Zeiss Biogon C 35mm f/2.8

5 frames with a Leica M5 and Zeiss Biogon C 35mm f/2.8 – By Charles Morgan

Ever since I returned to film photography (with a Rolleicord bought from street photographer and Ilford artisan partner Keith Moss – now a friend) I have concentrated on exposing for good negatives. This has led me through numerous film stocks, developers and camera formats, and a gear acquisition strategy I compare to a game of Monopoly. Always trying, experimenting, changing to find that which I think of as perfection. Hampered by a natural indolence and carpel tunnel syndrome in both hands, and inspired by a visit to Wetzlar with a 1933 Leica III, I have decided that lightness and great optics (the lodestar of Oscar Barnack) are really what I need, but I still hanker after medium format.

As I get closer to moving to Devon, I have taken to visiting numerous London sights to document them. A visit to Highgate with an East German Werra with Zeiss Flektogon to photograph Karl Marx (don’t ask) led on to a trip to the magnificent Victorian necropolis at Kensal Green. There I found death at its most ostentatious, gothic and downright bizarre (plus the modest grave of Frederick Scott Archer – the founder of wet plate collodion photography).

Military after life
Frederick Scott Archer, the inventor of Wet Plate Collodion

Equipped with a Leica M5 with Zeiss Biogon C 35mm f2.8 and experimenting with Kentmere 400 exposed at 200 and developed in Ilford Perceptol 1:2, I found subjects of wonder for black and white. The Leica M5 is a camera outwith the norm of the M, large but with a superb meter, excellent ergonomics like the Leicaflex SL2, and a bright viewfinder with match needle metering. It sits comfortably in my hands and takes lovely photos. The Zeiss Biogon C has always impressed me for colour, sharp and contrasty it works equally brilliantly with monochrome, although in a different style to some beloved Leica glass.

Family mausoleums
A gothick scene

The Kentmere came out beautifully with Perceptol, you lose a stop of speed but gain so much resolution and softer grain that it could be much more expensive film. Finally though as I came back through Paddington, the camera, lens and developer produced an image that convinced me that I only need this camera and a few lenses, no more carting around a Hasselblad or Rollei.

35mm as medium format – Paddington

A pure amateur with a pretence of no pretensions, you can find me on Instagram as charlesdamorgan

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29 thoughts on “5 frames with a Leica M5 and Zeiss Biogon C 35mm f/2.8 – By Charles Morgan”

    1. The Jupiter 12 is a copy of the pre-war Zeiss Biogon, and is a lovely lens. It has 6 elements in 4 groups whereas the modern Cosina made Biogon 35mm f2.8 has 7 elements in 5 groups, with modern coatings. The rendering is exceptionally sharp. Both great lenses though!

  1. Wonderful images. Why do cemeteries always look more foreboding in B/W? Personally, I was looking for a little more contrast, but then up popped the image of Paddington. Doesn’t it look clean? Much better than the sooty and grimy days that were the norm for British main-line Terminal stations. It appears that you have a wonderful combination of the M5 and Zeiss lens.

    1. Thanks Terry – I think Paddington has been restored and cleaned a couple of times since its days of pure grime and is a beautiful piece of railway engineering. The cemetery was pretty gloomy with one of those chill winds that rather made it feel as well as look a bit Hammer House of Horror, so with the clouds those images were a bit low in contrast and I post processed for that too. The week before I’d been at Highgate in bright sunshine and it looked all a bit washed out!

  2. Nice work. I miss my long since departed M5 sometimes. There’s so much about the camera that Leica got right.
    I, too, lust after medium format, but not for the size/weight of medium format. I’ve settled on a Plaubel W67, which is heavier than my Leica, but compact. Great Nikkor lens as well.

  3. Did you use stand/semi-stand development with these? If you overexposed +2, then developed at -1, I would expect these to look like you just shot and processed at box speed but your shots have a really nice boost in contrast over Kentmere Pan shot normally.

  4. Rob – I do use semi-stand a lot but I’ve never thought of trying it with Perceptol. I use this treatment a lot, particularly for films like Tmax 400 using slightly lower contrast lenses like older Leica ones. I did this with an open mind, not expecting Kentmere to be as capable as Tmax, but I think this gives the lie to that!

    1. Sorry, I just re-read my comment and meant to say overexposed +1, not +2 but I think you figured that out. 😉

      I’m a huge fan of TMax but this Kentmere Pan has been my inexpensive go-to for a while now. It’s an amazing film, especially for the price. I’ve been getting great results with Ilfosol 3, but you’ve got me thinking about giving Perceptol a try.

