Leica R prime lenses vs Canon L prime lenses

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by alberto greco, Feb 11, 2006.

  1. Hi everybody,

    I have a complete Leica set of prime lenses (28, 50, 90 mm) which I
    currently use on a R4S. 20 year old equipment, but still very good.
    Iメm used to print my pics by myself in my b&w darkroom.
    Iメm thinking about buying a Canon system (for autofocus reason and
    compatibility with digital).
    The quality of the pics is very important for me and therefore I am
    considering to buy Canon L prime lenses (which, I think, are the
    only Canon lenses which wonメt be completely blown out of the water
    by Leica quality).
    My question is: prime Canon L lenses are at least as good as Leica
    20 year old primes? What about other Canon prime lenses (not L
    Are there some resolution test for comparing such lenses? In your
    opinion, which size the pictures should have for noticing some
    differences between the lenses?
    Will I be disappointed by prints taken out of L canon lenses
    (considering that in my entire モphotographyヤ life, I just have used
    Leica lenses)?

    Thanks for your comments

    PS I'm thinking about posting the same message on Canon Eos forum,
    just to know what Canon people think.
  2. Canon 35L, 85L, and 135L are absolutely world class lenses. Also, the Canon 100mm Macro is superb.

    I'm no lens tester and will not post pics to prove anything here, though others might. Your best bet would be to try them yourselves by renting them first and seeing with your own eyes whether they meet your expectations. As to whether your expectations are to do good photography or shoot resolution charts, I have no interest in knowing.
  3. Addendum:

    If autofocus is the reason you're looking at Canon, why bother comparing the two systems?
  4. Get an adapter to mount your Leica glass to a Canon body. Nothing is beating, nothing has ever beaten and nothing will ever beat Leica prime fixed focal length lenses. That's not a joke. Find a reason for not wanting autofocus and continue to use the Leica glass. It is far superior if you're doing enlargements beyond 20x30 cm. I used two prime Canon lenses before. All I can say is that my Leica glass blows them away. Especially wide open, which is what I use most and where I find the added value of the Leica.
  5. "I used two prime Canon lenses before"

    L- glass ofcourse.
  6. I have both the Canon 1.4/50 and pre-ASPH Lux-M (similar to the R-version). They are
    very similar in performance, but the Lux is more flare proof and has better bokeh. The new
    Lux-R is supposed to be a killer lens, better than the Summicron-R/M, which means it is
    vastly better than the Canon.

    I haven't had a chance to shoot the 35 Lux-R, but have used the Canon 35L. The Canon 35
    is very nice, but has a noticeable amount of distortion and the corners are a little soft wide
    open. I don't think it's as good as the 1.4/35 Summilux-M ASPH.
  7. I have to ask the same question Nels did:
    If autofocus is the reason you're looking at Canon, why bother comparing the two systems?
    There are circumstances where AF is hugely important and making unsupportable pontifications about Leica lens quality (into the future, no less) is not helpful or informative. To answer Alberto's question a little more precisely, it would help to know which lenses he's considering. He currently uses 28, 50, and 90 mm, but perhaps he has other focal lengths in mind as well. Canon makes some lenses that are world-beaters (I'm thinking of the big-glass telephotos and 70-200 zooms here). OTOH, some of their wideangles apparently leave something to be desired. I don't have any 20 year old leica glass, but FWIW my 500/4 IS absolutely buries the ~34 year old Leitz 560/5.6 I used for many years -- not only in optical quality, but in the robustness of construction and in ease of handling.
  8. Many of Canon's non-L lenses are as good as their L lenses. You generally get a faster
    aperture and stronger build with the L lenses, but many Canons like the 24 and 28 f/2.8, 35
    f/2, 50 f/1.8 and 1.4, 85 f/1.8, 100 f/2, 135 f/2.8 are optically excellent.
  9. Some of the Canon range compare very favourably with Leica lenses (or Zeiss for that matter). Apart from the super telephoto lenses, where Canon quality is beyond dispute, the tilt and shift range, the 15 2.8 L, 35 1.4 L, 50 1.4, 85 1.2 L, and 135 2.0 L are all outstanding peformers. And some of the lower priced optics are no slouches either, take a look here to see what the economical 85mm f1.8 is capable of.


