Three different Leica magnifiers compared (MGR Production Bresson vs. Leica vs. MS Optical)

Bresson zoomable finder mounted
By day, Nathan sometimes shoots audiophile gear and jewelry and sometimes wine and suit meets at various British Embassy of Tokyo associated events. By night he’s a HiFi, headphone, and DAC geek, reviewing mainly earphones and headphone amps at headfonia.com. When the weekend hits, he’s all about Dungeons & Dragons; if you’re in the area, he’d love to roll some dice with you. By all means, check out ohm-image.net, to see bits and pieces of his latest work, as well as silly commentary about ticklish fancies.

Disclaimer: MGR Productions supplied the Bresson zoomable viewfinder for the purposes of this review. I paid nothing for it. 2nd gen versions (Type J and Y) go for HKD 699,00$ (~89$ USD [exchange rate circa 2016.01.26]). You can find all about them here: Adjustable viewfinder magnifier Type J and Y.

Last week I posted a slew of images and a small report on the MGR Production Bresson zoomable magnifier (V1) for Leica M cameras. Today, I’d like to show it in action.

Naturally, Bresson’s biggest marketable feature is a 1,1x to 1,6x magnification zoom, which, on paper should be able to replace both wide and tele M viewfinder magnifiers.

Bresson action

Turning its rear element anti-clockwise magnifies the focus area (and extends the lens outward from the camera); a clockwise turn reduces the focus area (and compresses the lens toward the threaded eyepiece). At a magnification setting of 1,1x, Bresson  sticks out roughly 8mm from the camera; at a magnification setting of 1,6x, it sticks out roughly 12mm from the camera. For reference, the Leica 1,4x magnifier juts out of the camera by 6mm (rubber protector included), and the MS Optical 1,15x magnifier — practically a pancake — rises to just around 4mm.

While larger, the Bresson has the potential to be more convenient. On paper, its step-less zoom range should cover M lenses from ~35mm to 90mm, and beyond. (More on this later.)

Because its zoom actin is controlled by clockwise and anti-clockwise turns, Bresson often comes loose from the camera whilst adjusting it. And while its helical doesn’t seize, its focus action is rough. MGR Productions’s marketing suggests that J and Y variants rotate more smoothly.

Bresson comes with two rubber protective cups, one wide, half-shield, which works for eyeballs, and a low-profile shunt. Thanks to my -6,5 handicap, I have no choice but to use the latter. Both are pliable and rise far enough from the magnifier to protect both the magnifier and your eyeball or glasses.

Hit up my introduction article: Leica M - MGR 1,1x - 1,6x Adjustable viewfinder magnifier V1 short summary to see Bresson’s accessory set and size comparisons.

Bresson blockage

Bresson’s Achilles heel is viewfinder blockage. For glasses wearers, its widest (1,1x) magnification occludes a significant portion of the 50mm frame. Even without glasses, I need to shift my eye around the frame in order to see the entire 50mm FOV preview. As a result, the 35mm frame lines are right out. In contrast, MS Optical’s low-profile (and discontinued) 1,15x magnifier leaves 15% of the viewfinder open on all sides of the 50mm frame lines.

Bresson Leica MSO viewfinder 50mm X-T1 Bresson

Bresson

Bresson Leica MSO viewfinder 50mm X-T1 Leica

Leica

Bresson Leica MSO viewfinder 50mm X-T1 MSO

MS Optical

For this reason, I can’t suggest using Bresson with lenses wider than 50mm. Which is a shame: because Bresson covers such a wide ratio of magnifications, it could be useful for everything from 35mm lenses on up. And, certainly for lenses such as the 90mm Summicron, it is helpful in achieving reliably sharp focus.

TTV 90mm headphone Bresson

Bresson

TTV 90mm headphone Leica

Leica

TTV 90mm headphone MSO

MS Optical

Focus tests

I'm sure that my methods leave a lot to desire. That said, the following is my method:

  1. Mount Leica M240 on secure tripod (Gitzo 3x Carbon) and head (Arca Swiss Cube).
  2. Attach fast narrow-angle lens (50mm Summilux ASPH; 90mm Summicron pre-ASPH; 90mm Elmarit Fat).
  3. Set lens focus to infinity.
  4. Attach magnifier.
  5. Focus lens.
  6. Trip shutter.
  7. Reset lens to infinity.
  8. Focus lens.
  9. Trip shutter.

I repeated steps 2-9 for each magnifier, taking two exposures per lens per scene and selecting the sharpest of the two. I did this to eliminate (admittedly in the smallest, least scientific of ways) focus anomaly due to eye bogies, dust, or the quaking of frozen fingers (Tokyo never gets cold, but at 6AM, and to a body now accustomed to winters that don’t freeze, I’ve become weak. 5º C is no longer t-shirt weather.)

I did not use a shutter release. I probably should have. Results of 1 are hits, 0s are demonstrable misses.

