Non-Leica digital bodies for Leica M lenses?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by lloevner, Jun 5, 2020.

  1. I have a few M lenses, ranging from 21 to 90mm,used with an M3. I understand that the wider angle lenses are a challenge for all bodies, including Leica's.

    I would like to go digital for color, but I am very reluctant to consider a digital M due to expense and service issues.

    I've read a number of threads here and there, with encouraging discussion of Nikon Z6/Z7 (due to the thinner sensor stack) as well as modded Sony bodies (Kolari). Can anyone share their experiences with these, digital M, or any other bodies?

    Thanks to all,
  2. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Have a similar set of M lenses and wanted the same thing - the solution I found was the Ricoh GXR with A12 Leica Module. Works very well, and if you have old Nikon or other glass you can use those as well with an inexpensive X to Leica adapter on the module.

    One caution, great have, and not too expensive, but I use it less with the Leica lenses than I expected.
  3. Thank you Sandy. I was not aware of the Ricoh. I'll definitely look into it.

    I should add, I'd prefer full frame, if possible, so that I can get the full use of the wider lenses. I've been living with DX Nikon, and miss the wide angles (20-24mm), a lot.
  4. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    APS -C, but good for all of that.
  5. Leica M lenses can be used on any camera with a flange distance less than a Leica M (27.80 mm) with a passive adapter. I used them on Sony A7 cameras (18.00 mm) with the following observations. The sensor cover glass is thicker on the Sony than a Leica M, leading to distortion and loss of sharpness toward the corners of the image. This effect is much greater at focal lengths less than 50 mm, and negligible at 90 mm or more.

    Flange focal distance - Wikipedia
  6. What's your spend ceiling? Second-hand digital M's from the M240/M262 generation are first-rate digital cameras, the battery charges last forever, they're perfect for using any M lenses and are as inexpensive (note I did not say cheap, LOL) as they've ever been. Similarly priced to those M bodies mentioned, the first generation Leica SL purchased second-hand with the M to L adapter would also be another perfect platform for M lenses.

    I would not go with an M9 generation digital camera today. Capable of great photography it is, but it also operates like a first-generation digital camera, the back LCD is primitive in comparison with the M240 series and the batteries don't last any time.

    Depending on the lenses you want to use, one factor that'll affect the enjoyment you get out of an M body is how well matched the rangefinder is for longer lenses you might want to use. I sent my M262 and 135mm f3.4 APO Telyt-M to Don Goldberg, who adjusted the lens for the body and it, as well as the 75mm f2 APO Summicron I use, focus very accurately.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2020
  7. SCL


    I've been successfully using Leica M & LTM lenses on an Olympus micro 4/3 body for a couple of years now. The only significant drawback with this size sensor is that the cropping essentially "doubles" (not actually double, but a crop as if the lens is 2x the stated focal length). the focal length. On the positive side, the bodies aren't expensive, many have EVF and magnified focusing, and many also have image stabilization. Also, most of the m4/3 bodies can take not only Leica lenses, but most SLR lenses from other manufacturers as well. The images hold up well and I've had some terrific 30x40 inch prints. FWIW, I've also been using longer FL Leica lenses (>90mm) for years on full frame Nikon digital bodies with the appropriate Visoflex focusing helicoids and adapters. Full infinity focus on both type of bodies.
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  8. Hello all, thank you for the suggestions. Please keep them coming!

    If anyone has personal experience with Nikon Z6/Z7, I'm very interested in learning more.

    @sandy - I appreciate the Ricoh rec. Very interesting camera, but as you noted, crop sensor, which of course conflicts with my desire to use wide angle lenses.

    @ed - As you note, Leica has the advantage vs. other manufacturers due to the physics (Leica specific thin sensor covers and microlens geometry) as one gets further away from the center of the image, combined with the angle of incidence with wider angle lenses. In the back of my mind is the possibility of one of the Sony mirrorless, with the Kolari mod, but we are then starting to get into more money and what is arguably an orphan camera. The Nikon Z6/Z7 interest me since they have thinner sensor covers and reputedly are quite reliable, plus I can use my existing Nikon lenses (current digital is a D7200). Some of what I have read about Leica M/Nikon Z is promising, but I'm not too keen on buying/trying/returning cameras until I am reasonably certain that it is a viable combination. (No local camera stores carry the Z6/Z7.)