    The achilles heel of the Canon lens range are the fixed focal length wide-angles in the 20-28mm range. They're not bad exactly, just nothing to get excited about. Which is why there's a brisk trade in Zeiss and Leica to Canon converters rings to allow Canon camera owners access to the 21mm Distagon and 19mm Leica.
  10. A huge number of working professional photographers around the world seem to think Canon glass is good enough for them, but if you don't think it's good enough for your photography then you should stick with Leica. But like others have said, if you need autofocus then you have no choice but to look elsewhere than Leica.
  11. You will likely see little difference in Canon L glass and your older R primes. There is also some overlap bewteen strengths of systems. IMHO, the longer Canon primes (300mm and 400mm especially) are better than the "normal" focal lengths, and especially the wide angle lenses. Similarly, of the older R primes I believe Leica's longer focal lengths (90mm, 135mm, 180mm in particular) are better than the normal and wide angle focal lengths. The newer normal and wide angle Leica R lenses are better than the older ones, but are very pricey. Because Canon's wide angle primes are just average, the Zeiss 21mm f2.8 Distagon (sold for $1600 new, now out of production) routinely sells today for $3000 and up---used. It is the most desired "off brand" glass favored by Canon digital users. Having said that, the new version Leica R 19mm is also a very fine lens. The best value among older primes are the Contax/Zeiss lenses, especially the 21mm Distagon (albeit very pricey), but more moderately priced are the (mintish used prices, all out of production) 28mm f2 Distagon ($700-$800), 28mm f2.8 Distagon ($225), 35mm f2.8 Distagon ($200), and the 50mm f1.4 ($150) and f1.7 Planar ($100-$125). All equal to or superior to any Leica R (or Canon L) for far less money (except the aforementioned 21mm Distagon, a lens in a class by itself).
  12. As other's have said, the widangle primes are not Canon's best lenses. The $400 20/2.8 USM isn't bad for a $400 lens, but isn't as good as the Zeiss/Leica equivalents which sell for $3000+.

    Please don't crosspost this on the EOS forum. Posting the same question on multiple forums isn't allowed here. You'll just get the same answers anyway.

    At longer focal lengths, the Canon "L" primes are world class. For example the 85/1.2L and 135/2.0L would be very hard to beat at any price by any other manufacturer.
  13. I recently bought a 5D, and compared the Canon 50/1.4 and 35/2 with the Leica-R 50/2 and 35/2.

    The Canon 50 was sharper at center and edge, beginning at f2. At 1.4, though, the Canon lens does not perform well. I would imagine the new Leica-R 50 Summilux ROM would be better wide open, but since my Summicron R (ROM version) doesn't go to 1.4, i'm content with the Canon.

    The Canon 35/2 was 'a match' for the Summicron 35 (newish 3-Cam). A hair better in the center, and a hair worse on the edges. I will probably trade up to the L35/1.4, which is supposed to be sharper, but does suffer from distortion. Of course, if distortion is a critical factor with wide angle lenses, using rangefinders would be preferable.

    I did not compare the 80-R Summilux with the 85/1.2L, as i sold the Leica 80 before i acquired the Canon 85. But, i was never thrilled with the Leica wide open, using film, and i am thrilled with the Canon wide open (even at 1.2) using digital. The Canon's bokeh is amazing, and may make me forget the Contax-N 85mm 1.4 Planar i used to favor.

    I did not compare criteria such as color. With digital, color is easily manipulated, and is dependent on white balance.
  14. I had a EF 50/1.4, but sold it after acquiring a Leica 50/2 R. Leica is noticeably sharper,and has better clarity. It's a different feeling looking at pics taken with Leica. I am now using Leica with Canon D30 with a split screen and manual focus for portraits. My brother owns a 10D and a 70-200/4 L glass. He likes his L glass, but I am never impressed by his pics. Just my two cents. Keep in mind, manual focus can be annoying some time.
  15. to Leon Chang:

    You seem to be serious about photography othwerwise you would not invest large amounts of money into Leica glass.

    What I just cannot understand however, is your comment about the fact that you use your Leica lenses "wide open, which is what I use most".

    Please explain; why would you (or anyone) use their lenses "wide-open" most of the time? I don't get it. Is it because you're an 'iso-freak' that doesn't want to use anything over 100 iso. Is it because you always want to shoot at least 1/500 sec. shutter speed? Why do you do this? Isn't it so that these fast lenses are mainly designed so you can still shoot the occasional low-light shot? Why on earth would you want to shoot at f/2 "most of the time"???
  16. Portraiture is one good reason to use lenses wide open. Low light photography is another.

