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URL:   <leica.nemeng.com>
Site last updated:  Sun, 12 Dec 2010

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Leica R lenses on Canon DSLRs

Want to shoot digital with Leica lenses, but don't want to use a Point-n-Shoot and dislike (or do not wish to pay for) the Digital Module R?…

Why not mount your Leica R lenses onto a Canon EOS digital body using R->EOS lens adapter mounts!

Why bother - why not just use Canon lenses?

Let's get the obvious objection out of the way first.

Whenever this topic pops up online, there will always be people who moan it is pointless as (1) Canon "L" glass is just as good if not better the Leica R, and (2) even if you can live without auto-aperture and AF, Leica's super-high resolution is completely wasted on low-rez CCDs.

First — is Canon glass "as good, if not better" than Leica R? Well you never know, it may just be. Some people really cannot distinguish between (say) "White Chicks" and "Three Colours: White"…

As for the second point — Wasted Resolution — well, duh. Any 120 lp/mm lens by any manufacturer is overkill for CCDs which can barely manage 40-50 lp/mm (and that is for the 1Ds). Factor in low-pass anti-alias filters, and you have inherently low-resolution devices which are completely blind to the extreme resolving power which Leica lenses are famous for.

So why bother? Because there is more to this than line-pairs per millimetre. Think flare resistance and consistent colour balance between different focal lengths. Think smooth and pleasing bokeh. Think low vignetting when wide open. Think low distortion for rectilinear ultra-wides. Think solid metal construction, which retains its aperture and focus ring firmness after decades of use.

Think also about how convenient it is to double-up your (expensive) Leica optics for use on throw-away, "completely obsolete in two years" DSLRs.

If you shoot a lot of sports and action and need AF + AE, then by all means stick with Canon EOS lenses. But if you do not need to work so fast — say for catalogs or macro shooting — then a lens-mount adapter is a pretty cheap way to get into v.high quality digital imaging.

I am hardly alone in thinking this. In August 2004 Nicolai Perjesi sent me the following note:

I have been using leica lenses on my Canon D60 for 2 years now, and it works just fine. Sometimes I borrow a 1Ds and here the result is excellent, much sharper and more contrast on my pictures than with the Canon lenses. Waiting for the digiback for leica, but since it is not a fullframe, I will go for the 1ds, or the replacement to come. See my images at: <perjesi.dk>

See also the remarks about non-EOS lens-mounting options on the 16:9 website at:

<16-9.net/lens_tests/compatible.html>

Leica vs. Canon lenses on EOS digital

In Feb 2006 there was a l-o-n-g discussion about Canon vs. Leica R lenses on photo.net. The general consensus was that Canon wide-primes were weaker than Leica or Zeiss equivalents. OTOH the Canon offerings could be 8x cheaper! Then there is the Leica 100 APO-Macro, which everyone agreed was in a class of its own:

<Photo.net: #pn00FEfw>

This consensus is also supported by the "19-21mm hall of fame" list complied on the "16:9" website, whereupon the reviewer notes:

Among the wide angles, Leica and Zeiss rule the roost; whether your favour the Leica's nicer colour rendering and lower distortion, or the Zeiss' superior contrast, resolution and 3D quality depends on your subject matter and personal preference.

In May 2005, "Julian W" did a shoot-off between a Leica 50mm Summicron-R and a Canon 50mm ƒ2.0 on a borrowed EOS-10D. His results were available at:

<http://www.julianw-photo.co.uk/LeicaCanon/>

(Unfortunately this link is broken. I have left it in the FAQ in case it goes live again, or to help with locating a copy in a web archive.)

Julian's results were very controversial. Many complained they were not an exact comparison of identical 50mm lenses (the Canon was actually a macro). Another problem was that the images were taken near full aperture and not at typical stopped-down values (ƒ8-11). Still, the obvious differences in picture quality were food for thought.

