Lens: Leica 1:2.8/24 (R-mount)

Posted on 27 May 2012

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Of all photo-lenses, Leica R primes are said to have the best picture for film (closest to the Panavision Primo primes). They also have more of a cinema focus throw, even more than the Zeiss ZE primes. But they also are a lot more expensive then the Zeiss lenses (secondhand). The last camera (leica R9) that fits these lenses is discontinued since 2009. There still is no Leica R10 (digital) on the market, and there might never be.

I will have to check if these lenses are cheaper then PL mount lenses. I’ve been looking at a few, it looks like they have metal gear rings but only 8 blades. The newer lenses still are as expensive as cheap PL lenses, but older lenses might not have the standard filter-thread and older coatings. Buying is explained here. For canon-users, this is an interesting compatibility database.

I ended up buying this one for a very good price: a Leitz Wetzlar Elmarit-R 1:2.8/24.

Different R-mounts

I found that there are a few different  R-mounts: 1cam, 2cam, 3cam, R-only and ROM. I’ve compared my 1:2.8/24 lens to another Leica-R lens, and found that mine has a collar around the base of the mount. This means it is an R-only lens, which was sold with the Leica R camera’s from 1976 and is deliberately not backwards compatible with the older Leicaflex (1cam or 2cam) camera’s.

Two Leica R lenses with different mountsOn the left is the older 2 cam lens mount, on the right side you see the R-only mount with the collar around the base

So if buying a Leica-R lens, you also want to look at the name (Leitz Wetzlar until approx. 1980, Leica after that), serial number and the exact type of mount: 1cam until 1968, 2cam  until 1974, R-only or 3cam until 1996 and ROM lenses until 2009. Please note that older lenses could also have been fitted with 3-cam or ROM mount later to use them on newer bodies. Also note that there are different versions of coatings:  here are a lot of good pictures comparing the 19mm elmarit version I with the version II  which is built from 1990. There has been a list of versions but I can’t find it anymore.

This means my Leitz Wetzlar has been made before 1980, and as it is an R-only it is not older then 1974. The serial number 2834326 pins it down to the middle: 1977. Excellent year.

Adapter

I’ve been looking around and it seems like there are two kinds of mount adapters: chrome-plated bronze or brass, or all aluminum. I don’t know yet which is better. It seems to be hard to find a R-mount adapter that does not go past infinity. I guess the Black Anodised Aluminium ones are better, but others say that only the brass ones do not go past infinity.

I have ordered a $ 70 JCC KIWI (China/Australia) one so i don’t have to wait for 20 days to get it from China and I can send it back if it goes past infinity (ie: if it is too thick). After receiving it the next day I found that it didn’t fit my lens. Checking with another lens I found that this KIWI adapter does not fit with R-only lenses, because their collar. So it really is a leicaflex-only mount  as those lenses do not have this collar. They sent me a new one but it had the same problem. I checked an adapter made by RJ (aluminum) but the nice people from Aalten told me it will not fit with R-only lenses either.

So I ordered this $ 15 Adplo adapter after checking if it supports R-only lenses. After receiving it I did a few tests to find that the flange focal distance was too short so it focusses past infinity a lot:
1:2.8/24 -> 1,3 meter needs focus at 1 m / 5 meter needs focus at 2,2 m / 20 needs focus at 3,5 m
1:4/21 -> 1,3 meter needs focus at 0,9 m / 5 m needs focus at 1,5 m / 20 meter needs focus at 2,0 m
I am afraid I’ll have to send this one back too. They came up with some lame excuse about it always being different with an adapter, but I sent back that ‘Leica R is 47.00 mm flange focal distance, M4/3 is 19,25 mm flange focal distance. The adapter should be exactly the right length to make this work’.

Another problem with this mount is that the lock-hole was not 100% at the right position, I only discovered that when I was using the suncap of the lens. It wasn’t aligned well with the camerabody. So I could send it back to them.

Jinfinance has a $ 70 rotating R-mount adapter on ebay which is ‘Made of aluminum (camera body mount) anodized black, and brass (lens mount) chromed silver.’ I bought it and it works great, but go slightly past infinity focus as warned for on the e-bay listing. It’s a lot less worse then the Adplo adapter though. This adapter also has the advantage that it can rotate and tilt up to 8 degrees, but the only thing that is missing is a switch to lock it in the zero degrees (non-tilt) position.

I also found the $ 220 Panasonic lens mount that enable MF zoom assist (although I think they mean you’ll have to select it by hand. Anyway, this is not very useful to me, as this focus assist does not work when recording video).

Black spot

I made some video and photo’s to test this lens and found a really strange spot, exactly in the middle of the photo. This is an enlargement of this photo:

To make it even more visible, this is a picture focussed on the spot itself:

So I took the lens and tried to clean it. I took off the UV filter and cleaned it. Both were really clean, but when I screwed it on again, I noticed this black spot in the exact center of the lens:

After a while, I realized this is the filter glass touching the glass of the lens. I measured the filter and yes: the filter glass falls 2 mm into the lens, hitting the glass of the lens. I took the filter off and the focus problem disappeared.

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Posted in: Lenses