Leica M mount lenses on the X1D

IMG_0612b copy
f1.4, medium format, comparable size and weight to ‘pro’ M4/3. What’s not to like, other than the price?

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been shooting with the rather unorthodox combination seen above. I’ve found it answers two questions/ solves two problems for me: firstly, the desire for something that operates in the way you want (i.e. transparently) and that makes you want to shoot with it; and secondly, the small/light question. (There’s also a whole separate discussion on the concept of practical equivalence and envelope that I’ll discuss at some later point). But the journey getting here wasn’t quite so straightforward, unfortunately, and this combination is not a Swiss Army knife – it’s got some pretty big limitations. But when it delivers, I find that it delivers something quite special by the truckload.

Additional X1D coverage is here: long term review; assessment with Nikon F mount lenses; field use in Iceland.

X1D5_B0003847 copy

First limitation: electronic shutter only, since the lenses have no mechanical shutter and nor does the body. This means you need to be careful with any potentially flickering light source, keeping your shutter speed to multiples of 1/frequency or risk banding. More importantly, the sensor’s readout time is fixed at 1/3s – even if your individual line exposure time is 1/10,000s, it takes 1/3s to read from top to bottom. Rolling shutter, beware. It’s not just moving objects; hold the camera stead else verticals may wiggle. There is also no calibration data above ISO 3200 for various technical reasons, so this is your maximum speed – but you can always underexpose and push in post.

X1D5_B0003570 copy
Gymnastic fan. Rolling shutter can be creatively interesting…sometimes.

Second limitation: there are only two adaptors available currently; the Kipon and (soon) the Novoflex. The Kipon I had did not allow focus to infinity with any lens; I sent it back to the factory who examined it and claimed it was within spec, and elected to refund my money instead of providing me with one that actually worked – read into that what you will; you may have better luck than I. The Novoflex I have is spot on: the infinity setting on every lens tested corresponds with infinity in reality.

X1D5_B0003689 copy

Third limitation: here’s the big one; lens selection. Remember first that we are trying to make two things work together that were never designed to in the first place. It is a bonus that they work at all. The whole question of optical compatibility and synergy is a complex one as with digital cameras, it now involves the sensor color filter array and microlens design; this is why for instance lenses that may be great on FF look terrible on M4/3, and Leica lenses do better with Leica bodies. Peculiarities include: M4/3 has a very thick (5mm+) filter pack; this causes all sorts of havoc with lenses that are even slightly non-telecentric. Leica M sensors have a progressively offset microlens array to deal with the extreme angles of incidence in the corners. And the filter pack and micro lenses on the GFX and X1D aren’t the same – even though the sensor is. And that’s just the beginning, of course.

X1D5_B0003504 copy

In general, longer lenses work better; we’re talking 50mm and above. This has to do with both geometric limitations of angles of incidence and exit, pupil size, and the fact that less correction is required. That said, not all long lenses work well – there are some 50mms that will still vignette. A hard (i.e. mechanically limited) vignette is not correctable in post; a soft (just darkening) one is. But in any case, even if a lens is only designed for 36x24mm coverage – this requires approximately a 43mm image circle. Here’s the thing: you could use any aspect ratio that fits within that image circle, and still get coverage beyond what a FF sensor would give; for example, a 31x31mm square. This, of course is a fallback plan: we would prefer to use the whole sensor. The final consideration has to do with optical design. Normal to short tele lenses tend to be symmetric Gauss-types or derivatives; such designs are simpler to compute and make, and tend to have decent performance. They also tend to have larger coverage. Telephotos are usually entrance pupil-limited and also tend to have larger coverage. Wides and wide normals are the mixed bag: symmetric designs are best for performance and simplicity, but require very short flange distances (the shorter the focal length, the shorter the flange distance) and have extreme ray angles. The extreme exit angles do not play nicely with most sensors – you land up with severe shading due to pixel depth, and worse, purple fringing effects due to refraction off the micro lenses – which is one reason most modern ‘digital’ designs are telecentric. (Lens designers also now have no problem computing these since software has taken over the hard math). Telecentric lenses are great for resolving power, chromatic correction and even illumination – but coverage is exit-pupil limited, and almost never beyond the required diameter.

