In the last part of this story I was deliberating over the choice of converting the Yashica T4’s Tessar vs the Nikon L35’s Sonnar to M-mount. Whilst I was dead set on the latter, the lens I now have might look like I went for the former…? Actually there’s more to this than meets the eye.
See that tiny little white dot around from f/3.5 on the aperture scale? That tiny little dot denotes f/2.8. Of course the Yashica’s Tessar is only a f/3.5 lens, so what might you ask is this little dot doing on a converted Tessar? Well, of course the answer is it isn’t the Tessar, for reasons really only entirely known to Miyazaki the writing on it is wrong. It is in fact the 35mm f2.8 Sonnar from the Nikon L35.
At some point in the process of the lens being converted, Bellamy got in touch and said that Miyazaki was having some sort of problems with suppliers and and did I mind if my lens was converted using parts destined for another conversion. Though Bellamy didn’t have much of the details from his eccentric friend, I decided it would be fine. This lens with the incorrect text on it was the outcome.
I must admit, I wasn’t entirely sure what to think the first time I saw it, my first impression was that Miyazaki had converted the wrong lens. Looking closer of course I could see the same deep blue lens coating from the Nikon and the same shape plastic around the front of the lens. And then I noticed the little extra white dot denoting the f/2.8 aperture. It was definitely the Nikon’s Sonnar, just a little bit in disguise.
I know for a fact, there is at least one perfectionist reading this who would find this imperfection really annoying (James Fox-Davis I’m looking at you). But actually, I really like it. I really couldn’t care less what it says on it, as long as it works. And actually, it quite nicely reflects the apparent eccentricity of the man who made it.
M-mount not LTM
If there is one thing I do regret though, it’s not actually asking Bellamy if these lenses were Leica thread mount with M-mount adapters. I’m not sure why I didn’t ask him, or why I just made the assumption from the pictures is seen that they just came as LTM with a mount adapter. But, well, you know what they say about assumption being the mother of all fuck-ups… To be fair, I do think it looks a little like it is an adapted LTM lens, but turn it over and you can soon see that what looks like an adapter is just the lens mount…
Mounted on the Leica CL
Fortunately I suppose, I’ve instantly fallen in love with the thing when mounted on my Leica CL. In fact, with it mounted on the CL it feels as much, if not more like the perfect carry everywhere rangefinder/lens combination. It even fits quite comfortably in my jeans pocket, which is definitely a first for an M-mount camera in my world. In fact, despite it being a 35mm, which isn’t perfect for the CL, and despite having not shot a roll with it, it already feels like it’s supplanted the 40mm Summicron. I bought the ‘cron only for its size really, this lens is smaller, so unless the conversion has somehow turned it into a bad lens (which is unlikely), I think the Summicron is likely to go. This was after all an exercise in miniaturisation above anything else really, and this combo is very small!
The size/usability compromise
Of course, I’m sure you’re wondering if this tiny size means a big sacrifice in terms of usability? I’m not going to lie, this isn’t the most easy lens to change aperture quickly. If you’ve ever shot an early Leitz elmar with the aperture dial around the front element of the lens, your about in the right ball park for how easy it is to change aperture on this thing. It’s not hard, it’s just not that quick a process and is slightly fiddly.
Focusing on the other hand – thanks to a good sized focus tab – is no problem at all. It also focuses with quite a short throw, which means it feels really quite quick to use. It’s also lovely and smooth to focus, which surprised me a little…
I’m not really sure what I expected to receive in terms of build quality, but I think I expected something that felt a little more Heath Robbison. I suspect this came about after I was given a heads-up by someone on Instagram to not expect it to feel like a factory made lens. I suppose it doesn’t, but the warning I was given set my mind to expect something that had a bit of wobble or give here and there, or maybe felt more plastic than metal. In reality it does feel really quite solid; it’s all metal, and there is no give at all. There are giveaway signs that it wasn’t made by Zeiss or Leica, the signs of glue here and there, and of course the incorrect text definitely make it feel more hand made, but really for what it is, I can’t fault it… That is assuming it doesn’t fall apart after six months…
Was it worth it?
Ultimately, yes I think it was. As someone rightly pointed out on my Facebook page, by the definition of this blog, this is almost the perfect gear for me. I started this blog with a minor obsession with compact camera, an obsession that hasn’t left me, though has drifted somewhat toward rangefinders. This little lens conversion feels quite nicely like it bridges the gap. It’s tiny, and has the wonderful qualities of a point & shoot cameras who’s lens I loved. It takes photos that retain some of the imperfections and eccentricities gained through shooting a compact camera, but at the same time offers me some of the functionality of a rangefinder that I have further grown to enjoy in more recent times. In short, I couldn’t be happier with the outcome!
I bet a few people out there have a bad case of GAS seeing this too!? All I can say is, talk to Bellamy, he’ll see you good!
If you are interested in the results, keep an eye on the blog or sign yourself up to my email subscription below. I’ve shot half a roll already, so it won’t be long before I have something to show you!