    Granted, you don't get the best performance from any lens, except the very rare diffraction
    limited ones, wide open, but there are plenty of valid reasons for wanting to use lenses wide
  17. in my entire “photography” life, I just have used Leica lenses
    How constricting. Time to break free! Purchase of a digi-EOS will let you expand your horizons.
  18. I hate to dissapoint you but the canon lenses are not that great. See


    Guy Manusco tested a whole bunch of glass and found it to be lacking this is mainly from 50mm on down. The link above is FM forum in alternative digital section (ie not canon or nikon). It's a HUGE post and will take several hours to read. BTW my canon 50F1.4 doesn't hold a candle to my 50F2.0 cron on my Hexar RF/M4-P.

    I strongly recommend you get an adapter from www.cameraquest.com stuff the AF good luck.

  19. Yes, there could be something to this. Only the other day, I picked up a copy of James Nachtwey's Inferno at a nearby bookstore, flicked through it, was appalled by the low resolution and lack of Leica glow, put it back on the shelf, and instead bought a photo book of frolicking kittens.
  20. The 35, 85 and 135 Canon L lenses are stella performers. But as with most Canon lens,
    they show very pronounced CA.
  21. >The Canon 50 was sharper at center and edge, beginning at f2 (than 2/50-R). At 1.4,
    >though, the Canon >lens does not perform well. I would imagine the new Leica-R 50
    >Summilux ROM would be >better wide open, but since my Summicron R (ROM version) >
    >doesn't go to 1.4, i'm content >with the Canon.

    Hmmm, that's not what I saw with my 5D and Canon 1.4/50, 2/50-R setup.
    The Canon is a good lens, but it's no Summicron.

  22. >Yes, there could be something to this. Only the other day, I picked up a copy of James
    >Nachtwey's Inferno at a nearby bookstore, flicked through it, was appalled by the low
    >resolution and lack of Leica glow, put it back on the shelf, and instead bought a photo book
    >of frolicking kittens.

    James Nachtwey could shoot with a cardboard box, if he had to. The man is brilliant.
  23. James Nachtwey is brilliant, and probably reasonably intelligent enough to select his gear
    for the job at hand ... secure in the knowledge that the optics he uses are more than
    enough for that job. Speed, sealed gear, durability, digital transmission, etc. are also
    attributes that probably weigh in his decisions. So, IMO, the analogy is mute point if
    indeed one desires the very best 20X30 of those frolicking kittens ; -)

    Alberto, for the Canon, keep the R glass you have, and just get 1 of the type of R to EOS
    adapter that you leave on the lens (which is inexpensive), add some nice Canon L AF glass
    (or better yet, rent a lens you are considering) ... then decide. You can always sell the R
    gear if satisfied with the Canon optics for your applications.

    Many lenses have certain optical characteristics that you may or may not like. To say one
    system has them all is silly. The fantastic thing about the EOS mount is that it will accept
    so many different lenses ... so the world is wide open.

    For example, I have yet to find a 28mm lens I like more than the Zeiss Distagon 28/2. I
    use it on a Canon 1DsMKII as well as a Contax RX. While I have a Canon 85/1.2 and love
    it, I also use a Zeiss 85/1.2 on the 1DsMKII for its (very obvious to me) different
    characteristics ... when I don't face a situation requiring AF and fully automatic aperture
    control. I have the Canon 100/2.8 Macro. Nice lens. Can't hold a candle to the Leica
    100/2.8 Macro ... and who needs AF for macro work? IMO, a cheap 50/2R 2 cam blows
    away any 50mm Canon makes ... and will still be around when the Canon is in the dust

    This not to suggest you run out and bankrupt yourself securing every iteration of a focal
    length ever made, just that you may actually still like that 20 year old R glass ( I know
    saying that here on the anti-Leica forum is blasphemy, but it could be true : -)

    Best of luck, and good shooting whatever you decide.
  24. Hi ! I have had opportunity to own and use nearly all high end lenses of Nikon, Canon , Contax and Leica R. IMHO this is how I would rate them in order of preference. The Leica R lens are all of current specs.

