Welcome to my Photo Blog!
This photo blog is about the smallest 25 mm wide angle lens made - the Cosina-Voigtlander 25/4.0 Snapshot Skopar lens. I purchased this lens as nearly mint copy online to have a wide angle LTM lens to use with my Leica IIIc camera. I got it for $200 which was a very good deal at the time. I didn't want to spend a lot of money for a LTM lens. I could also use it in combination with my already existing external metal combination Voigtlander 21/25 mm viewfinder (the newer round one model with improved optics than the plastic body predecessor).
The lens is tiny - without hood and caps only 35 mm from rear to front. The lens fits conveniently 39 mm filters - standard diameter size of many Leica M lenses. The small lens size comes with one debit - it has no rangefinder focus coupling. Instead the lens allows quick focus with a click-stop focus ring applying zone focusing: it has stops at 0.7, 1, 1.5, 3 meters, and infinity. I was skeptical when I first tried this lens and afraid to have many out of focus photos - but the opposite is the case - it is very hard NOT to focus correctly with this lens. The wide angle of 25 mm allows a good wide range to be in focus - therefore the lens does only supply a very simple hyperfocal distance scale. More is simply not needed - already at f/4 and a rough estimate of the focus point will nail the focus. Aperture f/8 is a guarantee to have everything in focus. I never used this lens at an aperture smaller than f/11 (meaning f/16 or f/22). I am used to the metric system, so having the distance scale in meters is a benefit to me. It might be a culprit for somebody used to the ft distance scale though which is not printed on the focus ring.
I also like the lens design a lot - both focus and aperture rings are small but can be easily moved. The focus ring has a tiny metal focus tab which has to be used to turn the focus ring. The focus ring does not allow to be turned directly on the ring itself. I personally prefer turning focus rings just on the checkered ring pattern instead of using the focus tab. But I got quickly used to turning this ring by using the tab. The distance locations from minimum focus distance (0.7 m) to infinity are very close next to each other which makes it very easy to quickly move from minimum distance to infinity quickly.
The aperture ring has click half stops from f/4 to f/22 and contains 10 aperture blades.
The lens comes with a small round metal hood which seems to be sufficient to avoid flares from my experience with this lens so far. The round hood can be screwed into the outside lens thread. It has one debit - if a 39 mm filter is attached before the hood ring is mounted, the hood often does not fit outside the attached filter. I sometimes simply push the round hood loosely onto the outside of the filter to allow some flare control.
The Voigtlander metal front lens cap sits both on the metal hood ring or directly on the lens itself. The cap sits a bit better and tighter on the hood ring. The lens has a quite long rear plastic lens cap to allow for the protruding back lens element. Important to hold on to this cap because it is unique for this lens.
The lens is built very well with full metal housing. Only debit as in all of my other Cosina-Voigtlander lenses is the too easily removable black paint. The paint starts to loosen first at the aperture and lens holding rings. The silver metal starts shining through - it does not affect functionality of course but will certainly affect the used lens value just for viewing reasons. None of my black Leica lenses experiences the same issue. I wish Cosina would do a better job with the black paint on their lenses.
The lens performs very good optically. B&W photos turn out crisp and sharp with good contrast. Colors appear with excellent tonality. There is barely any corner vignetting wide open and certainly not at f/5.6 and smaller. Big and often overlooked benefit of this lens is its capability to perform excellent in infrared light. There is no IR hot spot seen at f/8.
Photo above: Cosina-Voigtlander 25/4.0 Snapshot Skopar LTM lens with caps and round lens hood
Photos above: Cosina-Voigtlander 25/4.0 Snapshot Skopar LTM lens from side and rear view
The lens was discontinued over 10 years ago but can still be found as used copy online. The name "Snapshot Skopar" likely refers to its potential usage in street photography due to its fast zone focusing capability. But the lens can be used in far more situations other than street photography. It's a perfect small and light travel companion to get the wide shot (85 grams weight). Cosina made a similar 25/4.0 M-mount lens without the click stops of the focusing ring. There is also the discontinued Cosina-Voigtlander 25/4.0 Color-Skopar M-mount lens which has rangefinder coupling and focusing. It is a bit heavier with 144 grams. Both lenses have 7 elements in 5 groups.
I haven't tested my CV 25/4.0 Snapshot Skopar in combination with my digital Leica M-E 240 yet but will add photos taken in this combination when available. I have only seen that this lens doesn't work well when attached to my Sony A7R - severe corner vignetting with purple colors.
