Skip to main content

M Lenses

Lesson 9 from: Leica M (TYP 240) Fast Start

John Greengo

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

9. M Lenses

Lesson Info

M Lenses

Let's talk a little bit about the lenses. Obviously, Leica has some fantastic lenses available out there, and this camera can work with all of the M lenses, with a couple of minor exceptions that are detailed in the instruction book. There's just about three or four unusual particular-case lenses that it may not work well with. But focusing a Leica camera is something that is new to most people who haven't been around this type of focusing system, and I wanna talk a little bit about how this works and how to get the most out of it. So on the lenses, you will have an aperture control, you will then have a focusing scale in feet and in meters, and then you'll have your focusing mark and depth of field scale. So for pretty simple focusing, you're just gonna be using the focus mark. This is where the camera is most in focus so if you wanna focus at five feet, you gotta get the five feet right in line with that focusing mark. And that is what's gonna be in focus, and so if you wanna do what...

's known as scale-focusing, you just estimate the distance to your subject, set it on your lens, and it should probably be pretty close in focus. You wanna focus on infinity, then you set it to the infinity mark, it's gonna work perfectly fine. But down along the bottom we do have this depth of field scale which can give us a lot more detailed information. If we have our aperture set at f/8, and our focusing set at infinity, what that means is that we're gonna have everything in focus from roughly five meters to infinity, and beyond infinity, which means if we want a lot in focus at f/8, what we could do to get the most amount in focus is we could adjust the focus so that infinity is lined up with the right-hand 8, and now we have everything from three meters to infinity in focus, and so this is a hyperfocal scale. And so if you want the maximum amount of depth of field, this is a very easy way of telling where to focus when you are at f/8, you would look at where the 8s are down on the bottom. Let's try portrait photography. You might be at an aperture of 2.8, a subject eight feet away, you're gonna have very shallow depth of field and it's a little hard to tell exactly where how much you're gonna have. It just doesn't go with as great of detail here when you get really, really narrow. You shoot at f/2, indeed you're gonna have very, very shallow depth of field. If we were to do some landscape photography we might be stopping down to f/16. The mistake is to focus on infinity. There problem here is that we're throwing away about half our potential area of focus. We've got everything from eight feet to infinity but we have a bunch of stuff beyond infinity where there isn't anything, and so what we wanna do to get focus is set the infinity mark over by the f/ and now we can get everything from roughly four feet to infinity in focus. Let's try a little street photography at f/8. So in this case if we focus at f/ and we want a lot in focus, all the way to infinity, we put the infinity mark by the right-hand f/ and we get, once again, everything from about eight feet to infinity in focus. Now, when we say it's in focus, that is actually a little bit of a soft term. What do we mean by focus? In this case, with this type of focusing, it is what's known as acceptable focus, which means it's pretty good. But if you're the kind of person who wants critical focus, which is the next level, what you might wanna do is adjust the focusing a little bit like this so that the infinity mark lines up with the 5.6 setting. And so you have your aperture at f/ but you're using the 5.6 alignment marks, which is gonna be a little bit tighter standard and your subject is gonna be a little bit more in focus but the depth of field doesn't go quite as much as it did in the previous cases. So this is something to think about, something to practice out in the field. Some people have even more strict standards so they might move it into the f/4 setting when they are setting for depth of field. Now one of the things that is unique about a lot of the Leica lenses is the tab that is on the lenses. So if you view the camera from the backside, cause you wanna think about it as you shoot with the camera, there is a focusing tab on some, but not all, lenses. Let's take a look at our focusing, and as you focus to infinity, it will be over to the right-hand side in the 4 o'clock position, and that's for infinity. When you go to the minimum distance, it's gonna be over on the left-hand side, in about the 8 o'clock position, and the mid point will be right there in the middle. And so let me show you on my camera right here, and so let's get in here, this lens that I have on here is the 50 Summilux or f/4 lens, and if I want to focus all the way to infinity I will move my finger all the way over here to the side. And it I want it all the way to the closest, it's right here, and right in the middle, it's in the middle of the range, which from this particular lens is about 1.2 to 1.5 meters. Now the way some people work with Leica cameras is they by default leave it at infinity. That's where the starting position is, and so when they come to grab the camera, they know to look for that