Archive for March, 2019

At the PhotoFair back in November last year, I picked up the 85mm L and this little Summicron 40mm C lens. I worked out a trade for my Canon 5D Mk III for these two lenses. This is one of my favorite things about camera shows, the trading! I wrote up the L lens last year and fiddled around with the 40mm after that.

The Leica C lenses are M mount lenses that were designed specifically for the Leica CL and Minolta CLE cameras. There were two Leitz lenses made specifically for the CL and Minolta made three lenses for the CLE all of which were interchangeable with each other and even other Leica M mount rangefinders. There is differing opinions on whether precise focus was achievable when using CL lenses on an M body. My experience is that they work fine on M bodies.

The lenses were as follows:

  • Leica Summicron-C 40/2
  • Leica Elmar-C 90/4
  • Minolta Rokkor 40/2
  • Minolta Rokkor 90/4 Ver I
  • Minolta Rokkor 90/4 Ver II
  • Minolta Rokkor 28/2.8

In our modern age of mirrorless digital cameras these old rangefinder lenses are a great way to get some classic Leica images on your modern camera. The 40 Summicron-C is a very small lens that delivers big image quality. I actually like shooting it on my EOS M5 more than the full frame EOS R because the small size compliments the EOS M5 but is a bit out of sorts on the larger EOS R. These CL lenses are full frame 35mm format so they cover the large full frame sensor of cameras like the Sony A7 series and both the Canon EOS R series and Nikon Z series cameras.

One of the troubles with rangefinder lenses is that lack of close focusing ability. Most Leica M mount lenses including this C lens focus to about 2.5 feet or 0.7m. On a 40mm lens this is not by any measure “close.” There are some mount adapters that feature a helical style extension to offer a closer focus option, these are much more expensive than the standard mount adapters. On the EOS M5 the 40mm lenses is cropped 1.6x so it shoots like a 64mm and that allows for a tighter shot.

Optically the lens is very good. I have heard some reports that the Minolta Rokkor version is even better. I have never shot that lens so I don’t know, but this Leitz lens is a strong performer. It is extremely well made and offers a fast f/2 aperture in a crazy small package. it is almost a pancake design, very thin. To be certain, modern native glass from Sony, Nikon, and Canon will be even sharper, more contrasty, and focus super close but there is a whole lot of character with these old school lenses. Shooting with Leica glass is cool no matter how sharp or not sharp the lens is. People pay millions of dollars to drive a 1960s Ferrari that will get absolutely embarrassed in race against any random modern day, hot hatch. Why? Because a random hot hatch is still just a random car, a classic Ferrari is legendary. Leica is legendary.

I haven’t made a lot of images with the lens but I have made enough to say the lens is solid. It is sharp, contrasty, and almost never produces flare. The shot of Graham was made on my EOS R with the Summicron-C in low light at high ISO around 2500. Shots like this make me wish Canon had IBIS in the mirrorless bodies! I see some shake there, but this was the very night I bought the lens and was one of the very first images I made with it. In general the Leica ‘purists’ tend to feel unfavorable towards the C lenses and that means the prices for them tend to be more reasonable. Who doesn’t want to get a ‘deal’ on the Leica lens?

I took the test shot of my cars-cameras display when I got back home after the PhotoFair and the lens is tack sharp! Seek out this mid-70s gems at camera shows and in particular the Rokkor or Leitz 40/2. If you want to shoot film, you can use these on Leica M film bodies but the Leica CL is a great little camera and they sell for way less than M3s or M4s.

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