    Focal Length :

    19/20 mm Leica , Nikon , Canon , Contax

    28mm Contax , Canon/Nikon, Leica (all f 2.8)

    35 Canon (35/1.4L) , Leica 35/.4 , Nikon (35/2) , Contax

    50 Leica (new 50/1.4) , Contax 50/1.4 , Nikon 50/1.4, Canon

    85 Minolta 80/1.4G , canon 85/1.2, nikon 80/1.4 , Contax 80/1.4

    90 Leica 90/2.8

    135 Canon 135/2L, Contax, Nikon , Leica

    180mm Leica (180 apo), Nikon , Contax ,

    all the best.
  25. "Nothing is beating, nothing has ever beaten and nothing will ever beat Leica prime fixed focal length lenses. That's not a joke"

    If its not a joke why am I still laughing at this most ridiculous generalized statement.
  26. The other thing that's really funny is the idea that heres a bunch of so-called professional photographers opting to sacrifice all the shots that slip away while there twisting aperture rings back and forth between wide open for focusing and stopped down to working aperture, counting detents or taking the camera away from their eyes, in preference for some miniscule glow or bokeh or whatever. I can see a pro if he seriously thinks he's so good only a Leica lens is worth him shooting thru, get an R8 or R9 and a DMR.
  27. Man, there's some serious hot air in this thread.
  28. "Nothing is beating, nothing has ever beaten and nothing will ever beat Leica prime fixed focal length lenses. That's not a joke"
    If it's not a joke then there's only one alternative: it's a statement of religious belief. It's funny either way.
  29. "Nothing is beating, nothing has ever beaten and nothing will ever beat Leica prime fixed focal length lenses. That's not a joke"

    "If its not a joke why am I still laughing at this most ridiculous generalized statement."

    Joel, trust me you're in good company.
  30. It's also worth noting that for 6x the price of Canon 100mm Macro USM, the Leica 100mm APO Macro Elmarit-R doesn't do 1:1. You need a separate adapter from Leica, priced as cheap as all Leica goodies.
  31. Yep Nels, if you're just shooting flower pics, the Canon 100/2.8 AF Macro is plenty good.

    The reason the Leica needs the adapter is to maximize image correction, and is why it's
    rated as one of the best macros out there ... often used for product photography by some
    commercial shooters.

    I don't need the Leica 100/2.8 Macro either, so the Canon 100/2.8 Macro is plenty for me
    also. I have a macro/bellows for my R gear that even does more than 1 to 1 when I need it.

    As to missing shots fiddling with focussing, apertures, etc. Yep, it can be a PITA, unless
    you are shooting wide open or just a stop or two down. But I don't lug around a 85/1.2
    Contax to shoot @ f/5.6 ... so aperture adjustment is mute point.

    Focussing? Love AF !!!

    Don't always need or want it. Lenses made for manual focus aren't like the sloppy AF
    Canon lenses when set on manual, (they're loose so the AF can be fast, but they suck for
    manual work). Leica R lenses are dedicated manual lenses that offer much more precise
    control for those who prefer that kind of control over what's in focus and what isn't.

    Lens qualities? It seems there are a lot of "homogenized eyes" here that are vehement
    about there being no difference. All I can say is, good for you. Life's cheap when you love
    Mc Donald's, econo-boxes, bic pens, and oatmeal. More power to ya : -)
  32. If Macro is your true passion or profession, the Canon 180L Macro has no equals.
  33. Maybe Nels, except for the Contax 120/4 macro, and the Zeiss 120/4 V series Makro, and
    the Leica Bellows lenses, and the Nikon counterpart to the Canon 180, and the ... well there
    a million of them. Nice to have a choice, especially if you already own a specific camera.

    Had the Canon 180, too big and to much CA at the edges. Sold it. Switched to the Zeiss
    120/4 Macro on the 645. CA problem solved... but still too big for field work. Use it in the
    studio and the Canon 100/2.8 for all the less critical stuff.
  34. rj


    The Canon macro has some tough competition. Along with the lenses that Marc listed the Pentax 200mm FA macro is a superb lens also. I used it for a while and was absolutely shocked at its image quality. Most systems have a ~200mm macro and most of them seem to be exceptional.
  35. I really hope the quality of your photographs reflects the money and the amount of BS that percolates in this typical Leica thread.

