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X Marks the Spot: Why can we not fix the Leica CL focus point?

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  Many photographers, particularly those brought up on the M rangefinder, find it quicker and more accurate to focus and recompose — and that means having a fixed central focus point that isn
Many photographers, particularly those brought up on the M rangefinder, find it quicker and more accurate to focus and recompose — and that means having a fixed central focus point that isn’t constantly moving when the direction arrows are pressed by mistake. This problem is common to all Leica mirrorless cameras, including the SL, X, X Vario and, now, the CL

Am in the only photographer in the universe who likes to have a fixed focus point slap bang in the middle of the screen? Who prefers to focus and recompose? I might be forgiven for thinking I am as far as Leica is concerned. Call me old fashioned, but I treat all my cameras like a rangefinder where the focus patch is firmly anchored in the centre, just as the gods ordained. I find it easy to seek the object of focus with the centre spot, lock that focus and than recompose the image. I seldom feel the need for a moveable focus point. 

That’s where I seem to differ from the digital designers at Leica (and at some other camera manufacturers for that matter). They imagine that users are just itching to move the focus point around the screen, seeking out a subject on which to focus. To that end they make over sensitive four-way button panels or (in the case if the SL), a joystick, although there is no joy in it for me because I am always nudging it by mistake. The next time I come to take a picture, the focus point is dawdling along somewhere in the bottom left of the screen.

Above all, moving the focus point to the subject is totally alien to me. I cannot remember when I last felt it necessary and I find it a really cack-handed way of controlling focus. Others, I am sure, will disagree but there is no denying that a large body of users get annoyed by this trigger-happy focus point.

  All it needs is a menu option to lock the focus point in the centre of the screen — or the ability to lock the direction buttons to keep them away from the ball of the thumb when shooting
All it needs is a menu option to lock the focus point in the centre of the screen — or the ability to lock the direction buttons to keep them away from the ball of the thumb when shooting

Frustration

This frustration was highlighted when I started to use the CL. The D pad sits precisely underneath the ball of my right thumb and is promoted to waywardness as soon as I relax my attention. The accessory thumb grip helps but isn’t a complete solution. The SL is almost as bad, although with that camera it is the joystick that gets nudged.

  The new Fuji X-E3 doesn
The new Fuji X-E3 doesn’t even have a four-way direction pad so there’s nothing to hit accidentally. Even so, you can lock the focus point in the centre of the screen from the menu

Leica listens but doesn’t act. This moving focus point was a major problem with the X Vario and the X, although the T was better behaved since it didn’t have any buttons to disturb. I’ve mentioned this issue to Leica on a number of occasions and I understand that, while the factory recognises the concern, it is reluctant to add yet another menu option. In other circumstances I would find this a laudable decision. But in this instance I think it would be a  wry welcome addition  

I would submit that there is a significant demand for the implementation of a fixed central focus point. It has worked for 64 years with the Leica rangefinder and it works well on digitals. If only…..

Not all camera manufacturers agree with Leica, it has to be said. Pick up the new Fuji X-E3, for instance, and you have the option to lock the focus point wherever you want it in the frame. Even better, this camera doesn’t have a four-way direction pad. It wasn’t always so, but Fuji has a long history of listening to its customers. It seems so simple and it would take only a firmware update for Leica to implement this on the SL and CL, or on the TL2 for that matter.

If you agree with me, let’s start a campaign to bring the issue to the attention of Leica. Add your comments and suggestions to this article and in due course I will share all your views with Leica and hope the designers are moved to take action. 

Read more about the CL system

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25 COMMENTS

  1. I am with you on this Mike, even on my DSLR I tend to stick to using the centre focus point, unless I have a specific reason not too. I always use the centre with my X, and see no reason to do anything other than that. Like you say, set the focus, then recompose to suit the scene, or the image you want.

  2. I too am with you Mike, but sadly for me the non fixed focus spot is only the tip of the Iceberg with the CL’s menu and general setting failing so can we also please ask Leica to stop reinventing the wheel, or rather the two daft control wheels on the top, and to go back to such as simple and traditional shutter speed and or ISO settings. Indeed please tell them the X-Vario still does it miles better.

    • I agree with Don, the X-Vario is still my preferred Leica – a very under-rated camera, as others have said, alongside my Digilux 2.
      I’m afraid I also have to agree with Don’s comments in another post regarding this fashion for expensive camera straps. I too have bought cameras in the past that cost less than some of these ‘designer straps’; maybe it’s a Leica thing, but in all my years working with cameras professionally I was always quite happy to use the supplied strap, on Hasselblad’s, a Rolleiflex and several Nikon’s.

  3. I am with Don on those controls. I don’t know how anyone could regard the CL’s controls as being superior to the traditional controls on the Fuji -X series cameras. It sounds like another triumph of style over substance by Leica. The only current Leica cameras that come close to what photographers like me need in terms of controls are the M10 and the D-Lux. As for the focus spot, I am not a games playing youth and, I suspect, neither are most of the readers here. I much prefer the old fashioned focus and recompose. It is what I do with my M10 and is much quicker than messing around with moving focus spots.

    As for the CL, I may change my mind when I get a chance to handle a copy, but, as of now, it is not on my wants list.

    William

    • Ian, i would agree with your amendment if it were not for the fact that they have got every camera wrong over the past few years. I genuinely believe they think they are right and that experienced users are making unreasonable requests.

      • The German engineering approach has both good and bad points. The bad side is often seen when all the sums add up, but the item does not work well at the human interface level. I have come across this many times. Stefan Daniel does strike me as a person who listens and I suggest that you get in touch with him about the matter. He also seems very logical. He is hardly likely to say " What do you mean that we put no brakes on the car?"