A few example photos of the CV 25/4.0 Snapshot Skopar lens mounted on my Leica M6 with LTM/M adapter and Rollei Infrared 400 film:
Taken in combination with Leica M3, LTM/M adapter, and Ilford PanF+ 50 film:
Taken in combination with Leica M6, LTM/M adapter, and Kodak Porta 160 film:
Cliffwood Beach, NJ - Kodak Porta 160 film
After using Leica LTM and M cameras for five years, I decided to add a digital Leica M camera. Main reason for me was to use my good LTM and M lenses on a suitable digital camera without adapter - I managed it well to use my rangefinder lenses with my Sony A7R camera for many years, but especially ultra-wide rangefinder lenses caused some color fringing and blurred corners of the full-frame sensor due to the thicker sensor stack used in the A7R. Problem with Leica M cameras is of course the price - I am writing this blog shortly after the latest flagship model - the Leica M 10-R - was released for over $8K new. But even when looking for used Leica M 10 cameras, the price tag was still around $4.5-5.5K. As I learned from buying Leica M mount lenses used, patience is key to wait for a suitable offer. One day I found a Leica M-E 240 offered on a local online sales platform for a good price. The M 240 sensor has a bit lower dynamic range (DR) than its M 10 successor and the high ISO is limited to ISO 6400 but the 24 MP resolution is the same as in the M 10. Not a biggie for me since I know that I am rarely needing high ISO in my style of photography and can live with a bit less DR. I met with the seller and it turned out that the description of the camera stood up to its promise: it was a nearly brand new M-E 240 originally purchased in summer 2019 with only about 800 photo frames taken. No scratch or any kind of mark on the camera either, also the sensor appeared perfect. I bought the camera and so far have no regret of doing this purchase. Later I found out that the M-E 240 was only produced for a short period of time in 2019 - only 750 cameras were made. I believe I got a great deal regarding price/quality ratio - impossible to get with any kind of M10 camera models for a while to come. The only compromise I had to make was in regard to sensor resolution - I was originally hoping to keep a resolution similar to my Sony A7R with 36 MP full-frame, so 24 MP was pulling me back to my Canon 5D MkII shooting days I thought. But meanwhile I am glad that I made the purchase since the M 240 sensor has benefits over the older generation of Canon 5D MkII sensor from 2009 (for example the M 240 has much better DR!). I summarize my pros and cons seen in the M-E 240 in bullet points below:
Photos above: Leica M-E 240 with Leica 35/2 Summicron-M vers. IV (pre-ASPH) lens
Photo above: Leica M-E 240 with optional VF-2 EVF. It can be flipped into vertical position. Olympus VF-2 and Leica Viscoflex EVF2 are exactly the same model and only different in price.
What do I miss in the M-E 240?
Overall I am very happy with this camera purchase. Leica is and remains an expensive brand, but getting a used (and nearly mint) camera for a good deal limits value depreciation significantly and allows me to actually use the camera in the wild without being afraid to carry a big jewel around my neck or shoulder. The M 240 was its first and last hybrid camera series made by Leica combining rangefinder, LiveView/EVF capability, and video. The M-E "entry" version has the same capabilities as any other professional M 240 series mostly just compromising in electronic handgrip accessory functionality. Leica currently doesn't make entry-level cameras or Summarit-lenses anymore, they also removed video capability from the M camera series fully. I believe therefore the M 240 series is and will remain in demand for many who accept the camera's lower ISO limitation compared to expensive current M systems. I will use the M-E 240 for years to come in combination with my Leica LTM and M film cameras. The M-E 240 won't replace my track-proven Sony A7R camera either - both will be used in different shooting situations.
Recently I was shooting my Hasselblad 500 C/M with Fuji Velvia 50 slide film which I really like due to its color tonality. I found myself in a situation where I had to take long exposure shots with this kind of film - anticipating that this could be the case before heading out to shoot, I looked up online how much time needed to be added to the measured external light meter reading to compensate for lower light sensitivity of film with exposures often above 2 to 4 seconds. This factor is specific for every kind of film, and is named "reciprocity" failure or factor.