    @greg - My budget is somehwat flexible. I'm OK with a higher price, as long as I get more in return. As you say, digital M bodies are not inexpensive, and are really more than I'm comfortable with. I appreciate the advice to avoid the earlier digital Leicas. I really want to keep it simple and reliable. I've been spoiled by the reliability of my M3 and various Nikons I have owned over the years. My M3 rangefinder needed adjustment when I bought it (a long time ago), but it has not drifted one bit since (thank you DAG!). I'll take a look at the SL's.

    @SCL - thank you for the feedback re:longer length Leica lenses on full frame Nikon digital. I'd love the feature set of the Olympus, but would prefer full frame so that I can get wider angles.

    My current workflow is: Velvia on the M3, then using a Bowens Illumitrans and the D7200 to digitize the image. This works quite well - I've made large prints which clearly preserve the Leica look.

    Thank you again to all,
  9. Fuji makes the best APS-C cameras, IMO, although IMO Sony is a close second. Micro 4/3 is cool if you like narrower FOV. However, the A7s apparently plays really well with M lenses. Newer A7 bodies, and maybe the A9(?) also play well.

    Edit: The original A7r didn't do that well with M lenses, but it worked to some degree:

    About Photography: Sony A7r with Leica M lenses - a hands-on review

    This is just what I read online. Maybe Sean Reid has some tests? It's a paid site but he has a very good reputation. In fact I am going to subscribe just for a few tests that I want to read.
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  10. SCL


    You might also take a look at threads on this topic on the L-Camera Forum Leica Forum
  11. The strong suite of the Leica M's has always been its wide angle to "normal" lenses. You lose that if you adapt those lenses to an APS-C sensor. A 21 mm lens is not especially adapted to an M bodie (requiring an external viewfinder), but becomes a medium-wide 30 mm equivalent with APS-C.

    Leica's first venture into digital was the M8, which was found to be too sensitive to infrared light. Inside or out, blacks would assume a brown or maroon tone and flesh tones an unhealthy purple or reddish tinge. The problem was the thin (0.8 mm) filter stack on the sensor. This was increased to about 1.2 mm on the M9, which solved the "black" problem, but increased the "swirly" effect in the corners. I have an M9 which has great color and build quality, but suffers noticeably from edge distortion, vignetting and magenta color shifts away from center.

    The only way to eliminate the effect of the cover glass, common to all digital sensors, is to design lenses which incorporate the cover glass as an added optical element. I have Zeiss 18mm and 21mm lenses for the Sony which render star images as points even in the extreme edges and corners. While you can use legacy lenses on a mirrorless camera, you will set them aside once you start using native lenses.

    On the plus side, mirrorless gives you extremely precise focusing with Leica lenses of all focal lengths. Low finder magnification for the M2 and later M's reduces the accuracy of the rangefinder. Focusing is dicey with a 90 mm or longer, and with any lens used wide open. My Leica years (1964 to 1999) were mostly f/5.6 and hope. I never found unsharp images desirable or "artsy."

    To the OP, if you are looking for a camera which will use Leica M lenses (which includes any mirrorless), you are buying into a "system" of lenses and accessories. Give yourself room to grow, because those legacy lenses will quickly become museum pieces.
  12. 1-1956 Collapsible Summicron M 5 on Fuji X-P1
    2-1958 Summicron DR 5 on M 4/3 Olympus E-PL5
    3-1956 Summicron DR 5 on Fuji X-P1
    4-1958 Summicron DR 5 on Fuji X-E1
    With Collapsible lenses it is necessary to always have them extended so as not to damage the digital camera
    1 Fuji X-P1-SummicronCollapsible5.jpg

    2-Olmpus PL-5-SummicronDR5.jpg


  13. Sad but true, the Dual Range Summicron (above) is one of a few lenses incompatible with digital M cameras. It works fine on my Sony, and can focus down to about 18" for a postcard sized field of view. The FOV is even tighter on an APS-C camera like the Fuji, where it is the equivalent of 75 mm lens. Artifacts on a full frame camera can be seen, but are relatively tolerable.
  14. without problems if we do not use the Fujifilm-M ring but a cheap one like the one in the image above.
    0016mlc WideOpen Bokéh Chica Teléfono Sentada Bolardo Perspectiva-SummicronDR5.jpg
    Summicron DR 5 on Fuji X-P1​
  15. Buy a Tokina 12-24/4, apparently about 250€, used, in F mount. - I own the Pentax (re)labeled version and am quite content with it; i.e. "it takes pictures!" They seem at least comparable to results from my heritage film SLR wides, IQ would be no reason to get those out.
    Yes, it is a big DSLR lens, no I haven't ever been peeping 24MP on a crop sensor. I'm usually kind of content filling a 4K screen with my stills and I rather take (bulk wise) "just" my old M bodies out and kept the crop SLR stuff for when there is no time to juggle manual primes on 1.5 bodies.