Magnifier order:

  1. MGR Production’s Bresson V1 (Now replaced with versions J and Y)
  2. Leica 1,4x
  3. MS Optical 1,15x (No longer in production)
  4. Leica EVF2 (control sample)

Bresson V1 Christmas tree - 50Summilux 01 scene

Scene close-ups:

Bresson V1 Christmas tree - 50Summilux 02 Bresson

Bresson

Bresson V1 Christmas tree - 50Summilux 03 Leica

Leica

Bresson V1 Christmas tree - 50Summilux 04 MSO

MS Optical

Bresson V1 Christmas tree - 50Summilux 05 EVF

EVF-2

Scene 1: the mouldy Christmas tree (Summilux 50 ASPH)

Focus: the noose area around the angel’s neck

Results:

  • Bresson: 1
  • Leica: 1
  • MS Optical: 1

I’ve found that even with a 50mm lens at f/1,4, even my naked eye is good enough. That each magnifier returned acceptably sharp results almost should be a given. Apologies.

Bresson V1 Christmas tree - 90Summicron 01 scene

Scene close-ups:

Bresson V1 Christmas tree - 90Summicron 02 Bresson

Bresson

Bresson V1 Christmas tree - 90Summicron 03 Leica

Leica

Bresson V1 Christmas tree - 90Summicron 04 MSO

MS Optical

Bresson V1 Christmas tree - 90Summicron 05 EFV

EVF-2

Scene 2: the mouldy Christmas tree (Summicron 90 pre-ASPH)

Focus: the noose area around the angel’s neck

Results:

  • Bresson: 1
  • Leica: 1
  • MS Optical: 1

I was surprised that even the MS Optical magnifier got on so well despite strong backlight and the close focus. Good show.

Bresson V1 Christmas tree - 90Elmarit 01 scene

Scene close-ups:

Bresson V1 Christmas tree - 90Elmarit 02 Bresson

Bresson

Bresson V1 Christmas tree - 90Elmarit 03 Leica

Leica

Bresson V1 Christmas tree - 90Elmarit 04 MSO

MS Optical

Bresson V1 Christmas tree - 90Elmarit 05 EFV

EVF-2

Scene 3: the mouldy Christmas tree (Elmarit 90 FAT)

Focus: the noose area around the angel’s neck

Results:

  • Bresson: 0
  • Leica: 1
  • MS Optical: 0

As the sun started going down, the living room scene lost much of its contrast and focus became more difficult. Difficult scenes like this are where the Leica magnifier shows its mettle.

Bresson V1 Meze mailbox - 90Summicron 01 Scene

Scene close-ups:

Bresson V1 Meze mailbox - 90Summicron 02 Bresson

Bresson

Bresson V1 Meze mailbox - 90Summicron 02 Leica

Leica

Bresson V1 Meze mailbox - 90Summicron 04 MSO

MS Optical

Bresson V1 Meze mailbox - 90Summicron 05 EVF

EVF-2

Scene 4: the mailbox and the Meze headphones (Summicron 90 pre-ASPH)

Focus: the top of the gold nub in the middle of the headphones*

Results:

  • Bresson: 1
  • Leica: 1
  • MS Optical: 0

The strong nimbus is the best evidence for my failure to achieve focus through the MS Optical magnifier.

I should have focused on a higher contrast, variegated area. The Meze logo would have been best Even through the EVF, and then later, through close inspection by eye, the featureless gold nub proved to be almost featureless. Apologies.

In order of achievement, first place goes to Leica (4), 2nd to Bresson (3), and third to MS Optical (2).

Flare and ghosting

Despite the illustrative photos below failing to show it, Bresson also flares and loses contrast against both front and back light. The effect isn't inordinate, but more so than either Leica or MS Optical magnifiers. If you don’t have to wear glasses, most of it is minimised by attaching the eyecup.

Optical Mag flare - Bresson V1

Bresson V1

Optical Mag flare - Leica

Leica 1,4x

Optical Mag flare - MSO

MS Optical 1,15x

End words

Before penning the first words of this review, or even slipping my M240 onto the tripod head, I could have told you that MS Optical’s 1,15x magnifier was out of its league, particularly with longer lenses. And yet, at the end of the day, it is the only magnifier that stays out of my way and can be used with 35mm lenses.

The Bresson is bulky and high-powered. It flares a bit, but not enough to hamper its utility - which, for lenses above 75mm, impresses. As long as the scene is free of flare, it keeps neck and neck with the Leica. But even without glasses, it is next to useless for wide-angle lenses. Even a 50mm lens is stretching it. I have high hopes that versions J and Y are better adapted to wider angle lenses.

Still, considering its price, the Bresson is a clever device which should appeal to the price-conscious tech-loving M-shooter.

If you have an interesting idea for a guest postyou can contact me here.

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  • Ric Ricard

    Excellent article. Must have taken a lot of work to prepare all of this. Thanks.

    • Thank you. I worked hard, but as I noted, because I’m not a lens reviewer, I probably missed a few important things. Thank you for the feedback.

  • Murder Death Kill

    Dear author! Did I understand you correctly, that in any position Bresson magnifier does not cover 100% of the viewfinder. Thank you for answer.

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