Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Locking the Leica CL focus point: No progress

Locking the Leica CL focus point: No progress

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  Is it in focus? The field focus on the Leica SL can be locked to the centre of the screen, but not the spot focus for some obscure reason. With the new Leica CL neither field not spot focus points can be locked centrally. This shot taken with the SL and 24-90 Vario-Elmarit-SL at 77mm, f/3.9 and 1/320s, ISO 50
Is it in focus? The field focus on the Leica SL can be locked to the centre of the screen, but not the spot focus for some obscure reason. With the new Leica CL neither field not spot focus points can be locked centrally. This shot taken with the SL and 24-90 Vario-Elmarit-SL at 77mm, f/3.9 and 1/320s, ISO 50

Last month I wrote about the Leica CL’s lack of the ability to fix the focus point in the centre of the screen, free from the influence of the four-way pad which is all too easily knocked by the ball of the thumb when handling the camera. Since then I’ve had a lot of positive support and this article takes up the story, with a repeat of the reasons Leica users still like the simple life, even on a complex mirrorless camera.

Many photographers weaned on the rangefinder still cleave to the old focus and recompose method of photography. They expect to have the option to lock focus point in the centre of the screen, fixed, immovable, immutable, just as with the rangefinder patch in the M. 

  Watch the birdie: With a fast lens such as the 35mm Summilux-TL at f/1.4 precise focus is important. But which bird, which beady eye? I like to have my spot-focus point locked in the centre of the screen so I can immediately select the focus point and then recompose the picture. If the focus point has dithered around to the bottom or top of the screen, precious moments are wasted
Watch the birdie: With a fast lens such as the 35mm Summilux-TL at f/1.4 precise focus is important. But which bird, which beady eye? I like to have my spot-focus point locked in the centre of the screen so I can immediately select the focus point and then recompose the picture. If the focus point has dithered around to the bottom or top of the screen, precious moments are wasted

With modern cameras this is often wishful thinking. And Leica, for all its tradition and pretensions of simplicity, is among the worst offenders. The CL is yet another Leica where it is impossible to lock the spot focus point in the centre of the screen. It just wanders around in response to inadvertent presses of the four-way pad, all too easy to do. The SL is almost as bad, although the joystick, which is used to control the focus point, is less easily nudged than the CL’s direction pad. But it is not perfect. 

SL inconsistency

The SL, unlike the CL however, does have one redeeming feature in this respect. It is possible to lock the field focus to the centre. Jiggling the joystick doesn’t then cause it to move. Yet, for some unfathomable reason, the spot focus point cannot be locked in the same way. I’ve been using the SL with the field fixed in the centre of the screen and, while it isn’t as precise — particularly when homing in on an eye, for instance — it is better than nothing. At least it is always where you expect to find it.

With the CL, whether choosing field or spot, there is no way to lock the focus point to the centre. It is really annoying and, more often than not, the focus point has strayed to the outer reaches of the frame when the EVF is brought to the eye. I find it impossible to keep my hand away from the sensitive four-way pad. I’ve used the thumb support, the handgrip, the finger loop — an all three together for that matter — and I continue to nudge that pad and move the focus point around.

  With no way of locking the spot focus point in the centre of the screen, the floating point moves around in response to inadvertent pressure on the four-way pad. Not desirable unless you are prepared to search out the focus point before every shot
With no way of locking the spot focus point in the centre of the screen, the floating point moves around in response to inadvertent pressure on the four-way pad. Not desirable unless you are prepared to search out the focus point before every shot

Since my article I’ve discussed this on the Leica CL Facebook page and no solution was forthcoming. If it is possible to lock either the spot focus or field focus then I can’t work it out, nor can other users and nothing has been forthcoming from Leica. 

To some extent there is a difference of opinion on the need for a fixed point. Some experts believe that it would be an unnecessary complication and that a floating focus point is acceptable. Some experienced users seem unfazed by the lack of centre-frame focus lock. I had a discussion with Patrick Leong of the New York-based Findingrange.com website. Patrick is a new convert to the CL and doesn’t find the lack of centre-point focus lock a disadvantage.