This factor is not needed in digital photography since a digital sensor receives and reacts to light in a linear way from dark to bright. This means that even long exposures are measured correctly by an external or internal camera-based light meter for digital photography. Since the majority of photographers is shooting digital, most have never come across the term "reciprocity" factor. It plays a huge role when taking photos with film - light is not received in a linear way like in digital. Film is less sensitive at both ends of the dark/bright histogram ends - it can be shown as a double-S-curve with turning point in the center. You might know that you can overexpose film quite a bit - it depends on the film, but 3-4 stops can be handled by most negative films quite well for overexposure without losing detail (this is different with slide film which can only handle a maximum of one stop overexposure before blowing out highlights - similar to digital where beginners often overexposure highlights instead of pushing shadows in PP). The same goes for dark areas with longer exposures needed - you actually need to increase exposure to avoid getting pitch dark shadows without detail using film. This is valid both for negative and positive (slide) films! Only that the amount how much more light is needed depends on a) the film, and b) the situation/scenery.
Best is to explain this with examples. As I mentioned in the beginning, Fuji Velvia slide film is not a beginner's film to be used since it does not allow a wide margin for wrong exposure - both at dark and in the bright. Rule of thumb is to avoid overexposure at all cost and rather underexpose this film half or one stop to avoid clipping highlights when present. The film is great to use during regular daylight in colorful scenes - what I like a lot is that it does not require any PP with color saturation after digitization/scanning. Kodak Ektar 100 negative film is also giving great colors but always annoyed me with its tendency to show shadows in blue/magenta cast. Fuji slide film fully avoids this issue and looks very natural in darker areas instead.
I have never tested Fuji Velvia 50 for low light photography - I only found few examples of night shooting with this film online. This time I gave it a try - it was sort of a gamble since I only had three frames of my 120 film left to hit it. I wanted to cover the sunset and the night scene of NYC from Liberty State Park across the river. How did I get to the results shown below?
First, I had to keep in mind the extension or reciprocity factor of this film above 4 seconds. It states to add an extra stop between 4-8 seconds, and multiply the exposure with factor 1.5x between 8-12 seconds. Above 16 seconds, the reciprocity factor increases to 2x. The first shot with this scene was taken before sunset at f/11 with 2-stop ND filter to blur the water a bit. The exposure here was 1 second - no need yet to use the reciprocity factor:
The sun was setting soon after, and quickly the light intensity dropped. I was still at f/11 but now without ND filter since there was no more need to extend the exposure time with less available light. My external light meter showed for ISO 50 an EV-value of 6 which corresponds to 2 seconds at f/11. Now I am hitting the range where the reciprocity factor comes in play - using the scale shown above, I would need to apply 2+1 = 3 seconds instead of the measured 2 seconds. But the situation/scenery also comes in play - I wanted to have the scenery darker to bring out the blue/magenta sky better. I estimated that 2 seconds should be sufficient and ignored the additional second. The result turned out exactly as I anticipated just with more saturation than expected:
The light quickly vanished after the sun disappeared, and the city became alive with artificial light. Now my light meter showed me an EV value of 2 which corresponds to 30 seconds at f/11 and ISO 50 film. Using the required reciprocity factor of 2x, I would need 60 seconds to accommodate for the lower film sensitivity. But I wanted to avoid overexposure at all cost for my frame #12 - the last frame I had. I simply estimated that 45 seconds instead should bring me in the right range (taking the average of 30 seconds from my meter and 60 seconds with applied reciprocity factor). I released the shutter with my cable release and held the leaf shutter open in bulb mode for roughly 45 seconds (I counted in my head). The result was again very pleasing - showing all detail but avoiding underexposure:
I might actually use this slide film more often for dim/dark light photography after this first experience with it in low light. I really love the bluish cast in the water and the sky which digital would not have brought out in the same way.
Welcome to another LTM lens review on my photo blog! This time we focus on a lesser known lens, the Konica-Minolta Super Rokkor Chiyoko 45 mm f/2.8 lens. The lens was introduced in 1954 and comes in different versions with slight exterior modifications. The lens consists of a 5 element in 3 groups as Heliar/Tessar hybrid design and was highly praised at the time. In Japanese the lens is sometimes associated with the word "Umebachi" which stands for a chrysanthemum flower with originally 16 petals represented by 8 aperture blades in this lens. The lens came with the Minolta 35 Model D camera as standard lens. Older lens versions contain a front bezel aperture window which was omitted in later lens versions (mine is a newer lens version from 1957 and doesn't have this little circular window).
The price for this lens tends to vary a lot and isn't available online too often. I got mine for $160 in November 2019, but I also see prices in the $300-400 range. It is often regarded and sold as lens collector item.
Photo above: Konica-Minolta Super-Rokkor Chiyoko 45/2.8 LTM lens mounted on my Leica IIIc camera.
