Ok, I got my used R-D1 on a sunny Sunday morning with no M mount lens to try it on. It was kind of an impulsive buy as I was not really prepared to spend money on another camera.
However, I chanced upon a local ad and offered a reduced price. The seller countered offered and I agreed and we met the next day. Oh, and I asked him to bring a lens for me to test the camera with.
I mentioned previously that the seller said that the rangefinder was aligned as far as he could tell, but it was no’t. During the meeting, I used his Leica 40mm f2 to test the functions of the camera and took some shots. Checking via the screen, the shots looked fine to me.
Well, for the next 1 month or so, I was trying to buy a used Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 multi coated version on the used market (remember, I have no M mount lenses). However, with the prices that the owners were asking, it made more sense to buy it new instead. Also strangely, there were more single coated versions on sale than multi coated ones. In the end, I managed to buy one about a month after I got the R-D1.
After getting the lens and starting to shoot, I realised that the photos were….BAD.
The pictures were out of focused, JPEGs were soft and the pictures had a smudgy feel to it. On top of that there were hot spots in my photos. I was very disappointed to say the least.
Rectifying the Problems
After thinking for a while, I decided to try a few things. First, I used the in camera function to map the sensor and that got rid of the hot spots.
Secondly, I did a few tests to see if the out of focused shots were due to my poor focusing techniques. I quickly realised that the rangefinder alignment was out. The vertical alignment was out and every time I aligned the images horizontally, the focus point was in front of where I wanted.
Rich Cutler has an excellent webpage that shows how to align the R-D1’s rangefinder here. Knowing my “excellent” hands on skills, I decided to send it to a pro instead.
The 1st shop told me that they “don’t have the tools to adjust the R-D1″…I smiled and said thank you, but was thinking “huh? The rangefinder system is the same as a Voigtlander isn’t it?” The 2nd shop took my camera in and did his best to aligned the camera’s rangefinder. He got it accurate and adjusted the vertical alignment as close as possible. It is still out by a little, but it is much much better and I seldom notice it.
During the time without my camera, I was looking at some of the shots I took when I was purchasing the camera. Those were taken in the camera’s RAW format instead of JPEG and I was surprised that the pictures look so much better. I was confused. Hmm…can RAW make such a big difference?
So when I got the camera back, I brought it out one Saturday to church and took some pictures in RAW. The results were mixed. I got some really sharp pictures and some rather soft.
The person who adjusted my camera was saying that my lens isn’t that good and I was thinking that he could be right. Well, a Voigtlander will never be as good as a Leica right? Then I thought about Rich Cutler’s comment about backlash and decided to test again.
It seems that the R-D1 tend to give me focused, sharp(ish) images if I focused the lens from 0.7m instead of from infinity.
See the following pictures for an idea. These are 100% crops from intended focus points.
Focusing from Minimum (0.7m):
Focusing from Infinity:
So, please check your camera to see if its focusing better from one direction than the other. It seems to make a difference.