Leica to EOS adapter ring options

Brand Price (+ P&H) Notes
buyitjnow $US 2 (+ $17) i, ii
Roxsen £UK 7 (+ £5) i, iii
Heavy2stars $US 35 (+ $9) i
Fotodiox $US 90 (+ $10) iv
Roxsen £UK 45 (+ £5) i, v
Cameraquest $US 175 (+ $10)  
Novoflex €149 Euro (+ €10) vi, vii

Notes

  1. For the Hong Kong eBay dealers, enter "leica eos adapter" in their "Store Search" panel to show available stock and prices
  2. Why not be honest and say "$9 for the ring + $10 P&H" ?!
  3. Item is sent via Registered Mail (where available).
  4. Fotodiox "04EOS00R"
  5. Available since Oct 2006, adapter plus PCB focus confirmation strip
  6. Novoflex "EOS/LER"
  7. USA dealer price is @ $230, so you might save money by purchasing directly from Novoflex Germany

Which one to get?

The Novoflex is hands-down the winner as far as quality and durability goes. There is hearsay that they use the same OEM parts as Leica for the mount ring and springs, so you get optimum machining and fit.

Unfortunately the "EOS/LER" costs more than five times the Hong Kong versions. In which case, can you get away with using one of the cheaper options?…

Maybe yes. According to David Young, the only big difference is that the Novoflex mount uses springs to hold the lens in place:

The only functional difference between the Novoflex and the Gandy/Fotodiox adapter is the method of holding tension on the lens. The Novoflex, as you know, uses springs. The other two use kerfs cut in the metal... a lower cost option.
 
Go to my website and scroll down just a wee bit. You'll see a close-up of how these kerfs work.
 
When I got my Fotodiox adapter, the adapter was firm in the camera, but the lenses were quite loose and had a noticeable 'wobble', which did not seem to affect the focus. But it sure affected my feelings about it!
 
[…] I eventually cured this by taking a small, flat-blade screwdriver and pushing it into the kerf. The metal moved quite easily and I thought the soft metal might need "re-adjusting" on a regular basis, but this has not proved to be the case. The adapter continues to work perfectly after several months and thousands of shots.
 
BTW: it is rumoured that the R-lens mount part of the Novoflex adapter is purchased by Novo from the folks who OEM the mount for Leica! No wonder it is [a] perfect and [b] expensive!
 
I find it most convenient to leave the one adapter I have, on the camera and switch the various lenses. This lowers cost, and makes my 'hand actions' identical to mounting/dismounting as I have always done.

AZN recommends…

A two-step approach. First get the £7 Roxsen unit (even if the bastards did steal my FAQ text for their eBay product description!). If you are happy with the fit then great — you saved $US 150. If not, then get the Novoflex.

FWIW I have the Roxsen Nikon Ai and Leica R - FourThirds adapters. The level of workmanship is more than adequate — the finish is good, it is solidly made, and the "slit kerfs" hold my R and Ai lenses firmly without wobble. I have not used the focus-confirmation Roxen Canon adapter however, so I cannot comment on its robustness and reliability.

Linkage between Leica R lens and Canon EOS body

Other than mechanically attatching a lens to the camera body, there isn't any.

The absence of a EOS-compatible lens chip means there is no electronic communication, so all your camera sees is an empty hole. It cannot stop down the lens, figure out what aperture you are using, or even electronic focus detect.

So you better get used to viewing and shooting at working aperture. Likewise, you will only be able to use manual exposure (M) or stop-down aperture-priority (AV) modes. No AE program. No shutter-priority. Definitely absolutely no AF or focus-confirmation.

In April 2002, Dr Joseph Yao, a long-time R/EOS user, noted:

I have been using [the R->EOS] adapter for a couple of years [on film EOS cameras] and I think I am qualified to answer. There are no contacts on the adapter: the EOS body will behave as if there is no lens attached to it and hence give no electronic focus confirmation. I also have a Contax to EOS adapter and the situation is the same.
 