The lens is very well built and comes in a brass lens housing with interesting looking focus ring which appears resembling a gear. It is very small and compact for a standard focal length rangefinder lens which makes it ideal for travel. The aperture ring is at the front of the lens. The aperture ring moves smoothly without any clicks at the aperture numbers - so any kind of intermediate f-stop can be selected between the full aperture numbers. When turning the aperture ring, the focus ring tends to move, too which can be an issue when quickly making adjustments with this lens. Moving the focus ring also changes the position of the aperture markings - probably the reason why the aperture window in older lens versions made it a bit easier reading the f-stop by looking to the front of the lens. This is especially true in closer focus position around 5 feet where the f-stop can't be easily read. Newer lens versions like mine have two black dots on opposite sides of the focus ring and two two aperture scales to minimize the range of the dot being moved outside the view by looking on the top of the lens to adjust the f-stop.
The lens also has a little focus tab made of metal attached to the focus ring. Depending on personal preference, you can either focus with this focus tab or use the focus ring itself. Closest focusing distance is 1 meter (3.3 feet). The lens tube is fixed and doesn't need to be pulled out for focusing. The 50 mm viewfinder of my Leica IIIc camera can be easily used to compose with this 45 mm lens.
The lens is very sharp and fully coated on all glass-to-air lens surfaces corrected for optical aberration. It delivers excellent color and B&W photographs. I still recommend getting a generic 34 mm screw-in hood and a 34 mm snap-on lens cap.
+ Tank-like built and compact pancake size
+ Very appealing look with the gear-like focusing ring
+ Ideal standard focal length travel lens; fits easily in any pocket to carry separate from the camera
+ Smooth aperture rotation to allow intermittent f-stops
+ Very sharp lens with good contrast
- Focus ring moves aperture ring
- Aperture stop hard to read when focusing closer at 5 feet
- Heavy for the size of the lens
- Often lens caps have to be purchased separately and don't come with the purchased lens
- Uncommon 34 mm filter diameter
- Collector lens item can drive used prices up
Examples with Konica-Minolta Super-Rokkor Chiyoko 45/2.8 LTM lens on film: (Hover over image to see the technical info)
Ilford FP4+ 125 film developed in Xtol (1:1). Lens aperture f/5.6 Ilford FP4+ 125 film developed in Xtol (1:1). Lens aperture f/8.0
Ilford HP5+ 400 film developed in Xtol (1:1). Lens aperture f/8.0 Ilford HP5+ 400 film developed in Xtol (1:1). Lens aperture f/5.6
A new decade has just begun, and never before photographers had so many choices in digital cameras and lenses. Mirrorless cameras are now the forefront making DSLRs not obsolete but putting them in the second row. Some other niches in photography started attracting momentum like film photography in general. Many lenses in different mounts can both effectively be used on film and with adapter on mirrorless digital cameras. This blog starts a series of vintage lens reviews which I tested both on film and digital camera gear. I consider these "gems" because they are either under-represented and might offer unique advantages hard to find elsewhere for a very good price/quality ratio.
Personally I find vintage lenses from the 1940s to 1960s very interesting since some of them exhibit qualities irreproducible with new digital lenses. Why is this? Because > 60 years ago lenses were much more simply built to accommodate lower resolving 35 mm films. Also lens coating technology and very accurate robotic lens element manufacturing did not yet exist or was just at the beginning. Lens bodies were much smaller as nowadays lenses due to much less lens groups used and lack of auto-focus plus other electronic features like in-lens image stabilization. Floating lens elements were introduced first in the late 1970s. Less lens elements and none or minimal lens coating gave many lenses of this era a unique character. Modern lenses purposely removed these characteristics to improve corner-to-corner sharpness of the frame, have less chromatic aberration, minimal halo effects, and higher micro contrast. Good example for this are modern Leica Summilux (f/1.4) lenses which are aspherically corrected and go for a minimum of $4K in M-mount.