X1D5_B0003497 copy

My investigations yield the following, at infinity (close up is not a problem as your are magnifying the projected image circle: if a lens covers the sensor at infinity, it will also do so close up). Please note that this is not an exhaustive list; I’ve only been able to lenses I have access to.

  • For wide lenses, the telecentric (e.g. Distagon) types simply do not provide adequate coverage of 44x33mm without hard uncorrectable corner vignetting, at any aperture.
  • For wide lenses, the symmetric (e.g. Biogon) types will cover providing there isn’t a mechanical limitation, but you will likely see strange lateral color shifts in the periphery of the frame due to extreme ray angles and interference with the microlenses on the sensor.
  • Compact lenses are typically physically limited due to size, and again do not provide adequate coverage without hard uncorrectable corner vignetting at any aperture.
  • Lenses that do not provide adequate coverage
    • Zeiss: ZM 2.8/21, 2.8/28, 2.8/35, 1.4/35, 2/50
    • Leica: 24/1.4 ASPH, 28/2.8 ASPH, 35/2.4 Summarit, 35/1.4 Summilux II, 50/2.4 Summarit, 50/2 Summicron (latest), 50/0.95 ASPH
    • Voigtlander: 21/4, 28/2, 35/1.4, 35/1.7 (but with L-R color shifts), 40/1.4, 50/1.1
  • Lenses that provide adequate coverage (all will have some soft vignetting)
    • Zeiss: ZM 2/35, 1.5/50
    • Leica: 50/1.4 ASPH, 75/2 APO ASPH, 90/2 APO ASPH
    • Voigtlander: 50/1.7, 75/1.8
  • Lenses that provide adequate coverage but must be used with caution (see individual notes)
    • Voigtlander: 35/1.2 II – extreme field curvature or edge pupil mechanical constriction means there’s a lot more DOF at the edges than the centre, e.g. at f1.2, central subject at 3m is in focus, immediate background clearly defocused; edges at 5-10m almost in focus (you can see the rays are not converging properly, though).

X1D5_B0003732 copy

I personally settled on the Leica 50/1.4 ASPH – not the cheapest option, but the one from this group that had the best balance of rendering quality, resolution, edge performance, size, speed, tactile, desired angle of view, minimum focusing distance, haptic feel etc – it’s not the best in any one category, but it scores very highly across the board. It is a compact social-friendly camera with the right tactile qualities, unique rendition – ranging from wall-of-bokeh-cinematic at f1.4 and close up, to razor sharp cross frame at f8 and infinity – and monstrous low light capability when combined with the X1D’s sensor and zero-vibration shutter. I find myself fiddling with it and experimenting – a lot. Which is really what photography is about, isn’t it? MT

The Hasselblad X1D is available here at B&H
The Leica 50/1.4 ASPH-M is available here at B&H and Amazon
And the Novoflex adaptors will be available soon from Novoflex…

X1D5_B0003674 copy

__________________

More info on Hasselblad cameras and lenses can be found here.

__________________

Visit the Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including workshop videos, and the individual Email School of Photography. You can also support the site by purchasing from B&H and Amazon – thanks!

We are also on Facebook and there is a curated reader Flickr pool.

Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved

Comments

  1. Hello Ming, thank you for the review and advise. But I still wonder if you have any sample image about the leica 28/2 and 50/2 on X1D. Thank you.!

  2. Thank you for your blog and it has help a lot for selecting a “Right” M lens on X1D. I am using a 35mm F1.4 ASPH for my M camera, so will select a 75mm to work for both the M and X1D. Lots of comment mentioned 75mm F1.4 ASPH summilux works great on M camera but no information about this on X1d. Since both 50mm F1.4 ASPH and 75mm F2.0 APO work fine on X1D, can I assumed the 75mm F1.4 ASPH summilux can also works on X1D with no black circle but only soft vignetting? Thanks for your advise.

    • I think you mean the 75/2 ASPH; the 75/1.4 is an older non-ASPH and quite rare (and therefore difficult to test). I think it would be potentially a very expensive assumption to make…

      • Oh yes, thank you for your clarification, it is a Leica 75mm Summilux-M f/1.4 and not a ASPH lens. Will wait & see, can’t afford to buy an expensive but not work as expected lens.

        Thank you.

