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Got a great deal on a Zeiss C Sonnar ... struggling with focus shift
Old 01-03-2019   #1
PunkFunkDunk
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Got a great deal on a Zeiss C Sonnar ... struggling with focus shift

I recently got a great deal on a mint Zeiss C Sonnar 50/1.5. Ran 3 x rolls of Ektar through my M6 to see what it can do. Have to admit, only half the frames are in acceptable focus. Of course, I am fully aware of the focus shift issues with this lens and read most of the threads on RFF ... but still. The shots that are in focus definitely have that Sonnar WOW factor and yet ... half of each roll seems wasted. First inclination was to flip the lens at a profit given I got such a good deal. But then again, other lenses in the same focal length render like any other (might as well shoot with my Nikon SLR). What to do? Keen to promise to myself to shoot it for six months and reevaluate my feelings about the lens then. God knows I have made some GAS inspired rash decisions in ten past. How to master this lens?!
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Old 01-03-2019   #2
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If you got it cheap maybe use the rest of the money to have it serviced/adjusted. Maybe it was dropped during its lifetime and needs to be readjusted to be brought within factory specifications. I have a zuiko 35f2 that I was not very happy with. Serviced by Luton cameras and now it performs much better.
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Old 01-03-2019   #3
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1. Shoot f2.8 if you can. That may be the sweet spot.
2. Do your own focus shift tests. You can find mine by searching Zeiss C Sonnar focus shift Richard G site:rangefinderforum.com
3. Relax a little. My 50 Summicron back focussed at f2 by 2cm close in for the first 25 years I used it with film. Hardly noticed. Many C Sonnar owners who’ve never heard of focus shift are probably just as happy as I was with my Summicron. You’ve probably been concentrating on ‘bokeh’ shots. The C Sonnar is still magic at f5.6.
4. Don’t give up yet.
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Old 01-03-2019   #4
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I use adapted opton sonnar 50/1.5 that I believe it behaves like C-Sonnar.

I use it mostly from f2.8 to smaller aperture & hardly notice focus shift, yet still get that sonnar signature. Only worry about shift at f1.5 - f2 & compensate the front focus by moving focus patch about 1mm to the farther distance.

In your case, I think it's best to do your own test shot to see in which aperture it show the focus shift, then learn to compensate; also notice which aperture start to give acceptable focus so you dont need to worry when using that setting.
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Old 01-03-2019   #5
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Check out if yours is optimzed for1.5 or 2.8. Scroll down in the below linked discussion to the postings from user Patagonean to see how it works, he even managed to change the settings on the fly.

https://www.flickr.com/groups/zeissi...7603711459786/

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Old 01-03-2019   #6
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I have Jupiter-3 which I shimmed by my self. I can't recall someone complaining about focus shift with this lens. My last Cron to try is not in use now. It is same optical formula, but no anoying 1/3 clicks, no clicks at all, with TTL camera it is better.
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Old 01-03-2019   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
.. but no anoying 1/3 clicks, no clicks at all, with TTL camera it is better.

Aaaahh the internet:
"I am trying to fix a Canon. Please help.."
"I have a Nikon. its much better"


Does a Jupiter have the T coating? The famous Zeiss 3D pop? No?



Why gloat about another lens when this guy is trying to fix his ?
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Old 01-03-2019   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard G View Post
1. Shoot f2.8 if you can. That may be the sweet spot.
2. Do your own focus shift tests. You can find mine by searching Zeiss C Sonnar focus shift Richard G site:rangefinderforum.com
3. Relax a little. My 50 Summicron back focussed at f2 by 2cm close in for the first 25 years I used it with film. Hardly noticed. Many C Sonnar owners who’ve never heard of focus shift are probably just as happy as I was with my Summicron. You’ve probably been concentrating on ‘bokeh’ shots. The C Sonnar is still magic at f5.6.
4. Don’t give up yet.


