My review of the cardany_chan Leica M macro tube helicoid adapter

Started Apr 16, 2012 | Discussions thread
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caldna
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My review of the cardany_chan Leica M macro tube helicoid adapter
Apr 16, 2012

Last week I received the Leica M to Sony NEX macro tube helicoid adapter from the eBay seller named cardany_chan. It's very similar to the more famous hawks_factory adapter, but it's about $80 cheaper. This is my review of it.

First, let's take a look at what you get for $100.

The two photos above shows the adapter in its "normal" mode where the macro tube is fully retracted.

The two photos above shows the adapter in its "macro" mode where the macro tube is fully extended by turning the ridged outer ring.

The adapter is very lightweight and has an almost plasticky feel to it, but I'm pretty sure it's made of anodized aluminum. To change between the "normal" and "macro" mode, just turn the ridged outer ring about a quarter turn. The ridged ring is fairly smooth to turn, but I think it's a bit too easy to turn and could be a cause of helicoid drift that I'll discuss later. Also, there is the slightest bit of lateral play between the ridged ring and the helicoid. It's probably indicative of the not-so-tight tolerances used during manufacturing.

You'll notice the small lens release button that's flush to the outer ridged ring. Although it's small and recessed, it only takes light pressure to push it. That's because it uses only a thin piece of flat metal to act as a spring to keep the lens release tab engaged with the lens. In the photo below, you see what I mean.

I think a helical spring would be better, but it's probably harder and more costly to implement.

To keep the lens tight to the adapter, the adapter uses a type of leaf spring common to just about all lens mounts. In the photo below you see the leaf spring I'm talking about.

The type and thickness of the metal used for the leaf spring is very comparable to the one used in the NEX-5N, so that's a good sign. Below is a photo of the spring used in the NEX-5N to hold a lens tight to the body.

As for the helicoid, it's pretty smooth like I said before. It's probably helped by the amount of grease applied. In the photo below you see the grease on the helicoid and bits of sand and other stuff that could stick to it. I think it could be an issue in the long term if too much debris get stuck to the helicoid or even fall into the camera and onto the sensor.

How does it look on the 5N? Here are several photos showing how the adapter looks, both retracted and extended.

I'd say it looks pretty good. But how well does it function?

I am using a Leica M Summicron f/2.0 Dual Range lens for my test. It's kind of a quirky lens in that it already has two native modes, a normal range mode that focuses from 1 meter to infinity and a close-up mode that focuses to just under 0.5 meter (0.478m to be exact). With the adapter attached and set to "normal" mode, the Summicron DR's minimum focusing distance is about 0.8m. Here's what a flower would look like at this distance.

If I set the adapter to its "macro", the minimum focusing distance drops to about 0.37m. The same flower would then look like this.

For fun, if I also used the close-up mode of the Summicron DR along with the "macro" mode of the adapter, the minimum focusing distance becomes approximately 0.23m and the flower looks like this in the frame.

So the helicoid adapter works remarkably well and opens up a lot of shooting opportunities that otherwise would have been skipped or missed.

As for infinity focusing, I found that the adapter works well in this regard too. However, keeping the adapter in its "normal" mode for infinity focusing is another issue. As I mentioned above, turning the ridged ring to switch between modes is a bit too loose. So what happens is even though you have the macro tube fully retracted, it does start to exhibit what I call helicoid drift on its own and turns about 1-2mm away from its fully retracted position. This causes the lens to lose infinity focusing. It'd be nice to have some sort of locking mechanism or make the turning mechanism a bit stiffer to minimize the helicoid drift.

So, here's my summary for the cardany_chan Leica M lens to NEX macro tube helicoid adapter:

Pros:
-At $100, it's the cheapest Leica M/NEX helicoid adapter around
-The "macro" mode works as advertised
-Infinity focus works as long as the adapter stays in the "normal" mode
-It has a nice snug fit between the body/adapter and adapter/lens
-The lens release button is recessed so you don't accidentally press it
-Nice black anodized aluminum finish

Cons:
-Helicoid drift can cause lens to lose infinity focus if not careful
-Weak spring holding the lens release tab doesn't take much pressure to push
-Very slight lateral movement of turning ring

-Grease in helicoid can attract unwanted sand, dirt or dust into adapter and camera

Since I don't have another helicoid-type adapter to compare it against, I can't recommend one over another. For my purposes, the adapter does the job and serves its purpose. It's only been a week, so who knows if new problems will arise or if existing issues will get worse. Even though it's the cheapest at $100 for this type of adapter, it's not cheap by any measure. Could it be cheaper? Absolutely. Is it worth it? Short term, yes. Long term, we'll wait and see. For the time being, I'll stop my hand-wringing and just go out and shoot.

-caldna

Sony Alpha NEX-5N
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