In 2015, I bought a Leica M6 after months of saving thinking that it would be the last film camera I would buy. It was an excellent and enjoyable camera to shoot with, but being expensive, I was a bit hesitant to bring it with me on the streets and on medical missions. Then, I read the article 7 Reasons Why You Should Have a Thread Mount Leica (or was it the 9 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Own a Thread Mount Leica?). It got me curious, so I spent days reading and thinking that maybe I should try one to find out if I would like it.
I found a seller on eBay from the United States claiming that he used to work for a Leica factory in Germany and he was selling thread mount Leicas and accessories. In December 2017, as a Christmas gift for myself, I bought the body and paired it with a Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM lens. The lens was humongous! It didn’t seem to make sense buying a small camera to be paired with a big lens. I needed something that would make it small – something I can carry everyday. I know it should be paired with an Elmar lens, but the lenses on eBay are expensive and come without any assurance that the glass would be pristine.
Then I came across Soviet lenses. I’ve read that the Fed 50mm f/3.5 could be a replica of the Elmar. I don’t know much about the history of these lenses but that is what I remember from what I’ve read. I searched eBay and found this lens. The price was about 1/10th of the Elmar, and after wondering what could I lose in buying this lens, I bought one a couple of weeks later; delivered from Ukraine to Manila.
It seemed a pretty decent lens that was solidly made. The glass was clear and the aperture oil-free. The aperture is located on the front similar to how it is with the Elmar. Doing some research, it appears that this lens was probably one of the early copies. They were usually paired with a Fed Rangefinder and was rumored to focus properly only on these bodies.
I guessed that maybe with it being a slow lens with a maximum aperture of f/3.5, it would mean the lens would focus well on the Leica IIIc. I was so excited that I loaded it with the first film I was able to grab inside my fridge – a Fuji C200. I then realized that I loaded my camera with a slow lens with a slow film! But I shot with it anyway.
When I developed the film, the results weren’t bad! I made sure that the next film I would use would be at least 400 ASA. I wondered how the early photographers doing reportage photography were able to survive with this slow lens. But after shooting this lens during my daughter’s first Taekwondo competition in an indoor gym with ambient light coming from the just windows, it made me realize that it can be done! I can shoot with this lens at f/3.5 at 1/15 of a second and still get good results!
The one in color was shot on Fujifilm Industrial 400. The Black and Whites where Ilford XP2 Super 400 and Kodak Eastman Double X.
Leica purists would cringe at the sight of a Soviet lens being paired with a Leica but I think these 5 frames would prove that maybe, this could actually be an Elmar disguised as a Fed/Industar…
Thank you for reading.
Christian Irving C. Cayetano
My instagram: xtian.irving