When I travel overseas and need to pack light, I often take my Leica M2 rangefinder camera with compact 35mm and 50mm f/2.0 Summicron lenses (along with light meter, filters, and hoods). But recently, I have been thinking wide, which must go along with my increasing girth. Some options:
- New Leica 24mm f/1.4 Summilux-M lens. $7500 in USA. (Ouch, pain)
- Used (OK, “pre-owned”) Leica 24mm f/2.8 lens. About $1800. (Lesser pain)
- Used Zeiss Biogon 25 mm f/2.8 ZM lens. About $750 in USA.
- New Voigtlander Skopar 24mm f/4.0 lens. About $400
Of course the genuine 24mm M lens or the 25mm Zeiss would be best, but realistically I would not use them all that often.
We have a clean Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 24mm f/3.5 lens for the Pentax Spotmatic in the cabinet. It performs quite well on the Spotmatic. Because it has a longer register distance to the mount than true M lenses, there is room for an adapter. So I bought a $20 Fotodiox M42-Leica M adapter from Amazon and did a test run. The Chinese specialty companies make adapters for just about any older manual SLR lens to fit most so-called mirrorless digital camera bodies, giving new life to many beautiful classic film lenses. Most longer focal lengths, around 50mm or more, perform really well on digital bodies. The wide angles often have problems with digital sensors, but in that I was using film, I was going to use a lens designed for film on the correct sensing media.
The good: The optical results were better than I expected. I do not have a genuine Leica 24mm, so I have no basis for comparison. Sure, it is not as “sharp” as my 35 Summicron, but so what? Sharpness phobia is nonsense that consumes pseudo-photographers on digital camera web pages. For $20, I am pleased.
The clumsy: Framing is a problem. If I move my eye left and right and up and down the maximum extent across the M2’s eyepiece, I think I see most of the 24mm coverage. The lens blocks part of the view, and using the genuine Takumar hood is hopeless. To do: buy a 24mm finder. Focus is totally manual.
The heavy: The Takumar with its Fotodiox adapter is a bulky and rather heavy cylinder.
Here are some examples from Romania and Greece. The film was Fujifilm Acros, exposed at EI=80. Praus Productions in Rochester, NY, developed the film in Xtol. I scanned the film with a Plustek 7600i scanner using the Tri-X 400 profile (the SilverFast software does not have an Acros profile), saving as 16-bit monochrome TIFF files. I cleaned occasional lint or chemical blobs with the heal tool in Photoshop CS3.
The view of the upper town and the Gothic tower of the Lutheran Cathedral of Saint Mary in Sibiu, Romania, is from the Council Tower. I used a yellow filter on the 24mm lens to darken the sky. The photograph is through glass, which you see in the upper left.
An abandoned hotel from the 1960s, possibly once called the Angela, is in Nerantza, Greece, a few km west of Corinth on the Gulf of Corinth. I have photographed here before with a digital camera, but the 24mm lens and black and white film gives an appropriate gloomy look to the remnants.
The 24mm Takumar lens works well on the Leica M2. Framing is clumsy and you need to guess the distance of your main subject, but that is not too critical with a wide angle lens. As I already had the 24mm lens, $20 for an adapter was a bargain way to get wide angle coverage. A 24mm auxiliary finder would be helpful. However, for an upcoming trip, I have rented a 25mm Zeiss ZM lens from LensRentals.com. It will be more compact and should not obscure much of the finder. Stand by for an upcoming “5 Frames” note.
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