Thoughts on Lenses

Shooting a 24mm Takumar Lens on a Leica M2 – by Andrew Morang

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.

Temporary Solution

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.

Results

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.

Balcony view (24mm), Kronhaus, Bra?ov, Romania

Balcony view (24mm), Kronhaus, Bra?ov, Romania

View of Upper Town from Turnul Sfatului (24mm with yellow filter), Sibiu, Romania

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.

Abandoned pool at resort hotel, Nerantza, Greece

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.

Incomplete hotel, coast road, Nerantza, Greece

Conclusions

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.

Please see more urban decay at:  https://worldofdecay.blogspot.com

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15 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    bydlo
    January 4, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    Or you could have just used a SLR body and have it work perfect natively.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      January 4, 2019 at 12:11 pm

      The first line of the post is “When I travel overseas and need to pack light”

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Kodachromeguy
      January 4, 2019 at 8:06 pm

      Yes, I know. I have a Spotmatic in the house, but sometimes I want a smaller kit. I wrote that in the article.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Flavio Colker
      January 4, 2019 at 8:35 pm

      A Pentax body. Bingo. Adapt for the sake of adapt?

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Anthony Oresteen
    January 4, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    I had the same dilemma. I love the 24mm/25mm angle of view. Note that the 1st generation of Voigtlander 25mm LTM lenses are not RF coupled. I used an Olympus 24mm f/2.8 with my Leica M4-P. Same framing issue that you had.

    Voigtlander did release a 25mm lens in Nikon S mount that is RF coupled. I bought one and it came with a 25mm optical finder. I use it on my Contax IIa body or my Nikon SP. Nice lens. Solves my 25mm RF lens itch. If you continue to want a 25mm RF lens get a Voigtlander.

    In the early 80’s I used Pentax Spotmatic & ES II cameras and the 24mm SMC Takumar was in my kit bag. It’s small compared to the 20mm SMC Takumar. But not anywhere as small as a Voigtlander 25mm!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Barry Carr
    January 4, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    “The wide angles often have problems with digital sensors…”,

    Nope. I regularly use an adapted Olympus 24mm f/2.8 on my Sony A7ii and have had no issue whatsosever with IQ. Its only extermely wide RF lenses that have issues with edge smearing on full-frame sensors and even then its not that noticable.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Rob Kent (jazzycamel)
    January 4, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    In the ‘Temporary Solution’ section of this article when discussing classic lenses, you say “Most longer focal lengths, around 50mm or more, perform really well on digital bodies.” I take from this that you think adapted lenses of shorter focal lengths don’t perform well? I would be interested in knowing the justification for this statement as I have and do use a wide variety of classic lenses (with focal lengths such as 15mm, 24mm, 28mm, and 35mm) originally intended for both rangefinder and SLR film cameras on both Olympus M4/3 and Sony full frame mirrorless bodies with fantastic results. In fact, for the last 6-9 months, I have shot almost exclusively classic glass at these shorter focal lengths, the results of which you can judge for yourself on my website: https://jazzycamel.photography. What, in your opinion, are the shortcomings I am (perhaps) missing?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Kodachromeguy
      January 4, 2019 at 8:17 pm

      Wow, nice work on your web page. I think you and Barry above are right about wide-angle SLR lenses. They were designed to stand away from the focal plane to allow room for the mirror, so they adapt to m4/3 or a Leica M very well. Some of the mixed results I have seen were from wide rangefinder lenses being mounted on digital bodies. On a film body, it is not a problem.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Terry B
    January 4, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    Andrew, a lovely selection of images. What I am curious about, though, is how did you ensure the lens was focusing properly at the film plane?
    I have a multitude of adapters in Sony E mount, Fuji X, and Olympus m4/2 so I can use my myriad of legacy lenses inc. Leica R, M, Minolta MD, Olympus OM, and a few other, perhaps more esoteric mounts such as Contarex and Voigtlander DKL. The one thing I’ve learnt is that nearly all these adapters, bar 2 in Leica by a little known brand Ulata, never register the lens focused correctly at infinity when the lens is at infinity. This isn’t a big problem as the lenses are being focused manually in digital cameras.
    But how did you ensure this using a film camera?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Kodachromeguy
      January 4, 2019 at 8:11 pm

