Archive for October, 2021

My Latest Vintage Lens

I recently bought a couple of lenses at the last PhotoFair show in Portland last month. I got a Canon EF 17/4 L TSE and a vintage Nikkor 50/2.0 “Black Belt” in LTM mount. Today I want to chat up this excellent old school rangefinder lens.

There are a great number of very expensive, rare and collectible rangefinder lenses and then there are those excellent lenses that are not super rare and collectible, but very shootable. This lens falls into the latter category. Nikon made them from the mid 1940s through the late 1950s.

The Nikkor-H C 5cm f/2.0 lens was made for both Nikon rangefinder bodies and Leica screw mount bodies. What initially intrigued me about this lens was its unusual minimum focusing distance. Typically LTM lenses have a minimum focus distance of about one meter. This is due largely to the fact that viewfinder parallax if difficult to correct for up super close. This lens focuses down to about a half meter!

I checked the lens on my Canon 7s and it focused spot on all they way to the minimum focus distance but the automatic parallax window stopped adjusting when the focus got down to about the typical minimum of 3 feet. This 1.5 foot focusing distance is so cool. I typically mount these on modern mirrorless bodies with a close focusing adapter but this lens really doesn’t need that. However with the close focus adapter and the crazy close minimum focus the lens starts tickling the macro range.

Nikkor H C 5cm f/2 LTM

This lens is very small for a fast f/2. It is more compact than the early Canon Serenar 50/1.8 or the Leica Summicrons and Summitars. I am delighted with this lens as a fun little performer on either my EOS R5, EOS M6 Mk II, or my Canon 7s. It is based on a Zeiss Sonnar design which was the darling of the era before more modern designs came in the middle 1950s.

The lens is very well made, all metal and smooth controls. This model is the so-called “black belt” as it has a black ring for the aperture control. Not sure if that has any significance other than cosmetics. The lens has very good image quality for a lens of this era. It is fast, reasonable sharp wide open, super sharp one stop down, and has solid contrast. The contrast gets a bit flat in tough lighting. Color rendition is decent although for film color contrast isn’t so hot. On digital it is awesome.

The pictures made with this lens in this article were all captured on my M6 Mk II which is a 1.6x crop body. I used the close focusing adapter which allowed me to focus down to about 11 inches which ought to be about 1:10 magnification. On the crop body at 1.6x the lens frames like an 80mm.

Mindy on the sofa, 1/80th sec @f/2.0
Close up (un-cropped) using close focusing adapter 1/80 sec @ f/2.0
Rosebud 1/2500th sec @ f/2.0
Rose bud a little tighter in 1/640th sec @ f/2.

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