OTOH, both Nikon and Pentax AF bodies retain the electronic focus confirmation when an non-AF lens is used.
 
BTW, because of the lack of any contacts in the adapter, the camera always defaults to stopped-down metering mode in auto unless you switch it to manual exposure mode.

Also in April 2002, Javier Perez noted the following about EOS lens contacts:

The EOS learns through the contacts what focal length, aperture and focus position is being used. The contacts also control the position of the focused element and aperture.
 
I've been inside a few EF zooms and have seen slider RVs on the focus ring aperture and zoom though the latter is stepped rather than CV I think. These settings are reported to the camera as is the M/AF setting on the lens.
 
Anyway, by finding out how this pinout works I would like to be able to tell the camera to go ahead and allow focus confirmation, and perhaps tell it the focal length if necessary.
 
The reason I asked if the EOS adapter had contacts is merely because I wanted to confirm that it was a purely dumb adapter. A contact set on the adapter even if connected to nothing on the lens would still indicate that termination or perhaps loopback with or without impedence is present. Since the contacts are not present it indicates that Novoflex adapter does not communicate with the camera at all. The camera believes no lens is attached and that is why focus confirmation doesn't work.

Focus Confirmation lens-mount PCB

In July 2006 Vitto Tai sent me a note about "reverse-engineered" PCB strips which, when glued to your lens-mount adapter, will activate the AF Confirm light in the EOS body and also provide meaningful lens EXIF data.

See the list of links below for more information. IMO they all look rather flimsy, but if you cannot live without electronic focus confirmation, then they may be worth a try:

From late 2006 onwards you can also purchase lens mount adapter rings with the PCB strip already attached. See Roxsen's eBay store (enter "canon adapter confirm" in the "Store Search" panel). FWIW the Roxen Leica-to-Canon focus-confirmation ring costs £UK 25 + P&H. A final caution if you want to go down this route, David Young reports some serious flakiness for the focus confirmation mount he tried with his Olympus E3. See also the review of the M42 AF Confirm ring by Bob Atkins.

Improve sharpness by removing the AA filter

Seriously. It wouldn't be wise to have it done for a brand new DSLR, but for a cheap older model EOS, why not? The idea is pretty simple: anti-alias ("AA" or "Optical Low-Pass") filters are used to prevent weird rainbow noise from single-colour-per-pixel sensors. It works by spreading out fine image details so they will (nearly) always fall onto many adjacent image pixels — see the explanation and diagrams at DpWiki.

Unfortunately by spreading out the details, you inevitably soften the image. Consquently by removing the AA filter, you will get much sharper images! This is the service offered by LDP LLC for @ $US 500. See their website at

<maxmax.com/hot_rod_visible.htm>

Yes there are issues. Foremost are Moiré artefacts, the reason for using AA filters in the first place. Luckily these are usually easy to fix in Photoshop or C1. Also keep in mind that neither the M8 or DMR have AA filters, and the absence hasn't exactly rendered the cameras useless :?)

Lens / mirror clearance issues

Which lenses work?

Because the rear of some Leica R lenses protrude too far into the camera body, there may be mirror clearance issues when used on Canon EOS'es.

For the most up-to-date information on which lenses work (or do not work) with EOS 1.6x and FF DSLRs, see the eight pages of information compiled by John Schwarz at:

<pebbleplace.com/Personal/Leica_db.html>

In addition, a Leica user reports that the Modular 800R Leica lens system works well with EOS bodies. See this November 2004 discussion at <LUG - v28/msg1489663.html>.

Which lenses will not work?

In September 2002 Douglas Herr noted the following:

Be careful not to use any R lenses which require extra mirror clearance, as the Canon mirror will hit the rear of the lens. These lenses include:
 
* 35mm Summilux-R
* current 50mm Summilux-R
* 16mm fisheye
* 15mm Elmar-R
* current (2nd version) 19mm Elmarit-R
* 24mm Elmarit-R
* early 80-200mm ƒ4.5 zoom

Which is generally sound advice, especially for full-frame Canon EOS bodies. With digital 1.6x EOS bodies however, there is a shorter mirror-box depth, meaning some of these lenses may just work.