      You are right, I am not sure that the infinity focus plane is exactly right. For distant subjects, I back off just a little bit from the infinity setting and let depth of field cover any error. Sometime if I am in a city with a Leica store, I will take the 24 Takumar and adapter and ask if I can mount it on one of their digital bodies. That way I can check the focus on the screen. I do not know anyone in my town with a digital M body.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Nick Lyle
    January 4, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    I have been experimenting with mounting wide Minolta, and Konica AR, lenses on m-mount rangefinders (Cosina-Voigtlander Bessa-T and Leica M5). I use a Ricoh 21-28mm auxiliary viewfinder for wide-angle framing. Scale-focus is easy in the 28mm and wider range. In fact, the above mentioned viewfinder gives me a clear view of the focus scale on the lens, so I can adjust focus and even read the DOF scale without taking my eye away from the finder.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Steve Abbott
    January 4, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    I’ve done something similar for my M2. Originally, I followed a link from one of Hamish’s posts to the “Casualphotophile” site, where I was inspired by a post there along the lines of “Why everyone needs to shoot an ultrawide”, and also found a very positive review for a Canon FD 24mm f2.8, which made me want to get one (having rejected all of Kodachromeguy’s alternatives for the simple reason that I’ve no money!). I eventually picked up a good one on the auction site for just under the budget I’d set myself of £70 (GB pounds), although I had to wait a while as I missed out on a few that went for more.

    I then paid about £13 for a Chinese made FD to M mount adaptor – which I could have had cheaper if I’d been prepared to wait a month for delivery from China, instead of about 10 days. This was a bit fiddly to mount the lens on (due to the nature of the FD mount, not the adaptor), but it doesn’t matter as I don’t plan to disassemble it again. Of course, the lens in this set-up is not rangefinder coupled – but with this focal length, everything’s in focus at virtually all apertures, so who cares!

    The key to success, however, is that I found on eBay a maker of viewfinders in Israel; he offers a variety of focal lengths, including 24mm, and I suspect that they’re made in a similar way to that described in a post here on 35mmc – i.e. the cannabilised viewfinder from a dead point-and-shoot in a laser printed housing. It was only about £17 (although expensive shipping nearly doubled that), and frankly it’s fairly terrible, inasmuch that the view is rather distorted in a “fisheye” type of way, but it nevertheless accurately shows the field of view and perspective – and I can keep my other eye open for a simultaneous clear view of the subject. In practise it works very well.

    With the addition of a cheap M-mount rear cap, I paid just over £100 for the whole lot, which is a fraction of the cost of a 24mm viewfinder alone! Although it’s a focal length I don’t use a great deal (so why pay a lot of money?!), it’s one that at times IMO is indispensable (architecture, streets, landscape if there’s foreground interest) and I’ve been absolutely delighted with the results, having had a greater proportion of “keepers” than average. If you can get hold of one of these cheap and cheerful viewfinders, then I heartily recommend it.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Graham Line
    January 4, 2019 at 5:14 pm

    SMCT lenses are a fine and compact choice. Cheap as chips these days. Will have to find a Fotodiox converter to mount my 20/3.5 Nikkor on the M4P.

  • Daniel Castelli
    Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    January 4, 2019 at 7:31 pm

    Wow! I guess I’m the last guy to find out you can buy these adapters. How cool.
    The work looks good, my favorite is “The view from upper town,” I can help but to see 5 ‘eyes’ on the building in the lower center of the frame…that shot would keep me up at night!
    I’m a bit amused by your idea of traveling light. To me, your kit is anything but light, but if it worked for you and didn’t present any problems with weight or physical bulk, good for you.
    My wife & took a seven day vacation to Ireland last October. I carried a M4-P, light meter, film and a 28mm Ultron f/2.0 lens. I took a deep breath when packing, crossed my fingers and hoped I wouldn’t regret packing more equipment. It worked out OK. A good pedestrian lens, and I didn’t miss my other gear. Of course, nightly visits to pubs helped me not to worry.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Francesco Melis
    January 5, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    I am a big fan of uncoupled rangefinder wide lenses on Leica M bodies: with the DOF scale on the lenses is really simple to focus also wide open (I use a F2.8 28 mm Leica Elmarit R on my Leica M3) and it is possible to focus to less than 1 meter subjects, a big advantage, IMHO, for image composition with wide angle lenses, where distant subjects result very often in flat images.

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