A good screw thread Leica lens?

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by blockend, Sep 17, 2013.

  1. blockend

    blockend Member

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    Over a few decades of film photography, I've managed to avoid Leica. I used a friend's M3 for a while and it was nice, but didn't set my photographic world alight. Now I think there may be space for a screw thread Leica with a collapsible lens to use as a pocket camera. The problem I have is finding a suitable lens that isn't scratched, fogged, or absurdly expensive. I'm only vaguely aware of the options, can someone fill in the details? Possibly including a fixed lens.
     
  2. GregW

    GregW Member

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    I have a collapsible Summitar 50 f 2 I enjoy using. I foolishly sold a summar years ago that I miss. It had a wonderful flare to it in bright sun that was very evocative. (it needed cleaning, the glass was amazingly scratch free) Years ago I was able to shoot some portraits of Betty Friedan with it in sunlight. I didn't retain the negatives foolishly. She was wearing a vintage leopard skin jacket, She hated having her picture taken but seeing my old leica she struck up a conversation and volunteered to be photographed. (I had been instructed NOT to take her picture for the event lest she leave) I would shop for a lens in person, try camera shows and shops. So you can evaluate it yourself. factor in a cla for one's with haze or minor fungus. I've had a couple cleaned with the above that came out beautifully.
     
  3. MDR

    MDR Member

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    The classic Leitz Elmar 3.5/50 it's not the fastest but a decent performer. The Summitar 2/50 can often be found quiet cheap and it's look is a mix between Summar and Summicron. An unscratched Summar can be a good lens with it's very own look.

    Good luck
     
  4. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    If you want as small as possible and reasonably hard coatings, have you considered an old Canon/Seranar screw mount lens? I'd probably try to get either a Canon or an Elmar from KEH. KEH tends to grade pretty conservatively and has a good return policy so I'm sure you could get one in decent condition from them.
     
  5. 02Pilot

    02Pilot Subscriber

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    As you know, choosing a lens depends on what your priorities are. If you're just looking for something pocketable to shoot in daylight, especially if you're just in the experimenting stage, I'd look at the Soviet collapsible 50/3.5s (I-22 or I-50). Fedka is a reliable seller, and you can get a good one from him for well under $100; heck, you can get a FED-2 (probably the best of the Soviet LTM cameras IMHO, and quite pocketable) with a collapsible 50/3.5 from him for under $150. If speed is more important, you're stuck either going with Leica or one of the older Canons (50/1.9), both of which will cost more. Once you move into fixed lenses, your choices open up considerably. Do bear in mind that there is a slight difference between Soviet and Leica LTM RF standards, but this will only manifest itself in any noticeable way with fast 50s or longer focal lengths.
     
  6. Xmas

    Xmas Member

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    Cosina Voightlander 5cm or 3.5 cm f/2.5 in LTM if you need a modern MC signature and compact fast handling
     
  7. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    Can you define "absurdly expensive" a little more narrowly? The suggestions above cover a pretty broad range.

    KEH shows a fair variety of Leitz lenses in the range from about US$250-500 at the moment. The page of opinions at http://www.cameraquest.com/ltmlens.htm might be useful in narrowing down your search a little.

    I've found the Nikkor 50/2 to be excellent in bang-for-the-buck terms, but it's not collapsible and that may put it out of consideration for you.

    -NT
     
  8. blockend

    blockend Member

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    Thanks for the replies. When I looked at Leica lenses of the screw thread era, there were lots that were beaten up, and the ones that weren't seem to go for collector prices. User in Leica-speak seems to mean poor condition in normal camera language, and the difference stays as you go up. I may look at a modern lens like the Cosina. What I'm looking for is a compact, well made rangefinder with full manual control to fit in a jacket pocket. The pocket role is currently filled by an Olympus MjuII, which is nice, but lacks manual override. I want the same or better IQ, in a compact metal bodied RF. It doesn't have to be a Leica, it does have to be very solid and smallish, as it will lead a tough life.

