Leica 400mm f/6.8 Telyt

Back in 2009 I was given a box containing a Leica R4 film camera and a couple of Leica-R lenses (24mm f/2.8 Elmarit, 60mm f/2.8 Elmarit and a 400mm f/6.8 Telyt). At first I thought the 400mm lens was a telescope with a Leica-R lens mount. I’ve since learned that my first guess was close.

The lens is 38cm (15 inches) long, and only weights 1830 grams (4 lbs). Focusing is by push-pull and pushing in the focus release button. Since this lens had not been used for a long time, and had not been stored with a lens cap, the interior glass was coated with dust and the grease in the focus slides has dried out. Cost estimates for a CLA (Clean, Lubricate and Adjust) by Leica service centers ranged from $400 to $600. At the time, it didn’t seem worth the cost to repair the lens, and only be able to use it on a Leica-R film camera since it had been announced that there would be no more digital Leica-R cameras beyond the Leica R9 and DMR.

The first spark to use the Leica-R lenses on a digital cameras came with the discovery of Leitax, makers of lens mount adapters. With the adapters in hand, I was quickly (and easily) able to remove the Leica-R lens mount and attach a Leitax lens mount adapter for the Olympus E-330 that I had at the time. The 24mm and 60mm lenses were converted with Leitax (Leica-R to 4/3 lens mount) and performed superbly. For information on the specific Leitax adapter for the Leica 400mm f/6.8 lens – click here. Even though a Leitax adapter was available, using The Leica 400mm f/6.8 was on-hold due to the high cost of the lens CLA. It was the photographs by Sacramento bird photographer Douglas Herr that convinced me to take another look on restoring this lens. The second spark was discovering a post on MF lenses.com written by malchauDK  Servicing Leica Telyt-R 400-560mm/f6,8. Following the step-by-step instructions, including complete dis-assembly, the lens was cleaned, lubricated and re-assembled.

By the time I was done cleaning and lubricating, the lens was good as new. Thanks malchauDK. By this time, I had upgraded to a Nikon D700 and Leitax adapters were available to mount Leica-R lenses on Nikon bodies. On the D700, with the large clear viewfinder (especially compared to the tiny viewfinder on the Olympus E-330), focusing the Leica 400mm f/6.8 is a easy, though does take a little bit of practice.

The Leica 400mm f/6.8 lens was designed in 1968 as a handheld “snapshot” lens, and my particular lens was made in 1977. As mentioned, focus is by using a slider (manual focus), and it needs and adapter to work on modern digital cameras. Why – bother use an archaic lens designed 46 years ago when there are there are plenty of more compact and autofocus lenses available. Maybe, I am a sucker for old lenses being born the same year that this lens was designed. Really, it is such a superb lens that delivers incredible quality.

 

Pros

1)    Size and weight. Although it is a relatively long lens (38cm long), it is light and weights only 1830 grams.

2)    Portability. The lens unscrews into two pieces that can be stored in a Pelican-type case, or in a PVC-tube.

3)    Durable – easy to disassemble, no electronics or moving parts – nothing to break.

4)    With adapters, usable on Nikon, Canon, Sony and smaller format cameras (4/3, micro 4/3 and Fuji-X)

5)    Price. Used Leica 400mm f/6.8 lenses are available for $400 to $800.

Downsides

6)    Manual focus, not always suitable for moving subjects.

7)    Slow minimum aperture results in a darkened viewfinder.

8)    Lens design. The lens has only 2 glass elements so there is inevitable curvature of the focus plane. Details in the center of the image are in focus, but off-centered objects are noticeably out-of focus. Even with larger apertures this is still noticeable.

 

Click on the photos below – and decide if this is a lens for you.

I love it.

_SCH4552 _SCH4578 _SCH8530 _SCH8715 SHS_7674_F SHS_2897-2 SCH_8919 SCH_8775  SCH_2104-3 SCH_1419-2 _SHS1732x2-2 _SHS1608-Edit-Edit _SHS1031 _SHS0186 _SHS0147  _SCH8737

 

Metabones Speedbooster – Leica-R Lenses on Nikon and Fuji-X Cameras

Testing out Leica R 19mm f/2.8 (version 1) and Leica R 35mm f/2.8 lenses on a Nikon D700 and Fuji-X cameras (X-E1 and X-PRO1)

On the Fuji-X cameras, I also compared the Leica R Elmarit (19mm and 35mm) with a regular adapter (a simple tube with the appropriate lens mounts), and with a Metabones Speedbooster. The Metabones Speedbooster is a unique adapter that uses the full image circle of a full frame lens on a cropped sensor (APS-C) as used on the Fuji-X series. I won’t get into the specifics about the Speedbooster since there are tons of website and blogs describing how it works.

