problem focusing on my "new" M3 ?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by finnegan, May 14, 2015.

  1. I bought a great looking 1955 M3 with Summicron Collapsable lens, my first Leica, and shot a test role earlier.
    I had problems focusing and wondered about any suggestions.
    There is a hair or prism-crack in the patch but that isn't a problem when shooting, it's tiny. The focus ring also feels a tad rough as you try to precisely focus, a tiny "jump", but the problem is not that, that's minor and controllable though the camera probably could use a CLA at some point.
    I just have trouble seeing a double image unless there's a line-like object I'm focusing on, like a tree or side of a building. In mid-object, like a leaved-tree where the focus in in the middle of the leaves, really hard to see a double image. I go more by how clear the focus point appears in the patch and that is pretty hard to see as well.
    Any suggestions about this, I'm a rookie's rookie with a Leica and taking much time trying to get the focus on each shot and I'm sure some or perhaps many will be off-focus.
  2. The trick to focusing with a Leica is not to superimpose the image, but to see a sudden clarity or "pop" when the alignment is perfect. It seems you're on the right track.
    BTW, make sure you're not covering the rangefinder window with your shooting hand. It's easier to do than you think, and not always obvious through the viewfinder.
    You need some feature easily seen in the rangefinder. For a person, it's the eyes or eyeglasses, or the outline of their face in profile. Relatively featureless objects don't work well unless there are some identifiable markings. Repetitive patterns like tiles and fences can be confusing unless you can identify a particular tile, picket or rail.
  3. SCL


    It sounds as if you need a slight diopter correction lens, since clarity seems to be an issue, when it shouldn't be. Do you wear glasses, and if so are you using them when shooting? Or do you wear glasses but not when shooting? Are you nearsighted or farsighted? I mentioned in an earlier post, that Leica incorporates a -0.5 diopter in their viewfinder - most young eyes have the elasticity to accommodate and adjust accordingly, and that diopter is useful for the full range of focus, especially with that viewfinder design to see the full field when shooting with wide angle lenses. Years ago I had an issue similar to what you describe, even though I was shooting wearing my normal eyeglasses. I kept cursing the camera, but after I installed a +0.5 diopter corrrection lens instantly everything became crystal clear. Most users suggest visiting a Leica dealer to either look thru a rotating diopter thingie Leica makes, or if they want to risk buying after doing their own calculations, buy from somewhere which offers a no questions asked return policy.
  4. I can't speak to Leica but I've used similar focus systems on other rangefinders and it always gave me at least a little trouble. I've never taken the time to master it so don't use it often. Although if I got myself a Leica I probably would. I've enjoyed following your journey with this new camera.

    Rick H.
  5. Like the others have stated, it could be an "eye site" issue.
    But with a very early M3 like yours (top-plate screws), the 1st RF systems were extremely susceptible to the:
    "fog/haze or decayed glass cement, would be a major factor in reducing the Leica RF brilliance/experience"
    I mentioned this in your "hair" M3 post.
  6. Thanks all, as usual top-notch advice!
    I wear glasses just when driving, my eye aren't bad enough to even need them legally but I'll try them shooting. I do use reading glasses bought at a store, they're +1 so perhaps that is the diopter adjustment? I have an astigmatism which also may come into play.
    Where do get a diopter for an M3? Sounds nice.
    Far as the "hair", since the Seller never saw it and he did a good check of the camera/lens before selling, as I said in another thread, it was likely jarred or fell during shipping, though it does look like a hair or small piece of thread, something like that. But how could that have gotten inside a cased camera surrounded by shipping material and in a box? So, must be a crack in the prism as someone suggested. But I barely noticed it while shooting today, so that's the way it is for the time being. They could check it in the future with a CLA I'll likely have done at some point.
    Last, likely as far as focus, just getting used to the camera should help a lot.
    Thanks Again!
  7. SCL