Thanks for the advice. Will definitely dedicate a roll to my own test. I did in fact shoot the lens at all apertures but found that even at f/8 on Ektar it was not as sharp for landscapes as my CV 35/2.5. Perhaps user error (my own shake or too low a shutter speed). Will test it and see what aperture is most accurate in my copy for portraits.
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Old 01-03-2019   #9
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Another tip passed on from Roger Hicks in this forum is to focus on the nearest part of the shot you want in focus if you're stopped down at f8 for instance. The focus shift of the Sonnar will make the depth of field appear to be all behind the focus point. I'd also get familiar where your particular M6 body and your C Sonnar give you the best agreement of focus. My 2013 model C Sonnar and my 1986 M6 give a very good agreement at f1.5, as shown in the shot below.

Leica M6 ZM Sonnar 50 at f1.5 1/1000th Delta 100 in Xtol
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Old 01-03-2019   #10
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I agree with the others about testing. They all shift but you need to know how your sample behaves in order to control it. You'll quickly find the sweet spot.

If your primary use will be wide open for portraits it would be a good idea to have Zeiss optimize the lens for wide open use (assuming yours is currently optimized for f2.8 that is) and you'll be good to go.

It's a good lens but does require practice and attention due to the shift. Early on I figured I would have mine adjusted for 1.5 but once I tested and got the hang of my sample (2.8 optimized) I decided against it and have been happy with the performance.
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Old 01-03-2019   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PunkFunkDunk View Post
Thanks for the advice. Will definitely dedicate a roll to my own test. I did in fact shoot the lens at all apertures but found that even at f/8 on Ektar it was not as sharp for landscapes as my CV 35/2.5. Perhaps user error (my own shake or too low a shutter speed). Will test it and see what aperture is most accurate in my copy for portraits.

If you are shooting landscapes, architecture and objects then a Plannar or Heliar could do a better job. Those are not very expensive lens and you could add to your basic equipment.

My advice is get another lens and use both, each for a dedicated subject. Then you will find the strengths and weaknesses of the Sonnar.
Another ideas: yours may be adjusted for 1.5. Later production was adjusted for 2.0 or 2.8.

Did you check your rangefinder? Is it adjusted?
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Old 01-03-2019   #12
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It is possible the problem involves a miss-alignment for how your camera's focus cam mates with this lens. It is possible to find a compromise setting such that all your lenses align properly.

Or, ss p.giannakis mentioned, it is could be the lens mechanism needs adjustment.

The Flickr thread linked by moda001 indicates in 2.8 optimized versions focus shift only affects close subject differences. Of course if your lens is optimized for f 1.5, the shift effect would occur longer subject differences. In any case it should focus properly at some distance.

My C Sonnar 50/1.5 was optimized for f 2.8. At longer subject distances (wide DOF) using apertures 4 or narrower the rendering was crisp with high perceived contrast. But at 2.8 and wider the same scene, using the exact same focus, rendered with much less contrast. Everything seemed softer.

If you do testing, use a tripod and a focus target.
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Old 01-03-2019   #13
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Where are you? If you are in LA you can swing by my gallery and we can test it on my M240 to see where it actually focuses at all apertures.
I have the same lens, but have no issues with it in use. For half of your roll to be OOF it seems something is up. Perhaps that is why the lens was sold so cheap?
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Old 01-03-2019   #14
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I either shoot mine wide open or closed down to f8 or f11. So I had DAG adjust mine to focus spot on at f1.5.

I love it now but I rarely shoot landscapes with it. The Zeiss Planar or Biogon are much, much better lenses for this type of work.


EDIT - In fact, if you are looking for ultimate sharp focus at closer distances and wide open then some could argue that the ZM Sonnar C 50/1.5 isn't the right lens to start with.
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Old 01-03-2019   #15
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I just got a sonnar C a couple weeks ago and ran a test on my first roll. I did the little statue guy at just about min focal distance and lined up the "needle" I can see slight focus shift on my copy, but I guess for what I bought it for (people) it really doesn't bother me all that much. Maybe I am just not that picky since I look through the magnum contact sheets and realize some of my favorite photos are not tack sharp. I have a variety of 50's at this point though, and this one is specific to when I know I am shooting primarily people. My all purpose 50 is either a v1 or v2 cron. I did get a Chiyoda Kogaku 50 1.8 which I am testing as well. So far it look fantastic. I'll post a couple from my test roll including my "focus shift" test. Shot order is f1.5/2/2.8/4
Kentmere 400 in Rodinal 1+25
44-23.jpg by Chris Coppola, on Flickr44-24.jpg by Chris Coppola, on Flickr44-25.jpg by Chris Coppola, on Flickr44-26.jpg by Chris Coppola, on Flickr