For example, in October 2004 Tina Manley reported:

There may be two versions of the R-19/2.8, but mine works fine with the Novoflex adapter. I use it all the time! I had read, too, that the rear element was too deep, but someone else suggested trying it, so I did and I've never had a problem. There is plenty of room for the mirror to flip up. The 19 gives you about a 30 on the EOS with the 1.6x multiplier. [er, make that "crop factor" Tina! - AZN]

And also in Oct 2004, Douglas Sharp reported the following with his Canon EOS-300D:

[…] So far I've tried the following R lenses on it without any problems: 21/4,0 , 28/2,8, 35/2, 50/2, 100/4 Macro and 250/4 Telyt and the Novoflex 400mm. All using the Novoflex adapter, which is often tough to get off the lens mount, the locking pin sticks on some lenses and requires a bit of help before it releases properly (maybe 'cos it's new).
 
Similarly no problems with Tamron Adaptall mount lenses, Pentacon, Fujica,Pentax and Sigma and Maksutov mirror lenses (HAMA M42-adapter) Anything with a T2 mount works ok too. A Zörk adapter for Contax/Yashica mount is next on the shopping list. […]

Many other users report no problems using the current R19mm on the D60 or newer EOS 20D or 350D bodies. Ditto the 16mm R fisheye — which is definitely a boon for QuickTime VR shooters! Finally, in February 2003 Howard Cummer sent me a note that the latest 50mm Summilux-R also works fine on his D60, meaning it will also work without problems on the more modern 20D or 350D.

It is very much a case-by-case, try-it-and-see kind of thing. So make sure you take along your favourite R lens(es) when buying a digital EOS body. Just because you read on a website that a lens won't work with your camera, as John Guthrie points out in Oct 2008, t'aint 100% necessarily so!

EOS Mirror Shaving

Even if your R lens do not fit, it isn't the end of the world. The only problem is that the lens protrudes sufficiently into the camera body to impede the free movement of the SLR mirror.

So all you have to do is get a technician to either grind back your lens (bad idea), or shave the mirror bottom edge to free up the SLR movement (much better IMO).

Either way, this modification has been done so many times for full-frame EOSes that by now it is routine. Contact your local camera technician to discuss. According to the Guy Mancuso link above, you may even be able to get away with DIY — just detach the plastic protector ring at the rear of (some) lenses!

Heck, you may even be able to DIY grind the mirror. Do the work upside down to keep most of the dust out of the camera and off the CCD. It would be best to first remove the mirror and then do the grinding, but this is not so easy to DIY.

Focusing R lenses on EOS bodies

If you do not want to get the glue-on PCB strip for focus-confirmation, how hard is it to focus R lenses on EOS bodies? Should you change the standard EOS focus screen to something else?

The consensus is, if you are shooting with longer lenses (100mm and above), then the built-in screen works okay. But if you want to shoot with wider angles, then you really should get a focus-screen with built-in focus aids.

EOS 1D, 1DS, 1DS MkII

Dr Joseph Yao again:

For telephotos the standard screen is sufficient and I have had no problem. For wide angle lenses the optional screen with split-image focusing aid is better, although I hardly use my EOS with R wide angle lenses, since there are a number of R wide angle lenses that do not fit because of the protruding rear element (R 19, R24 and R 35/1.4).
 
For my EOS RT body, because of the pellicle mirror, I had Bill Maxwell work on the standard screen which is now brighter and more contrasty.
 
It is worth noting that EOS screens (and probably focusing screens of most, if not all, AF SLRs) are optimised for brightness rather than contrast, and thus are not as good for manual focusing compared to, say, that of the SL and R8.
 