mark over here in that 4 o'clock position from me shooting. And then what they do is just slowly bring it towards them in order to focus. Now if you're really quick, as you grab the camera, you'll be estimating the distance to your subject, and let's say my subject is 10 feet away. If I have that memorized, I can just bring it right there and I know that I'm there, so it can be very, very quick to just bring it up to where I know I need to focus. And so there's a lot of Leica users who use this system so much, they can tell the difference between this position and this position because that's very different. Let's see, for on this lens, this is at 10 feet, this is at five feet. So 10 feet, five feet, and you start getting the feel of where this tab mark is in relationship to the body, you can start focusing and having the camera in focus before the camera is even up to your eye. So practice that with the different lenses you have. They all don't have it; for instance, the 90mm Summicron here does not have it. The focus is out a little bit further away from the body and it just wouldn't work as well on this one. With the 28mm lens, let me take off the lens hood on this one, this one doesn't have a standard focusing ring. It only has a focusing tab on it. And so on this one, I'm grabbing it and just putting my finger in here and adjusting it like this. It's a great system to use, you can use it like this but it doesn't have quite the same torque and control on it that it does right here in the finger like this, and so experiment that with your lenses and if you are interested, there are aftermarket adapters that you can get that can add a focusing tab onto a lens that doesn't already have one, if you really like it. Alright take a look at some of the lenses. We have different focal lengths, we have different apertures. And we have a variety of lenses. Let's start off with some of the fast lenses, so Noctilux: nocturnal lenses that are good under really low light conditions. The 50 and the new 75 fit into this category. Summilux: very fast lenses with 1.4 apertures. Normal focal range to wide angle. Summicron's gonna have a wide to choose in here. These are a lot of the favorites. The Summilux and Summicrons are favorites of a lot of long-time Leica users. And there's many different options in here going from the 28 down to the 90mm. The Elmarit, which is a more inexpensive version for most of these lenses, they have an inexpensive kind of entry line of lenses that are a bit more affordable because some of the Leica lenses can be a little bit pricey for some people's pocketbooks, for sure. The Elmar lenses, in some cases, are wide angle lenses that have very wide, ultra-wide lenses, or they might be macro or telephoto-lenses. And Summaron is a special wide angle kind of classic design lens. Looking at the lenses in another way, the Summarit ones, as I said before, is their close-up series, or excuse me, close-up lenses, let's redo that (laughter). The Summarit line of lenses is their entry-level line of lenses. These tend to be a little bit more affordable. They're gonna range in price, currently, from $1800 to $2300, and they are still very good quality lenses, they don't have exactly the same focus-feel as the other lenses, but they're a good entry line of lenses into the Leica system. They do make these in silver and in black, as they do many other lenses. Some cases they only make them in one color. One of the favorite traditional lenses of the Leica system is the 50mm lens, available in black and silver in many cases. They do have a Black-Chrome Edition of the 50, which is a retro-style design on there. And so these are all just gonna be grouped in different categories. Now the 50 f/2 has two different versions. There's the standard version, which sells for around $ and then there is the apochromatic one, which has very special glass in there to achieve the highest optical quality possible. They really went all-out on this 50 APO Summicron, and that one is gonna sell for a bit more money. That's around $8000, and so there's two different versions of the same lens with different quality optics and if you wanna see why it's such a big difference, you can check out some videos online about how Leica creates lenses and you can see how much work and how much time goes into making some of these higher-end lenses from them. The standard 35 is what I and many would argue is the best lens for a Leica Rangefinder camera. And the reason for that is twofold: Number one, it's the viewfinder lines. The 28 is the whitest lines, it's gonna give you the biggest image, but you gotta have your eye really close to the viewfinder. The 35, you can easily and comfortably see the viewfinder, and so it's the easiest one to view through the viewfinder. The other reason it's popular is because Leica's are really popular with people who do street photography, and for street photography 35 is one of the favorite focal lengths for doing that. So between those two factors right there, a lot of people own Leicas with 35s. They're all very good quality lenses. If you need a really fast lens, the 1.4, the f/2 is really popular because it's just really small and light, and anyone who wants to go with a really small, very practical package, the 35 Summicron is a great choice on almost any Leica. The 28 is important because that is as