  3. Jonathan Hodder says:

    One of my very lenses in what is a gorgeous looking combination. The cross-over to Medium Format has sparked a question: what do you think is the resolution limits of Leica’s modern ASPH lenses? The M and SL will no doubt receive pixel upgrades in the future, but how far can they go until the M lenses cannot resolve any further? 50MP?

    • Jonathan Hodder says:

      *One of my lenses

    • They seem to be doing just fine on the X1D, but pixel density is lower than even the current 24MP FF sensor they’re using. I honestly have no idea as I don’t have enough experience with that system; but if they can resolve fine on the 24MP APSC cameras, that’s north of 50MP FF. Of course it tells you nothing about the corners…

  4. Thanks a lot for the article. Wondering if the Contax 35 will still provide some shift when mounted through the Novoflex or Fotodiox adapters. Have you been able to try this combination? I remember that you had and liked the lens (and it will give you the bonus of a 28mm FOV on the X1D).

    So far I am enjoying the X1D very much. Very few things to be desired for my use and I am nitpicking:
    — The option for a more usual digital level that doesn’t force your eye to jump from bottom to side. Leica Q’s one is great for me, very easy to use handheld
    — Simultaneous red focus marks + magnification
    — Auto iso in manual mode
    — The LCD screen stays off if set that way

    Thanks for the work you put into the site.

  5. May I know what is the focal length for Leica 90mm APO and 75mm APO lens on X1D? Will it be 71mm and 59mm ? Any black circle around the edge or just soft vignetting on the edge of photos if using these 2 lens on X1D? I am going to select one of these and will you please advise which one (Leica 90mm APO or 75mm APO) is better on X1D? Thanks.

    • It’s more like 72 and 60mm diagonal, but the aspect ratios are not the same so it’s hard to give an exact number. No black circles on either – just minor soft vignetting. Both are optically fine, your preference for focal length.

  6. Just to share my experiences with M lens on X1D. I’ve tested the WATE, 28 Summilux, 50 APO, 90 Cron and Voigtlander 35 f2.5 in 3×2 aspect ration (not FoF crop) using a fotodiox adapter. The WATE works well at 21, though has visible pincushion distortion (can be corrected by loading the WATE lens profile in LR). The 28 doesn’t work, hard vignette. 50 APO does work w soft vignette but there is visible smearing in the corners. The 90 works perfectly w very slight soft vignette. Finally, the diminutive Voigt 35 is the big surprise here. It works perfectly and is plenty sharp throughout the image frame!

    BTW in my estimation, the effective crop factor on a 3×2 mf crop vs ff is around 0.857x.

    • Interesting – do you see any color shift/ smearing towards the edges with the Voig 35/2.5? It’s faster (1.2, 1.4, 1.7) cousins do not fare well at all.

      Crop factor is somewhat academic as you can really only compare diagonal angle of view. It seems rather wasteful to throw away a good portion of the sensor…

      • Upon further testing, unfortunately there is magenta color shit towards the edges (not as bad as was on my M240), but sharpness holds up well. Perhaps best reserved for b&w or less color critical shots. As for aspect ratio, I’ve sort of settle on 3:2 as my main compositional aspect ratio…though I do very much admire your wonderful photos with the full X1D sensor!

        A side question, I’m having difficulty charging the X1D via USB-C. Is there any requirements for power output from the charger? So far I’ve tried chargers with output of 5V 1.0A, 2.0A, both don’t work, and the one that finally showed the charging icon (next to battery icon) on the camera was 5V 1.5A.

        • I’ve recently found the Ricoh LTM GR 28/2.8 to provide full coverage (and sharp corners at f8) but horrible color shifts: however, on converting to monochrome – the tones are incredible. I can see a use for this kind of lens…

          I tend to flop between full 44×33 and 2.65:1 (XPAN) – no idea why; perhaps the cinematicness of it…

          The X1D was not designed to charge over USB. It will power but not charge the battery – there is no circuitry for that.

  7. Hi Ming,
    I very much like you site. Your thoughts are always interesting and your images always inspire.

    I have a couple of questions on your trial of the 0.95 Noctilux with the X1d:

    One is, would the vignetting be acceptable or better if the images are cropped square – using the most central portion of the lens and reducing the image diagonal?