    Leica lenses are excellent, so are Canon L's, so are Pentax Limiteds, etc, etc. These will not be the factor that prevent you from getting the shot.
  36. True Paulo, but slinging troll banter, doesn't add to the discussion on the topic Alberto
    requested. The title was pretty clear, so why not just skip the thread?

    Image quality IS an issue given all other aspects being equal. Canon wide angle barrel
    distortion IS an issue if you re shooting commercial work where it's not acceptable. CA IS
    an issue if producing commercial product work for picky Art Directors ... (it's their ad you
    are shooting so I don't blame them) ... and so on.

    None of this absolves one from all the other aspects of image excellence (most of which
    are more important than the lens quality). But certain lens qualities CAN BE helpful, even
    instrumental, in achieving your vision ... providing of course that you have a vision.
  37. If Macro is your true passion or profession, the Canon 180L Macro has no equals.
    The Tamron and Sigma 180mm are just as good, if not better, than the Canon. And they are both cheaper!
  38. Alberto,

    I started in photography with Canon, then moved to Leica, and now I'm back to Canon due to digital photography, using both Canons and Leica lenses. I've made some tests comparing the resolution of my copy of the Leica 28/2.8 R (no ROM, but not an old version either) to my Canon 28/2.8 and they were basically the same, the Canon perhaps a hair better. I was relatively surprised, given how bad some people talk sometimes about Canon cheap wide angles, although I always thought that my Canon 28/2.8 was a very fine lens. I compared my Leica 50/2 R with the Canon 50/1.8 and the leica was much better (and the difference was larger at f4 and than at wider apertures, something which was also surprising to me). As for the famous Leica "glow", sometimes I see it, sometimes I don't, I think it depends on the mood.

    If you plan to go digital with Canon and use your R-glass, make sure you buy a FF camera, or else it won't be easy to focus your leica lenses in low light. And if AF is a plus to you, go with the Canons (I can't track my 1-year old daughter with manual focus lenses, and I have often missed focus at f2 due to poor light and shallow dof, even on a 5D).
  39. "Life's cheap when you love Mc Donald's, econo-boxes, bic pens, and oatmeal."

    What does life look like from way up there Marc?
  40. cheap?
  41. Hey, some like T-shirts and Levis. Others plaid Sansabelt and white shoes...
  42. Up where Tony? Not down at Mac Donald's that's for sure.
  43. Time to take a breather folks....have a look at my very nice photo....and then get stuck back in folks. Enjoying..
  44. Just to change the subject....

    Hi Brad have you had a look at the new Sony R1? lots of DX pixels Zeiss lens, real time view...and value for money big time. A cam which i think is you.Just a thought.

    Hi Z long time no speak...hey, about a big hug missed you sweetie!

    Marc, i think the Leica primes are the business and i can understand your use of them...DMR, i'm not too sure about have not been too impressed with the photos so far. Hey, may the force be with you!

    L lenses, only tried one being a Nikon person,impressed.Love my 70- 300 Do lens.
  45. Hey Allen. The R1 seems like a really nice package. I've been thinking about it. But, sony
    didn't include the excellent laser-assist autofocusing and IR capability that was in the
    F828/717/707 cams. Otherwise, I'd give it a try.
  46. I don't know about the focusing systems, but I'd wait for someone to put anti-shake
    in with an APS sensor.
  47. forget everything... leica r to canon eos bokeh blah blah .. is the image good thats all that matters if you like to check lenses like formula 1 engines then shoot witha telescope!! i have used all of the above and all have their attributes but i find sticking with a dedicated system always works.... oh yes and autofocus is the new rangefinder. i have used an m6 and an r8 for a long time but my new canon 5d with canon optics is amazing for now. forget about the techinical yadadayada and take amazing images
  48. Believe it or not, I am one of those old dinosaurs who obtains better results with manual focus than with autofocus.
    This is just to say that autofocus is not the end of it all. There's still room for manual focusing.
    It's not just me and it's not just amateurs, there's still pros who use manual focus for their work. Ask rally photographers, if they use autofocus or prefocusing technique. The answers might surprise many autofocus believers.
    I have Contax, Leica and Nikkor manual focus lenses and I use them on my 5D, 50D, and 5DMkII with great satisfaction.
  49. Orio, absolutely agreed! That's why Carl Zeiss/Cosina continues to issue 'new' manual focus lenses for the other brands' SLRs and DSLRs (Canon, Nikon, Pentax).
    Leica should consider following the same!

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