Lesser known but very interesting for those considering vintage character lenses is the often overlooked Summilux predecessor, the Leica 50/1.5 Summarit lens which was made first in LTM screw-mount and later in M bayonet mount. In comparison, this lens if found in very good condition with low amount of scratches on outer lens elements goes between $500-800 as used copy. The name Summarit is now a bit misleading after Leica introduced a novel f/2.4-based Summarit lens line in 2007. Those are seen as entry-level M-mount options for a much cheaper value compared to their f/2 Summicron counterparts. The new Summarit lens designs have nothing in common with the old 50/1.5 design first released in 1949. This 50/1.5 lens design relates to the predecessor which is the Leica 50/1.5 Xenon lens licensed by Taylor Hobson but now came with additional lens coatings for 7 lens elements in 5 groups. The lens is an oddball in the Leica line, and exhibits one property of only few in the history of LTM/M lenses: it transmits UV light, therefore it is highly recommended to use an E41-filter thread based UV filter for film photos (it could be very interesting to be used on a full-spectrum converted mirrorless digital camera for UV-photography!). The lens is beautifully made from brass with chrome finish and weighs 300 grams. The aperture ring has full stops between f/1.5 and f/16. The last stops between f/8 to f/16 are very close to each other on the ring - caution is needed not to accidentally jump over one stop here. Often the minimum focus distance of one meter is mentioned as con of this lens - but for film rangefinder focusing one meter was the minimum distance accessible with the rangefinder path anyway. When adapting this lens to a modern digital mirrorless camera with electronic viewfinder (EVF), close-up adapters can be easily used between adapter and lens mount to allow closer focusing as shown in a few examples below. The lens has a focus tab which locks into infinity position. The lock can be sometimes a bit of a hassle when trying to quickly achieve focusing between infinity (locked) and > 50 meters (unlocked).
I found a very good nearly mint copy of the 50/1.5 Summarit lens in LTM mount on FB Marketplace sold by a fellow photographer. Since I own LTM and M-mount film cameras, I preferred the older LTM mount since I am now able to use this lens on my Leica IIIc and as well on my M-mount cameras with cheap LTM/M-adapter from China. The Summitar lens mounted on my M-cameras is well balanced but attached to my IIIc it leans forward. Focusing works well even on my IIIc - wider open the focus was still spot on!
Photo above: Leica 50/1.5 Summarit LTM lens mounted on my Leica IIIc camera.
The lens exhibits a dreamy-like bokeh wide open at f/1.5 and f/2.0. You might need to use an additional ND filter to be able to shoot wide open at 1/1000 sec or less in bright weather conditions. In this fast aperture range the center focus is reasonably sharp but very low in contrast - less visible on film but certainly on a modern digital FF sensor (slightly increasing the contrast in post-processing is needed here). The bokeh balls are nothing like doughnut-like structures often seen with lenses made around the same time like the Leica 50/2.0 Summitar lens (will be reviewed in a future blog) but nicely circular without pattern. Sometimes they can be distorted creating very unique effects in the background - even with some triangular shapes. When closing down the lens aperture to f/4.0 and higher aperture number, the Summarit properties merge into those of a standard vintage Summicron 50 mm lens: sharp from corner-to-corner without distortions. The lens seems to be sharpest in the center at f/8.0 as expected with most vintage lenses. But even closed down, the image keeps a softer look with yellowish tint in coloration.
Even mentioned often as an issue in earlier lens reviews, I didn't see lens flaring as a biggie even when shooting against the diffused sun. I still would recommend using a 41 mm generic lens hood to avoid the clumsy and expensive Leica hood for this lens.
+ Excellent portrait look to reveal soft skin without needed digital post-processing
+ Very good built quality: you don't find this quality with modern lenses!
+ Smooth 15 metal aperture blades which close in a full circular way
+ Unique and beautiful bokeh wide open at f/1.5 and f/2.0
+ Good for low light photography
+ Most affordable fast 50 mm Leica lens!
- Low contrast wide open
- Minimum focus distance of 1 meter (adjustable with close-up adapters on digital cameras)
- UV filter needed for film photography since lens elements are UV-transparent
- Extraordinary expensive and super bulky Leica lens hoods for this Summarit lens. Better get a cheap generic 41 mm Summarit lens hood!
Examples with Leica 50/1.5 Summitar lens on film: (Hover over image to see the technical info)
Ilford FP4+ 125 film developed in Xtol (1:1). Lens aperture f/2.0 Ilford FP4+ 125 film developed in Xtol (1:1). Lens aperture f/1.5 Ilford FP4+ 125 film developed in Xtol (1:1). Lens aperture f/2.8 Ilford FP4+ 125 film developed in Xtol (1:1). Lens aperture f/1.5 Ilford HP5+ 400 film developed in Xtol (1:1). Lens aperture f/2.8
Examples with Leica 50/1.5 Summarit lens adapted on Sony A7R with LTM/E-mount adapter: (Hover over image to see the technical info)
Lens aperture f/1.5 Lens aperture f/2.8, extension tube used Lens aperture f/1.5, extension tube used Lens aperture f/1.5, extension tube used