    The other is, I wonder if you have a number for the image circle diameter on the 0.95 – (I have looked around on the web without luck)?

    Many thanks,

    Gavin

    • Best guess is that it’s about 50mm or so – the outer 7mm have a hard vignette, and there’s a soft vignette that extends even further in – so effective aperture is 0.95 only in the very centre. Square is just about okay, but the purple fringing is not really acceptable at any aperture. Too much money to deliberately go out and spend on something that doesn’t really work well (not surprising given it was never intended to) however if you already have one, why not? 🙂

      • Thanks for your thoughts – it is a moment of overlap – so, perhaps I’ll give it a try… the ‘why not’ principle is strong in me!

  8. An update to your Second Limitation: There is now also a FotodioX adapter available in addition to the Kipon and the Novoflex.

  9. Jim Suojanen says:

    I enjoy my 75mm APO Summicron. Very similar design to the 50mm Lux and balances well with the X1d. One stop slower but really with the electronic shutter being so slow it doesn’t matter; FOV @ f/2 similar to 50mm @ f/1.4. My copy has wonderful mojo. I’d like to try a 135mm APO.

  10. To help with using adapted lenses, assuming Hasselblad endorses / supports such use cases, it would if some firmware support was added, such as:

    1) Create a menu for storing lens presets so the EXIF is populated.
    2) Each preset would include (all fields populated by the end user):
    – name of lens, such as Leica 50mm F1.4 Summilux-M ASPH
    – focal length & focal length in 44x33mm terms (it would be 35mm x .8)
    – max aperture
    3) Additional crop tags (3FR tags) added to the camera, such as 36x24mm

    This data is helpful for the camera as well, particularly the focal length – that’s a required input for auto-ISO. Another thing Hasselblad could consider is adding a ROM chip to their own adapters – such as the XPAN and presumably a V adapter. The ROM chip could added features such as:

    1) Auto-enable electronic shutter
    2) Auto trigger a menu so they cold select the mounted Hass lens via a drop down list
    3) Once lens is selected, now metadata can be push to EXIF, etc.
    4) 3FR files could have lens correction tags added for attached lens

    Should Hasselblad make a V-adpater, I strongly recommend it includes a tripod foot.

    Thank you, John.

    • Thanks for the suggestions – some of these I can see making sense, some I think would contribute to menu overload – or be replaced by more sensible options such as minimum shutter thresholds in auto ISO (or manual mode that also works with auto-ISO) 🙂

  11. Thank you for the interesting article. Did you actually use the ZM35 on the X1D? I enjoy the combination of the X1D’s monster sensor with the lovely and comparatively tiny Leica glass (I use the 50Lux asph and 90 Apo on the X1D). My wider Leica m-lenses are not performing “good enough” on the larger sensor but based on your lens list the ZM 35 could be an option.

    • Yes, I used all lenses mentioned in the article. The ZM 2.8/35 has a small entrance pupil and hard vignette, the 2/35 won’t go to infinity on some samples and has some lateral color shift, and the 1.4/35 is a Distagon design and similarly has a hard vignette. The 2/35 is probably the best bet.

  12. Too many hassles and too many hassels. Why just don’t use leica lenses with a Leica body? They are peanuts compared to X1d, lighter, more versatile, etc.

    • Actually, the weight and size are about the same, and the $6500+ Leica wants these days is not far off $8500. There are people who might have an X1D already that don’t have a Leica; me, for instance. It’s much cheaper to buy an adaptor than a $6500 body. Furthermore, Leica’s sensors are rather behind in almost all parameters…36x24mm, 24MP vs 44x33mm, 50MP. We are not talking about using the lenses as intended and cropping to 36×24, but lenses that cover the whole 44×33 sensor area. You can’t do this with a Leica because it doesn’t have a 44×33 sensor to begin with. On top of that, even if you did crop to 36×24 – you get 30MP against 24.

  13. So nice to read a review where someone (you) has stuck a Leica lens on a non-Leica body and not treated the fact that the designer of the non-Leica body didn’t have M mount in mind when they spec’d the micro lenses and filter stack as an affront to all that is holy 🙂

  14. Ming, are you supporting the concept of an adapter like the SIGMA MC-11 –– to use EF-mount SIGMA ART line lenses with the X1D (with aperture control, EXIF data plus AF)? Thanks in advance for your thoughts on that. Kind regards from Munich, Jens

    • If a third party wants to do it, we won’t stop them. But we are not developing support for this ourselves since we already have native lenses that offer aperture control, AF, leaf shutter etc.