and a couple randoms shot at f2 I believe to see how it works in real use for
me

44-6.jpg by Chris Coppola, on Flickr44-15.jpg by Chris Coppola, on Flickr44-28.jpg by Chris Coppola, on Flickr
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Old 01-03-2019   #16
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Tip: slavishly following the RF is not helpful on any Sonnar. To hit focus below f/2.8, you will turn the focusing ring to the left by a hair (toward infinity). It will be the smallest perceptible motion you can make with the focusing ring (as in you just feel it move).

Your only other option is to recollimate the lens for f/1.5, which will royally screw up your focus at f/2-2.8-4 (and possibly 5.6) unless you are committed to hiking the focus in the other direction. I think it's better to work with it set at 2.8; this is the same way every single fast lens is anyway (the 75/1.4 is exactly the same thing) - they all front-focus at wide apertures.

And in terms of affect, front-focus is almost always preferable to back focus.

I have used pretty much every version of the Sonnar that you can jam on a Leica, and they all behave pretty much identically. Sonnars are also far easier to learn on a digital body, since you can instantly see what your focusing technique is doing.

D
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Old 01-03-2019   #17
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Focus, lean in slightly, click. It's not always perfect, but it's usually close enough.

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Old 01-03-2019   #18
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Does a mirrorless EVF M mount camera will solve the focus shift problem?
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Old 01-03-2019   #19
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Does a mirrorless EVF M mount camera will solve the focus shift problem?

There is nothing to solve. Its just a learning curve.
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Old 01-03-2019   #20
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Does a mirrorless EVF M mount camera will solve the focus shift problem?
yes because u focus thru the lens at the taking aperture
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Old 01-03-2019   #21
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yes because u focus thru the lens at the taking aperture
I was able to focus accurately with a M240 in LiveView even though the lens needs lots of shimming. You get what you see.
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Old 01-03-2019   #22
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I would guess I have a 1.5 optimised version given the guy I bought the lens from said he bought it new recently (which seems believable given the condition of the lens, box, hood, etc). I am not expecting Planar-like sharpness, just acceptable sharpness. I am torn reading all your helpful responses: half of me wants to be patient and learn to work with the shift given the special rendering of this lens; the other half says it is all too hard and I could sell it and buy a mint Planar ZM that will just work every time and still make a tidy profit. Actually, the one factor in addition to the shift that might swing me is the 0.9m MFD. This is a real limitation for my kind of use of the lens, much more than I thought it might be before shooting those three rolls of Ektar. I found myself taking two steps back every time I composed a portrait to find focus (and then the shift gave me OOF anyway)! You can all probably tell from my tone I am leaning towards listing it on eBay given they have a free listing promo at the mo. I can only afford to have one 50mm in my Leica kit and this does not seem versatile enough for my needs. And when I want beautiful Bokeh for portraits I always have my Pentax 67 105/2.4 (and back problems)! Yeah, the more I think about it the more I think I will pick up a Planar and maybe a Jupiter-8 when I want to fool around with temperamental sonnars.
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Old 01-03-2019   #23
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This was my impatient selfie test. Shot at f/2.8 focused on my eye but as you can see the focus appears closer on the strap/lug of the M6.
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Old 01-03-2019   #24
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Shot at 2.8 on the door handle. Also soft focus. It all seems like a waste of film for me (and I only shoot film). Yep, thinking of flipping for a Planar.
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Old 01-03-2019   #25
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Did you do 1.5 tests like the 2.8 ones you have posted? Is it a 1.5 optimised lens?

And what kind of photos are you planning on using it for?

If I had one I would want a 1.5 optimised, because if you want sharp then get something else and if you want smooth OOF ("bokeh") then use wide open. So for me performance at 2 to 4 is meaningless.

Best of luck, but then with a good price you win either way.

