Monday, August 9, 2010

Lens comparison: Leica-mount lenses

Leica-mount rangefinder lenses have a long history, stretching from the thread-mount lenses of the early 1930s to the modern Leitz and Zeiss/Voigtlander Cosina "M" bayonet lenses of the present day.

More to the point for the contemporary reader, the very earliest thread-mount lenses are still compatible (via adapters, of course) with the thoroughly modern Leica M, Micro Four Thirds, and Voigtlander cameras of today. So, new camera shoppers, this affects you directly.

I shoot with a rangefinder, and I think it's the finest sort of camera out there- but the lens selection can be so extensive that I often wonder what the difference might be between this lens and that one. And for the digital-only bunch out there, how do these lenses work on an affordable Micro Four Thirds camera? Are they worth considering?

So here we go: a quick comparison of seven different "standard" rangefinder lenses, from the 1930s to today. THIS IS NOT SCIENCE! It's curiosity. I think we've got a solid comparison going here, and I'll leave most of the conclusions to you. Full-resolution files are linked below, so have a look and decide for yourself.

And if you think that a 70-year-old lens has no relevance to modern cameras, you might want to keep reading (warning: image-heavy!)

"Will This Work??" Ektar 25 edition.

I remember shooting Ektar 25, long ago, in the before times. It was an ultra-fine-grained, saturated film with a vanishingly low ISO of 25- so you'd shoot it outdoors, on a sunny day, or you wouldn't shoot it at all. But if you had a lot of light, or if you were used to shooting Kodachrome anyway, Ektar 25 was the way to go. Kodak's new Ektar 100 (available in store) is a spiritual successor, but I still mourn Ektar 25's brief run.

That's why I was pleased to see this old roll walk through the door, squashed into the bottom corner of a neglected camera bag. It's been a while, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to load it up see if it would still capture a decent picture.

Why the question? Well first of all, it's obviously not had an easy life: the box is smashed and watermarked, and it had apparently been stored in a hot attic for at least the last few years. And second of all, this film is older than some of you:
Still worth a try, though. And the results?