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Legacy Normal Macro Shootout - Nikkor vs Leica

Jefenator

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Jeff
Can you tell I've got some extra time on my hands? ;)

Compared are my two normal-range vintage macro lenses: a pre-AI Micro-Nikkor 55mm 1:3.5 and a Leitz Macro-Elmarit-R 1:2.8/60, both adapted on my NEX-7.

I'll keep this simple - just some center & corner comparisons at various apertures. The test subject is a gorgeous denatured alcohol can.

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And without further ado, the center crops:

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And upper right corner crops:

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I thought I had scooted back exactly the right amount so we could compare the test subject at the same scale. (Alas, I overshot... oops.)

A previous quick center comparison resulted in a perfect tie. Now it looks as though the Leica fares slightly better in the extreme corner, achieving optimal results at f/5.6, same as in the center. The Nikkor's corners are best at f/8, where the center has already begun to deteriorate ever so slightly. (I've had similar findings with previous tests on this lens.) Both have softened all over by f/11.

Handling notes:
- Both lenses are superbly built - I'd say the Nikkor is more battle-worthy (hard to top pre-AI Nikkor for this IME) while the Leitz is more smooth & luxurious.
- The Nikkor aperture ring only has detents at each full stop but it is easy to set aperture at a 1/3 or 1/2 point between. The Leitz has 1/2 stop detents.
- The Leitz has a more dampened, finer-pitched focusing action that makes it particularly easy to use with precision. (Not so good for rapid action, but very nice indeed for the lens' main purpose.)
- The Leitz is noticably longer and heavier.
- The Nikkor stops down to f/32, the Leitz f/22.

Test summary:
- For $500 vs $60 approximate street price, it's nice to see the Leitz do something ever so slightly better optically than the Nikkor. We're talking pretty subtle nuances here, but if this trend continues closer to 1:1, I think I will favor the Leitz for slide copying.
- The Nikkor will continue to be super for product shots and a no-brainer for rough duty. (Doesn't help that my Leitz is still in near-mint shape while the Nikkor is fully broken-in...)

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Thanks for reading! :)
 
Joined
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Thanks for sharing this, I hope you'll have some more time on your hands for similar stuff :). Did you focus both lenses wide-open for the pictures taken with smaller apertures? I ask because I get better results when focussing my Nikkor 55/3.5 AI at f/5.6 and even more so for my Minolta 50mm macro lenses which are next to unuseable wide-open.
 

Jefenator

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Jeff
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
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Excellent question! I should have mentioned, I often re-focus for each frame as I step down, at least till about f/5.6. I do this because of focus shift - I noticed the Leitz exhibits a tiny bit of shift while the Nikkor does not. At smaller apertures when things get more vague, this does more harm than good, so I open back up to a point where critical focus is still more decisive (usually about 5.6).
 
Joined
Nov 13, 2012
Messages
4,024
Location
The Netherlands
Excellent question! I should have mentioned, I often re-focus for each frame as I step down, at least till about f/5.6. I do this because of focus shift - I noticed the Leitz exhibits a tiny bit of shift while the Nikkor does not. At smaller apertures when things get more vague, this does more harm than good, so I open back up to a point where critical focus is still more decisive (usually about 5.6).
Thanks, that's my experience and way of working as well.
 

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