Edit: had looked at photos and missed the text.
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Old 01-03-2019   #26
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I'm a lover of Sonnars and have owned a few, including a 1930s uncoated f1.5 and a J8, and thats not including my favourite portrait lens, a Nikkor 85/2. But I also have a Canon 50/1.4 that is sharp and predictable throughout apertures. If I want sharp simple photos it goes on. If I want pretty and harder to do I go Sonnar. If I was preparing for portrait work it would be all Sonnars. What do you want tack sharp for with portraits?

I would consider a supplementary planar-style lens but consider a lower pricepoint. An older Canon or a newer Voigtlander will possibly do the job. You have MF if you want to read pixie writing on objects so you don't need on over-sharp 50mm. You won't get the pixie dust with a planar though. Use the Sonnar wide open and see how that goes.
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Old 01-03-2019   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raid View Post
I was able to focus accurately with a M240 in LiveView even though the lens needs lots of shimming. You get what you see.

I generally use mine this way also ... the deterent being the blackout and slow refresh of the EVF.
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Old 01-03-2019   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PunkFunkDunk View Post


This was my impatient selfie test. Shot at f/2.8 focused on my eye but as you can see the focus appears closer on the strap/lug of the M6.
Focus should have been spot on here. I don't think this amount of error is just the lens. My guess is the M6 is also a contributing factor in the front focusing. How is the RF adjustment on your M6? Do you have any other lenses you can test on it?


Quote:
Originally Posted by PunkFunkDunk View Post
I would guess I have a 1.5 optimised version

If that was the case, you would have gotten back focusing in the above shot at f2.8, not front focusing.
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Old 01-03-2019   #29
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Quote:
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I was able to focus accurately with a M240 in LiveView even though the lens needs lots of shimming. You get what you see.
I hope someone bring a EVF M camera on the market at reasonable price, WYSIWYG, then the focus shift or a mechanic rangefinder error will be ironed out. The Leica M- both digital and film focus mechanism is out of dated.
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Old 01-03-2019   #30
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Quote:
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I hope someone bring a EVF M camera on the market at reasonable price, WYSIWYG, then the focus shift or a mechanic rangefinder error will be ironed out. The Leica M- both digital and film focus mechanism is out of dated.
Off topic, but the Sony A7 family does this. At a reasonable price: try getting any M-mount RF for the price of an A7. Get an A7ii plus AF adapter for Leica and have the previously impossible: an AF using your manual Leica lenses. This setup will correctly focus a Sonnar C. Get both for less than any digital Leica of any age.

But miss all the fun :-)
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Old 01-03-2019   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonmanjiro View Post
Focus should have been spot on here. I don't think this amount of error is just the lens. My guess is the M6 is also a contributing factor in the front focusing. How is the RF adjustment on your M6? Do you have any other lenses you can test on it?.


That is a good point. This is a recently acquired M6 after all and I have not used any other lens it. I have my CV 35/2.5 coming back from a friend in a few weeks so I can test the RF alignment on that. If it is out I will have to get a CLA which is an expensive proposition being based in Australia. The patch flares quite a bit (I have owned an M2 and M6TTL, the latter supposed to be the same optics as the M6 classic but I had no flare). After giving the M system a rest for a while I am no recalling just how expensive it can be to address problems. The Nikon FE, on the other hand, just works. But ... boring. Will have to test focus against my CV soon and assess the situation then. Thanks.
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Old 01-03-2019   #32
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PM me if you are in SEQ, and you can try vs my Epson and the Canon lens. There are decent cells of RFers in Sydney and Melbourne and some scattered elsewhere.
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Got a great deal on a Zeiss C Sonnar ... struggling with focus shift
Old 01-03-2019   #33
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Got a great deal on a Zeiss C Sonnar ... struggling with focus shift

One of the just a bit too soft frames for my liking. Maybe shot at f2, can not remember. I was absolutely sure to nail the patch focus on the eyes. I have decided to hold off any rash decision to flip the C Sonnar and investigate the apertures vs focus of my copy in a regulated test (tripod, slide rule). And also test the RF alignment of my M6 with another lens as recommended here, given it is a new body for me. Seems worth waiting given the great deal I got for boxed lens plus hood (around US$500). Now I understand why so many shooters far more experienced than I have struggled with this lens also. And yet ... beautiful when focus is nailed wide open.
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Old 01-03-2019   #34
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I hope someone bring a EVF M camera on the market at reasonable price, WYSIWYG, then the focus shift or a mechanic rangefinder error will be ironed out. The Leica M- both digital and film focus mechanism is out of dated.

