Finally a Leica

Saturday, 13 November 2021 14:15

My experience with Leica has been short and intermittent, but I’m not unfamiliar with the sytems' oddities and that it's not all rainbows and unicorns. But I wanted a small camera system with a couple (or four) small lenses that would fit into a small bag. My Nikon system has grown too much, and while I love it, it’s starting too get bulky.

I’ve missed the simplicity that my Rolleiflex once gave me, and the M system would do something simmilar for me again. I want to scale down my Nikon kit to the bare minumum and have my every day shooter a digital Leica M. 

In 2014 I first attempted a move to the Leica M system with a Leica M Mohochrom and an Elmarit 28mm ASPH. Unbelievably, that failed hard. One faulty lens and three out of spec cameras, with a net result of no Leica to come home with… There were only so may replacement cameras available and they were all out of spec. 

From what I’ve seen, I mostly presumed the M system had matured a lot, and by the looks of it seemed a fine time to attempt swithching systems. I did really regret not keeping a M Monochrom.

So somehow I order a M10 Monochrom. I really liked the discreet look of the Monochrom camera, but somehow in a different vein ordered the bright Silver Summicron 35mm ASPH to go with it. LOL

Flirting with my good friend Murphy, I had the two items shipped up from South Africa, after a 3 week wait from Germany. Namibia and South Africa have some pretty reasonable import rules and tax system, but it's executed on a level that is anything but easy. Most certainly extremely frustrating and infuriating if somethig goes wrong for what ever reason, and items need to be returned, exchanged, refunded, ammended, etc. 

The only thing that I know is consistent and reliable is that Murphy is always there, and indeed something that could go wrong did go wrong. “Luckily” the camera seems fine, but the 35mm Summicron was a bit of a lemon.

At these prices, my tollerance for any degree of failure is dealt with very little sympathy or patience. I don't have the capacity to shrug this off and I tend to almost take it personally. The  Summicron 35mm had a slight focus and was also performing asymmetrically across the frame. Take a look at the field of focus graphic on the right, photographed at f/4 with the 35mm Summicron. The white dot indicating focus point, the brighter white areas indicating field of sharp and contrasty detail. The lens was swung slightly to the left, with more astigmatism on the right side compared to the left. This resulted in the right side focusing behind that of the left while also being less sharp than the left side.

Focusing the Summicron 35mm was mostly hit and miss.   It was not only the backfocus at play here, the lens also showed a significant focus shift when stopping down. It was my understanding that the original V1 of the ASPH model had focus shift to a moderate but usable degree. The V2, was supposedly revised to reduce this phenomenon. Well, not my copy! It had to get sent back.

Luckily I had a couple of my grandfather’s 60 year old Leica glass at hand. I could at least get to use the camera with a Summicron 5cm collapsible and 90mm Tele-Elmarit. 

The collapsible Summicron was at least a fairly good looking lens on the camera and felt like something really special. 

The Summicron 5cm, as worn and clunky as it is, certianly does deliver in some areas. I find it a little hard to use since the focus has some stiction and play. It flares and veils easily in backlit environments, and is generally a very low contrast lens. However, it is capable of creating very atmpsheric images and can showcase a lovely glow. Focus falls off gently and background blur becomes quite nice stopped down to f/2.8 or smaller.

The Summicron 35mm was sent back, and I wasn’t sure what to do with regards to lenses. I intially had a Summicron 50mm on backorder, but I cancelled that when I sent the Summicron 35mm back. I just didn’t feel like Leica’s quality control issues, and I was just too far away from the camera store to do easily exchange a future faulty item.

I was considering a used Summilux 50mm ASPH also for sale at the retailer, but that turned out to be a no go. It had oil on the blades and some loosness between the front and back lens assemblies. It was in otherwise spectacular condition. A pity.

…. aaaand everything comes screeching to a grinding halt!

It's December 2021, and my M10 Monochrom has an issue. Sensor bifurcation has a visible line running down some of my images. In the wise words of James May, “permission to say cock!!!"

I was editing out out some dust spots  in LR when I noticed this odd line down the middle of the image. I heard of the bifurcation issue before, but never gave it much thought as it seemed like a rare occurrence and I’ve not come across it on the various DNG samples I’ve found online.

Can you see the line down the middle of the image below? Yes, the contrast is enhanced, but not by much. On closer inspection of my images, and knowing what to look for, this line is at times visible without any adjustments.

See Part II post for what's next...