    Take your camera to your local drugstore, dollar store, Walmart or wherever they sell cheap reading glasses (they're only available in whole + diopters), and see if any help with the issue you described. If you do end up buying a diopter for your camera, you can usually find them at KEH, Adorama, or B&H cheaper than you can find them on Ebay. Also, if you decide to shoot while wearing glasses, Don Goldberg (DAG) sells a plastic snap on rim to cover the metal eyepiece so you don't scratch your glasses - I think they're around $12-15, or you could cut a "donut" from closed cell foam and contact cement it in place. I put one of Don's on my M2 last year, as it was a lot cheaper than replacing my eyeglasses.
  8. Forget the focus patch for a moment and just look through the viewfinder window. If things are blurry then
    you need a diopter correction lens. Well worth the $100 or so they cost. Just make sure you end up with the proper

    Also, cheap drugstore glasses might be alright at first, but IMO it's much better if you have insurance or
    can afford to see an optometrist for glasses.
  9. Have the camera focus mechanism looked at by anyone familiar with Leica. Sounds like a practice problem. It takes a while to get used to that mechanism. It is definitely trickier than a split screen image mechanism.
  10. Astigmatism makes it hard to see certain fine details. For example, it can be hard to distinguish between round letters (e,G,O). Fine bright objects (e.g., laser dots) double or develop a tail like a comma. Likewise, astigmatism affects your ability to focus using a superimposed image rangefinder (e.g., Leica). Drug store glasses are not going to correct for astigmatism, and may have other optical defects not found in prescription glasses.
    I find that a diopter correction lens works best at the same prescription as my driving glasses (+1.5). The lens is much thinner than an eyeglass lens, which can lead to doubling due to internal reflections. One eye is usually better than the other (highlighted by the appearance of a laser dot). My left eye is somewhat better in this regard, so that's what I use with a Leica, even though my nose gets in the way.
    Let's not forget that practice makes perfect. Manual focusing is a learned skill, and using the Leica rangefinder is no exception. I was pretty adept with the Leica 50 years ago when that's all I had. Returning to it last summer had its challenges, not all of which were due to changes in my eyes. Most of the vision issues I found at first were secondary to years of disuse. After months of almost daily use, I'm nearly back to my old form, even with active grandchildren as subjects.
    If it's any consolation, manual focus lenses don't hunt, hence are free of the most aggravating issue with auto focus. You can focus with the camera on a tripod, and it doesn't lose its mind between shots - handy for groups and portraits. Plus, you have a hard infinity stop for sky shots at night. (Plus Plus, not many millennials want to borrow your "old fashioned" camera.)
  11. SCL


    Sorry for any intent re drugstore glasses wasn't to buy them for use, but rather to determine if a diopter correction helped alleviate the could narrow the range to assist in selecting a proper screw-in diopter - especially if you couldn't get to a Leica equipped photo store to try one out in advance.
  12. I bought two M3 cameras in the last decade which were very difficult to focus. The reason was that the R/F second images were almost not there. In each case, cleaning fixed the problem.
  13. No, young shooters now don't know what an f-stop is.
    I just bought a diopter for $80 on Ebay, from China, be here in about 3 weeks. (I mean it's not a Chinese diopter, just sold from China).
    I'd already put an Offer in before I looked at B&H Photo, where they'd be a bit more but New York'd be a little quicker - and B&H very reliable. But I use a credit card on all on-line purchases, so I'm protected against funny business. I once got a Rollei 6008i on Ebay that was all screwed up and the Seller disappeared to England. After a successful credit card dispute I had my money back, charged the Seller the $600 I had paid getting it fixed at Rollei before I'd return the camera; he wouldn't pay and just disappeared again. So I got my money back AND kept the camera: $600 for a $3000 camera.
    The Diopter is 1.5. Since the present eye-piece I was told was -0.5, that would be +1.0 correction which is what I use on a Contax and is fine (and makes focus much easier).
    In the meantime I'll wear corrected distance glasses, see what that does.
  14. William, I think you might need to consider the possibility that a RANGEFINDER camera is not for you.
    It's no disgrace. I've been using Leicas for almost 70 years, and despite the immense pleasure that I get from owning and fondling them, I have rarely made any extraordinary images with them. Like it or not, I do much better visually with SLRs and DSLRs.
  15. I had astigmatism which has changed with age!
    I was short/near sighted.
    My Pentax Spotmatic gave me headaches, as was set of "far sighted".
    The Leica-M never did.
    It simply a joy to focus.
    Suggest that you let a user check the viewfinder.
    It's an old camera, as is my M3 1967.
    Try using it faster and not that precise..

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