Archive for May, 2021

Serenar Serenade

I have had a Canon 85mm f/1.9 LTM rangefinder lens for years and years. I love this lens and yet I have never given it a nod on this blog. Oh sure, I’ve mentioned it in passing. But today I want to dive in to this classic masterpiece. For the record Canon had several variants to this lens, all similar looking with similar designs. In 1948 Canon introduced the Seranar 8.5cm f/2.0 lens for the Canon and Leica rangefinder cameras in 39mm screw mount. The following year Canon adopted the mm marking and the lens became the 85mm f/2.0. In 1951 Canon added a smidgen of speed to the Serenar with the f/1.9 version. In 1958 Canon modified the barrel with a new lighter alloy and offered a black finish. Similar design and image results can be expected among all of these Serenar lenses. In 1952 Canon added a crazy fast 85mm f/1.5 to their lineup of rangefinder portrait lenses and later in 1961 replaced the Serenar 85mm f/1.9 with the Canon 85mm f/1.8. This lens was optically the best of the bunch and remains an impressive performer even by today’s standards.

I have an older 1950s Serenar and I love the way this lens renders bokeh and it is reasonably sharp as well. I love the fact that these can be found for a couple hundred dollars at camera shows like the PhotoFair or at camera shops that sell vintage gear and Ebay. The later 1.8 lens is more expensive and the 1.5 is hard to find. Not sure how the 1.5 is optically. The later model 1.8 is outstanding.

These lenses are fairly compact in size but they are rather heavy. These early lenses were rather generous in their use of brass and steel components. Couple that heavy metal with a sizable chunk of real glass and you end up with a 600 gram lens.

I have always been pleased with the results his lens delivers. These older canon rangefinder lenses had aperture diaphragm assembly with 11-14 blades and that makes near perfect circles allowing bokeh balls to remain circular even stopped down.

I never get tired of shooting with these vintage lenses. They are not clinically perfect like some of the modern lenses made by Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Zeiss but they have so much character. Frankly they are sharp enough and they have that amazing vintage look 🙂

Why not pick one of these classics up at the next show or on Ebay. These things are great and when you shoot them, if you think about it, you can just imagine all the amazing images that have been made over and over, decade upon decade. The things this lens has seen, the images captured, thousands upon thousands of captures made across the nation or even the world, stored in basements and attic all over the fruited plain, the images of posterity and a bygone era. You can be the next in line to add to line of great images forever caught in moment through a lens made when Harry Truman was President 🙂

Below are some images made with the Seranar 85/1.9

Betsy in the grass, Canon EOS R with Canon Serenar 85mm f/1.9 at f/1.9 close focusing LTM adapter
Betsy in the yard, Canon EOS R with Canon Serenar 85mm f/1.9 at f/1.9 close focusing LTM adapter
EOS R5 with Serenar 85mm f/1.9 at f/1.9 close focus adapter

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