wide as the standard viewfinder gets, so if you wanna shoot wide angle, you don't want any extra accessories on the camera in order to compose. They make four different lenses with different aperture settings, according to your needs. If you wanna go beyond the 28, they do make wider lenses. They make couple of 24s, they make a couple of 21s at different aperture settings. They do have one that goes all the way down to 18. And so these, you're going to need either the electronic or an optical viewfinder if you wanna be very precise about your composition. For telephoto lenses, it gets a little bit more challenging with the rangefinder, but these are still very doable. The 75 and the 90 I think work very well with the camera. The 135 is a bit of a challenge to work with because you're working with the very small compositional lines in there. It's probably easier to work with the if you have the external viewfinder for composition reasons. There are a few other specialty lenses. The Tri-Elmar is a 16-18-21, it's not a zoom lens, but it is a wide angle lens that gives you a little bit of versatility in what you're shooting there. They have a macro lens, and the Thambar is kind of a special lens, it's a soft focus lens, it's got a whole story unto itself that we do not have time for, unfortunately. Now, with the CMOS sensor and the live view on this, you are able to use the R-Adapter M, which allows you to use R-lenses on this camera. That was impossible before because you could never see to frame and focus, but now with live view, you can do that. And so I have the R-Adapter here, so let me grab that over here. And so I have a R-lens, let me kinda take this apart for you. And so I have a R-lens, this is a 180 3.4, and I bought this lens cause I have a 90mm and I wanted a lens that was more telephoto and 180 is double the focal length, so that's a nice kind of jump on that. So here is the Leica R-to-M adapter and it currently has the tripod socket on the bottom so that you can easily mount it on a tripod. This can come off just by taking off these allen screws, right here. And so this is an R-lens, you can tell cause it has the APO-R setting right there, and I'm gonna mount this onto my adapter right here. And so that's my 180 lens, and now I'm gonna take off my 50mm lens. And I'm gonna mount my 180 on here. And so now I have a 180mm lens on here. Now it does look a little bit funny, this is not how your traditional Leica works but, you know what, if you wanna shoot with a long telephoto, it works. The problem is is that looking through the viewfinder is not gonna help you very much because you can't do your focusing there. You're gonna have to do it on the back of the camera or, with the viewfinder on the camera, right here. So let's go ahead and point it over at our subjects here. Put it into live view and you can see that we are in quite a bit closer on our subjects here. Let's get this locked in here. And so if I want, I can go into my magnified view. 10 times, that's a little close, let's go back to five times, and adjust my focus in here, and I can get very critical focus right here and take my photo, come back to full frame. I don't think I have everything set up exposure-wise, let me just go with aperture priority right now. I'm kind of at a slow shutter speed and I want to get a sharp shot here so I'm gonna bump this up a little bit to 1600. And so now I can play this back. Am I playing it back? I am playing it back. And we can zoom in, we can see that we get nice, sharp results with this. And so if you do wanna adapt a longer lens, an R-lens, and the R-lenses are really some very nice lenses out there. They are no longer being made new, but they are available used and they can be had for not much money. This is a the cheapest Leica lens that I will probably ever end up buying because most of the Leica lenses are so expensive and this is a relatively small one and I thought it was a nice combination to have after my 90mm lens; it's not that big and I can still keep it in a fairly small bag. There are some interesting R-lenses out there and that's a whole thing you can do. Another internet search on is looking for R-lenses, there's some amazing optical solutions out there. Okay, so your Leica lenses, they have a lot of terminology, of course. There's a lot of letters. Here's your key code to all the different terminology that you're gonna see, so M for rangefinder lenses, R is gonna be for the SLR lenses, the M-Mount, the R-Mount, and of course all of our Noctilux, Summilux, Summicron, Elmarit, Elmar, Summaron, and there are some other versions out there of different aperture lenses that they've had out there. So take a look at your lenses, take a look into 'em. There's a lot more that we could talk about on lenses, unfortunately we're gonna have to cut it short here cause we are gonna try to stay on topic, on the camera. So, enjoy those lenses and have fun with them.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Leica M (TYP 240) Recommended Settings
Leica M (TYP 240) Presentation Part 1 (PDF)
Leica M (TYP 240) Presentation Part 2 (PDF)

Ratings and Reviews

nancy mercury

This class was very helpful as a new owner of the Monochrome 246, even though there are some parts not applicable, most of the basic "get around" the menu and set up was extremely helpful. Very complete overview.

Student Work