He likes the ability to move the focus point around and he has got used to the habit of moving it quite a lot: “Examples of it being useful for me are when my camera is on a tripod, and my subject isn’t in the center or taking portraits with fast lenses. I find it even useful for street photos. Therefore, I actually really like the joysticks in both the Fuji and SL because they make my life a lot easier.  I’ve also never had any issues with moving them accidentally.  With that said, an option would be nice for users who want the ability to lock the focus point in the center.”

I don’t disagree with the points he makes, and a floating focus point is always an option. It’s just that locking it when required would be a step forward for many users. 

  A fast autofocus lens such as the 35mm Summilux-TL demands careful attention when being used, as here, at maximum aperture of f/1.4. Focus on the left eye and recompose the shot is my preferred option, but it
A fast autofocus lens such as the 35mm Summilux-TL demands careful attention when being used, as here, at maximum aperture of f/1.4. Focus on the left eye and recompose the shot is my preferred option, but it’s hampered when the focus point could be anywhere in the frame as the viewfinder is brought to the eye. Below, a massive crop of the subject’s left eye

Too complex?

From what I’ve gathered, Leica seems to believe that introducing a focus-point lock capability (as on Fuji and others) would introduce too much complexity, too many options. I am told I should just keep my fingers away from the four-way pad and then there would be no problem. 

This striving for simplicity is generally laudable and I am the first to compliment Leica on the basic layout of menus on the latest cameras, including the SL, M10 and, now, the CL. We don’t want too many options, too much complication. But Leica, with its long history of focus and recompose with all cameras since the early 1930s, should be the first to introduce the ability to lock the focus point. In reality, though, it is likely to be the last to take the step the way things are shaping up. 

A central focus lock is so fundamental that I am astounded it doesn’t come as a clear option in the menu of any camera. Fuji and some other manufacturers recognise this and make it a straightforward top-level option to lock that point. They even provide the ability to disable the four-way pad or any other buttons that might inadvertently move the focus point. 

Leica, the chief priest of simplicity and the basic approach to photography, does not consider it necessary. And even where the ability to lock the field is included, as on the SL, discovering how to do it is by no means intuitive. 

  Focus on the badge, all the easier if the focus point is fixed centrally so you can lock the focus and recompose the shot
Focus on the badge, all the easier if the focus point is fixed centrally so you can lock the focus and recompose the shot

Frustrating

To some extent I can forgive the omission on the SL because the joystick, which causes the focus point to move, is relatively protected and not so easily nudged by mistake. With the CL, however, there is absolutely no excuse. That four-way pad is trigger happy and I am afraid that it completely spoils my enjoyment of the camera when I am using autofocus. I find myself selecting manual focus more often than would be necessary. If I thought for one moment that Leica would never update the firmware to incorporate a focus-point lock then I would be strongly tempted to sell the entire system and buy back into Fuji. It is that frustrating and annoying.

I have heard all the arguments about complication and listened to suggestions that a randomly floatable focus point is what we want (or, more to the point, what we are getting). But I am not impressed. Solving this problem should be easy — I suspect it needs nothing more than a firmware tweak — so please, Herr Leica, can you please listen and do something about it? 

__________

 

33 COMMENTS

    • Well, I have made the point to Leica on several occasions. I suspect the last firmware upgrade, with the total lockdown option, was an effort to address this problem. If so, it backfired because no one wants to lock all controls most of the time. All that’s needed is a menu option to place the focus point in the centre of the screen, Leica M fashion, and I find it amazing that there is so much fuss in doing it. Of course, it isn’t only the CL — this is a problem on many mirrorless cameras. Sony and Fuji recognise the problem and have done something about it. I have received a hint that something might be done on the next firmware update, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.

  1. I’m in total agreement with Mike on this topic. I have been inadvertently moving the focus point while carrying the camera where my palm naturally rests against the control pad. I then raise the camera to my eye to take a picture and the focus point is no where to be found. (Yes, I know it’s there, but since I’m a glasses wearer it’s "hidden" to me, at least, in one of the corners of the screen.) I’ve become so frustrated with this that I’ve abandoned using field focus and point focus altogether and use the multi-point option. At least then I can find the focus points. I’m seriously thinking about selling the CL and staying exclusively with my M10, where the focus point stays right where it’s supposed to be, dead center. It would take only one additional menu item on the CL’s focusing submenu to fix this. Those who want it to move can simply leave it at the default option, and those of us who want it in a fixed position, can select it. No big deal in my opinion and not much of an additional complication. On the TL2, by the way, this is not an issue because there’s no control pad!