    Does anyone have strong opinions on the Voigtlander and Zeiss Ikon cameras and lenses to do the job I'm looking for? I appreciate this is a meandering request, but I'm looking for something the size and versatility of my d*g*t*l Fuji X10 that takes film.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 17, 2013
  9. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    How rough is "rough"---are you going to go around driving nails with the camera? The Voigtlaender rangefinders have a reputation for being somewhat prone to getting knocked out of alignment---I haven't found it to be a problem with mine, but I'm not all that rough on cameras. Maybe the folks with more recent Bessae can say whether the alignment has gotten more solid since the Bessa-R.

    The Soviet rangefinders, of course, are inexpensive and nigh-invulnerable. No one would mistake their handling for a Leica---they're tractors to Leica's BMW, but in a rough environment, you might prefer to drive a tractor rather than a BMW! There are complaints about them, but image quality isn't usually one (unless you get a lens that's just plain misaligned). They might be worth looking at in your position. Their 35mm lens (which I believe is the length your Olympus has) is a real winner, a clone of the prewar Zeiss Biogon, but not collapsible---are there any collapsible 35mm lenses? All the ones I know of are 50s, but I'm not an expert.

    -NT
     
  10. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    I agree and recommend the Summitar. Love mine. And second the suggestion of the Russian 50/3.5 Elmar clones. Many are very nicely coated and are very sharp.

    Others I'd recommend, especially for B&W work, though not very cheap, is an early uncoated 35/3.5 Elmar. Tends to flare so not for all situations but a very nice unique signature when kept under control. And a 50/1.5 Summarit. Very cool lens and very unique wide open and excellent performance closed down a stop or two.

    If you're going to shoot LTM best when you appreciate that all photography is not only about absolute sharpness and strong contrast.
     
  11. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Another vote for the Summitar. It's an amazing lens and quite reasonably priced.
     
  12. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    +1
     
  13. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Don't rule out the Canon RF cameras. The L series(L1,2,3) were similar sized cameras but had a lever advance rather than knob.
     
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  15. mnemosyne

    mnemosyne Subscriber

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    Leica thread mount lens buyer's guide:
    http://www.cameraquest.com/ltmlens.htm

    Stay away from Russian lenses.

    My recommendation would be a coated post-war Elmar.
    This lens is much easier to find in clean condition than a Summitar, Summarit or collapsible Summicron, which are often plagued by haze, scratches and coating damage. Stopped down a bit, the Elmar is a very decent performer.
    Bigges drawback are the ergonomics (aperture ring).

    Modern collapsible alternatives are the CV Heliar 3,5/50, which has excellent optical qualities, but is difficult to find, as it was a kind of limited edition item. Another very compact (but rigid and relatively heavy) alternative is the CV Skopar 2,5/50, which is infamous for its sample variation (I can testify from personal experience). A good copy is a decent performer, but nothing spectacular.

    There are more rigid alternatives, but they are big/heavy, like the Nokton 1,5/50, or almost impossible to find (= expensive) because of their scarcity like 1999 special edition version Summicron/Summilux in M39 or the first rigid Summicron in M39.
     
  16. 02Pilot

    02Pilot Subscriber

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    This is a blanket statement made without a single supporting piece of evidence to back it, and is thus not very useful.

    There are plenty of people, as even the most cursory search will show, who have had no significant issues in their use of Soviet LTM lenses. The limitations are well-known, and certainly they are not without some degree of risk (which can be mitigated by purchasing from a trusted source, as is the case for any used equipment), but they are not universally poor by any stretch of the imagination.
     
  17. blockend

    blockend Member

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    Continued thanks and serious food for thought.
     
  18. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    Summitars are softish at 2 and 2.8 as we most lenses of the era. The performance is superb at 5.6 and 8.

    3.5 red scale elmars are also nice stopped down. Mine performs better than my two Summitars at 3.5 and 4. It is the most collapsible Leica lens.

    Summitars have odd filter threads so you need an expensive adapter or dedicated Summitar filters. The lens shade is a big barn door one or you have to cobble something. Try heavystar on ebay.