      The train station shot is my favorite – beautifully captured!

  5. Love these cemetery photographs. There is something so somber in ancient (OK, old) cemeteries. And I admire your M5. I had one in the 1980s and sold it. But you know the story – dumb move on my part to sell it. An M2 and IIIC suffice nowadays.

  6. A nice article; write-ups on the M5 are few and far between, so it was a pleasure to read of your work with it.
    I’m in the same boat, so to speak, regarding the quest to make my kit lighter. I too have an injury that is aggravated by carrying a bag with some weight and bulk. I switched to a Domke special edition bag made from rip-stop nylon (featherweight), replaced some essential items with lighter weight versions, and fitted my M4-P/M2 with the diminutive, but exceptional 40mm M-Rokkor f/2.0. Some testing of the 40mm lens revealed an almost identical match with a 35mm lens: both in viewfinder coverage and actual scene/subject coverage. The lens weighs next to nothing, and tucks onto the body like a collapsed Elmar.
    But, I’ve always been intrigued with the M5. Your account just makes me more curious and wanting to try one out. Thanks and wishing you continued good shooting.

    1. Daniel – I came to the M5 via the Leicaflex SL2, a veritable giant, but it just fitted in my hands and the ergonomics just worked. From that to the M5 was easy and it’s the first rangefinder where I could do everything while using the viewfinder. The meter is equally as good as the SL2 but is less of a narrow spot meter, so the results if sloppy are better. Leica put a huge amount of R&D into both which almost cost them dear, and it shows in the camera. Worth a look!

  7. You’re too modest Charles. Not only are your pictures worth the 1000 words, but your writing is worthy of the pictures. I enjoyed the article so much, I read it through twice.
    Years ago I set out to purchase a metered Leica and ended up with a Mamiya 6. Leica like with a 6×6 format, it has ergonomics reminiscent of an M5. If you get the chance, you might give it a try. I think it would make a nice compliment to your set up.
    Again, great piece, nice pictures. My favourite is the “Family Mausoleum”.

    1. Thanks Greg, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’m having fun with old folders at present, 6×6 cameras I have in super abundance but should I clear a few I’ll happily track down a Mamiya 6 and give it a try.

  8. A great little read!

    But overall I’m just happy to find another Perceptol user! Perceptol has been my main developer for nearly 10 years now to the point that I actually make it myself now from the raw ingredients.

    For years I rated my HP5 at EI 250 using a 1+2 dilution and varied development time to suit the contrast of the scene. However I’ve recently switched to a rating of EI 320 and diluted down to 1+3. Although a small tweak I’ve noticed a touch more sharpness to the grain as well as touch more of the compensating effect, opening up the shadows a touch further.

    I’ve always wondered why Perceptol hasn’t been more widely adopted. I can only think it must be the speed loss that people zero in on and the fact it’s really not a developer for push processing (we all know how people love to push)!

    So it’s great to see there’s someone else out there that’s discovered the treasure that is Perceptol!

  9. Thanks Ashley. It’s a great developer, I suspect as you say it’s not much used as you are pulling the speed (which is a bit of an issue in lower light like now) but your comments about 320 intrigue – roughly speaking how much time are you giving on average for films at that EI? I’m also trying Microphen for less grain at normal speeds but I shall develop those thoughts further in another article!

    1. For rating HP5 at EI 320 I use a 1+3 dilution at 20°c for 18:30 with a few gentle inversions each minute.

      It is a fairly long development time and it’s my only gripe about Perceptol but the results far outweigh the minor inconvenience of the dev time.

      When rating at EI 250 I used a 1+2 dilution at 24°c for 11:30 so that’s always a temptation for the reduced time alone!

      1. Thanks Ashley – I’ll give that a try with my next roll of HP5. At this time of year or inside that gives just that little bit more useful exposure times. A recent photo of someone inside suffered at 200 as he had a big conk and I was at the limit of my handholding skills with an 80mm at f1.4!

  10. What battery combo are you using on the M5 I’ve tried everything including CRIS adapter and the meter seems to underexpose every time I how use a wee app on my phone ‘Photo Light Meter’

    1. At the moment it has a 1.35v Wein Cell – it came with a 1.5v battery and the exposures were always out, now it’s very accurate. But at the age of the camera it may well be that your meter is off a bit. I love the metering on it – have you had it checked?

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