With the EOS 3 (also EOS 1, 1n, 1V, 1D and 1Ds) I suggest you get the Canon focusing screen Ec-B which has microprism and split-image.

BTW — in April 2004 "Lucien" sent me a warning about using EOS center split-prism focusing screens — they can muck up exposure readings in certain circumstances:

Regarding the Ec-B (split screen) that can be used with the Canon EOS 1Ds and 1D Mark II to focus the Leica lenses, here is what Canon is writing about it in the instruction manual.
 
"The Ec-A, Ec-B, Ec-I and Ec-L focusing screens have a prism at the center of the center. A correct exposure reading cannot be obtained with evaluative metering or spot metering based on the center area where there is a prism. Use centerweigthed average metering or off-center spot metering with these focusing screen."

 
For more detail, see Canon's online PDF format manual at:
 
<powershot.com/powershot2/customer/pdf/EOS_1Ds_E.pdf>

1.6x EOS

For a long time you were stuck with the standard Canon DSLR screen, but in 2005 Rachel Katz from Katz Eye Optics started offering replacement screens, with built-in microprisms.

They aren't exactly cheap — $US 110 for the EOS-20D model + $US 50 if you go the Hi-Lux route.

In Aug 2005 Andrew Fildes sent me a note about cheaper $US80 focus screens available from Haoda Optical Research Group. May be worth checking out.

FWIW, Brightsceen also offer a few alternatives.

Either way, installation is not simply a case of dropping in a new screen! See the (lengthy) instructions available in PDF format from the Haoda site above.

Using manual lenses on Canon EOS

Many of the issues on this page are covered in far more detail in an online article by NK Guy:

"Using manual lenses and telescopes with EOS cameras"

Bob Atkins:

"Using Manual Focus Lenses on Canon EOS bodies"

As well as the "16:9" EOS lens adapter round-up at:

<16-9.net/lens_tests/adapters_5d.html>

Recommended Canon EOS digital bodies

Currently your best option is one of the following:

The advantage of these higher-end models, aside from the obviously larger 21-11 MPixel output, are their "full-frame" chips, keeping your wide-angle lenses wide and not cropping them down to normals or short-teles.

( BTW, some people talk about "multipliers" when writing about digital cameras. This is misleading as nothing ever gets "multiplied". As the focal length and lens-to-film distance remain the same, all that happens is the standard 36 x 24mm frame is cropped down to the smaller size of the CCD chip. See the following article by J. Andrzej Wrotniak at <wrotniak.net/photo/dof>. )

What about older Canon digital bodies (the 1D, D30, D60 etc.)? Frankly, why bother? Unless someone hands you one for free, the current models have greatly improved image quality, RAW image buffers, AF speed and reduced dark-frame, shadow and high-ISO noise.

Canon EOS snafus

Non-Canon lens TTL exposure errors

The TTL lightmeter in Canon EOS cameras is inherently flaky when used with lenses which do not have a Canon-compatible ROM chip. Because Leica or Zeiss lenses lack this chip, TTL exposure problems will therefore arise. For example, many users complain of consistent one-stop over-exposures when using their R lenses.

In April 2005 Bob Atkins noted:

Metering problems [with Canon EOS SLRs] can arise from a number of factors including the position of the exit pupil of the lens. My guess is that these factors are taken care of by data contained in the ROM of EF series lenses.
 
It's not at all unusual to see metering errors with MF lenses on EOS bodies [because they do not have the ROM chip]. The metering error may change with aperture too.

See also the following 2005 forum discussions:

  1. <Photo.net: #00Bnlw>
  2. <Photo.net: #00BhFh>
  3. <L-camera-forum.com: #125640>

Likewise you can have problems when trying to use TTL flash because the EOS body does not know what the lens aperture is (see heading below). Also you have to be careful to stay within the EV range of the built-in lightmeter when shooting in stop-down mode.