    All tend to be foggy and have soft coatings.
     
  19. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    The big question is whether you believe (like Dante Stella) that the Soviet focusing helical dimensions were slightly different from Leica's, or (like Karen Nakamura) that it's just sample variation and a good Soviet lens is dimensioned correctly. It probably does make sense to do some testing of specific lenses with specific bodies in any case.

    My own experience with them has been good, but the only Soviet lens I've used much on a Western body is the 50/2.8, where a slight difference wouldn't necessarily be obvious.

    -NT
     
  20. 02Pilot

    02Pilot Subscriber

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    You are quite correct that, if one is planning to use a Soviet lens on a non-Soviet LTM body, individual testing is the best route. I tend to accept Dante Stella's argument (I seem to recall among his sources documents detailing the specified dimensions), though the nature of Soviet QC makes it difficult to know anything for sure.

    Let's not forget that the OP was also talking, at least initially, about collapsible lenses, and that no specific body (Soviet or non-Soviet) was mentioned. Given that the only Soviet collapsibles are the 50/3.5 I-22 or I-50, any minor focus variation should be a non-issue regardless of the body.
     
  21. msbarnes

    msbarnes Member

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    lots of slid advice here, but have you considered a rollei 35 or a kodak retina iic/iiic?
     
  22. elekm

    elekm Member

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    I had the Summitar and found it to be an excellent lens.

    If I was looking for a compact camera, I might look in another direction. Leica isn't the only game in town. There are many other possibilities, from early folding Kodak Retinas to a folding Zeiss Ikon Contina II to an Edinex with a collapsible lens to the Olympus XA or the Ricoh FF-1 to a Rollei 35.

    This is not to say that a Leica isn't an excellent camera. But in today's world, there is no reason that you should limit yourself to one camera, one brand or even one format.
     
  23. blockend

    blockend Member

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    I owned an XA back in the 80s and found the operation a bit fiddly. I also bought a Retina for the reasons described a while ago, which hit many of the right spots (solid, small, full manual) but found the lens, which was totally clean, a mediocre performer, maybe I was unlucky. There are some nice late period compact cameras around, but they tend to have ageing electrical systems, plastic internal mechanisms and/or insufficient overrides. I never owned a Rollei 35 but recall the controls being less than handy, although I shall take another look.
     
  24. 02Pilot

    02Pilot Subscriber

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    I currently own and use a Rollei 35 (Tessar), a Retina I (010 w/Schneider Xenar), and a Voigtländer Vito (Skopar) - all small, pocketable fully manual cameras with 50/3.5 lenses. They each have their charms, I've been happy with the images they produce, and they are certainly easy to carry (the Voigtländer in particular is light and very well-designed for carrying in a pocket). They or similar cameras are a viable option if portability is the primary consideration. FWIW, I do not find the Rollei's ergonomics problematic, but some do.

    That said, I do not think they are a true substitute for an LTM setup. Lacking rangefinders and without interchangeable lenses, they are not as flexible. You might look for something in between like a folding RF (the Retinas offered a 50/2 Xenon that has a good reputation). It's simply a question of priorities.
     
  25. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    If you found the XA fiddly you can forget the Rollei 35. I have the 35T and 35S and love them, terrific cameras and the lenses are phenomenal, but one thing they are is unique, and fiddly.
     
  26. Aristotle80

    Aristotle80 Subscriber

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    For what it's worth, the single Russian made LTM lens I used seemed okay. Not stellar, but at least average. It was a 50mm f/2.8 Industar. It was cheap enough that I could roll the dice without worrying about getting burned. If it sucked I could put it in the display case next to the half frame P&S and Instamatics. Sometimes you get a good one, and sometimes you don't. Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. Just know what you're getting into. (This was the talk I should have heard from a certain foreign car dealer ten years ago! *cough MINI)

    If you want quality you can bank on and have the money to spend, by all means get the real McCoy. The build quality and results of my genuine Leica lens are really pleasing!