    • Richard, I have again prodded Leica on this since I’ve heard nothing since I had a long chat on the subject some months ago, immediately following the last firmware update which raised and then shattered my hopes for a fix. I am quietly confident we will see a fix in the next firmware update.

  2. I think a simple "return to centre" option is a better answer than locking the focus point. My suggestion is to enable a double-press of the centre button inside the control pad to immediately place the focus point back in the centre.

    • That would certainly be a welcome solution, Andy. In fact, when I read the comments about button presses and focus points with the X1/2 I went back to the CL to discover if I had missed anything. But no, there is no easy solution. An alternative, which I would favour, is to provide a means of disabling the four-way pad (or, at least, the direction buttons). Since I don’t fiddle with the focus point (if I want an alternative to fixed centre I choose another mode or a set custom profile) I have no use for the pad — it simply becomes a nuisance.

  3. Well, the CL may not yet be fixed, but these comments fixed my XE2. I didn’t know you could lock the focus point by holding Menu/OK down. (That button centers the focus point on my Nikons and a dedicated switch locks it, in their upper classes.) Without a "center" button this was one of the 3 things I needed to check every time it comes out of the saddle bag — 1) focus mode switch (may gaffer this criminal), 2) Exp Comp dial and 3) focus point.

    I’m still maintaining my Fuji’s-fantasy-as-Leica within Leica’s fantasy by eliminating screen/EVF clutter, deselecting geegaws in Wrench 1/Screen Setup/Display Custom Setting. And now, I would like to get rid of that persistent yellow lock warning. It doesn’t go away, even when you switch from Single to Zone or Wide focusing (matrix focus). Should just have the center warning flash when you press a d-pad button. Why 2 warnings?

  4. The CL could have been a truly wonderful photographic tool had Leica made such as the single focusing point lockable, and even better still in my view also stayed with such as a proper shutter speed dial and menu system much as the oh so simple to use X-Vario as well.

    Sadly however it has long seemed to me Leica seem hell bent nowadays on designing something potentially great then needlessly ruining it via such as too clever by halve attempts at re design the wheel, or certainly in the latest CL’s operational case, the two stupid top control wheels as well as opting for a single focus point which constantly goes walkabout!

    Never mind we might not get a firmware update to fix either of what I certainly regard as the more important failings but no doubts their might at least be a different CL colour option soon, or maybe even a CL2 to tease a few more bob out of we long suffering loyal Leica customers, or who knows the CL might even get dropped altogether soon like my beloved X-Vario and the entire X range.

  5. Mike,
    Like you I have a problem with controls that are all too easily accidentally pressed. I had a similar problem with the X-Pro1, especially with the buttons placed on the thumb rest. In frustration, I took a cheap plastic Thumb’s Up knockoff and a flattened piece of ABS drainpipe and bodged together a very large piece that covered all of the offending buttons on the back of the camera. Of course it could be removed if I wanted to use those buttons, but it soon became a permanent fixture as I found I never needed them. The solution was ugly but it worked.

    • No Hank
      Having long complex menus is what they’re trying to avoid, and there are hundreds of equally sensible enhancements (just look through a Fuji menu and you can see them all) and they ARE sensible – but Leica have a reputation of cameras which don’t have scrolls of menu options, and we each have our own babies (which of course are the really important ones!).

      • Jono, I just pulled out my trusty X2. Guess what? The focus point is locked until I unlock it by pressing and holding the “delete” button for two seconds. Then I can move it around.
        No extra line in the menu. Just multi-function buttons. The option is there is you need it.

        So it can be done. It HAS been done. Without making the menu more complex.

        X2 = simplicity.

        • That’s interesting Hank
          As far as I can remember I never realised you could move the focus point on the X2 (I thought it was locked in the centre!). I didn’t use the camera much, but my son has it now, and I’ve checked with him – he wasn’t aware you could move the focus point.