It s called a rangefinder forum. We are outdated.
Outdated is fun. Its good. It makes great pictures.
We calibrate lens and cameras. We love it.
We nail focus.
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Old 01-03-2019   #35
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One of the just a bit too soft frames for my liking. Maybe shot at f2, can not remember. I was absolutely sure to nail the patch focus on the eyes. I have decided to hold off any rash decision to flip the C Sonnar and investigate the apertures vs focus of my copy in a regulated test (tripod, slide rule). And also test the RF alignment of my M6 with another lens as recommended here, given it is a new body for me. Seems worth waiting given the great deal I got for boxed lens plus hood (around US$500). Now I understand why so many shooters far more experienced than I have struggled with this lens also. And yet ... beautiful when focus is nailed wide open.

Beautifull picture.
Calibrate your camera and lens.

Learn your way around focus shift.. this picture is worth a thousand threads.
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Old 01-03-2019   #36
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Off topic, but the Sony A7 family does this. At a reasonable price: try getting any M-mount RF for the price of an A7. Get an A7ii plus AF adapter for Leica and have the previously impossible: an AF using your manual Leica lenses. This setup will correctly focus a Sonnar C. Get both for less than any digital Leica of any age.

But miss all the fun :-)

Manual focus is awesome.
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Old 01-03-2019   #37
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Originally Posted by PunkFunkDunk View Post
One of the just a bit too soft frames for my liking. Maybe shot at f2, can not remember. I was absolutely sure to nail the patch focus on the eyes. I have decided to hold off any rash decision to flip the C Sonnar and investigate the apertures vs focus of my copy in a regulated test (tripod, slide rule). And also test the RF alignment of my M6 with another lens as recommended here, given it is a new body for me. Seems worth waiting given the great deal I got for boxed lens plus hood (around US$500). Now I understand why so many shooters far more experienced than I have struggled with this lens also. And yet ... beautiful when focus is nailed wide open.
That photo looks front-focused by about a meter. I suspect the M6 RF may need tuning. I'll post a pic of where my 1986 M6 focus ended up after I set it focus accurately for my Sonnar. I had a ZM Planar as well as the ZM Sonnar but liked the character of the Sonnar much more, so I sold the Planar.
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Old 01-03-2019   #38
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Here's my M6 RF adjust settings. All five of my M-series lenses were rear-focusing until I set the close-up focus arm to the correct point for this particular camera body.

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Old 01-03-2019   #39
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This is very useful. Thank you. I think I will have to save some cash (and sell off some gear) to send the M6 to Youxin Ye. I want to get the MP finder upgrade with multi coated windows anyway since this particular M6 flares so badly. This will cost quite a bit with shipping from Sydney but I am prepared to persevere with dealing with this issue so that I can spend many years happily shooting with the C Sonnar on this body and just forget about more gear acquisition for a long while! That is the theory at least.
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Got a great deal on a Zeiss C Sonnar ... struggling with focus shift
Old 01-03-2019   #40
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Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 157
Got a great deal on a Zeiss C Sonnar ... struggling with focus shift

Forgot to add that my incentive to figure out the C Sonnar use is that in my M system hiatus last year I shot mostly a F2AS with Zeiss 50/1.4 ZF.2 but found the Planar renderings vanilla. Nothing wrong, but nothing magical, unless the light made it so anyway. Which is true of all lenses of course but the C Sonnar makes even pedestrian assemblages or still life objects sing. And the portraits of course.

As I say this I just recalled my short stint with the CV 50/3.5 Heliar that I fooled around with back when I had my M2 three years ago. Amazing optics but horrible ergonomics for casual shooting. Still regret selling it however. I do not wish to repeat that seller remorse with the C Sonnar through my own temperamental impatience. To be continued. Somehow I always bleed money with the bloody M system.
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