        William

  4. So irksome features emerge as users familiarise themselves with the new CL’s controls. The floating focus point is a new one for me. Contrary to your assertion, Mike, on the X-Vario it has to be liberated by pressing and holding the focus button. I can live with that method. I cannot see how your roaming thumb could over-ride that safety measure.

    As to its utility, it is most useful when using a table-top or larger tripod. When shooting flower portraits or product photography for example.

    Like many in my age group, I much prefer the analogue controls on my MP, X1, X Vario, Q and D Lux. Leica have to work a lot harder to woo me away from my instruments of choice.

  5. Not to mention another camera but was in Adirondacks for four days and stopped this photographers to buy some of his calendars, all screens people who vacation or live there really appreciate. He uses 810 w 24-70 and some pics from his airplane. His new 850 arrived the day I was there and he was showing me how this is superior to 810 on focusing, this knocked his socks off, he now selling 810 buy another 850 just because he can and was that impressed. Don’t know if Nik DSLR had any prior problems but this model really lit a fire in this man. Your right Mike start an online petition have your followers sign and hit Leica upside the noggin and say pay attention!

  6. The floating focus point has uses but I prefer fixed in centre for most of my photo types. It drives me crazy at times on my SL when it has moved to some edge and I cannot find it and miss the decisive moment. It was always moving on me until I put a thumb grip on. The SL would be my perfect camera if Leica would do a trivial firmware fix. How can Leica be so stubborn on a clear problem?

  7. With the SL and a single focus point, whenever you turn the camera off and back on, the focus point returns to the center of the image. It’s very fast and easy to turn the camera off and on if you want the focus point in the center.

  8. I heartily agree. I cannot stand the focus point floating all of its own volition.
    There is a way to fix the focus point on the SL, but I would be extremely disappointed if this is not possible on the CL.
    Richard

  9. This annoys me as well and it would be great if there was an option to change it.
    A simple thing that makes a world of difference for all of us.
    I don’t think it’s an unreasonable request.

  10. I agree – the touch screen on the TL/2 shifted all kinds of settings when it brushed against the body – and every time it turned off alll settings returned to base camp – now the CL shifts its focus point evertime ones nose hits the screen and inevitably sinks to the bottom right hand corner where it lurks invisible until you realize the last shot is blurred.
    So yes – lets start an action!

    • Yes, this is what I found with my T, and I wished that I could have some kind of lock that remembers the settings after the camera has been switched off.

      There is already a lock for when the camera is on… Slide a finger, from "A" down to "INFO" and move the little white spot from the top to the bottom and it is locked.

      Stephen

  11. Hi,

    Although I have not taken delivery of my CL yet, this is disturbing to say the least. My Nikon D750 has a lock switch which allows me the option to lock the focus point down. I am amazed Leica have not figured this out. Count me in on your campaign to get this fixed. For shame.

    Chris

    • I don’t think this is a deal breaker, Chris. I’ve learned to live with it on the SL and will live with it on the CL. However, I hope that Leica will soon get the message and introduce a simple system of locking the focus point on both cameras. As with all cameras and despite all the advance testing, once the device gets into the hands of we inconvenient customers there is inevitably a firmware update in the offing. Hope you get your CL soon and enjoy it.

  12. I will see if the feature exists, but is hidden, on the CL when I arrive at the store today. Center focus-point lock does exist on the SL, but activating it is not straightforward, so it may exist on the CL. I will post here if it is possible. If it is not, I will email this suggestion to Leica HQ, as it is logical and necessary.

    If I remember correctly from memory for the SL, select AF Mode/Static, then AF Field Size/Field, then AF Setup/Number of Steps/1. If that is incorrect I will reply later.

  13. I have been away over Christmas and have only just seen this post.

    I have to say that I am not quite sure what the issue is. The CL is an auto-focus camera, it makes a racket when it is constantly taking readings, so if one selects spot which is in the centre of the screen, the focus is on what ever is in the centre of the screen.

    So it follows that "focus and recompose" is not possible, since as soon as you have focus on your object of desire and then try to put that object in another third of the frame somewhere, the auto focus goes puttputtputt and re focuses on the spot in the centre.

    Ditto with the other modes like field and multi.

    However, if one selects manual focus with a spot. it is relatively simple using to repeat the above, and with the aid of FP or Magnification to "focus and recompose".

    I reckon that we have been spoiled by Leica, they have given us a viewfinder and we expect it to behave like a traditional rangefinder.

    Which brings me back to my repetition subject, namely, wouldn’t it be nice if we had a couple of M type manual focus lenses without motors, designed for APS-C… i.e. a 16 an 18 a 23 and a 35mm and yes it is now easy to work a 90, but with DOF scales and a little tab near the bottom that the operator shifts backwards and forwards accordingly to get focus?

    Which is all that the M does.

    So anyway, where was I?

    In Rome being ripped off by the Pope in his wonderful (not) Vatican City, which is a bit like Blackpool in its heyday, commercial and full of sideshow Bob’s, making a bob.

    My was I cursing my CL, because I chose to take the 11-23 zoom there, which on a few occasions, didn’t seem to let enough light in, I eventually gave up and used the iPhone instead.

    Stephen

    • Stephen,

      Focus and recompose works well with autofocus — home in on subject, half press the shutter to lock, recompose and shoot. But I’m sure you know this. Am I missing something?

  14. Fully agree – the accidental displacement of a single central focus point is a real annoyance – and can lead to losing a shot. On all the professional DSLRs I’ve used, the setting of the focus point has required deliberation and can’t be un-set accidentally. Agreed – Leica needs to fix this!

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