Leica" on the gear, and not from any specialness in terms of the photographic output - despite the nearly religious belief of Leicaholics that their brand will produce some mythical and ineffable form of photographic image.
    The nit-picking about this lens being microscopically "better" in some way than than other lens is silly and often takes on the character of "mine is bigger than yours." The story of the emperor's new clothes is relevant here. The Leica shooter is often utterly convinced that his/her photographs must be visually superior to those produced by photographers using "lesser" brands. However, this is just plain nonsense. You could hang 90 photographs made with digital gear in a gallery, with 1/3 from Canon, 1/3 from Nikon, and 1/3 from Leica and no one would be able to tell which were which.
    Frankly, I don't care one tiny bit what gear one uses to make photographs - I care about the way the photographs express the vision of the photographer and the way that they affect me.
    Dan
     
  24. The Leica shooter is often utterly convinced that his/her photographs must be visually superior to those produced by photographers using "lesser" brands. However, this is just plain nonsense.​
    Just like Canon and Nikon users and so on. Don't make a special case for Leicaphiles because it isn't true, The tradition of excellence of Leica and their optics since 1913 is a perfectly reasonable basis for picking a camera brand, if you can afford it. It is not everything but it is not totally insignificant either - just as the tradition of professional support, rental outlets, excellence and so on is for Canon and Nikon. Also if you can't tell the difference between a Leica and a Canon print then choosing a Leica is not so dumb either if that is what you want. If it was inferior that might be a dumb choice.
     

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