    I agree with what @Ed_Ingold said about modern lenses designed for digital. If you want no bulk: Look at Fuji. If you like Nikon Z, I'd recommend getting a reasonable native lens with your camera; not the crappiest kit / tourist zoom. Give it a go, compare to adapted glass' results and figure out why you(!) would like to adapt. "My heritage lenses neither fell apart nor turned opaque, yet" is a lovely cheapskate's argument. As a lazy amateur I want a camera that feels fun to shoot. I tried my DR 'cron on Fuji X-E1, it didn't work for me. I didn't want to use a tripod indoors, I didn't want to go out in broad daylight and had to shoot products at f11 or 16. I could frame and focus with open aperture and stopping down rendered the EVF too sluggish and the hard, RF apropriate clicks of the aperture ring didn't feel made to keep aiming that ultr light camera while stopping down by hand (compared to an aperture pre-select SLR lens). I am talking about a 1st generation crop MILC here. I am sure things improved but don't know how far.

    I am waiting for the announced EOS R5. I believe that IBIS is really nice to have, in digital cameras, if sticking to stabilized glass is no alternative. Most of my Pentaxes had it. The Fujis & EOS came with stabilized lenses. My at the time of purchase decission making "desirable for low light" looking old Monochrom suffers from being not stabilized. Shooting the 35mm or shorter at 1/125sec is an option to bring a few pixels home but Canon's ISO range + IS sound like extra f-stops that I'd like to have... The big Nikons and more recent Sonys offer IBIS so they might be worth going for. Since I'm into people, I'd like to have decent(ish) eye detection AF and the EOS R5 should play well with my EF 70-200.

    Packing RF glass into a "no bulk wanted, no speed needed"- kit is maybe an option but I suppose a smaller MILC, with native compact lenses can compete with that FF combo.
  16. I've found my Cron 50 and 35 work really well on a Fuji X-Pro2 and my now older Panasonic Gx7 with the adopters. Couple of examples. 1st is with the Fuji, last 2 on the Pany.

    [​IMG]Untitled by [​IMG]Noche de Altares - Santa Ana by [​IMG]Untitled by Barry Fisher
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  17. IBIS is great, even with shorter lenses because you can get sharp images of still objects down to 1/15 second or even longer. That a living subject can cause motion blur in the act of breathing is another issue.

    To use IBIS effectively, you must set the focal length of the lens in the menu. IBIS set to 300 mm will be very jerky (unusable) with a 35 mm lens. Native lenses do that automatically. When I used mostly legacy lenses, I programmed a button for access to that setting.

    From the images above, a 50 mm lens on a cropping sensor will have the effect of a medium telephoto - perfect for portraits. The corners don't matter, in fact are better if blurred. Landscapes are more demanding, at least if you want uniform sharpness for details near the edges. The DR Summicron. 50/2 suffers a noticeable loss of sharpness in the corners with a characteristic annular smearing due to the sensor filter. It is observed even on a Leica M9, which has a relatively thin filter.
  18. I tested several 50 mm lenses side by side on a Sony A7ii camera (24 MP) at several f/stops and locations in the image. I used a tripod and delayed release, so camera motion was not a factor. I also focused carefully with magnification in the center of the image. I show results below for a Leica Summicron 50/2 (V1) and Zeiss Loxia 50/2 (native for the Sony). Each panel is shown at 100%, pixel = pixel. No exposure correction nor sharpening was used.

    Both lenses are sharp in the center, but differences in the extreme corner are obvious, including vignetting. The Loxia lens is a Planar type, and supposedly the sensor filter is computed into the design.

    Loxia 50mm Test.jpg Summicron v2 50mm Test.jpg
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2020
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  19. Here is an overview shot showing the sample targets.

    Overview WEB.jpg

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