          Which does go back to my original argument.

          but but but – don’t get me wrong – I don’t think that being able to lock it is a bad idea – just that I’m aware of the problems with ‘feature creep’ – everybody’s pet want is a good idea!

          all the best

          • It seems to me that the issue of whether or not to lock the focus point to the centre of the frame would go away if we could simply disable the four-way pad buttons (as on Fuji and some other cameras). It seems to me that some people have no problem in accidentally nudging these buttons while others (including me) are constantly nudging them as part of the handling process. I remember a similar issue with the video button (I think on the X Vario) which I was always pressing by mistake. I had the same problem with the M240 when it first appeared. Then there was a firmware update to enabling disabling of the video button, and that made a huge difference for me.

          • I occasionally, and I say occasionally have the video button issue on my X. It irritates, but I remind myself each time to try harder, and in fairness to the camera it is a 1 in 500 shots issue. so not often. No firmware update to the X since it was launched. Sadly, as this is an easy fix.

  6. The trouble is that everyone has their own particular imperative.

    Mine is to have a moving cross-hair for zooming in when using M lenses (and for the camera to remember where you last zoomed in). I’d like this on the SL as well – so that the behaviour mirrors that in the M10 with the EVF. it’s obviously necessary!

    Another recent ‘imperative on’ the FB group is to be able to switch off the ‘accelerator’ when using manual focus on TL lenses.

    The trouble is that if you are too willing to accommodate users sensible personal requirements (like Fuji are), then you end up with a camera menu system like Fuji’s . . or Panasonic’s . . or Olympus . . or anyone else except Leica come to that.

    I see so many requests, each of which seems pertinent and sane – but the upshot will be a menu system where people don’t know where to find what they want – or where to look, and so they quickly give up.

    Personally I stopped using focus and recompose a while ago – I love to be able to move the focus point around – and I don’t shift it by mistake any more than any of the other buttons / dials. But that’s just me, I do understand that.

    All the best

    • I do understand, Jono, and as you know we’ve discussed this on several occasions. I still think a key lockdown would be welcome and would add only one item to the focus menu. I just find that four-way pad becomes a nuisance. I remember our regular reader John Nicholson and I had a similar discussion about the X Vario— another camera where the focus point keeps moving around.

      I can see I am going to have to practice working with the floating point as you do — and as I mentioned Patrick Leong of Finding Range does. If I can’t beat ‘em I’d better join ‘em.

      • yes Mike
        Just like I’m going to have to learn to manual focus with M lenses without the wonderful moving cross-hair on the M10 . .

        And John is going to have to learn to deal with ‘acceleration’ on the zoom ring. (because there isn’t a menu option to switch it off)

        . . . and someone (can’t remember) is going to have to deal with the fact that spot metering follows spot focusing (because there isn’t a menu option to switch it off)

        I think that the point is that we all like the simplicity of the CL, and that really isn’t consistent with adding lots of options which need to be dealt with in the menus.

        Having said that – I’m sure that there will be some ‘enhancements’ in the next firmware when it appears (and it won’t be that long). They will have done a survey of request frequency etc. which sadly means I’m unlikely to get my cross-hair moving zoom point with M lenses 🙁

    • Perhaps the solution to this is to provide an off-camera configuration tool, such as an app on iOS/Android that allows customisation?

      For example the Olympus menus are horrifically complication – yet probably 90% can be ignored once you have the camera configured to work the way that you want it. I do not want to change the bindings of which dial does what every five minutes – I want to set them once and then leave them configured.

      The advantage of doing this in an application rather than on camera is both that it keeps the on-camera menus simple and uncluttered, and would also allow the more esoteric configurations to be setup via a device with a screen an interface that is large enough to provide assistance to the user (such as actually telling them what a function does, rather than using a tiny cryptic icon…).

      Even M series cameras now come with a supporting app, so this does not seem like an unreasonable approach.

