Zeiss Biogon C 35mm f/2.8
5 frames with...

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

December 23, 2019

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 Comments

  • Reply
    Willy MAES
    December 23, 2019 at 10:33 am

    what’s the difference between your 35/2,Biogon and the Russian copy Jupiter 11 35/2,8 with a quiet good reputation?

  • Reply
    Willy MAES
    December 23, 2019 at 11:07 am

    what’s the difference between your Biogon and the Russian copy of it the Jupiter 11 35/2,8?

    • Reply
      CharlesMorgan
      December 23, 2019 at 1:56 pm

      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!

  • Reply
    Terry B
    December 23, 2019 at 11:32 am

    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.

    • Reply
      CharlesMorgan
      December 23, 2019 at 2:27 pm

      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!

  • Reply
    Hank
    December 23, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      CharlesMorgan
      December 23, 2019 at 4:58 pm

      Thanks Hank. I would like a Plaubel but I’ve long since decided to stick with 35mm and enjoy the ride!

  • Reply
    Ed
    December 23, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    Dreamy images. Ugly camera.

    • Reply
      CharlesMorgan
      December 23, 2019 at 4:58 pm

      Not one for baby photography, certainly!

  • Reply
    David Narbecki
    December 23, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    The m5 and biogon 35mm f2.8 is one of my favorite combinations as a daily/walk around camera! Great photos keep it up!

  • Reply
    CharlesMorgan
    December 23, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    Thanks David – it just works as a combination.

  • Reply
    Rob B
    December 23, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    CharlesMorgan
    December 23, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    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!

    • Reply
      Rob B
      December 24, 2019 at 6:25 pm

      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!

  • Reply
    Keith moss
    December 23, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    Fantastic Charles.

    • Reply
      CharlesMorgan
      December 23, 2019 at 7:28 pm

      Thanks Keith!

  • Reply
    Charles Higham
    December 23, 2019 at 10:37 pm

    Very atmospheric cemetery shots. Also strangely picturesque is Brompton Cemetery. Maybe worth you giving it a visit before your emigration to Devon.

    • Reply
      CharlesMorgan
      December 24, 2019 at 8:31 am

      I love Brompton but time became too short, and now in Devon it’s a bit far.

  • Reply
    Kodachromeguy
    December 23, 2019 at 11:49 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    December 24, 2019 at 4:39 am

    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.

    • Reply
      CharlesMorgan
      December 26, 2019 at 7:30 am

      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!

  • Reply
    Greg Maslak
    December 26, 2019 at 7:11 am

    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”.

    • Reply
      CharlesMorgan
      December 26, 2019 at 8:49 am

      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.

  • Reply
    Ashley Carr
    December 28, 2019 at 10:55 am

    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!

  • Reply
    CharlesMorgan
    December 28, 2019 at 12:29 pm

    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!

    • Reply
      Ashley Carr
      December 29, 2019 at 3:24 pm

      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!

      • Reply
        CharlesMorgan
        December 29, 2019 at 3:30 pm

        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!

  • Reply
    Gerry Reilly
    December 28, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    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’

    • Reply
      CharlesMorgan
      December 28, 2019 at 4:24 pm

      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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