BTW this is not a net-myth. In Aug 2005 Chuck Westfall (Director of Media and Customer Relationship at Canon USA) confirmed the following:

The EOS 20D focusing screen is optimized for superior brightness at moderate apertures from about ƒ3.5 and smaller, compared to conventional ground glass designs. This makes the viewfinder image brighter and easier to focus at those moderate apertures, but the trade-off is that it passes disproportionately more light to the metering system.
 
When a Canon EF lens is mounted to an EOS camera, a variable exposure compensation factor (a program curve, not just a fixed compensation factor) for this phenomenon is fed through the system in order to provide correct metering for all apertures.
 
However, when using a non-coupled manual diaphragm lens [such as a Leica R lens - AZN], no such communication takes place, so the responsibility for exposure compensation reverts to you. It's unnecessary to use an external meter. Instead, you can take a series of test shots at the working aperture(s) you plan to use, then analyse the test photos to determine the most desirable exposure compensation factor for each aperture.
 
The 20D's auto exposure bracketing (AEB) function speeds up the process of taking the test photos, and you can use the Info palette in Photoshop to determine the most accurate exposure. If you can standardize on one particular aperture you plan to use (for maximum sharpness, desired depth of field, etc.), that will simplify the calibration process by eliminating the need for tests at other apertures.

Other work-arounds?…

  1. Shoot in manual mode and use a hand-held exposure meter
  2. Shoot in manual mode, ignore the viewfinder display and gauge exposure by looking at the LCD histogram display

Long exposure TTL errors

Do not forget EOS cameras can have their auto-exposure readings mucked up by light entering through the rear viewfinder eyepiece. So remember to block off the VF when using the camera away from your face (eg on a tripod)!

Flash E-TTL exposure errors when using manual lenses

A downside of having no electrical connection between the lens and camera body is that dedicated Canon flashes cannot talk to the lens, and vice-versa. This is absolutely essential for "E-TTL" shooting, and if it is missing then your exposures will come adrift. See this URL for more detail:

<botzilla.com/blog/archives/000312.html>

Work-around? Increase the indicated exposure by three stops! Eg. if you are using a "550EX" flash unit, set the flash exposure compensation to +3 stops.

Dust Spots on the CCD

For cleaning the CCD, see this topic elsewhere in the FAQ.

Canon EOS-10D focus errors

Despite anxious denials by Canon Fanboys, there appear to be systematic focus alignment and accuracy problems with some EOS-10D and EOS-20D cameras. See these links:

On some cameras there appears to be a slight miscalibration between the viewfinder focus and what actually ends up on the camera chip. Meaning narrow-DOF shots will always be slightly out, regardless of how sharp they looked in the VF. Obviously this is Very Annoying.

As you already have your work cut out manually focusing Leica R lenses on EOS bodies, if you factor in the EOS DSLR focus uncertainty, then you may find yourself in a position where you will never get sharp pictures, no matter how careful you are!

Image chip axis misalignment

For technical users another thing which may cause irritation is that the image chip may be slightly off-centre inside the camera body.

For general stills work this does not matter, but for technical work where images have to be joined together with great precision (eg. multiple shot panoramas or QuickTime VR scenes), then this can throw alignments out considerably.

As VR shooter Hans Nyberg remarked in June 2004:

I discovered [the off-centre error] with my new Canon 10D recently. My D60 is shifted vertically (Portrait) only but my 10D is also shifted horizontally, which is not as easy to see […] It was only 20 pixels but that is enough to create a mapping which does not fit the next image.
 
If you use a standard lens which fills the sensor it is almost impossible to discover.
 
Just make a few calculations and you see why:
 
An offset of 20 pixels is 1/100 of the sensor width. The sensor is around 15 mm for most 6 megapixels. Which means the sensor must be @ 0.15 mm offset. Even with very high quality tolerances for the mounting it is impossible to mount the sensor with such an accuracy.

A note about possible broken links

This FAQ has over 900 external links. Over time it is inevitable some of them will break. If you are bothered by this, see this detailed topic elsewhere in the FAQ.

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