Note: There is no Metabones Speedbooster Leica R to Fuji-X adapter. The Leica R lenses were modified with a Leitax (Leica-R to Nikon) adapter. See www.leitax.com/leica-lens-for-nikon-cameras.html for more info on the Leitax adapter. Although Leitax does make Leica-R to Fuji-X, I used the Leitax (Leica R to Nikon G) adapter to allow the Leica R lenses to be used on my Nikon D700.

These images illustrate the different ‘looks’ with different cameras, and the different field of view between the different adapters.

Since the settings on my X-PRO1 and X-E1 differ, I have included sample photos from both. None of the images have been edited, other than default setting in Lightroom.

Compare Leica R 19mm f/2.8 (Manual Focus)

From left to right Leica 19mm on Nikon D700, Fuji X-PRO1, and Fuji X-E1. Both X-PRO1 and X-E1 had the regular adapter. See info below. Click on the image to Enlarge.

 

Leica-R 19mm on X-PRO1 with regular adapter (left), and Metabones Speedbooster (right). Click on the image to Enlarge.

 

Leica-R 19mm on X-E1 with Metabones Speedbooster (left) and regular adapter (right). Click on the image to Enlarge.

Compare Leica R 35mm f/2.8 (Manual Focus)

From left to right Leica 35mm on Nikon D700, Fuji X-PRO1, and Fuji X-E1. Click on the image to Enlarge.

Leica-R 35mm on X-E1 with Metabones Speedbooster (left) and XPRO1 with Metabones Speedbooster (right). Click on the image to Enlarge.

Leica-R 35mm on X-PRO1 with regular adapter (left) and X-E1 with regular adapter (right). Click on the image to Enlarge.

 

Compare Fuji-X 35mm f/1.4 on X-PRO1 and X-E1 (Auto Focus)

Fuji-X 35mm f/1.4 on X-PRO1 (left) and on X-E1 (right). Click to Enlarge.

Compared to using the Leica R lenses on a Fuji-X camera, the Fuji-X 35mm f/1.4 definitely has the auto focus advantage. Will I keep using manual focus Leica R lenses on the X-PRO1, and X-E1 ?. Even with the zoom function on the ‘M’ setting, it is still a challenge to focus and I certainly don’t recommend using a manual focus lens on a Fuji-X camera if the subject is moving.  Using Leica R lenses on the Nikon D700 is much easier thanks to the super large view finder and also has focus confirmation making manual focus relatively easy.

Reviewing the photos taken with the regular adapter and the Metabones Speedbooster, the images appear sharper and have more contrast with the Speedbooster. The Metabones Speedbooster isn’t cheap, then again, neither are Leica R lenses, so you get what you pay for.  According to the previous owner, the Speedbooster that I purchased was defective since it did not focus at infinity, and it would have cost too much $ to send the Speedbooster back to have it adjusted.  There is a real easy fix to the infinity problem with Metabones Speedboosters.

1) Loosen the small screw on the rear of the adapter.  2) Take note where the lens element is in its rotation. 3) Turn the lens element to move it closer or further from the film plane. 4) Tighten the screw. 5) Check infinity focus. 6) Repeat until happy.

17628b17b36fb81e3280b585f61828Photo and instructions from

fredfred27 November 2013 (http://www.personal-view.com/talks/discussion/5770/metabones-lens-speed-booster-adapter-focal-reducer/p25)

See also the instructions on the Metabones webpage (http://www.metabones.com/article/of/infinity-adjustment-speed-booster-only)

Although not shown here, I’ve also been testing the Metabones Speedbooster with my other Leitax adapted Leica-R lenses, including the 19mm f/2.8 Elmarit Version 1, 35mm f/2.8 Elmarit (version ?), Leica 80-20mm f/4 ROM, 90mm f/2.0 Summicron, and 135mm f/2.8 Elmarit.   All work fine, and are easy to focus. The 35mm Elmarit did have a problem with infinity focus that was not related to the screw adjustment in the Speedbooster, instead, a small metal flange in the lens was hitting the glass on the Speedbooster. Having taken the back end off the Leica-R lenses swap out the original Leica-R lens mount and attaching a Leitax Nikon lens mount it was an easy task to once again open up the back of the Leica-35mm lens and wrap up the lens with tape and tissue, then carefully file down the small piece of metal flange. The while process only took a few minutes.

Will I keep the Metabones Speedbooster ?, right now I am undecided.