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Reader Question: Leica M Lenses/Focusing and Zeiss ZM 35/2 Biogon

Peter K writes:

I am going to sell most of my Nikon material (maybe I'll keep the D700 and a 50 mm and add a 28 and 85 F/1.8, but maybe I'll buy a Sony RX1 probably depending on your review).

I'll be buying a second hand Leica M9P and a new Summilux 50. I adore the look of the Leica lenses and I think I will not use the Live View and High ISO performance of the new M. Also the new M and a Summilux will be a bit out of range.

Anyhow, I wanted to know if there still are issues with the Zeiss Biogon 35 on the M9. Should I send it somewhere to calibrate for Leica or can I use some preset in the M9P?

Otherwise I would buy the 28/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH (I guess that one is still better than anything from Nikon: I used the Nikkor 28 F/1.8 AFS, the 35 F/1.4 AFS and the Zeiss ZF 28).

DIGLLOYD: Some very interesting ideas are contained in this email.

There is no question that a Leica M system holds considerable appeal on the size/weight front— I can carry an entire kit with 5 lenses in a small hip pack weighing ~5 pounds. For those who can afford it, the new Leica M240 is probably the mirrorless system of choice for many applications, as it is a game changer in Leica land.

I love the look of the Leica 50/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH images. It offers very high contrast wide open at f/1.4, for a look that no other f/1.4 can deliver today. But I am pretty sure from what I’ve seen that the (far larger and heavier) Zeiss 55/1.4 will give it serious competition (and at a similarly high price).

If one is going to shoot Leica M, I’d defer any 50mm lens purchase until the performance of the new 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH is known; I’ll be covering it against the 50/0.95 and 50/1.4 in detail. My hunch is that while ultra expensive, the 50/2 AA will deliver a stunning image above the quality of any previous Leica M lens. In the interim, consider the Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar as it is inexpensive and is lovely in its own right.

I cover the Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon in detail both before and after factory adjustment for optimal focus on the M9 (it is a very fine lens with a quirk). That coverage is essential reading for anyone considering the 35/2 Biogon, and there is no simple answer. See also my recent comparison with the 35/2 Biogon and the 35/1.4 and 35/2 Leica options.

As for the Leica 28/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH and the Zeiss ZF.2 28/2 Distagon, assumptions might or might not be entirely valid here, see my recent comparison of the D800E+Zeiss 28/2 vs the Leica MM + 28/2.8 Elmarit.

On the subject of focus accuracy, the compositional and focusing challenges are so important to me that I will be selling my Leica M9P when I am done comparing it to the new Leica M240, which is due sometime early in 2013. Some shooting styles make the M9P rangefinder focusing just fine, but this is not for me any longer— too many errors (especially in dim light), and too many reshoot attempts (composition).

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