Problems focusing wide angles with the R8 : LUSENET : Leica Photography : One Thread

I thought I was going blind from old age when I discovered I couldn't properly focus wide angle lenses on the R8. I had a terrible time with the short end of the 35-70/4 zoom, the 35/2.8 and 28/2.8 even during the day. I tried the plain ground glass matte screen as a pro/friend had suggested and it helped a bit but not as accurate as I had hoped. I surfed the net but could not find anyone else with this problem. But then I can focus the same lenses just fine on the EOS with the adaptor and have no trouble focusing my manual Nikkors on the FM. Still I like the 24mm focal length and I figured the dof would cover minor focusing errors, but if the reviews are so mixed I am not going to put up Leica prices for one. I am happy enough with the Eos 20-35L zoom so I should just not put anymore money into the R8 since it is quite obvious if I can use wides on it then it isn't for me. I had the R6.2 once but the focusing was even worse. Anyone else out there with this experience?

-- ray tai (, May 02, 2002


I use a 19 Elmarit on an R8 with the matte screen and have no problems with it whatsoever. The 19 works just as well, ok , slightly better on the SL2. I think this is rather subjective. There are many who don't like the focusing screen on any Leica Rs, then again there are those who just love it. I use an EOS too, and can never feel as confident about the focusing accuracy as i do with the Rs. The screens i tried with a Nikon F3 are even worst. I get away with them because of the forgiving nature of wides, though the 20 2.8 Nikkor did give me a great amount of headache:) and i eventually got rid of it. Don't know if this is any help or just me blabbering. If it doesn't work for you then it doesn't. Very subjective.

-- Steven Fong (, May 02, 2002.

I usually use the longest end of a Leica zoom lens (R21-35, 35-70, 80- 200) to do the precise focusing before zooming out to the appropriate focal length for the actual shot. This method has generally worked very well for me, as I don see any obvious shift in the focus plane with respect to the focal length. However, I do agree that manual focusing especially with prime wide angles (28 or less) is a pain on the Leica R SLR system, unless Leica offers a viewfinder magnifier (similar to the M) for the R series.

-- Samuel Tan (, May 02, 2002.

A good method for focusing wide angle lens on an SLR is to start with the lens at closest focus. It is much easier to judge when things become sharp this way. If you get unsure then go back to closest focus and start again. Try it, it really works.

-- John Collier (, May 02, 2002.

I only prefer a plain groundglass on an SLR when using telephoto lenses. Say, 200mm at least. If a have to focus a wide angle lens on an SLR, I would rather have a focusing aid, like a microprism (especially a microprism). My focusing habits were formed early, with a rangefinder Leica. They carry over to SLR's, where I continue to use zone focus, especially with wideangles. With a wideangle, you are trying to show one thing a relation to another, in depth. So you need DOF. Critical focus? In my experience, that's for longer lenses. For moderate wide angle, 35mm or 28mm, I prefer the Leica M. Better image quality. For extreme WA, I'm back to an SLR, simply so I can see what I'm doing.

-- Bob Fleischman (, May 02, 2002.


John Collier's advice is worth its weight in gold ! The trick is to always start from minimum focus distance, with everything blurred in the viewfinder, then move swiftly till your subject appears sharp. Do not try to fine tune after that. If you doubt you hit the right point, restart the whole process, from minimum distance end of the focus ring. After a few shots, you will usually realise that you may trust your first impressions, and will not spend too much time repeating the process.

Ted Grant (from the LUG/LEG) was the one who educated me (and many others) in adopting that behaviour, and it came as an epiphany.

I use the 19f2.8 on the R8, and now find it a breeze to focus. Always on spot and always fantastic. Much more versatile and useful than the 21mm+separate viewfinder on the M, in my experience.

But I would agree that a 35mm is much easier to focus quickly and accurately with a M rather than a R (or any manual focus SLR). Strange though that you do not encounter the same problems when you adapt your R lenses on EOS bodies: I find the R8 screen and finder (with diopter correction) pretty contrasty and focusing-friendly, and certainly more so than my FM (without diopter correction must I add).

That is why my R equipment includes 19, 50, 100 and 180, but no other wide angle

-- Jacques (, May 03, 2002.

Ray, I've got my asbestos suit on so I can answer your question honestly. I also use EOS bodies with Leica. The focusing screens in the R series compared to the modern AF SLRs are not so much dark as they are coarse and grainy, as if a piece of slik stocking were stretched across them, and the R8 screen is not any better than the R7/R6.2. The microprism is essential for anything shorter than 35mm but requires f/2.8 in all but bright daylight. The split-image is essential for the 21/4. I own the all-matte screen but only use it with the 400/6.8, as I find it completely useless with lenses under 50mm especially with slower apertures.

-- Jay (, May 03, 2002.

Try the central microprism-spot-only focus screen. It solved the focusing problems I had with the 100mm APO-Macro and my R6.2. It's almost like an M - the centre portion shimmers noticeably when out of focus. Of course, as noted above, you need lenses faster than f3.5 for it to work. (And yes I know the SL1 had this kind of screen so old- times know all this already!)

-- Andrew Nemeth (, May 03, 2002.

I noticed this same focus anomaly on the Rolleiflex GX, which drove me insane and I sold it! With the entire mirror semi-silvered, there seems to be a slight amount of diffusion, noticable especially with wide-angles. (Rollei really blew it, because with a spot meter, they could have just semi-silvered the actual spot-area, just like the on the Leicaflex SL-2). I bet if a solid-surface mirror were installed on an R-8, you'd notice a big difference! They really need to redesign with a semi-silvered spot (with small secondary mirror), integrated with a meter in the prism, and a ttl spot/area combo on the floor of the mirror-box, and get rid of the large secondary mirror! I also believe this large second mirror, combined with the unusually long throw of the diaghram actuator (yes, I know they claim its more accurate this way!), is responsible for what I still think of as a too-long (for the dollars!) response time, and the long, loud "ker-thunk" of the R-6.

-- John Layton (, May 03, 2002.

Thanks for the great advice. I am just going to hold off on putting any more money into the R until I am sure it is what I need.

-- ray tai (, May 05, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