      • Funnily enough, this was a suggestion made in an article by Bill Palmer last year or in 2016. It would be so much easier to perform setup on a computer and then download to the camera. Bill’s point was that if you get a new camera or have two cameras from the same manufacture, the ability to quickly clone your settings would be ideal. With smartphones and computers you can mirror the settings, why not with cameras.

  7. Hi Mike, this is an interesting one, as I only use centre focusing on my X, and in your article above you don’t mention the Q which I am at present saving for, unless I end up with an M ammount of money and feel really like investing there instead.

    Does the Q suffer from this issue? Or does it have a similar set up as the X, where you set the centre spot and it doesn’t move easily?

    Cheers Dave

    • Dave. It’s over a year since I last used he Q and I honestly can’t remember. I can have a look at my test to see if it’s mentioned, but I presume you’ve done that already. However, the X Vario and X both suffer from this problem and I don’t think there is a way of locking the focus point or locking the pad buttons. That said, you obviously don’t find it a problem on your X so perhaps your hands aren’t prone to pressing the buttons by mistake. Do try on the X and let me know if you can lock the point.

      • There is some interesting points above.

        I will give it a spin, as I last set my focus point a few weeks after buying and I have never played with it since.. Now I had better check it is focusing in the centre even.. 🙂

        I will update you once I have checked, and see where it is. (although writng this in my meal break at work). Might be something to tinker with at the weekend when I have more freedom.

      • Mike , I have just checked. The centre point is locked on the X1 and the X Vario -well it is on mine-but it is not locked on the Q. It is moved by the control pad.

        • That’s interesting. I do remember John Nicholson raising the issue on connection with the X Vario a few years ago. I also had the problem. It’s possible that a firmware update has changed it. I can’t remember if I had problem with the Q. I would be interested in any further information from other readers.

          • Mike , it’s very hot and beyond steamy here so I could be showing early signs of heatstroke but the focus point on my X Vario is definitely locked. I have the camera in my hand now and I cannot move the focus point using either the control pad or the control wheel. I cannot find out how I locked it or if it was like that from the start but as it is where I want it to be-locked and bang in the centre-I am content to let sleeping focus points lie and to go and jump in the pool.

          • Hank has pointed out above that by double pressing the delete button on his X2, that releases the focus point.. Hmmm I will test this when I have time with my X later in the week. However if my X typ 113 turns out to the same thing, then the solution is fairly simple for Leica to implement. In fact having a double press of a button to allow it to be locked or unlocked would be genius in itself.

            Anyway Mike, looks this is a thread that might run and run for a few days.

          • I agree with John. The focus point is locked until you press and hold the Delete button. After that you can centralize it by pressing INFO or move it to a new position. It if of great use when using a tripod, less so with handheld operation.

            My practice is to zero my setting at the end of a shoot by selecting my Profile 1. The focus point is then always locked to the centre of screen.

  8. Touch pads and joy sticks are for games playing youths and not for mature adults. I have locked up the focus point on my Fujifilm X-Pro 2 and now I just use focus and recompose, just as I do with my many ‘real’ Leicas. Before I did that, I found that any button on my clothing might just move the focus point. A thought occurs. Does the centre button on the touch pad of the CL not centre the focus point when pushed? It looks like it is quite small and you might need fingers as thin as pencils to give it a push. An interim solution while Leica looks into the issue?

    Sometimes simplification can go too far. A bigger issue for me with the CL ( which I am not planning to purchase at this stage) would be the two small unmarked dials and the little LCD screen. Give me decent sized marked dials anytime, but maybe I am out of touch with the times.

    William

    • It would be something if pressing the centre button on the four-way pad would return the focus point to the centre. Unfortunately it doesn’t; and as far as I am concerned, the focus point has always drifted whenever I come to take a picture. Judging by Leica’s stubbornness on this matter, they must believe that using focus and recompose is no longer required. Perhaps we are in a minority.

      As for the controls, I quite like the layout of the CL and I can assure you it grows on you. It would great to have manual dials, of course, but there is no getting away from the need to set aperture via a control dial. None of the TL primes have aperture rings, unlike the Leica DG m4/3 lenses where the aperture makes the ergonomics so excellent. In the context of the small body, Leica has done a good job with the two control dials and even the little screen, although it could be a bit bigger.

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