Last Photos From an Old Friend

Looking toward the Capitol Building – Washington, DC

This is my “pics or it didn’t happen” post. I’ve made claims about owning a bunch of Leica gear, and this one is the proof. I’ve sold all the rest of my Leica gear off, except for this lens and camera body – which we consider a family heirloom from Cindy’s father. It’s a 1954 Leica IIIf RDST (Red Dial, Self-Timer) 35mm rangefinder camera, matched with a 1955 Leitz Wetzlar Summicron 50/2.0 Collapsible LTM (Leica Thread Mount) lens, vented lens hood, and lens cap – and the two photos below are from the last roll of film that I put through it several years ago.

Why not continue shooting with it? For one thing, it’s 67-years old. Yes, people shoot film with old cameras all the time, but finding a good technician capable of repairing an old Leica LTM camera is getting tough. Believe me, I know. This specific camera has spent a total of over 3-years in the hands of vintage camera repair techs since it was gifted to me back in 1997, for a wide variety of issues over that period of time. The camera works perfectly now, and is in mint condition, so we’d like it to stay that way by making it a shelf queen.

The two monochrome photos shared here were taken on a summer day back in 2018, from a balcony on the old Newseum building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. They aren’t the greatest photos because I used the wrong ISO setting for the film I had loaded and grossly over-exposed them. Unlike all of the other film images that I post here, other than adjusting the exposure and contrast, I haven’t cleaned these up in post-production, so you can see what the raw images look like straight out of the camera. However, this lens and camera combination is capable of taking some beautiful photographs, as you can see from this collection of photos on Flickr here.

Looking toward the Old Post Office – Washington, DC

One of the neat things about a very old Leica camera like this one is that you can still buy brand new lenses for it from third-party lens manufacturers – lenses with current designs and lens coatings – something that can’t be said for the majority of other cameras on the used market.

1954 Leica IIIf 35mm film camera – Poolesville, Maryland

Photo info:
Shots from Pennsylvania Avenue
The old Newseum building
Washington, DC
June 2018
Ilford Pan F+ 50
1955 Leitz Wetzlar Summicron 50/2.0 Collapsible LTM Lens
1954 Leica IIIf RDST 35mm film camera

That Special Pop

Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) – Wheaton, Maryland

One of my all time favorite lenses is the Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50/1.5 ZM, which produces an amazing “pop” to a subject when used with the aperture wide-open. It’s very light and quite compact for its specific focal length and aperture, comes with the renowned Zeiss T* anti-reflective lens coatings, has the Leica M-mount which can be used on a wide variety of camera bodies, and creates that special “pop” that some Zeiss lenses are legendary for. For a good example of what I’m describing, check out an earlier post of mine here.

Usually one can get good separation between the subject and the background by using a telephoto lens, but that gets more challenging as the lens focal length gets shorter, even with bigger apertures. It also gets even more challenging when using digital cameras versus 35mm film, because digital is so unforgiving. When using digital cameras, my all-time favorite 50mm lens is the Leica Summilux 50/1.4 ASPH, which produces the smoothest, most buttery-gorgeous bokeh I’ve ever seen in a lens. It’s also horrifically expensive ($4,795). When using 35mm film cameras, my all-time favorite 50mm lens is the Zeiss Sonnar that I already mentioned, at a much more reasonable cost ($1,261). However, the Zeiss Sonnar is a classic lens design dating back to the 1930s that doesn’t play well with color digital images, due to pretty severe chromatic aberrations. If the digital image is converted to monochrome, then the Sonnar 50/1.5 really sings with its beautiful separation between the subject and the background. But color imaging remains problematic for it.

Enter the Voigtländer APO-Lanthar 65/2.0 Macro lens.

Unlike the prior two lenses that I already mentioned, the Voigtländer 65/2.0 APO was designed from the ground up to be specifically used for Sony digital cameras. Even though the 50mm focal length has been a longtime favorite of mine, I love the results from this slightly longer 65mm lens even more – because I can use it as an all-around super lens. The APO in the name denotes that this is an apochromatic lens design, which focuses light so precisely that it virtually eliminates chromatic aberrations. Likewise, when shooting this lens wide-open, it delivers that “pop” between the subject and the background that’s so reminiscent of the classic Zeiss Sonnar look that I love, along with creamy bokeh that is reminiscent of the Leica Summilux that I love. But wait, there’s more! It’s also an APO macro lens that focuses down to a reproduction ratio of 1:2, and – the best part yet – it’s very affordable ($949). Quite the package for just one lens.

At any rate, I plan to introduce more images shot with this fantastic lens over time, as I get more comfortable with using it.

Photo info:
Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)
Brookside Gardens
Wheaton, Maryland
July 2021
Voigtländer 65/2.0 APO Macro lens
Sony a7 III digital camera

Longhorns Under the Big Sky

Texas longhorns – Ennis Lake, Montana

One of the things I enjoy about being out west is the element of surprise. One minute, you’re simply enjoying the landscape – and in the next, you’re face-to-face with some ornery looking longhorns that are giving you the skunk eye. Almost as if they’re saying, “How fast can you run, punk? Because whatever it is, that’s not fast enough!”

Photo info:
Texas longhorns
Ennis Lake
Ennis, Montana
October 2017
Eastman Double-X 5222 film
Zeiss Biogon 21/4.5 ZM lens
Leica M3 35mm film camera