  15. Interesting test! The lovely Leica look seems to come through, especially in those shallow DOF images of the little girl.
    I’m assuming these lenses don’t cover the entire image circle of the X1D? Or do some of these lenses (like the 50mm and longer) do that?
    Am curious what these images look like without cropping if you had any samples to share!
    Cheers!

  16. A pretty cool setup. It’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for the X1D-line of cameras. I guess the rumored IMX461-sensor would be a natural fit?

  17. Thank you for the info.
    My favourite Leica lens on X1D is 8.5cm F1.5 at this moment.
    Hector 7.3cm F1.9 is my 2nd choice. Both are fully cover 33×44.
    Hope you have a chance to try then on B&W.
    I found out the banding easily happen while shooting indoor.
    That forces me to shoot under 1/15, but the result is the person blur easily.
    I hope the X2D can have mech shutter like my 2000fcm which I am still enjoy using it.

    • Indoors – try using multiples of 1/50s or 1/60s, depending on where you live. The banding is caused by the mains power frequency and shooting at those speeds eliminates it.

  18. Beautiful, emotive photos. And technically, it looks like a superb combination in the right settings – though not cheap 😦

    • Thanks. Whilst it’s impossible to suggest going to buy an X1D and then M mount glass just to use under very limited circumstances, it’s a different proposition if you already happen to have the glass and want a different look…that was the intention.

  19. Great article and findings, Ming. Really appreciate this insight. I’ve been meaning to ask (and I’ve searched the Internet and can’t seem to quite find the answer): do you know what the equivalent focal length change that you get when you adapt one of the Xpan lenses to the X1D? I know it’s a complex issue and I’m terrible at optical science and math, but trying to figure out as I just got the new adapter.

  20. Chris Chang says:

    Holy crow, 5mm thick sensor stack on m4/3? I had to read that a couple of times. For something less extreme, like the sony sensors found in most apsc/ff cameras, does the sensor stack thickness really affect/exaggerate lateral purple fringing? I’ve seen obvious examples of extreme color cast/shift vignetting and detail smearing with wide rangefinder lenses on thick sensor stacks, but isn’t most of the green/purple lateral aberration just inherent to the lens and lens coatings, no matter the system?

    Reason I ask, I was watching a movie shot on film the other day, that had very obvious pink/purple fringing, (and green halos on the other side) even in the center of the frame in extreme high contrast lighting situations, something I always had attributed to sensor stack depth or microlenses on digital systems.

    • M4/3: I was surprised too. The sensor stack thickness always affects lateral purple fringing as this is a dispersive effect; any plain optical surface will exacerbate this. Micro lenses over each photosite (used to improve light collection efficiency) don’t help, either. Film has no filter pack, which is why a lot of these artefacts only became visible with digital.

  21. Dear Ming,
    funny, i noticed the Summilux 50 just a few days ago in your “recommended Gear List” with the adaptor and was wondering about the usage with the X1D. Did you tried also Nikon lenses with the X1D? I´m interested if that works as i also have a nice 85PC ( the old one) and if both lenses would work, the X1D would be a thinkable alternative to a Sony A7R2 (hated it) or the Leica SL.

  22. Johannis says:

    Hi Ming,
    Your photos are again splendid,
    I have a question since English is not my native language, what do you mean by …. keeping your shutter speed to multiples of 1/frequency or risk banding.
    Also I have ordered a Novoflex, for V to X1d because I have a series of old v lenses 50mm, 80mm and 120mm, I am planing to make night soothing long exposure with Novoflex and 50mm distagon, is there something that must care not to cause my x1d technical problems? Thank you for you time.

  23. What 35mm-equivalent focal length is that combination?

  24. Just want to add that the Summicron-M APO 50 appears to have acceptable soft vignetting.

  25. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I think I’ll leave this idea to an expert like you, Ming, and just sit here admiring YOUR photos!

Thoughts? Leave a comment here and I'll get back to you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: